Monthly Archives: January 2013

A classic nouveauté at Cacao Art: the Mendiant

The Cacao Art mendiant

The Cacao Art mendiant

This is the story of how Cacao Art finally put the mendiant, a thin chocolate disc with raisin, dried apricot, pistachio and almond, on its permanent menu.

This very traditional French bonbon has always been a favorite of my mother’s. We would make them for her birthday and they would also creep into the boxes of Latitud 10 Chocolates in Caracas. They are easy to make and look very, very elegant. But it remains a little controversial: you either love dried fruits and chocolate or you don’t. As it happens, we do, so it was easy to add it to our Masterpieces collection.

Here’s the funny part of the story: my mom explained to me once, in passing, that the mendiants were named after the four beggar orders of the Catholic Church and have been served in France for centuries during Christmas. I loved this tidbit of history and liked to tell it when anyone asked about them… but, I never did know the names of the four orders… So it would go like this:

Interested party: Why is this called “mendiant“?

Me: ohhh, great story, each of the fruits and nuts represent the four beggar orders of the Church: the Franciscans, the Dominicans… and I don’t know the other two!

(Awkward little laugh on both sides)

That was my schtick and I was sticking to it! However, sister-in-law Adriana couldn’t take it anymore. We were proudly hacking our wares at the Fairchild Garden’s annual Chocolate Festival and she heard my half-assed version once too many times. A quick search in Google yielded the results: I was missing the Agustinians and the Carmelites! She even told me which fruit goes with what order (Dominicans, almonds; Franciscans, raisins; Carmelites, pistachio; and Agustinians, dried figs or apricots) and they were chosen according to the colors of the orders’ robes in the Middle Ages. So, now I know and the story is so much richer for it. Thanks, Adri!

The mendiants sound traditional and fancy, but, like Susana points out, they are your basic recipe for an awesome power bar. So, this dainty little bonbon has a lot going for it, don’t you think?

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A stroll around the Christmas market

This December the whole Cacao Art family packed their bags and went to Paris for the New Year. The weather on the whole cooperated, and we were able to walk along the big boulevards with the Christmas lights and stare at the intricate window displays of the great stores. We visited our favorite chocolatiers, although unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out Patrick Roger’s new flagship store.

We did manage to spend quite a bit of time in the Marché de Noel in the lower half of the Champs Elysees. Rows upon rows of chalet-inspired little stands, selling everything from candied apples to crystal unicorn figurines. Some enterprising soul even sold plush stuffed animals, but microwaved them before handing them over so they were nice and toasty in the new owner’s (usually little) hands. Other stands sold fancy kitchen knives, elaborate balaclavas in neon colors or hand-made perfumed soaps. And then, there were the food stands… oh, the food stands!

It was 10 o’clock at night. We hadn’t had anything for dinner, mostly because we were still stuffed from a huge lunch, French-style: lots of pate, baguettes, escargots, meat, duck, wild berries, fresh clotted cream, etc. But who can say no to a cup of simmering mulled wine with slices of oranges and cinnamon sticks? or a surprisingly satisfying hot chocolate when the temperature starts to go down, down? Then the smell of caramelized onions hits and you know you’ll give in to one of those Alsace sausage hot dogs before the hour is done. Little sister went straight for the gyro stand, where warm pita was liberally stuffed with fragrant chicken and tahini sauce. The others were still looking around, deciding if/what to get, when my 9 year -old godson announced that he had never in his whole entire life had tasted a hot dog.

We were amazed and perplexed. There was nothing to do, but go get him one of those gorgeously grilled sausages-and-baguette things that stand for hot dogs in these parts of the world. It was great, the sausage had a little spice that was off-set by the sweetness of the onions (couldn’t pass those up). He was very happy with his choice, so we bought a couple more and shared them.

Simmering onions and grilled sausage for hot dog perfection

Simmering onions and grilled sausage for hot dog perfection

Now, for dessert. Of course, there were the ubiquitous crepe makers, with their huge jars of Nutella. There were also proper gaufres, a type of waffle that is airier and fluffier than its Belgian counterpart. We stood amazed at the canelé stand, where they were making fresh batches of these sweet little treats. Also fresh from the deep-fryer: crispy, golden churros dusted with sugar. There was a stand selling nougat by the pound with all sorts of nuts, from traditional almond to pistachio and dried fruits. We loved the chocolate utensils stand, where all chocolates were made to look like rusty tools.

Chocolate tools, nougat by the pound and freshly churned churros

Chocolate tools, nougat by the pound and freshly churned churros

On the whole, a wonderful marché experience. And a great start to the new year.

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