the travels & travails of an escaped lab rat

Frère, can you spare 7 € for a hot chocolate?

Paris, among other things, is a garden of gastronomic delights. In my travels, I’ve dined the whole spectrum of venues – from greasy spoons to Michelin-anointed establishments. But never far off my culinary paths are my much-loved Tea Houses, or Salons de Thé, as they are known in France.

I, unlike the very late Pope Clement VIII, have never been much of a fan of coffee (if it only tasted as good as it smelled I might revisit my estimation of the drink). I’m a fervent tea fanatic. I love the concept and ritual of tea time and the tea ceremony. The more hectic my schedule and life become, the more taking time for tea becomes a retreat and luxury.

The only thing I like more than a soothing cuppa (accompanied by a side plate of oven-fresh scones with homemade preserves and a generous heaping of clotted cream) is a nice thick rich hot chocolate. Well, luckily for my tastebuds (and unfortunately for my cholesterol-laden circulatory system), Paris is the world capital for pastries and chocolate!

Of course, one of the first places for me to track down was Ladurée (not all that difficult with its celadon-green storefront motif). Being a traditionalist, I went to the original salon on Rue Royale (which was founded at that location in 1862). This is where good macarons go when they die.

The tea and macarons at Ladurée were exceptional, but I found their hot chocolate a bit too sweet for my liking. After bemoaning this fact to a co-worker, I was told quite matter-of-factly that if it was a dark hot chocolate beverage I was seeking, there was only one place to go: Angelina.

I found Angelina at the spot where it has been since 1903 – on the Rue de Rivoli, across from the Jardins de Tuillerie, and nestled in a Belle Epoque arcade. I felt as if I’d gone back to that self-same era when I walked through the front door.

Rows of perfectly assembled pastries are displayed behind large glass cabinets; shelves of tea and accoutrements line the boutique walls. A very polite host stood patiently to take me to my table in the voluminous tea room (I scored a prime seat looking out onto the street and the formal gardens beyond – part of the game in Paris café/tea house culture is to see and be seen).

I didn’t even need a menu. I knew what I wanted – what I had come for: “L’Africain”. A thick, rich, dark bitter-sweet hot chocolate. I ordered a Mont Blanc pastry as well (meringue, whipped cream and sweet chestnut cream) – just to gild the lily – in for a centime and all…


They brought the hot chocolate out in a small pitcher with a side ramekin of velvety whipped cream. Just for the record, I’m not one to defile my hot chocolate, so the whipped cream went untouched (well, OK, I touched it with my finger just to taste – it looked too tempting to not touch it).

This was hot chocolate as the devil intended: no “milk”, no cloying sweetness; just warm rich indulgence gliding down your throat. There was enough in the pitcher for a cup and a bit…which really wasn’t enough at all if you ask me.

So was it worth the 6,80 € just for the hot chocolate?

You bet your carb-loving ass it was.

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Posted in Journal by madsci on February 2nd, 2008 at 6:14 pm.

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