When I was a small child I was always sick. Today truant authorities would have come after my parents because i was never in school. I missed 2/3 of the year in 2nd grade. My best friend Cynthia brought home my books and took back the homework my mom helped me complete. She taught me to read and write; multiply and, divide. I was especially likely to be sick at holiday times - Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween would find me in bed running a fever. What do these holidays have in common? - chocolate! After my chocolate allergy was diagnosed I spent years getting weekly desensitization inoculations. Now that I am an old lady and parts of my body regularly let me down, the chocolate allergy is nearly gone and that's wonderful because I really love chocolate.
So today we visited Soho and Mayfair on a chocolate tour. The two neighborhoods couldn't be more different. Soho used to be the red light district and still has a slightly tattered look and Mayfair is where the glitterati hang out and shop - Fendi, Bulgari, Tiffany's, Versace, Harry Winston, Prada, Gucci, Diane von Furstenburg - they're all here.
Our tour started at an Algerian coffee store that had been in business since 1887. The chocolate covered beans had a wonderful crunch. The Hotel Chocolat had some unusual flavored bonbons in their offerings including cigar flavored and garlic flavored. Each piece of candy cost $3.25 - a bit less if you bought in quantity. We stuck with the tastes included on the tour. The chocolate covered champagne was a burst of flavor in my mouth. At Frego we cleansed our palates with some Argentinian ice cream specialities as well as less unusual chocolate concoctions. Prestat was in a coveed arcade and has a Royal Warrant, which means it is patronized by the Queen and or/Princes Charles and Phillip. Arcades are an especially lovely place to shop. These enclosed retail areas were created to protect rich folks who wanted to shop without being troubled by pickpockets and thieves. Each arcade was guarded by beedles - perhaps today we would call them mall cops. Fortnum & Mason is the grocery store of the royals and also has a Royal Warrant. They sold a nice selection of chocolate bars which weighed a few ounces for $9.50 each. We kept sampling. Outside the F & M clock chimed the hour and two elegant figures came out of the housing and twirled around. The East India Company is a very famous name in British history. At one time it sold half of all merchandise sold in the world and functioned more like an independent nation than a company, especially in the Asian colonies. Today the name brings people in to sample exquisite chocolate, coffee, chutney, crackers, tea, etc.
Many of the shops had beautiful decorated Halloween candies - some like the white chocolate eyeballs rather scary. Halloween is beginning to be a big holiday over here although it is rare for children to go treat or treating. To the British it feels too much like begging. They like dressing up in costumes and going to parties.
We really love eating our way through interesting neighborhoods!