When she was still a kid, we tried a slightly bizarre experiment. Instead of giving the kid dessert last, we let her eat it first, wondering if she would then eat more “real” food as a result. It didn’t work, duh. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. She has always had a sweet tooth, and some of this blog chronicles snippets of our pursuit for the ultimate sweet. We once tasted 23+ flavors of gelato at one Roman gelateria. We have featured macarons from Paris in detail. We have written up candy emporiums, pastry shops and chocolate purveyors. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when presented with an opportunity to attend a chocolate buffet (overheard in the hotel elevator), the kid’s ears perked up and there was a twinkle in her eye…
Set in a bright, glass-enclosed and air-conditioned L’Orangerie in the middle of the gardens at the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, the mid-afternoon chocolate buffet appeared to be the ultimate tourist trap in the making… Some $30++ per person when perfectly good meals at city restaurants were running us just $8 or so… but we decided to splurge on what turned out to be the most inexpensive, expensive merienda (more on that later).
I suppose I can understand why most kids and adults go gaga over chocolate fountains. But let me burst that chocolate fountain fantasy right here and now. It turns out they mix chocolate with a LOT of vegetable oil to keep it flowing through those mini-fountains. Otherwise, the chocolate, with lots of milk I suppose, would look like chocolate milk, not liquid sateeny glossy melted chocolate. Eew, you are thinking, and you would be right. Not to worry, I had some anyway, but indulge with extreme moderation is all I can say. :)
The array of chocolates on offer was pretty extensive for such a small hotel and say just 6-8 tables partaking in the buffet. I can’t recall everything they had, but there were far more choices than you could ingest in one sitting, even if you lingered for hours and nursed a pot of tea…
There were cakes, cookies, financiers, pies, in dark, milk, white chocolate. There were muffins, scones, and fruit. Several kinds of ice cream. And even a few savory nibbles in case you needed a breath of non-chocolate goodness.
I told the Kid that she had to have at least five plates to make it worth it, and she complied. I think the plates will have to describe themselves.
I like chocolate, but just can’t have THAT much at one sitting… so I focused on the sandwiches with egg salad, salmon, prosciutto, tuna, mini-burgers, fruit, etc.
We each had a wonderful pot of tea, the Metropole house blends which they also sell in their gift shop. Without the tea, I think it would have been difficult to consume as much as we did in an hour’s time. Clear weather turned to claps of thunder just overhead and a tropical rainstorm, a fine setting for lingering and more tea, and of course, more food.
I think this was my dessert plate and at some point, everything started “melting” flavor-wise into each other…
They also had made-to-order crepes.
Ice cream and fruits dipped in chocolate as well. But the biggest surprise of all. Despite signing for a merienda bill at a nosebleed charge of roughly $100 for three of us, the chocolate buffet ended up costing us absolutely nothing. When we checked out of the hotel, in a very nice gesture to try and make up for several service glitches on our last night, the hotel took the buffet off our bill despite our saying that was totally unnecessary.
From Hanoi to Hong Kong, just a couple of hours away, and the chocolate adventures continued. First, the small jewel box of a shop of Pierre Herme.
Yup, so “precious” and so “pricey”… the macarons rivalled colored semi-precious stones in a different era. So much of this branding, packaging and fluff. But Herme DOES have really good macarons. Though I am told that these may be frozen or at least chilled on their way from Paris, if they aren’t actually baked in HK. I know that Laduree in New York flies theirs in, but I am not sure how Herme gets their goodies to HK. We bought a small box as a present for a friend, and the Kid had a macaron picked out as one might pick out a small piece of jewelry. That’s what I love about shops like these in Paris, one goes there for a little “treat” or an “indulgence” but they stop at one.
The Kid (ex-Kid) picking out a goody at a small branch of La Maison du Chocolat, perhaps the family’s all-time favorite chocolatier, introduced to us by Sister decades ago. I can still clearly recall the first time I ever entered a La Maison shop, it is THAT etched in my memory banks, complete with aroma triggers as well.
My treat was a chestnut eclair, garnished with chestnut cream, a small bit of chestnut and some gold leaf. Enjoyed while sitting at a Starbucks and sipping a cup of tea. The little joys in life. :)