A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.

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Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.

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Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.

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Piping ‘Couronne Noisette’: Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.

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‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.

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A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.

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Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77
Lyon

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)

16 comments

  • Bonjour,
    Just listened to the podcast of your chat with Evan Kleinman on Good Food while riding the Métro on this gray Parisian day and since the question of mixing unorthodox ingredients with chocolate came up, I wondered if you have already tasted and written about Hirsinger chocolates?
    The shop is based in Arbois in the Jura region and they organize wine and chocolate tastings with local vineyards. Edouard Hirsinger makes simple ganaches ranging from the dark dark dark 100 percent to a 40 percent milk version that tastes very caramelly. There are also ganaches with cloves and orange, or topped with a losange of quince paste, red wine and honey with a tiny sablé made out of grilled corn flour, and with fennel, amongst other scents and flavors. He also makes chocolates with almond paste mixed with gentiane, saffron or curry, etc.
    I don’t know how they’d stand up to your expert scrutiny, but my friends and I think they are quite good. Your readers can find out more on the website (www.chocolat-hirsinger.com) if they like.

  • Coincidentally, my new favorite chocolate bar is also a blend of hazelnut praline and chocolate. It’s made by local SF chocolatier Michael Recchiuti. The texture is creamy rather than crisp. It is Nutella gone to heaven.

  • That caramel bar looks positively obscene. Positively.

    Yum.

    (ah, there I go again, with my fancy language.)

  • “Caluga” is a Spanish word, used in Chile (maybe in other countries?), for what Americans call caramels, like Brachs brand. I’m not sure about the Basque connection, but they certainly look delicious! You can’t have too much chocolate and caramel, especially if the chocolate is as dark as that looks… Mmmmm… Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for this incredible post on my very favourite subject! I visited San Francisco in the summer and had a chance to shop at the Recchiuti store. Based on your post, I must get myself to Paris to experience the chocolate!

  • To-die-for-looking chocolate.I was in Lyon 12 yrs ago & only peeked in the window at Bernachon. Too intimidated :( Next time I’m definitely going in for the Kalouga !Is the chocolate really that black? WOW!

  • Oh, dear god… I don’t think I can work, anymore, until I can find some chocolate.

    Those chocolate ruffles look amazing!

  • I knew there was a reason I booked a ticket for Paris in March. In December, we found Patrick Roger and fell in love. I can’t wait to visit J.C. Rochoux. You can make many people very happy by handing them a tablette of chocolate from Paris. :)

    Keep these gems coming.

    nazila

  • You are wrecking me. I am jonesing so hard for that caramel bar, followed by the spiky things, longing for a virtual all chocolate day! And I am not a particular chocolate lover…
    I was planning an endive salad for supper. Argh.

  • I seriously need a paper towel now to wipe up all the drool on my keyboard. That caramel bar is INSANE.

  • What a delicious post. Thank you for making my saturday. Now I must find chocolate (but how will I find anything good enough here in LA?)

  • wow, definitely must ask my friend marie to bring some of the choccie back when she go to lyon next month!

  • I love your idea of communing with chocolate–I have a supply of chocolate by my computer to commune with while I’m writing, and find it essential. Currently, a Dagoba bar with chiles, an El Rey 70 per cent, and a Malleys bar (local product of here, which is Cleveland).

  • That’s so cool that you toured Bernachon! I recently finished the last of my hoarded and nibbled Bernachon Amer bar from L’Etoile d’Or. Now I will put these Kalouga and hazelnut bars on my wish list for next time, oh yes. :-)

  • David, thanks so much for the tip! I was in Lyon for a conference, and my one goal for the trip was to go to Bernachon for a Kalouga bar. I did, and having tasted it, I only wish I had bought 10! I also got some truffles, which were amazing. Overall, some of the best chocolate I’ve ever had.

  • I am so envious of you having access to all the wonderful chocolate places. For some reason I always thought that I am crazy considering my relationship with chocolate. Now I am so happy that I am not the only one.