chocolats apéritifs au fromage (chocolate-cheese aperitifs)
I know I've prattled on endlessly about Pierre Hermé and he will forever remain my favorite simply because he allowed me to walk through his doors and experience the wonder of his chocolate factory, sans wonka-vator, first hand. But I would be remiss if I didn't give fair share to some of the others, and there are many, outstanding chocolatiers in Paris.
Jean-Paul Hévin is one of them and actually the first 'haute couture' chocolate I savored here six years ago. His store rue Saint-Honoré was the most breath-taking I'd ever seen and Pierre Hermé no doubt took note of it when he designed his signature store on rue Bonaparte. There was certainly nothing like this in San Francisco when I was growing up, much less sleepy little Menlo Park, so I was in awe, a veritable 'kid in a candy store'. He now has 4 stores in Paris and 4 stores in Japan so if you are heading west, or east for that matter, check them out!
Since Jean-Paul Hévin's first award in 1979 (a gold medal at the Concours International Gastronomique--International Culinary Competition--in Arpajon, France), he has won every competition offered, hitting his crescendo in 1986 when he was awarded the highest honor possible, the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) award in the pastry-confectionery division.
A friend I cooked with last year at the Cannes Film Festival was in France for the vendage (grape picking) in Burgundy and swung up to Paris for a few days. She thoughtfully handed me a beautiful little box and my eyes lit up as I'd know that box anywhere. Same as if you handed me a little blue box with a white ribbon. It could have a rock in it but if it's in that little blue box... anyways, my little brown box thankfully did not have a rock but a sampling of Jean-Paul Hévin's chocolate-covered cheese collection!
I know, I'm a little slow on the draw as these came out as part of his millennium collection but better late...as they say. I'd never tasted such delights and was so excited to savor new combinations of flavors and textures, in this case chocolate and cheese and some herbs or nuts. His chocolats apéritifs au fromage (chocolate-cheese aperitifs) include, from the top clockwise:
Pont l'Evêque parsemée de thym ~ Pont l'Evêque (cow's milk cheese from Normandy) sprinkled (literally: strewn) with thyme
Chèvre parsemée de noisette ~ Goat's milk cheese sprinkled with hazelnuts
Roquefort parsemée de noix ~ Blue Cheese sprinkled with walnuts
Epoisse parsemée de cumin ~ Epoisse (cow's milk cheese from Burgundy) sprinkled with cumin.
In the interest of full disclosure and fair journalism, I judiciously sampled all of them and it's a toss up between the Roquefort and the Epoisse. My favorite cheese is Epoisse but it's hard to beat the tangy, luscious Roquefort. You'll have to order some and decide for yourself!
Now if a few morsels by mail simply won't suffice, and I can't imagine how it could, you can always fly here and completely immerse yourself in this unctuous Parisian world via 2 Bay Area chocolate afficianados!
Author David Lebovitz, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse and a fellow Bay Area expat in Paris, offers his take on the best chocolatier in Paris as well as some other notables. When he's not writing books or exploring hidden corners of Paris, David gives amazing chocolate tours and is a guest pastry chef at On Rue Tatin.
Berkeley's own Leonard Pitt, founder of the aptly named Berkeley Chocolate Club, has written a book on the history of Paris, Promenades dans le Paris Disparu. When he is on this side of the pond, he gives chocolate tours (as well as historical tours) in Paris. I'm taking his chocolate tour tomorrow. I'll report back...as soon as I recover from my sugar coma.
231, rue Saint-Honoré
Tel : +33 (0)1 55 35 35 96
Fax : +33 (0)1 55 35 35 97
23 bis, avenue de la Motte-Picquet
Tel : +33 (0)1 45 51 77 48
Fax : +33 (0)1 45 55 87 33
16, avenue de la Motte-Picquet
Tel : +33 (0)1 45 51 99 49
Fax : +33 (0)1 45 51 28 19
3, rue Vavin
Tel : +33 (0)1 43 54 09 85
Fax : +33 (0)1 40 46 97 51