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.
Long before we heard of Sadaharu Aoki, there was a Japanese Pastry Chef in Barcelona, doing his thing and establishing himself as one of the best pastry destinations in the city. Takashi WHO? Takashi Ochiai and his Patisseria Ochiai.
He was a pastry chef in Japan, but left for Europe to seek knowledge and experience, as is always the case. His travels brought him to Belgium and London, where he worked for a few years and picked up French and English. Chatting with him was great as we could communicate freely!
Eventually, he ended up in Spain, learning their traditional pastries and decided to set up shop in Barcelona in 1983. Besides specializing in Japanese pastry, he is also an astute businessman and imports Japanese products for distribution (Yann Duytsche is one of his customers) as well as produces ice creams and chocolates for wholesale.
Ok, so I lied about the third one as it is in Biarritz, France, but it is just a short hop away from El Pais Vasco in Spain (Basque Country). Museums are usually cluttered with dusty, antiquated exhibits and yawning children, but this being Barcelona, would they really live up to their reputation for inventiveness and innovation?
Gerry from Artisan du Chocolat was a pastry chef before going wonkers on chocolate, and he keeps his stash of pastry molds up high above one of the walk-ins. Imagine the delight when I found old skool copper canele molds up there!
Now, at Pages on Shaftesbury avenue in London, these molds cost an upwards of 6 pounds a piece, crazy high prices for molds, which makes it an investment outside my budget. However, these babies were mine for a weekend of chocolatey fun.
Having shamelessly plugged Artisan du Chocolat in the first post on the Salon du Chocolat here, ’everyone else’s’ shall be shown here. Yes yes, I am really biased. However, the Salon du Chocolat did uncover a few gems and allowed me to sample lots of stuff that did not require:
An air ticket to chocolate destinations
With many chocolatiers in one place, its no wonder the Japanese go all gaga over this event. Its even better if you worked for an exhibitor like me. Read: Free samples everywhere, esp. if you do the rounds with the boss. Ever had Sadaharu Aoki ply you with enrobed macarons or praline chocolates? Be jealous….VERY JEALOUS! (Don’t really be coz I was begging him for a job to no avail!).
It was packed day in and day out, making it really difficult to sample everything on offer. However, a friend, C and I persevered by lining up to do a tactical scan on what each chocolatier offers. Basically, the salon has a ‘Chocolate Bar’, where we can purchase chocolates to eat in along with drinks or champagne.
The advantage of having 2 people is that we get to double up on everything and taste a bit here and there. With an hour of lining up providing sufficient time for decisions, we chose 12 chocolates from 12 different chocolatiers to taste from. This post will document the first 6.