Olivia Dish

Paris by Chocolate

In Paris, Sweets on January 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm
Sweet Life book

Yes, he wrote the book on Paris chocolate

If you’re going to be in this romantic city on Valentine’s Day without your true love, I reasoned, a tour of chocolate shops might help.

If that tour is led by David Lebovitz, the day looks even better.

Lebovitz is a pastry chef who trained at Chez Panisse. He’s written several books, including The Great Book of Chocolate and The Sweet Life in Paris.

What are the sweet spots for a chocolate-lover in Paris? I’d cobbled together a self-guided tour the winter before using Patricia Wells’s A Food-Lover’s Guide to Paris.  I rather smugly wondered if Lebovitz could best my DIY trek.

I’d visited Berthillon for ice cream, then walked to the Left Bank for Debauve & Gaillais, La Maison du Chocolat, and Richart.  I’d finished my mind-buzzing afternoon back on the Right Bank at Angelina—famous for its Chocolate Africain, hot chocolate made by melting a great deal of chocolate in a speck of moo juice.

Not bad, I thought–until I went on a Lebovitz tour. I was a chocolate amateur.

The five of us meet here, near Les Deux Magots

Happy Valentine’s Day

My group meets David near Les Deux Magots.  We are a foodie couple from San Francisco, a handsome French architect (scouting out Valentine chocolates to buy for his girlfriend) and me.

First stop: Da Rosa at 62 rue de Seine. Why stop at this café/market/ham purveyor on a chocolate tour? For the chocolate-covered raisins.  Really?  As a life-long hater of Raisinettes, I’m not so sure we’re off to a good start.  But that’s because I’ve never had sauterne-soaked dark chocolate-covered raisins.  Not cheap.  Outrageously good.  I come back later and buy four bags.

Next, we ramble through a market, peek into a couple of patisseries, then go into Pierre Marcolini at 89 rue de Seine.  Pierre Marcolini is a Belgian chocolatier, and David fills us in on the “my chocolate is better than your chocolate” national rivalries. I take notes, but who cares?  We’re here for chocolate—and specifically, Marcolini’s chocolate-covered marshmallows–which could elevate the Moon Pie to unimagined heights. The dark chocolate snaps when you bite in, followed by a light, and lightly sweet, pouf of marshmallow. I could eat a half dozen. Sadly, I only have one.  The chocolates are elegant and I’m intrigued by the flavor combinations.  I come back to Pierre Marcolini later, too, and stock up on sweets to take home to my sweetie.

Laduree

Tired of touring? Always a good idea to plop down here.

Third stop, Pierre Herme, is at 73 Rue Bonaparte near St. Sulpice. Herme is known for his way with macarons, and at some time in his career, made them at Laduree. Those were the traditional sort.  The ones at his shop are more cutting edge. (Yes, I know, “cutting edge macaron” sounds goofy but you’ll see.) David encourages us to try the white truffle macaron and I do, though I’m not too keen on it. I want chocolate.

Then on to Michel Chaudun, 140 rue de l’Universite for pave.  The aroma of chocolate wafts up from the basement kitchen as we huddle outside to share a box of the little cocoa-dusted squares. We spear them with toothpicks.  The paves, rich but not too sweet, melt in your mouth (and thanks to the toothpick, not in your hands).  Chaudun is also known for elaborately-sculpted chocolate presentations.  Long to see yourself astride a fire-breathing dragon executed in gleaming dark chocolate?  Take a look around. They might be able to manage it.

Can there be more?  It seems there always is. Dozens of chocolate shops we’ll not see on this day. But we do make our way to a final stop, Patrick Roger on Boulevard Saint Germain.  The chocolates are encased in glass-topped display counters.  The arrangement reminds me, in an odd way, of one of those rock shops…or of a button shop…if either of those were ultra-chic….with the Roger array of small chocolates grouped by flavor, design, shape, color.

What to choose?  David is leaving us here.  We’re on our own.  I’m overwhelmed, so choose nothing.  My new friends, the couple from San Francisco, feel my pain.  Let’s forget about chocolate, they say.  How about steak frites and wine, they offer.  Will I join them for a Valentine’s Day lunch?  Moi? Steak frites? I’d love to.  But ah, poor heart. I pause. My Valentine adores steak frites. And chocolate. Oh well.  I suppose it’s not polite to be sad, or to say I miss him. I barely know these two people. And who will feel sorry for me anyway? After all, I’m on a chocolate tour in Paris.

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