REGIS Chocolatier

Living in a foreign country, as an outsider, you tend to notice lots of contradictions. If you try to learn the native language, like I am, you’ll notice there’s all sorts of curiosities specifically designed to trip your up. When people ask me what I do all day, they don’t realize that just to do something as basic as write a check, I often have to pull out the dictionary. (Although I’ve seen French people consult theirs almost as frequently.)

But English ain’t no walk in le parc either…we’ve got where, we’re, wear, ware…that all sound exactly the same but mean pretty different things.

carameling-nuts.jpg
Caramelizing Nuts for Praline at REGIS

One of the things you learn when speaking a new language is that there are lots of rules…and seemingly just as many exceptions. Sometimes they’re things not taught in classes but you just need to learn by osmosis.

For example, Paris is generally pronounced Par-EE, without saying the final ‘S‘.

But if you say the name Régis, you say Rey-GeeSS you certainly do pronounce the final ‘S’.

Similarly, if you mention the 16th arrondissement, most Parisians who don’t live there (or is that ‘their‘?) will sneer and say, “Oh, they are all snobs over there” or “I don’t like those people there, they’re not very nice.”

So imagine me being pleasantly surprised when I went to visit REGIS chocolatier in the heart of enemy territory.


The first thing they did when I walked in was greet me with a big smile and a genuine “Bonjour!”

I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of how they make their chocolates and confections in their workshop, just a few blocks away from their boutique. In case you think candymaking is a lost art, it isn’t, and lots of homemade candies are whipped up daily at REGIS including enormous copper pans of pralined nuts.

praline.jpg

Each pan of praline is made à l’ancienne, in the old-fashioned way, this one is 50% almond and 50% hazelnuts. The almonds are from France while the hazelnuts from Torino, in Northern Italy. They’re cooked over high heat, stirring with massive wooden paddles, until they become crystallized then coated with a fine layer of crispy caramelized sugar.

After they’re cooked, they’re spread on marble slabs to cool. But as chef Jean-Marie Caillet explained, they make an amazing ten different kinds of praline, depending on their purpose. That’s a lot of praline to keep track of. Much more so than all those French verbs. Most are ground into a paste then used to fill chocolates, and others are ground with chocolate to make a smooth paste crackly with caramel and toasty nuts. The powerful grinder they use really gets a workout and works so hard that it’s water-cooled to prevent the motor from burning out. (I probably should get a water-cooled French dictionary as well, considering how often I have to burn through its pages.)

mushrooms.jpg
Chocolate Mushrooms Filled With Gianduja Paste

Monsieur Caillet started as a pastry chef when he was just 14 years old and spent two years just learning the art of chocolate. He now has four people that he works with, and as he quickly tempered the couverture for dipping his chocolate, le tablage, he explained that he used various chocolates depending on what he’s doing.

tempering.jpg
Chef Caillet tempering chocolate by hand. Notice there’s not one speck of chocolate on his chef’s jacket.

For enrobing, he likes to blend fruity Venezuelan and Madagascar chocolates. But sometimes he’ll add a from chunks of 100% unsweetened chocolate (also from Venezuela) for a stronger taste. The sample he gave me was sweet enough to be nibbled as is. Which I did!

One of my favorite candies of all time is nougat, an airy confection made of beaten egg whites sweetened with honey and a touch of orange flower water. Sicilian pistachios are folded in along with well-toasted almonds, then it’s cooled and cut into bars.

nougat.jpg
Chewy Nougat

It’s one of the most difficult of candies to master and I’ve made it several times and only after I went to professional confectionary classes I learned the secret and got it right. But I happily ate the samples offered and made a mental note to pick up a good-sized slab back in the store.

Once back in the shop with Chef Caillat, he had me sample his specialty, which I was looking forward to with great anticipation (although I tried to play it cool): Les Ducs, long ‘fingers’ filled with hazelnut praline and dipped in glâce Royale then dusted with cocoa. Each one is hand-dipped and has to be suspended in the air to cool without leaving a mark. There’s terrific, all-American Chocolate Chip Cookies that are perhaps the best and most-authentic in Paris, and a deep-dark chocolate Fondant; a dense slab of rich, bittersweet chocolate cake unadorned with anything to distract from the intense chocolate taste.

On the way out, the staff cracked a few jokes with me as they packed up my purchases. I couldn’t get over how nice everyone had been and how generous the chef was with his time and knowledge. While waiting for my bag of purchases to be wrapped, before I could rejoin the chic throngs of people from the seizième outside, I said to the saleswoman, “He is such a nice guy!“, she replied, “Ah. Chef Caillet est un ange. Vraiment.” (“Chef Caillet is an angel. Truly.”)

And worth going over to the 16th for, I might ad.

Er…I mean, add.

REGIS Chocolatier
89, rue de Passy (16th)
Tél: 01 45 27 70 00
Métro: La Muette

13 comments

  • David, I worked in the neighborhood for some ten years and must have passed the shop a thousand times – how gutting to realise what a great opportunity I missed! (Then again, perhaps better for my waistline in the long run…!)

    In defense of the 16th, I found that most of the independent shopkeepers were extremely friendly: it was the little old ladies with nippy dogs who made life a misery!

  • While we’re on the French spelling thing: arrondissment take 2 “s”

  • I’m going to take a crack at nougat one of these days, if it ever stops raining on the weekends here in LA. (Yeah, it’s the weather that keeps me from trying.)

    Those little mushrooms are making me drool. I think the best French chocolate I tried last year has to be Michel Cluizel’s Champignon Caramel.

  • Can you give us your secrets of making Nougat ?

  • David, I had a look at their website (as I can’t very easily visit from New Haven, Connecticut) and was impressed with the simplicity of the chocolate and the pieces, those made by artisans from the highest-quality ingredients. They don’t try for the latest trends, say, in the acquisition of, exotic single-source cocoa from Bechuanaland, or in postpostmodern, applied decorations on the tops. They’re just beautiful in their classic production and style, laid out in large exhibits in the store, arranged in a rectilinear fashion in the boxes. I only wish I could taste them!

  • Reading your blog has only intensified my already out of control affection for chocolate. Good thing I like being out of control :)

  • You’ve given me yet another chocolate shop to visit…I will weigh a thousand pounds!
    Merci.

  • I just sent your post to a Parisien who is struggling mightily with American English :)
    Those beautiful chocolate mushrooms look like they’ve escaped from a Miyazaki anime movie and are heading back..
    You’ve definitely enticed me to set foot in the horrid 16th!

  • Ah, I love your posts on Parisian chocolatiers… If only I could make it to all of them one of these days too! This one sounds mighty tempting, et en plus ils ont l’air gentils ! That always sells me when I’m hesitating…

    I recently found that the lady who served me at Michel Cluizel (she might have even been Mme Cluizel herself!) was beyond lovely, explaining lots of things and really taking the time with me, even though I was only there to buy excellent-quality baking chocolate and des feves de cacao (to make one of Clotilde’s wonderful recipes!). I felt just as important and valued as a customer who would have been spending hundreds of Euros on their chocolate — and that, I think, is the key to good customer service!

  • David, I’m going to be in Paris for Easter and I’ve heard that’s the creme de la creme of the chocolate holidays – any clues you can give on where to go and what to eat would be fantastique!

  • Speaking of French language — culinary blogging seems to be HUGE among French speakers these days. Check out the Belgium-based blog of Micheline at http://www.mickymath.canalblog.com if you don’t believe me. ;>) Ever thought of simul-publishing your blog in French? I suspect you’d be leading groups of French speakers around Paris chocolate venues before you knew it! 8>)

    Marilyn

  • HI Marilyn: I’d love to blog in French, except my written French isn’t very good. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, I have to code every accent and symbol in HMTL, which is really very difficult when I do, and I’m much more prone to errors. But I do try to include in French as much as I can, in spite of the mistakes I sometimes make (merci Simon!)

    Kami: Why not click through my categories (upper left) where I have tons of suggestions for your trip, and where to find good things to eat? Have a great trip!

    Gary: Yes, it’s nice to see traditional chocolate and confections made well, without all the fancy-schmancy stuff. That, I think, is what the French chocolatiers really excel at.

    Alice: I’ve always had good service in there too, although I’ve heard reports otherwise. You can find those cocoa nibs in the US as well, if that’s where you live.

    Meg: I don’t think the 16th has a monopoly on les dames with small yappy dogs ; )

  • Ohh thats great. I just simply love chocolate…cannot resist it…and looking at those pics; i need it now lol

    Thanks