The Divine Chocolatier.
Even the gods love Grá.
When I first heard of the Beyond the Menu Chocolate box by Grá Chocolates, I immediately thought that each chef would make his or her own but that’s not the way it transpired in Episode 4 of the show. Here we heard co-conspirators Mark Moriarty and chocolatier Gráinne Mullins chat about the project.
The chocolates weren’t going to be based on the each chef’s signature dish as been initially proposed. Grainne suggested: .”.on their personalities, who they are!”. Mark agreed: “Each chef in a bite”.
Intriguing I thought and, as it turned out, absolutely exquisite.
There were the early hints from the two.
Jess: New Zealand, bright, Irish grown kiwis.
Mike: Horseradish…would that work?.. let’s try it!
Ahmet: Colour - he gave me a Turkish delight recipe..gold.
Ian: ..loves a pint..salted stout said Mark.
Mike: Chaos on the outside…pine honey..Finland to Ireland.
Gráinne herself: “…bright… gooseberry and elderflower…I’ve got gooseberry in the garden.”
All decided, just like that!
Okay. Now to turn these bare bones into something memorable. With that kind of task ahead, you couldn’t have a better pilot than Galway’s Gráinne. Back in 2020, the newly crowned Young Chef of the Year was looking forward to a great time in the kitchen. Then Covid happened. Gráinne had to pivot quickly. Into making chocolates at home. But not to worry, that chef training wasn’t going to be wasted.
“Chocolate”, she says “is all about precisions.... temperatures, colours, flavours.” And she was also determined to give the customer: ”a seamless experience from opening the box to enjoying the chocolates.” And she succeeded brilliantly, her technical know-how and the colourful appeal combined deliciously with real originality. And while this Beyond the Menu box may no longer be available, she has got many other selections for you, ideally as a Christmas gift for someone you love (including yourself!) Check here.
They’ve been described as “Luxurious and Decadent” but I prefer “Fresh and Tasty”. Some chocolates are overwhelmingly dark and rich, dominating the palate a bit like the traditional big bold Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. Grá chocolates are, for me, to continue the analogy, more like a superb Burgundy or a Beaujolais Morgan, such is the precision and balance, the beautiful lightness, in each engaging mouthful.
And each, at least those in my box, is multi-faceted. Bite into Gráinne’s own as a great opener, that compelling mix of Gooseberry Jam, Elderflower Ganache and White Chocolate, a superb example of what is to come in the box.
Baltimore chef Ahmet Dede wakes up the palate with a magnificent melange of Rose Turkish delight and Pistachio Praline, as if a misty spray strayed over the local pier wall to say good morning. Wake up guys. There’s a great day ahead! Have another one.
And from the Sea Road in Galway, the Jess Murphy chocolate is made with Kiwi Jelly, Pavlova and White chocolate. Like the others, it is love at first bite, and all of us glad that the Kiwi chef landed in the West Coast. Crafting these classy chocolates is about the story as much as it is about the food, about Ireland today.
And of course the pint features. The Ian Doyle is made with Salted Dungarvan Stout Caramel (Cliff House, where Ian operates, supports the local brewers), Dulse Seaweed and Dark Chocolate. Dark and totally handsome!
|Chocolat, Choculorum. Chocolate forever |
(You won't get full marks for that translation!) Pic by Grá
Mike Tweedie, well known for his surprisingly delightful food combinations at Adare Manor, finds himself represented by Horseradish ganache, Granny Smith Apple and white chocolate. Another smooth chocolate with the humble apple shining through.
"Flavours from the forests of Finland" feature in the Mickael Viljanen gem, a blend of Juniper Ganache and Pine Honey Vinegar. And indeed you could well imagine yourself enjoying one of these flavour-packed mouthfuls at the edge of trees as the short day ends and the long night begins.
Thanks to Grá, you don't have to travel to enjoy these gorgeous creations. By the way, each one of the six is a delight and I would not leave any behind me in the box. We did a little poll to see which was the favourite. It came down to three - Gráinne, Dede, and Mickael - with Dede getting the nod.
Mickael Viljanen (Chapter One);
Jess Murphy (Kai);
Ian Doyle (The House Restaurant at the Cliff House);
Mike Tweedie (The Oak Room at Adare Manor);
Ahmet Dede (Dede);
Gráinne (Grá Chocolates).
I ordered the box (€40.00, with a contribution to Simon included) in the middle of the year, with delivery set to coincide with Gráinne’s appearance on the TV programme with presenter Mark. Of course it would also coincide with a minor surgery and I was forced to wait a big longer to start sampling. Well worth the wait!