Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eating in Paris: La Charlotte d'Isle

One good thing about visiting Paris when it's cold and wet is that you get to spend a lot of time drinking hot chocolate or chocolat chaud as they say here. Forget about those little powdered packets of hydrogenated whatever from Nestle or Swiss Miss that we call hot chocolate in the States. They should not even be mentioned in the same breath as this heavenly nectar.

Here, hot chocolate, as with all with food, is treated with reverence. And the results are amazing -- and all so different. I can see why the French aristocrats tried to hog it all for themselves. Probably the real reason for the Revolution as opposed to that "let 'em cake" stuff. The French peasants probably wouldn't have minded the cake so much if they had a cup of this to wash it down.

So I made it my mission this Christmas visit to scope out the best chocolat chaud in Paris.

The gold standard for me is Laduree. Their chocolat ancien is served in little silver pitchers, and it's like drinking a chocolate bar. After that incredible first sip, you definitely need a swig of water -- and a moment to compose yourself. Yeah, it's that good. Even better, to me than, Angelina's, which is considered by most to be Paris' best.

The best hot chocolate I had this trip was right in the neighborhood on Ile St. Louis. The salon de the La Charlotte d'Isle, pictured here, is always packed, especially with British tourists (the owner is a Brit) and resembles your aunt's crowded parlor. In addition to the amazing hot chocolate, the store sells all kinds of wonderful hand-dipped and molded chocolates. The chocolate dipped candied orange peel is my favorite.

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