By Carol Sorgen
Ah, Paris! Strolling along the Seine, window shopping on Avenue Montaigne, gazing at the Mona Lisa.. Sure, you can do all those things (and at some point, you should!). Moi, however? Well, on my most recent visit, I had another goal in mind….sample as many of Paris’ legendary chocolate and pastry shops as I could (without making myself sick or a candidate for the South Beach diet when I returned)!
I know…it was a tough assignment, but hey, I was up to the challenge. And it was all in the name of research, wasn’t it? Not to mention, with all the news out now about the health benefits of chocolate, I figured I was doing something good for myself with every bite–within reason anyway.
With only two weeks, I couldn’t quite gouter my way throughout the entire city, but I made a tasty dent. Here’s my sweet-tooth guide for a chocolate-lover’s Parisian holiday.
Angelina (226, rue de Rivoli; Metro: Tuileries)
This tea shop/lunchroom/pastry lover’s delight is also the most famous place in Paris to enjoy a cup of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). No thin, watery, instant powdered drink here. The divinely rich chocolat Africain is more like a melted chocolate souffle. Served in a little pitcher, with enough for about two cups, and accompanied by a bowl of thick whipped cream, this is hot chocolate overload! Stop by the gift counter and buy the granulated chocolate mix to bring home with you.
Berthillon (31, rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile; Metro: Pont Marie)
You can also enjoy a cup of hot chocolate here, but Berthillon is most famous for its ice cream. Once only available at this location, you can now find Berthillon glaces et sorbets throughout the city, but this is the original. A small boule of glace au chocolat is rich and deeply chocolatey. French scoops of ice cream are much smaller than what we find here, but you won’t mind in the least because the flavor is that intense. One of my other favorite flavors here is gianduja, a somewhat lighter chocolate flavored with orange, containing slivers of orange peel. Delicious!
Café de la Paix (12 boulevard des Capucines; Metro: Opera)
When the weather’s frosty outside, sit in the heated, glass-enclosed terrace and watch the world go by in front of the magnificent Opera Garnier while you choose between a hot chocolate that’s fort en gout (strong, intense) or touche delicate (milder in flavor). If you can stand the sugar rush, enjoy one of the Café’s legendary millefeuilles (no chocolate, but who can go wrong with layers of tissue-thin pastry filled with a creamy custard).
Christian Constant (37, rue d’Assas; Metro: Rennes or Saint-Placide)
For the chocolate purist, Christian Constant offers three different tablettes of chocolate: milk, dark, and bitter (not bittersweet, mind you, but truly bitter). While the chocolate bars and bonbons are exquisite, the chocolate éclair will make you swoon (buy an extra one and take back to the hotel for later!)
Dalloyau (101 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore; Metro: Saint-Philippe-du-Roule)
There are other locations of this famous patisserie/traiteur(carry-out)/glacier, but this is where I found the most delicious caramels I’ve ever eaten. A varied selection of light, medium, dark, and mocha caramels kept me going for days. I’m only sorry I didn’t buy more!
Debauve & Gallais (30, rue des Saints-Peres; Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Pres)
Recognizable from its blue and gold exterior (and packaging), this shop first opened in the early 1800s, when chocolate was sold for its medicinal properties (the French were so ahead of their time!). Choose from an assortment of bonbons, or simply buy a bar (or tablette) to munch as you stroll down the street. My pick for this trip: delicately crunchy nougatine covered by dark chocolate.
delicabar, at Le Bon Marche (26-38, rue de Sevres; Metro: Sevres-Babylon)
Le Bon Marche is my favorite department store in Paris–during this last trip I spent an entire afternoon there! All that shopping left me, shall we say, somewhat parched, so I headed to the stylish new café, delicabar, for a chocolate pick-me-up. This creamy creation of chocolatier Sebastian Gaudard can be savored pure or with a shot of caramel.
Gerard Mulot (76, rue de Seine; Metro: Odeon)
You’ll know you’ve found the spot by the lines outside the door on Saturday afternoons or early evenings as Parisians stop by to pick up pastries, cookies, breads, or some dishes for their evening meal. While not technically a chocolate shop, don’t miss their pain au chocolat, a traditional afternoon treat for French schoolchildren (and myself as well!).
Jean-Paul Hevin (231, rue Saint-Honore; Metro: Tuileries)
One of the famous names among French chocolatiers, Jean-Paul Hevin not only offers more traditional chocolates, but a line of aperitif chocolates–made with cheese. An odd concept…until you taste one!
Laduree (75, avenue Champs-Elysees; Metro: George V)
A French institution, Laduree was Paris’ first tearoom. In the 1950s, the pastry chef at Laduree invented the French macaron–two lighter-than-air cookies filled with a flavored cream (chocolate, lemon, pistachio…the flavors are seemingly endless). Order a small plate of cookies along with Laduree’s chocolat chaud, served in a silver pitcher, and rest your sightseeing-weary legs.
Les Deux Magots (170, boulevard Saint Germain; Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Pres)
I don’t know what others think of the hot chocolate here, but this was where I had my first cup of the drink that was unlike anything I had tasted here at home, so I have a special fondness for this famous café. Sit on the terrace–heated in chillier weather–and watch tourists and locals alike streaming past the Saint-Germain-des-Pres cathedral, or hurrying along boulevard Saint Germain…this is your quintessential Paris postcard moment.
Michel Chaudun (149, rue de l’Universite; Metro: Invalides)
This sculptor of chocolates–with African statuettes, jewel boxes, animals, and more decorating his upscale boutique–also offers chocolates in more traditional forms, while continuing to experiment with new creations. Among his most recent: the Merida, an orange-flavored truffle, and chocolate nougat with almonds and Provencal honey.
Pierre Herme (72, rue Bonaparte; Metro: Saint-Sulpice)
This pint-size shop is filled with chocolates and pastries that literally look too beautiful to eat. Dubbed “le Dior des desserts,” Herme is justifiably famous for his signature offerings, including his dark chocolate macarons.
Pierre Marcolini (89, rue de Seine; Metro: Odeon)
I discovered this chocolatier in Brussels, before arriving in Paris, and then found–lucky me!–that his Parisian store was right around the corner from my hotel. These chocolates are not inexpensive; a small boite containing just three chocolates was 5 euros, but well worth the price. Marcolini, once an award-winning patissier who has now dedicated himself to chocolate, uses as little cream and sugar as possible. Try the bittersweet chocolate with caramelized almonds, the chocolates flavored with honey, tea, jasmine, or spices. Or buy the elegant black tin of shaved chocolate to bring home to make your own chocolat chaud that will transport you back to Paris after just one sip. (Don’t be stingy–buy some for your friends and family back home too!)
Sadly, my two weeks of chocolate bliss finally came to an end (probably not a moment’s too soon). But, as I curl up with my hot chocolate throughout the winter months, I’ll be planning my return trip–and plotting the next round of treats to discover.
Salon du Chocolat
If you’re a true chocoholic, time your visit to take advantage of the annual Salon du Chocolat. Watch a chocolate fashion show, visit a chocolate art gallery, sign up for chocolate cooking classes, or just eat your way through the exposition. Visit www.chocoland.com for more information.
Chocolate Tours of Paris.
Where to Stay
Some of my favorite places to stay in Paris just happen to be within a stone’s throw of some of my favorite chocolate haunts (believe it or not, that actually is a coincidence–although it may not be in the future!).
Hotel Warwick Champs-Elysees
5, rue de Berri, 8th arrondissement
telephone: (33 1) 45 63 14 11
fax: (33 1) 42 56 77 59
Located just steps off the Champs-Elysees, this newly renovated hotel is elegant and stylish without being at all stuffy or pretentious. The staff is friendly and helpful. Walk out of the hotel, turn right, and in less than half a block you’ll find yourself on Paris’ most famous avenue. Cross the street and head right to Laduree!
13, rue de la Paix, 2nd arrondissement
telephone: (33 1) 42 61 57 46
fax: (33 1) 42 60 30 66
On the posh rue de la Paix (next to Cartier no less!) is the completely updated 19th century Hotel Westminster. Still retaining its Old World charm, but with all the modern amenities you could ask for, Hotel Westminster is within walking distance of the famed Opera Garnier, the Tuileries Gardens, the grands magasins such as Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps, and…yes…chocolate. Leave the hotel and turn left; walk up rue de la Paix to Boulevard des Capucines and make your way to the Café de la Paix for a pastry and hot chocolate break. Or, go in the opposite direction when leaving the hotel, making a right on rue de la Paix, walk down to Place Vendome and ogle all the world-renowned jewelers, and then continue on to rue de Rivoli, where you’ll find Angelina’s and their famous chocolat Africain. For English-speaking bookaholics, rue de Rivoli is also home to two of Paris’ English-language bookstores, W.H. Smith, and Gallignani (located next to Angelina’s).
Hotel de Fleurie
32-34 rue Gregoire de Tours, 6th arrondissement
telephone: (33 1) 53 73 70 00
Fax: (33 1) 53 73 70 20
This small, family-run hotel on a quiet street just off boulevard Saint Germain, is my choice when I stay on the Left Bank. Rooms are modern and comfortable, the staff is friendly, and the location, in the heart of Saint Germain, can’t be beat. Leave the hotel, turn left and walk a few steps up to blvd. Saint Germain, make another left and walk to rue de Seine, turn left, and you’ll find yourself at Pierre Marcolini, the Belgian chocolatier who has taken Paris by storm as well. After stocking up there, you can cross over to Gerard Mulot for a pain au chocolat for tomorrow’s breakfast. Back to blvd. Saint Germain, turn left, and keep going to Les Deux Magots, where you can take a hot chocolate break.