Results tagged Kalouga 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.

Continue Reading Update: A l’Etoile d’Or…

A Visit to A l’Etoile d’Or (Video)

A place like A l’Etoile d’Or could not exist anywhere else in the world but Paris. In this charming shop up by Montmarte you find a carefully selected assortment of candies and chocolates from the best artisans across France. Darting from shelf to shelf, owner Denise Acabo charms patrons with animated descriptions of every sweet bonbon in her collection. It’s always a pleasure to chat with her in her shop, which I visited on a rather chilly day in Paris. (Hence the trouble I had wrapping my frozen lips around the word “Lorraine”.)

Every time I go into her shop, I am helpless against Madame Acabo’s charms and I always leave with something special tucked in my bag, whether it’s a Kalouga chocolate bar filled with gooey salted butter caramel from Bernachon, almond-rich calissons d’Aix from Provence, or bright jellies flavored with the tangy juice of the elusive bergamots made in Alsace.

Even if you can’t make it to Paris, I hope you enjoy this visit to her shop as much as I did.

-David

(You can watch the video here by clicking on the arrow. To view it in a larger version, click on the title, which will take you to Vimeo.)

Continue Reading A Visit to A l’Etoile d’Or (Video)…

A l’Etoile d’Or

bonnat bars

You get a little lazy living here. At least I do. And because I’m not as spry as I used to be, if someone proposes a trip that’s more than one métro change away, I usually find a way to opt out of it. Arrondissements that are far, far away, like the 15th or the 17th, may as well be on the outside of the périphérique (or l’hexagone, for that matter) and I haven’t stepped foot in the likes of them in years.

One place that’s worth going out of my way for is A l’Etoile d’Or, and I broke my cardinal rule when Cenk from Café Fernando came to Paris for a visit and he asked me where to meet up.

cenk & denise french chocolates

I’ve known Denise Acabo, who lords over her confectionery wonderland, even before I moved to Paris, when I’d stop in and gawk at all the amazing chocolates and confections.

Continue Reading A l’Etoile d’Or…

Bernachon Chocolate

bernachon coffee bar

For my birthday, back in December, Romain presented me with a Kalouga bar from Bernachon, handwrapped personally for me by Denise Acabo of A l’Etoile d’Or, one the best, and wackiest, candy and chocolate shops anywhere in the world.

I’ve been afraid to open it since I know what’ll happen once I do. So I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, or a WTF moment. And yes, I’m aware that it’s a long time, but I guess things have been going pretty well lately.

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Well, that is until a recent trip to my bank to simply change the status of my account since I found out I was being overcharged up the wazoo for services I didn’t understand or use. (Like, even though she insisted I did, do I really need two free money orders a month? I think the last time I used a money order was in 1998. But I’ve learned that not speaking picture-perfect French can easily tack on 20-30% to the cost of things.)

The banquière hefted a thick dossier of paperwork so voluminous, it made the Sunday New York Times look like a pin-up flyer for a lost cat. It took my breath away, and I spent an hour and a half going through it and just to get out of there, I signed away whatever it was they wanted me to sign away.

When I got home, that bar was certainly tempting me. And I held off.

But I don’t need to hold off any further.

Continue Reading Bernachon Chocolate…

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.

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Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.

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Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.

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Piping ‘Couronne Noisette’: Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.

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‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.

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A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.

troisbernachonbars

Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

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

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77
Lyon

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)