I have been there so many times I can’t count. I went to graduate school there and know my way around without a map for the most part. And speak French. I can’t think of another city, except maybe London or New York or Rome, that offers as much inch-for-inch as Paris.
This billet doux to one of my favorite places on earth is dedicated to my great friend, Pam – sybaritic travel companion, fellow hedonist and all out funniest person on two legs. She has been the Gayle to my Oprah and I the Ethel to her Lucy. Thank you, my friend, for an unforgettable trip to Paris.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE
Love art? It’s there. Love food? It’s there. Love design? OMG. The head spins 360º. Then there’s ‘culture’. Been there, done that you say? Well, no you haven’t if you haven’t been on The Chocolate Walk. You heard me.
A little company called Paris Walks offers all manner of interesting walking tours around the City of Light, but I hadn’t heard of it till planning this trip. Thanks to Pam and her friends, PW turned out to be a great vehicle for seeing a place I thought I knew pretty well from a totally new perspective. The star option among the tour offerings competing with the mighty Louvre and Musée D’Orsay, presented by the charming and informative Iris, is The Chocolate Walk. And if that doesn’t make you smile, go have a drink.
Pam proposed that we absorb some culture in this new and wholly indulgent way and she didn’t need to do much arm-twisting to get me to sign up. Enough Monet already. What did I really know about chocolate except that I liked it a lot? According to Gayle there was research to be done and – she assured me – the calories wouldn’t count. Something about the ecstasy either offsetting or overriding the indulgence. I bought into her reasoning (wtf) and decided that the pleasure principle should override all consideration of the consequences. They could be dealt with later, way later, in spin class back in Amagansett.
Can you imagine anything better than seeing Paris at street level through the lens of dark, sinful, mind-bending chocolate – with a soupçon of history thrown in?
This lovely pleasure-promenade started on the Rue L’Arbre Sec, meandered through the Galérie Véro-Dodat (Louboutin Central for anyone who cares) and from there to the Palais Royal gardens and along the Rue St. Honoré. The route was punctuated with well-timed stops at Gosselin (1), Cotes De France (2), Michel Cluizel (3) and Jean-Paul Hévin (4) for the heavenly tastings. All highly recommended.
HOT CHOCOLATE SMACK DOWN
You may be an Angelina fan where hot chocolate is concerned, but if you ask me there’s another show in town chez Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier on the Rue St. Honoré. We discovered him on the Tour. A definite Smack-Down candidate.
Pam, the avowed hot chocolate gastronome came down squarely in the Angelina column, because that woman never met a sucrose molecule she didn’t love. And thick molten chocolate, reminiscent of the stuff you’d pour all over a hot fudge sundae, but way better, is her idea of Shangrila. Slather on the whipped cream which Angelina’s serves in obscene proportions and Pam groans – out loud – like Meg Ryan doing the fake-O-demo for Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Whatsertoes.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MACAROONS
I digress. The Smack Down. Pam’s definition of great hot chocolate is a), that it be viscous enough to hold her spoon in an upright position, unaided; and b), so sweet that an insulin injection is in order when she’s done. Angelina doesn’t disappoint on either count. Add a few macaroon chasers (just a few) and we’re talking about a sugar-induced coma you wouldn’t want to wake up from.
CHOCOLATE STILETTOS, I KID YOU NOT
My preference – she’s going to kill me when she reads this – is a bit more raffiné, la di da. At Jean-Paul Hévin the hot chocolate is more to my liking, which is to say less viscous and sugary, but densely flavored nonetheless. (And they make an edible chocolate stiletto in that shameless pleasure dome, so let’s say I was a tad biased before the hot stuff crossed my lips.)
It, like Angelina’s version, is prepared in the old style thanks to Queen Anne, Consort to Louis XIII, mother of Louis XIV. It is heated, cooled, and then reheated to encourage its thickening and mind-bending concentration of flavor. Thank you, Queen Anne, and your talented Molina, chocolate lady-in-waiting (told you it was educational), for sharing the recipe. Proud to be your namesake in the Sisterhood of Chocoholics.
Back to Hévin. There were macaroon chasers there, too, because we wanted an even playing field before the final votes were cast. No offense to Angelina’s, but Hévin offers a macaroon made from orange blossoms, a touch of mango and the tiniest soupçon of ginger that is guaranteed to curl you toes. The taste sensation delivers slowly, subtly, and when the dénouement arrives, this little two-inch wonder rises to the level of Better Than. (Talk about afterglow. Almost asked for cigarette and I don’t smoke.)
CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE?
I could go on, but this is getting too long and I can just cut to the chase here: LOSE THE GUILT, PEOPLE. Life is short. Chocolate, divine chocolate, gift of the pleasure gods, is medicinal in ways you can barely begin to imagine (like that red wine you now requireyourself to take once a day). It’s good for your spirit, something you should never, ever overlook, and succumbing to the desire to pop a little morsel in your mouth is not a sign of weakness, no, no. It’s the brilliance of your brain telling you just what it needs, but without the editorial comment. So how about some of those white chocolate GOLF balls? (There had to be a connection…) Better yet, head to Paris and walk the walk. Chocolate Walk.