French chocolate mendiants
It was late last year that we (reluctantly) came around to the fact that we wouldn't be traveling for quite some time. Unfortunately, with a kitchen renovation (we have walls!) and a new business on the horizon, we knew we wouldn't have the extra funds to put toward one of the things we love most: international travel. It's been a really weird thing to accept because travel has kind of been our way of life since Thom first surprised me with that trip to Paris in 2010 - I thought we were going to spend a week in Montreal when, in reality, we were going to spend two weeks in Paris. It was then that he ignited my love for travel; a love so massive that it consumes me on a regular basis.
I think that was his plan all along.
Fast forward to earlier this year when Eurostar reached out because they wanted to take me on an all expenses paid trip to London and Paris. It didn't take me long to commit (ok, actually it did) (but only because I thought leaving during the renovation was a really bad idea) because I love Eurostar and the fact that you can get from London to Paris in just a little over two hours. I also love that traveling via train means you don't have to deal with any airport shenanigans. And as someone who has grown to really dislike airports, being able to walk into a train station and board within 30 minutes - well, that's a really nice change of pace. Thom and I used Eurostar when we traveled through Europe in 2013, only then we were riding standard (which is still super nice, by the way), and this time our group was hanging in business premier (to Paris) + standard premier (back to London). Both of which were outta-this-world nice. As in, swanky train station lounge, delicious on-board meals, and ALL YOU CAN DRINK BOOZE-nice. In case you couldn't tell: I'm really happy I didn't say no.
But enough about the train because you probably want to know about the trip. Well. I learned how to make real deal scones with Caroline Hope. IN HER NOTTING HILL FLAT. So that was cool. Ate potato chips in bed at 2:30AM. Averaged three coffees a day. Made new friends. Walked through Paris in the rain. London, too. Made Ashley drink all my wine (I will never learn to love it, guys). Went on a secret food tour in Paris. Bought a copper pot at E.Dehillerin. Regretted not buying more copper pots at E.Dehillerin. Hung out with bloggers and probably spent a total of 20 minutes talking about our blogs.. the entire trip (blog talk killllls me). Showed Bev and Ashley my favorite parts of Paris (The big tower! Rue Mouffetard! Tuileries!) and found so much joy in watching them experience Paris for the very first time. Attended a cooking demo at Spring where I was served vegetables that were plated so beautifully I could hardly bring myself to stab them with a fork and put them in my face. Ate too many french fries at Café des 2 Moulins (AKA the Amélie cafe). Had a private breakfast at Ladurée, where they served me assorted fruits doused in vanilla syrup. Decided more things need to be doused in vanilla syrup (though probably not fruit). Took Eurostar back to London and had one hell of a last hoorah with the entire gang at The Mayflower (still dreaming about that falafel plate) (and the lentil-stuffed entrée). And then we all went our separate ways and there may have been a mini group hug in the hotel hallway at 2AM. And I may have teared up a little because WHAT A TRIP.
Lucky for me, I wound up extending my stay and getting some extra time in London with my man. We proceeded to do all our favorite things, like visit the Natural History Museum and The Old Operating Theatre and Borough Market (just to name a few). And we got to stay with our Salar de Uyuni pals and meet up with our beloved friend Maja, so all in all it was a trip for the books. Filled with new people and new experiences, but also chock-full of familiar favorites. I've got well over a thousand photos to sort through so, in the meantime, I'm going to eat my weight in mendiants and pretend I'm back in Europe because being back home? The struggle is real, people (but thankfully the struggle to fit back into my pants is not).
PS - Big thanks to Eurostar and the entire team (you know who you are) who spent countless hours planning and executing the trip. I've got quite a few overseas adventures under my belt and this one certainly went down as one of my top three. High fives and big hugs, all around. PPS - Because I'm all about posting travel recaps in chronological order, the "guides" to Paris + London will happen once I post about our trip to India. So give me a couple of months. ;) And because it was my third time to Paris and second to London, I've got two pretty awesome rundowns of all my favorite things in each city. And I can't wait to share them with you.
Notes: You don't have to temper your chocolate, but I highly recommend it as tempered chocolate is superior to untempered chocolate (especially when making chocolate confections). Also, please (pleaaase) make sure your chocolate is good quality/has not bloomed (bloomed chocolate will not temper properly). If you're not tempering your chocolate, you can use any number of chocolate bars you'd like, but if you're tempering, you need to use at least 12 ounces (some sources say a pound, but I didn't have any issues with slightly less). Feel free to use any assortment of toppings you'd like, but know that traditional mendiants are made with nuts and dried fruit - so go that route if you want something closer to the real thing (hazelnuts and dried apricots make for a delicious pairing, by the way).
FRENCH CHOCOLATE MENDIANTS
4 bars (360g) good quality dark chocolate, evenly chopped
Nuts, cacao nibs, flaked coconut, freeze dried fruit, etc.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment; set aside. Temper your chocolate in a food processor, the traditional way, or without a thermometer (I do the latter method as my candy thermometer drives me wild) (that and the chocolatier we met in London tempers his chocolate this way - so if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for us). Once your chocolate is tempered, transfer it to a small pot with a spouted lip - this will ensure you pour circular disks (if you don't care about wobbly-shaped mendiants, feel free to shape them with a spoon). Slowly pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet, in 1 1/2-2" circles. I like to pour 8-10 at a time then decorate them before they harden (it gets easier as you go, I promise). Top with an assortment of your favorite toppings. Depending on the temperature of your house, the mendiants may take up to an hour to set. Once set, transfer to an air tight container and store at room temperature. Mediants will keep for weeks on weeks, but I doubt they'll last that long.
* If your chocolate starts to harden before you finish pouring all the mendiants, simply return it to the double boiler and heat for 15-20 seconds, stirring constantly until the chocolate has remelted.
Yield: 35-40 1 1/2-2" mendiants
MY FAVORITE COMBINATIONS
Almonds + cacao nibs + sea salt flakes Crushed coffee beans + cacao nibs (or flaked coconut) Dehydrated raspberries (crushed) + flaked coconut Dry roasted peanuts (chopped) + flaked coconut + sea salt flakes An assortment of roughly chopped nuts + sea salt flakes And if you want to go crazy: pretzel pieces, potato chips, sprinkles, etc.