Posts Tagged ‘free’

Chocolate Land

Monday, October 24th, 2011

We all know that if I was sentenced to death and I was allowed one final meal before my beheading, it would consist predominantly of chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, chocolate sauce, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chocolate… I’d probably ask for muesli and yoghurt as well, and lots of really good cheese, but I would leave enough room to gorge myself on chocolate so that I ended up killing myself with cacao overload rather than having my head removed.

Somewhat unfortunately, I don’t think I will be committing any significant crimes any time soon so my last supper will have to wait. However, I came fairly close to chocolate death on Saturday afternoon when I attended the 2011 Salon du Chocolat with Tom and our friends Sonia and Guibril.

Salon du chocolat

The Salon du Chocolat awaits

Salon du Chocolat is French for ‘Insane Chocolate Fair’ – a large convention hall filled with row after row of stalls selling chocolate related goods. There were high-end chocolate craftsmen, international chocolate makers, bio/eco/organic brands, local chocolatiers, and a strange assortment of chocolate paraphernalia (jewellery in the shape of chocolates, cooking utensils etc.) This being France, there were also two or three stalls selling foie gras and adding chocolate sauce in order to make it theme appropriate.

Salon du chocolat arc de triomphe

Only Leonidas would make something as tacky as this

The main purpose of the Salon du Chocolat is for retailers to present their products and provide little samples that amaze and entice you, resulting in the purchase of more chocolate than you really need. As you can expect from a chocolate-related event held in Paris, it was very, very busy. There were human traffic jams as everyone fought their way to the next chocolate sample. Of course, we’re talking about FRENCH humans who are incapable of seeing other people and who merely barge their way through, stepping on your feet, walking into you and then blaming you for the collision. I think Sonia and Guibril found my intolerance for the crowds amusing as I would push my way through until I found an empty space and then rest there for a while, calming myself down before tackling another onslaught.

As for the chocolate, I wasn’t overly impressed. There were a LOT of stalls and we did sample a lot of chocolate, however none of it really blew me away. I was judging each chocolaterie on the quality of their plain dark chocolate and I can’t say I really liked any of them. I put this down to two factors:

  1. It was mostly French chocolate, which, in my opinion, isn’t the best in the world. The French are very good at putting chocolate INTO things, however their straight chocolate lacks substance and spark. The Belgians kick French butts at dark chocolate making.
  2. The chocolate that was available for sampling had been handled by so many people before I could put it in my mouth. Gross, but true. The teeny tiny pieces that were on offer had been sitting around in strange temperatures and then chopped up by someone wearing plastic gloves. It was hardly the best tasting conditions and the chocolate suffered for it.
Salon du chocolat chocolate

Lots of chocolate

I may have felt differently had I been allowed to taste entire pieces of chocolate. Some of it was really dreadful though. I had a few pieces that had the texture of soap or were gritty and appeared to be full of sand. Not pleasant at all. On the other hand, the higher-end chocolatiers had some amazing chocolates on display with intriguing fillings and beautiful designs.

I did sample one piece of chocolate that did make me very, very happy – it was a japanese chocolate company called Tokyo Chocolate and the chocolate looked like a bright green worm. It was green tea flavoured with a crunchy wafer on the inside, surrounded by dark chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. I stood there looking dumbfounded for a little while, hoping they would give me the entire bowl to finish. Sadly they didn’t. The other chocolates on offer from Tokyo Chocolate were beautiful – bright shiny surfaces and amazing intricate designs. I want to find out where I can buy their chocolates because green tea is good for you and so I should probably have some more.

For Tom, the highlight of the Salon du Chocolat was the alcohol companies that were also promoting their wares with free samples. The perfect accompaniment to chocolate – a glass of Baileys Irish Cream whizzed together with ice. We spent a fair amount of time standing next to the Baileys stand, taking turns to get more rounds. It made tackling the French human traffic jams more bearable.

Baileys at Salon du chocolat

Thank you, Baileys.

Overall, the Salon du Chocolat proposed the ultimate experience and I think if I had been more willing to buy, I could have gained more enjoyment from it. However, nothing enticed me enough to want to make a purchase, particularly considering I have a box of Willie’s Venezuelan 72% in my kitchen. Now THAT is a death-defying chocolate experience.

Sunday, Lovely Sunday

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Every now and then I fall in love with Paris all over again. I am always ‘in like’ with this city but every now and then I see something or do something or discover something that makes me completely infatuated. Yesterday was a delightfully sunny Sunday in gay Paris and as it was the first Sunday of the month, all of the museums and art galleries were open for free. BRILLIANT. Tom and I met a visiting Perth-ian, Amanda, at L’Orangerie – an ex-orangery, or Napoleon III’s greenhouse, that now houses Monet’s water lilies.

The glass building contains two curved-walled rooms which allow you to be surrounded by eight of Monet’s works. It is one of my favourite places in Paris – when there aren’t many people in the rooms it is a particularly relaxing experience. The free-entry did mean that there were far too people in the gallery yesterday but I highly recommend the L’Orangerie to anyone visiting Paris. I plan on visiting the real garden in Giverny sometime soon. I think I might wait until after the French holidays when tourist numbers die down. There are so many people around at the moment – it’s a bit overwhelming.

Monet

So pretty.

After the gallery we headed into Saint Germain for food before we headed to the Shakespeare and Co bookshop. WOW. I love bookshops but I never knew I could feel this amazed by books on shelves. Shakespeare and Co is an English bookshop near Notre Dame that I had read about but never been to. On one of the tours that I have been on lately, the guide pointed out the bookshop so off I went to see why it was so amazing. Every single book you could possibly imagine is in this place. The room is a mess of shelves, covered in books of various sizes, ages, quality. There are chairs where you can sit and read (if you are lucky enough to score one as the shop was full of people) and upstairs is a library full of old books that you can read at your leisure on one of their couches. It is a bookshop of intellect and cultural development – there were so many books on philosophy, history, art and cultural theory. I couldn’t buy anything I was too overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I need to go back when it isn’t a Sunday afternoon and the place isn’t full of English-speakers. I almost asked if they had any jobs available and probably will next time I am there. It was one of those dream-like places that you see in movies. I can’t wait to go back.

Shakespeare and Co

Look at it! So lovely...