Monthly notes about the art of chocolate, limited editions, news and events
Ika’s 7 Must Visit Chocolate Destinations In France | 28.05.17
“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” Henry James
If you feel inspired to embark on a major chocolate journey, here is a list of must-visit-in-your-lifetime places for true chocolate lovers.
Most are in Paris (mais bien sûr!) some further afield in France.
1. Patrick Roger
“L’enfant terrible de la ganache…” Figaroscope (2010)
Visiting Patrick Roger’s website is perplexing – no explanations, only amazing photos, and a navigation menu that includes the phrases ‘Radioscopy’ and ‘Genetics’ (what?! why?!). His ambitious creations incorporate unexpected flavors like lemongrass and Sichuan peppercorn into the classic pralines.
A visit to his boutique on the boulevard Saint-Germain is also an overwhelming experience. It is an absolute must – your perception of what a Chocolate Sculpture is will change permanently, because Roger’s style is exceedingly bold and playful.
Patrick Roger | Address: 108 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris
2. Jaques Génin
“His chocolates are displayed like jewels” Vogue (2015)
Génin supplies chocolates, caramels and petits fours to more than 200 top French hotels and restaurants, including the Le Meurice. The self-taught top chocolatier began his career in food in a slaughterhouse – would you believe that? He opened his first restaurant when he was 28, and at age 33 worked as La Maison du Chocolat’s Head Pâtissier. In 2010 he opened his own chocolate factory, which the New York Times described as “a holy site for connoisseurs”.
At his Salon in the northern Marais you can taste the most exquisite pralines, as well as a legendary millefeuille. Treat yourself to his pot of decadent chocolat chaud, too.
His caramels and pâtes de fruits are probably the best you can find in Paris. The same is true for his Paris-Brest pastry, Ika says. Génin was the first chocolatier Ika apprenticed to in Paris, during her long professional training in France.
Jaques Génin | 133 Rue de Turenne, Paris [Salon] | 27 Rue de Varenne, Paris
3. Gilles Marchal
This Pâtisserie in the Monmartre is Ika’s favorite place in all of Paris, and she considers as her teacher and inspiration.
When you wander down from the Sacre-Coeur you will be immediately drawn inside, by the display of exquisitely beautiful pastries. His incredibly fresh and delicious madeleines have gained fans all over the world. The madeleines come in flavors like pine honey, grand cru dark chocolate, and pistachio. Marchal’s tarte aux framboises and baba au rhum are equally fabulous.
Gilles Marchal | 9 Rue Ravignan, 75018 Paris
Photo credit: Lucky Miam
4. Paris Salon du Chocolat
This annual exhibition is the leading international chocolate trade fair. Definitely add it to your bucket list, if you haven’t been yet.
Every autumn, the Salon du Chocolat welcomed over 100,000 visitors.
5. Paris Chez Sharon
While you’re in Paris Ika recommends treating yourself to a very special gourmet experience: going on a pâtisserie tour with Sharon Heinrich.
Sharon is a food journalist and local expert. Sharon will give you the inside story of each chocolaterie you visit, and introduce to you the trendiest and most wonderful pâtisserie artists and around the city. Check out Paris Chez Sharon on Instagram and feast on her amazing Paris finds.
OUTSIDE OF PARIS
6. Le Cité du Chocolat Vhalrona
Headquarters and Visitor Center of the leading French premium manufacturer is based in the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage near Lyon.
The company was founded in 1922, and has been a constant favorite among gourmets and chefs worldwide. Today they have over 60 distribution centers worldwide and also runs a highly respected gastronomic school – the École du Grand Chocolat. Ika has taken many of their professional courses, and insists on using the Vhalrona first-rate ingredients in her creations.
The visitor center offers a “multi-sensory interactive chocolate experience”: featuring knowledge on cocoa plantation and harvesting, and the complex processes that transforms the cocoa from bean to bar. The visit includes tasting many types of chocolates, including the The Grands Crus de Terroir collection – single origin chocolates made from the highest quality terroirs around the equator. Activities for children, restaurants and boutique serve families who take the day trip from Paris or Lyon.
Le Cité du Chocolat Vhalrona | 12, Avenue du President Roosevelt 26600 Tain l’Hermitage, France
7. Vincent Guerlais
“Je suis un agitateur de papilles (taste-bud agitator)”
proclaims the chocolatier from Nantes, a lovely town in Western France.
Guerlais is celebrated as one of France’s most innovative chocolatiers. His work is highly creative, and full of humor.
Feast your eyes and taste buds with his pastries and chocolate treats, such as Criollo, Absolu, Féerie, and colorful pralines he calls Guerlingots. Behold the 1-meter-long box of shaped chocolates – it can serve as a fabulous souvenir! Same for his brilliant artisanal version of the Petit Beurre biscuit – make sure you get at least one box.
Like many chocolatiers from around the world, Ika has attended Guerlais’ workshops, learning from his mastery.
Vincent Guerlaishttp | 1, place Saint-Félix, Nantes, France
Bon Voyage & Bon Appétit!
Chocolate Tourism Should Be More About Chocolate Terroir | 30.04.17
1. Terroir isn’t just about wine making
In some ways, chocolate is like wine.
The aroma, texture and taste of both pleasurable products depend much on the Terroir. Like wine, chocolate may be impacted by how it’s been grown: Location, geology and climate of the place.
In fact it’s among the few products with a broader flavour profile than wine.
Like grapes, cocoa beans are a fruit that goes through a series of various processes in production, all of which also affect its flavour; Fermentation and drying are extremely important for a quality chocolate. Fermentation is done on or near the farm, so the farmers’ skill has a large influence on flavour.
Conclusion: Chocolate lovers should pay more attention to cocoa farmers. Getting to know them will help us all treat them better, and in turn get better quality chocolate every day.
Did you know that cocoa trees can only flourish in tropical environments, within 15-20 degrees north and south of the equator? This is why cocoa is grown in very few countries around the world – among them are Brazil and Cote d’Ivoire. The origins of chocolate beans has an enormous impact on the flavour of a finished chocolate bar. Bars from Madagascar beans, for instance, are characteristically fruity while Ecuadorian bars are far more earthy.
Have you ever considered dividing Vietnam into individual regions, like we are so used to do to French wine growing regions?
2. Single origin chocolate tourism – the new global trend
The Chocolate Tourism trend is still mainly about a chauffeur driving you to shops around Paris.
But a new more exotic way to make chocolate the theme of your trip is to hop on a plain and then on a van, to visit cocoa farms around the planet’s equator.
More and more chocolate fans go to places such as Belize, Madagascar, where first-rate quality cocoa is sourced.
Traveling to Australia was actually what put Ika on her chocolate career path.
Travel is Ika’s second best thing to do after chocolate. When she was 35, with 12 years of experience as a radio sound engineer, she went to Australia, in search of a new vocation.
“I went to Australia to study for a master’s degree in marine science, but there I realized that what I wanted to do was chocolate. How did I realize that? When I saw that I was spending hundreds of dollars in chocolate boutiques. I was also constantly recommending to fellow travelers to ‘Go eat this macaroon, go eat those pralines.’ I realized I love it. Chocolate became a motivation for more cultural exploration.”
Returning from Australia, she became an apprentice to the leading Israeli dessert chef Claude Ben Simon. In 2011, after many more trips and much training – mainly in Paris and Brussels, she opened her own artisanal chocolaterie.
3. Original Middle Eastern flavored pralines – now a worldwide sensation
“Travel inspires my work, but I wish also for Israeli flavors and chocolate to travel. I want people in Europe and anywhere else, also in those far away places where farmers grow chocolate, to know our land. I want people arounf the world to get to know the Middle Eastern Terroir. Lovely food and flavors grow here, too.”
One such special flavour is the Za’atar – a Middle Eastern herb.
In Papua New Guinea, Ika sourced a uniquely flavoured cocoa that won her a second ICA silver medal this year. The story behind the Papua New Guinea praline inspiration is just below – see the “To Sin and Be Forgiven” post (published February 2017).
Mad About Music (And Chocolate) | 30.03.17
Talking with Ika about music is like talking to her about chocolate – basically we end up discussing her entire life – past and present.
“I used to work in a radio station for many years as a sound technician. I can’t possibly describe how much music means to me. I flew four hours to Barcelona from Tel Aviv and back last week just for a Sting concert.”
As usual, Ika’s answers are just a prelude for a longer story: “His voice fills me with hope. Sting has been an inspiration for me ever since high school. In general, I feel that music is instrumental to my work. On the sound job I learned how to mix and balance sensory experiences. But the most important lesson sound engineering taught me is how to be patient while working. It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, let me tell you,” and she goes on…
What’s the most memorable concert you have ever attended?
“It was a Tosca performance at the magnificent Sydney Opera House.”
Surely even just entering the building is a hugely inspiring experience: The pure curving shapes rise across the harbor render a heroic artistic achievement.
Another magnificent opera building, though completely different in its Baroque style, is the famous Opéra Garnier. We mention it here because the building is said to have been the inspiration for a luxurious popular cake – the Opera Cake.
Gâteau opéra is an elaborate almond sponge cake with a coffee and chocolate filling and icing (Grande Larrousse Gastronomique).
Cyriaque Gavillon claimed he had invented the cake in 1955, while working as a Pastery Chef at La Maison Dalloyau (established in Versailles in 1682); Gavillon’s wife Andrée supposedly named it after the Garnier Opera building.
The idea behind this dessert is that all of the flavours of the cake should be tasted in just one bite.
And what is a praline, if not pleasure concentrated into one rich chocolate-y bite?
On the night before flying to the Barcelona Sting concert, we visited a new temporary exhibition here in Tel Aviv: The artist Anat Hutzler created eight unique chocolate desserts, each inspired by a song or an album she loves. With some counsel from Ika on the art of making chocolate pralines, Anat had let the words and melodies inspire color and taste combinations, textures, compositions, under the title FoodPlay.
“Behind every act of creation there is inspiration, igniting passion.”
Above: inspired by Abbey Road: Pralines filled with bittersweet English Breakfast Tea Ganache, crossing strips of homemade vanilla marzipan. Every band member has a different shell.
Did you guess that John is made of white chocolate?
The Sweet Sound of Sting
What do you listen to when you work?
“I’d like to have been able to tell you that I put on an opera CD early every morning at the chocolatery, when I start my long day at work,” Ika says. “But really, I only listen to a couple of uplifting songs on my iPhone, before the craziness of the workday tasks and calls take over.”
Here is her favorite Sting song, à propos de #MarchMadness
To Sin And Be Forgiven: Adventures In Love & Chocolate In Papua New Guinea | 28.02.17
For 2017 Valentine’s day, Ika is launching a limited edition of pralines based on Papua New Guinea cacao. The deeply dark chocolate praline gives fruity and coffee notes, and has a unique smoky finish.
Its creation was inspired by a legendary princess. A woman who was loved by many men, some of them to (their) death.
“Queen Emma” they called her. The Samoan / American Emma was considered the most beautiful woman in Papua New Guinea around the turn of the last centuries. Her mother’s bloodline was related to the Moli tribe and Emma was recognized by the Malietoa as a princess.
Born Emma Eliza Coe (1850, died 1913) she was a business woman and plantation owner.
They say her motto was – to sin and be forgiven.
She was a lover “to die for”; passionate, powerful. And four of her lovers did indeed die, tragically. She might have had something to do with their deaths, according to highly circulated rumours.
Famously, her second husband, the German Paul Kolbe, 20 years her younger, died shortly after she found out he was cheating on her in Monte Carlo. She died two days later.
Emma was as beautiful as her homeland still is.
She lived in the town of Kokopo, strung along the edge of Blanche Bay, surrounded by five towering volcanoes. The crusty dark earth is highly fertile, rich in minerals. One of those volcanos is still active, erupting every few years, perhaps with what once thought of the locals as the wrath of the gods.
Emma was said to be prone to angry eruptions as well. She was, in her day to day, a shrewd administrator, “Queen of Commerce”, a clever businesswoman who helped her family and community flourish. She was known as a heady woman, a celebrated socialite who knew how to throw a good party. A passionate woman, loud and energetic, never afraid of what people might say about her and her choices.
Ika was immediately drawn to Queen Emma’s story, while researching notable lovers’ stories, whose lives are intertwined with chocolate.
Emma was a lover of life. Her strong character was the inspiration for the new limited edition of exceptional single origin chocolate that Ika has created.
The dark praline contains cacao from the fields of Papua. The beans were dried over open fire, and you can feel a touch of smoke in the creamy rich chocolate filling.
Thin, almost unnoticed slivers of coal lay on top of the praline, enhancing its flavor. The coal embellishment gives away a visual clue for the smoky note. The deep aroma adds to the sensory experience of tasting this superior single origin chocolate. It is a unique expression of passionate love for chocolate, love of life, and giving.
Pictures: [clockwise] Emma Forsayth | Tavurvur volcano & Sunset in Papua New Guinea – the romantic vibe is helped by the unique crimson colours of the sky at sunset – photos by Raz Sherbelis | Ika’s praline, photo by Shiran Carmel
A French Flavor for the new year-“Rosh Hashana”
Towards the coming of the new year-“Rosh Hashana”, the chocolaterie is launching an early and limited edition of a series of pralines packages which Ika will sell at the well- known French department store-Gallerie Lafayette.
This pralines collection was made in collaboration with the well known French chocolatier Gilles Marchal and each includes five pralines: bitter chocolate ganache, passion fruit and black pepper, salty caramel, pistachio marzipan and honey with praline waffle chips.
It is on sale for the Israeli public in limited edition at the Chocolaterie, in three kinds of packaging: 5 pralines (33 NIS), 10 pralines (65 NIS) or 25 pralines (165 NIS).
Starting the month of November the elegant packages will be on sale exclusively at the magnificent food hall at “Gallerie Lafayette” in Paris (which is moving to a new wing in September) as part of the prestigious Christmas collection of this famous institute.
Galleries Lafayette’s address to Ika to take part in the Christmas collection 2014 arrived following the international recognition which Ika is receiving in recent years and her winning the gold medal at the “International Chocolate Awards” for her zaatar praline which exposed her to the French press. This is the first time that an Israeli representative exhibits his creation on this respected stage. Ika’s produced in Israel pralines, will be the only kosher pralines sold on the premises.
The packages include a special poem written for each praline in an enclosed booklet which are the work of Gerard Guy the famous culinary poet and artist, who created menus for Pierre Herme, “Potel & Chabot”, pierre gagnaire. In addition, the French companies “Air France” and “Valrhona” chocolate, imported to Israel by Tishbi winery, sponsored this special project. The link between all these bodies was Betty Edry Biton, the best chefs in France and in the world’s ambassador. As Ika said, “ Gallerie Lafayette’s address is for me much more than a business opportunity. The place represents the top of the culinary essence and my every visit in Paris begins there. My collaboration with Gilles Marchal and Gerard Guy brought a thrilling and original result. This is a wonderful example that shows how art and creativity exceed all borders and languages.
Meet the chefs and learn their secrets
It happens Any moment now… Open Restaurants is a first-of-a-kind event – a culinary feast in dozens of restaurants around the city of Tel Aviv – Jaffa (and in our chocolaterie). The opportunity to meet, taste and touch the restaurant world in a unique way.
Four days of extraordinary encounters with the chefs of the most interesting restaurants in the city. Four days that will provide a rare opportunity to chat with the chefs in person, to hear from them about their careers and restaurants they established. Get a rare exposure to everyday practical chef and cook dishes under their professional guidance (and eat them).
- All the details in open restaurants website
Israeli Chocolate week
Between 9-16 of February 2014 the “Israeli Cocholate week” will be held. Chocolate lovers from all over the country will enjoy Events & Activities, chocolate tastings and workshops, master classes and discounts to celebrate this first of its kind chocolate festival.
Between 13-15 February Chocolate Festival will be held in the new station compound in Tel Aviv – “Hatachana“, during this festival manufacturers and local chocolatiers will offer fine chocolate alongside chefs demos.
- All the details in the chocolate weeks website.