Few things make my pulse quicken more than the arrival of a present that is almost certainly some sinfully excessive food item. Some of the best presents I have received in the food category bring back vivid, highly positive memories — a hunk of kobe beef delivered in a mini-bayong, several large wheels of triple cream cheeses, succulent veal chops hand carried from a New York butcher, jars of damson plum jam, a magnum of fine Bordeaux and, of course, boxes of fine chocolate (a kilo of Valrhona at one Christmas dinner!). After dinner this evening, the cook walked into the dining room with a very recognizable brown shopping bag and says “oh, I forgot, Mrs. X sent some chocolate…” Yahoo! What better way to end the meal than with a bite (or several bites) of chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat.
I first tasted a La Maison du Chocolat treat at their tiny shop off of Madison Avenue in the late 1980’s. Their chocolate was flown in from Paris twice a week and even though the prices could give nosebleeds, their chocolate tasted spectacular. In the late 80’s, on a trip to Paris, I walked up and down the Faubourg St. Honore until I found the main store, a brown and white temple to cacao. Cool white marble counters were stacked high with dozens of different styles of chocolate and the aroma was memorable. So I have a 20-odd year history with this fine confection. I may be just a tad biased.
But superior quality stands out and La Maison du Chocolat has excelled for the past twenty years. Available at shops in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo, this chocolate is the ultimate pabilin (item you ask some hapless or willing traveller to cart back with them). This evening’s box housed the best candied citrus peel dipped in dark chocolate. Absolutely delicious. Thank you, thank you, Mrs. X. Other standouts include their truffles, ganaches, pralines, etc. Trust me, it’s worth every euro.
A second favorite and far more reasonably priced chocolate is Royce, a Japanese chocolate that has extraordinarily high cocoa butter content that makes the stuff literally melt on your tongue. The tiny boxes come with about 30 squares of super rich tasting chocolate and they have several flavors such as champagne, milk, bitter, etc. Recently featured in a column by Reggie Aspiras in the Inquirer, this chocolate is available in Hong Kong (near City Super food markets), Singapore and Japan. At just US$9.50 for a small box, it is a relatively affordable chocolate. But don’t buy too many boxes as they require refrigeration and tend to harden after a few weeks. They should be eaten fresh.
While Royce chocolates are extremely smooth and very rich, I still prefer La Maison du Chocolat for their intensely chocolately taste. If you happen to be at one of their Parisian locations, try one of their large chocolate macaroons with a cup of hot chocolate, I know you will leave their shop in a very good mood.