Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Paris Day 2


At the recommendation of my friends who hosted me at the Cercle de l'Union, I checked out a lesser known chocolatier, Puyricard.  I bought a 100% dark chocolate bar, which was very bitter but very good.  It was, in fact, bitter even for a 100% bar, which is impressive.  I still enjoyed it quite a lot.  The truffle they gave me to taste was also good, but a bit too fruity.   Overall, well worth a try.

Jean-Charles Rochoux:

Rochoux definitely won for best packaging of the trip:

a rainy day in paris

These pavés were good but very creamy.  A pavé is much like a truffle, but shaped like a cube, and probably made with like 4 times as much heavy cream:

perfect weather to walk like 5 miles scoping out 10 different chocolate shops

I also ordered a dark chocolate bonbon, which, like the truffle at Puyricard, was a bit too fruity for me.

Christian Constant:

Next stop was Christian Constant.  I was worrying things were starting to blend together, but everything I ate here stood out as spectacular.  There was a delicious, unpretentious truffle.  There was a matching, super chocolatey dark chocolate bonbon.  And there were these thin dark chocolate square covered in cacao nibs that were delicious, chocolatey, and super snackable.

The theme that ran through Constant's work was that it felt like he wasn't trying to impress anyone.  He was making excellent chocolate that you can pop in your mouth, eat, and enjoy tremendously.  I constantly say that a lot of the pretentious subtleties of chocolate come at the expense of edibility and deliciousness, and that's something that Constant understands better than anyone.  Constant sort of flew under the radar as one of my favorites from the trip.


The reason Constant flew under the radar was that there were places like Chapon:

you don't even understand how amazing this stuff was

Chapon makes what is likely the best truffle in the world.  I might have had a mild preference for Mary's, due to its fudginess, but upon bringing the two back to the US, the clear favorite was Chapon.  It's everything a truffle should be, texture-wise and taste-wise.  It is devastatingly chocolatey, and it has a perfect dusting of cocoa powder.  As a comparison, here is what the Chapon truffle looks like next to Rochoux's and Chaudun's paves:

a gift box for my host

But Chapon did not stop with the truffle.  There was a fun, delicious dark chocolate bonbon.  And there was a wall of amazing-looking (and amazingly wrapped) single- and blended-origin bars.  Having overstocked on Venezuelan bars, I purchased a Ghana bar and a blend of Indonesia, Ghana, and Carribean bar.  The Ghanaian bar was incredible -- chocolatey and smokey.  The blend was almost as good.  It was less sweet and had more flavor notes, of fruit and spice.  I passed both around a big group of people, and everyone was floored by both, but the Ghana bar was ultimately everyone's pick.

Michel Chaudun:

Next stop was Michel Chaudun, where I bought some more pavés and a bar.  The pavés had a bit of a coffee taste.  I thought, at the time, that they were totally different than Rochoux's, and far less creamy.  So I mixed the two up and tried to perform a taste test.  I couldn't tell one from the other.  I realized I was facing a serious chocolate overload moment and saved the bar for later

When I did get to it, I really liked it.  It was very sweet, and it was something I could come back to after working my way through various fancier-feeling bars.  Often I would offer it to friends after forcing them to try various 100% bars, and they were universally appreciative.

Gerard Mulot:

Next, I headed to Mulot.  His shop was more of a patisserie than a chocolate shop, so I went with the flow and got a piece of cake.  It was good but towards the bottom of the cakes I had in Paris -- perhaps between the cake at Laduree and the one at Angelina.  It tasted a bit like coffee, and I was able to throw away a chunk of it without too many regrets.  I was very full.

still a hand model

I also got a milk and a dark chocolate truffle.  I tried the dark, expecting a lot, and I was disappointed.  I then tried the milk chocolate truffle, with low expectations, and it was excellent.  Far better than the dark.  Who would have thought?

Pierre Marcolini:

I was totally full, so when I passed by an outpost of Pierre Marcolini, a Belgian chocolatier, I obviously went in to try something.  I bought an 81% blended-origin bar.  It was very good, but not much of a standout.  It was sweet for 81%, but it was pretty much exactly what you want in a high-end, high percentage bar.  No complaints!

Patrick Roger and Jacques Genin:

At this point, my chocolate tasting muscles were pretty worn out, but I powered through.  I got a dark chocolate bonbon and a truffle from each of Patrick Roger and Jacques Genin.  Both are among the most respected chocolatiers in the world, and both stood their ground with everything else I had been eating, but I honestly was completely unable to distinguish them from most of the excellent chocolate.

La Bonbonniere:

But then I walked into La Bonbonniere.  Right away, I liked it.  First of all, unlike everywhere else that day, it wasn't pretentiously named after its lead chocolatier.  It looked similarly inconspicuous.  And the people there... were actually  nice.  For a second, I thought I was hallucinating on chocolate and that I must have left Paris.  I bought a truffle and a bar -- a 90% bar!  I had been scouring Europe for 90% bars (my favorite percentage), and I had been having almost no luck.  The truffle was exceptional -- probably the second best I had in Paris after Chapon.  And the bar was exquisite as well -- easily one of the best from the trip.  It was super chocolatey, and it was neither sweet nor bitter.  Exactly what you want in a 90% bar.  If I were returning to Paris and for some reason had to restrict myself to one chocolate shop, I would probably return to La Bonbonniere.

A L'Etoile D'Or:

My last stop was A l'Etoile d'Or.  A l'Etoile d'Or is an incredibly famous, old chocolate shop near my host's apartment.  I walked in, and it seemed almost like a candy store.  For example, it sold mostly non-proprietary chocolate.  But they had a display case of what seemed to me their own bonbons, so I purchased a truffle and a dark chocolate bonbon.


Wow!  Given the candy-store feel, I did not expect such high quality!  They definitely surpassed the vast majority of things I ate that day.  It was an amazing way to end my chocolate tour.

Sam, my host, recently sent me a photo of the shop on a walk past, and I was hit by a blast of nostalgia, only a month after I'd left:


Take me back to Paris!

Bottom Line: Paris is the place to be when it comes to chocolate.  Period.

Post script: a photo of all the chocolate bars I brought home, from Paris alone:

by the time you read this, it is gone... all gone :(

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