Let Them Eat Chocolat
While Paris’s 6th arrondissement might have a long and illustrious history in literary and artistic spheres, but it is its contribution to the world of sinful sweets that interests me most on this overcast morning. Bypassing the Café de Flore and its adjacent Picasso sculpture, I set off on my guided walk with Context to explore the streets of the 6th in search of the perfect macaron and caraque de chocolat.
Naturally, we start at the beginning—the oldest chocolate shop in Paris. Debauve & Gallais, founded by Sulpice Debauve to make Marie Antoinette’s medicines more pleasurable, has had its shop at 30 Rue des Saints-Pères since 1819. The pistoles (small round chocolates) are made the same way today as they were in Marie Antoinette’s day. I’m overwhelmed by the options, but bravely dig into a pastille de la reine (99% cocoa flavoured with almond oil) and nibble at a ganache from Ghana as recommended by our docent.
As we wind our way through the cobblestone streets and alleyways we pop into Patrick Roger, the self-professed ‘sculptor of flavours’ who wows chocolate lovers with his edible effigies. I stand agape in front of his chocolate ape. Next is Boulangerie Poilâne, home of what many consider to be the best pain au chocolat Paris has to offer, which of course, I have to test out for myself. Twice. And finally, we land at the Pierres—that would be Pierre Hermé and Pierre Marcolini, two of the brightest stars on the sweet scene in Paris at the moment.
Pierre Hermé hits the holy trinity of confections—macarons, pastries, and chocolate. Some praise his creative macarons (featuring such blends as olive oil and vanilla and chocolate and smoked salt), others his viennoiseries and cakes, and others still his galets and nougatines. Today I praise it all, most especially the Ispahan macaron—his famous rose, lychee and raspberry blend that is a best-seller.
But at the end of the day, Pierre Marcolini steals my stomach. Originally from Brussels, Marcolini has been making chocolate since the 90s, winning numerous ‘Best Of’ awards and expanding his empire from Europe to Asia and most recently to New York. Over the years, he’s perfected his unique style and flavours. I eagerly sample his blackcurrant caraque and pepper-flavoured chocolate, as well as his Earl Grey ganache, which easily becomes my favourite treat of the whole tour.
Move over Picasso, there’s a new treat in town.
Curiously, Melissa returned to the Toronto office with none of the above mentioned chocolate. We were told that the customs officials “removed the evidence” from her bags at the airport upon arrival. Perhaps. Or maybe she’s just so committed to planning amazing trips that she took a few boxes home for further research.