A Tour of Paris’s Best Chocolate Shops for Easter 2016

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A Tour of Paris’s Best Chocolate Shops for Easter 2016
If you hop around Paris today on a chocolate Easter egg hunt, I promise you’ll be astounded by the immense choice around. As artisanal chocolate shops prepare for one of the busiest seasons of the year, it’s no wonder that the French so aptly describe the term of window-shopping as faire du léche-vitrine, as the urge to lick the delectable displays couldn’t be higher. Who can resist Jean-Paul Hévin’s sense of humor with that in mind for his Easter shopfront? Already the choice of eggs in itself is awe-inspiring; but add to that the different-colored chocolate hens, chicks, diverse other animals (owls, tortoises, sheep), bells, and the fish that we typically find in the French chocolate boutiques. Where can we start? Before we get cracking with a sampling of Easter eggs (oeufs de Pâques), let’s start with the most typically French in the chocolateries: bells and fish. EASTER BELLS (Cloches de Pâques) Listen carefully for the Church bells over Easter weekend: in France they stop ringing from Good Friday when Jesus died to Easter Sunday morning. After Church Mass, to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, the bells joyously peel around France as they fly back from Saint Peter’s in Rome, dropping chocolate eggs in gardens as the children are eager to hunt for them. Even my girls (who are French) have always found it a crazy tradition – perhaps as parents we simply poorly described it – but imagine trying to explain to your kids that church bells had flown with wings all the way to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope to help everyone in mourning, then returned (with no hands) to hide chocolate. The Easter Bunny still makes more sense, even if it doesn’t figure that much in France, but over the years, more are gradually hopping into the boutiques – such as these pastel cuties from Hugo & Victor. WHY ARE THERE CHOCOLATE FISH? I’ve always been intrigued by the schools of chocolate fish in the windows. Fish are popular for April Fool’s Day since in France it’s April fish or Poisson d’avril as the children’s chorus goes! If you’re any decently duped April Fool in France, you’ll probably be sporting a school of colorful paper fish taped to your back. There was one year I discovered that, after various not-so-discrete pressing to my back, I had been modeling a mobile primary school wall. Eager to find out the history behind it, I attempted to return to a school of fish myself, rummaging around for more clues but the fishy story remains rather unclear. Various sources cite the most popular: it goes back to the 16th Century under Charles IX reign, who changed the New Year to the 1st January. Until then in France, the New Year started around 1st April and was celebrated by fresh fish to herald the arrival of Spring (following the zodiac sign of Pisces, perhaps). As not everyone was au courant or kept forgetting this new calendar, jokes gradually spread the custom of pinning fish on their backs. A la Mère de Famille has a huge choice of chocolate fish and scallop shells. Like eggs, many are garnished with yet more miniature fish. The smallest fish and other seafood shapes, called friture, often garnish the insides of the bigger Easter eggs or are sold simply in sachets to eat comme ça, just like that. This year’s sample of fish can be found hooked up vertically in a line, lined up in a jigsaw pattern, or even swimming in clouds. EASTER EGGS WITH PERSONALITY As with outside of France, eggs are still the most popular at Easter and over the years they’ve gradually transformed from brightly decorated hard-boiled to more chocolate. Symbolizing the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday with the rolling stone that covered Christ’s tomb, the rolling of eggs transformed death into life, bringing new life and fertility – much like a chick popping from its egg. Many high-end chocolate boutiques, confiseries (candy shops), pâtisseries, or top hotels have created their eggs from simply chic, amusing, to popular characters, or impressive giant sculptures as works of art. Jacques Genin has gone wonderfully wild with a vivid, brilliant lacquered look for his masterpieces this year. Otherwise there are his clowns, fish and hens to choose from. From cowboys at Le Nôtre to Mangas of Pierre Hermé (along with many others), what about some cool skate-boarding eggs at Dalloyau? Looking through the glass, Pierre Marcolini has chosen an Easter Wonderland theme, complete with this grinning Cheshire cat. Or what about a box of mini praline eggs: including pistachio, almond, nougat and hazelnut?   From Le Manufacture de Chocolat of Alain Ducasse, you’ll find traditional artisan chocolate eggs and contemporary designer hens – but what caught my eye…

Lead photo credit : courtesy of Le Manufacture de Chocolat of Alain Ducasse

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Jill Colonna is author of “Mad About Macarons” and newly published “Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Patisserie Recipes”. She lives just outside Paris in the land of the Impressionists with her French husband and two teenage girls near Saint Germain-en-Laye. You can read about her life around Paris, travels and recipes on her blog: www.MadAboutMacarons.com


  • Thomasina
    2016-03-28 18:44:56
    Wish I could have gone on the Easter egg hunt around Paris with Jill Colonna. Next best thing was reading this amazing article and admiring the photos. I especially love the creations by Jacques Genin. They remind me of a visit to the Venetian glass factory on the island of Murano.


  • Rhiannon
    2016-03-26 04:56:59
    Great article. So many stunning creations in Paris, and it's great to hear a bit of the history too!