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Champagne table, Paris, by Barbara Redmond

Champagne table, Paris, by Barbara Redmond

Have you ever bitten into an eye shadow? We did… Gaëlle Sève is not just a designer. She’s a poet. Because only a poet would create a cake that resembles lip-gloss. Who, other than a poet, would give a traditional apple strudel a new interpretation in the shape of a famous computer brand? Only Gaëlle Sève, the wife of Richard Sève, one of the top twelve chocolate makers in France.

The adventure started twenty years ago in the suburb of Lyon. Now, Richard and Gaëlle Sève are employing about fifty people, selling in their own three shops plus the Lafayette Gourmet Corner in Lyon. Some people would retire upon such success. But they are doing just the opposite ― innovating more and more so their signature becomes engraved in the French chocolate history.

“The cosmetic industry gets inspiration from gastronomy. Why not reverse this trend?” Here is Gaëlle’s philosophy, the Saint-Etienne Beaux-arts school alumni. She designs, her husband builds up. Their creation?

A very appetizing… make-up! A berry composition of madeleine, cream and jelly. Who would have guessed that biting into an eye shadow would be such a sensual experience?

Maybe the customers who are licking their lips while looking through the window. They must be careful if they finally choose the Roussillon cake with lavender, apricot and praline. “It’s a sunburn in winter!” describes Gaëlle.

Gaëlle and Richard boast about being the designers of the savory macaroon. The foie gras and apple was the first one, in 2000. “We were eating pasta in Venice, Italy, when we got the inspiration for the olive, goat cheese and squid ink macaroon,” remembers Gaëlle. This one has been my favorite one for years! And close your eyes when you taste the cep (boletus) macaroon ― you will feel like hiking in a forest ― with the flavor of the edible European mushroom growing in dry woodland and much sought after as a delicacy.

The Sève couple is always in search of innovation. But you must get to know their classics too. La pierre des Monts d’Or is a unique experience by itself, you’ll never forget that bite of a crispy Piémont hazelnut praline encased in a meringue shell! Or the red pralines pie ― a praline in a roasted almond coated with red sugar flavored by a touch of vanilla, tossed and turned in a one-hundred-year-old mixing machine.

One more thing: when you stop by, keep the ribbon that closes the box of chocolates or macaroons. It’s a wonderful wristband with the Sève logo, the kind French school children collect and trade on the playground. Gaëlle was inspired by her own children, but in fact it is her grown-up customers who are wearing them now!

Laurence Haxaire received her Master Degree in Science and Technology for the Food Industry. She became a journalist and writer specializing in food and flavors after working for the flavor extraction industry in Grasse (the perfume capital of France). Laurence was born in Romans-sur-Isèrre, a bustling town in the South East of France famed for its longstanding tradition of shoe making. She was raised in Lyon, the food capital of Europe, in a family where food is part of a smart education. Her family lives in Bordeaux, France. Website.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Smell and Taste, Sensation and Pleasure, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who explains the “smart” education of the French child who is taught to recognize and describe the flavours, the feeling of taste, and most importantly, why they liked it or disliked it. Her introduction to the world of flavour is all about sensations and pleasure. She urges to “tell what you feel.”

Chocolate Mousse — debonair, dark and irresistibly rich! by Barbara Redmond who tells of this crème de la crème of mousses: a supreme seducer. And uncovers the source of the original dish, first known as “Mayonnaise de Chocolat,” created in the 1900s by French post-impressionist artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Recipe included for Mousseline au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse), by Julia Child from her book, The French Chef Cookbook

French chocolate. Here today. Gone… today! by Canadian writer Philippa Campsie who raises the comparison between dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate. The French, by and large, prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, which they consider rather too Swiss. Milk chocolate is for children. Grownups eat the real thing, the thrilling dark stuff. Recipe included for Mousse au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse) to have at the ready for unexpected guests! 

French Hot Chocolate: Chocolat Chaud, by Barbara Redmond tells about a dazzling early 19th century French service placed on a table at the far end of this dark, yet luxurious, reception room in Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — exhibited as though prepared and waiting for guests. Which French woman should we invite?  Including a recipe for Parisian Hot Chocolate by David Lebovitz.

Text copyright ©2011 Laurence Haxaire
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond
All rights reserved.