Recently in Paris and France category

John-Charles Rochoux, Parisian Chocolatier

One of the hardest things about writing about food is coming up with that killer opening sentence. It should start with something that grabs your attention right away, tickles your curiosity, then encourages the reader (which would be you) to follow the writer (which, or course, would be me) deeper into the story. Thankfully when writing about chocolate, I can include pictures to help me get going, so most of the work is already done.

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A Handcarved Rabbit Made of Pure White chocolate.

The other difficult thing when writing about chocolate is that there’s only so many superlatives you can use to describe it, and words like: dark, unctuous, bittersweet, delicious, seductive, etc…don’t really seem to pinpoint that feeling that you get when you walk into a pristine chocolate shop and are completely overwhelmed by the heady experience, inhaling that sweet, unmistakable scent of chocolate that permeates the air and overtakes you. There’s that quiet moment, when you step into a special place full of chocolate, where you briefly forget all that’s going on outside.

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Slender Orangettes; strips of candied orange peel flecked with crunchy nougat, dipped in dark chocolate.

I’m fortunate to live a city where there’s an unusually large amount of very good chocolate shops, and all-too-often one needs a refuge from the fast-pace of the streets and sprawling avenues. Here in Paris, I have my favorites, and one of them is John-Charles Rochoux. His petit shop is located just off the bustling rue de Rennes. It’s not just a refuge from one of Paris’ busy boulevards, but a step back to another era. In his shop, chocolate is both an edible obsession and an object of sculptural craftsmanship, and you’ll find many intricate, precious little chocolate sculptures, as well as a rather serious selection of bonbons from one of Paris’ top chocolatiers.

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Paris Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux

Although there’s several chocolate shops across the city that are terrific, at Jean-Charles Rochoux you’ll find lots of little wonders here to keep you enchanted, including the amazing chocolate sculptures that M. Rochoux creates in his small, pristine workshop just beneath the tidy boutique. This kind of craftsmanship is rarely found anymore, even in a chocolate-obsessed city like Paris.

I was fortunate enough to take some time from my busy schedule to pose for Monsieur Rochoux, so he could create one of the most iconic pieces in the shop: Le torse.

Continue Reading John-Charles Rochoux, Parisian Chocolatier…

Patrick Roger Chocolate: All I Want For Christmas

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That’s the new one meter box of chocolates from Patrick Roger, over three feet of pralines, caramels, nougats, and creamy-smooth ganache-filled bonbons, all enrobed in ultra-dark bittersweet chocolate.

I don’t know how someone would brave getting one of those home on the métro, but I’d surely appreciate their efforts if I found one under my tree!

Patrick Roger
108, Boulevard St. Germain (6th)
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42

Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book

People come from all over the world to sip le chocolat chaud in the busy and cozy cafés in Paris. Here are some of the top addresses in town to warm up.

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Angelina
226, rue de Rivoli
Métro: Tuilleries

This famous hot chocolate salon is getting a well-deserved makeover. But no matter; the place is always packed-full of French society women and tourists side-by-side spooning up their gloriously rich, and impossibly thick, le Chocolat Africain. The service has taken some knocks, but most chocophiles forget any glitches in exchange for the priviledge of sipping the world’s most famous hot chocolate.

Berthillon
31, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland

Pair a mug of frothy hot chocolate with a scoop of Paris’ best ice cream for a decadent afternoon snack. Their salon de Thé next door to the ice cream shop has terrific desserts, including perhaps the best, and most perfectly caramelized, tarte Tatin in Paris. Pair it with a scoop of caramel ice cream making it a wedge of heaven. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Cafe de la Paix at The Grand Hotel
12, boulevard des Capucines
Métro: Opéra

Overlooking the extraordinary Opéra Garnier, this is the most picturesque (and expensive) spot in Paris to sip hot chocolate. Be sure to request fort en gout (strong flavor), unless you prefer your hot chocolate touché delicate, with a delicate touch. Open late in the evening for those after-the-opera chocolate cravings.

Charles Chocolatier
15, rue Montorgueil
Métro: Les Halles

Revitalize in this tiny, modern chocolate shop near bustling Les Halles on the trendy rue Montorgueil with a cup of their dark, bittersweet brew which gushes from their well-polished copper cauldron.

Hotel Meurice
228, rue de Rivoli
Métro: Tuileries

Unwind in fabulous gilded splendor at this chic address across from the Jardin des Tuileries. The ultimate luxury here is ordering your hot chocolate according to the cru (tropical origin), including fruity Manjari chocolate from Madagascar and intense Guanaja from South America.

Jacques Genin
133, rue de Turenne (3rd)
Tél: 01 45 77 29 01
Métro: Filles du Calvaire

The master of chocolate makes a dark, less-sweet hot chocolate, using French chocolate in his modern laboratory. The desserts are works of art as well, and don’t leave without getting a bag of his outstanding caramels.

Jean-Paul Hévin
231, rue Saint-Honoré
Métro: Tuilleries

Divine hot chocolate is served in the upstairs tearoom. I challenge any die-hard chocoholics not to resist one of the rich, elegant chocolate cakes as well.

La Charlotte de Îsle
24, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland

This funky tearoom serves their ultra-thick le chocolat chaud in tiny Japanese cups, encouraging you to savor it one chocolaty dose at a time. La Charlotte got a boost from a favorable write-up in The New York Times a few years back, so the cluttered shop can get a bit cramped on weekends.

La Maison du Chocolat
8, blvd Madeleine
Métro: Madeleine.
For other addresses, visit web site

Only a few locations of La Maison du Chocolat have tasting ‘bars’ where you can sit in the summer, slurping down a chocolate frappe or during the winter, treat yourself to a steaming mug of hot chocolate made from the world’s finest chocolate. The exotic Caracas hot chocolate is not for the timid, nor is the Bacchus, with a rather adult shot of dark rum.

Continue Reading Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book…

Pierre Marcolini’s Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows

The hardest of all foods to photograph, I’ve learned, are chocolate-covered marshmallows.

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The bright, fluffy, vanilla-flecked cubes of sweet, airy marshmallow in contrast to the thin, intensely-flavored coating of bittersweet chocolate certainly presents a challenge.

I futzed around a bit, trying to figure out how to show the lofty-white cubes in juxtaposition to the coating of pure, dark chocolate. They’re such diverse colors and textures that I tried several variations and lighting situations, until I decided that they’d looked best with a piece broked off.

So I took a bite out of one.

Then I took another bite.

And then, I stopped shooting…

…and ate the whole pack.

Sorry.

Pierre Marcolini
89 Rue de Seine
Paris
Tél: 01 44 07 39 07


French Chocolate Indulgence On Rue Tatin

I’ll soon be joining my friend Susan Loomis in her spectacular kitchen in Normandy, one hour from Paris, for a series of cooking classes November 5th-8th, from her home, On Rue Tatin

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We’ll learn cooking tips and techniques from Susan in our hands-on classes and I’ll be leading seminars focusing on all aspects of chocolate during special tastings and hands-on demonstrations: you’ll learn everything from candymaking to making breakfast treats, and other ways to bake with chocolate in every way imaginable!

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Susan is the author of On Rue Tatin, which chronicled her life moving to a village in France, restoring an ancient convent to become her cozy family home. Her other books include The French Farmhouse Cookbook (one of my French cooking bibles), and her latest, Cooking At Home On Rue Tatin.

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You’ll learn the secrets and techniques of French country cooking in Susan’s stunning, professionally-equipped kitchen. Afterwards, we’ll gather to dine by the fireplace with wines chosen from Susan’s antique cave, and have a chance to savor a selection of Normandy cheeses, considered the finest in the world.

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One evening our special guest will be Hervé Lestage, of Feuille de Vigne in Honfleur, who will lead us through a wine tasting, teaching you a new way to taste wine. My first tasting with Hervé changed everything I knew or thought about wine. Hervé is one of the most intriguing people I’ve met in France and we’ll taste amazing wines from his cave which he’ll specially select just for us.

As a grand finale to this culinary adventure, you’ll have the option to spend a day and me and Susan exploring the gastronomic delights of Paris. We’ll begin at an outdoor market, where you’ll find an outstanding selection of Provencal olives, hearth-baked breads, artisan salt, raw-milk cheeses, luscious fruits, and sparkling-fresh seafood.
We’ll dine in one of our most beloved Parisian bistros…but be sure to save room for all the chocolates we’ll sample when we visit my favorite chocolate shops, bakeries and pastry shops in Paris afterwards!

Special Note: For this extra day on November 8th, we’ve made available 3 spaces available for people who aren’t on our tour to join us, so if you live in Paris, or plan to be visiting then, you’re welcome to come along! The price for the full-day gastronomic adventure, including lunch with wine, is just 225€. Contact me to reserve a space, using the email link on left.

You can read more about this Three-Day Chocolate Indulgence and at Susan’s site, On Rue Tatin.


Salted Butter Caramels from Henri Le Roux

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I’d like to introduce you to Henri Le Roux. And if you don’t know who Henri Le Roux is, it’s time that you did.

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Le Caramelier; Salted-Butter Caramel Spread

There’s a lot of very talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs in France. Some are quite famous, and some just go to work everyday and do their jobs well. A few have rather large egos, others are more humble, preferring the lights of the kitchen to the ones in the television studio. (I was at a recent event with another food blogger who correctly noted that all the famous chefs mostly talk about is one thing: Themselves!) But if you mention the name ‘Henri Le Roux’ to any chocolatier or confiseur in France, they stand silent for a moment. Then nod agreeably. He is perhaps the most respected and admired pastry chef and candy maker I know.

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The famous C.B.S. caramels in assorted flavors, including lime, black tea, orange-ginger and, of course, chocolate

I first met Monsieur Le Roux when I went to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris with my Thierry Lallet, who has an excellent (and highly-recommended) chocolate shop in Bordeaux, Saunion, one of the best in France.

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Freshly-made C.B.S. caramels studded with hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts

Before that day, I thought that caramels were caramels, and until that point, I’d tasted so many things in my life that there was little left that would deeply impress me. M. Le Roux is a very kind man, who basically changed the way pastry chefs, glaciers, and bakers everywhere think about caramel: he created caramel-buerre-salé (caramel-salt-butter), which he simply calls C.B.S.
And they are truly divine.

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The 55-year old candywrapping machine barely keeps up with the demand for M. Le Roux’s caramels

Henri Le Roux, whose Breton father was a pastry chef (and lived in New York for 5 years, cooking at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) started making caramels in the seaside town of Quiberon in 1976, located at the tip of a dramatic peninsula in the south of Brittany, where the best butter in the world is found (the first chapter in his book, is called “Le Rideau de Beurre”, or “The Curtain of Butter”. He decided to open there, selling cakes, candies, and ice creams. But like warm, buttery caramel, word of his candies spread and he stopped making cakes and tartes to concentrate all his energy on candymaking. Just 3 years later, in 1908, M. Le Roux won the award for the best candy in France, Le Meilleur Bonbon de France at the Salon International de la Confiserie in Paris.

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Salted-Caramel Buckwheat Florentines just-slathered in bittersweet chocolate

M. Le Roux was kind enough to let me explore his workshop with him when I paid a visit during my August vacation in Brittany. As he raced from room to room, he flipped open bins of almonds from Provence or hazelnuts from Turkey to give me a sample, later showing me how he grinds his own fresh nut pastes in his broyeuse with massive granite rollers which keep cool, while metal rollers would heat the nuts too much, losing some of the flavor. And a rarity in the pastry field nowadays, M. Le Roux uses true bitter almonds in his almond paste, which he sources from the Mediterranean. Almond extract is made from bitter almonds, even in America, but they’re hardly used anymore since they’re difficult to find (and those pesky toxicity issues.) But in the land sans lawsuits, M. Le Roux makes that effort and blends a few into his freshly-pressed almond paste which tastes like none other I’ve tasted in France.

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Exceptional chocolates from Henri Le Roux, which were too good not to eat right away

I like to ask chocolatiers which chocolate they use.
Most are secretive, but M. Le Roux led me into a cool room packed floor to ceiling with boxes of various chocolates he gets from all over France and Belgium. He tore into them, breaking off chunks for me to taste and explaining how he uses some of each, blending them as he wishes to get the desired tastes he’s after. Valrhona and Barry-Callebaut are used, but he also sources chocolate from François Pralus, an artisan chocolate-maker located in Roanne, just outside of Lyon, who specializes in single-origin chocolates, as well.

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Henri and Lorraine Le Roux in their boutique, in Quiberon

I wanted to describe each and every chocolate in the box, but decided that that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (Actually, I ate them all and didn’t feel like writing down what tasted as I was eating as I went. As mentioned, I’m a lousy blogger.) But I remember Harem, a filling of green tea and fresh mint, Sarrasine, infused with blé noir (buckwheat), and Yannick, blended dark cane sugar, salted butter and ground crêpes dentelle, hyper-thin, crackly lace cookies ground to a crunchy paste.

Oh yes, there’s C.B.S. too, nutty salted-butter caramel enrobed in dark chocolate as well, which was my favorite.

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Le Roux
18, rue de Pont Maria
56170 Quiberon, France

and

1, rue de Bourbon le Château (6th)
Paris

(Will ship internationally.)

Henri Le Roux’s caramels and chocolates are also available in Paris at:

A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Fontaine
Tél: 01 48 74 59 55
M: Blanche

Le Roux Chocolate bars

Related Links and Recipes

Henri Le Roux in Paris

Salted Butter Caramels

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs

A l’Etoile d’Or

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Jacques Genin

Jean-Charles Rochoux

Patrick Roger

Paris Favorites

How to Make the Perfect Caramel



A Visit to Parisian Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux

This was an easy post!

If you’d like to know what it’s like to visit Jean-Charles Rochoux with me, one of my favorite chocolatiers in Paris, go visit Too Many Chefs for Meg’s write-up of our visit.

Update! You can read about my visit to Jean-Charles Rochoux, and see his staggeringly-beautiful chocolate creations.

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Belt-Tightening

Summer is here in Paris. It arrived without warning last week and was brutal. It was hot, and it hit around 31°(about 88°) and so humid, I faced a real-meltdown of chocolate. And just about everything else around here, including me, suffered the same fate. Just when no one couldn’t bear it anymore, it stopped. Then we had rain and cool weather. It’s so other-worldly (hey…am I back in San Francisco?), but summer arriving means a lot less clothes, and since I’m now European, it’s obligatory that they’re much, much tighter. Damn Europeans and their fine-tailoring. So that means it’s time to pay for the last 8 months of eating too many pastries, tasting too many chocolates, snacking on too many macarons, and drinking perhaps a bit too much vin rouge. I don’t know if I can hold my stomach in consecutively for the next three months, but I’m going to try. I’ve unpacked my shorts for summer and they definitely are un peu serré.

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Speaking of tightening my belt, last week I got to spend the morning at my favorite place in Paris, getting rid of a few excess US dollars I had lying around. My favorite place isn’t the Eiffel Tower nor the Louvre (they don’t take dollars), nor was it the Museé d’Orsay or the Jardin du Luxembourg. Yes, I got to go to the American Embassy, my favorite place in Paris! I like hanging out there, since everyone there understands me, unconditionally, and without judgment. There’s no raised eyebrows or startled expressions, like last week when I recently ordered ‘Big Turd Jam’ (confiture des grosse selles), when I meant red currant (confiture des groseilles). Luckily they were out of the first one.

But the American Embassy is great: I can argue back with impunity and get huffy with them. Hey, why not? I’m on equal turf, and I’m an American and my English is just as good as theirs.
And I can argue with anyone all I want and make perfectly-formed sentences with correctly-placed pronouns and not worry if this verb is masculine to I need to match the adjective to the gender as well, or decide if I need to decide which of the gazillion French verbs I need to conjugate correctly, unlike I have to do at the Préfécture.
What are they going to do if I screw it up my English at the US Embassy? Kick me out? Or in?

So there I was, on the rue St. Florentin, where I waited, stood in line, got scanned, went through the metal detector, then had my water bottle confiscated (I guess it’s a threat to national security), then headed to the IRS office. Being a foreign resident you get an automatic extension for paying your taxes, which comes in handy when the mail isn’t very reliable. I guess somehow they caught on and give us expats a break.

So in my bid to help fight the war on terror and make the world a safer place (though things don’t quite appear to be quite heading in that direction) I sat under the over-sized, overly-glossy, and over-polished pictures of George and Dick (whose has a rather curious smirk on his face for an ‘official’ portrait), and wrote my checks.

And prayed things wouldn’t get any worse.
And in fact, for me, they were about to get better.

A whole lot better.

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Since I was in the neighborhood (well, not really, but since I left my neighborhood, I’m gonna stretch it), I decided to visit chocolatier Jacques Genin. A lot of people talk about M. Genin with a hushed reverence and most of it is directed at his terrific chocolates. But one bite of his Passion Fruit Caramels and I’m singing a different tune. And you’ll be too.

I had stopped at a bakery down the street for bread and noticed les palets Breton, delicate buttery cookies made from salted butter, so I bought a stack. Four was the minimum for some reason… this from the country where you can buy half a baguette for 42 centimes, and when madame wants to buy one fig, madame will be given the same courtesy and service (and take as much time) as, say, an American pastry chef trying to race through the market buying a flat of figs or a few kilos of nectarines to test recipes.

So I bought four, but M. Genin was happy to relieve me of half of them. In exchange, he swooped his hands into the tray he was wrapping of caramels and stuffed them in my bag (and those caramels are as precious as gold, since you can’t buy them in stores.) As you can see, each caramel is buttery, tender, and keeps its shape just long enough to get it into your mouth, where it dissolves into an explosion of creamy-smooth sweet goo, slightly tangy from the passion fruit, with exactly enough of the tropical pulp to offset the restrained sweetness of the caramel.

So I can’t say I’m going to get any thinner, or my shorts will soon fit better, or when I hit the beach in August, I’ll be turning any heads. But when you have a guy like Jacques Genin feeding you chocolates and handing you caramels, who cares if your belt needs to be loosened out a notch.

Or two.

Jacques Genin
133, rue de Turenne
Tel: 01 45 77 29 01

NOTE: This post was updated in 2009, and now M. Genin has his own boutique in Paris, at the address above, which is open to the public.