Chloe Chocolat – The Ultimate Chocolate Connoisseur

I love chocolate.  Alyssa loves chocolate. If you are a visitor of this blog, chances are you love chocolate too.

But I promise you that there is no one on the planet who loves chocolate more than Chloe of Chloe Chocolat in Paris. In fact, I guarantee it.  If chocolate were a city, she’d be the mayor.

My recent chocolate journey through France was extraordinary but there was one chocolate encounter that outshone all others.  It happened on our second last day in Paris when we, quite by accident, stumbled upon the this charming store front and met Chloe.

I thought this would be “just” another exquisite chocolate shoppe – I had no idea I was about to meet the most passionate, enthusiastic chocoholic of them all.  Chloe is not a chocolate maker. She is a chocolate ambassador, a chocolate champion, a chocolate connoisseur.

She very well may have the most coveted job in the world as she has gone from being a chocolate buyer for a prestigious department store in the UK to being one of the most sought-after chocolate experts who consults with chocolatiers on how to perfect their chocolate, speaks all over the world about her passion for chocolate and in her quaint shop in Paris she is a focused chocolate educator. Basically, all day every day she thinks about chocolate, talks about chocolate and tastes chocolate. I wish I’d discovered her earlier in our trip to participate in one of her chocolate classes and join her on a tour of Paris’ very best chocolate.

This is a woman who has a contagious excitement for chocolate that is unparalleled. And she’s generous, oh so generous, with her vast knowledge of her beloved subject.  We spent so much time with her where she coached us through a tasting of all of her favourites. Some might call Chloe a chocolate snob – but it would be accused with the greatest of affection.

One of the first things she said was “white chocolate is not real chocolate” and at that moment it was that all I could do to not to kiss her at the recognition of a kindred spirit.  She believes that real chocolate lovers enjoy chocolate in a pure bar form – not filled chocolates or truffles. Those are candy chocolate – often amazing candy but not for the purist.  She told us she tastes chocolate every morning at 6am while her palette is the cleanest.  And she talked at length about where in the world the very best beans worthy of the very best chocolate are found.  She shared the chocolate is best paired with tea and never with coffee (something I’ve always loved but thought I was alone on) because the coffee flavour overpowers the chocolate.

Chloe Chocolate puts her name on only one milk and one dark chocolate (the smoothest dark chocolate you can imagine) and she sells them along side the perfect tea pairings.  It will ruin you for all other chocolate. I bought so much that we went over the weight limit on our suitcases at the airport.

But she does make one exception and carries a special line of dark chocolate from Bolivia which she helped them develop and perfect. She takes none of the profit from the bars and sends everything back to Bolivia.  My favourite was the Fine Dark which may be the most incredible chocolate I have ever put in my mouth.  She helped them with a really special coffee infused chocolate – to help those who insist on pairing coffee with this instead.

So it’s glaringly obvious I am smitten with Chloe’s chocolate-centric life and absolutely enjoyed meeting her.  It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  I even bought her book. And while it’s not a literary masterpiece and reviews on it are on both ends of the spectrum, what I love about it is her unabashed charming approach that reads exactly like she speaks.  Take the very first page of the Acknowledgements for example …

“I want to thank my dear friend chocolate, who has been my best friend (sometimes a she, sometimes a he), my companion for more than 25 years and the source of much of my joy. As with people there are the good and the bad chocolates, the elegant and the vulgar, the honest and the cheats, and the jewels you keep as close to you as possible for the rest of your life. My best friend chocolate is always there for me, supporting me even when things go wrong.”

And there is no question that chocolate is Chloe’s best friend. And I was grateful that she introduced me to that friend and for the brief time I spent with her as she illuminated her vision of a world of artisanal fine chocolate.

If you are ever in Paris you must meet the larger-than-life Chloe Chocolat.

~ Sandra

 

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J’aime le chocolat de la France

Although chocolate may have been conceived in Mexico, it was indisputably perfected in Europe.  The most euphoric chocolate experiences I’ve ever had were in France, Belgium or Switzerland.

Enroute to our favourite pâtisserie in Cannes for chocolate croissants.

Recently, I was lucky enough to enjoy two glorious weeks touring throughout France with my family.  We ate chocolate croissants for breakfast. Every. Single. Day.

And in each city and town we visited, I made it a priority to seek out a local chocolatier.

I savoured some wonderful chocolate, befriended interesting chocolate enthusiasts and enjoyed every delicious moment of the trip.

Eating chocolate in a park overlooking the French Riviera = bliss.

 We spent our first week in Cannes and discovered more than one special chocolate shoppe.  The very best, without hesitation, was Jean Luc Pele.  You are first drawn in by the colourful macaroons (my favs were flavoured with champagne – of course).  Once inside, you can’t help but stay for an array of mouth-watering milk and dark chocolate.  The staff were so lovely and when we returned a few days later, they remembered us and we were treated like family.

Their perfumed meringue candy was his favourite.

Also in Cannes was Shies.  They clearly cater to a more upscale clientele and were anything but hospitable.  The chocolate was extraordinarily expensive (a small box for more than 100 euros!) and the service was absent.  In fact, the staff were brisk, cold and noticeably irritated that I dare bring a child into their shop.  The dark chocolate wafers that we purchased (one of the few budget friendly chocolates) were, admittedly, delicious. But they were not nearly as good as any of the other chocolate I tasted throughout France.  Someone should write a memo to the jet-set crowd that this is one instance when you are most definitely not getting what you pay for.

Ahhh Monaco....

We also spent a spectacular day meandering through Monaco and Monte Carlo and were delighted to stumble upon the Chocolaterie de Monaco.  Since 1920 they’ve been dazzling locals and tourists with their phenomenal chocolate. The location is charming and the store’s aroma captivating. Although they did have some verrrry expensive selections, unlike Shies, the price was warranted and there were also a host of options for every budget.  We chose some amazing milk chocolate squares that had a hint of cayenne to tease the palette.  Perfection.

Paris = the city of love and chocolate.

In Paris there was no shortage of chocolatey options.  The first we visited was the famous La Maison du Chocolat. It was impossible to miss it with locations all over the city and I am glad we stopped by. We chose a gorgeous box of filled chocolates – each more awe-inspiring than the next.  These were the kind of chocolates you must devour in one sitting. A fabulous treat after a long day of walking the streets of one of the world’s most stunning cities.

All the chocolate we tasted was incredible and I positively enjoyed being a chocolate-tourist on a quest to discover the best chocolate each locale had to offer.  And I did, indeed, find the best.  In fact, I spent an hour in chocolate heaven at the fifth and final chocolate destination of our travels.  There, I met the quintessential chocolate connoisseur and had a chocolate tasting like no other.  It almost defied words.  This experience deserves a whole post in itself so I shall leave you waiting just a bit longer to hear all about it.

For now I bid you au revoir.  Stay tuned for the chocolate discovery that very well may have changed my life…

Vive la France!

~Sandra

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Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Well, hello there! So sorry that we’ve been incommunicado of late. The lovely Sandra has been vacationing in France, and you bet your “derrière” that she’s been eating chocolate (posts to follow!). As for me, I’ve been rehearsing a play that opened this past Thursday and have been spending all of my free time (…”free” time. Ha! That’s funny…) desperately trying to get up to speed on lines. And trying to fit into a corset. Dagnabbit, those things are tight!

Now, I don’t know where y’all live, but sufferin’ succotash, it’s been hot as Hades ’round these parts for the past couple of weeks. The kind of hot where you get out of the shower and immediately start sweating. It’s been nasty. And in that kind of heat, even a die hard chocoholic like myself tends to lay off the regular chocolately fare a bit. I find myself downing mocha frappucinos and chocolate popsicles instead. But when The East India Company sent us their sea salt and milk chocolate bar to try…well…a girl’s gotta eat, right?

The bar looks very elegant, as is befitting the image of a company with such a rich history. The milk chocolate is lovely and smooth, with just a hint of sea salt. It’s a quality bar, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer my sea salt paired with dark chocolate, not milk. I am loathe to admit that because I am the Champion of Milk Chocolate. I almost always prefer it to it’s darker companion. To me, though, this pairing falls short.

I am, however, VERY curious to try some of the other products that the company has on offer, so if you have a moment, do check out their website. Milk chocolate enrobed latte beans? Milk chocolate enrobed raspberries? Those are right up my alley. They also have some very intriguing looking chocolate boxes.

All right, lovelies. I’m going to try to peel myself of my chair now and find some ice to pour down my shirt. (Isn’t that a lovely picture to leave you with…?) As you were.

~Alyssa

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Red Sox + Chocolate = Awesome

My son and I have the most splendid tradition. Every year we go on a mother-son trip. We’ve gone by train to Canada’s east coast, saw our nation’s capital, ventured to Vancouver and Victoria BC, lived it up in NYC and this year we went to visit dear friends in Boston.

Our first All-American-uber-patriotic baseball game. Gooooo RedSox!

For four days we explored one of my favourite US cities and had the best trip ever.

Our amazing hosts know my obsession penchant for chocolate and arranged for us to go on a tour of a local chocolate factory. Founded in 2006,  Taza Chocolate is one of the only bean-to-bar chocolate factories in the US. They use vintage chocolate machines to make 100% stone ground, organic chocolate.  They have a reverent respect for the chocolate process and are deeply committed to ethical business practices and sourcing through direct trade relationships.  Taza is especially proud to use authentic Mexican stone mills and hand chisel each millstone.

I don't usually like Orange chocolate but this was one of my favs.

This is a chocolate company that is serious about their chocolate.  Verrrrry serious. So serious that their $5/person tour might have been the longest 45 minutes of my life.  I must say, I couldn’t be more impressed with the company and the chocolate is positively exquisite.  Really extraordinary quality.  They have so many interesting elements to their process and such an inspiring story to tell about their mission. But somehow they haven’t figured out a way to translate that into a tour that is remotely engaging.  The tour guide was quite possibly the most boring woman I have ever encountered and the approach felt like I was in a grade-11 algebra class (except I may have enjoyed algebra more).  We made it through the tour by privately making Ooompa Loompa jokes and editorializing the presentation.

The tour came complete with super hawt hair nets. We're ready for our "I Love Lucy" audition.

But then again, you can’t be great at everything. And Boston’s own Taza is truly great at making phenomenal chocolate.

~ Sandra

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Chocolate DNA

My 9-year-old is a mini-me version of his father.  He looks nothing like me. Nothing. In fact, I have been asked more than once if I am his babysitter. Nice.

But this week he provided evidence, superior to any DNA test, that he is alllllll mine.

We made the epic revelation that his two favourite candy bars are the EXACT same as mine were at his age. (I am careful to call these candy bars and not chocolate bars because now as an adult I know the difference in, um, real chocolate.)

But it made my day to wax on nostalgic to my son about how much I loved these two gems:

Wunderbar …

The peanut butter, the gooey-ness - it was perfection. I may have eaten nothing but this for lunch on more than one occasion.

And Big Turk ….

The name made me giggle and the jelly inside was a delight! Yummm

What were your favourite childhood candy bars??? Do tell…

~ Sandra

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Dean is Sweet.

(edited to announce winner below)

I’m a simple girl. (Okay, okay. I’m a simple girl with a *small* flair for the dramatic. Ahem.) You will usually find me playing Country Mouse to Sandra’s City Mouse. For the most part, you can throw a box of Turtles or After Eights my way, and I’m as pleased as punch. As long as I don’t have to share. Every so often, though, I go out of my chocolate comfort zone and sample the finer things in life.

What I like best about Dean’s Sweets is, well, Dean. I’m so unmoved by people shouting from the rooftops that their chocolate is the best! you’ve! ever! tasted! With Dean, you get the impression that he’s just a guy from Portland, happily making quality chocolates without all the bells and whistles.

He even made a YouTube video. He would have won me over with that alone, but the chocolates themselves are hand-made, hand-dipped, nut-free, most are gluten free (!!), and use local ingredients whenever possible. His personal approach and attention to detail are apparent in the results.

Dean’s architectural background shows itself in the balance of flavours – no one flavour is overpowering. I tried a lot of truffles (And I mean A LOT. This job is hard. Please feel free to get out the violins.) and they all had one thing in common: subtlety. My go-to favourite, Maple, was buttery and not overly sweet. The Champagne was understated and almost marzipan-flavoured, not boozy. The Raspberry hinted at sweetness but didn’t make my teeth hurt. And the Coffee wasn’t too bitter, as most I’ve tried are.

I’m not a fan of creative flavours. I’m simply not that open-minded when it comes to my ‘preshuss’ sweets. Personally, I would avoid the Bacon Buttercrunch. The buttercrunch part was fantastic, but I found the bacon…unsettling. The Lemon Apricot Chèvre was intriguing, but the goat cheese was, for me, too strong a pairing with chocolate. But, if YOU are daring, I say have a go!

The standout winner for me were the Sea Salt Caramels. The shell is a semi-sweet/bittersweet mix with large crunchy bits of salt. The inside was chewy (not sticky) and delicately (not cloyingly) sweet. I imagine it’s their bestseller, as my only regret was that they didn’t include more in the sampling.

Intrigued? Mouth watering yet? Because we have a giveaway! The fine folks at Dean’s Sweets are offering a 16-piece box of truffles and caramels – winner’s choice – see the website www.deanssweets.com for flavours.

Leave a comment by 12 noon EST Tuesday April 26th telling me your favourite flavour to pair with chocolate, and we’ll randomly draw a name*. 

‘Cause who doesn’t need some more chocolate after Easter’s over? Am I right??

*With my deepest apologies to all our international peeps, this particular giveaway is only for residents of Canada and the U.S. But we still love you! Mwah.

GABRIELLA!! You’re the first commenter AND the winner! Please check out the Dean’s Sweets website to choose your flavours, and let us know.

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Tropical Break (no bikini required)

(edited to announce winner below)

No, we haven’t joined a chocolate nudist colony (as interesting as that sounds).

Instead, we are going tropical with coconutty chocolate!

Our friends at TWIX have developed a new coconut version of their famous caramel cookie bar and they recently sent it to Blog Chocolate to review.  I’m a sucker for a good marketing spin and was looking forward to their “taste of the tropics that is sure to give coconut lovers the feeling that they’ve been island hopping for weeks.”

In general, I am not a huge fan of mass-marketed candy-bars.  Alyssa will tell you that I am the chocolate snob ’round these parts.  But I have been known to enjoy a classic TWIX once in a while – especially because I can eat just one of the two bars and save the other for later so I don’t feel guilty. (Oh, who am I kidding. I’d eat them both at once. But at least there is the option and to reduce the guilt.)

TWIX Coconut is exactly as you’d expect it to be – same caramel and cookie, covered in milk chocolate but with a coconut flavour.  If you are not a coconut fan, you’ll want to skip this as there isn’t just a hint of coconut – the flavour is unmistakable.  I happen to absolutely love coconut (and all tropical drinks with umbrellas for that matter) so this bar was made for me.  Because of that, I actually preferred it to the original TWIX.  It’s not gourmet chocolate – but it isn’t trying to be. Caramel and coconut are a terrific combination. Delish!

Groovy coconut cup Twix sent us to enjoy along with their bar. It's always happy hour somewhere!

This coconut-loving chocolate snob liked it and I bet you will too. In fact, why wait to find out?  Leave a comment below for a chance to win a special prize pack that TWIX will send directly to you.  It’ll include a new TWIX coconut bar, a TWIX USB flash drive, an eco tote AND your very own groovy coconut cup!!! And who doesn’t need a groovy coconut cup?

We’ll randomly draw a name from all the comments at 12 noon EST Monday, April 11th.

Good luck. May the coconut be with you …

~ Sandra

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And the winnnnnnnerrr isssss …. Jess from Daysgoby!  Congratulations!!  Thanks to all the commenters who entered. Stay tuned for more amazing chocolatey giveaways again soon 🙂

Posted in Chocolate!, Chocolicious Reviews, Giveaways! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments