Searching for inspiration at the Salon du Chocolat, Paris

There is no denying that at Cacao Art the inspiration comes with a decidedly French accent. Our favorite chocolatiers are of the Gallic persuasion: Michel Richart, Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hevin, La Maison du Chocolat. There are others, of course,  like the very classic Wittamer and avant-garde Pierre Marcolini both in Brussels and the gorgeous and hip Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona. However, when you open a box of our confections, we hope you are reminded of a chic Parisian boite de chocolat.

With our shared love of chocolate, Paris and chocolates from Paris in mind, Susana and I bought tickets for the Salon du Chocolat. We thought it would be a great learning experience and we certainly took home a lot of ideas.

This is a trip to the Mecca for chocolate lovers. We went to lectures given by people such as chocolatier extraordinaire Francois Pralus, the godfather of molecular food Herve This and renowned chocolate expert Chloe Doutre-Roussel. There was also a book signing by a rather large Pierre Herme (must be the sampling of his many delectable macarons), an “organoleptic” tasting of Nestle’s new haut chocolat brand and workshops on marketing and advertising.

In the ground floor, we sampled all sorts of delicacies, from exotic spices to countless chocolate bars. Our most cherished discovery was the divine Veritable Fondant Baulois, a thick and decadent chocolate cake. It is like biting into a rich brownie, only this one is made with the best quality cacao and has just the right touch of salt to balance out all the sweetness. Sometimes you can find it at the Grand Epicerie de Paris at the Bon Marche department store. Luckily for us all, they recently launched a great website with e-shop: www.lefondantbaulois.com.

We could not have enough of the delightful little Praslines churned fresh from the stand of Mazet Confiseurs. Perfect oval almonds are given a caramel-infused whirl in a professional coating machine to produce cracking, golden little treats. We also loved their Chocabas Amandas, which are shaped like almonds but are actually small discs of hard candy and crushed almonds covered in chocolate and dusted cocoa.

We were most impressed with the perfection of the Japanese stand, where chocolatiers were dipping each bonbon using chopsticks and managing to avoid any unsightly drizzles.

For lunch we tried the foie gras and chocolate sauce sandwich, a rare combination that maybe we should have forgone. Also not a success: a small bonbon filled with a too tangy fromage de brebis. But what is the point of going to the Salon without trying the unexpected, right?

We look forward to returning, even if it means eating chocolate and sheep’s milk cheese all over again.

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