Friday, 9 December 2011

Fusion confusion

A few weeks ago, in a moment of flighty insanity, I bought a bag of popcorn.

Not just any old popcorn, mind, but one of these trendy new ‘flavoured’ ones. Flavoured, that is, in some way other than salt or sugar.

In this case, it was a bag from a company owned by Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret a Manger. And the flavouring in question was wasabi.


I took one piece, consumed that – and decided that that was quite enough. I’m quite happy to try things, but that was just wrong.

And then, in the French capital, I came across another potentially intriguing fusion of foods.

A book on gourmet Paris had recommended a chocolatier called Jean-Paul Hévin, who has a number of outlets in the city, including one that’s just around the corner from where we stay.

In the event, we didn’t suss out where it was until our final morning – by which time we’d found a substantial Hévin stall in Galeries Lafayette.

We bought conventional chocolates for ourselves and a box for my mother – before I spotted something that had actually been mentioned in that gourmet guide: cheese chocolates.

Yes, you really did read that correctly. These were small cubes of cheese, covered in chocolate. Me being me, I had to try. There was one small box left, so it came back to London.

What would you expect from such a combination?

One of the four cheeses that Hévin uses is Roquefort – hardly a shrinking violet on the taste and smell front.

My first response then, when I sat down to pay such a confection the time it merits, was pleasant surprise. There wasn’t such a clash as one might have expected. It was as though the chocolate muted the flavour of the cheese, which then only came through later and in a very subtle way.

But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder what the point of it actually is. After all, who wants a ‘subtle’ Roquefort?

Perhaps it qualifies as a sort of amuse-bouche – a single-bite appetiser to set the tastebuds tingling? But on that note, I’d suggest that it fails too, simply because it’s too subtle to really excite the palate. It manages to take two wonderful ingredients and render them less exciting than they should be.

And just because something doesn’t taste vile that still doesn’t mean that it really works.

I understand the artistic imperative – the need and desire to experiment and try new things. But I remain unconvinced about the merits of chocolate cheese.

I shall eat the rest – they are, frankly, more chocolate than cheese – and then I shall enjoy Hévin’s proper chocolates over Christmas. And some really good cheese.

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