Sunday, January 30, 2011

A one-two chocolate punch

Jean-Paul Hévin, Patrick Roger, Un Dimanche à Paris… I was certainly getting around to my favorite chocolatiers during my last weeks in Paris. But in the very last few days, I made visits to two brand new chocolatiers: Chloe Chocolat and Franck Kestener.

My own copy of Chloé Doutre-Roussel’s bible, The Chocolate Connoisseur (2005), is a tattered, stained mess from all the bonbons I consumed while reading about Criollo trees and the tempering process. And when I spoke with Chloé at the Salon du Chocolat in October about the chocolate salon she was opening dangerously close to my apartment, needless to say I was as giddy as a kid in a candy shop. She debuted her two-story sliver of a salon just days before my departure, so I got to sit and chat with her and taste some mighty good chocolate.

What distinguishes Chloé—aside from being the former chocolate buyer for Fortnum & Mason and one of the very few female pros in an industry dominated by men—is how no-nonsense she is. She doesn’t scold about cocoa percentages or eschew milk chocolate for dark. She doesn’t make you feel like a chump for liking chocolate even if it’s not wrapped up from a “beans to bar” artisan or stamped with organic approval. “Don’t worry about where the beans come from,” she insists. “When you buy chocolate, you’re buying an emotional experience; it’s sensory.” Ah oui, merci!

That’s not to say she’s not on a crusade to make the world filled with better chocolate and more appreciation for it. Indeed, the intent of her new Marais home is to school both amateurs and connoisseurs through classes ranging from an introduction to chocolate to comprehensive international trends. She also offers two-and-a-half-hour walking tours that pay visits to some of the city’s most prestigious chocolatiers. And, once you’ve worked up a chocolate appetite, she offers milk and dark chocolate tablettes (in adorable packaging), both of which are divine and can be paired with carefully selected teas.

Across town, Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chocolatier, Franck Kestener offers a different, more decadent chocolate experience. It’s a posh shop near the Luxembourg Gardens, peddling marzipan, macarons, mendiants and more.

I went straight for his ganache-filled bonbons, which come in a beautiful and inspired range of flavors, from buttery tarte tatin to crisp mint to fruity juniper.

I saved my square of Atlantique—shortbread and salted caramel, topped with 66% dark chocolate—for the plane ride home, but piggishly ate two Nuages while strolling the streets of the sixth arrondissement.

Another one of the young chocolatier’s specialties, these treats look like cannelés but are filled with a light and fluffy whipped chocolate marshmallow.

It’s been over three weeks since those visits. My cupboard is finally depleted of the bars and bonbons I brought home with me. I think I need another Parisian chocolate run, don't you?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A last hurrah at Boulangerie Julien

They’re about as naughty as they look: praline brioche pastry, there on the left, and the chocolate-pistachio option on the right. filled with cream.

As fond as my experiences had been at Boulangerie Julien, I had to go back for one last breakfast run.

The praline brioche was much more subtle.

But then again, with the number of chocolate chips in the other, how could the chocolate pistachio be considered anything but over the top?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cherry pistachio crumble from Eric Kayser

I am a sucker for a good crumble. But what I’ve learned is that a good crumble needs to be warm. It needs to be fresh. It needs to be balanced between the oozing fruit base and a melting, scattered topping. The fruits should lend tartness; the topping, sweetness.

Ergo, while Eric Kayser can do little wrong in my book, I think the crumbles are best left to tea salons and restaurants that can serve them from a big, oven-heated dish in which the juices and sugars are all baked together in one beautiful melty mess.

Monday, January 03, 2011

You know you’re in Paris in January when…

Every boulangerie and patisserie is peddling les galettes de rois.

Beautiful, delicious galettes de rois!

Thursday, January sixth is the Day of Epiphany in France, which is celebrated virtually all month with wonderful galettes des rois.

They're quite simple: essentially frangipane (almond cream) inside pâte feuilletée (flaky puff pastry), made in different sizes, usually round though sometimes square.

Some patissiers also add chocolate or fruit or alcohol, but it's always a recipe for deliciousness.