149, rue de l’Université (map)
01 47 53 74 40
Michel Chaudun (in Japan)
Pardon, Monsieur Linxe, but I disagree.
At a recent tasting at La Maison du Chocolat, I sampled at least eight chocolates—not to mention passion fruit ganache, chocolat chaud, plus two of their newest summer flavors: melon and star anise.
It was a lot to get through, let me tell you. I normally avoid any hot chocolate that’s offered in those kinds of situations, because I find that’s the tummy-buster, the stuff that puts you over the edge. And when faced with a plate of such fine chocolates, I want to enjoy and savor every chocolate-dipped bite. A warm cup of silky-rich chocolat chaud alongside? That’s just dorer le lys. (Gilding the lily.)
My favorite chocolate at La Maison du Chocolat is Rigoletto Noir.
We’re mid-week into our Paris Chocolate Tour here and we’re having a great time. Everyone’s enjoying the unusually fine weather, and of course, the chocolate.
I wanted to post a few shots and notes in my spare seven minutes—it’s 5:34am so forgive any typos or missed links. I’ll catch ‘em later…in my free time ; )
Cheerful, and the amazingly-talented, Jean-Charles Rochoux shows us a chocolate replica of his arm in his laboratory. He made it for a Halloween display at a Parisian department store. The scoop of passionfruit sorbet is from Le Bac à Glaces, an ice cream shop just a few blocks away, where we stopped to cool down.
At M. Rochoux’s swanky boutique, his assistant Murielle, packs up a box of chocolate. Check out the sexy glove. Oh la la! I may need even more sorbet to cool down…
If you do stop in, be sure to get a tablet of his chocolate from Peru. This is one of my favorite chocolates in his shop, along with the tablets of caramelized hazelnuts from Piedmont enrobed in chocolate as well as his latest; a bar of chocolate with a unctuous layer of creamy caramel oozing out.
A light French salad: la salade parisienne. Yes, there is some lettuce tucked under that mountain of ham, but I was more focused on the yummy house-made fries at Le Nemrod that I dove on as soon as they landed. Unfortunately, being the consummate host, I did share a few with my table mates. But not before grabbing all the crispiest specimens. Since my salad was so light, my guests knew I needed the extra nourishment to make it through the afternoon.
Did I mention how light it was? Just checking…
Of course, it’s not lunch in Paris without un peu de rosé. I had a little pitcher, which was just enough to carry me through the afternoon. Well, at least until dinner.
If the above salad looked too light for you, the salad with soft-cooked egg melting over a huge mound of crispy bacon and studly croutons, may be more suitable to carry someone through a week of tasting chocolates. They also make a letter-perfect croque monsieur (and madame), if you’re in the neighborhood.
If G. Detou didn’t exist, I couldn’t live in Paris.
Seriously. The overstocked, but impeccably neat shelves at G. Detou do indeed have everything, as the name implies in French (J. Detou is a play-on-words, meaning “I have everything”.) But when you’re someone like me that does an inordinate amount of baking, plus loves…and I mean loves…to discover new and unusual foods and chocolates, a place like G. Detou is truly pastry paradise.
This little shop near Les Halles is stocked, literally, floor-to-ceiling with everything a cook or baker could want. There’s chocolates from across France, including a huge (and I mean huge) selection of bars including Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, Voisin, Weiss, Bonnat, Cacao Barry—the best of l’hexagone.
But even better are the big tablets and sacks that range from 3 to 5 kilos, that hard-cores bakers like me depend on. Although I’m not the only avid chocolate baker in town: When I was in last week, a tiny, meek little old lady came by and left hefting a 3-kilo sack of white chocolate, and a man in a hurry, who didn’t remove the cell phone from his ear while he rattled off his order to the red-coated salesclerk, left with five enormous sacks of chocolate, as well as assorted other goodies.
A blog is an online diary where you can write about what you see and what you eat. It’s a marvelous thing that you can use to share your culinary experiences for everyone to read.
The flip side of having a blog is that others can, and do, read it.
A while back I wrote something about a chocolate shop in the Marais that I once walked by with a friend, a very talented chocolatier from Brussels. He looked in the window and didn’t find the presentation all that enticing. So I wrote a few words about the place here on the site, a comment he made in passing, that wasn’t necessarily glowing nor was it desultory. (Either way, I’m off the hook. He said it, not me.) But it was enough to invoke an email from someone at the company about a year later. But it wasn’t signed by Joséphine Vannier.
Maybe it was a pseudonym for Her Divine Greatness! herself.
I can’t find the message, but it went along the lines of, “David: Let us assure you that our chocolates are very fine and we invite you to come and try them.”
Or something to that effect. There was definitely an emphasis on the words ‘us’ or something about coming in for a ‘meeting’ that I recall rather distinctly
Seizing the opportunity, I responded, saying I’d love to come in and get shown around, hopefully by the elusive Joséphine herself, and to be properly introduced to her chocolates with her expert help.
Alas, a response was not forthcoming: I never heard back.
Don’t hate me when I tell you this: Last week I was invited to La Maison du Chocolat.
But not just to one of their swanky boutiques in Paris, the marble-lined, cocoa-hued temples where people flock to worship at the alter of founder Robert Linxe. (And yes, you can count me as one of the converted.) Instead I was invited to tour their chocolate production laboratoire just outside the city.
Descending the RER train in the nondescript suburb of Nanterre, we finally came upon a beige building that was scrupulously clean; we knew we’d arrived at le mothership.
Robert Linxe, who was born in the Basque region and founded La Maison du Chocolat, was one the major proponents of using ganache in his chocolates; that slightly-airy amalgamation of chocolate and cream. Then he went on to develop a flavor palette of ganache-based chocolates…and the rest is one of the most successful stories in chocolate history.
The problem around here is that I buy chocolate in 5 kilo, about 11#, boxes and every afternoon, and sometimes (ok…make that ‘often’…) first thing in the morning, I dig my hand deep in the box and pull out a few pistols every time I walk by. People have the impression that I eat chocolate all the time, every day. And although I usually deny it, I would have to admit it’s definitely true.
Except last night when I was flossing, part of one of my teeth flew out and plinked onto the floor. So today it’s like eating and talking with a thumb tack in my mouth, and I’m having a rare, chocolate-free day.
Who knew it was possible to floss to hard? Does that make me a ‘power-flosser’?
(When I called my dentist, I was stumped trying to figure out the verb ‘to floss’ in French. Ça existe?)
Anyhow, in addition to the little palets of dark chocolate I’m always dipping into, I also have tons of unusual chocolate bars around here I’ve been amassing over the past few months.
Many I pick up when traveling, and some I get sent by companies wanting me to try them out. I happily sample them all and love to find something new or especially unusual. Often I taste them systematically by sitting down, snapping off a corner and savoring the flavors. As I roll and chew the chocolate around in my mouth, I ponder the different characteristics, noting origin and the various flavors: Sweet, fruity, acidic, roasty, bitter, citrusy, woodsy—all the various tastes we find in chocolate.
And other times, I’m not so good and I rip off the covering and start gnawing away at the chocolate until it’s nothing but an empty wrapper with a few crumbs of chocolate left. I never did well in science since I’m lacking in patience.
So during the next few weeks, it’s your turn to be patient.
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.
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.