As we drove back through France after three weeks on the road, I suggested a lunch stop in Troyes to my colleague.
He agreed, and we pulled in off the motorway, leaving behind torrential rain. Perhaps the brilliant sunshine was a sign of some sort (more choco-karma in action?) because while we didn’t find the restaurant I vaguely remembered from a visit some years ago, I did come across a couple of rather splendid chocolatiers.
At 16 Rue De La Republique is Chocolaterie Le Praslin-Chocogil, the first shop I found. When we walked in I suddenly found myself having to try and explain just why I was so interested in their products, and I have to thank the lady in the shop for bearing with me while I waved my Chocablog card and babbled at her in my best ‘O’ Level French.
I asked her what the speciality of the shop was, and she invited me to taste a dark chocolate liqueur made in the shape of a champagne cork and containing (oddly enough) champagne.
Of course the inside of the sweet was lined with a sugar crust to keep the alcohol inside, but it didn’t really take away anything from the rich, dark cocoa flavours in the (very) dark, bitttersweet chocolate. Compared to Stainer’s Champagne Bar, this was so far ahead in terms of taste. The alcoholic hit of real champagne, followed by the dark, complex cocoa flavours of the chocolate and the crunchy sugar lining made a fantastic combination. Obviously the lady in the shop had chosen well when I asked for examples of their best work!
My second choice was a curious looking milk chocolate liqueur with a raspberry flavour. To my mind it looked like an acorn (memories of Hotel Chocolat’s Selection of the Season perhaps?) but the flavours were unlike anything I’d had before. The raspberry liqueur was strong, slightly sweet and with a superbly delicate fruit flavour on the finish, and the milk chooclate managed to keep a lot of it’s coca flavours. However, compared to the rich, dark tastes of the previous chocolate, it didn’t really excite me as much. It was definitely more sweet, a little too heavy on sugary tastes for my palate, but nevertheless a great combination of flavours presented beautifully.
My final choice (it was a blazingly hot day and I had to take everything away in a hot car, so I was being overly cautious. Plus I was already carrying twenty or more bars from all over Europe!) was a dark truffle with a fleck of gold on top. It appeared to be made of the same dark (nay, almost black) chocolate that had been used for the champagne cork, but this time there was no sugary lining. Instead I found myself biting through the sharp, bittersweet chocolate and finding a smooth, equally dark ganache filling which had a delightfully complex alcoholic note. Combined with the dark, smokey tastes of the cocoa, the alcoholic content of the ganache added a subtly sweet and fruity note which lifted the whole taste experience to a new level. It was nothing short of exquisite. As good as anything I have tasted.