Saadiyat Island is about to boom! With the forthcoming Abu Dhabi cultural district launch of the Louvre, Guggenheim and Zayed National Museum onto the arts and culture scene of the capital. Alongside construction of the ultra-luxurious Saadiyat Lagoons residential district, this iddilic Island paradise certainly embodies exclusivity.
The early bird catches the worm (so to speak), with a handful of five star hotels already making use of Saadiyat’s prime beachfront location, renowned for glittering waters and long swathes of isolated sand. The Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi is the embodiment of everything that makes Saadiyat so special, part resort and part intimate beach house, we couldn’t think of a better location for a ‘Masters of food and wine: chocolate masterclass’ than their exclusive residence.
Our arrival into the Arabic inspired residence was met with chocolate infused beverages and as we sipped on a Chocolate Martini we were able to truly appreciate the grandeur of the exquisite space, encompassing high ceilings and intricate Mashrabiya (Arabic lattice work). The Residence is a private function space, usually reserved for birthday parties and meetings but for one week (beginning on the 25th October) it will become a chocolate aficionados paradise and something to rival Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Featuring a showpiece tree moulded from complex chocolate work and vases filled with jagged shards of this ‘black gold.’ It soon became apparent that we were in for one unforgettable evening of gluttonous indulgence and judging by the room of assembled media types, we certainly didn’t fall into the 3% of the population who don’t like chocolate!
Our chocolate masterclass began with an informative lesson in the processes behind the making of chocolate, a natural substance that (much like coffee) comes from a pod grown in Equatorial areas of the globe. These pods are cracked open and the insides placed within wooden boxes and covered in banana leaves. Over the course of a week fermentation begins and a chocolate liquor is released from holes made in the bottom of the box (what we would give to sample this fermented chocolate alcohol!). The mixture is then laid out to dry in direct sunlight, revealing the precious cocoa bean.
Cocoa beans are roasted to release the aroma, with the roasting time and temperature being a closely guarded secret and one that will differ between different chocolate factories. These beans are then shaken intensely to separate them from their shells, before being crushed and ground to reveal the 100% chocolate.
At 100%, the chocolate is likely to be very bitter so needs to be heated and pressed before additional ingredients such as sugar, vanilla and milk can be added. This dilution process makes the chocolate more enjoyable on the palette and far less bitter and the entire process gave us a greater appreciation into the works that goes into creating this sweet treat that we so often take for granted.
Our chocolate masterclass was presented in association with Weiss, one of the world’s leading chocolatiers, hailing from the South of France. What started as a small family confectionary business soon became a leading brand that now supplies professionals worldwide, including the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.
Weiss strongly believe that crafting chocolate by hand is the superior method and judging by the thirty varieties on offer, we’re inclined to agree. Admittedly we’ve never been fans of dark chocolate due to it’s intense bitterness but trying a more quality product has certainly altered our opinion. With the educational part of the event over, we finally got to sample some of the infamous chocolate we’d been hearing so much about. We absolutely adored the 64% Vietnamese chocolate for its fruity flavour, grown wild beneath banana trees on the banks of the Mekong Delta river. The multi-origin 72% chocolate combining the best of West Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador and Trinidad was also a remarkable find.
As if we weren’t suffering from chocolate overload, guests were treated to a chocolate inspired menu of savory and sweet treats that began with Seared Foie Gras. A surprising dish accompanied by figs, a port wine reduction and Weiss’ very own ‘acuariga‘ chocolate. The richness of the foie gras texture was complemented by the chocolatey nature of the reduction but was unlikely to convert anyone who is ethically against the dish.
Next to arrive was the Roasted Duck Magret. Tender pink slices of duck breast served with a creamy polenta, sweet corn kernels and a spicy Mexican mole chocolate sauce. The duck transpired to be our favorite dish of the evening as we cheekily ventured back for seconds… and then… thirds!
Dessert was a live-cooking demonstration from the chefs at Park Hyatt that represented simplicity at its very best. Showing how a Chocolate Fondant and Dark Chocolate Mousse can be created with relative ease but still taste absolutely delicious. The key appears to be found in the quality of the chocolate and via a process of intense whipping – with no raising agents or gelatin required – it’s as simple as that!
It’s strongly believed in the F&B industry that dessert leaves a lasting impression and is the sole thing that diners will remember most as they leave a restaurant. If the chocolate is good then the aroma will stay with diners, thus offering some degree of guranteed success.
The team at Weiss and Park Hyatt must strongly believe in this ethos as they plied guests with a variety of truffles (Passion Fruit, Pomegranate and Rose, Roasted Almond and Vanilla), Chocolate sesame tulles, piped chocolate biscotti and a beautiful Passion Chocolate. Comprising Weiss ‘Li chu’ chocolate with mousse, passionfruit slice, vanilla Bourbon Chantilly cream and passion fruit coulis. A truly exceptional way to round out the evening.
As we departed the chocolate jungle feeling like we’d more than over-indulged. A quote from Eugène Weiss himself seemed entirely relevant “Like love, chocolate is an eternal source of inspiration, rich with the noblest of emotions.”
Don’t believe us? Try for yourself as the season finale of ‘Masters of Food & Wine’ in association with French Chocolatier Weiss, runs from 25th – 30th October 2016 and costs 250 AED ++ per person. To find out more or to make a reservation please call: +971 2 407 1234
Location: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
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Hours: 7pm – midnight
Phone: 02 407 1234
We were invited to The Residences All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.