Thursday, March 18, 2010
ODing on Chocolate
I know, I know. There are those who say there's no such thing as too much chocolate but after the experience I had Tuesday, I beg to differ. I'm no chocoholic, but when someone offers to include you in a behind the scenes tour of one of Paris's oldest family chocolateries, how can you say no?
Servant has been doing business on rue d'Auteuil for nearly 100 years and though they've expanded to locations in Neuilly and rue de Sevres, they're still making the good stuff by hand in the basement of their shop in the lower 16th. We saw the ganache being stirred and then once cooled, delicately painted with another layer of the dark stuff; almond paste being rolled out and cut into bite-sized morsels; hollow chickens, bunnies, puppies, and bells being filled for Easter baskets; and the amazing enrobing machine in action. It's nothing like that old I Love Lucy episode; it's all on a much smaller scale although the total production is still staggering.
The proprietrice proudly displayed the storeroom where freshly made chocolates await their turn on the store shelves, nothing frozen, nothing older than a week or two. She kept pulling out box after box: ganache infused with red peppercorns or jasmine tea, dark chocolate coated orange peels, crunchy nut squares. I wish I'd had a baggie in my pocket! As it was, I finally had to say, "non, merci." One of her sons, who also works in the business, joined us for a few minutes, popping bon bons as he chatted. He admitted that he eats 30 to 40 pieces a day, hard to believe because he was trim and fit. But then again, the whole operation is crammed into a tiny space, requiring employees to climb up and down stairs from the laboratoire to the storage rooms and packing areas.
The front room itself is all 19th century charm, worth a visit in its own right. But beware, chocolate this good doesn't come cheap: 96 euros for a kilo, 70 plus for the largest Easter egg adorned with a signature orange bow. Those who take their chocolates seriously will not be disappointed.