A L’Etoile d’Or: A Stellar Confectionery in Paris
I just learned an important lesson. When going away for a couple of weeks, especially to an exotic island, a destination not exactly known for its chocolate,… don’t leave home without sticking a few bars in your bag (which I didn’t do). But luckily when I got home, not only do I live in Switzerland, where there will never be a lack of excellent chocolate, I had an overflowing chocolate stash (as usual), including a few notable goodies from my last trip to Paris.
I was recently given a very sweet assignment, and shared “my perfect day in Paris” on The Paris Kitchen, where Wendy Lyn revealed my ultimate favorite sweet addresses. Here is one of them… A L’Etoile d’Or.
Unfortunately, Franck Kestener‘s Atlantique bars somehow disappeared from my stash, but a few Bernachon bars remained. If it’s Bernachon chocolate and it wasn’t bought in Lyon, then you know I was with Denise Acabo in Paris’ 9th arrondissement. A L’Etoile d’Or is the only shop to sell chocolate from this superior bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Lyon, and it would be a destination for the Kalouga bar alone. David Lebovitz called the boutique “the best candy shop in Paris” and Denise the “sweetest woman in Paris” and is likewise a huge fan. As is Cenk Sönmezsoy, who photographed the shop beautifully, and I recently hooked Valerie Jacome onto it as well. (She caught Denise with a classic expression !) The Kalouga is hard to resist: oozing salted caramel in thick sublime dark chocolate. Enough said. The price may seem rather hefty below, 10.50 Euros for a bar, but they are quite hefty themselves at 150 grams. And much less expensive than a trip to Lyon.
The shop is also a destination for Denise herself, who is famous for her uniform. You’ll always see her in her signature plaid kilt, knotted tie and v-neck sweater, with braided pig tails and glasses hanging around her neck. She is a true character, never too shy to share her opinion on what she likes (see the photos below) and certainly what she doesn’t like, always there for a laugh, some high speed gossip and a taste or two, or three. I watched her energetically describe each and every item in the shop (and the shelves are packed), even to people who didn’t understand a word of French. Quite comical. Her passion and knowledge are impressive. And her rules for what she accepts on those shelves are infamously strict!
There are hard to find chocolates and confections from all around France, including Henri Le Roux’s divine caramels – the original cbs (caramel beurre salé). There are tons of regional sweets in their precious tins, like Bergamotes from Nancy, Negus from Nevers, nougat, calissons, Mazet pralines and more. You can literally buy just one of each of everything, and Denise will weigh them all separately and put them in individual bags, tied with a little ribbon. I love looking at all the old boxes and packaging, like displays in a museum.
But my favorite of all… is the wrapping. (Well, besides the Bernachon bars.) When Denise asks if your sweets are to give as a present, say yes – even if a gift for yourself. They will be hand wrapped in papier d’Epinal, large sheets of paper with vintage comic-like panels. Some are visual riddles, with a new image when you turn it upside down. When she was growing up, individual squares were given out by the nuns at her school to well-behaved children, but she never received any. Now she has an extraordinary collection, her most favorite tucked away in a drawer; and she proudly shows them off, as she would have as a little girl.
Denise Acabo, A l’Etoile d’Or
30, rue Fontaine