La Maison du Chocolat

We often take things for granted.
Me, for example. I take things for granted. I get messages from readers, “You’re so lucky! You get to live in Paris!”.

To be honest, it wasn’t like one day back in San Francisco I came home and there was an envelope waiting for me with an airline ticket, an apartment lease, and all the blanks filled in on the paperwork filled for a French visa. It’s a lot of work living in a foreign country; it’s so much easier just to stay ‘home’. So when people say I’m ‘lucky’, I prefer to substitute the term ‘fortunate’, as living in Paris has some challenges as well as its rewards.

But each and every time I step out of my apartment, I’m amazed at the beauty that surrounds us here. Everywhere you look is something special, from the stately place des Vosges to the over-the-top Opera Garnier. Perhaps I’m a dork, but each time I pass something of significance, I stop and take a long, deeply-felt look. There’s fresh bread everywhere too. I can have a buttery croissants, a rich, cream-filled éclair, a yeasty kugelhof, or a scoop of glace Berthillon whenever I want.

(Except on Monday and Tuesday, when Berthillon is closed. Or in July or August. Or on Tuesday and Wednesday, when my bakery with the good croissants is closed. And in August. Although this year it might be July. Or on weekends, when the place I go for kugelhof is baking them. If they’re in the mood, of course. But I won’t know that until I get there. Unless there’s a holiday. Or a strike.)

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Anyhow…I spend a fair amount of time here exploring the chocolate shops, which seem to keep reliable hours. Nowhere in the world is more devoted to chocolate than Paris, and there are really excellent chocolatiers here, who I visit and write about often. But although we’re often excited by what’s new and unusual, sometimes we return to the classics for a reason: the simple fact that they’re really good.

Robert Linxe founded La Maison du Chocolat in 1977. He was a young man from the Basque region, famous for its abundance of chocolate shops, although many are sadly gone. When he opened shop in Paris, M. Linxe distained fillings heavy with nuts, spices and sugar (which had quite a long shelf life), in favor of smooth, creamy (and highly-perishable) ganache, that suave mixture of pure chocolate and heavy cream, which has since become synonymous with fine chocolates that we enjoy today.

Last week we held a private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat for my guests, which reminded me that I had forgotten how absolutely extraordinary their chocolates were, and still are.

Each time I bit into one, I found something new and delicious, wondering how a chocolatier could consistently hit it exactly right with every bite of chocolate. Each one was melting, pillowy-soft, with the true, fresh flavor of whatever M. Linxe had infused.

Zagora is my favorite. A melange of dark chocolate ganache steeped with fresh mint leaves. Bacchus is filled with Smyrna raisins soaked in the best Caribbean dark rum, then flambéed. And a life-changing Andalousie, where just the right amount of grated lemon peel is mixed with the ganache, is resplendent with spritzy lemon oil without a hint of bitterness, tasting remarkably like grated lemon that was zested just moments before.

When I went back a few days after the tasting to personally thank them for their warm and generous hospitality, I was offered a few more chocolates to sample. Not wanting to be rude, I pulled up a seat at the counter and unwrapped Cerise Griotte, a house-made candied sour cherry enrobed in dark chocolate, which exploded in my mouth, a wash of bitter-sweet cherry liquid bathed in alcohol with a thin, dark chocolate coating…it was pure heaven. Before I could even ask, the salesperson came by with a napkin for me to spit out the pit. (Wow, a salesperson that doesn’t argue with you.)

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I felt like I was coming back home, as I’d first discovered chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat what seemed like so long-ago while on vacation a long time ago in Paris. And here I am now, rediscovering them all over again. La maison means home, and I do feel indeed fortunate, and just a bit lucky, that I get to live here.
And that this is home.

La Maison du Chocolat
52, rue François 1er
Tel: 01 47 23 38 25

Other locations across Paris, as well as in London, Tokyo, and New York. All chocolates ordered through the La Maison du Chocolat web site are handmade in their Paris workshop.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: I just tried the Rigoletto Noir, buttery caramel mousse enrobed in dark chocolate.
Wow…simply sensational.



Related Links:

Papabubble (New York City)

Le Furet Tanrade (Paris)

REGIS Chocolatier (Paris)

Jacques Genin Opens (Paris)

The Pâtisseries of Paris

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate (Lyon)

Eye Candy (Paris)

Salted Butter Caramels from Henri Le Roux (Brittany)

20 comments

  • Unfortunately my visit to their NY shop last month was filled not only with rude or disinterested counter help, but some obnoxious and offensive customers who think that having bawdy conversations in Dutch about someone standing right in front of them isn’t distatesful in a quiet chocolate shop.

    This experience drove me from the shop without tasting much of anything. I’ll give them another try.

  • this is a lovely posting … a friend who visited paris brought me back one thing: a box of these chocolates. nicest present ever

  • I agree, it is easy to complain about how hard it is to live abroad, and fun too!
    But the reality is that although those of us that have made the move, still are moved by the magic of living in these cities of art, history and a passion for life that surrounds us daily!

    Merci!

  • I could have written that, except for the chocolate part. Oh, wait…that was more or less the point, wasn’t it?
    Expatriation isn’t for everyone, but when it is, it just is. People tend to think in terms of their vacations in your country/city. Living, anywhere, is not like a vacation. You can’t think in stereotypes nor feel the romance, or whatever it is they took home with them. Some ask and get it when you answer. Some never will. Boh!
    I love your city, too, in spite of the fact that the minute I leave the kitchen I have about 10 words I can use.

  • Yes, that Rigoletto Noir is damn amazing.

    Why is it at the NYC shop that the sales people don’t like to tell you what’s in the chocolates? Since they always have an attitude there (or at least every time I’ve been there), wouldn’t it make sense to post a description along with the name of the chocolate instead of me asking “what’s in that one, what about that one, what about that one?”

  • David,
    You’re fortunate, especially on days when the shop you’re going to is open; and you’re lucky when they treat you with your favourites for free :-)
    I enjoyed reading your vivid depiction of the various chocolates. thanks.

  • incredible imagery, David! and the Andalousie? i think i held my breath while reading about that one. wow.

    you are fortunate, indeed. :)

  • David,
    You are just too funny. You cheer me up on boring days:)

  • David, I understand you might be attending a dinner party on the weekend, and I am pretty sure that it is only polite for you to bring something for the hostess and her guests. It better not be leftover chocolate from Target, or I’m buying you a ticket to see Steven Seagal.

  • This just makes my mouth water. Looks divine.

    ~Dianka
    http://na-zdravi.blogspot.com/

  • That’s funny that New Yorkers mentioned the attitude of the staff there. I guess it’s smart of them to hire mostly Japanese here in Paris!
    Kidding aside, they do give you a little handy guide which explains all the chocolates, although they’d be wise to simply offer it to the perplexed rather than having you leave in frustration. Perhaps Jean-Paul Hévin is planning to open there (if you like being tortured.)

    BTW: I’ve polished off the first tier of my La Maison du Chocolat chocolates, and am working my way through the second (and final) layer. What am I going to do when they’re gone?

  • oh i was at la maison du chocolat last month when i was in london, and i absolutely love their goodies…

    i spent a small fortune for a box of chocolate selection, but it was worth every single penny i paid…

  • Michele is a genius.

  • David,
    I miss Paris! Love reading your posts to get my French fix. And how I miss those Maison chocolates!! When I went to Paris I asked my friend what to bring back for her, and she didn’t name this specific chocolatier because she didn’t want me to spend too much. But I guessed right anyways…to her delight!

  • Heeheehee – so spot on about the days things may or may not be open depending on, well, anything! Thanks for the chuckle.

  • La Maison makes my favorite truffles/cakes hands down. I wonder why their ganache resembles caramel rather than mousse though?

  • David,

    On a hot June day last year, I discovered their Francois 1er location and fell in love with it. I loved the serenity of the place and the and the polite but understated helpfulness of the staff.

    The heavenly iced Guayaquil and Caracas are the perfect balm for anyone who’s fatigued and overheated. On the second occasion, I added a bittersweet chocolate ganache tart – that left my nerves completely raw from all that delectable cocoa coursing through the veins of this chocolate afficionado.

    I loved it so much, I returned several days later for a final chocolate fix before returning to Canada. Unfortunately, the follow-up visit was spoiled by the appearance of a group of 7 VERY LOUD and obnoxious American tourists who walked around as if they owned the store, then took over half of the cafe area to share a tiny bag of chocolates as if it were a bag of peanuts at a baseball game.

    Still, I’ll take my chance and plan on returning for a visit next chance I get.

    Love your writing and insights, David! Makes me feel like I’m there in Paris.

  • La Maison du Chocolat is one of my fav places to go to for chocolate. Every time I went to stores, whether in France or overseas (NY or London), the experience was marvellous!

  • A few years ago I was in Paris with my 70 year old father — who up until that point in my life has always claimed he had a deadly allergy to chocolate — we went to La Maison du Chocolat and in the strangest move ever, he decided he was no longer allergic, sampled a few bits (to my shock and amazement) and proceeded to buy several hundred francs worth of the stuff. (Mostly as gifts, I’m sure) To this day he always has a box of their chocolate at his house because he is convinced it is the only chocolate on earth worth eating…he says if he is going to die from candy, it might as well taste like heaven.

  • Thanks to your blog I bought Mort Rosenblum’s new book. I found it fascinating. I just ordered your book and 6 more of his for friends. I go to Oaxaca all the time and the chapter on Oaxaca and chocolate really came home and brought back memories. . I helped make 1,000 pounds one year for an order and never thought I wanted to see chocolate again. I have a friend there who runs a cooking school and makes chocolate for export if you are ever interested in that place let me know. .

    I love your blog. Found it through Chocolate and Zucchini