Got a sweet tooth? No better place than Paris to find relief - and so many delights. Here is a first address that is sure to please some of the most demanding palates.
Jacques Genin is a French chef, cookery book writer, and leading chocolate and caramel maker in Paris. He supplies friandises to more than 200 top French hotels and restaurants, including the Hôtel de Crillon, the Plaza Athénée, and Le Meurice. His chocolate factory has been described by the New York Times as "a holy site for connoisseurs."
Genin is self-taught, not a certified maître chocolatier under the French denomination and, as such, a bit of a self-described maverick, if not an outright rebel. He began his career in a slaughterhouse. The artisan and crafstman opened his first restaurant when he was 28, and at age 33 worked as head pâtissier at La Maison du Chocolat. In 2010, he was named one of the top French chocolatiers by the Club des Croqueurs de Chocolat. (Source: Wikipedia)
The fondeur en chocolat looks like a Vuitton store. A most beautiful vitrine onto no less beautiful ganaches, pralinés, pâtes de fruits (jellies), nougats, and caramels. Per the website, chocolate "N’est-il pas le roi des contraires ? Né des pays chauds, il ne supporte pas le soleil." Which translates grosso modo, chocolate "Isn't it the king of paradoxes? Born in hot countries, it can't bear the cold."
Like in so many places in Paris, there is the occasional service miss to be expected. One negative review on Google (by Esteban Sagel, which carries 11 likes) does capture some of the misconducts. During my many visits, no such misadventures, however.
Based on experience, just be cognizant that some customers customizing their boxes of candies and friandises, may require as much as 5-10 minutes to process. In a line of five to ten parties, it adds up to a seemingly interminable 20-30 minute wait. All it takes is one of the attendants taking a break and the shopping will sure test your patience.
This said, the service is attentive, painstakingly at times. In every detail, you can feel both the artist's genius and the love of his customers. The French have another word for it, dévouement. But, make no mistake about it, the dedication is such that it has the energy and commitment of devotion; the gods must be involved. A desire to delight customers, to enchant the most discriminating palates, are near impossible to question. The use of sturdy metal boxes and insulating bags to protect the treasures, as well as conscientious advice on how to store the candy to maintain the best texture and flavor, also apply and comfort.
The ganaches and pralinés are the stars. A box of bonbons de chocolats or écrin ganaches & pralinés available here provides newbies with a great overview, will cost you a rather steep 38 euros at time of publication (for 36 pieces), but is worth every penny. As for particulars, try the ganache chocolat noir à la menthe or dark chocolate with fresh mint or the miraculous romarin-fleur de sel praliné. Other wonderful samples include nature (plain), miel de châtaignier, thé, vanille de Tahiti, fève tonka, café, basilic, bergamote, orange-safran, pain d'épices, éclats de fève de cacao, gingembre, amande, noisette-feuilleté, noisette-citron vert. Manatea, ganache chocolat au lait, vanille de Tahiti. Hespérides, ganache milk chocolate, pamplemousse or grapefruit. The list goes on, the selection of flavors available is contingent on seasonality and other factors.
I am dying to try the praliné à la banane, a favorite of Jade Génin, the daughter of Jacques Genin (per the chololatier's website), and the ganache chocolat au lait à la réglisse (licorice). There is always next time.
Caramels are some of my favorites, as well. Silky smooth, chewy but not sticky. The mango specimen was love at first sight, but I've come to appreciate many other flavors in due course of time. Try au beurre et à la fleur de sel, nature (plain), vanille, chocolat, miel de châtaignier, gingembre, café, pistache, amande, noisette, noix de macadamia, noix du Périgord... "Un flamboiement sucré!" or sweet flamboyance, the website deems them.
Even a simple rocher (yes, that big one) is quite satisfying. Jacques Genin's only advice or seul conseil, "Mangez mes chocolats et mes confiseries au coin de la rue ou dans votre fauteuil préféré, en haut de la tour Eiffel ou au creux d’une forêt… mais comme mes pâtisseries, dégustez-les frais." To sum it all up, consume wherever you wish, but fresh.
The Rive Gauche store, located at 27 rue de Varenne, Paris 7ème, and 126.96.36.199.72.21, only offers takeout, no dine-in.
The location in the Marais at 133 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris and 33 1 45 77 29 01 also serves as a cafe with exposed-brick walls serving handcrafted chocolates, pastries, and coffee.
Hours of business and other store logistics are available here.
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