Dating with a Chocoholic (for my 60 dates)

My mission was to go on 60 dates with friends & family to celebrate my 60th birthday.

When I was fourteen I remember wanting a McVities chocolate digestive so badly I formulated a plan to sneak downstairs when everyone was asleep and steal one from the packet my dad had bought earlier in the day. Each of us four kids had been given two biscuits after tea but I just couldn’t get that sweet, creamy flavour of chocolate out of my mouth. I wanted more. And there were at least six left in the packet. All I had to do was wait until everyone was asleep.

I got caught. By mum. Just as I bit into that delicious yumminess.

Whilst my teenage night raid was unsuccessful, the feeling that a McVities chocolate digestive was the best biscuit in the world has never left me. (Full story in my book Wonderful Things)

Fast forward another 46 years and I’m formulating a plan to celebrate my 60th birthday by going on 60 ‘dates’ with loved ones doing things we enjoy – so chocolate had to be in there somewhere.

One date? Well – maybe two or three.

I considered the options.


1. The obvious – eat lots

But where? It didn’t take me long to find the Hotel Chocolat restaurant in London called Rabot 1745.

In 2010, two British guys decided to open a hotel and restaurant on a cacao plantation in St Lucia and ethically produce high quality chocolate. Their menu was all about cacao, dishing up exquisite delights like cacao-nib encrusted fillet of pork and white chocolate mash.

They then thought, wouldn’t it be a good idea to bring such flavours to London (and Leeds)? Who said men don’t like chocolate as much as women?

So where better for a chocoholic date?

Date with a Chocoholic
The Praline Soother at Rabot 1745

How can a girl resist a restaurant that makes chocolate its gooey centre? How could I fight against my senses clamouring to taste a Praline Soother, a vodka and coconut milk, white chocolate and praline blend? (My mouth waters just typing the ingredients).

I invited two cousins, June and Lorraine. We hadn’t seen each other for over a year, so once we started talking we didn’t stop – well only to savour the gourmet chocolate treats.

We started with the cocktail and decided it was far too yummy to stick with just one.

I wanted to move straight to dessert. The Rabot mousse selection, a trio made with cacao from the Rabot estate, 65% Supermilk, 70% dark and 90% dark chocolate. (Such a terrible habit to look at the dessert menu before choosing the main course).

But chocolate isn’t all about the sweet. I decided to try the seared cod with coconut milk and cacao butter and very tasty it was too.

The mousse didn’t disappoint and by the time we rolled out of the restaurant we had well and truly boosted our serotonin levels, improved our mood and reduced fatigue. So much so, we just had to explore Borough Market – looking for more food to buy.

Date with a Chocoholic
Borough Market

Although they say it was established in 1756, I was amazed to discover the market has existed, in one form or another since 1014, the time of the Anglo-Saxons and the Viking invaders and my favourite time in history. Our English king then was Ethelred the Unready. The markets position at one end of the bridge was the same then as it is today, although the bridge then would probably have been wooden, possibly constructed as a defence parapet to prevent attacks from those pesky Vikings sailing up the Thames.

When we finally said our goodbyes later that evening, we all agreed the date had been a huge success and had definite health benefits.


2. Walk it off

What better way to ease the conscience – to stick the nagging, sweet genie back in his box. Eat Chocolate and walk at the same time. Guilty conscience gone.

I find Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. They guarantee a tour full of chocolate. Not just any chocolate but fine chocolate.

Date with a Chocoholic
A real find for the Chocoholic

We meet in Ebury Street at the chocolate shop of William Curley* (not the inventor of the Curly Wurly), a four times winner of the ‘Best British Chocolatier’ by the Academy of Chocolate. He has even won a gold medal at the Culinary Olympics.

Who knew such things existed?

I decided to invite Pam, a friend of fifty years who likes chocolate and whose hobby is rambling.

It was a cold day and the molten hot chocolate was a welcome start. As we drank the rich liquid we were given a lesson on making of fine chocolates and then offered a sample. My taste buds positively sang from the flavour of fresh velvety ganache. Not content with just one, I just had to buy an orange marzipan to take with me. A decision I would regret by the end of the tour. I ate it on the walk to the next stop.

Date with a Chocoholic
Tasting Chocolate on the Chelsea Tour

The morning melts into one long gooey ramble through the streets of Chelsea where we learn more about the chocolate process, eat 100% nibs, pass The Royal Court Theatre and the statue of a young Mozart, who apparently stayed in London in 1764 where he composed his first two symphonies.

The tour lives up to its promise – we are chocced out by the end. Something I thought not possible.

Date with a Chocoholic
A Wow of a Chocolate

3. Add it to your beauty regime

When I was in my teens I was warned not to binge on chocolate because it could cause acne. It never worried me as I rarely, if ever, got spots. Thanks mum. Still I remember chocolate took the rap for bad skin. Thankfully that myth has been scotched. The cocoa bean is full of antitoxins and can be anti-ageing especially when applied to the skin.

So a chocolate massage was a definite opportunity for a date. A luxury massage designed to make me and a friend feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

I invited Monique, who spends her days working for a charity, feeling she deserved being wrapped up in chocolate for a couple of hours.

First it was a cocoa butter scrub, both moisturising and nourishing. Then I was massaged with an indulgent ganache of cocoa, blended with essential oils. My nostrils flared with the added bonus whiff of chocolaty smell. Monique says she drifted off into a chocolate cloud, full of sweet dreams.

Date with a Chocoholic
Monique and Jasmin ready for their chocolate massage

The only downside; having to wash it all off later but that’s nothing compared to the unforgettable assault on the senses.

4. Need an excuse?

No true chocoholic needs an excuse to indulge but if you’re looking for cacao ways to create, there are many courses including a Chocolate and Macaroons Masterclass.

There is also the delightfully indulgent Chocolate Hotel in Bournemouth.

And then there is always a chocolate Easter egg hunt which could involve young children in the family.


Moral of the date: Chocolate is good for your health and wellbeing. Eating it is both fun and educational

With many thanks to June, Lorraine, Pam and Monique who endured these dates with me.


Dates completed = 6/60

Next – a date with history.

Follow me to find out what happened.


*William Curely shop has changed hands and is R. Chocolate now.











How to Date with your Favourite TIPPLE

My mission is to go on 60 dates with friends & family to celebrate my 60th birthday.

I’ve always subscribed to the view that lifting a glass of wine to my lips time and time again is exercise enough. Hitting 60 not only reinforces this belief, it also gives me an idea for a date.

I can’t remember when I decided Puligny Montrachet was my favourite of all favourite wines but somewhere along the timeline I did. So what better way to celebrate my 60th than to dedicate a date to this delicious, fruity, marizpanny, wine? To go to where it’s made and taste it hot of the vine, so to speak.

How to date with your favourite tipple
A bottle of my favourite wine

I ask three girl-friends to come with me and find them, despite the costs, to be surprisingly willing. It’s not until we get there that one confesses she doesn’t like white wine. Oops!

Rule 1: Check your friends like your favourite tipple.

The four of us are giggly, like runaway schoolgirls as we catch a flight to Lyon and train/taxi to our hotel. The 17th Century building is a converted Maison de Maître in the village of Puligny Montrachet, owned by respected winemaker Olivier LEFLAIVE. The first thing we do is order a bottle. Yes – before we’ve unpacked. We get some odd looks until we realise we shouldn’t pronounce the ‘t’ in Montrachet.

Rule 2: Check how to pronounce your favourite wine.

We choose the cheapest bottle at 42 euros. With it comes bread, cheese and cold meats. It doesn’t take us long to order a second by which time we are a merry bunch of ladies.

The next morning I’ve booked us on a tour of the vineyard and a wine tasting lunch. We are escorted by Charles (pronounced Sharl), a young Frenchman with a-come-to-bed accent. He tells us how they grow and harvest their vines. How their micro-climate makes a difference between producing a basic Bourgogne or a Grand Cru. How they prune differently, 8-10 branches are left on the Bourgogne but only 6 on the Grand Cru, helping to improve the vegetation when the vine fruits again. He tells us their wine is best drunk after 5 years as the acidity is reduced and the flavour developed.

I’m feeling thirsty.

In the winery Olivier Leflaive himself shows us how they make their special wines. The fermentation tanks, the piles of oak barrels, the expert taster know-how.

I’m listening, learning but yearning for the tasting lunch. I can’t help thinking my friends might feel the same.

Rule 3: Book a wine tasting lunch. It’s cheaper.

We opt for the 9 wine tasting menu. Yes – NINE different glasses of wine. My arm muscles are going to get a serious workout. I think about my bedroom on the first floor and wonder if I will make it up the stairs later.

The list comprises of a basic Bourgogne to prepare the palate, three young white wines, three grand cru white wines and two reds which pleases my friend who doesn’t drink white. I notice, however, she joins in the tasting with as much gusto as the rest of us. I’m thinking we might have a convert in our midst.

We are instructed to taste the wine and tip away the rest. We all do that with the basic Bourgogne before someone says, ‘isn’t that a bit of a waste?’ We all agree. We are eating lunch with it after all.

Rule 4: Never tip any wine away during a tasting, think of the exercise.

At the end of four courses, we order double portions of dessert, a pear in red wine with a crumble topping. Nobody really wants coffee but we sit in the courtyard and tell favourite jokes. Laughing has a hysterical, high-pitched quality to it. For a while we become serious and talk of regrets. There are tears before we all decide to rest. I fall asleep in minutes.

Rule 5: Make sure you book accommodation where it’s easy to go and lie down after the wine tasting.

The next day we are greeted by a cloudless blue sky and taxi it to Beaune, the centre of the Burgundy wine region. We tour the Hôtel-Dieu Museum, a former hospital and stand in homage before the Altarpiece. The Jugement Dernier by Rogier van der Weyden is 9 large oak panels painted in oil, with stunning imagery brought to life. The feeling of awe lasts as we board the Disney-esque Visiotrain for a tour of the city. Then it’s find a restaurant, for lunch, and more wine.

Rule 6: Do something cultural if only to prove you’re not total philistines.

By the time we get to day 3 we have worked our way up the wine menu, ordering a bottle of Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru costing 140 euros. We feel obliged to taste the greeny-gold wine with its luxurious fragrant flavour to complete our education.

The hotel offers us four bikes. I haven’t ridden in years but manage to get on it (just) but my feet don’t reach the ground so I yell for the others to follow. I’m too scared to stop so my legs peddle furiously all the way to Meursault, where I find a high curb, allowing me to park. After the 4km charge, it’s necessary to find a café to rest.

‘As we’re here we should try a Meursault wine,’ I say.

Everyone agrees and we savour the nutty-butteriness of the wine. Much less fragrant than the Puligny-Montrachet I say, but very enjoyable.

It’s a jolly cycle ride back and we all arrive safely at the hotel front door. I feel thinner. Colour roses my cheeks and my eyes are bright with laughter.

Moral of the date: Drinking wine is good exercise.

On our 9th glass at the end of the wine tasting lunch

How to date with your favourite tipple
Jasmin, Paddy, Gillian & Raquel


With many thanks to Gillian, Paddy and Raquel who generously gave their time and money to join me on this wonderful date. And guess what? We’re going to do it again – to a red wine region of France.

Cote du Rhone here we come.


Dates completed = 3/60

Next – a food date.

Follow me to find out what happened.

Please always drink responsibly.