I’m Not Complaining. But…

Each spring, as the temperature starts to gently climb in Paris day-by-day, most normal people spend their time figuring out how to maximize their time outdoors basking in the gloriously warm Parisian air.

Around here, though, spring means only one thing: Eat all the chocolate I’ve got on hand because my apartment turns into the world’s largest bain marie, a sizzling oven capable of melting the thickest, darkest, and densest of chocolate bars from ’round the globe.

Chocolate Bars A-Plenty!

When I travel and come across an interesting tablet of chocolate, I always pick it up and take it home, hopeful that I’ll invite some friends over for a tasting. And my stash grows and grows throughout the year. But come April or May when I’m finally able to fling my wood-shuttered windows wide open and let the fresh air in, the bittersweet backlog gets to be too much and I realize that I need to eat all my chocolate now—and as quickly as possible.

So I spent the last couple of months, pre-Speedo season mind you, wolfing down lots and lots of unusual and curious chocolate bars.

This year, I think I set a record and was successful at finishing all the best-quality bars by late May and was down to just a couple of strays, which were mostly commercial chocolates gifted to me by well-meaning folks. But there’s not much to look forward to when the label boasts it was made under the Kraft umbrella of fine products, so they sometimes get melted down for a batch of brownies or chocolate ice cream. So far, no complaints.

Yet this year, my plans were thwarted. Not that I’m complaining or anything.

One issue was that the weather this summer in Paris has been mostly crappy; cool and frequently drizzling. Not that I’m complaining; I’d much rather have that than the 104 degree temperatures of summers past.

The other issue I had to contend with was my trip back to the US in June. Once again, I’m not complaining, mind you, but everywhere I went I was loaded up with chocolate bars. And not just one or two nice bars of chocolate, but stacks and stacks of them, which all looked incredible. I think I returned to Paris with at least thirty very interesting bars of various origins, percentages, and flavors.

And I mean really; how does one say no? I didn’t want to be rude.

So I’ve been working my way through them, rather quickly in fact, in anticipation that the broil of summer is probably just around le bend.

Chocolate Bar

This tender and salty bar was a gift from Adam at Fog City News, a newsstand and chocolate shop which has the most astounding collection of fine chocolate bars in one place that I’ve ever seen. Heck, if they’d set up a cot for me in the corner, I’d gladly work my way through them all, with a stack of men’s fashion magazines by my side and dreams of six-pack abs like all the models within. Fat chance of that happening. But if I can dream about living in a chocolate shop, I can dream of totally-fabulous abs, can’t I?

Uba Budo was the name of the bar, from Coppeneur in Germany. It was made of dark forestero milk chocolate from São Tomé, 52% in case you’re a numbers-queen. But what made it startlingly good was the minerally taste of Himalayan pink salt, which played off perfectly against the smoothness of the milky caramel. The milk chocolate was creamy, not sweet or gunky. And although I’m not a big milk chocolate fan, this bar convinced me to step away from the dark side and lighten up a bit.

I have lots of bars now in my stash, that’s been refreshed to the max, which includes a milk chocolate bar from ScharffenBerger with sea salted almonds, a seriously-dark 95% bar from E. Guittard, every bar that Theo blends (I easily sailed through the two enormous boxes of filled chocolates they sent me home with with no problem…whatsoever), as well as a hefty (and heavy…I carried all these tablets on board with me) stack from Charles Chocolate loaded with everything from caramelized puffed rice to little bits of tangy candied orange peel and roasted hazelnuts.

The next bar in my chocolate queue is another tablet from Coppeneur with banana and ginger, which is sitting in my chocolate batter’s-box. But I need to start plowing my way through all these bars…quick!… before the weather decides to be less-accommodating to Paris’ most prolific and multi-national chocolate collector.

So as I make my way through the bars, happy that the first one was a home run, I’m curious to go on to the next.

And the next…and the next.

And the next.

Not that I’m complaining.

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  • chanelle
    July 27, 2007 2:25pm

    not that YOU are complaining…but now I am. thanks for telling me about all that chocolate – what with you so far away and unable to share…nice.


  • Elle
    July 27, 2007 2:45pm

    Would putting them in the fridge help keep them for a while?

  • flavia
    July 27, 2007 5:54pm

    ok , now… I’m really curious…. Either you have tons of friends who come over to help you with “les dégustations” (can I be on your Rolodex ????) or you have an amazing (and I mean AMAZING) metabolism because, from your photos, you look remarkably thin for such a amount of chocolate…. !!!!! :)

  • Alexandra
    July 27, 2007 6:12pm

    How I envy you!!!!

  • July 27, 2007 6:52pm

    I’ve taken to storing my chocolate in a picnic cooler. I’ve lined it with all those cold packs that have come with stuff I’ve ordered on the internet (not frozen or anything, just additional insulation) and then stack the chocolate inside. It seems to have held up pretty well so far this year.

    It’s also fun when the neighbors come over and ask for “something chocolate” and I tote out the box and let them pick.

  • gretchen
    July 27, 2007 6:56pm

    Dear David,
    I, on the other hand live just down the street dans Le Marais, you may remember… and now that I’ve personally experienced your delicious chocolate tour my chocolate quality awareness meter is set even higher. So, if you need any help at all I’d be especially happy to pitch in, just to be neighbourly, of course.

  • July 27, 2007 10:56pm

    Too much chocolate. Good problem to have!

  • July 28, 2007 1:32am

    One word: fridge.
    If this is a cursing word for you, then only put the Kraft stuff in it.

  • July 28, 2007 6:41am

    Although I have perhaps the largest refrigerator in Paris, which is the envy of all visitors, it still ain’t all that large. And the refrigerator isn’t the best place to store chocolate, especially with my fondness for very ripe cheese.

    Cybele: I wish I was your neighbor!

    Gretchen: Too had you live so far away, way over there in that other arrondissement : )

    Flavia: I wish! I started running, for the first time in my life, last week. I made it about as far as blé sucré, the bakery over near the Marche d’Aligre.

    (Their financiers are almost as delicious as their madeleines, btw…)

  • July 28, 2007 10:37am

    I definitely despise the idea of putting chocolate in the fridge – it should be room temperature, so it gently gives way when you take a bit, instead of cracking.

    Bring your chocolate to London David, no danger of it melting here!

    Hand to Mouth

  • July 28, 2007 11:24am

    I for one sympathize with you! I too am working my way through a (10lb+) stash, including some finds from Spain. By the way were you aware that milk chocolate can be subject to infestation by grain bugs? Rising temperatures are truly dangerous for chocolate freaks.

  • Aaron
    July 28, 2007 11:45am

    Why is salt so great with chocolate?! My current obsession is Vosges’ Dark and Milk blend with hickory almonds and sea salt…lots of sea salt. So good…have you tried it David?

  • July 28, 2007 1:31pm

    Jialon: Spanish chocolate? Can we do a trade next spring? (bug-free, of course.)

    Aaron: I haven’t tried any of Katrina’s chocolates in a while since I profiled her for my chocolate book. But I understand your obsession with chocolate and salt…it’s so good!

  • July 28, 2007 3:20pm

    Your photos are really looking gorgeous, David. And the chocolate sounds fabulous.

  • July 28, 2007 4:28pm

    I picked up the Coppeneur bar at the NYC Chocolate Show. I thought the chocolate itself was very good, but the salt overpowered it. Go figure. I don’t like making dessert salty, but I do like making savory foods sweet ie a handful of cranberries in ragu and “breakfast” salad (with granola as croutons), which I’m writing about on my blog.

  • July 29, 2007 9:38pm

    It was so hot in Boston today that the chocolate I bought melted in the time I got it from the store and managed to cool the car off, air conditioner full blast aimed right at the little bag of goodness. Alas. But it still tasted good, if a little messy.

    I made your chocolate peanut butter ice cream today. Oh oh my. Despite the terrible heat and humidity, it was worth the time spent in front of the boiling pot!!!!

  • July 31, 2007 11:23am

    Now that it’s been a couple of days since your post, how many chocolate bars have you gotten through? Which one has been your favorite? I’m a dark chocolate person myself, but your description of the Uba Budo bar made me want to try it (especially the Himalayan pink salt). Terrible problem you have there.