So, you know that I’m a chocoholic (and you are too, or you wouldn’t be reading this!) – if I’m not eating chocolate, I’m thinking about it, dreaming about it, wondering when I’m going to get my next fix. What you may not realize that I’m not just one-dimensional … I have other interests too! And one of my other great loves besides chocolate is travel… I love exploring new places and getting the flavor of a city, learning what makes it special and unique. I also love bringing home beautiful chocolates from my journeys as gifts for my friends and family. So just imagine the joy I felt when I discovered The Chocolate Companion by Chantal Coady, a book that writes about chocolate as a sort of travel guide to the best chocolatiers and shops throughout Europe. What a find!
The book would be great as a simple educational tool to explain the intricacies of flavor and particulars of the ways that chocolate is made and its impact on the treat’s taste. Coady starts by providing us with a step-by-step guide to the growing process from the cocoa tree to the harvest, as well as maps of the world’s greatest cocoa producing regions, and then she moves on past the manufacturing and history of chocolate to how different tastes developed internationally, plus all the varieties, styles and flavors that are available. The truth is that the information provided in those first few dozen pages probably would be enough to satisfy the curious chocolophile in need of edification, but the real gem of the book comes along at page 34 – The Chocolate Directory. By providing her readers with photographs of some of the world’s best chocolates and providing us with the actual addresses and phone numbers of the magic kingdoms where we are able to buy them, as well as profiles of what makes each chocolate special, and ratings, Coady has provided us with a sort of treasure map of Europe’s greatest chocolatiers – herself included (she’s the owner of Rococo, one of London’s top places to buy the very best chocolates).
Though some may complain that the book’s rating system is a bit vague, and there have been pointed and valid complaints about the book’s geographic limits (surely there are fabulous chocolatiers beyond those profiled here), the book is a wonderful compendium of highlights for a European trip; I am definitely dog-earring pages of the places I want to see, and this will be tucked into my overnight trip the next time I cross the Atlantic.