Sunday, November 1, 2009



Chocolate-lover David Lebovitz's name keeps popping up in conversations lately, partly because of the recent release of his new book, The Sweet Life in Paris, and partly because the cookbook writer and Californian pastry chef's followers are in a buzz wanting to know who his favorite Parisian chocolatier is. It turns out that his is just about everybody else's: the young and dynamic chocolate-maker Patrick Roger who already has five beautiful and trendy boutiques in and around Paris.

Roger has an irresistible and tastefully contemporary website with funky fringes on which--and here's the good news for folks back home in the States--he has an online boutique that fills international orders. I realize that we Americans love to sling superlatives around like six-shooters saying what is the very best of this or that, but I have to say that has some of the best Web site design in the universe. (If it's worth the hyperbolism, then why not go all the way?) Don't miss his life-size chocolate sculptural creations.

David Lebovitz, who transplanted himself to Paris in 2002 after working as pastry chef for nearly 13 years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, has a Web site that is pal mal, not bad, too.

Mentionning Chez Panisse reminds me of a San Franciscan friend who sorts people by whether or not they recognize the Marcel Pagnol reference without consulting Google. Her motto is, "Tell me what you read, I'll tell you who you are." It's a spin-off of the 18th century French gourmet and gourmand, Brillat-Savarin's aphorism: "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are.

Whatever you eat, chocolate is always a best seller during hard economic times and what can really count in the comfort zone is a good cup of hot chocolate at the first signs of an autumn cold snap. In a Friday-night card game with a kicky French friend (who has Nutella eyes) we used secret recipes as stakes and I won his grandmother's thick and creamy hot cocoa recipe. Here it is:

Stir cocoa powder well with one cup of the milk in a very large sauce pan. Heat and add rest of milk. Bring to a near boil, after five minutes add sugar and stir for 20 minutes (yes!) keeping the mixture simmering. Carefully control temperature so that the milk does not boil over, removing pan from heat if necessary.

When the mixture is reduced to about half, add orange zest and stir another five minutes. It's ready when the chocolate is thick and leaves a creamy coating on a spoon. Serves six.

Text & photo ©2009 P.B. Lecron
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