Results tagged Jacques Genin from David Lebovitz

Update: A l’Etoile d’Or

A l'Etoile d'Or

If you’d ever stepped into A l’Etoile d’Or, the candy and chocolate shop located just down the hill from the Moulin Rouge windmill, near Montmartre, it wouldn’t have taken you long to know you had entered somewhere special.

It might have taken a few minutes, especially if Madame Acabo was occupied with other customers. But as soon as her attention was turned on you, you were immediately taken under her wing, and guided around the shop, exploring all the various soft and hard candied in the vintage jars, flavored with everything from bergamot to caramel. You might have learned what was hiding inside the vibrant-colored purple jellies. (It was liquid cassis, and tasted like purple manna from heaven.)

With a snip of her scissors, Madame Acabo might have given you a taste from one of the ropes of marshmallows, scented with Madagascar vanilla bean or fragrant bergamot peel. There were caramel-filled caramels, salted butter caramels by Henri Le Roux, mango-passion fruit caramels from Jacques Genin, crisp caramelized almonds from Montargis, and caramel-filled squares of chocolate, with a wisp of a brown sugar cookie tucked inside.

A l'Etoile d'Or

Speaking of chocolate, if you liked chocolate, this was the shop for you. Lining the shelves were bars from France’s best bean-to-bar chocolate makers, from Bonnat to Bernachon, and she was the only person outside of the original Bernachon shop in Lyon that was given the privilege of carrying their chocolate bars. (She told me she got down on her hands and knees and begged them to let her carry them. Happily for us – it worked!)

With a table heaped with tablets of their chocolate bars, with flavors ranging from Moka (made by grinding coffee beans together with cacao beans), Jour et nuit (half milk chocolate, half dark chocolate), and ivory-colored white chocolate bars, it was rare if I left there without at least two or three bars from one of the stacks, which would always include Kalouga, my gold-standard for caramel-filled chocolate bars, which oozed gooey salted butter caramel when you snapped off the end.

A l'Etoile d'Or

Denise Acabo spent decades sourcing the best chocolates and candies in France, many of which were rare and hard-to-find, which she displayed in polished wooden showcases. Her distinctive handwriting made everything more charming. It didn’t matter, who you were, or where you were from; the minute she caught your attention, you became part of her family.

It wasn’t unusual to find a small crowd in her little shop, with everyone from clusters of tourists, some just wandering in, curious about the shop with all the chocolates and confections in the windows, to famous actors and notable figures who lived in the neighborhood, grabbing a box of chocolate to take to a dinner party. Although it’s rare that chocolatiers heap praise on other people selling chocolates in Paris, the face of every chocolatier would bloom into a wide smile when her name was mentioned.

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Jacques Genin

Paris-Brest from Jacques Genin

I first met Jacques Genin a number of years ago when he was (somewhat famously) working out of a battered storefront, on an uninteresting street deep in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

chocolates at Jacques Genin

I say “famously” because as he became quite a bit better known, many folks learning about him through Mort Rosenblum’s book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark. And subsequently, people started gathering outside his workshop door with the one-way mirror, which allowed him to decide whether he wanted to open the door or not. I think I was too timid to give it a try on my first go-around and after pacing at the end of the block for a while, I ended up leaving.

jacques genin lime tart filling

If nothing else, longevity has its rewards and eventually I made it past that mirrored door and into his workshop. It was rather tight in there, to say the least. In order for someone to walk past you, you had to back up and get out of the way while someone held a tray of just-dipped chocolates high in the air, sidestepping someone else walking the other way with a tray of hot nougat.

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Tel Aviv

seeded bread

Tel Aviv was always hovering something in the middle of the ever-growing list of places I wanted to visit. But in recent years, I kept hearing what a hip place it was, and how it was sort of the “San Francisco” of Israel. Stretching along a massive beach, as soon as I arrived in the city, I wanted to ditch my luggage and jump right in. Then eat.

Tel Aviv restaurant

bagels

Tel Aviv is a lively place and the vibe is decidedly different from Jerusalem. I don’t think you could visit one without the other. Whereas Jerusalem is historic, Tel Aviv has a somewhat more modern look and feel because many European Bauhaus architects fled to Tel Aviv, so there are lots of Bauhaus and Bauhaus-inspired houses and apartment buildings across the city, making this a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Poilâne

pain Poilâne

I don’t think about this so much anymore, but one of the reasons I moved to Paris is that I could, whenever I wanted to, go to Poilâne and buy myself nice chunk of pain Poilâne. Just like that. Although I’m from San Francisco where there are quite a number of excellent bread bakeries, there’s something special about the bread at Poilâne – it has a certain flavor, just the right tang of sourdough, dark and husky but with an agreeable légèreté that makes it the perfect bread for sandwiches, to accompany cheese, or as I prefer it, as morning toast with little puddles of salted butter collecting in the irregular holes and a thin layer of bitter chestnut honey drizzled all over it.

Pain Poilâne

A week after I moved to Paris, a friend and I were invited to lunch with Monsieur Poilâne and his wife. Both were lovely people and Monsieur Poilâne was animated and still excited about the bakery he’d owned seemingly forever, which was (and still is) considered the best bread in the world. (I’ve never met a bread baker who didn’t use Monsieur Poilâne’s pain au levain as a reference point for excellence.) He took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down a list of places that he wanted to take me, which I thought was odd – yet rather generous – since the man had just met me.

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Paris Gastronomy Tour

Doing a culinary tour in Paris is always fun, because not only do I get to meet some new people and make new friends (important…since the old ones keep deserting me), but I get to revisit my favorite places in Paris. And this week, we made a detour in Lyon as well. So there was a lot more to see, and eat…

bernachon chocolates

Lyon is a wonderful city. Kind of a miniature version of Paris, but younger, more spacious, and more relaxed. The people are plus cool, and in less of a rush—perhaps because they are so busy digesting all that rich food down there.

thermometer dial chocolategrinder

I’ve written about Bernachon before, and this trip, we had an especially warm greeting in their adjacent café, starting with puffy brioche and warmed pitchers of hot chocolate, made with the famed bean-to-bar chocolate that’s fabricated just a few doors away.

brioche copper pots

It’s no secret that I love Bernachon chocolate.

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Lime Meringue Tart Recipe

lime meringue tart

I once asked a restaurateur, who owns restaurants in European and in America, what he thought was the main difference between the food in American and the food in Europe.

“Everything’s very sweet,” he replied, right away.

I thought about it for a moment, and considering everyone’s got their panties in a knot about all the sweeteners that are dumped into everything from tomato sauce, bottled salad dressings, to supermarket bread, he’s got a point. A lot of stuff that doesn’t need to be sweetened, is. But one thing that we Americans do like is tart citrus desserts. The tangier, the more mouth-puckering, the better.

golden limes

Backing up his claim, though, we do tend to pile ours up to the moon with whipped cream or sweet meringue. So he does have a point.

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Culture Shock

caramels

The “Toffee Buzz” Clif bar that I picked up in the states (as a travel emergency ration) versus Salted Butter Caramels from Jacques Genin that my houseguest left for me.

I don’t think I need to tell you which one won.

chocolate list

But if Jacques is willing to add a salted butter caramel energy bar to his list, I’m going to stock up on those instead, before my next trip.

Or even before.

Jacques Genin Opens in Paris

jacques genin chocolates

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!

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