Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Foto Freo 2006 Fringe (Fremantle)
X-Wray and La Tropicana Cafe
Dud'O Chocolate Belguim
Foto Freo Fringe (Perth)
Nester Chocolates
Truffle Espresso Bar David Jones

What is Australian chocolate? I floated into David Jones department store in the city to see if I could find the answer to my question, past the espresso and truffle bar, to the confectionary department. There are shelves and shelves and rows and rows of chocolate, some familiar and some unfamiliar, some imported, some local and interstate. As I read the lables of unfamiliar chocolate wrappings and brands I find that many are Australian both the products of Australia and produced by Australian owned companies.

An Australian chocolate, taste, aroma, and texture would have contain a macadamia nut. According to Stephanie Alexander's book 'The Cooks Companion' macadamias have been enjoyed by Australian Aborigines for thousands of years. The nuts were discovered by European settlers in the subtropical rainforests of QLD in the mid 1890's. There are two species of macadamia trees grown commercially in Australia both which are now rare in the wild. The nut has a delicious creamy flavour and are creamy white in colour. They were later exported to Hawaii where they are now grown commercially.

Nester an Australian company produces a range of chocolates in Victoria using indigenous ingredients for example wattle seeds and lemon myrtle. On their website Nester describes their chocolates as 'as having a unique bush flavour'. The Nester gift box contained macadamia nuts covered in five flavours (2 chocolates wrapped in individual packages to lock in the freshness)'.

Wattleseeds were a staple food among many Aboriginal people and could be eaten raw or cooked. They were collected when dry and ripe, threshed and removed from their pods and roasted. They had been added to the chocolate, and had a crunchy nutty toasted texture without a unique taste. The coating of chocolate was very thin and the flavour of the macadamia overpowered the wattleseed.

The lemon myrtle gave the chocolate a unique lemon flavour that complemented the chocolate. It was quiet powerful and the taste remained long in my mouth after I had consumed the chocolate. The melting moments (layers of milk and white chocolate) and the dark and milk chocolate and macadamia offered nothing new.

Nester chocolates at $11.95 for 10 chocolates are expensive at over $1 each and really offer nothing new. A block of chocolate with wattleseed would however be absolutely fabulous.
War Photographer Documentary (James Nactwey)
Portrait of a Photographer (David La Chapelle)
Sweet Oz Chocolates

It is Sunday afternoon and I plan to indulge in photography, chocolate and coffee at home. There were two documentaries on the ABC this afternoon the first on war photographer James Nactwey considered one fo the bravest and most important war photographers of our time. He has answered many of the questions his about the role of the photographer during war and poverty. He justifies his presence by arguing that he photographs may contribute to bringing about peace.

Portrait of a Photographer looks at David LaChapelle who was discovered by Andy Warhol and is one of the worlds foremost fashion photographers. His work is conceptual and highly stylised and in my opinion a waste of time.

A box of chocolates filled with a range of chocolates including sweet creamy sickly flavours is not my idea of chocolate heaven. There are always heaps of chocolates filled with coffee, turkish delight, cherry liquor, truffle or praline. I end up reading the back of the box to make sure I don't endure one of those suprises.

Sweet Oz chocolates an Australian company makes a variety of small individually wrapped quality chocolates with sweet fruity centres I adore. Caramel, peppermint, strawberry, orange and mango truffle are just some of the flavours I have come across at the local supermarket. The peppermint creme centre complements the dark chocolate perfectly. When I feel like a little bit of chocolate heaven on a Sunday Sweet Oz chocolates are just it. At $1.10 for a chocolate half the size of a commercial bar they are well worth the investment.

The aroma of ground fresh coffee beans fills the air as I carefully fill the hopper and press the button. My lecturer's voice from TTBFB12A Prepare and Serve Espresso Coffee comes back to me. Is the coffee I brought from a European food speciality shop fresh? Coffee beans deteriorate very quickly after roasting and exposure to light, oxygen, heat, moisture and light and equal loss of aroma and flavour. They had been sitting in heshian bags the ones with the little wooden stick on the hand made sign telling me their origin and blend.

Other good information from my lecture follows as I spoon the coffee into the percolator. Blob, blob, blob as the water drizzles through releasing the coffee. Advice on packaging, usedby dates and storage methods and questions which I should have asked my supplier and I didn't. I seem to have considerable trust in my supplier.

I fill the saucepan with a little cold milk and whisk madly hoping to reproduce the cafe style milk without an espresso machine. Bubbles and froth begin to appear not exactly like the milk produced in a cafe but close. The coffee from the percolator is ready and I assemble my indulgence with a two thirds milk and a third froth complete with chocolate topping. It is not a cappuccino and not a flat white but what I call a flatuccino.

Foto Freo 2006 The City of Fremantle Festival of Photography
Fremantle Chocolate Factory

Foto Freo 2006 The City of Fremantle Festival of Photography held from late March to April includes exhibitions, speakers, conferences, seminars, workshops, projections, forums, films, lectures and talks by a range of photographers from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Canada in some of Fremantle's most interesting places like the Fremantle Arts Centre and Museum, The University of Notre Dame, the Film and Television Institution and Kulcha. A diverse and often confronting and disturbing collection images greeted me at every turn. They were on range of subjects that included war, disaster, homelessness, movies stars to the black market trade in animals and chinese orphaned children. The exhibition had it all and I was emotionally exhausted and rewarded after every visit.

Ginos on South Terrace had one of the main exhibitions on Australian suburbian unhappiness. It was early in the morning when I visited and there were plenty of people at Ginos sitting outside on the pavement and inside the cafe, having coffee and something to eat, talking and laughing. I looked for the collection of photographs described on my program. The smell of fresh coffee and the sound of laughter filled the air mostly. A variety of European languages were being spoken as well as English. There were groups of people and people happy being on their own. The images mostly of unhappy men and other marginal people covered the walls. It was an interesting contrast.

But there was a much more interesting exhibition that filled the walls not included in the Foto Freo program. A collection of A4 black and white framed photographs. I wondered when I approached Ginos whether there was a Gino. Yes there was the name Gino above the door way because it sold alcohol. I wondered if the pictures were of Gino and his family and their development and association with Ginos. I love the personal touch of Ginos relating people to the place and to an area. This is lost in franchises where everything is uniform and unpersonal. I orded a latte and sat outside in the warm sun and watched the hussle and bussle of Fremantle pass me by.

I walked across the street and caught the CAT to the Fremantle Chocolate Factory. I walked in the door and there were free samples of the chocolate and fudge made by the local company. A friendly assistant greeted me and asked me if I wanted any help. I politely declined her offer and looked over the extensive display of products. There were the usual range of chocolate products...plain milk, dark and white chocolate with a range of nuts in a variety of blocks, peanut clusters, coconut rough, and rocky road. There were some not so usual such as macadamia clusters and chocolate covered plums. The Fremantle Chocolate Factory also makes a range of biscults and fudge.

I brought the rocky road with white and pink mashmallows, whole roasted peanuts and lolly raspberries (instead of the turkish delight) covered in milk chocolate and cut up into small pieces. Yum and unique because I love the combination of the whole deal. The Macadamia clusters, whole lushious roasted creamy macas covered in milk chocolate is something I don't see too often. Pure heaven.

Before I leave I look through the window into factory. It isn't operating today but on many days the visitor can see the chocolate making process. An extra delight.

In the beginning...

This blog is about five of my passions, chocolate, coffee, writing, photography and Australian culture. It my story of my attempts to engage with them, to take risks, to step into new and unfamiliar environments and to experience new tastes, smells, and sights within my own cultural environment of Australia. I hope to include some of these experiences in a book about chocolate and coffee in Australia in the future.

I have been inspired by a company called 'Chocolate Espresso' who take people on walking tours through the CBD and retail district in Sydney. Participants visit a variety of commercial establishments that engage in producing and selling coffee and chocolates. Baristas and chocolatiers give talks and demonstrations and participants are invited to sample and purchase a range of products. Vanderwee, Haigh, the Lindt Concept Store in Martin Place, the Sydney Museum Cafe and espresso bars are included. A fabulous way to spend a morning or afternoon. Of course there is heaps more coffee and chocolate pleasures to discover in Sydney.

But what does Perth have to offer for lovers of chocolate and coffee? Margaret River Chocolate, the Fremantle Chocolate Factory, Jaffeys, Dome, Aroma, Wild Fig Cafe, Zamia, the New Norica Bakery, Indiana Teahouse, Oxford 130, Ginos and Caffe Vergo come to mind and familiar to many people who live in Perth. I hope to find out and share them on this blog.