Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here, have some Chocolate

"Tell us that chocolate story, Mommy!" my kids would beg when they were little. "Pleeez?!"

So I would once again tell them about visiting my friend Isa in France. At about 5 pm, when we were in initial preparation for dinner, her kids were hanging out in the kitchen. They started pulling grapes from the fruit basket and popping them in their mouths. Isa reprimanded them. "Stop eating all that fruit. You'll ruin your appetite. Here, have some chocolate instead." She handed them a tablette of dark chocolate. They each took a square or two.

At each telling, my kids would giggle anew with delight; and that anecdote became a staple in the family repertoire of Why We Like France: chocolate instead of fruit before dinner??!!

When I lived in Paris, I lost any sweet tooth I may have had. Lunches or dinners were rarely followed by dessert, but I almost always had a little espresso and a square of dark chocolate. I'm not much of a chocolate connoisseur, but I found that even the thin Nestle or Cote d'Or square were silky and had just enough bite to make them interesting.

Here in the US, it's been a challenge to find the proper chocolate replacement. Lindt hasn't done the trick. I can't remember all the varieties I've tried, but I have thrown out many big bars of unacceptable chocolate. It's as if the manufacturers think that it has to be bitter or sweet. Besides, the bars are all too thick for my taste.

Yesterday at the local gourmet foods grocery store, at long last I found Ghiradelli chocolate in individually-wrapped thin squares. Yesss! I was thinking. The perfect dessert. I was recapturing, I hoped, a bit of Parisian life.

Then, at the check-out. The courteous cashier rang up the salmon, the cous-cous, the wine, the grapes. She held the chocolate out to me. "Did you want to keep the candy in your handbag, ma'am?"

Update:  this photo (via Nestle)  is of the chocolate that kept me happy in Paris.  Chocolate with bits of cocoa bean.  That's not candy, it's cuisine!


Deja Pseu said...

Polly - I have two "just a square is enough" dark chocolate staples. One is Valrhona 71% cacao which one can get at Trader Joe's or upscale grocery stores. It's not individually wrapped, but scored into squares.

The other, which will knock your socks off, is this stuff:

Jeannine @ Small and Chic said...

I offer you my mother's solution. She keeps a massive brick of dark chocolate(it's roughly the side of an open magazine) in a special container the basement. She also has a hammer dedicated to chocolate smashing. She orders from a catalog called A Cook's Wares. They sell all sorts of top quality dark chocolates (though I can't find a list of brands on their website...she just calls them).

Every now and then, she goes downstairs, smashes the brick a bit with her chocolate hammer, and brings up the pieces in a dish which stays in the cabinet until it's empty.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

In Santa Monica we have a wonderful shop called Chocolatt... from Belgium. The chocolate is divine and I treat myself whenever I am within the vicinity of ten miles :)

Anonymous said...

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Dali said...

In 36 hours I return to Paris for a two-week stay. Your opening anecdote has caused me to believe with heart and soul that the square of bitter chocolat served with my every cafe creme will be as satisfying to me as it was to those French children. I go with the attitude, "When in France . . ..".

Meg said...

Ha! The irony is that Lindt owns Ghiradelli. Lindt stores used to sell "thins" which came in a little box that I loved to keep in the fridge for a quick nip - they were truly thin and I always had dark (70%) and intense orange at hand. Stores don't stock them anymore because US consumers aren't interested in them - I have to buy them online or get my sister (who works for Lindt HQ) to score some for me every now and then.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Thanks for all these helpful tips!

I guess what struck me as funny at the store was that the cashier handed me my "candy" to supposedly nosh on immediately, a thoughtful and very American gesture. But the exact opposite of why I was so thrilled to have found the small portion of good chocolate, to savor after a meal.

I don't think of pure chocolate as candy; it's chocolate. A snickers bar would have been another story :)

The Duchess said...

The ending made me giggle, Polly. It's not quite the same thing, chocolate and candy!lol

Amber said...

Now I'm amused because I love Lindt, but not Ghiradelli... and I hear that the British Toblerones are much better than what we get here in the States.

Berowne said...

I am surprised that you sort of dismissed Lindt. Is it possible you never tried their dark choco bar filled with cherry AND CHILI?!
A symphony...

vicki archer said...

I love this chocolate story...xv

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I'm still trying to find a replacement to my "perfect" Paris chocolate moments. A small square that was a great coda to a meal.

Excuse my blunt personal info, too, but American dark chocolate still gives me.... zits. I thought somehow that I had overcome that because it never happened once in Paris. Different recipes??? /environmental factors? # years of chocolate bliss. Now back in the US, same prob. Grr. Something for the scientists to ponder.

And Berowne, I love your suggestions. However, I was never a fan of chocolate and fruit together; just a personal issue, though I love the idea of orange or cherry + chocolate. My stomach doesn't like the combo.

Pure chocolate. Ahh, some day!

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