Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paris, part five: the search for the perfect chocolat chaud.

Once upon a time, two very lucky young ladies took a trip to Prague. Along the way, they sampled many, many cups of hot chocolate. In the many days since, they've never found anything even close to the perfection that is Czech hot chocolate, particularly not in the surprisingly quality-hot-chocolate-free land of France.

Until now.

On the suggestion of a colleague, I decided to give French hot chocolate another go on this trip, and I was not disappointed. On Sunday afternoon, I paid a visit to Angelina, the legendary teahouse on rue de Rivoli, across from the Jardins des Tuileries. I waited in a long line of tourists and well-heeled locals for a table, and was seated on the second floor, overlooking the entrance.

I hunkered down with my book, ordered a chocolat chaud and a carafe d'eau, and awaited the arrival of the chocolate. It arrived in a little pitcher, whipped cream on the side, with a spoon for dolloping at will - or, in my case, for occasionally eating the thick concoction like a stew.

Like the mythical hot chocolates of Prague, this version was rich and deeply flavorful, not at all like the sugary water served in college cafeterias or at skating rinks here in the States. It's basically melted dark chocolate, lightly sweetened and lightened ever so slightly with a touch of milk. In short, it's pure indulgence. And I really liked being to add my cream a bit at a time, so that it didn't melt too much before I got to enjoy it.

So, does Angelina's version live up to that of Prague's Café Louvre or Café Carolina? Not quite. But after years of wandering in the chocolat chaud wilderness, I feel secure in the knowledge that the French have not lost their touch.


Wendy said...

We loved Angelina's too. Did you bring back any of their mix? It's quite good if you make it with whole milk :)

andre said...

Have you had Spanish hot chocolate? I find it hard to believe any Czech could beat the "churros con chocolate" at Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid.

Meg Blocker said...

Wendy - I did not buy any of the mix, but I do have a favorite (and, I think, pretty dang awesome) hot chocolate recipe. It's Pierre Herme by way of my friend Louisa - email me if you want a copy...

Andre - I have not had Spanish hot chocolate, but count it as the next on the list! Do you know of anywhere in NYC that makes an authentic version?

bethesdafrog said...

aaaahhh, angelina. the chocolat chaud is definitely worth trying there, for sure. one might avoid their rush hour when service can be a tad spotty. now, if angelina and laduree could get together so that one can sample the chocolat chaud and the laduree patisserie at the same time, it would be heaven.

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