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(French) Who hasn’t dreamed of spending Valentine’s Day in Paris? After all, Paris is the city of love. Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but Paris is the city where lovers plunge impetuously into fairy tales: walking along the Seine and its countless bridges; admiring Paris’ oldest monuments; and, of course, ending the day with a delicious dinner at a Parisian restaurant. Now, isn’t that romantic?
For Valentine’s Day, the French give gifts of flowers, jewelry or chocolates. But chocolates—oh, chocolates—are always the most appreciated gesture, as many of the greatest chocolatiers are found on the streets of Paris. We are very lucky, indeed.
Sipping chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) in an authentic Parisian tearoom is warming on a chilly afternoon. I love hot chocolate, especially the Chocolat Viennois. It has Crème Chantilly, a light and fluffy whipped cream that is often sweetened or flavored with vanilla. The Chantilly gives a cup of hot chocolate a special, sweet freshness. When the waiter arrives with the order, the smell of the chocolate enchants the entire space with sweet expectation. Parisians like sitting at a café after a walk in the city or after work to drink a coffee or a chocolate. There are cafés everywhere (some are better than others). The hot chocolate at the restaurant La Rotonde is delicious. Its chocolate is sweet (and in good dose), and the Chantilly is velvety-smooth. Two other tearooms that are famous for their hot chocolate made in the traditional Parisian way are Angelina and Le Grand Colbert.
In France, everybody loves chocolate (or, almost everybody). If you tell a French person that you don’t like chocolate, you might be seen as very strange. When guests are invited for an occasion, the first cake that French hosts think of serving is chocolate cake even, if it is purchased from a patisserie and not made using the family recipe. Chocolate cakes are always good. Growing up, I cannot remember a single party for my friends or for me where there wasn’t a chocolate cake; and sometimes even more than one. It was like an institution. A party without chocolate cake would be like summer without sun. Together with my mom and sister, we made the same chocolate cake recipe over and over again and it never failed. I do not know where the recipe came from, but we have entirely seized it and shared it with many friends who have said they’ve never found the same delicious taste in any other recipe. It is a simple chocolate cake, and my favorite. It brings me good memories and when I think about it, I can still smell the chocolate, which filled the entire kitchen with its rich, sweet aroma.
Of course, there are other cakes with chocolate that are more sophisticated, like the Opéra cake, which is made with both chocolate and coffee. I do not like the flavor of coffee, but still, the Opéra cake is delicious. The coffee mixed with chocolate gives a smooth and a unique taste. It is composed of layers of light almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache. Some culinary historians date it to the 1890s, while others insist is was a mid-twentieth century creation at a Paris shop (recipe for Opéra cake: http://frenchfood.about.com/od/desserts/r/Opera-Cake-Recipe.htm).
One of the best Opéra cakes I have ever eaten was from one of the most famous Parisian chocolatiers, Michel Cluizel. He makes traditional chocolate, without soya lecithin. His shop boasts chocolates of different flavors; I like those made with praline, both crisp and soft. And there are chocolates specifically for cooking that provide a better taste for chocolate cakes. Michel Cluizel is located at 201 rue Saint-Honoré, one of the most beautiful streets in Paris—it is always a pleasure to visit the area for its brasseries and tearooms. Almost every brasserie or tearoom offers chocolate desserts, such as a religieuse or éclair, which are similar to each other. The éclair is an oblong pastry made with choux dough, filled with chocolate or coffee crème pâtissière and topped with icing in the same flavor. The religieuse, a type of éclair, is a French pastry made of two choux pastry rounds, one larger than the other, filled with crème pâtissière and frosted with icing. Tasty! When I eat one, I save the little pastry round for last, because it is the cutest and the most savory. Jean-Paul Hévin is famous for his éclairs. His shop and a tearoom are at 231 rue Saint-Honoré near Place Vendôme.
Another cream puff and chocolate delicacy is the Profiterole. Profiteroles are mini puffs classically served stuffed with vanilla bean ice cream, and in France, drizzled with rich, dark, hot chocolate sauce. Ice-cold vanilla cream with hot chocolate is simply sensational. Profiteroles are not a dessert found everywhere in Paris, so if they are in the menu, I order them. Delicious, and very filling. The two restaurants in Paris where I tried really good profiteroles were L’Impérial and Le Café du Commerce. It has been a long time since I have eaten at L’Impérial, but I have fond memories of teatime following the theater. On the contrary, I was recently at Café du Commerce for lunch. This restaurant is a typical Parisian restaurant of the nineteenth century, with beautiful décor and lovely meals. Recipe for profiteroles in hot chocolate sauce: http://frenchfood.about.com/od/desserts/r/Profiteroles-In-Hot-Chocolate-Sauce-Recipe.htm.
In almost every French bakery, you can find chocolate cakes. When you enter a bakery, you smell the bread, croissants and pains au chocolat, which have just left the oven. Bakeries are a true paradise for gourmands. In France, bakeries are on every street corner, and everyone has his or her favorite one. When children leave school, they rush to the bakeries to buy pastries for the teatime, le goût.
One of the best restaurants for a Valentine’s Day dinner in the city may be the restaurant Le Jules Verne, located on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, which provides an idyllic view of Paris at night. Lights from the apartments and streets in the area combine to give a heavenly atmosphere. In addition to this magnificent view, the food is delicious and refined. Another idea for dinner on Valentine’s Day could be a bateau-mouche cruise touring the Seine. The boats pass in front the most spectacular monuments of the capital, including Notre Dame and La Concièrgerie, which are wonderful in the night, glittering in all their lights. Although there are some bateaux-mouche that stay on shore, the feeling is still magical.
The restaurant Lapérouse is very chic and famous for its original concept. It was founded in the 18th century in a former hotel particulier, and the decoration is still intact. When you go inside, you feel transported to another time, as if you were about to meet the Parisian bourgeoisie of centuries ago. The restaurant has also private rooms where noblemen went to have a rendezvous with their mistresses or a business meeting. These restaurants are expensive, but they make a wonderful Valentine’s Day evening. And since it’s not every day that you get to spend Valentine’s Day in Paris, why not make immortal these moments?
Flore’s Chocolate Cake
– 9 oz of chocolate
– 6 or 7 eggs
– 4 tablespoons flour
– 1 and 1/3 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Melt the chocolate and the butter over low heat.
3. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks. Gradually add sugar and flour. Beat until ribbons form. Stir into the chocolate mixture.
4. Wisk eggs whites. Fold chocolate into egg whites.
5. Line the bottom of a 9” spring form pan with parchment paper.
6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. Cool cake in pan before turning out.
Valentine’s Day in Paris: Recommended chocolatiers, tearooms and restaurants.
Valentine’s Day – Hot Chocolate in Paris
226, rue de Rivoli 75001, Paris (0)1 42 60 82 00
31, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le 75004, Paris (0)1 43 54 31 61
Café de la Paix at the Grand Hotel
5, Place de l’Opera 75009, Paris (0)1 40 07 36 36
15, rue Montorgueil 75001, Paris (0)1 45 08 57 77
228, rue de Rivoli 75001, Paris (0) 44 58 10 10
231, rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris (0)1 55 35 35 96
La Charlotte de I’isle à Paris
24, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le, 75004, Paris (0)1 43 54 25 83
La Maison du Chocolat
8, Boulevard de la Madeleine, 75009, Paris (0)1 47 42 86 52
La Rotonde Montparnasse
105, Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris (0)1 43 26 48 26
75, Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008, Paris (0)1 40 75 08 75
Le Grand Colbert
2, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris (0)1 42 86 87 88
8, rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, 75006, Paris (0)1 43 26 60 48
2, rue Théophile Roussel, 75012, Paris (0)1 43 47 58 60
46, boulevard Raspail, 75007, Paris (0)1 45 48 87 17
Valentine’s Day in Paris – Chocolatiers
Debauve et Gallais
30, rue des Saint-Pères, 75006, Paris (0)1 45 48 54 67
231, rue Saint-Honoré, 75001, Paris (0)1 55 35 35 96
201, rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris (0)1 42 44 11 66
Valentines Day in Paris – Profiteroles
240, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (0)1 42 60 73 27
Le Café du Commerce
51, rue du Commerce 75015 Paris (0)1 45 75 03 27
Valentine’s Day in Paris – Restaurants
51, Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris (0)1 43 26 68 04
Le Jules Verne
Tour Eiffel, 75007 Paris (0)1 45 55 61 44
Flor der Agopian was born in Clamart, a southwest suburb of Paris, where she grew up and lives today. She is in the final years of terminale, which is equivalent to the senior year of high school in the U.S., where she is preparing for her Baccalauréat at the Lycée Françoise Rabelais de Meudon. If accepted into the language program, Flore will study history, literature, and the culture of anglophone societies and will hopefully study abroad in the U.S. or Germany.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Chocolate Mousse – debonair, dark and irresistibly rich! by Barbara Redmond who looks into this crème de la crème of mousses and uncovers the source of the original dish. Mousse as the supreme seducer was 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 as they consider milk chocolate rather too Swiss. Also, 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 as she tells about a dazzling early 19th century French service placed on a table at the far end of a 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.
Le soufflé – l’amour, la romance and ladies who lunch, by Barbara Redmond who invites us to join the “ladies lunch,” with French food specialist Deborah Lee Johnson (founder of French for A While) and Kathy Morton (a Certified French Specialist, retired professor, co-recipient of the Julia Child Endowment Fund Scholarship, and also current designer of culinary tours for Tour de Forks). The soufflés, wine, and champagne were enjoyed at La Cigale Récamier, a restaurant located on a tiny pedestrian street in the seventh arrondissement in Paris. Recipe included for Soufflé au Chocolat (Chocolate Soufflé), by Georgia Downard from Evie Righter’s book, The Best of France: A Cookbook.
French chocolates, a poetic experience, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who, together with Barbara Redmond, visited the famous chocolatier Richard Sève in Lyon and writes about various delightful and inventive creations. Gaëlle and Richard Sève boast about being the designers of the savory macaroon, with their combination of such flavors into the olive, goat cheese, and squid ink macaroon.
Text copyright ©2013 Flore der Agopian. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.