05 December 2009

Reasons to live in Paris, entry 1

For my impending senility, or maybe just to look at on those occasional trying days here, I've decided to keep track of the reasons one should live in Paris. No ranking or top 10 list or anything-- just good stuff about being here, as it happens.

But if I were keeping a prioritized list, smart money would have a hot chocolate break on a rainy day at Jacques Genin's boutique/tea room near Republique pretty darn close to the top.

Paris has quite a number of good spots to get hot chocolate, and we've been partaking frequently, lately. Angelina's (wonderfully rich but a bit sweet for my tastes) and Charles Chocolatier (dark and intense, no dairy used so just a little gritty, which I quite liked) were both good starts. Unfortunately, perhaps the first entry onto the "reasons not to live in Paris" list, well, after the obvious entry of bilious coffee, is that there is also plenty of lousy hot chocolate in Paris, and while we were out wandering with guests last weekend, we had two examples of that.

But today, knowing we were going to be in that part of town, we made a point of finding Genin's shop, not certain it was open and less certain yet there was really hot chocolate to be had. The shop is luxuriously sparse, and any other place in Paris would squeeze at least 3 times as many tables into the tea room. As such, we had to wait nearly 30 min for a table, because to our modest annoyance, they don't offer the hot chocolate to go. But the charmingly gracious and graceful hostess brought us each one of Genin's fabulous caramels while we waited, which aside from nearly prompting a marriage proposal from me (my second of the day, because the waitress at Breizh Cafe, surely on another day its own entry onto the Reasons to Live in Paris list, brought us (me) not 2 but 4 caramels after I waxed poetic about their caramel beurre salé that came on my dessert crêpe), made me hope it might be another 30 or 60 min of waiting. And the experience once seated was worth at least twice that wait and made the thought of take-out seem downright silly. In addition to hot chocolate, which comes with a sugar bowl covered with an assortment of flawless chocolate-covered bitter orange rind or ginger (how is that that other tables were leaving these amazing treats on the table?), there's a menu of pastries, including popular made-to-order mille feuilles, and a tasting of chocolates.

We had 2 magnificent hot chocolates, rich, dense, smooth, and perfectly (ie, only modestly) sweetened. Oh. My. And Karen had a chocolate eclair, decent enough pastry filled with a heart-stoppingly good chocolate cream, and I did the chocolate tasting, 7 little chocolates filled with chocolate, spice, honey, herb, or nut, all of them superb. The only problem with the chocolates was that getting every nuance of taste while drinking the hot chocolate was a bit like doing a wine tasting while drinking a bottle of a big California cabernet. Next time (and there will absolutely be a next time) I'll do a pastry sûr place and save the chocolates for bringing home.

Chocolicious: the wonder that is chocolat chaud at Genin.

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