Parisians take chocolate seriously. You would be forgiven for mistaking the cities contemporary chocolate shops for couture boutiques. Some of the chocolatiers have gone as far as adopting terminology from the fashion world too, releasing “seasonal collections” alongside “classic ranges”.
When in Paris last month I spent three days in the 6th arrondissement with the aim to get to know that part of Paris a little better. You can read more about that here. Before travelling I booked on to a “Walking Chocolate Tour” run by Context Travel. It seemed the perfect way to get to know the area… Walk about. Eat Chocolate. Guided by Alisa Morov, a chef who has lived in Paris for the last twelve years, our small group (4 of us and Alisa) took to the winding streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés with regular chocolate stops at chocolate shops. Yes, It was as delightful as it sounds!
Here are my five top stops on the tour:
Where it all began – The oldest Chocolate shop in Paris. Originally the official chemist for the royal family, Debauve created a chocolate coin to mask the taste of medicine for Marie Antoinette. She liked it a lot and the rest, as they say, is history.
A few years back I wouldn’t have known my macarons from my macaroons but they are very much in vogue these days. Ladurée is the undisputed master, his flavours change with the season and I can certainly vouch for the pistachio… Oh, and also the salted caramel was pretty much amazing too.
Marcolini is a contemporary chocolatier who spends his days traveling the world meeting cocoa producers and pairing the finest ingredients from all over the globe. The front of each bar references the type of cocoa used as well as region, a bit like a fine wine.
Patrick Rogers flamboyant creations were perhaps my favourite choccy treats from the whole tour, he combines strong natural flavours with his super silky chocolate and I was a particular fan of the Thai Basil flavour. He also creates entire sculptures out of chocolate which you can find displayed in his boutique. Currently there is a huge chocolate tiger in the window. Don’t try and lick it you’ll get told off.
This is a chocolate concept store with a penchant for pairing chocolate with savoury ingredients. You can try some of the suggested recipes in the cafe next door. I was particularly intrigued by the white chocolate coated pink peppercorns which apparently went very well with duck.
On the two and a half hour walking tour you really get to know the back streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and I learnt as much about the local geography and social politics of Paris from Alisa as I did about the sweeties. Oh, and I ate a lot of chocolate. Need I say more?
If you are planning a trip away soon I do recommend checking out Context Travel, they have an extensive list of walking tours to tantalise you – each one follows the formula of small groups (usually 4 to 6) with guides who are choc full (excuse the pun) of local knowledge and expertise in their field. Next on the list for me is the Bordeaux To Burgundy Walk… I just need to work out when I can next escape to Paris…