Gay Paris, how I love thee. This was my sixth visit to the gorgeous city which I love desperately for its incredible pastries and chocolate and general food as well, and for the stunning architecture, though equally get frustrated by the busyness, compounded by people who seem unable to queue or even walk in a straight line, and the tendency for Parisian men to believe the world is their toilet. When the stench of urine overwhelms the freshly baked bread smell that pervades most of Paris, it’s less than pleasant.
**I’ve just arrived again for Salon du Chocolate and thought I might finally post this write-up I began in May!**
On my first visit to Paris, around six years ago, I was on a date. The poor guy was practically dragged from one chocolate shop to another. He was perhaps a little too exuberant in his early participation because he became green within a few hours and was then only able to wait outside the boutiques for me to make my purchases to take away. We did manage to climb the Eiffel Tower and a few other touristy visits too. My next visit was with an equally chocolate obsessed friend and we walked eleven miles trying to get to as many chocolate shops as possible. I’ve been back with more chocolate obsessed friends since and each time I come there are new shops opened and old ones to revisit. Franck Kestner – the maker of my favourite filled chocolate bar that I first tasted last April on my way back from Madagascar – I discovered opened his first Parisian shop around the time of Salon du Chocolat last year. I sought it out and picked up two bars, one for me and one for Dom, and his apparent trademark “Canelle” that is not actually a pastry but a chocolate cake confection. I wasn’t enormously fond of this, a little too sweet for me, but cute.
The most significant chocolate arrival since my last visit was Un Dimanche a Paris (A Sunday in Paris), a chocolate concept store that opened a few months ago, the vision of Pierre Cluizel, one of Michel’s sons. It is huge. Ten times larger than most chocolate boutiques. But this is more than a boutique, it’s a restaurant and a teaching kitchen and a gorgeous lounge bar. Everything is done in immaculate detail to feel truly high class and luxurious. The restaurant is definitely aiming for Michelin, with its attentive service, excellent bread and butter (oh, that butter!) and perfectly plated dishes. Oh, and the high prices. The chocolates and pastries are similarly priced with other fine chocolatiers in the city, and well worth it. All of the options on the restaurant menu feature chocolate in some way. As you can imagine, it’s not the most extensive menu. My choice was a little too experimental for my taste but the food was cooked and presented perfectly. Dessert, also experimental, hit the mark completely. I wasn’t sure if it was a language issue when the waitress was describing the dessert special as “le ouf” but she mentioned passionfruit and I decided whatever it was, I wanted to try it. One of the finest desserts I have had in a long time. A perfect ten for presentation, inventiveness and taste, too. The yolk of the egg was a passionfruit coulis and below it a layer of banana ice cream (to call it an ice cream seems so unjust, perhaps a parfait?) layered on a milk chocolate crunchy praline circle. The meringue added extra texture and complemented the other flavours perfectly as well.
In Madagascar last April I met my Swedish twin, a chocolate-obsessed woman named Jenny, who runs chocolate tastings and sells chocolate in Northern Sweden. This year I met my French twin, a woman called Lauranie who runs Esprit Chocolat. Tastings and tours in Paris. She took me to Pierre Marcolini and introduced me to the amazing Hugo et Victor.
Pictures below! I’d write more but there are croissants and chocolate calling! (& I’m off to meet Lauranie again at Salon du Chocolat.) Au revoir, mon cheries!