Many times when you go on vacation you want to do something a bit different than the standard sightseeing. Anyone can grab one of the run-of-the-mill sightseeing tour groups but you are at the mercy of the tour operator for what you see and do. Many times you miss out on the authenticity of a city because the tours gloss over the city so that you only see the major sights.
So on our trip to Paris; we decided to do something a bit different. We decided to tour Paris by way of its most revered chocolate shops. Paris has some quite famous chocolatiers and our goal was to try to visit as many as we could as we roamed the city of love.
With a quick search on the Internet, finding the top chocolatiers was quite easy, seven or so went on our list. If on our tour we happened by one that wasn’t on our list, so much the better. Our next step was to plan a general route because, for this tour of decadence, we only had two days.
When visiting Paris, we always stay in the Marais. It has many subway stops close by, which makes any destination easy to get to. Before our chocolate tour of Paris began, however, we wanted to get an authentic French dinner. A friend recommended a visit to Le Hangar, which happily wasn’t much more than a couple of blocks from our hotel. When we arrived, we were nearly the only ones in the restaurant however in no time, the tables inside filled to capacity.
Le Hangar -Salon de Thé is a small home-style restaurant that is tucked away from the noise and
most of the tourists. Marked by its red canopy, it wasn’t difficult to find at the end of a cul-de-sac on Rue Berthaud. After pouring over the hand-written menu, our order was taken by a very patient waitress who didn’t seem to mind me pointing to what I wanted as the French words stumbled over my lips. To begin the evening we started with a nice bottle of white Pouilly Fuissé from Bourgogne.
To start, the waitress brought a small plate with bite-sized toasts and a bowl of what I surmise to be a pâté of olive oil, crushed olives, and maybe anchovies. Honestly, I don’t really know what it was and of course, I was too embarrassed to ask. I found a little went a long way with me. It wasn’t bad; I’m just not big on fish or fish taste. It was greenish in color and spread easily across the small pieces of toast.
For our entrées, we had raviolis de romans crème d’au burgines (eggplant ravioli with crème sauce) and salad de haricots vert (green bean salad). After our redeye flight from Miami to London and then a two-hour train ride on the Eurostar (via the Chunnel) to Paris, we were a bit on the hungry side so these delightful starters didn’t last long. The ravioli was a very rich dish that was perfect in every way. The light vinaigrette over the green bean salad was just right. Both were a perfect way to begin our first night in the city of love.
The next course consisted of Sautéed foie gras escalopes de canard and Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops) and risotto. The foie gras was seared to perfection on a bed of creamed potatoes with olive oil. The creamy risotto decadently complimented the scallops. To finish the meal, a crème brulé and a café double ended the evening with a sweet pick-me-up.
After a nightcap of margaritas at the well-known Raidd Bar (23 rue du temple 75004 Paris), it was time to call it a night and prepare for the next day – touring Paris by chocolate.
The morning began with an omelette mixte at Le Bouquet Des Archives (31, Rue des Archives) and two café crèmes. With our morning appetites satisfied, we were on to the first stop of the tour, Josephine Vannier. This gem is quite close to Place des Vosges, which was a perfect place to devour the first assortment of chocolate. Our selection included a rocher and white grand mariner while others in the lot included pistachio, which I loved. Place des Vosges is a perfect park to begin the enjoyment of Paris. It is the oldest square in Paris and was built by Henry IV from 1605 to 1612.
The next stop on the chocolate tour was the chocolatier Patrick Roger. Patrick Roger is best known for his rochers featuring a contrast of smooth praline filling and crunchy shreds of hazelnut.
Roger’s shop at 108 St. Germain Blvd is only steps away from Notre Dame, a perfect place to enjoy the new delectables. This cathedral, completed in 1345, is the epitome of pure Gothic architecture and the finest of French Gothic. Taking approximately 185 years to complete, it is a site in Paris not to be missed. Best of all, the entrance is free and worth the view from within. One tidbit of trivia, the organ on the west end just inside the façade has 7,800 pipes.
On the way to Saint-Sulpice, another great cathedral in Paris, you can stop by Pierre Hermé, one of the world’s most celebrated pastry chefs (72 rue Bonaparte). So celebrated, you may stand in line just to enter this shop that has one of the finest collections of cakes, pastries, and macaroons.
A few more blocks of walking will bring you to Christian Constant (37 rue Assas) whose chocolate is rated by food critics worldwide as some of the finest. Sights to see close by include Saint-Sulpice as mentioned above and Luxembourg Gardens, a magnificent park. Constant, a master artisan chocolatier, had filled his shop with meter-high smiley-faced eggs for Easter, surrounded by chocolate chickens tied closed with pink ribbons. Another large chocolate display added protruding chocolate faces all around the meter-high egg. After spending the day sightseeing via Paris’ most renowned chocolate shops and walking most of this time, even with the decadent chocolate throughout the day, dinner was very much welcomed. After a quick stroll through the Marais, we stumbled upon La Terrasse des Archives (51 rue des Archives, 75003 Paris). After our bottle of 2006 Les Abeilles Côtes Du Rhône and two delicious steaks cooked to perfection, we headed over to Raidd Bar once again for our nightcap. Had we tried to do anything more than Raidd Bar, we would have been too exhausted to complete our two-day chocolate tour.
On the last day in Paris and our final “chocolate hop”, we began at Chocolat Mussy (8 rue du Bourg Tibourg) in the Marais. A small shop with an entire wall filled with a variety of dark and light cocoa delights. With four degrees from the prestigious Ecole Gregoire-Ferrandi, you can taste Sylvain Mussy’s passion in his creations.
If you are heading to The Louvre, stop by La Maison du Chocolat (99 rue de Rivoli). This shop is also world-famous for its ganaches and truffles. Not using more than 65% cocoa in their creations, this is the chocolate for those that don’t like bitter chocolates. This is a great snack after waiting in line to see the Mona Lisa. Another master you may not want to miss that is close to The Louvre is Chocolat Michel Cluizel at 201 rue Saint-Honoré. Michel is one of the rare chocolate manufacturers to actually process cocoa beans himself.
With a quick subway ride over towards the Eiffel Tour, there’s also Michel Haudun’s shop at 149 rue de l’Universite. A master artisan chocolatier, you can find simple chocolate bars and truffles to sculptures of the season. In this case, Easter, the store was filled with chocolate eggs, bunnies, and even lambs in baskets.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of the best chocolatiers in Paris, but it is a list that is exhausting if you try to hit every one of them. With only two days in Paris, it is difficult to see everything but touring the city with little side trips can take you off the beaten path and let you see real Parisian life.
Chocolate in Paris is not cheap. Each small morsel can cost upwards of 1€ or more with assortments costing between 10€ and 30€. I also must say that there are many more chocolatiers that are quite famous for their creations however you just can’t visit them all (or list them all). Finally, I will confess, no I did not eat all of the chocolate in those two days. Such delectable chocolate is very rich and satisfying to almost any sweet tooth. A little goes a long way so a lot was brought home to enjoy and remind me of what a wonder Paris (and chocolate) is in the spring.
Oh, and as for the “best” chocolate in Paris? It was all good. Each chocolatier brings a unique flavor to the popular treat. It was all so very delightful.
My favorite was Patrick Roger, who offers a large assortment for any discriminating taste.
As always, thanks for tripping with me.