As Featured in The Daily Telegraph 25th March 05
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With Easter in the air and the Bunny on his way, Judith Woods investigates the chocolate fountain phenomenon
The low moans of female ecstasy emanating from the back of my house were the first indication that this was no ordinary party. Just as the excited squeals hit a When Harry Met Sally crescendo, my husband strode through the front door.
“Good grief,” he muttered. “What on earth are you doing in the kitchen? Filming a soft p0 rn movie?”
As the door swung open, it became apparent that this was much better than mere s.e. x. This was a chocolate fountain party: 10 kilos of best Belgian chocolate, cascading down a three-and-a-half foot tower in the centre of the table.
And having sampled its delights, I can categorically state that the end is nigh for the Easter egg. After all, what self-respecting woman would allow the man in her life to fob her off with a supermarket-bought egg, when – if he really loved her – he would hire her, what is essentially a five-tiered wedding cake made out of liquid chocolate?
The idea is to take a piece of succulent fruit such as pineapple or a strawberry on a long skewer, dip it in the chocolaty waterfall and pop it in your mouth. The groans of satisfaction, although not mandatory, seem pretty much unavoidable.
Given the endorphin buzz that even the smell of the fountain induced among my friends, I can understand why these glorious American imports are fast becoming the centrepiece of choice at Britain’s top parties.
At last year’s post-Bafta bash, three chocolate fountains were left running for several hours before the event, to whet the appetite of stars including Scarlett Johansson and Pedro Almodóvar.
“People definitely go a little bit wild when they see and smell a chocolate fountain.” “They become very childlike and uninhibited. Emma Thompson couldn’t keep away and Johnny Depp kept sticking his fingers into the chocolate, which is very bad etiquette, but then he is a bit of a rebel.”
My chocolate fountain, supplied by Chocolate Heaven, came with an array of delicious nibbles for dunking. There were bananas and grapes, pink marshmallows and soft mints, little pieces of flapjack and hot cross buns.
More unusually, there were chunks of mature cheddar cheese and even green and red chillies for the more daring souls among us. The chocolate-cheese combination was surprisingly tasty, the tart and sweet flavours melding on the tongue. I was too cowardly to try the chillies, but a pregnant friend declared it a gastronomic treat.
Chocolate Heaven is run by Mark Grimwade, who also runs a wedding entertainment business. He supplies chocolate fountains and increasingly, couples are hiring one instead of a cake. After all, a fountain will feed – and just as importantly, amuse.
“I always used to find wedding shows quite frustrating – as soon as the brides spotted the wedding dresses, they just ignored every other stand,” says Mark Grimwade. “Then I attended a fair where there was a chocolate fountain – as soon as the brides smelt the chocolate they were off, running past the dresses to get to it. That’s when I understood the power of chocolate.”
Given a choice of chocolate for the fountain, I went for a delicious blend of milk and dark. The fountain was installed an hour and a half before the party. Bags of little chocolate pellets called callets were emptied into the base, and an element underneath slowly heated them until they were liquid.
Then the motor was switched on and the chocolate was pumped up a 44 in central column, before gushing down several tiers in a smooth curtain.
There was no mess on the table and no chocolate-spattered party frocks. This is because there is an art to chocolate dipping: you take the dip on the end of a skewer, plunge it into the chocolate and twist until coated. Then place a napkin under the dip as you bring it towards your face and place the whole thing in your mouth; taking ladylike nibbles is to court disaster – but a chocolate splash or two could be fun.
At Quintessentially, the private members’ concierge club, demand for chocolate fountains is soaring among clients who want to offer their guests something a little different.
“A chocolate fountain adds to the energy and chemistry of any gathering,” says Louise O’Riordan of Quintessentially. “It’s a fabulous way of breaking down barriers. There’s a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory effect, where people are transported back to when they were kids.”
More satisfying than sex, more fun than cake. It’s official: liquid chocolate is the new champagne.
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