Paris for Chocolate Lovers

Greetings from Paris on Easter weekend, where chocolate, always a presence in Paris, is everywhere.

The most popular form, naturellement, is the egg. Maître chocolatiers display dark filigreed orbs nearly a meter tall—impossibly delicate, wonderful to look at, and with aromas that make you swoon.

Smaller, but still impressively large and fragile, are smooth oval sillouhettes wrapped in pastel-colored foil. Miniature versions, filled with chopped hazelnuts, nestle in beribboned cellophane bags.

Barnyard scenarios, tout en chocolat, are designed for the younger set: proud mother hens with sculpted breast feathers and scalloped combs; wide-eyed, open-beaked chicks; bushy-tailed squirrels nibbling on chocolate acorns; bunnies with tall, slender ears and faraway looks.

Even a mass market bakery chain has a hand in the celebration: stopping for a croissant at the train station this morning, I saw a brioche in the form of a rabbit, its ears and feet dipped in milk chocolate.

Easter in Paris is a chocolate-lovers’ holiday!

Paris Neighborhoods—good food in the 11th


I discovered a great little corner of the 11th arrondissement—quiet despite being so near the Bastille—when I rented an apartment on rue Sedaine a few years ago. Now I enjoy going back to see what’s new.

It’s becoming a bit of a food haven. Here are 4 bonnes addresses:

Maison Arnaud, 12, rue de la Roquette, is a treasure trove of French confections: chocolate bars by Michel Claudel, calissons from Aix en Provence, candied violets from Toulouse, jams from lesser known producers, all tucked into displays lining the walls of the old fashioned, wooden space. Think of it as 360º of sweet spectacle.

• Around the corner, at 40, rue de la Roqette is La Chocolaterie d’Alain Ducasse, the famed chef’s new workshop/boutique. The chocolates were out of my price range (pieces aren’t sold individually, and the smallest box costs 35€) but where else can you buy a chocolate bar that weighs a kilo? And the people-watching is fascinating!

• I’ve written about L’Epicerie Saint-Sabin before, and it bears repeating: this new deli counter/gourmet grocery/wine cave is all about terroir, particularly in and around the Aveyron. It’s a great place to stop for a sandwich, try a new wine, or shop for gifts for food lovers back home. The duck sausage is my favorite gift (and usually it’s for me.) 13, rue Saint-Sabin.

Marché Bastille, also knows as Marché Richard Lenoir, on Bd Richard Lenoir between rues Amelot et Saint-Sabin is the focal point of the neighborhood on Sundays. Green grocers, cheese and flower vendors, bakeries and butchers are just the beginning. Nuts, spices, Middle Eastern breads, tiny shrimp from Brittany, and paella to go make this market one of the most enjoyable in Paris. Open 7am-3pm.

Do you know this neighborhood? Share a favorite address!


Eat Well in Paris

More and more, people are turning to the Internet for restaurant reviews, French taste treats to enjoy at home, and all sorts of food-related resources.

Here are 9 of my faves:

1. Le Relais de l’Entrecote. Dining in Paris with teenage boys? This Paris landmark offers all you can eat. Their specialty, and the only item on the menu, is rib steak with a secret sauce.

2. Geobeats. I love their entire series of Paris videos, but this is perhaps my favorite: how to enjoy a crêpe.

3. Salon du Chocolat. One can never know too much about chocolate, n’est-ce pas?

4. Jim Haynes supper club. The father of Paris dinner parties invites people from around the world to dine chez lui every Sunday evening.

5. At Home with Patricia Wells. Cooking classes, restaurant reviews and more, from notable French cook and guidebook author.

6. Chocolate and Zucchini. Recipes indexed by ingredients, food glossary, conversions, interviews with French chefs, and a humorous series called Draw Me A Fridge.

7. French language lessons. Video lesson on buying fresh fruits and vegetables at the market.

8. Le Panier Francais. Purchase lavender honey, foie gras, Carte Noire coffee, and more.

9. Paris Walks. Fabulous Paris walking tours of market streets, cooking stores, and chocolate tastings.

What’s New in Bruges – City Card

What’s the best way to see Bruges? On foot, by bike, and by boat – all of which is made possible with a City Card. For 35 euros, you get two days of free access to museums, windmills, and canal boats, discounted concert tickets and bike rentals – and more.

The museums are amazing: the Groeninge Museum and St John’s Hospital contain exquisite work by the Flemish Primitives. The Church of Our Lady is home to Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. At the Lace Museum, local women design and make lace by hand.

For the youngsters there are Belgian fry and chocolate museums, and 366 steps leading to the clock tower, known as the Belfry. Resident swans add to the fun of a canal boat cruise. (Bruges is called the Venice of the North, after all).

Step back in time at the Beguinage, with its whitewashed housefronts and tranquil convent garden; the museum was founded in 1245. The free tour at Brewery De Halve Maan brings you squarely into the present with a tasting of award winning beer.

Depending on your pace, you might not be able do everything this small city (pop 20,000) has to offer – but there is definitely something for everyone!

Have you visited Bruges?

King of Pastry Takes Residence in the 6th

If you saw the film “Kings of Pastry,” you’ll want to visit Franck Kestener’s new chocolate shop. Kestener became a MOF (a prestigious title certifying that he is one of the best pastry chefs in France) at age 27. Before that, he worked as a pastry chef/chocolatier for Jacques Chirac.

Kestener’s new shop near the Luxembourg Gardens contains chocolate in many forms: filled and unfilled bars, heavenly ganaches and pralines, delicious macaroons – and a surprising cannelé.

The traditional cannelé is a molded, rum-laced cake with a custard center and carmelized outside. Kestener’s version, which he developed for MOF competition, replaces the custard and cake with a dense guimauve, or marshmallow, in intense flavors – raspberry, porcini mushroom, and Japanese citrus.

Dark chocolate enrobes each wonderful piece.

Jean-Charles Rochoux Chocolates

Jean-Charles Rochoux chocolates are part curiosity, part art, all indulgence. Solid chocolate sculptures, created in copper pots in Rochoux’s tidy atelier beneath the store, range from perfectly formed crocodiles to perfectly formed male torsos (complete with rippling abs).

And then there are the chocolate bars, filled with praline and caramel, great for gift giving or munching when energy dips mid-afternoon. Don’t miss the delicious squares made from ganache: welcome to the divine intersection of chocolate and cream.

Saturdays are a special treat, as M Rochoux transforms fresh fruit into chocolate confection perfection. The story goes that a customer presented him with chocolate covered fruit and, displeased, he responded with a better version. Now every Saturday he makes a limited amount of chocolate-encased fruit that rarely lasts the day.

G. Detou

michel_cluizelChocolate guru David Lebowitz calls G. Detou his epicenter of food in Paris. The store carries everything a cook or baker needs, with a particularly rich assortment of chocolates: they sell my favorite bars, by Michel Cluizel as well as other French chocolatiers including Bonnat and Weiss; tubs of Valrhona praliné; chocolate chips (hard to find and très cher in Paris) in kilo boxes.

Browse the tidy wooden shelves in this small shop, and you’ll find caramel bits, Medjool dates, true Dijon mustards, decadent canned fish (mousse de thon, mackeral in moutarde à l’ancienne); glass jars that gleam from the inside out with hand-picked fruit from Gascony.

The store is a bit off the beaten path, on the lovely, quirky rue Tiquetonne, near Les Halles.  A visit will fill your mind with dreams of decadent eating – and your shopping bag with treats and easy-to-pack souvenirs.

58 rue Tiquetonne, 75002, M: Etienne-Marcel