Monday, January 04, 2010

Chocolates.

Back to work tomorrow.   The weather being dreary and requests on our time this year seeming to be more, I've not had the same opportunities to descend into that state of midwinter dreamtime that I love, but which can be painful to climb out of.  But today, on the eve of returning to work, the skies cleared and the temperature became unkindly, beautifully cold, and I made special provision to pass the time in a good way.

We took a long walk in the morning, and came back zinging with the chill, to a couple of glasses of ginger wine, and I cooked some potatoes, carrots, onions, peas and celery in stock and threw in the last tin of Royal Game soup I found in the cupboard the other day - a makeshift meal which I always enjoy.

Then after that I decided I'd put it off long enough, and opened the box of chocolates.



Yes, I know, jaded palates and extra kilos, but this was quite literally something else.




Johann Dubois is a chocolate boutique like no other, and there are a few good ones about here (there's no website and very few links available, that one is to a regional newspaper article when it opened).  It's quite a recent arrival in St Brieuc and Sylviane, my boss and student, decided to give it a go.  I went in there once and spent my last disposable few euros on two macarons, one for me and one for Tom.

Everything about this box of chocolates is a transcendent experience.  I approached it with reverence.  I sat with it open on my knee and carefully read the little booklet of descriptions until my mouth watered, and tried to identify each chocolate I could see before deciding to pick one out.




The one that looks like a blue marble is called 'Tempête', a salted butter caramel (caramel au beurre demi-sel).  The white fleck on the one to the left of it is a whole oat grain, because that one is called 'Terre', a ganache made with caramalised grilled oats( ganache à l'avoine grillé caramalisé).  I haven't eaten either of those yet. The light green glitter on the one in the very top left corner bespeaks it to be 'Rêve', another ganache with flavoured with an infusion of  lemon verbena and mint (verveine menthe).  I did eat that one because I felt that didn't sound so promising, and was therefore better consumed sooner rather than later, but it was utterly heavenly.




The green-gold marble is another caramel, 'Amazone', lime flavoured on a background of nutmeg (citron vert sur fond de muscade), and above it, out of shot, was the rather smarmily named 'Femme', a dark oblong with a flash of metallic pink which was flavoured with rose and litchi.  I tried that one too, and again, though the descriptions and combinations of flavours sound bizarre, they are in fact complex, sumptuous and transporting, and need to be lingered over and held in the mouth for a very long time.

CS Lewis said that this rarefied, exquisite form of gluttony was quite as bad as the old-fashioned, Land of Cockaigne, pigging-out kind, but I don't know.  If I had to give up all the bars of fruit-and-nut all year just to be able to enjoy this pleasure once, I think I probably would.  The growing, making and presenting of these is done with art and beauty and integrity - the chocolate that goes into them is fair-traded and the shop makes much of the provenance of its materials.  If you're ever anywhere near St Brieuc, and you've an arm and a leg to spend on chocolate, get yourself down there.

A good way to start the year.

16 comments:

J Cosmo Newbery said...

But they are so lovely. You didn't eat them Lucy, did you? Lucy? Lucy? Speak to me Lucy!

Fire Bird said...

Oh God!! I was there... but not quite... they look altogether divine and I'll just have to imagine the tastes you describe!

Lucy said...

Hello both.

I ate four. They are quite small, and very light, though rich. I've a notion to blog every day about them until they're finished!

marja-leena said...

Oooh, another reason to visit your part of the world... but with a fat pocketbook and roomy clothes, heh! Now I feel like raiding the last of our much more humble chocolate gifts.

Catalyst said...

I have only one thing to say: Yummmm-oh!

herhimnbryn said...

A work of chocolate art and your descriptions have made my mouth water.

Zhoen said...

Small moments of perfection in a box.

Dale said...

I don't think Lewis would have disapproved in the slightest :-)

The Crow said...

Okay, this post was like watching a strip tease, only for the mouth. The entrance of the fully-hidden contents, the removal of the lid, hinting at the joys to come, then the in-your-face orbs of astonishing delight - oh, the colors, the textures, the ideas of those flavors!

I WANT THEM!!!

oh...i am so very sorry, Lucy, dear...i seem to have drooled all over your monitor...licking the screen is not nearly so satisfying as actually putting one of those beauties on the tongue and letting your own body heat...uh...uh...uh, I think this is where I came in, isn't it?

Love this post!

Lesley said...

...and now my mouth is watering too.

Plutarch said...

Was that Stone's ginger wine? A confection I remember with great pleasure. The glasses which you drank after a cold walk filled me with nostalgia. I can see the label ...

Nimble said...

I applaud your exquisite chocolate start to the year. We celebrated by opening a bottle of wine we'd saved for 'a special occasion'. This year my husband and I are resolved to enjoy the pleasures at hand and not wait.

Lucy said...

Thanks again. Today I had one with almond and lemon zest, and another with Szechuan pepper. Tom had thyme and lemon, and coconut. Greater love hath no woman than that I'm sharing the things...

Crow, you make me laugh, but in fact it would be your monitor you've drooled on! Wipe it up!

Plutarch - yes, Stones it is! One of those things you can't get here, ginger not being a popular flavour generally with Gallic palates, so therefore we hanker for it, and people bring it across the Channel at these times. Good in whisky mac, of course, but pretty good on its own, especially in cold weather. Confection is the right word, but I've never been ashamed to admit to a liking for some forms of sweet alcohol.

You can't get sherry either, sweet, medium or dry, though bizarrely you can get sherry vinegar. White port or amber muscat de Rivesaltes is some kind of alternative. Actually I'm quite surprised there isn't a sherry vinegar flavour chocolate in the box...

Lucy said...

Nimble, you snuck in there! We too have started to drink some of the bottles we've been saving for too long. A 1997 Vouvray disappeared over Christmas, and a St Emilion on the label of which Tom had written 'exceptional', thereby causing it to be put back in the rack every time it was drawn out. They were both good, and the more so for being drunk not remaining in the bottles.

marly said...

Wine and chocolates: could I drop in? I haven't been coming by so much--college applications and company and life--but am glad to see that life is still full of small rich treasures.

Bee said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of those chocolates. I got a box of Thornton's, but it wasn't quite the same. C.S. Lewis said some wise things, but in this case I don't think he was right at all.

This sounds like my kind of regimen: walk/soup/sweet!