If you have only 2 hours to spare for chocolates in Paris (That is a wasteful sin, by the way), make L’Etoile d’Or your one and only stop. Just a short walk from the Moulin Rouge (Metro Line 2 – Station Blanche), you will enter a world of some of the best chocolates you can ever find in France.
Meet the owner and veritable global food celebrity, Denise Acabo. She’s been in magazines in different languages and she has 2 Japanese assistants to cope with the flood of Japanese tourists. Besides being highly knowledgeable about chocolates, she stocks chocolates from the best chocolatiers in France (Wait, I said that already!). Basically, she sells what she herself only likes and she is such a character that she is the only person who sells Bernachon chocolates outside of Maison Bernachon in Lyon. This was also the reason I paid her a visit.
Wall to wall chock full of chocolates, memorabilia and books. This large chocolate counter in the middle contains the treasures from around France.
One can easily spend hours and lots and lots of Euros tasting everything and she was so excited when she found out I was a chocolatier from Singapore that she insisted on shoving lots of chocolates down my throat. Not for free of course, but she guaranteed everything would be mind blowing, which comes my one regret of the day.
Still slightly in shock from her choco-world, I failed to take a picture of a hazelnut praline chocolate piece from La Cabotte aux Chocolats in Gevrey Chambertin. I have never heard of this company before, but this chocolate piece is right up there with Guido Gobino’s Cremini Al Sale.
According to Ms Acabo, La Cabotte aux Chocolats is a small farmyard chocolaterie which uses ingredients from their area, that is, terroir to the max. A truly artisanal producer, they make this hazelnut praline chocolate only as long as their Gevrey Chambertin hazelnuts last. It must’ve been quite a bit as this was Spring and I inevitably had the one last hazelnutty ambrosia she had.
The flavour was deep and intensely hazelnut. Its hard to describe other than that it tasted how hazelnuts should taste like. I look forward to trying more chocolates from this small producer in the future.
Ms Acabo insisted I try the Praline Citron from Bernard Dufoux, one of her favourite chocolatiers. Wondering how ‘wonderful’ such a normal chocolate could be, the first bite proved how wrong I was. This praline was dense with a herbal and floral citrus taste unlike any citron or lemon. You know what you are eating as it is a familiar taste, but the tongue justs says, “This is not an ordinary lemon here…..”
I will not be surprised if this was some particular variety of citron, as the weekday, ethnic market on my doorstep here in Whitechapel sells several varieties of citrus fruits I have never ever seen before and their peels all have a different ‘shade of lemon’. How can I get my hand on such interesting lemons in Asia? Sigh.
This doesn’t look like much, but its a dark chocolate ganache infused with star anise. It had a defined star anise taste but not overpowering with floral hints reminiscent of Szechuan pepper ganaches. A strong flavour paired with a strong chocolate with good results.
Peches de Vigne (Vine Peaches) are blood red peaches with a deep, beautiful peach flavour unlike any other. Intensely perfumed, tart, yet sweet, I have never eaten a fresh one (YET!), but I am looking forward to it. Once planted in grapevines as a ‘canary in a coal mine’ for detecting grapevine diseases, this peach is an old variety that really should be more popular!
I could smell the intensely aromatic peche de vigne without having to bite into the chocolate. Even though it was a peche de vigne pate de fruit, it tasted like I was biting into a fresh peach. The strong assertiveness of the peach was paired with a dark chocolate ganache that played a supportive cast in lending balance to the confection. This was an amazing chocolate, and more amazing was the peach. New season peaches are available now, and I’m gonna get me some tomorrow.
Having previously had his taste-bud-opening sunflower praline at the Salon du Chocolat in Tokyo, I was eager to try more of his chocolates.
This came in the form of salted caramel and a buttery, crunchy shortcrust base encased within a chocolate bar.
Anything salted, especially caramel and buttery shortcrust (I adore Sable Breton) is my cup of tea and this was no different.
The sablee croquant was delightfully buttery and crunchy and the salted caramel was strong with a slightly bitter tinge, a mark of a perfectly executed caramel. Sweet, salty, bitter and oh-so-intensely caramel flavoured. The chocolate coating played its part too and if it is Michel Cluizel’s Concepcion chocolate as I suspect it is, it would make sense. The Concepcion bar has a buttery, vanilla and caramel flavour to which might be the reason why this chocolate bar was so intensely flavoured and deeply satisfying.
I went to L’Etoile d’Or with the sole intention of purchasing Bernachon chocolates to taste, but what I got instead was an educational choco-experience which is the great thing about travelling and being open to new people, places, tastes and ideas.