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I can’t believe it is already September and that the dark nights are rolling in. Another sure sign that this month has arrived is my annual trip to the Speciality & Fine Food Fair. This event is a good gauge of the artisan food business in the UK as it showcases the winners of the Great Taste Awards as well as housing over 600 stands of premium small producers. I am always amazed at the range of products and collection of empassioned producers who are working exceptionally hard to maintain a foothold in the food market.

Lauden Chocolates

Lauden Chocolates

There were of course the usual suspects in much the same place as last year, sitting alongside the speciality chocolate fair, which is always an enjoyable collection of products. I especially enjoy catching up with the wonderful Lauden chocolate team when I am there. They are thankfully going from strength to strength. Who knew when I searched ‘chocolatier, Leeds’ on Google for a project I was doing a few years ago that my path would cross with such superb people at an early phase of their chocolate empire building.

Steven persuaded Sun to join him in sunny Leeds from her home in Singapore....the rest is historic chocolate and much much more.

Steven persuaded Sun to join him in sunny Leeds from her home in Singapore….the rest is historic chocolate and much much more.

It’s couples like Steven and Sun who epitomise the commitment that is needed to build a food business. To this day, Steven is still working at his full time job which he has continued to keep his head above water whilst also supporting his dynamic wife and their growing chocolate business in the other half of his 20 odd hour working day. It is so pleasing to see their Marc de Champagne chocolates awarded the lucrative 3 stars at the Great Taste Awards, sitting alongside the passion fruit chocolate that also won 3 stars in 2010. These are without doubt the best chocolates on sale at the moment.

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The other sweet treat that seemed to be more featured than ever is the marshmallow. I think there were four stands selling the fluffy stuff, all hand made by women who have created their brand and range somewhere on the kitchen table. Copper and Cane won my heart because founder Hazel Wright toasted her creations on a mini campfire reassured that she had just the right texture to maintain its shape whilst getting the perfect charred treatment.

City bakery

I was first won over by marshmallows at the City Bakery in New York when I saw the hunks of the white stuff top their signature hot chocolate. It seemed only marginally more popular than their incredible chocolate cookies. Now the marshmallow has a career of its own. I still think it is best in a hot chocolate and that every cafe should have a signature version of that.

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Talking of hot chocolate, I also enjoyed meeting the team from Hasslachers hot chocolate. This hunk of a chocolate bar encapsulates the best of Colombian chocolate and you can melt two squares in hot milk and sweeten with their organic  cane sugar for an authentic chocolate experience.

I realise that I have only written about sweet things this time and that is not really a reflection of the many many wonderful products that I saw this week. So to restore an element of balance, I will end with one other beautiful creation which was presented so well at the show. These sample tubes were so very visual and I loved the packaging of this whole range of oils and balms (balsamic vinegars with honey). So I leave you with hot paprika seed oil.

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