Recently in Chocolate category

Le Bonbon au Palais

le bonbon au palais

I just realized that I haven’t used the word “astonishing” in a while. I’m not jaded or anything. I still walk around the streets of Paris sometimes and think, “Wow, this place is pretty spectacular.” And on my travels, including a recent trip to Chicago, I was wowed by everything from terrific Mexican food to a wonderful bakery.

But sometimes adjectives aren’t enough, and every so often you drop into a place and your jaw just kind of drops as well. Le Bonbon au Palais is such a place.

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Nunu Chocolates from Brooklyn, in Paris

chocolates filled with salted butter caramel

A few years ago an American friend asked me about opening a pop-up store in Paris, featuring something he creates with chocolate in New York City. At the time, I advised against it. People outside of the United States do have some preconceived notions about how Americans eat (many still think we all eat at fast-food restaurants), but a recent wave of magazine articles about food in America, small restaurants in Paris with America-trained chefs and owners, and most importantly, people traveling to the United States and seeing the astounding produce at the greenmarkets, I’d like to think has caused a shift in thinking.

chocolate tools

So I was excited to see that Nunu Chocolates from Brooklyn had set up a space in the Brachfeld Gallery in the Marais here in Paris, for a temporary pop-up shop featuring their chocolates.

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Xoco Hot Chocolate

Homemade Mexican Vanilla Soft Serve Xoco hot chocolate

At my get-together and book event the other evening here in Chicago, the biggest question I was asked by all who came by was – “Where are you eating while you’re in Chicago?” Thanks to a vast network of friends, bloggers, and assorted other folks (who I’ll get to in a minute), I’ve been eating incredibly well. People here are brimming with suggestions of places to go, near and far. And interesting, everyone wanted to know how long I was staying in town. Next time I come, I think I’ll create an online calendar and let folks fill in my dining itinerary because not once was I steered wrong. The only thing I lack is time, and tummy space.

When I travel, aside from eating, my most important order of business is lying in bed in my hotel-issued zebra-striped bathrobe (a photo of me in it will not be forthcoming) watching American television, and it’s hard to roust me from my horizontal position.

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A Visit to Patrick Roger Chocolate (Video)


Recently I visited the laboratory of master French chocolatier Patrick Roger. His shops in Paris are some of my favorite places to swoon over chocolate and it was wonderful to have the chance to step behind-the-scenes and watch him make his extraordinary confections and impressive chocolate sculptures, as well as visit his garden and apiary.

(To view the video in a larger format, you can watch it at Vimeo.)


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Chocolate Mint Brownies

chocolate mint brownie recipe

I know I’m just starting here, but before you and I go any further, I just have to say one thing about these brownies: They’re pretty insane. I made these brownies about fifteen years ago and found it patiently waiting in the back of my recipe files. And giving it a read-through, it all came flooding back to me and I was struck with the urge to make them again.

One of the things I remember most about these brownies is how massive they were and how heavy the pan was. The pan is so heavy that I can’t imagine most people would be able to heft it with one hand. In fact, I was going to weight the pan just to prove it to you but my baking scale didn’t go that high. Yowza.

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Un Dimanche à Paris

chocolate truffles

Even though it wasn’t Sunday, I decided to go to Un Dimanche à Paris anyway. This sleek showcase of chocolate is located in an under-utilized arcade on the Left Bank, near where the saleswoman told me has become “The quartier of chocolate.”

The owner of the shop is Pierre Cluizel of the famed French chocolate family, but he’s striking out on his own. Un Dimanche à Paris features a large chocolate shop, and exhibition kitchen, a tea salon, and a full-scale restaurant. And that’s just on the first floor.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate

I was a little perplexed as to what constitutes authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate. Thankfully a reader from Mexico explained to me that unlike other hot chocolate “drinks” in the Mexican repertoire, it traditionally was a mixture of cocoa beans and sweetener. Yet nowadays folks generally use sweet chocolate bars as a base, which are made from coarsely ground chocolate with a dose of cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes almonds, and are conveniently sold in tablets or bars in Mexican shops.

That chocolate bears a passing resemblance to the coarse chocolate that Mexicans have been grinding up in metates for thousands of years (which I think is why Mexican women have those power shoulders), and today you can find Mexican chocolate quite a bit slicker than the stuff that was (and still is, in some places) pounded for hours and hours. Although I’m not Mexican in any way, I have a deep love of anything edible, and drinkable, that’s Mexican—from horchata, to the twirly green bottle of citrusy Squirt soda that are fun to swill on a Mexican beach, along with a basket of chips and some spicy roasted chili salsa. Or guacamole. Or duck tacos. Or ceviche. Or all of them.

Mexican chocolate cinnamon sticks

The chocolate used nowadays for hot chocolate is classified in America as “Sweet Chocolate”, which is different than what we label as bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

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Homemade Nutella

chocolate hazelnut spread

Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in New York with a group of other cooks, who were mostly women and we were all friends. We’d gather in the cold morning kitchen, working around a communal wooden counter near the warm stove armed with cups of strong coffee as we set about our various tasks while engaging in conversations while doing all the repetitive work of chopping the piles of vegetables we used for soups, salads, and other things that we were going to prepare the rest of the day.

One woman, who I’ll call Mary Smith (and who, for some reason, we all called her by her complete name, “Mary Smith”, rather than just “Mary”), was bookish and almost librarian in her demeanor, and she was attending a local Ivy league institution, getting her doctorate in Russian and Russian studies. She worked very efficiently with no unnecessary movements, and always had perfect posture, like a ballerina, along with pristine skin and straight brown hair pulled sharply back in a tight ponytail.

chocolate-milk and dark hazelnuts, toasted

One quiet morning we were all going about our usual business of silently peeling onions and chopping celery when Mary put her knife down on the counter, looked up, and simply announced, “Who do I have to bl-w around here to get some carrots?”

Startled at the suddenness of her request, as well as the straightforward delivery of it, we all just kind of froze for a moment in mid-action, and stared at her until someone broke the stone silence of disbelief.

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