Results tagged chocolatier from David Lebovitz

Paris Chocolatier: Le Furet Tanrade

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One of my favorite things to do in Paris is just wander around, often in neighborhoods that aren’t really known for anything special. There’s always something interesting to find; shops specializing in vintage hairbrushes and combs, or locksmiths for doors installed only during the reign of Napoléan III.

And of course, I’m usually on the lookout for food, and am especially keen when I come across a shop specializing in candymaking or chocolate. If I get lucky, I discover some little treasure, often in the most unlikeliest of places.

Le Furet Tanrade was opened in 1728, and it’s still one of the sweetest little chocolate shops I’ve found in Paris. Sure, their chocolates aren’t nearly as sleek or refined as their Left Bank counterparts, but I appreciated their handmade charm all the same. Especially the petits dark squares filled with a crisp morsel of mint fondant cloaked in brusque, dark chocolate. And the chocolates filled with caramel and feuilleté were certainly as delicious as those found in swankier boutiques.

One chocolate that piqued my curiosity was flavored with chanvre, a word I wasn’t familiar with. Although I’ve been previously familiar with the green leaf embedded atop the chocolate in my younger days, she offered a sample since she was having difficulty explaining exactly what was inside.

But then, in that little shop, I learned my Word-For-The-Day: the ganache was infused with hemp. So should you find yourself near the Gare du Nord or Gare d’Est, and need to pass a bit of time (or want try to get a bit of a buzz)…or if you just want to take a journey to a less-visited quartier of Paris, Le Furet Tanrade certainly makes a tasty stopping point.

Le Furet Tanrade
1, rue des Méssageries (10th)
Tél: 06 99 41 61 31
Métro: Poissonière


UPDATE: Le Furet Tanrade recently moved to a smaller location, on the rue des Méssageries. So some of the chocolate and items mentioned here may not be available while they are in the process of adapting to the new address.

For the latest on Le Furet Tanrade, and other pastry shops of Paris, check out my Paris Pastry Guide app, which is updated frequently and lists over 300 of the best Paris pastry and chocolate shops. The guide is also available for Kindle and as an e-book, compatible with Android and other devices at the Paris-Pastry website.

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…

Dagoba Chocolate Partners With Hershey’s

For those of you whose interest has been picqued by my interview with Frederick Schilling of Dagoba chocolate, Frederick sent me the scoop on his new partnership with Artisan Confections, a division of Hershey’s chocolate.
Here’s an except from that message:

“So, what’s in store for Dagoba now? Well, for the most part, nothing is going to change. Dagoba will remain in Ashland doing what we’ve always done. All the employees, as long as they want to stay, will still be there. We’ll still be able to wear whatever we want to wear to work. I’ll still be in charge of sourcing the cacao and formulating new products. We’ll still be using 100% recycled New Leaf Paper for our wrappers. We’ll still be using renewable energy for our factory. We’ll still be able to do the tradeshows as we want, when we want. We will have manufacturing support from a company that has been making chocolate for almost 100 years, which will be very nice! For those of you who do your own manufacturing, you know that it’s not always the easiest thing. Yet it’s fun to walk back there and see all this equipment and hear the noises… I love it!…”

“…(the) bottom line with the above statements, to answer your question of how we’re going to change-I really don’t foresee you’ll notice anything. I still want us to do what we’ve always done with each other. I’ve told Hershey’s straight up about our inter-industry relationships and they are sacred to me. They support it. They support what we’re doing… what we’re all doing together. And quite honestly, they want to learn from us; and I’m not going to turn away people who want to learn. Our passion and knowledge must be shared and passed on. Isn’t this what we want?”

“I ask that you all continue to keep an open heart for us. I feel this was the right move to continue to make the impact I want to make. And I still see all of us as being…the pioneers in what we do. We are leading the way. We will continue to lead the way. All of our paths will continue to bring us where it brings us and I want you all to know you have my support in all your directions. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here, doing what I do.”

Interview: Frederick Schilling of Dagoba Organic Chocolate

David: Hey Frederick, I remember meeting you years ago at a Food Show, and was really impressed with both you, and your exceptionally good chocolate. You were so friendly and open about what you were doing, and I saw in you such a passion for producing high-quality chocolate from organically-grown beans. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch since then, and you’re happy to answer some questions about Dagoba chocolate.

While it’s everyone’s dream to open a chocolate factory, what made Frederick Schilling do it?

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Frederick: I come from a mixed background of music, religion, professional ski-bumming and a passion for food. I actually never liked chocolate as a child or a young adult. It wasn’t until I was cooking at a higher end restaurant in Boulder Colorado that I experienced what a higher quality chocolate was. At the time we were using Valrhona and El Rey and I started to nibble on the bricks back in the pastry corner. It was the bittersweet that managed to maintain my attention and interest. When I started to look into chocolate further and learning of the rich history and lore of cacao, I was hooked. I have a deep appreciation for religion and culture and when I learned of the Aztec reverence for cacao, it really opened my mind to wanting to explore this bean much deeper. That was what got me going.

David: I know how you feel about getting hooked. Those innocent little nibbles can really lead to something much larger.

Why did you decide to go organic?

Frederick: From the beginning of my young adult life, I have been very passionate about sustainability and organics. I was already philosophically aligned with the organic movement before the inception of DAGOBA. So naturally, since I was exploring the idea of creating a food product for the market, it had to be organic.

Aside from chocolate bars, you also have a line of other products, all organic, including chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, hot chocolate mix, and chocolate-covered coffee beans. Where are Dagoba chocolates produced, and why did you choose to open your production facility there?

Our factory is located in Ashland Oregon. It’s a small town in Southern Oregon, just over the California border, in the Rogue Valley. It’s absolutely gorgeous here; and that’s why we chose to have the factory here. The quality of life is pretty uncompromised. I’m able to ride my bike to work, go mountain biking right out my front door, skiing, hiking, kayaking, rafting… there are a plethora of outdoor activities to partake in around here. The town also has the nations largest Shakespeare Festival, so there is the element of theater wafting thru the streets. Interstate 5 goes right by the town so access for shipping product, while not as easy as being located in a major city, is pretty good.

We just purchased 3.5 acres of land in town and will be building a new factory this coming year with completion in the summer of 07′. It’s going to have many ‘green’ aspects to the structure; solar panels up top and permaculture landscaping as a couple of examples. This factory will be open for tours, so make sure you stop by when you’re driving thru!

David: Well, you still look pretty young to me. Must be all that chocolate.
After being in business after a few years, in reflection, what’s been the most difficult part of making chocolate?

Frederick: We just turned 5 in June and it has been one interesting ride. I started the company in my kitchen, hand made the product for the first 1.5 years and have been pretty much making it up and learning as I go along. So while it’s been extremely fun and interesting, the whole experience has a shadow of difficulty because it was founded with blind ambition.

Starting a company is just difficult. It takes a lot of time, hard work, patience, faith and a little ignorance too. The ignorance, while makes things a little difficult, also acts as the catalyst for pushing me. I don’t know something, so I’m going to dig into it. That ignorance eventually turns to skill and knowledge. Then, with that knowledge and skill I start to create more things, usually burying myself in the process, digging up more things that I’m ignorant on, then learning more, then creating more, realizing how much I don’t know, then learning, then creating more, realizing how much I don’t know and so on. It’s a great cycle and one that the creative mind needs in order to maintain itself. We need elements of difficulty to push us.

Yet, as the organic chocolate market starts to gain legs, sourcing enough high quality organic cacao may become very difficult; sooner than later. It’s all about the source, right? As more organic chocolate companies start to spring up around the world, or as current companies come out with organic chocolate, a lot of them will be going after the good beans. It’s already becoming tight. That’s why I’m leaving for Central America in 2 days; to maintain and create new relationships with growers.

In 5 years, it’s going to be very interesting indeed.

David: We leave in two days? I don’t think I can get packed in time. I’ll have to wait for the next trip.
When researching The Great Book of Chocolate, I met a lot of ‘characters’ in the chocolate world…and not all of them were particularly nice. Without naming names (my editor wouldn’t let me, but you can…) can you tell us about any clashes you’ve had?
Why is the chocolate world so competitive?

Frederick: For the most part, everyone I’ve met in the industry is really nice. For the most part, everyone has always spoken to me with openness and really helped me figure this industry out. Yet, I’ve never been a threat to them. I was always considered as this little organic chocolate company – “Oh, how sweet, he’s making organic chocolate”. The chocolate makers/companies that I always spoke to were not making organic chocolate so they were willing to share their knowledge. YET, now that things are changing, DAGOBA is growing and more companies want to move into the organic chocolate market, lips are tightening a bit and vest are being buttoned.

As for being competitive, I don’t think it’s any more competitive than any other industry. Company secrets are company secrets. A lot of the hush-hush attitude that does permeate our industry probably has its roots from the Mars and Hershey dysfunctional relationship from years ago.

The thing is though, when you’re talking about pure chocolate, there aren’t any real secrets. Everyone knows how to make it. Everyone knows what kind of equipment the others use. Everyone knows where cacao comes from. Now, companies are even saying what farm the cacao comes from! So, transparency is actually becoming the “new thing”, right?

David: There’s a lot of talk lately about the ‘corporate’ organic movement, and we’re seeing organics at chain-stores and supermarkets. On the other hand, there’s also increased interest in buying local at farmer’s markets, which are often organic. Obviously you can’t use locally-grown cacao, but where does Dagoba fit in to all of this? And will we see Dagoba at Wal-Mart?

Frederick: A very good question.
This is a huge question David and one that I think of everyday, literally. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, to be honest; it’s an experiment in the making. Although, like you state, the best choice for food is to buy from the local organic farmer, or better yet, grow it yourself.

On the corporate organic movement; is it wrong to have organics at chain stores? Big box stores? Isn’t this what we, the believers of true food, wanted? To get rid of the artificial food chain? Just because the stores that we now buy our food from are larger than most South Pacific islands, is it wrong that they are providing the people with organic food? This is what the people want. Now I personally don’t shop at the large box stores, but ultimately, I believe this is a move in the right direction. Would I rather see an industrial farm being grown conventionally or organically? The industrial farming model isn’t going away anytime soon, so in my opinion, it’s a move in the right direction; to cut back on the amount of chemicals being applied to the soil. Perhaps in 10 years, the consumer will ‘urge by purchase’ the corporate growers to move back to a “biodiverse” farming model, which is more sustaining to the land. Ultimately it’s up to the consumer to dictate what happens in the marketplace. In 10 years, if the big box consumer, after being educated on what organic means, wants food that comes from an even more sustaining farming model, the big boxes will respond as will the industrial farming operations.

Cacao grows in the tropics, so I’m forced to rely on fossil fuels to get our raw material to us; until I’m able to charter a fleet of large sail boats to transport my cacao to port and then move the beans via biodiesel fueled trucks to our new solar powered factory. As you know, DAGOBA is a company that makes every effort to be as “eco-minded” as possible. We use 100% alternative energy at the factory; use 100% recycled content paper for our wrappers and office paper, we compost our kitchen waste and many other small things. Are we perfect? Far from it. Yet, we’re making the conscious decision to be aware of what we do and how we can improve upon it.

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DAGOBA in Wal-Mart?
I actually just had this conversation on Thursday at our employee meeting. This very question was raised. My response; would it be a bad thing? If more people want organic chocolate, which is made from organic cacao, isn’t planting more trees in the tropics a good thing? Would it be a good thing to go to Central and South America and convert deforested land to fields of cacao trees? I say yes. If we, DAGOBA, can have a positive impact on the tree situation in the tropics, I have no problem going into box stores. For me, it’s not about preserving the ego of the brand perception. Some of our core consumers may be upset if we sell to Wal-Mart, but I would ask them these very questions. I think our core consumer, once they understood the potential good that could come out of selling more organic chocolate, would sympathize with such a decision.

As you know David, cacao is very different than other crops. The vast majority of cacao is grown on small family farms, where they also grow many other crops and fruit trees. Cacao, by default, is already being grown very sustainably in bio-diverse settings. If we can further this model, because of consumer demand, by replanting deforested areas then I can only say I’d be a hypocrite if we didn’t do business with box stores.

We all need to be the Lorax in this day and age.

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David: Another chocolate-maker, not a Lorax, told me that most cacao beans aren’t sprayed much since the locals can’t afford it, but I’ve also heard otherwise.
What’s the truth?

Frederick: Both are true.
As I just noted above, the vast majority of cacao is grown on small family farms and yes, most of them are too poor to afford chemicals. It’s on the larger plantations that spraying will occur and most often it’s the “premium” brands that will buy plantation grown cacao because it’s often of better quality. I believe the government of Ghana will do aerial sprayings from time to time, as cacao is such as important export to that countries economy.

Methyl Bromide is the fumigant of choice for cacao, and this is where the pesticide gets applied. The cacao doesn’t get sprayed on the farm level; it’s at the ports where the cacao gets sprayed. When a container of cacao leaves a countries port, there’s gonna be insects in that cacao, so they fumigate. When the container arrives into port, say in the US, and there is any sign of insects, they fumigate again. I’ve heard that cacao is actually one of the most heavily fumigated commodities in the world. I have a friend in the industry that used to work at a very large chocolate company and his job was to, every Thursday, fumigate the cacao warehouse with Methyl Bromide. He had to have a special handling license to carry out this task. I hear murmur in industry that methyl bromide may be getting phased out of use, which is a good thing, as it’s nasty stuff.

David: I read somewhere that professionals don’t use organic chocolate, since it doesn’t taste as good as ‘regular’ chocolate. What are your thoughts on this and who’s the biggest market for Dagoba chocolate, home cooks or professionals?

Frederick: To the professionals that say this, I would say, in a blind taste test of the San Francisco Chronicle, we beat Scharffenberger and Valrhona. We were awarded ‘best dark chocolate’ – the first time an organic chocolate ever won this award. Taste, is of course, subjective. I personally don’t like a brand of French chocolate that people do back flips over for. To me, it tastes over roasted and the particle size is actually too small, therefore making it feel slimy on my palate. Other people go gaga over it. No right or wrong. I personally don’t enjoy it.

There really is no difference between conventional and organic chocolate when it comes to quality. Taste is taste and conventional chocolates all taste differently. Organic chocolates all taste differently. I would be more than happy to sit down with the professionals that say that organic isn’t as good as conventional and conduct a blind taste test and have them tell me which is organic and which is conventional.

Our biggest market is thru retailers. Our retail bars are what drive our business. We’re a small company and we just can’t compete on price with the big boys for food service business. We do sell our chocolate to a great many elite restaurants who brand us on the menu. But outside of that tiny niche, we don’t sell much in the food service sector. Plus, for the retail bars, it allows me to create more and experiment with flavor infusions, which I really love doing.

David: And are there any pastry chefs that you know who are using your chocolate?

Frederick: Honestly, not off the top of my head. I don’t pay attention to this, even though I probably should. I like what I do and often times get very tunnel visioned in my passion, meaning I don’t pay attention to the “who’s and the what’s” as much as I probably should.

David: Lately, everyone’s obsessed with percentages, which signify how much cacao is in the chocolate. Why do you think that is and do you think percentages are important?

Frederick: I think it started erupting when the health benefits of dark chocolate started to get announced by the media. This is when the public really started to pay attention to the cocoa content, as they were all looking for 70% or higher, regardless of what it tasted like.

I think percentages are important as they act as a kind of barometer for how dark chocolate is. It will rest on the flavor of the chocolate for me, but I’m much more apt to purchase a 65% or higher, so I personally appreciate knowing how much cacao is in the bar.

Yet, we must also remember that cacao percentage is defined as how much cacao is in there, not just cacao solids. So the percentage can include cocoa butter, which will dilute the flavor. So we can have a 85% dark bar that has an extra 20% cocoa butter added, making that 85% bar very mild; and probably pretty nasty too.

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David: To be honest, Frederick, I never really liked milk chocolate until I tasted your Dagoba Milk Chocolate Chai Bar with candied ginger and spices, and a whole new world opened up to me. So I tried some of your others, including the Brasilia Bar with coconut and Brazil nuts, and Latté, scented with coffee beans and cinnamon, and now I’m hooked on milk chocolate, as well as dark! Who came up with all these exceptional flavor combinations? (And how can we become tasters?)

Frederick: I create the products, usually after a bottle of really good wine. The Chai is actually one of my favorites too. Some people say it’s too strong on the spices, but it’s the way I like my chai tea – spicy! I like a lot of cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, anise in my chai tea, so that’s how I wanted to create this bar. I experimented with a dark chocolate chai bar, but the bitters of the dark bar really suppressed the spices.

Once the new factory is up and running with the tours, I’m sure we’ll have the “tasting trial table”, where people can try some of my new creations and write comments.

Ever had a milk bar with bacon bits and sun dried figs? It’s so good.

David: Bacon and dried figs? Sounds like a nice breakfast! I can’t wait for that one, Frederick. I noticed you’ve concocted cacao ‘elixirs’. Who came up with these and what does one do with them?
And what the heck is ‘horny goat weed’?

Frederick: What we did is use vegetable glycerin as the solvent base instead of alcohol, so there is an inherent sweetness to the elixirs. Then, the primary botanical in the elixir is cacao; which we extracted from organic Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional nibs. From there, we built on the botanicals for each formula. THEY ARE SOOOOOOO GOOD!!! The plain Cacao Elixir is like getting your chocolate craving without eating chocolate. There is no cocoa butter, so you’re not eating the fat (nothing wrong with cocoa butter though!). The Antioxidant Elixir is made with copious amounts of berries, so it’s really rich in flavor.

Horny goat weed? Exactly!

David: If someone’s serving a chocolate dessert, what beverage do you think goes well with it?

Frederick: If it’s got a cork in it, I like it.

David: I’m very excited when I learned that you’ve found a source for rare and special Ocumare cacao beans and you’re going to start selling it soon. I’ve had a few Ocumare chocolates and they’re exceptional. Why did you choose to pursue Ocumare, which is rare and frankly, rather costly?

Frederick: Ocumare is expensive and rare.
We were able to secure the majority of last springs harvest and the next harvest. It’s exceptional cacao and the post harvest handling is top notch. I was really impressed with their facility. Ocumare is also certified organic, which many people don’t know. As we grow as a company and my desire to continue to create world class chocolate matures, sourcing the best cacao has to be the primary focus. Without the best cacao, we can’t create the best chocolate.

We’ll also be bringing in some other very special cacao from Venezuela. I happened to be at the right place at the right time and secured some cacao from Puerto Ayacucho. A few times a year, Indians from the Cepai tribe come down from the headwaters of the Orinoco River with wild harvested cacao. It takes them about 15 days in their canoes to bring the cacao to Puerto Ayachucho. If the river is low, they have to go over land on donkeys, which takes about 30 days – one way! They only bring about 3,000lbs per trip, so the supply is extremely limited. The flavor is very unique and I’m really excited to be able to make chocolate from this cacao and offer it to people.

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David: I love your Xocolatl bar, a wickedly-dark bittersweet chocolate with chilies and cacao nibs, which is in my personal Top Ten Chocolate Bar category (actually, my top five.) People think adding chilies to chocolate is new and exciting, but it’s been done for thousands of years. You’re following a long-standing tradition. If that isn’t your number #1 selling chocolate bar, can you tell us what is?

Frederick: Yes, it is actually our #1 selling bar. And yes, it’s paying homage to the Aztecs beverage, Xocoatl. I never expected it to be our #1 selling bar, to be honest. I just wanted to show respect to what had come before me and for allowing me to make chocolate. I think it’s great that it’s our #1 bar, as it just shows that consumers are wanting to try unique things.

David: What’s in the future for Frederick and Dagoba chocolate that readers can look out for?

Frederick: Oh boy, that’s a big question and even bigger answer. People can always go to our website and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. We report on everything that is happening in our universe and what new products are coming out.

In short, I’m really looking forward to coming out with some really unique single origin chocolates. I just secured some amazing Criollo-Trinitario cacao from the Philippines, so that should be out by the first of the year. A bar made from cacao of Bali. A single estate chocolate from Nicaragua. A bar made from cacao from the Napo of Ecuador. Right now, I’m all about digging down as far as I can go with source and bring these unique origins to the people; instead of blending it. I so love the ability to taste the terroir of cacao from each region, as it is so truly distinct.

It’s a great journey and I’m having fun doing it. And thanks to our customers for giving me the opportunity to do what I do.

Thanks David!

David: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Frederick.
Have a great trip, and I’m looking forward to visiting your factory when it opens next year, and tasting your new chocolates…especially that Ocumare.


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

A Visit To Richart Chocolate

Want to know what’s it like to visit one of the finest chocolate shops in Paris?

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Les Itinéraires des Beaux Jours: Richart’s Exquisite Upcoming Chocolate Collection

Richart Chocolate
258, blvd St. Germain
Paris
Tél: 01 45 55 66 00

La Maison du Chocolat

We often take things for granted.
Me, for example. I take things for granted. I get messages from readers, “You’re so lucky! You get to live in Paris!”.

To be honest, it wasn’t like one day back in San Francisco I came home and there was an envelope waiting for me with an airline ticket, an apartment lease, and all the blanks filled in on the paperwork filled for a French visa. It’s a lot of work living in a foreign country; it’s so much easier just to stay ‘home’. So when people say I’m ‘lucky’, I prefer to substitute the term ‘fortunate’, as living in Paris has some challenges as well as its rewards.

But each and every time I step out of my apartment, I’m amazed at the beauty that surrounds us here. Everywhere you look is something special, from the stately place des Vosges to the over-the-top Opera Garnier. Perhaps I’m a dork, but each time I pass something of significance, I stop and take a long, deeply-felt look. There’s fresh bread everywhere too. I can have a buttery croissants, a rich, cream-filled éclair, a yeasty kugelhof, or a scoop of glace Berthillon whenever I want.

(Except on Monday and Tuesday, when Berthillon is closed. Or in July or August. Or on Tuesday and Wednesday, when my bakery with the good croissants is closed. And in August. Although this year it might be July. Or on weekends, when the place I go for kugelhof is baking them. If they’re in the mood, of course. But I won’t know that until I get there. Unless there’s a holiday. Or a strike.)

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Anyhow…I spend a fair amount of time here exploring the chocolate shops, which seem to keep reliable hours. Nowhere in the world is more devoted to chocolate than Paris, and there are really excellent chocolatiers here, who I visit and write about often. But although we’re often excited by what’s new and unusual, sometimes we return to the classics for a reason: the simple fact that they’re really good.

Robert Linxe founded La Maison du Chocolat in 1977. He was a young man from the Basque region, famous for its abundance of chocolate shops, although many are sadly gone. When he opened shop in Paris, M. Linxe distained fillings heavy with nuts, spices and sugar (which had quite a long shelf life), in favor of smooth, creamy (and highly-perishable) ganache, that suave mixture of pure chocolate and heavy cream, which has since become synonymous with fine chocolates that we enjoy today.

Last week we held a private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat for my guests, which reminded me that I had forgotten how absolutely extraordinary their chocolates were, and still are.

Each time I bit into one, I found something new and delicious, wondering how a chocolatier could consistently hit it exactly right with every bite of chocolate. Each one was melting, pillowy-soft, with the true, fresh flavor of whatever M. Linxe had infused.

Zagora is my favorite. A melange of dark chocolate ganache steeped with fresh mint leaves. Bacchus is filled with Smyrna raisins soaked in the best Caribbean dark rum, then flambéed. And a life-changing Andalousie, where just the right amount of grated lemon peel is mixed with the ganache, is resplendent with spritzy lemon oil without a hint of bitterness, tasting remarkably like grated lemon that was zested just moments before.

When I went back a few days after the tasting to personally thank them for their warm and generous hospitality, I was offered a few more chocolates to sample. Not wanting to be rude, I pulled up a seat at the counter and unwrapped Cerise Griotte, a house-made candied sour cherry enrobed in dark chocolate, which exploded in my mouth, a wash of bitter-sweet cherry liquid bathed in alcohol with a thin, dark chocolate coating…it was pure heaven. Before I could even ask, the salesperson came by with a napkin for me to spit out the pit. (Wow, a salesperson that doesn’t argue with you.)

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I felt like I was coming back home, as I’d first discovered chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat what seemed like so long-ago while on vacation a long time ago in Paris. And here I am now, rediscovering them all over again. La maison means home, and I do feel indeed fortunate, and just a bit lucky, that I get to live here.
And that this is home.

La Maison du Chocolat
52, rue François 1er
Tel: 01 47 23 38 25

Other locations across Paris, as well as in London, Tokyo, and New York. All chocolates ordered through the La Maison du Chocolat web site are handmade in their Paris workshop.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: I just tried the Rigoletto Noir, buttery caramel mousse enrobed in dark chocolate.
Wow…simply sensational.



Related Links:

Papabubble (New York City)

Le Furet Tanrade (Paris)

REGIS Chocolatier (Paris)

Jacques Genin Opens (Paris)

The Pâtisseries of Paris

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate (Lyon)

Eye Candy (Paris)

Salted Butter Caramels from Henri Le Roux (Brittany)

The Goofus and Gallant of Chocolate

I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, “Aren’t Parisians rude?”

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Unlike Americans who are nice 100% of the time, yes, there are rude Parisians. And today I met one.

I took my guests into a well-know chocolate shops, whose name I won’t mention (ok, twist my arm…Jean-Paul Hèvin). My normal mode for visiting chocolate shops is this: We go inside, we meet the chocolatiers or salesperson, I explain the chocolates, often we’ll do a tasting, then guests will buy some chocolate to bring home. On occasion, some folks like to take a photo.
And I always ask politely before taking photos anywhere in Paris, even if I know it’s okay. It’s a courtesy. If someone says, “No, we don’t allow that here”, I’m fine with that. Several places in Paris have a no-photo policy, as do several places in the US (Central Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, for example). My thoughts are that we’re on private property and it’s the owners right to deny or approve photos.

Fine.

So I ask at Jean-Paul Hèvin if it’s okay. The salewoman looks at me and says (and I’m not making this up), “You can only take a picture after you buy something.”

Incredibly tacky. Oui?

After I had a few ‘words’ with the shopkeeper, we finished our tour and I came home and deleted any and all references to Hèvin in the two magazine articles I’m writing and a future book project.
Au revoir.

One of my guests, however, said it was a very interesting lesson, illuminating the difference between rude & unwelcoming vs generous & gracious. And speaking of generous and gracious…

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This is Michel Chaudun.
He’s the owner and chocolatiers of his own shop, Michel Chaudun, located just a few blocks away. M. Chaudun was the head chocolatier at La Maison du Chocolat before striking out on his own twenty years ago.

When we showed up at his shop, M. Chaudun was preparing to make a delivery but when he saw me, he came over to warmly greet me and my guests. As you can see from his charming smile, M. Chaudin clearly loves what he does. I not-so-secretly wish that he was my grandfather.

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We tasted many chocolates, from cocoa nib-flecked disks of pure dark chocolate to tasty bits of crisp caramelized almonds enrobed in bittersweet chocolate, but my favorite are always Les Pavés, tiny squares of singularly-perfect ganache. Each one is the perfect bite of chocolate. He also had us sample a new chocolate, filled with a smooth paste of toasted sesame seeds and surprisingly, peanuts. (He created them for his shop in Tokyo since the French have the same distaste for peanuts in chocolate that Americans have for bull scrotums in tripe sauce.)

He’s also the master of chocolate sculptures and whimsical forms, including an exact replica of a Dremel drill, a full-sized perfectly-detailed feathered duck, and a miniature Hermès Kelly Bag with a matching orange sack that is a few thousand euros less than an original and certainly more tasty (although I’ve never tried to eat a Kelly bag, so I can’t be sure. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

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And yes, these are replicas of sausage made entire of chocolate. Wow!

There’s a moral to this story somewhere here, but I can’t quite find it…and am heading off to bed early, since we have an exclusive private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat.

But I would advise visitors to Paris to come to the boutique of Michel Chaudun.
And skip one of the others.

Michel Chaudun
149, rue de l’Université
Tel: 01 47 53 74 40