I knew I loved chocolate but I had no idea just how much of it there is to love! If chocolate is good for the soul (‘if’ meaning ‘it is’), then the Salon du Chocolate is positiviely restorative.
I don’t crave chocolate often, but when I do I’m happy to go to the supermarket and buy a bar of Cadbury’s (for only 5 Euros, a little piece of home). ‘Mais, non’ I can already hear my French friends recoiling in horror. We live in the capital of luxury, of creation and, bien sûr, of chocolate.
Every Autumn, the Salon du Chocolate rolls into town – this year celebrating its 20th year as the world’s largest chocolate trade show. There were dresses, make-up, eiffel towers, people and even small villages all MADE OF CHOCOLATE. A feast for the eyes and stomach, this fair taught me that chocolate comes in all shapes and sizes…thank goodness.
Feast your eyes on all these scrumptious delights:
Two weddings…And Almost A Funeral!
Said to be the food of the Gods, it was only after two royal marriages that chocolate arrived in France.
The first, in 1615, was the wedding of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria, daughter of Philip III of Spain, which introducted chocolate to the Royal Court and it became an immediate hit…naturally. In the early 1700s, the Regent Philippe d’Orleans had the inspried idea to eat chocolate for breakfast every monring whilst receiving his courtiers, bringing forth the French expression “to be received to chocolate”, ie. getting a favor from the Royal Court. Who doesn’t like a little chocolate for breakfast? Although I’m not quite sure if that is the kind of ‘favors’ the French are refering to…it is after-all a French expression!
Marie Antoinette brought her own Austrian chocolate maker with her to Paris and he infused her morning chocolate with amber and vanilla (Nina’s Paris does some great re-creations of her chocolates). Indeed it was this her marriage in 1770 to King Louis XVI that started the French craze for Viennoiseries pastries, namely croissants. But surely the croissant is French, non? Austrian bakers, as the legend goes, made pasteries to celebrate the Turkish defeat of the 1683 Seige of Vienna and fashioned the pasteries into the form of the crescent they saw depicted on the Ottomon Turkish flags. To celebrate Marie Antoinette’s marriage, French pastry chefs started the craze for croissants that we now come to equate with the French. They did add their own French touch – perfecting these half-moon shaped pastries and making them their own, adding the technique of using puff pastry to create the croissant as we know it today. They also llikely added chocolate to them…bienvenue, pain au chocolat! We do have the French to thank for marrying pastry and chocolate and bringing us éclairs, which have been attributed to the French chef Antoinin Carème in the early 1800s and was beautifully called ‘pain à la duchesse’ or ‘petite duchesse’ until the 1850s. I think we should definitely bring back the name.
Amazing ornate detailing of the statue all done in chocolate!
In the 17th Century, people would drink coffee and tea to avoid unsafe drinking water (it was safer to drink beer that water!), hot chocolate was a welcome novelty. Though it soared in popularity, it remained a costly import and the preserve of the wealth. Exhaled for its medicinall benefits, said to cure stomaches and other ailments, chocolate was also known to act as an aphrodisiac. The lover Casonova was a big chocolate fan, considering it the ‘elixir of love’. In 1772, the Marquis de Sade (of course, he comes into play at the mention of aphrodisiac!) hosted a ball and sneakily added some Spanish fly to chocolate pastilles which inspired an orgy of Roman proportions. Also know to heighen the sexual senses, Spanish fly has the downside of quite often killing people and Sade was sentenced to death for poisoning and sodomy, but later reprieved on appeal.
Chocolate in Europe developed through a series of innovations such as the separation of the cocoa bean from butter (Dutch) , the invention of powdered milk by Henri Nestle (German – if you like chocolate, you know his name) which led to the development of milk chocolate (had to be the Swiss). The French played a key part: in 1811, a French engineer named Poincelet developed the first type of blender for cocoa beans; a technique which all of Euroope soon adopted.
Giulio Vacilotto is a divine and passionate Italian chocolatier who was exhibiing for his first time in Paris. I’m ashamed to say that I was complementing him for his chocolate named Rivoli, thinking it was his nod to Rue Rivoli and he informed me it was named after the word for opéra-house and not in fact named after Rue Rivoli (which if you are interested, gets its name from Napolean’s early victory against the Austiran army at the battle of Rivoli) With his friendly smile and assistant, not to mention a great assortment of chocolate, he is sure to become a big hit. If you can’t make it to Italy, you can order his chocolate directly on-line. I’m equally obsessed with the amazing drawings of Italian buidlings that adorned the walls of his stand – they should start selling wallpaper too….even edible wallpaper à la Charlie & the Chocolate Factory!
Le Comptoir de Mathilde
My English sensibility is, of course, drawn to the chocolate-inspired liquor and I stumbled across this quaint French company Le Comptoir de Mathilde producing their own liquor in a vast erray of yummy flavours including many infused with chocolate. Growing since 2001 from its base in the South-East of France, they now have 4 stores and on-line boutique where you can buy great presents like chocolate spoons or even, a chocolate tool-kit! How very handy!
Baileys has a new luxury chocolate-flavoured liquor of its own. They had the hard job of taste testing over 200 varities of chocolate to find the perfect ingredients. My friend taught me a trick of adding milk to my Baileys which makes it last longer – but adding milk (even hot milk!) to a chocolate-flavored baileys is a chocolate liquor chocolate I have to try! The Baileys mini-bathtub they use as an ice holder should also be for sale – I want one and so does all my Baileys-adoring friends.
The chocolate show included great live demonstrations – these chocolates created by Tokyo Chocolate (also the name of an upcoming film) were created with a base of ‘Rokoroten’ a traditional Japanese product made from agar. Agar, a gelatinous substance (think jell-o) comes from algae, which sounds like it should be absolutely disgusting. I wasn’t entralled with the idea of trying green chocolate but I have to say it was yummy and tasted just like normal chocolate with a bit of a twist This ingredient has been used in Asia deserts for centuries (discovered mid-C17th): it has the advantage of being a vegetarian subsititue for gelatin and is making waves in Europe.
What did I happen upon but sugar-free chocolate. C’est pas possible! Another Japanese chocolate company which immediately caught me eye is Chocolate Shop who were advertising ‘Zero’ – their chocolate made without sugar! Say what? Trying to stop myself from getting too excited (I tried it and it tastes just like chocolate), I thought it better to dig a bit depper before buying up all their stocks. Unfortunately, their whole website is in Japanese (no store in Paris yet) and so I couldn’t find much about this holy grail of chocolate. Dommage! It seems to be a clever marketing rouse: the sugar is substituted with a naturally-occuring Japanese sweetner. Probably still packing ins some calories, this chococlate is akin to Diet Coke for the chocolate world…and Diet Coke sales aren’t doing too shabby. Watch out for Zero chocolate making its way to your country.
It’s a chocolate world! An impressive Eiffel Tower display by Hugo & Victor and an edible Arc du Trimpohe by Leonidas paid tribute to Paris. Chapon chocolaterie had the most beautiful displays and even had a ‘chocolate-dipped’ Citreon car. It was heart-breaking to witness a little child gleefully run up to the car only told by his mother that the car, unlike the rest of the show, was real and not made out of chocolate afterall. His bitter (pun intended) dispointment was written all over his face.
The edible paraphenila theme even extended o chocolate make-up palettes, chocolate lipstick and for the exceedingly brave, you could even undertake a chocolate waxing session! I must say, I prefer my chocolate edible.
And if chocolate make-up isn’t enough, check out their fantastic fashion show featuring costumes made out of chocolate:
The only true non-fat goodies has to be these good enough to eat paintings from the warm and friendly Marie Jolly. Even her name sounds sweet! Based in Rennes, Marie is a former-architect who, lucky for us, turned her hand to painting pastries. Macaroons seem like the perfect Paris souvenir to bring back to loved ones but it is tricky as they only last a few days – whereas Marie’s paintings last and last. The pictures below don’t capture how ever so glossy the paintings are in real-life. You can grab her designs on-line until we beg her to let us put some of her artwork up on sale in our Box Office. We’ll let you know if she has any upcoming shows in Paris.
Les Fées Påtissiéres is my favourite new find and I can’t wait to check out their store in the Marais. Their logo alone – the Pastry Fairies – is divine and their whole packaging ozzes fairytale. Started by two adorable French girls that I have to meet – Déborah Lévy et Sarah Harb, this discovery was the icing on the chocolate show for me. The girls create exquisite individual desserts presented in the form of cupcakes and their display stands are out of this world magical. Judging by their website, their store decor looks just as inspired with floating ‘clouds’ of desserts.
Their first store (of many, I hope…watch out for their new store on Avenue Victor Hugo in the 16th coming soon):
21 Rue Rambuteau
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 77 42 15
Catch the trailer for the ‘sweet’ (pun absolutely intended) movie Chocolat staring Johnny Depp and Juliotte Binoche. Themovie even mentions adding hot chilli to hot chocolate for a kick – genuis idea I need to try today. Yes, it is set in a small village in France but the accents would lead one to think it is rural England.