Expert Chocolatiers: Easily (Always) Distracted by Beer

Back Of Ben & Bill's (Falmouth, MA) by takomabibelot 674 x 281

The window display in Phillip Neal’s chocolate shop on Turnham Green Terrace is so monstrously exciting that we can hardly resist stopping to admire the Easter eggs. There’s always such a fantastic display and these are just an added bonus in amongst the fun chocolate shoes, bizarre gold Buddhas and all the other bits and bobs that make up the shop’s usual wares.

“Have you ever tried that ‘raw chocolate pie’ stuff?” Kathryn asks suddenly, after we’ve salivated for a minute or two.

Once it had been established that Nick doesn’t have a clue that raw chocolate pie is actually a thing, we make our way further up the street to the ‘Natural Food Store’ and straight to the fridge at the back. There are three flavours on display: ‘Nut’, ‘Peppermint’ and ‘Chilli’ all wrapped in small brightly coloured 60g packets.

Despite initial signs of worthiness, and deep suspicion at a lack of gluten, sugar and dairy, the general excitement of new and unusual chocolate begins to (sadly) build… and with typical, ill-considered bluster, “I bet we could make our own,” is soon echoing round the shop in loud Northern tones, “it can’t be that hard!”

This idea is rapidly squashed by Kathryn, who uses the term ‘Rubbbbassshhh!’with some derision.

“Well let’s see if we can get raw chocolate nibs anyway,” replies Nick, totally undeterred.

It turns out this shop doesn’t have any, but we opt for all three flavours of the pie as inspiration anyway… before turning back onto Turnham Green Terrace.

Kathryn is now fully on board with the venture and leads the way to ‘As Nature Intended’ on the High Road. It is Saturday and the place is crammed with busy health shoppers, as we walk up and down the aisles, baffled and giggling. No nibs again!

We leave the shop thwarted and slightly deflated. But as we still only have the broadest of ideas on how to actually make chocolate from scratch, think it probably best to repair to the pub and consult Google on how feasible it all is before going further afield.

The Old Man Pub (The Old Pack Horse) is fairly empty as there is no football on, so we order our usual pints of Old Rosie and Estrella and make our way towards the back. Whipping out a phone we quickly find the blog of a chocolate maker and discover that making chocolate involves grinding the nibs with sugar (in a processor that needs to be of an industrial strength), then conching, tempering, flavouring… and performing a variety of other tasks.

With a silent nod Kathryn reaches for the first of the pre-bought pies… urghh – it turns out they clash monstrously with beer.

First published in the April 2014 edition of Absolutely Chiswick


  1. Hi Kathryn & Nick

    I have been savouring your experience of eating the chocolate in the context of consuming alcoholic beverages.

    Hope that you have recovered from the ‘cocktail’ nighmare.


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