Gourmet Buzz: Chocolate, c'est chic!

By Margaret Kemp At the annual European Salon de Chocolat , the air is heady with the dark stuff. “Chocolate for All: All for Chocolate,” is the slogan for the fair. Think of being let loose, like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, to guzzle ganache and pop pralines. Would Christopher Columbus have recognised his humble bean, pounded, sculpted and creamed beyond his wildest dreams?
 

A staggering 94 percent of the French admit to a chocolate habit. They eat an annual 6.6kg each, not counting what they tuck away at the Paris Fair. For 5 days 100,000 + chic chocoholics line up to discover a world of chocolate. The event is divided into delicious and exotic sections showcasing chocolate from its birth as a bean in say, Ecuador, via careful fermentation and the ultimate trip to the world’s big chocolate houses. There’s even a Chocolate Fashion Show; supermodels sashay down a runway in choco-dresses designed by self-confessed chocoholics Sonia Rykiel, Paco Rabane, Celine and Ungaro. There’s always a line for Jacques Bokel’s Erotic Karma Sutra Chocolates. Great Christmas gifts chez Jacques
 

There are stands displaying choco-flavour slap by Urban Decay and Bobbi Brown. Perfume for the soir is the chocolate/vanilla/caramel/ patchouli-scented Angel—France’s No.1 selling fragrance—by Thierry Mugler. All the left-overs go to charities such as Carole Bouquet’s La Voix d’enfants.
 

This year the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome is offering choco and fashion aficionados a brilliant idea to satisfy cravings for both worlds with HAUTE CHOCOLATE, including a superb designer room (Ed Tuttle’s décor is stunning) and the much coveted VIP stiffie to the Chocolate Fashion Show (October 27th), which opens the door to an evening of total hedonism. As it’s the choc fest’s 10th anniversary, the runway show includes a retrospective of the last decade’s looks, re-created in chocolate! A heart melting experience, trust me.
 

And don’t forget to save room for the complementary Chocolate Breakfast in the Park Hyatt’s Les Orchidées restaurant. Oh, and there’s Chocolate Tea Time, a tasting with the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef, a dinner for 2 in The Grill and as much chocolate as you can tuck away, swilled down the the finest wines! Better get into training now.
 

“Chocolate has a personality. It’s a cross between the weak and the strong, the erotic and the emotional. I love the colour, which I can never define: a dark red sunset, a black night,” observes Alain Passard, the three-star Michelin chef at Arpege.
 

So how do you eat chocolate and stay in shape? Jennifer Wayland Smith, director of The Hotel Hershey Spa, Pennsylvania thinks it can be done with a few sessions of Chocolate-therapy. The spa treatment, Chocolate Escape, takes three hours. So what do you get? A foamy chocolate bath, an exfoliation with cocoa butter and cereal, then you are painted with chocolate and left to cook ‘til you are done, I suppose you can lick it off, if you’re that way inclined. All this for about $265. Other possibilities on the menu include a Chocolate Fondue Wrap, rinsed off with Vichy mineral water; it costs $90. “Chocolate contains caffeine, known to stimulate circulation, and it definitely can stop cellulite forming,” promised Wayland Smith. At Nuxe Spa, Paris, Aliza Jabes recommends treatments à la base de cacao.
 

Meantime back in the kitchen, why not make a warm NUTELLA tart?
 

 

THE CRUST:
1 fully baked 22-cm tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough. Cooled to room temperature.
 

THE FILLING:
200 grams Nutella
140 grams bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Noir Gastronomie, finely chopped
200 grams unsalted butter
1 large egg, room temperature, stirred with a fork
3 large egg yolks, room temperature, stirred with a fork
2 tablespoons sugar
140 grams hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, cut into large pieces.

1. Preheat Oven 375F (190C).

2. Spread Nutella evenly over bottom of crust, set aside while you make the ganache.

3. Melt chocolate and butter in separate bowls either over—not touching—simmering water or in a microwave. Allow them to cool until they feel warm to the touch.
 

4. Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the egg into the chocolate, stirring gently in ever-widening circles and taking care not to agitate the mixture—you don’t want to beat air into the ganache. Little by little, stir in the egg yolks, then the sugar. Finally, still working gently, stir in the warm melted butter. Pour the ganache over the Nutella in the tart shell. Scatter the toasted hazelnuts over the top.
 

5. Bake the tart for 11 minutes—that should be just enough time to turn the top of the tart dull, like the top of a cake. The centre of the tart will shimmy if jiggled. Remove the tart from the oven and slide it onto a rack. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Yum!
 


At The Park Hyatt-Vendome “rates begin at 590€ valid from October 26-29, 2004, with a minimum stay of two nights, including October 27th the date of the Chocolate Fashion Show”. Want to stay longer? No problem—the rate of the day will apply, upon availability.
 

5 rue de la Paix, 1st. (Metro Concorde)
T: 01 58 71 12 34
 

Salon de Chocolat 28th October-1st November 04.
Porte de Versailles (Hall 5).
Metro: Porte de Versailles.
www.chocoland.com

Chocs Away, folks!



Born in Britain and now based in Paris, Margaret Kemp graduated from The Cordon Bleu and spent a year working and watching in the kitchens of top chefs from Sydney, Australia via Bangkok, Hong Kong, California, New York and France. Realising she would never win the coveted 3-Michelin stars, she decided to write about the people who do, the "disciples of Escoffier."
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