May 2006 archives
I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, “Aren’t Parisians rude?”
Unlike Americans who are nice 100% of the time, yes, there are rude Parisians. And today I met one.
I took my guests into a well-know chocolate shops, whose name I won’t mention (ok, twist my arm…Jean-Paul Hèvin). My normal mode for visiting chocolate shops is this: We go inside, we meet the chocolatiers or salesperson, I explain the chocolates, often we’ll do a tasting, then guests will buy some chocolate to bring home. On occasion, some folks like to take a photo.
And I always ask politely before taking photos anywhere in Paris, even if I know it’s okay. It’s a courtesy. If someone says, “No, we don’t allow that here”, I’m fine with that. Several places in Paris have a no-photo policy, as do several places in the US (Central Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, for example). My thoughts are that we’re on private property and it’s the owners right to deny or approve photos.
So I ask at Jean-Paul Hèvin if it’s okay. The salewoman looks at me and says (and I’m not making this up), “You can only take a picture after you buy something.”
Incredibly tacky. Oui?
After I had a few ‘words’ with the shopkeeper, we finished our tour and I came home and deleted any and all references to Hèvin in the two magazine articles I’m writing and a future book project.
One of my guests, however, said it was a very interesting lesson, illuminating the difference between rude & unwelcoming vs generous & gracious. And speaking of generous and gracious…
This is Michel Chaudun.
He’s the owner and chocolatiers of his own shop, Michel Chaudun, located just a few blocks away. M. Chaudun was the head chocolatier at La Maison du Chocolat before striking out on his own twenty years ago.
When we showed up at his shop, M. Chaudun was preparing to make a delivery but when he saw me, he came over to warmly greet me and my guests. As you can see from his charming smile, M. Chaudin clearly loves what he does. I not-so-secretly wish that he was my grandfather.
We tasted many chocolates, from cocoa nib-flecked disks of pure dark chocolate to tasty bits of crisp caramelized almonds enrobed in bittersweet chocolate, but my favorite are always Les Pavés, tiny squares of singularly-perfect ganache. Each one is the perfect bite of chocolate. He also had us sample a new chocolate, filled with a smooth paste of toasted sesame seeds and surprisingly, peanuts. (He created them for his shop in Tokyo since the French have the same distaste for peanuts in chocolate that Americans have for bull scrotums in tripe sauce.)
He’s also the master of chocolate sculptures and whimsical forms, including an exact replica of a Dremel drill, a full-sized perfectly-detailed feathered duck, and a miniature Hermès Kelly Bag with a matching orange sack that is a few thousand euros less than an original and certainly more tasty (although I’ve never tried to eat a Kelly bag, so I can’t be sure. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
And yes, these are replicas of sausage made entire of chocolate. Wow!
There’s a moral to this story somewhere here, but I can’t quite find it…and am heading off to bed early, since we have an exclusive private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat.
But I would advise visitors to Paris to come to the boutique of Michel Chaudun.
And skip one of the others.
149, rue de l’Université
Tel: 01 47 53 74 40
I began our week-long Paris Chocolate Exploration tour here in Paris this week, starting with a private tasting with famed chocolatier Jacques Genin, the elusive chocolatier who works out of his very small laboratoire hidden away in the 15th arrondisement. Ten of us, including Mort Rosenblum, crammed into his tiny workshop while he explained how he began his career, the methods he uses to fabricate and enrobe his chocolates, and divluged some of the secrets (I said some…) of his exceptional chocolates.
For well over an hour, we tasted everything from ganache-filled chocolates infused with exotic tonka beans, lively peppermint leaves, and fragrant (and expensive) Bulgarian rose oil. There were soft pâte de fruit made with elusive Charontais melon, fresh black currants, and fruity raspberry. All the while his staff worked around us, packing boxes of chocolates destined for the finest hotels and restaurants in Paris, including the George V and Le Comptoir. Some were destined for Chez David as well.
The best, unquestionably, were his caramels. No pun intended, but I really have a soft spot for caramel. Caramel is a combination of cooked sugar, usually with butter or cream added. But much skill is needed to get it just-so. The sugar needs to be cooked to the exact temperature. Enough so it’s got a bit of a burnt ‘edge’ to offset the sweetness, and to give it a texture so it retains its shape with remaining toothsome but not tar-like and gummy. Jacques caramels were truly brilliant.
Each nugget was the perfect combination of sticky-soft and intensely flavored.
The first one we tasted was a bright-yellow caramel sharpened with tangy mango puree. We followed that with dark bitter chocolate caramels, oozing with the taste of beurre fermier, aka French farmhouse butter. When I’d reached my limit, which is admittedly high, Jacques stuffed my pockets with salted-butter caramels, which I ate this morning just after breakfast.
Is that wrong?
18 rue St-Charles
Tel: 01 45 77 29 01
This is his workshop and not open to the public.
Update: Jacques Genin has finally opened his shop in Paris, in the Marais. it’s open to the public and has a tea salon, where you can sample his treats, as well as a full-scale boutique.
If you’ve never had financiers before, prepare yourself for a treat. But even if you’ve had them, you’ve likely never had financiers from Kayser bakery. Each little moist button is the perfect taste of ground almonds and French butter. They’re available in a few flavors, such as dark chocolate, and nature (Almond). I can never resist getting a little bag of them at the bakery, and I consider them one of the best things in Paris.
While you’re there, check out his wonderful chocolate-chip cookies, which rival anything in America, as well as his extraordinary pain aux céreales, a lovely, crusty loaf studded with lots of grains and seeds.
85, Boulevard Malesherbes
8, rue Monge
(Many other locations throughout Paris-check website for other locations.)
For other tasty Paris addresses, check out my Paris Pastry App, a guide to over 300 of the best pastry and chocolate shops in Paris. The Paris Pastry guide is also available for Kindle devices and as an e-book, compatible with Android and other devices.
When I decided to move from San Francisco, the two places I narrowed it down to were Honolulu or Paris. The beauty of living in Hawaii is…well, the beauty of Hawaii. Lots of warm beaches and surfing, alarmingly-fresh sushi, tropical fruits galore in your backyard, and an accumulation of frequent-flyer miles from trips to the mainland.
Paris, on the one hand, was France.
So I moved to France.
Here I am, going about my everyday life: in line at the boulangerie waiting for my baguette, negotiating with the fromager for the most interesting cheese of the season, and sitting in cafés all afternoon reading Kant and Kafka.
So this year I won a blog award, and was thrilled that my prize was being donated by ‘Ono Kine Grindz from Honolulu. The prize turned out to be two oversized, heavy cookbooks on Hawaiian cuisine. So instead of the books (one of which I had), Reid offered to send me a selection of tasty Hawaiian products instead.
“Awesome”, I thought, “I can’t wait.”
But wait I did.
And wait some more, did I.
Then then I waited some more.
I know it’s kinda rude to ask, but I finally shot him an email asking him if he had indeed sent it, which he had way back when.
Now I don’t know if it’s La Poste or the US Post, but living in the US I always received packages, most arriving relatively quickly. But in just a few short years in Paris, the arrival rate for packages is hovering at about 26.4%. I mean, where are they going? Are they sitting in some warehouse? Are they being pilfered or stolen? Do packages just simply vanish?
(Note: If any French people have anti-US Postal service stories, post the link to your blog entry in the comments section. Similarly, if anyone works for La Poste and would like to anonymously give some clues as to the whereabouts of my other packages…no questions will be asked. And I promise never to write anymore about lost or stolen packages.)
So even though I didn’t move to the island of Honolulu, I realize that I’m living on an island right here. One that is impenetrable when it comes to deliveries.
Anyhow…so my second package from Reid managed to arrive this week, and I was so happy when I unwrapped all the fabulous things:
Loose-leaf Pacific Place Tea, which I am busy brewing. This dark, long-leaf tea is beautiful, scattered with colorful little petals of marigold and cornflowers, with tropical fruit aromas as well. I hope it’s not sacrilegious, but I’m brewing up some iced tea with it.
A sack of real Kona Coffee! Most of the time if you go to Hawaii you’ll get served something called ‘Kona’ coffee, but if you look at the percentage of real Kona coffee in it, you’ll find it’s blended and the actual amount of Kona beans in it is around 10% (my delivery rate is better than that!) I was at Peet’s coffee once and was served true, 100% Kona coffee. And it was amazing and well worth the lofty price tag.
And mine was a gift!
I screwed open the jar of Kiawe White Honey and stuck my finger in the blank-colored, crystallized honey. Boy, was that good! This very rich organic honey is made from the flowers of the kiawe tree which grows from the volcanic soil of Mauna Kea.
Poha Berry Jam. Poha berries are related to what are called physalis in France and Cape Gooseberries (or Ground Cherries) in America. Poha Berries resemble tomatillos with their papery leaves hiding the dull-orange fruit inside. At the market recently, a Frenchwoman told me they were called, “les feuilles d’amour”, the leaves of love, in French.
I remember reading about Lilikoi Curd from Planted by the river from Heidi. I adore anything with passion fruit in it, one of my favorite fruits ever. This jar of curd has li hing mui, dried salted plums added. I’m thinking of making Heidi’s Lilikoi Passion Fruit Curd Cake but I fear I’m going to eat it all for breakfast instead. (In fact, I’m certain I will.)
Being a baker, I am avidly interested in vanilla and always looking for unusual pods to sniff and bake with. Vanilla beans are the most labor-intensive crop in the world, hence their price and scarcity. In 1998, Hawaiian Vanilla began planting vanilla orchids in Hilo, and now they sell vanilla beans and extracts, all cultivated and made in Hawaii. When I pulled the pod out of the glass tube and gave it a sniff, it was sweet and fragrant, one of the best-smelling vanilla beans I’ve had. I’m going to use it to make some Vanilla Ice Cream, plain and simple.
Mahalo to Reid at ‘Ono Kine Grindz. Go visit his site.
While I was teaching chocolate classes at Central Market stores across Texas last month, in my free time I would wander the aisles of the store. I don’t think I’d ever been in a place that had such a terrific selection of chocolates from around the world. It was a chocolate-lovers dream!
I was particularly intersted in these two, which I had never seen before and was eager to sample.
In the US, to be called ‘milk chocolate’, the chocolate must contain a minimum of 10% cacao solids.(Cacao solids are the ground paste made from pure cocoa beans.) In the European Union, the legal minimum hovers between 25-30%, although some companies get around it by calling their tablets ‘family chocolate’ or ‘dairy bar’, which is somewhat misleading since people often grab the bars thinking they’re getting milk chocolate when they’re getting something else.
So I’ve taken it upon me to re-name these higher-percentage bars of milk chocolate as ‘dark’ milk chocolate. Both bars shown contain about 35% cacao solids.
The first bar, the darker and thinner of the two, is Santander milk chocolate, made from Columbian beans. I found the chocolate to be a bit peanutty and malty. It was sharp and acidic but left little lingering aftertaste. It had a nice snap when sliced and had a faint butterscotch finish. I would imagine this would be good for chopping and substituting the pieces for chocolate chips in your favorite recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’m going to use mine to make a batch of Dark Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.
The lighter of the two is Caro milk chocolate. This was far ‘milkier’ tasting with a very creamy taste and texture. It looks a bit whipped and its flavor was somewhat elusive and candy-like. I have to admit that this one left a rather funny taste behind and I wasn’t eager to eat more. Still, it was interesting to taste the two side-by-side.
I’m going to do the David Lebovitz Let-Them-Sit-In-My-Apartment-And-See-
Wish me luck.
Paris is reported to be the most popular tourist destination in the world. Each year people come from all over the world for their vacations. I’m sure they spend months and months making arrangements, searching the internet looking for a charming, affordable hotel, scouring web site for decent airfares, and searching my blog for places to eat.
So after all that, what do most people depend on to get around this most fabulous of all cities? The free maps from Galleries Lafayette that the hotels give out. Not that there’s anything wrong with those maps.
Ok, yes there is.
Let’s face it, Paris hasn’t changed much in the past 100 or so years or more, and it ain’t gonna be changing much in our lifetime either. So next time you come, on your very first day, stop by a Presse, or newstand, and buy one of these booklets. They cost about 5 to 7 euros, and are available in various sizes and formats. Few Parisians leave the house without this handy little booklet in their handbag or man-purse. It easily slips inside a coat pocket as well.
Mine lists all the outdoor markets in the city by day and location, addresses for all the attractions in Paris, the location of gas stations and taxi stands, where all the big department stores are, schools and universities (ok, you probably don’t need those), and a complete overview and map of the extensive métro system. And the last kicker: you can use it each and every time you come back to Paris. No need to buy a new one.
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