Annual Salon du Chocolat Not to Miss List
With family and friends living in and around Paris, I visit the City of Lights several times a year. But there is one trip that stands out from the rest. My annual pilgrimage in the fall for the Salon du Chocolat. Yes, I take an almost 5 hour train ride to visit this show. But then again, it’s no ordinary food show. We’re talking almost 14,000 square meters (150,000 square feet!) of floor, one stand after another, showing their finest products – the very best in the chocolate world today. Free samples abound.
On my train ride to Paris, after going through my endless lists of patisseries and boulangeries that I would visit during the few days leading up to the salon (that I’ll share soon too), I also went through my notes from last year’s Salon du Chocolat. It felt like it was just yesterday – I could still taste the masterful pairing of buckwheat flour and salted butter by Henri Le Roux. I could picture the hot pink candied nuts of François Pralus’ signature Praluline and wondered if they would be baking at the show once again (oui !). I pictured my favorite discovery last year – Les Gayettes du Pays Noir from Belgium, as well as the meringues as big as rugby balls from Le Grenier à Pain, hoping they would both return to the show this year (unfortunately not, 0 for 2).
For the 15th year, the show was just as grand and impressive as previous years. I love going the very first day before the masses arrive, when the chocolate makers manning the booths themselves are more than happy to chat and explain their creations – from where the idea came, with what ingredients they used – and to offer you a sample… or two. I tasted Le Roux’s (he’s below center left) new pumpkin seed praliné (divine), Sadaharu Aoki’s yuzu macaron shell (that’s him below right), Mazet’s orange clove Praslines (new addition, special for Christmas) and cotton candy flavored marshmallow from Les Délices d’un Gourmand. I compared ganaches from Aoki (sesame), Swedish MÄLARCHOCOLATERIE (cloudberry; blue cheese), Servant (tonka) and Joel Patouillard (Venezuela vs. Java). The chocolate with cheese was surprisingly pleasant – it will still more about the chocolate, rather than the cheese.
I also had a laugh or two with Teddy of Rody Chocolaterie. Combining his name with that of his grandfather Robert, Rody was born – and with it, a product especially for Grandpa Robert, Patates à Papy (small chocolate balls resembling potatoes). Don’t worry, he didn’t really bite the chocolate bear below. I also had great fun chatting with Philippe and Sylvie Dura of Nougaterie des Fumades (another from last year’s roundup). They told me about new recipes people around the world are trying with their nougat – all different types of meat cooked down with nougat, even fish too. I have yet to give that a go. I tried their newest flavor made with caramelized nuts, and it’s excellent.
But what you all really must want to know? are my incontournables of the day! Without further or due, my annual “Salon du Chocolat Not to Miss List“ is back (photos follow):
* Franck Kestener – First place on my list this year. Kestener is a soft-spoken, friendly guy, also very chic – take a look at his website! I’ll be featuring his chocolates for sure again on MyKugelhopf, and sharing more about the family history behind the company (5th generation). When I tasted one of his bars at the show, I had an immediate reaction – it brought me back to Paris years ago when I first discovered the very same bar. My sweet memory bank started ringing, telling me this was long ago a favorite of mine. It still is. Taste his Perle de Lorraine, a beautiful green hexagonal chocolate with 3 layers: mirabelle caramel, mirabelle pâte de fruit and a light, crunchy praliné.
* Philippe Pascoët – For the Zürchers reading this, you’ll be happy to know that I tried to convince Swiss Pascoët to open up a boutique in Zürich. And in 2011, it may just happen! Until then, Geneva and Carouge are not too far. For you Parisians, he also just opened up a new shop on rue Saint-Placide. Be adventurous and try his exotic flavored chocolates, made with Absinthe, licorice, Champagne, coriander or even cigar. Pascoët gave me a sample of the chocolate called L’Adrien, created 4 years ago for his son’s birth. I was in luck; it was a perfectly crisp praliné, nothing too exotic for my sweet palate.
* Pariès – the Basque region of France is one of my very favorites, so I was immediately drawn in by the little chocolates with the Basque symbol on them at this stand. Gâteau Basque and tourons aside, what really called my name were the Kanougas – individually foil-wrapped caramels made with chocolate, vanilla or different nuts. Go for the gold – that’s coffee flavored, and as you chew, it will slowly melt and the butter will coat your mouth and you will be so very happy I told you not to miss it. (I had at first confused the name with my favorite chocolate bar by Bernachon, Kalouga. Turns out the caramels were created in 1905 for Russian Dukes and are named after the same Russian city, Kalouga.)
* Jacques Bokel – twice in a row on my Must List, Bokel’s massive squares of praliné (2″ x 2″) are no dainty chocolate. I was blown away by his almond with fleur de sel last year, and made sure to come home with some this year. He has a huge stand and there are tons of varieties – ginger, cinnamon, different nuts, rum raisin, etc. Be sure to try a few.
* Christophe Roussel – Bretons are not the only ones who get to visit Roussel’s boutiques, now that he has also opened up in Paris on the rue du Champs de Mars. Next time I go to Paris, I’ll be there, and will once again have trouble deciding between the mini marshmallow cubes in bright fluorescent colors (pink and blue) or the equally colorful macarons in fabulous flavors like cherry/piment d’Espelette, daiquiri/lime and lavender/apricot. I brought back a small box of 6 (that disappeared very quickly), including my regular go-to flavors, salted butter caramel and coffee, as well as the caramel macaron dipped in chocolate (wow), passionfruit/tarragon (wonderful), raspberry and cherry/pistachio. His macarons are simply outstanding.
* François Pralus – You’ll know you’re near this stand when the aromas of a fresh bakery and caramelized sugar start wafting your way. Grab a taste of their sublime buttery brioches, but don’t ignore all the other products at the neighboring stand. You’ll see Pralus’ classic, colorful pyramids of single origin chocolate, a new praline fondue in an attractive Emile Henry bowl and the most dangerous of all – Perles Céreales Noires, crisped rice dipped in chocolate (they look like little dots). Adult candy! Great to sprinkle on ice cream, decorate desserts, or simply pop handfuls in your mouth! Very addictive…
As far as my favorites for esthetic reasons ? Boissier’s gorgeous blue packaging is always high on my list. As is Patrice Chapon’s beautiful and elegant packaging (don’t miss his chocolate mousse bar! You can see him serving up above). And you can’t get more colorful, tastefully so, than chez Sadaharu Aoki and Christophe Roussel. If their products weren’t so divine, I would still recommend a visit to their booths just to please the eye.
In this sugar-laden article, I have only merely touched upon my discoveries at the show. Chocolate chouquettes and cannelés, éclairs, chocolate themed cookbooks and plenty of educational panels to read, exhibits and sculptures, chocolate dresses on display from the highly exclusive fashion show, not to mention dried fruit, spices and the obligatory foie gras too. There?s surely something for everyone. You’re guaranteed to find a new favorite treat of your own, to have your taste buds awakened and potentially sugared out, and to not leave empty-handed. If you go to the show this weekend, be sure to let me know what you taste and love!
Salon du Chocolat
October 14 – October 18, 10am to 7pm (Friday night the 16th until 9pm)
Porte de Versailles, Halle 5
Metro: line 12 to Porte de Versailles
Adults: 12 ?uros; Children ages 3 to 12: 6 ?uros; Children under 3 years old: free