On a bright and blustery morning, I met my fellow chocoholics and our fearless guide: food writer, former pastry chef, and chocolate guru, Barbra Austin. She led us on a truly decadent stroll.
My favorite among the shops we visited was Debeauve & Gallais (photo above), once the chocolate supplier to the royal court of Versailles. At the time, chocolate was considered medicinal and each lady had her own prescription.
The old-fashioned shop, which has been in the same location since 1800, still sells Marie-Antoinette’s favorite pastilles (photo above). I’m pretty sure “Let them eat chocolate!” was the Queen’s original quote; such a shame that her words were twisted by the 18th-century media.
In between chocolate shop stops, Barbra filled us in on the confection’s brutal history and other secrets of the sweets trade. She told us about the chocolate-making process, and we played with cocoa pods, nibbling at the fragrant, bitter bean within.
One of the great things about Context is that they limit their tours to no more than six people. Thus, our group was able to squeeze into chocolate box-sized shops inaccessible to larger tours. It was in one of these tiny stores, Jean-Charles Rochoux, that I saw my favorite chocolate product of the day: tête de moine au chocolat (photo above, left). It’s an homage to the delicious Swiss cheese, tête de moine (photo above, right) — hilarious, n’est-ce pas?
I could go on and on, mes amis, about the other shops we visited, the fascinating tales Barbra told — not to mention the delicious chocolates we ate — but I don’t want to reveal all of Context’s secrets and bonnes adresses. Suffice to say, I spent a very sweet three hours on the Chocolate Walk (and then I didn’t eat for the rest of the day).
Debauve et Gallais
30 rue Saints Pères, 7e
tel: 01 45 48 54 67
16 rue d’Assas, 6e
tel: 01 42 84 29 45