York Food Festival



York Food Festival finishes on Sunday. There’s still time to see some good  cookery dems, check out the market stalls, the street food, music, talks and workshops. If you’ve never been go now, it’s been on for ten  days and it’s the biggest and arguably the best of our regional food festivals. Our pick of the festival:



Friday 25th

Drop in to any of the free demos that run all day every hour from 12 noon. Highlights are Masterchef finalist Sara Danesin Medio and Raffi’s Spicebox


Italian Wine Tasting Evening 7pm Guildhall

Karen Hardwick is  a delightful, informed and unpretentious wine expert. Her evening of Italian wines and shared platters of Italian meats and cheeses be well worth the ticket price. £30


Saturday 26th

Wild Food Foraging Walk 10.30am Under Skeldergate Bridge

Wild Harvest are conducting a walk around York to discover all the edible plants growing in the heart of the city. £9.50


Cocoa House


Chocolate Fair. All Day. Guildhall

The Guildhall is taken over for the whole weekend in a celebration of chocolate led by York Cocoa House. There will be a chocolate café, workshops and at 2pm a ‘banquet of cake’ by the Clandestine Cake Club. Free entry.



Sunday 27th

Cochon Aveugle 1pm Demo Area

Cochon Aveugle in one of York’s best restaurants so this demonstration should be well worth going along to. Fee Entry


Finally I want to catch the Food in Art exhibition outside York Art Gallery that runs all week and sample the new Café No 8 outlet there too.


York Cocoa House

For all that some have christened it the Chocolate City, York has been slow to celebrate its chocolate history, but in 2011 Sophie Jewett, a true chocolate enthusiast, opened the York Cocoa House in Blake Street and made it a place to learn, buy, eat and celebrate all things chocolate.


Food Historian Dr Annie Gray at the opening of York Cocoa House


A self-taught chocolatier, Sophie gave up her day job to set up this great littler enterprise. A café, workshop, shop and much more. Sign up for dinners, chocolate tastings, workshops or masterclasses. Every day between 10am and 4pm there is an opportunity for you or your kids to make a chocolate lolly. You can book a group visit for a chocolate birthday party, a hen party or a corporate day.

If you want something more serious Sophie offers a 15 week course to learn tempering, ganache, chocolate decorating and much more. Join all 15 or pick out the sessions you fancy or you could do it all in a week on her Chocolate Apprenticeship.

If you just want to eat rather than make, there is a pleasant little café where everything on the menu – sweet or savoury – contains chocolate. The rarebit is made with chocolate stout, the hummous, with chilli and white chocolate and naturally there is every kind of hot chocolate and deliciously indulgent chocolate cakes – our favourite, the salted caramel chocolate torte

Take home some handmade truffles with flavours that range from vanilla, orange, chilli and even Yorkshire blue cheese, which is surprisingly good.

In King’s Square, York’s Chocolate Story is a more commercial attraction taking visitors through the history of chocolate, how it’s made and best of all, how it tastes.


Whilst Jill’s been gadding round Andalucia (envious, moi?) my treats have been home spun but no poorer for that; I’m delighted to share a couple of very special places I’ve just stumbled across, and I didn’t need a passport or the patience of a saint to endure airport hell.

Anne White and Kate Shepherd were best mates at Sheffield Uni around eight years ago, and worked together in the shop they now own. Fresh out of college with no cash and the incumbent owners selling up, they persuaded the bank to give them a business loan and hey presto, Cocoa was re-born! What these two don’t know about chocolate you could fit on the back of a bar of Green & Blacks.

As part of their self-education, they spent a month on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada, working in the jungle, picking pods, collecting coffee beans and watched them being turned into chocolate (and I’m thrilled to be able to report that the 60% cocoa bar is stunning). They’re currently studying at the Chocolate Academy in Banbury  (I know! Why didn’t I know about this place when I was making bad career decisions?) in order to create their own recipes.

The modest terraced shop/cafe is utterly charming; more choc than you can shake a stick at in the front, a cute vintage sitting room at the back full of sweeties old and new – a fascinating space complete with frilly lampshades and shabby chic furniture, whilst upstairs the chilled Cocoa lounge beckons, all muslin drapes and embroidered, be-jewelled cushions, perfect for drinking hot chocolate and munching on a cupcake whilst people watching on Eccy Road. An absolute gem of a place.

Cocoa, 462 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, S11 8PX T: 0114 268 5050 www.cocoawonderland.co.uk



Whisky Tasting

Five things I learned from a neighbourhood lunchtime whisky tasting

1. That chocolate, even Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, goes really well with fine single malts. So does superb home-made Indian vegetarian food.

2. That the better the whisky the less of a hangover.

3. That there’s much more to American whiskey than Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort. I will now accept gifts of £100 bottles of Kentucky Pappy Van Winkle 12 year old Kentucky bourbon.

4. That all of us, our tutor included, also rated an £11 bottle of Black Bottle, a seriously good drop.

5. That tutor knows best. We tried to turn the tables on him with a blind tasting of a malt from our shelf. Two sips and he unhesitatingly and correctly identified it as a 12 year old Balvenie Doublewood. Respect or what?

He is Dhaval Gandhi, a head brewer in Tadcaster, originally from Rajasthan, with a MA thesis on Scotch whisky and an ambition to open his own distillery. Remember the name. Big thanks, too, to Shivani Gandhi whose delicious lunch snacks featured the most perfect spiced cauliflower, spicy vegetable wraps and coriander, spiced yoghurt and tamarind dip.

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