As I was getting ready to leave the shop, my new best friend informed me that the ‘Champion du Monde’ had a shop just around the corner. The World Champion? The BEST chocolates available anywhere? Too good to be true! How lucky I am, I thought to myself as we set off in search of he shop in question. What amazing choco-karma!
Well, we found the shop – Pascal Caffet’s – and he is indeed the World Champion. His website gives you some idea of just what an amazing display was waiting for me when I walked through the automatic doors into the air conditioned, glass shelved showroom of cocoa based loveliness. A little more schoolboy French and some iron-willed self control and once again I found myself clutching a small bag containing three different types of chocolates, none of which I had seen before.
The Cristalline Noir (there were three types, but of course I went Dark) uses a 70% Venezuelan cocoa chocolate combined with light, crispy feuilletine (a crispy, almondy praline). The choice of a citrussy, slightly creamy cocoa variety in combination with a subtley nutty ‘filling’ produces an amazingly complex flavour combination. It’s nutty, creamy, slighty caramel and has a superb mouthfeel and finish. Never heavy, almost whisper-light, I was truly impressed by just how much flavour had been squeezed into such a small mouthful.
My second choice was something which had ‘Mortier D’or’ (Golden Mortar) inscribed on the top. Another dark choclate, I was told that this was also a ‘crispy’ chocolate, and having loved Hotel Chocolat’s pancake-based efforts, I was quite keen to have a go on this one.
Indeed it was crispy – the lightest, wafer thin (I had to get that one in somewhere) layers of buttery crispiness sitting in a dark chocolate shell. Something akin to coarse sugar in texture, the balance between the deep, rich cocoa from the chocolate and the light golden filling was quite remarkable, and utterly delicious.
My final choice was the single most garish looking chocolate in the shop – a bright crimson heart speckled with vibrant green dots. On the surface more fairytale mushroom than world beating chocolate, and to add to my confusion I was told it was an aniseed flavoured truffle. I half expected the red outer colouring to be some sort of sugar glaze, but it turned out to have been painted onto the surface of a white chocolate shell. When I bit into the interior I was very surprised to discover another dark cocoa ganache filling with a soft, subtle hint of aniseed which combined with the white and dark chocolates to produce nothing short of a sublime taste experience.
From my own personal point of view, tasting these chocolates was a lesson to my palate as to how chocolatiers are working to produce ever more beautiful and complex flavoured confectionery. Appearances are always important, but tasting the works of a world champion has made me appreciate just how much effort must have gone into combining and blending the tastes that M. Caffet has selected. These really are world class chocolates. My only regret has to be that I didn’t buy more, and that Troyes is so far away.
Obviously, if you’re ever in France, I would seriously recommend a detour to Troyes for the opportunity to sample some of Pascal Caffet’s work. Magnifique!