October 30th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances


  • Poppy Day is the only annual day in Britain named after a flower. Why, then, is it not a big day for florists? Why does everyone buy paper poppies?

  • I've sent off my registration for Novacon.* The event's only in two weeks, I won't be able to register through the con for hotel space until my registration is processed, and warning signs are everywhere that singles are limited and will probably be sold out by now. I could book a single right away in the correct hotel through its website. Other than it costing more (albeit less than a double), is there any reason not to? Is there some moral factor about making sure the con has enough of its room block sold out to justify receiving free function space from the hotel, and booking via the website would mean my booking isn't helping the con?

  • I went to my local post office to mail an envelope today, only to discover they don't do express mail. Regular airmail only. So I went to Canary Wharf, to a full, dedicated post office, and sent it express mail there. Are most UK post offices so limited as to not do express mail? What else is too much to expect of little local postal outlets?

* I've been dilemma'ing between the London Good Food Fair and Novacon. There's still a small chance I may be able to see the food fair as well, but I'm not counting on it. I decided to err on the side of seeing people I'd not seen in a while.

London Chocolate Tour

What better way to celebrate Chocolate Week than to go on a tour of most of the top chocolateries the city has to offer? After self-organizing a Toronto chocolate tour, I'd long been meaning to do the same for London. And then I saw the Chocolate Week program offerings - and it included an all-day chocolate tour organized by Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. Best of all, this meant I'd be touring the city's chocolates in the company of other people who are interested in chocolate - the perfect people for comparing tasting notes.

haggisthesecond, as enthused as I was, joined me in transit, and we both arrived promptly at the start of our Saturday trip, at The Contented Vine in Pimlico. Our group gathered around a table to drink tea and breakfast on buttery, flaky chocolate croissants from Baker and Spice. (Chocolate croissants are almost never chocolatey enough for my tastes; this was no exception, but it was still a fine croissant.) It took us a little while of reorientation to realize that the rest of our fellow chocolate tourists were all from SeventyPercent.com, the organization co-sponsoring the tours. They were there as tourists too - their company day out - and meant we had really well-informed company on our tour 'round the city. How well-informed? Well, they don't just sell chocolate. One of them was a judge for this year's Academy of Chocolate awards and could describe why a given chocolate had won, what particular features it had.

Our breakfast finished, we gathered up our bags of bottled water and the basket of spare tablets of Valrhona and Amedei chocolate (just in case we didn't have enough chocolate...), and headed off on a tour of London and its chocolates.

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Lunch break - we stopped for a refreshing and light lunch at a gastropub near Regent's Street. Salad was exactly what I needed after that much chocolate. Much as it was good - we were hungry and the break was much needed. Chocolate overdose had been briefly a problem after L'Artisan gave us whole truffle after whole truffle. We insisted on pieces of truffle after that at all our stops, just enough for a taste without overwhelming us in quantity.

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The Chocolate Society was meant to be our second hot chocolate stop, but it was already closed.

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I didn't set out on the Chocolate Tour in search of a new favorite chocolate shop for London. (I have a favorite in Toronto, but hadn't yet done the research for London.) But based on a lovely, leisurely day of full-city chocolate tourism, I came back most excited by what Paul A. Young is doing up in Islington. The shop isn't just about novelty; it's about trying out what else works well with chocolate. And there really are some remarkable other elses.