Versailles & Le Chocolat

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Photo: wikipedia

It was in the 17th century that Anne d’Autriche, the daughter of the King of Spain, married Louis XIII and introduced chocolate, as Spain held the monopoly on cacao at that time. When Louis XIV married a Spanish princess, Marie-Therese, it was said that she had two passions:  the King and chocolate!  The King considered chocolate as something that satiates the appetite but isn’t filling.  On May 28, 1659, the King granted an officer to the Queen the position of selling a certain composition of chocolate throughout the kingdom and created a corporation of 150 “limonadiers” (beverage vendors) who were the only ones authorized to sell the chocolate drink.

IMG_0056At the court of Versailles, chocolate became fashionable and was served on certain days, no one certain of what
it really was: a gourmandise or a medicine.  Madame de Maintenon, the 2nd wife of Louis XIV, had chocolate served during certain celebrations. However, other opinions at that time stated that chocolate would physically cure your ills and that it would cause palpitations and sudden fever that would continue until death. (Perhaps, that is where the saying death by chocolate originated!?)

The taste for chocolate passed from the court to aristocrats, with France developing the cultivation of cacao in its colonies of Martinique, Les Antilles, and Guyane, but was reserved for rich clients that could afford its high cost.  In 1705, limonadier Pierre Masson introduced a gourmand beverage that consisted of cacao from Spain, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, and sugar mixed with water or milk.

Madame Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV, was the first to order chocolate served in the china/porcelain manufactured in Sevres. At the court of Louis XV, the taste for chocolate continued with the King preparing his own chocolate in his private apartment’s kitchen – chocolate said to have aphrodisiac properties. Madame Pompadour favored chocolate with vanilla and amber in order to heat one’s blood.

Until the 19th century, chocolate was considered a type of medicine, known for its digestive properties.  It was a pharmicien, Sulpice Debauve who was passionate about chocolate, who made the famous chcolate candy with almond milk (pistols de la Reine) for Marie-Antoinette. As chocolatier to the Queen, he invented for her various chocolates made with orchid bulbs for fortification, orange flowers for nerves, and almond milk for digestion.

For more than three centuries, the success of chocolate in the town of Versailles has continued, hosting many artisanal chocolate specialists and local patisseries – a ‘royal’ treat indeed!

Source: Magazine “Versailles” no. 81

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Spiced Chocolate Mousse

“French women choose their own indulgences and compensations.  They understand that little things count, both additions and subtractions, and that as an adult everyone is the keeper of her own equilibrium..” From the French Woman’s Manifesto

Spiced Chocolate Mousse (Serves 4)spiced choc mousse

Ingredients:

7 ounces dark chocolate (70% to 80% cacao preferred), chopped

4 eggs, separated, at room temperature

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

½ cup crème fraîche

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a double boiler insert set over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and let the chocolate cool slightly. It should feel warm but not hot to the touch.

  2. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and a pinch of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed while gradually incorporating half of the sugar. When the egg whites almost form stiff peaks, add the remaining sugar and beat until glossy. Remove the whipped egg whites and place in a large bowl. Clean the mixing bowl and add the crème fraîche, citrus zests, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and egg yolks and mix for 20 seconds on medium-high speed.  Add the warm chocolate and beat until smooth.

  3. Carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites and gently mix. Serve, garnished with additional crème fraîche and orange zest, if desired, or refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. This may be made 1 day in advance (let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving if chilled).

Article/Photo Credit:   Mireille Guiliano via France Today

Massage Relaxant @ K2 Chocolate

IMG_0098_1It was delicious – the massage, that is!

I had the opportunity to have a 50 minute “Californien” massage session at K2 Chocolate, an upscale spa located in the Carré d’Or (heart of the city) of Nice. The technicien, Maria, was professional and friendly, and had gifted hands that melted away any hidden tension.

I was escorted through the salon, with its chic decor, invitingly warm, like the owner and staff.  The list of spa services is indeed comprehensive, along with the options of UV teeth whitening treatment and body tanning.

What would I add to this pleasurable experience?  Mais oui – a sample of yummy chocolate to complement the spa’s name and my yummy massage!

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My daily addiction (entre nous) – boulangerie in Nice !

Just up the street from where I work, there is a bakery (one of about a zillion in Nice), which is efficiently run, not expensive, and of course, très bon! You might be surprised that all baguettes are not the same – believe it or not, I have had some that tasted like cardboard, or just had no taste! Just yesterday, I bought a croissant at another bakery, since I was passing by and too lazy to walk up to my preferred one – what a mistake! I ended up throwing half of it away, as it had a heavy texture, didn’t have much taste, and felt like lead in my stomach –quel horreur!

So, I’m staying loyal! At the Boulangerie Pierre Bordonnat, my daily addiction is the ‘cannelé’ – the little rum-flavored sponge-cake – un delice, just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, as dessert after eating one of their mini-sandwiches (on a mini baguette, bien sûr!).

What makes ‘my’ bakery extra special is that the boulanger (baker) won the Best Baguette award in 2010, for the entire Alpes-Maritime region, not just the city of Nice! Well deserved – I even buy one to take home on the scooter or bus, to eat with dinner or freeze for the next morning’s breakfast.

I asked Madame Bordonnat (the baker’s wife) what makes their baguette the best, since the basic ingredients (flour, water, salt) are common to all baguettes. She explained that they use a special (artisanal) flour from Paris and liquid natural yeast, taking the time to let it rise and to bake properly – it comes down to just the right balance of a number of factors, plus a special technique – Monsieur Bordonnat has been a boulanger for 24 years, getting up each morning at 3h30!

Congratulations to M/Mme. BORDONNAT & the entire team:
Lucie and Manon (serveuses), Manollo (assistant baker), and Rocco (sandwich maker). The quality of their service = the quality of the baguette (top rate)!

So, comme d’habitude (as usual), I’ll be back tomorrow!

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