All I can say is—I hope they work…
Les Chocolats Bernard Dufoux
32, rue Centrale
Tél: 03 85 28 08 10
Also available at:
A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Fontaine (9th)
Tél: 01 48 74 59 55
Mailboxes across France are smelling a little better recently.
Because last month, La Poste released a limited-edition of, yes, chocolate stamps—or des timbres au chocolat.
When I saw them over at La Cuisine de Babeth, I raced over to my local branch of La Poste and asked to buy a sheet. When the woman behind the counter handed the sheet over, the smell of chocolate wafted towards me as well. And lifting it up to my face, sure enough, the stamps smelled like pure, dark chocolate.
(Of course, in America, they’d have to put warnings all over the place because someone would try to eat them.)
So, of course, I asked for three more sheets, because I just couldn’t resist. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these stamps, but I don’t think you can never have enough chocolate, no matter what size or shape it comes in. Or affranchissement*.
Aside from the massive safe in the Banque de France, probably the toughest place to get in to in France is the Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona in the little town of Tain l’Hermitage. Admission to the professional cooking program I attended is by invitation only, and several times of the year, pastry chefs and chocolatiers from all over the world come to Valrhona to watch and learn how their chocolate is made. And even more important, to discover the best and tastiest ways to eat it.
Our chef-instructor was Philippe Givre, who was good-natured, but never let us forget that we were there to work-work-work. And he was perhaps the best example of the hard-driving pastry chef.
To those of you who’ve been writing and pleading to get into the laboratory of Jacques Genin, the most elusive chocolatier in Paris, the wait is over. After years of jumps and starts, he’s finally opening his boutique in Paris, which is open to the public.
(Previously, one had to call, or just show up at his workshop in the 15th arrondissement, and hope he had a moment in his frantic schedule.)
So his dream is finally a reality—and what a dream it is!
There’s a misconception that the French don’t eat junk food. While it’s true that the drugstore shelves around here are lined with, of all things—drugs, there are some foods around that don’t quite fall into the high-fallutin’ AOC category elsewhere.
It’s become commonplace to see teenagers swilling la Coca from plastic liter jugs on the sidewalks and it’s not unusual to see a Parisian toting a bag from McDo. In the candy department, the dubious tagada, artificially-flavored strawberry marshmallow domes, I’ve unfortunately had served to me melted on top of a crème brûlée in lieu of a crackly layer of caramel (which was not an improvement, believe me…) and in more upscale desserts in trendy restaurants. Both I found rather icky.
But there is one junk food that I do share their affection for: les oursons guimauve.
If you want to see a normally placid French person go into a crazed frenzy, you don’t need to watch their reaction to me mercilessly butcher their language.
One just needs to utter a single word—cheesecake.
I’ve never met a French person whose face didn’t soften and melt at the mere utterance of the word, and le cheesecake is always spoken of with a reverence normally reserved for the finest cheeses and most exclusive wines.
Although can you find Philadelphia cream cheese here at various outlets in Paris, when you do find it, it’s prohibitively expensive. If you were to make your own cheesecake using four packages of the stuff, it’d run you about €20, which is nearly $30. Holy mother of Bristol Palin!
Rochoux’s caramel-filled chocolate bar.
At the shop, they advise you that after you’ve started it, to store it upright to prevent the caramel from running out.
That is, of course, is based on the assumption that there’s going to be any left over in the first place.
And more chocolate: John-Charles Rochoux (TooManyChefs)
A while back it was cannelés.
Those little eggy pastries baked with a cracky-crust, that everyone was going ga-ga over and just had to bring home the copper molds to make. (Hands up, folks. How many of you have ever used them?)
Then everyone moved on to macarons, dainty little “sandwiches”, made from two crispy almond meringues, with a layer of buttercream or jam in the middle.
So when I heard that pastry chef Arnaud Lahrer, who’s won the award for the best macaron in Paris, opened a shop devoted solely to macarons and chocolate, I put on my reporter hat and caught the métro up to the 18th arrondissement to taste them.
Of course, I couldn’t do it by myself, so I enlisted my friend Heather to come and help with this daunting task.