Paris’s Most Outstanding Chocolate Shops8:57 AM
Paris’s Salon du Chocolat is taking place each year early November. Hundreds of chocolatiers and confectioners gathered in one pavilion in Paris’s exhibition park to exhibit their chocolates, the new trends and their interpretation of the world of chocolate. Last year 2014 the Salon was celebrating its 20th anniversary and that was enough of a reason to really party. Chocolate sculptures, the Salon’s famous chocolate dresses, fascinating demonstrations and above all lots and lots of that sweet, brown stuff. Since the Salon does not run year-round in the City of Light here are some recommendations for some of the best chocolatiers in Paris, who can be found throughout the whole year in the City of Lights.
(Click the links below each of the chocolatiers to find directions to their different branches).
Jacques Genin - chocolate, Pâtes de Fruits and heart melting caramels
Jacques Genin has come a long way from growing up in a poor family to becoming a chocolatier owning his own business, that supplies chocolates, confections and desserts to the most highly esteemed restaurants both in Paris and outside of the city. Genin’s chocolaterie is considered by those in the know to be one of Paris’s finest. His first branch, in Marais, is much larger than other chocolaterie - pastry shops in the city, and the décor is modern combined with the preservation of the spectacular historic structure. The complex consists of one floor on which the chocolate, pastry and confection counter is situated. In addition to the sales counter, there is also a space that is set up as a tea salon, where one can sit and enjoy the chocolatier’s specialties. The floor above holds the “laboratory” where Genin creates his delectable product which is all produced on-site.
Although Genin describes himself as a chocolatier his desserts are also considered to be the best. More than one of Genin’s cakes have been rated the best in Paris. The Mille Feuilles is certainly one of his most exceptional pastries and the hot Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate) is divine. Every day his chocolaterie offers several different flavors of Mille Feuilles – vanilla, vanilla-raspberry, caramel, chocolate and praline. Ask the server which fillings are being served that day, and select your flavor of choice. Genin’s lemon tart has also been awarded many prizes. If you are lucky enough to visit his chocolaterie on a day when the lemon- basil tart is being served, do not pass up the unique experience.
I witnessed his adherence to every single detail when I received his permission to come and work with him and his team for a couple of days in the “laboratory” above the shop. I was given the responsibility of putting together boxes of chocolates for the customers. The chocolates, Pâtes de Fruits and caramels are Genin’s diamonds and as such they receive the special treatment that they deserve. Each silver box is wiped and polished. The cubes of chocolate and confectionaries are placed in the boxes in exemplary uniformity. Everything has been taken into consideration: the direction, the order of the flavors, the angle of the paper in which they are wrapped and the degree of the pleats - perfection. The excellent raw materials, the methods of work in the laboratory, the order, the cleanliness and the exceptional team, everything comes together to form one perfect creation.
Before leaving the chocolaterie, don’t forget to buy some provisions for the road – the chocolates are amazing and they come in a variety of flavors such as tonka, grapefruit, praline, vanilla, honey and more. I recommend tasting everything in the caramel section, but if you want to pinpoint flavors, the peanut, pistachio, Macadamia and mango and passion fruit are a must. And of course you can’t skip the Pâtes de Fruits; the blood orange, crème de cassis and rhubarb are my favorites.
Recently Genin opened another branch on Rue du Bac on the Left Bank; please note that this branch only sells chocolates and confectioneries, there is no seating.
Patrick Roger - if chocolate could talk
If you suddenly spot a chocolate hippo peeping out at you from a shop window, do not be alarmed. It is only another one of Patrick Roger, the chocolate artist’s, pieces of art, a sculpture of flavors. Roger uses the brown raw material to create giant sculptures, but also for small chocolates which he sells in boxes. His boutique chocolaterie is a museum with alternating exhibits of chocolate sculptures. The dramatic turquoise and black hues that dominate the décor of his stores and the refined, black-gloved sales people give the shops more the look of a fine jewelry shop than a chocolaterie.
Upon entering the boutique, the delicate aroma of high-quality cocoa meets your nose. The huge variety includes chocolates with different fillings, different types of truffles, chocolate tablets, exquisite nougat and caramel. During the winter Roger makes one of the most famous delicacies of all French confections, candied chestnuts. His “marron glacé” are considered the best, and they are sold like diamonds, individually wrapped.
He turns the sculptures that are returned from the shops at the end of the period into real bronze casted sculptures. In his work space, which is situated in a picturesque rural area about a half hour’s train ride from Paris, you will find penguins standing shoulder to shoulder with other animals and plump women. Roger is first of all an artist. The chocolate is the raw material through which he expresses himself. “I did not study at school,” he tells me, “I taught myself. It is not I that discovered the chocolate, it found me.”
His achievements are impressive, especially when you know what a long way he has come since his childhood in the Loire Valley region to winning the prestigious MOF award in one of the most important competitions in the French culinary field, in which every few years the best in the industry are selected. Despite winning the title, Roger does not rest on his laurels. The creativity burns within him, the will to develop and discover new aromas, special textures and surprising combinations. For example, the impressive collection of half spheres, painted using a special technique which makes them look like huge, brightly colored glass marbles are masterpieces, all of them painted by hand. No two half spheres are alike; the personal touch is felt in every single one of them. Roger will not reveal the secret of the magic. The surprises continue when you place one of the spheres in your mouth: the filling is very soft, almost liquid, and it explodes in your mouth filling it with extraordinary flavors. It is difficult to describe the feeling in words, a fine combination of perfect liquid caramel with lemon lime acidity. Don’t miss it!
Jean-Paul Hevin – the man that understands chocolate
Even if you walk right past Jean-Paul Hévin’s shop, I am not sure that you will notice that it is a chocolaterie. The shop window blends in so well with the fashion and jewelry shops in its prestigious surroundings – near Vendôme Square, Rue Saint Honoré, laden with luxury brands, one could easily think that it is another jewelry shop. It is worth looking carefully, otherwise you could miss one of the most acclaimed places in the industry: Jean-Paul Hévin, gourmet chocolatier, considered a master in the chocolate and pastry industry.
Hévin is an extremely talented chocolatier, who manages to combine fine raw material with creativity and classics. His shop looks like a jewelry shop.
Shiny showcases on one side of the shop hold boxes of exquisite chocolate, and in another section one will find chocolate tablets, chocolate bits, macaroons, and delectable chocolate pastries and deserts. The sacred atmosphere in the boutique is justified, Hévin is one of the best chocolatiers in Paris.
Hévin is almost the only chocolatier in the city where you can sit down and taste the delicacies. In the Saint Honoré branch you will find in addition to the impressive chocolate shop also a chocolate bar. There one may eat the pastries that are sold in the shop and have a hot drink – my favorite is Hévin’s hot chocolate (Chocolat Chaud), which was ranked by Le Figaro magazine as the best in Paris.
The tonka cake is strongly recommended, it is made with tonka beans, the cake is a crisp of streusel praline with leafy pastry, a biscuit rich in almond and tonka beans, a black Venezuelan chocolate mousse covered with creamy tonka bean, all crowned with a dark chocolate mousse. It was one of the best chocolate desserts that I have ever tasted, very rich in flavors and textures and made from the finest raw materials.
Also recommended for dark chocolate lovers is the Caracas cake - bitter moist chocolate biscuits, chocolate mousse of vanilla aroma and covered in sticky deep chocolate ganache. Meringue lovers, should not miss the Longchamp, with its nutty chocolate exterior and inside is an almond meringue enveloped in a light airy chocolate mousse.
And for dessert – a surprise: Hévin’s cheesecake is one of the best in Paris. A baked cheesecake, made with 0% fat soft white cheese (a bit of a rarity in Paris), it is beautifully airy and high, just like in the books. The cake has a very subtle taste, leaning toward tart due to the limited quantity of sugar and the additional lemon and it is very reminiscent of the cakes that came to us from Eastern Europe. What is even more surprising is the name that this superb cake has been given, which is entirely a tribute to the Jewish community – Mazal Tov!
Debauve & Gallais - Paris’s first chocolaterie. Classic.
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, did not like to take her medicine. But, what can you do, even the royal head – long before it was cut off by guillotine – would sometimes hurt, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Suplice Debauve, the royal pharmacist to Louis the 16th and his wife, Marie Antoinette, would make the first lady chocolate in the shape of coins, in order to make it easier for her to take the medication she so disliked. In light of the success of the chocolate coins, Debauve opened his first boutique in 1800, in Saint-Dominique Street, and that is how the first chocolaterie in Paris came to be.
The Pistoles De Marie, that Debauve concocted for Marie Antoinette, which were named after her, are sold to this day in Debauve & Gallais shops, in remembrance of the Queen. It is a collection of chocolate coins in different flavors, like 99% chocolate (!), pieces of cocoa for bitter chocolate lovers (at Debauve they recommend tasting these with strong alcohol, and they promise that it is a delicacy), chocolate with almonds, bitter chocolate with coffee, with vanilla and more.
In 1817 the shop on Saints Pères Street opened, in the exact spot that it stands today, in one of the charming Left Bank streets, approaching the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Debauve, who was close to the royal family by virtue of his occupation, persuaded Napoleon's architects to design his shop. Thus, the shop received the special touch of Precier and Fontaine who designed it in the form of a Greek temple. The Saints Pères Street shop is the only remaining shop designed by the pair, and therefore it is considered a historical monument worth a visit, even for visitors that are not interested in chocolates.
The shop boasts a wide range of chocolates. Everyone will be able to find a chocolate to suit their palate. From chocolate filled with natural ganache, with varying levels of bitterness, to wonderful truffles, fine bitter chocolate covered orange peels and to “Mille-feuilles” from chocolate puff pastry and Gianduja (Gaia) chocolate filling. The 99% bitter chocolate with natural ganache filling is highly recommended. The chocolate coating is very bitter, but it is offset by the delicate ganache filling. For sweet and creamy chocolate lovers the Courtisane is highly recommended, it contains Gianduja chocolate cream with nougatine. The chocolate is of a very high quality, and is priced accordingly.
Have a sweet day!
If you’re planning a visit in the near future to Paris, the most romantic city in the world, you are invited on a magical tour of the best patisseries and chocolateries that Paris has to offer.