Author: Estelle Tracy
If you’ve watched any of my chocolate reviews on YouTube, you know I have a French accent — a real, authentic French accent resulting from 23 years in France. Because my family and friends still live there, I make a point to visit every couple of years. This spring, after a three-year stretch without eating a Parisian baguette, I booked a round-trip ticket to the City of Lights. This trip to France was my first as a chocolate-lover and I was excited to explore the city through the lens of my new passion. I wanted to bring back as many chocolate bars as I could but, with a schedule packed with meet-ups and and appointments, I could not visit all the chocolate boutiques I wanted to (sorry I missed you, L’Étoile d’Or.) However, by visiting the right shops, I did manage to access a wide selection of chocolate bars I could not find in the US. So if you’re planning a trip to Paris, here are three of my favorite addresses to make the most of your stay.
Ever since I was a kid, I was a fan of Les Grands Magasins, the names given to Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, the largest department stores in Paris where my mom used to take my sister and me as kids. These days, you’ll likely find me at Lafayette Gourmet, the Galeries Lafayette’s specialty and artisan foods outpost located behind the Opéra. On the first floor, pick macarons by French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, pralines by chocolatierJean-Paul Hévin, and linger at the Manufacture d’Alain Ducasse corner. Manufacture d’Alain Ducasse is the brainchild of French chef Alain Ducasse and chocolate-maker Nicolas Berger. To date, the Manufacture is the only place in Paris making chocolate from the bean. In their Lafayette Gourmet Corner, you’ll find exquisite chocolate in a beautiful, cacao-inspired decor.
The Manufacture offers a wide range of bars, from the playful milk chocolate to the serious 100% dark. You can sample most confections, so feel free to ask the staff for a bite before committing. I liked the smooth, slightly dry finish of the dark chocolate bars, my favorite being the 75% Mexico bar with its elegant, subtle citrus notes (I bought three!). The ganaches and citronnettes (chocolate-covered candied lemon peels) were boldly flavored and delicious.
Chocolate nerds can also pick up a poster of the chocolate manufacturing process, a stylish chocolate cooler, or a practical guide on chocolate tasting which will enhance your chocolate tasting sessions by expanding on your vocabulary… if you speak French, that is.
Next, take the escalator downstairs, where you’ll find a large selection of pantry items, including bars from several French chocolate-makers. There are entire shelves devoted to French makers, like Bonnat, Chapon, and Michel Cluizel. The selection may be overwhelming (check out the Bonnat shelf on top!) but, if you like your chocolate to melt easily in your mouth (i.e. bars with added cocoa butter), then consider getting an assortment of Bonnat bars. Since Bar & Cocoa carries several bars from this maker, I picked several I could not find online, such as Fraize, a dark chocolate with crisp strawberry inclusions that does not take itself seriously. I finished mine in a day so consider buying a stash!
35 boulevard Haussmann
Open Monday – Saturday from 8.30 AM – 9.30 PM
If climbing the 92 steps of the Lamarck-Caulaincourt métro station does not scare you (OK, there is an elevator), then head right to Kosak Glacier for an exciting selection of bean-to-bar chocolate from all over the world. Nestled in the heart of Montmartre, the small shop serves artisan ice cream when it’s hot (the myrtille or blueberry flavor is outstanding) and bean-to-bar chocolate when temperatures drop. In a city where most chocolate shops could be mistaken for jewelry shops, owners Nathalie and Catherine have managed to create a slick, yet playful setting for their bars. Browse the selection on the cool chocolate wall, ask for a few samples, and remember to take a selfie in front of these bars before you leave.
The shop’s a great place to pick hard-to-find bars you may have seen on Instagram: think UK-based Pump State Bakery or Rozavolgyi from Hungary. I fell hard for Dubai-based Mirzam Chocolate and their delicate flavor combination, such as fennel & date dark chocolate or saffron white chocolate. Bars by French maker Ara Chocolat and Cacao de Origen from Venezuela won me over as well. Nathalie and Catherine are super friendly (and their English is really good), so feel free to ask them for guidance.
106 Rue Caulaincourt
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 11 PM
Although I’d known of French chocolatier Jacques Genin for years, it was not until I read Les Secrets du Chocolat by French graphic novelist Franckie Alarcon that I felt like visiting his shop. The book paints the chocolatier as a humble, generous man obsessed with flavor, so I was curious to try his confections. The Rue de Turenne shop is designed like a high end tea salon with a minimalist, zen vibe, reinforced by the elegant flower displays on each table.
To best experience the chef’s creativity, consider splitting a few specialties with friends, such as the chocolate ganaches (the pralines were my favorites) pâtes de fruits et de légumes or fruit and vegetable pastes (the red pepper was a stunner), as well as the Paris-Brest. The latter, a circular cream puff filled with praline cream, wowed me with the intense roasted hazelnut flavor of its airy filling. You’ll want to linger at that place, feeling grateful to be in Paris.
133 rue de Turenne
Métro : République, Filles du Calvaire, Temple
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 7 PM (7:30 PM on Saturdays)