Oh, what a perfect day…a sunny and warmish October 30th, the leaves are finally taking their dive, the skies are clear, and Mr. Hall and I have actually managed to get out of bed this Saturday before noon. But it’s not just the weather. It’s not the pre-Halloween joy of already having our costumes (a nun and an archbishop). We are on a mission. We are going to the 5th Annual Salon du Chocolat.
On Our Way!
We don our geeky helmets and take off into the streets of Paris on our bicycles. Gotta build up an appetite. At a red light, I stare at the Salon du Chocolat ad on the side of a city bus. Little pictures of éclairs and bon bons and truffles, oh my! I almost don’t notice the two pedestrians at Pont St.Michel, screaming and waving at us. It’s our friends Claire and Shelly, who live nearby, and are also, amazingly, out before noon. We wave and continue on our way along the quais towards the Espace Eiffel Branly, the leaves falling around us as we dodge scooters and tourists. We arrive without any problem, lock our bikes to a pole, and enter the best-smelling place on Earth.
Because I love chocolate like any warm blooded female, I’ve been looking forward to the Salon du Chocolate since I first heard about it. We mill about, eyes and hands open, for the delectable free samples (as close to Trick-or-Treating as we’ll get this year). Of course, all of the big boys of the chocolate world are here. A giant M&M greets children at the door, and Toblerone, Godiva, Fauchon and Nestle have their own glitzy multimedia arenas.
We head for the small locals’ booths, places we’ve never heard of, and bought some milk chocolate bars, and a Champagne bottle-shaped chocolate creation (for a birthday, they write ‘Bonne Anniversaire’ on it in chocolate for us). Mr. Hall buys his jar of foie gras, although I don’t see how they got into the chocolate salon.
Chocolate Crise de Foie
After trying everything conceivable in chocolate, seeing the haute couture gowns from chocolate, and sitting in on a Lindt Chocolate talk, we hauled our booty outside and bungee’d it onto the back of our bikes, and arrived home safely, chocolate intact. I never thought I could eat too much, but a chocolate hangover is a nasty thing. I would recommend keeping it down to once a month
Mr. Hall and I like salons and foires (conventions and fairs). We discovered the annual Foire de Paris (coming again April 28-May 9, at Porte de Versailles) as we shopped for our wedding wine and Champagne. I don’t recall much after the first eight or nine stands, where each gave us a ‘sip’ of three or four of their best. When we could no longer tell the difference, we sat in on a talk about how to mix wines and cheeses (very important stuff here in Paris). We made a great show of listening attentively, but I think we needed less wine and more bread at that point. In the end, we came away with a nice selection for our wedding, and at half the price we’d have to normally pay. Of course, at the Foire there isn’t just alcohol. There are all sorts of produce, home products, hi-tech products, decor, crafts, animals, etc. We still have our 2-gallon container of premium virgin olive oil, a few sauccissons, some artisan wineglasses, and some now empty foie gras jars.
Check These Out
If you’re in Paris or plan to visit, check out the listings for salons and foires in the weekly Pariscope. If you can’t make it, or if you want to send some goodies back home from your safe spot in front of the computer, then check out a few great French chocolatiers and gourmet food shops who sell their divine addictions on-line.
What I like best of all at the site for Daval Artisan Chocolates is the detailed section on how chocolate isn’t bad for you. Print it out and post it on your refrigerator. Chatillon Chocolatier of Brittany offer not only their regional goodies on-line, but also give tours of their factory if you’re in the area. Roy Chocolatier of Paris has some of the best chocoholic links, and their on-line order form isn’t as confusing as most of them. Mallard Chocolates and Delicacies, from Avignon, has a wide selection of sweets and treats to satisfy any taste.
More Web Sites
One of the best sites for all French gourmet goods is Goûts de France. Their site is easy to navigate, has thorough descriptions with photos, and offers an authentic range of high-quality gifts from France. France Gourmet specialises in cheeses and Poilâne breads, shipped fresh anywhere in the world. Finally, if you’re a huge cheese addict, check out the monthly specials at www.fromages.com.
Next week, “The Aliens Have Landed! Part I: What? Me an Alien?” for everyone in Paris whose tourist visa expired back in the 80’s.
November 2019 Update
Today was the final day of the 25th annual Salon du Chocolat. Much has changed as Paris (and France, and the world) has upped its game in chocolate manufacturing. The show takes place in the much larger Paris Expo at the Porte de Versailles, exotic ingredients are no longer “exotic”, and you’ll easily find organic, raw, ethical, sustainable, locally made chocolate manufacturers. My own knowledge of and taste in chocolates has evolved enormously thanks to David Lebovitz, whose books and website should be the first stop for anyone interested in chocolate, pastries, cooking, or eating in Paris.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’m publishing them all here, one by one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris”