There was no shortage of chocolate at Le Salon du Chocolat Paris!
Paris is a city crammed with chocolate shops. On any day of the week you can have your fill, but at the end of October each year things ramp up a notch, or 10, and Le Salon du Chocolat Paris comes to town.
This is the daddy of chocolate festivals, and can now be found at different times of the year in New York, Tokyo, Zurich and various other points on the globe.
As a chocolate writer and judge, I have a lifelong enthusiasm for the dark stuff, and I remember my first visit to the Salon with deep satisfaction, a chance for total immersion! The vast venue at Porte de Versailles is entirely taken over by stalls groaning with delicacies and proffering samples for you to try before you buy. I find I have to pace myself, so I don’t get burned out and miss some real gems.
Makeup-bright colors at AOKI Paris.
The bigger brands, such as Nestlé, Ferrero Rocher and Guylian, dominate the areas closest to the entrance. Venture further in and you are rewarded by boutique brands and more artisanal offerings. Here I found a favorite Parisian chocolatier, Jean-Paul Hévin, augmenting his usual wares with a gourmet hot-chocolate stand.
There was a good smattering of nonchocolate treats. Macarons were of course in evidence, and enough meringues, nougat and marshmallow to build a sugary castle. I was looking out for the dense honeyed globes of spice-laden pain d’épices from Nicolas Pain d’Epices à l’Ancienne, which didn’t disappoint.
Beautiful packaging from Parisian chocolatier Chapon.
However, the point of the Salon is the chocolate, and it offers a unique and fun opportunity to try and learn about chocolate from different makers, chocolatiers and growing countries. I tasted chocolates from Tokyo, beans from Vietnam and bars from Switzerland. In many cases the passionate individuals behind the chocolate are there for you to meet and talk to.
I was heartened to find among the multilayered, multiflavored confections some chocolate of real pedigree and excellence. I found a stash of bars from the Grenada Chocolate Company. Founded by Mott Green, and documented in the award-winning film Nothing Like Chocolate, this chocolate maker has an exemplary approach and product. Its Nib-a-licious bar is wonderful, a full-flavored 60 percent dark chocolate with roasted nibs that taste almost caramelized and give a fabulous crunch.
Gold medal–winning chocolate from Pacari.
Also hugely exciting, and yet at the smallest stall in this giant of an exhibition, was Pacari Chocolate. Flush from success in the world finals of the International Chocolate Awards, having won the most awards of any chocolate maker, I found Santiago Peralta, Pacari’s founder, and congratulated him. If you haven’t tried his chocolate yet, do; it is stunning, revelatory in its complexity and purity of flavor.
Le Salon du Chocolat is an extravaganza of chocolate, a “spectacle,” a mixed bag, but one that does hold gems. There are real chocolate treasures to be found, both international and Parisian.
In a nutshell, this annual feast for the senses is a bit like that chocolate box you are given as a present: you won’t like all the flavors, but it’s still a must-have for chocoholics.
If you like the sound of Le Salon du Chocolat but would prefer a more edited connoisseurs’ collection, try Chocolate Unwrapped in London.
Brioche in the making at Pralus.
Le Salon du Chocolat
Nicolas Pain d’Epices à l’Ancienne
Grenada Chocolate Company
Cat Black is a food writer specializing in chocolate, a sometime chocolate judge and an all-around chocoholic. Visit her at Chocolate Couverture.
Editor’s note: Fouquet is one of our favorite chocolatiers in Paris. If you are a member of the GG2P Travel Club, you’ll get a free gift when you purchase some of its scrumptious caramels, chocolates or other divine goodies.