allo darlin’ - the chocolate box

Some of you may remember that I once sent Los Campesinos! an anonymous box of sweets and chocolates. Thankfully, they never filed for a restraining order. So when I discovered that Allo Darlin’ were coming back to Chapel Hill on their tour for We Come From The Same Place, it was suggested by a friend that I do something similar, except this time, email them ahead of time so it doesn’t seem quite so creepy.

Remember, it was all Tammy’s fault. Nothing to do with me.

Tammy did indeed said the email, and the response was pretty positive, even going as far to ask one of their friends what chocolates we should make, who came back with the idea of:

a soft sea-salt caramel encased in milk chocolate, then covered in dark chocolate, with an extra dusting of sea-salt on top

I think I read that email three times and then bashed my head on the table. Then I composed myself. After all, it only involved tempering two different types of chocolate, casting them one after the other in a mold, making sure not to melt the already-cast chocolate, then piping in a soft-set caramel that has to cool down from 117˚C to 30˚C so as not to melt the milk chocolate and hope that it’s still pipe-able at that temperature…and then…

muffled cries and groans

Obviously, given that start, I did the only thing a sane person would: I decided that I needed to make a 4-piece set, which meant I needed to come up with three other chocolates. Naturally.

It did give me a chance to break in the new chocolate room, though.


From the board, I had my four chocolates, which we matched to Allo Darlin’ lyrics (it seemed appropriate):

  • Heartbeat Chilli — a dark chocolate ganache with infused spices to try and replicate Locopops’ Mexican Chocolate locopop (turns out a hint of lime really helps). Cast in a fancy heart mold.


  • Capricornia — goat cheese ganache (Capricorn, see, get it? Get it? GET IT? Ahahaha!). Some people think this is a bit odd, but there’s plenty of lemon and it ends up tasting like cheesecake. Cast in my fancy hemisphere molds.

chocolates in a half-shell!

  • Allo Darlin’ — it seemed appropriate to name the dark / milk / caramel creation after the band. These ended up just being time-consuming than too difficult, though there was a moment when I was about to turn the mold upside-down to empty out the milk chocolate internal layer when I suddenly realized that the dark chocolate had probably pulled away during tempering…which meant I was about to drop 40 dark chocolate shells into the temperer and then shout a lot. Thankfully, I managed to catch myself before I ruined a lot of chocolate. Then I painted the tops with 83% Valrhona, so there was actually three different types of chocolate in the result.

And, yes, as it turned out, the band’s friend was really onto something with the double-hull. The mixture of the different chocolates, the salt and the caramel was pretty delicious.

Piping in the caramel

  • The Shattered Dreams of England — most pretentious name for a chocolate, ever! I was all proud of myself for coming up with this one: a mandarin pâte de fruit in the top with aerated (aero) chocolate filling up the rest of the mold. I remained proud right up until I was idly browsing through my copy of The Fat Duck Cookbook and found exactly the same thing staring back at me. Oops. Anyway, it tasted like a very fancy Jaffa Cake.

Putting the pâte de fruit in the mold

Spraying aero chocolate everywhere

The chocolate box

The weekend thus lost to chocolate, all that remained was to go to Chapel Hill and hand-deliver the chocolates to a rather excited band. At this point, I would link to a photo of handing them over to the happy band…but I completely forgot to take any pictures. However, they did take some of the chocolates:


Incredible. Handmade chocolate delivery for us in Chapel Hill, NC!

View on Instagram

The slight downside of arriving at a concert two hours before the doors opening is that you desperately try to not come off as a crazy stalker…which gets harder when you keep bumping into band members as you’re walking around Franklin Street. It wasn’t done on purpose, honest! (but they were all friendly and amazing).

And it all ended up with an amazing concert — it was lovely to hear Tallulah live for the first time, and the new album has been playing here in Durham all week…

…but I still can’t look at chocolate yet. Maybe next week.

The Week Looms Ahead

Internet, I do hope you’ll forgive me, or at least reproach me too much for the detail that I’ve been in my pyjamas since 18:30. A day of travelling, or at least a day of last-minute scurrying trying to leave the house in a decent state before getting to the airport and then sitting down a lot. It’s more tiring than you’d think. Honest.

And so back at the centre of bustling activity that is Winter Street in Waltham. There may have been some birds flying overhead at one point. And they’ve now completely torn down the American Brutalist buildings across the road. Heathens.

It will be another quiet week, I imagine, though things will ramp up at the weekend with a couple of days of intense chocolate making, including one chocolate that I’m calling ‘The Shattered Dreams of England’. Yes.

(incidentally, that is a big clue as to what the occasion the chocolates are for, but there’s about three potential people reading that might get the reference)

Right, another week of developing in the office awaits. Meanwhile, I’m going to spend the evenings watching Dennis Potter films. I know how to put on a good time, you see.

Chocolate Room 2.0

Do I get to call myself an adult now? Carpet ripped from the floorboards, new flooring cut to fit and placed, holes patched in the wall, chalkboard paint applied, and a new layout for what hopefully will be some amazing chocolate adventures. With a special set being made for Tammy, as it would never have happened without her dropping by…

Stripping carpet

so much carpet and tile…

Adding the underlay insulation

New floor!

More space, more chocolates!

The State of the Union is...Together. For The Moment

I feel like I should write something longer about Thursday at some point, but for now, I’m just glad the country I grew up in still exists…although it’s somewhat selfish to feel that whilst looking at the glum faces of those in Dundee and Glasgow having campaigned so hard for the past few years.

Or I could talk about my super-secret chocolate project in October. But it’s a secret. Hence the super-secret bit. More on that to come! Maybe. Oooh, and that’s a thought…

(oh yes, the suspense. Just get on with it – Ed.)

Oh! I have a super new shiny object! It makes my life 105% better, apparently. Still getting used to the larger size. My thumb doesn’t reach across any more! How do you Android users live with this?

Things I Learnt This Week

Turns out that while I may sometimes forget my accent exists, other people are very much aware of it. And you’d think it would be more common in a place like Boston!

(this encounter left me blushing furiously, but it was a nice, if awkward way to start a conference!)

Meanwhile, back here in Durham, the house has shiny new roof, new chocolate books are on their way, and the weather outside hasn’t been completely horrible today!

Now, all I need to do is bend CoreOS to my whim…

Dark Chocolate Digestives Drought Continues

Well, I was planning on spending this entry talking about how I survived my first week alone by cooking every night and even incorporating the dreaded vegetables. A success! Then yesterday, as if I was taunting fate itself, my sous-vide PID heater committed suicide, my gummies didn’t set up correctly, I forgot that I had put cookies in the oven (mmm, crunchy!), and finally, I microplaned my thumbnail.

Next week, it’s all eating out.

Okay, technically, the reason for that is that I’ll be in Boston, but still. I am saddened by the death of my sous-vide setup; I do have a new Anova on order, but that means no water bath cooking until November at the earliest! Curses (though again, as I got in at the $99 Kickstart level, I really can’t complain too much).

Still no new roof. The saga continues.

The brutalist buildings across the road from the hotel have been demolished completely now. Bah. I feel a bit more for them than a flooded and condemned warehouse…bull jumping over a shark or not…


And Still No Dark Chocolate Digestives

I stood for about a minute in the aisle at Harris Teeter looking at the gap where the dark chocolate digestives were supposed to be. Milk chocolate to the left, Hobnobs to the right, but no dark chocolate digestives. What a savage country this is.

A long weekend down. Boxes opened, rooms emptied, kitchen restocked, and yes, a new bookcase (of course). It’s going to take a while to get used to living on my own, but hopefully I won’t starve or die of malnutrition (I’d like to point out that I have ate multiple green things this weekend! Rocket and peas! Yes!). I also fixed two chairs and unscrewed a door, which makes me feel like a DIY expert or something (also, my iPhone tells me my new steel bookcase is perfectly level, so go me!). I’m sure that feeling will pass when something else goes wrong in the house.

There’s probably more to write, but I’m tired now, and I still have to do the washing up. We’ll see what September brings.

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

I can’t help imagining this song to rain and concrete vistas. New Rail Standard signage, almost, but not quite Helvetica leading the way to the platforms, the faded but defiant logotypes of British Rail speeding past, regulation digestive biscuits and the death of the post-war consensus. It went a bit bleak at the end.

It’s a Saturday night that finds me defeated, annoyed, and utterly vanquished. Too old for this, but still feeling like I should feel young enough not for it to get on my last nerve. All the things I could and should be doing just sitting there glaring, mocking me for my failures. The nights spent not sleeping.

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season

Three Years

Three years. Three houses. Three jobs (well, four technically, but three employers!).

It’s been an interesting period. Lots of changes over the last 36 months, and lots more to come, some very soon. I am very happy that I live in the age of Internet and FaceTime. Home doesn’t seem too far away when I can call any time. Mostly.

Yeah! Yeah! 10th Anniversary Special Edition

Consider this a placeholder post. A post that contains all the possible variations of the post I could make on this day, this day of all days. Of the fear of being a retromancer, as Kieron Gillen would call it. But also of the feeling that rushes through the body every time I hear that firework, a shot against the Wall of Sound, fired by an almost impossibly British amalgamation of Spector, the Manics, the fanzine girls, the fanzine boys.

Of that day in June, 2006, my favourite day in London, a day spent drinking strawberry beer with Forest Pines and Masonic Boom, watching Shimera Curves, and then dancing with Kieron and Alex De Campi in the evening.

Or the day when I saw the advert for their album and they had used one of my lines in my review for their album.

”Karl Marx with a beat. Girls Aloud with C4 strapped to their chests”

I wanted to be Paul Morley so much back then. King Mob circa the end of Invisibles crossed with Morley…but in the end it wasn’t to be me.

And I just can’t help believing, though believing sees me cursed

Even now, ten years to the day of its release, the brazenness of that title, a title that races towards a city of parody before suddenly taking flight and piercing the sky - a title that mocks itself with a knowing wink, but at the same time is more serious than anything else for those three minutes, those three minutes of revolution, of dancing, of sneering, and of looking at everything around, smiling, and digging in to fight the good fight.

This placeholder post isn’t enough. The website, updated for 2014, isn’t enough. I didn’t have enough time, so Adam Curtis is all you get for the moment. It feels just enough on the right side of Sixth Form, but there needs to be more dancing. I’ll rectify that in the months to come.

I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something

It wasn’t my last song, like I feared at the time. There was a night, many nights in fact, in 2008, when I would listen to Hold On Now, Youngster more times than was really healthy, or that moment in Santa Monica when I came across Tallulah for the first time. And there will be more to come.

This frequency’s my universe

And it always will be.