Paris and chocolate? Two beautiful things that taste great together.

PARIS — If you love chocolate as much as I do, imagine how delicious it is to be among 200 chocolatiers and chocolatiers under one roof. At the Salon du Chocolat, there were literally tons of stunning bars, pralines, crusts, truffles, macarons, and pastries, cakes, and cookies filled, coated, and dusted with chocolate.

Paris hosted its 27th Salon du Chocolat at the end of October, an annual event involving cocoa-producing countries, chocolatiers (who turn cocoa beans into chocolate), chocolatiers, and confectioners (who create all those precious pralines and other confections). and pastry chefs. cooks from all over the world.

I didn’t go to Paris just for the event, but what self-proclaimed chocolate lover would dare miss such a show? Yes, there were samples. But most of the chocolates, cakes and other sweets were for sale. Even if he didn’t buy anything (not the slightest chance!), the visual and aromatic grandeur of all things chocolate across two massive convention floors was mesmerizing. And his eyes did not deceive. Most of the bites tasted as good or even better than they looked.

According to the organizers, the Salon du Chocolat in Paris is the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate. It was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, but resumed on a small scale in 2021 and returned to near full size this year. A festive exuberance seemed to take over both the exhibitors and the attendees. (Few masks were used).

Twenty-one countries were represented, including the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Uganda, Sao Tome and Principe, Peru, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. One trend I noticed among cocoa-producing countries was that more of them are making their own chocolate and not just growing, harvesting, fermenting, and selling cocoa beans to chocolate producers in other countries. These new chocolate makers proudly refer to themselves as “tree to bar,” a step more vertically integrated than the more common moniker “bean to bar.”

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Peru grows cacao in 13 regions, however, a public relations representative said the country does not yet have a culture of eating chocolate. His goal is to get Peruvians to buy and eat more.

One of Madagascar’s intriguing chocolates was a 61 percent cocoa bar made with the tropical citrus combava and sea salt. In both 2017 and 2020, they won the British Golden Bean award for their 100% (unsweetened) cocoa bars.

Climate change was on the minds of many, as increasingly volatile weather and higher temperatures are serious risks to cocoa production. A representative from Madagascar said that in one of its growing regions, hurricanes and floods destroyed 30 percent of its cocoa trees a few years ago.

All different types of chocolate bark from Rody Chocolaterie of France.Lisa Zwirn

Most of the 200 exhibitors were chocolatiers and other confectioners, including makers of savory products such as nougats, caramels, fruit pates, ice creams, sauces and spreads. Numerous pastry shops, which use cocoa and/or chocolate in their cakes, biscuits (cookies) and tarts, offered exquisite pastries.

Only one American company participated this year: Manoa Chocolate, which makes bean-to-bar chocolate on the island of Oahu. The amount of Hawaiian cocoa production is still very small: only 20 percent of Manoa’s chocolate bars are made with Hawaiian cocoa, but more trees are planted each year.

The main reason corporate America did not attend was that the following week brings the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. This event attracts dozens of US chocolate makers, as well as a few from other countries. (Some American pastry chefs participated in the Salon’s international competitions, including Mondial des Arts Sucres and World Chocolate Masters.)

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In terms of new products or trends, there was more chocolate made with goat’s milk and vegetable milks, chocolate with CBD, chocolate with alcohol, greater use of spices and increasingly wide ranges of cocoa percentage for both dark and milk chocolate.

In France, chocolate is appreciated as a special food and as an art form. The average household consumes about 29 pounds (13.2 kg) per year. The French eat more dark chocolate than their European neighbors, who generally prefer milk chocolate.

Almost every neighborhood in Paris has a chocolatier. Some are old-fashioned with a long history, others are sleek and modern, and if you have a stuffy nose, you might think you’re in a jewelry store. With reserved elegance, chocolate bonbons, caramels and fruit pâtés beckon from dimly lit display cases as gloved vendors wait to fill the boxes with their selections.

Cocoa bean pods and cocoa beans at the Paris chocolate fair.Lisa Zwirn

You may know some of the names: Jacques Genin, Alain Ducasse, Jean-Paul Hevin, Chocolat Bonnat, Patrick Roger, Cluizel. Edwart Chocolatier, A La Mere de Famille and Debauve & Gallais. His and other boutiques are as much a taste of Parisian life as fromageries (cheese), boulangeries (bakeries), boucheries (meat) and marchands de vin (wine).

Back at the Salon, Lady Merveilles, a woman-owned bean-to-bar maker from Vannes in Brittany, makes more than 30 different organic chocolate bars. The motto of the founding company Marine Schmitt is “Creative & Audacieuse” (creative and bold).

In southern France, Lucifeves d’Aubrac, a relatively new bean-to-bar maker, practices long roasting and short conching to further retain the floral and herbal aromas and flavors of the cacao.

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Siamaya Chocolate from Thailand makes bars with regional flavors, such as Thai Peanut Curry, Mango & Chili, Thai Tea and Coconut Milk. The company representative said that they are just starting to market their products outside of Thailand.

One of my favorites, both the jolly chocolate maker and his beautiful bars, was Friis-Holm Chokolade from Denmark. More than 20 years ago, Mikkel Friis-Holm spent months learning the science of chocolate making from Robert Steinberg, co-founder of Scharffen Berger in San Francisco. Friis-Holm founded his company in 2008 and works primarily with Nicaraguan cacao. He experiments with the genetic material of cacao to create new varieties (much like grape varieties for wine) and tinkers with fermentation techniques to affect the hues of the final chocolate bars.

The Salon du Chocolat is a unique opportunity to meet some of the best cocoa farmers, chocolatiers and chocolatiers in the world. If this sounds like your personal version of heaven, you might want to plan a trip to Paris for next year’s show, scheduled for October 28 to November 1, 2023. Bring a wallet full of euros, a few empty duffel bags and your appetite

Lisa Zwirn can be reached at [email protected].

Lisa Zwirn can be reached at [email protected]