Ever since the weather turned chilly two weeks ago, I’ve been getting some serious cravings for comfort food, aka chocolate and macarons. I could live off of these two fine food groups if the ensuing sugar/chocolate high didn’t put me into a coma. Like Oscar Wilde, I give in to temptation as much as possible. Luckily my eyes are bigger than my stomach, because Paris is a never-ending series of boutique windows framing perfectly gorgeous pastries and chocolates like the artworks they are. Just you try and walk past the doors without being seduced by the scent of these heavenly creations!
Don’t believe me? Come along, have a look at these and tell me your drool isn’t puddling onto your lap!
Dalloyau’s pastry cakes (above) and the classic Religieuse de Rêve au Chocolat (below) — for six!
Dalloyau is one of those elegant yet stuffy gourmet stores that always make me uncomfortable, but when I saw the giant religieuse au chocolat — the first French pastry I ever loved — I had to go in. It’s a bit like a double decker eclair, but they made it cake-size to serve six (six small, wafer-thin slices, of course). They also had some interesting macarons this season (because of course the macaron flavors now change with the fashions) including Thé-Bergamote and Cognac-Champagne.
Closed for lunch, the fools!
I was working last Monday as an extra (for an adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel) in the north end of the Marais. Being an extra requires a lot of standing around, and frankly, we get pretty sick of the meager "snack table" offerings. Not much is open on Monday, but right across the street on the Boulevard Beaumarchais was this fine looking establishment…open on Mondays but closed for lunch! Argh! I ended up getting sushi at a Kosher Chinese restaurant (not kidding; it wasn’t very good, either, go figure). Had to get back to work, so no chance to sample any of the six hot chocolate flavors proposed at this tearoom. Bummer.
The next day I had lunch at the bar of Le Bristol, where they do the Fashion High Teas with a runway show and a tray of pastries. They’re also known for their selection of hot chocolates and divine desserts — a tad more expensive than at the ChocoCafé, but I’m worth it, right? So I managed to keep the dessert section of my stomach empty so I could try one of the chocolate-caramel concoctions…I imagine the clothing would have to be pretty amazing to compete with these pastries during the shows! (note: no photos…I was so distracted by the food I totally forgot!)
Le Salon du Chocolat
Mountains of chocolate bars at the Salon du Chocolat.
On the day of my visit to the Salon du Chocolat, my friend and I fasted all morning. I had gone to the salon six years ago and learned a hard lesson: I actually can’t eat my weight in chocolate. Maybe Pedro‘s weight, but I digress. It usually costs €12 to get in, so people go a bit nuts and try shoving every free sample into their mouths as soon as they get through the door. We went on the last day, and it happened to be a French holiday (Nov 1 is All Souls’ Day) and a Sunday — triple whammy. The lines were absurdly long, so I used my "get out of the queue for free" card (aka: my press card) and snuck through in the fast lane.
One of the chocolate-making demonstrations.
The secret is to be selective with what you eat. You may think Nestle and Lindt make perfectly fine chocolates, but why eat the mass-produced stuff when you can try the hand-made, hand-decorated chocolates of rare and super-high quality ingredients? Another secret is that on the last day, during the last hour, the vendors start trying to get rid of the remaining chocolates that won’t survive the journey home (many come from far, far away). You can basically have all you want at this point. The only catch: "You have to take it with you in your stomach." They’re not idiots, after all.
One of the couture creations for the chocolate fashion show.
A special section promoted all-natural chocolate from Mexican
producers. These chocolates were totally unprocessed, and had an almost powdery or gritty texture as opposed to creamy, with no sugar added. Not yet available in the US or France!
Can you believe there was even a beauty stand giving complimentary leg waxings with…chocolate!
My friend showed me this amazing Japanese chocolate maker, Madame Setsuko. I bought these gorgeous ganache fleuri (lightly alcoholic, with iris, plum, rose, lily of the valley, violet, and daisy flavors) for a friend who sketched the pretty designs before eating them.
I was just going to get a few, but ended up with a whole sac of creamy Italian pralines from Venchi. The pistachio is amazing!
Shown here in a dainty pale green box are Génaveh’s Collection Romantique chocolates: passion fruit, blood orange, geranium-blackberry, rose, caramel, and Madagascar chocolate with vanilla.
We spent a lot of time at the Génaveh stand. They’re based in Luxembourg, and their chocolates won one of the top awards at the salon. And they’re just beautiful. They also have an excellent spicy chocolate with szechuan pepper…it was great paired with a heavy Bordeaux wine. Happily, you can find some of their chocolates at the Paris boutique Thé et Chocolat (88 rue de Rennes, 6th, tel 01 42 22 73 22).
New and Exciting
Other news at the salon: we tried the macarons at the Maison du Chocolat (mandarine orange and chocolate is the seasonal flavor). I’m not sure they can do magic with their macarons the way they do with their chocolates, up to the taste buds to decide.
Bailey’s Original Irish Cream now comes in two new flavors: Chocolate Mint and Crème Caramel. Irish Coffee is another weakness of mine. This isn’t going to help!
The luxury tea company Kusmi is not only opening their first "concept tea room" in St-Germain-des-Prés (at 56 rue de Seine, 6th), they’ve also got a new tea: thé vert chocolat — chocolate green tea. Really!
There were also some scrumptious chocolate-covered Sancerre grapes that I also saw at LeGrand’s boutique in the Galerie Vivienne…but can’t seem to find the name of the company anywhere now (stay tuned…they make great aperitif snacks).
Finally, for all of you getting a chocolate beastie from reading this, here’s an online chocolate boutique that delivers in 48 hours or less!within France. Simply called Boutique Chocolat, they have a huge selection of fine chocolates searchable by brand, type, or taste. The web just got a little better. 😉