Choco-Story: Paris Chocolate Museum (Musee Gourmand du Chocolat)

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Choco-Story: Paris Chocolate Museum (Musee Gourmand du Chocolat)
  Temporary Exhibition through March 11, 2012 Victorian chocolate advertising A joint exhibit presented with the Musée de la Poupee (Doll Museum) Showcases French chocolate companies active from 1875 to 1915: Guérin-Boutron, Louit, Magniez-Baussart, Masson, Payraud, Poulain and more. More exhibits featuring Victorian dolls at Musée de la Poupee. Complete details at Musée de la Poupee Choco-Story: the museum It had to happen. Paris is home to numerous museums highlighting fine arts but not, until now, culinary arts. Choco-Story: The Gourmet Chocolate Museum is the delicious new “museum” of chocolate, telling the long and fascinating story of this beloved edible, drinkable, sculptable substance. Chocolate in Paris is not in short supply: in every quartier, boutiques offer magnificent chocolate products that exemplify the highest form of the contemporary chocolate-makers’ art. But as with much in the culinary world, chocolate has an interesting back-story, a story that is told with aplomb at this engaging museum. At Choco-Story one embarks on a journey to learn about chocolate—its origins, its evolution from cup to plate, its transformation from food of the powerful to a delectable treat for all who care to enjoy it. Montezuma, the powerful Aztec King, measured his wealth in territory and in cacao beans. Drinking chocolate was an act reserved for the king and his warriors; cocoa beans were offered to the Gods. Chocolate was believed to have remarkable properties that enhanced strength, wisdom and courage. It was for the elite. Present-day chocolate aficionados must thank Cortez for bringing chocolate from his conquests in Mexico to Spain. In Cortez’s day, chocolate was consumed solely by drinking a spicy brew that evolved from the Aztec and Mayan styles. The Spanish breakthrough was adding sugar to the drink. However, chocolate was still reserved for royalty alone. The European saga of the love for chocolate owes much to women, seemingly ever-discerning arbiters of taste. Queen Anne of Austria, daughter of King Philip III of Spain, wife of King Louis XIII of France (and mother of Louis XIV) was one of chocolate’s earliest royal proponents. Famed French diarists like Madame de Sévigné and Madame de Pompadour wrote of the seemingly magical powers of chocolate to invigorate. Queens and noblewomen served chocolate to their lovers to enhance libido. Voltaire drank chocolate (and coffee) endlessly. Indeed, Voltaire created his own blend of chocolate and coffee to stimulate his creativity. Chocolate was on its way to becoming an essential part of daily life for the French and European upper classes. Originally available only from pharmacists, edible, drinkable chocolate soon exploded in popularity.  Indeed, the firm of S. Debauve, pharmacist to King Louis XVI, is still in business: Debauve et Gallais in St. Germain continues to sell top-quality French chocolates in their venerable shop. Chocolate in “candy” form originated in the early 1800s. Choco-Story exhibits a fascinating collection of ancient Aztec chocolate cups and chocolate making implements, early European chocolate molds, beautiful antique and contemporary chocolatières and chocolate cups, and a great selection of colorful advertising posters touting the various benefits of chocolate. In the basement level of this three-floor museum, a spotless demonstration lab offers hourly chocolate making demos. Before you leave you can enjoy a dégustation of three different chocolats chauds for 3E, including one made from an ancient Aztec recipe. There are also workshops where you’ll make chocolate with expert guidance. Next time you are in Paris, make it a point to visit Choco-Story. It is a fascinating journey through the world of chocolate from bean to bonbon. And, as exhibits in the museum point out, chocolate is actually good for you. But we knew that. (First published on BP in December 2011) PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Choco-Story—The Gourmet Chocolate Museum28, blvd Bonne Nouvelle, Paris 10th Métro: Bonne Nouvelle, Strasbourg Saint-Denis Bus : 20, 39, 48; Stops: Poissonnière-Bonne Nouvelle or Porte Saint-Denis Open daily 10am-6pm; last entry at 5pm Admission: Adults 9€; kids 6-12 6€; students & over 65: 8€; kids under 6 are free Photo credits: photos by story author and publicity images were used in this story. Sally Peabody is a Paris specialist who leads Your Great Days in Paris, small group cultural and culinary tours in France, the Pays Basque, Istanbul and Turkey. Please click on her name to read about her and to read her past reviews published in BonjourParis. Subscribe for FREE weekly newsletters with subscriber-only content. 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