October Wine Festival Montmartre, Paris

While the arrival of Autumn is reminding us of its gradual presence in the early mornings and evenings, Paris has been enjoying a blue-skied Indian summer this past week. It has been a time for us to head outdoors to celebrate it. I have an excuse for you to join in, too, with the October Wine Festival Montmartre (known as la Fête des Vendanges).

Sacré Coeur Paris Montmartre

Each year grapes are harvested from the Montmartre vineyard and made into wine. The locals have celebrated this tradition since 1934 – and so 2015 marks the 82nd edition of the Fête des Vendanges, or the Montmartre Paris Wine Festival which takes place around the second Saturday in October. Last year it attracted 500,000 visitors.

The Montmartre Vineyard

Montmartre was covered in vines in the Middle Ages (first evidence dates back to 944).  Just around the corner from Sacré Coeur (the second most visited site in Paris after the Eiffel Tower), you’ll see the Clos de Montmartre’s vineyard, rue Saint Vincent, on the hill or butte, with an altitude of 130 metres. 2000 vines were planted in 1933 in memory of the vines of times past with Gamay, Pinot noir and Landay grapes.

Today the grapes are cultivated without using any pesticides and about 950 bottles of Clos Montmartre are produced every year, elaborated in the cellar of the town hall of the 18th arrondissement of Paris.  Grape juice is also made for the children taking part in the events.

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Annual Wine Festival, Montmartre

This year, according to Sylviane Leplâtre, wine expert for Paris vines, the climate has been more favourable than previous years and a rosé has been particularly produced to suit public demand. How is it? According to Leplâtre, it’s unique colour is salmon pink, it has floral and sweet spicy notes on the nose and the taste is light and delicate.

The grape harvest celebrations last for 5 days and festivities are full on.  Just looking at the programme reveals all sorts of workshops (art including Manga; a how-to guide for the local beehives; floral displays, etc.), competitions, concerts (including a singing-in-the-wine Bordeaux evening), tours and lectures (many of them need to be booked in advance online), and of course the wine tasting and Parcours de Goût (Tasting Journey of producers of hams, cheeses, oysters, wine, etc from all around France) from Friday to Sunday.

For a feel of the celebrations, check out Carol Gillott’s artistic ParisBreakfast view of last year’s event. She recommends you bring your own glass, save yourself for the truffled omelettes, and perhaps even wear a black jacket and red scarf …

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Ever since the very first festival took place in 1934 with actor Fernandel as “Godfather” (Parrain) and actress Mistinguett as “Godmother” (Marraine), French celebrities are chosen by the mayors of Montmartre and Paris to lead the festivities. Next week actress/model Melanie Thierry and singer Raphael will take the lead.

Saturday 10th October marks the main events: the Ban des Vendanges, a gathering of the robe-clad Confrerie brotherhoods of local food and wine; the Clos de Montmartre wine auction, when the produce proceeds go to charity organisations in the district; the Grand Parade (Défilé), when 1500 participants leave the Mairie of the 18th at 3pm and arriving at 5.45pm at Place Saint Pierre; and at night enjoy a 15-minute firework display orchestrated by world firework champion, Joseph Couturier, at the foot of Montmartre.

Montmartre Paris

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the chocolate (try the chocolate buttes and kisses!) and macarons from my pastry chef chocolate friend, Christophe Roussel, who is in Rue Tardieu, just opposite the 2,280 steps and entrance to the Finiculaire cable car. Please say bonjour from me!

For more information, check out the latest edition of the Fêtes des Vendanges de Montmartre (in French) or for details in English, head to the site of Sortir à Paris’s Montmartre Wine Festival.

Metros: Abbesses or Anvers.

 

Update: next edition is 10-14 October 2018.

A Pompidou Walk to La Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris

Paris and St Valentine are a couple that go hand in hand, don’t they?

This past couple of weeks, in between steely, dreary days and an unrestful flurry of snow, the sun has popped out to say bonjour.  Passing the Hôtel de Ville, I found myself reaching for giant floating hearts. Bubbles were in the air.

Hotel de Ville Paris with ice rink

For the romantic ice-skaters amongst you, the ice rink or patinoire at the Hôtel de Ville will remain open until 1 March 2015.

Instead I was walking to the Centre Pompidou to meet up with a visiting friend from Provence with the most contagious, lilting sing-song accent.  Did you know that the Centre Pompidou has been open to the public since 1977 and owns the biggest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe?  Its contemporary tubing exterior is also arty symbolic: red for circulation, blue for air and green for water.

Centre Pompidou Beaubourg Paris

There’s been a lot of hype around the Jeff Koons exhibition there, “The Retrospective”. It’s at the top floor of the Pompidou Centre and is running until 27 April 2015. Personally, I found this a highly different cup of tea to swallow. Industrial hoovers, adverts, basketballs floating in glass cases, a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson sitting with a monkey? I just didn’t get it. Balloon Dog and Hanging Heart look as light as balloons but they each weigh about a ton in stainless steel.

Jeff Koons exhibition Centre Pompidou in Paris

A heavy heart indeed!

Being on the 6th floor, you’ll love looking out over the surrounding rooftops of Paris. It’s a great place to come to see breathtaking views. I had one thing on my mind: where we could venture out nearby. After all, it was time for tea! There’s restaurant Georges on the top floor if you wish to splash out (stunning red roses were on every table) but for a teatime goûter, there are so many pâtisseries to choose from around here, especially along rue Rambuteau (more on that another time – especially as I have many more suggestions in my forthcoming book, “Teatime in Paris“). Since it was rather cold and the end of the sales in Paris, I had a sweet idea.

Rooftop view of Paris from the Centre Pompidou

Walking down Rue du Renard (fox street) towards the Hôtel de Ville, we turned left into rue de la Verrerie and headed less than a couple of short blocks to the BHV store (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville), a Parisian institution.

Heading for the 3rd floor, it was time for tea and pastries at the Pâtisserie of dreams, La Pâtisserie des Rêves.  Pastry chef, Philippe Conticini, dreamed up his first concept pastry boutique in rue du Bac in 2009. He now has six boutiques in the Paris area – and has also opened in London and Japan. The Parisian tea salon in BHV is the latest to have opened in July 2014 – and admittedly I checked it out last summer with Mardi Michels (blogging friend of Eat.Live.Travel.Write fame). Each summer I meet up with Mardi, it’s Champagne flutes rather than teapots, dahlinks. When in Paris, I love it when Mardi goes for the pink bubbles – and in this case, it perfectly matched the Pâtisserie des Rêves décor!

Patisserie des reves BHV store Paris

Check out these teapots. It was like drinking from an oversized doll’s tea-set. That’s Philippe Conticini’s concept: to evoke memories of sweet childhood. Now that’s more like creating memories; imagine this coffee éclair, wrapped in caramelised chocolate?

La Patisserie des reves Paris tea room with tea-set

Even the simple jug of water is classy. I don’t normally drink much water but the touch of lime zest made it actually taste pleasurable!  This is the first time I’ve tasted his éclairs.  Don’t judge: I normally go for the ongoing fabulous classics: the Saint Honoré, Paris-Brest and oh, his tarte au citron meringuée

La Patisserie des Reves in Paris tea salon

There are many more to choose from. Through my tastings over the years, many of his pastries are slightly sweeter than most. Funnily enough, Conticini is one of the rare pastry chefs that doesn’t do macarons. I’m certainly not complaining; there are plenty more exquisite pastries to choose from including limited editions, according to his creative whim and delicious seasonal fancy.

La Patisserie des Reves in Paris

On Wednesday, children are the focus of dreams here. As there are no French school classes in the afternoon to enjoy extra-curricular activities, this is the favourite form of workshop.  When we were there, there was a crêpe party for them with plenty of the well known rose-pink balloons.

My tea may have been an ephemeral moment in Paris but my sweet tastings from La Pâtisserie des Rêves happily continue at the boutique in Parly 2, our shopping centre near Versailles for us who live out of Paris. I’d better hurry up and order his special Valentine’s cake for two with raspberry and lemon mousse, although please don’t tell Antoine I tried it, haha. Proof is the girls and I tasted even more pastries this week. I’ll have to write another post!

Patisserie des Reves Parly 2 shopping centre near Paris

I’ll leave you with a quick shot of this giant bubble before it soared above the Hôtel de Ville.

Blowing giant bubbles above the hotel de ville Paris

Have a lovely Valentine’s weekend. Fill it with fun, sweet dreams of Paris and lots of bubbles!

La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Philippe Conticini)
BHV Store, 3rd floor
36, rue de la Verrerie
75004 Paris

Disclaimer: Like all my blog posts, I am not sponsored by anyone and have in no way been asked to write this post. All views are entirely my own.

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Paris Gourmet Chocolate Museum – Choco Story

The French school mid-term holidays just came and went.  So did the wonderfully sunny weather we had: it was a surprising bonus to be in T-shirts at the end of October so we jumped on the RER train into Paris to the Museum of Chocolate.  Are you ready for a quick virtual choco-story tour?

The Paris chocolate museum is well ‘spread out’ and presented on 3 floors.  When we arrived, we could sense it was the school holidays: groups of youngsters and really young ones were being taken around.  Whether they grasped the story of chocolate beats me, as the poor things seemed to be told off more than given the chance to listen.

history of chocolate beginnings from Mayans to Aztecs

Why the name Chocolate?

The museum’s ground floor covers the Mayans and the Aztecs,  starting out with questions where chocolate came from.  For example, “Why the name cacao or cocoa?”  Well different Mayan ceramic pots are decorated with glyphs which have been interpreted as ka-ka-wa.  Hence the word cacao or cocoa in English.

Then why the name “chocolate”?  In Nahuatl, a language which is still spoken today by ore than 1.5 million Indians in Central America, cacahuatl is the word for chocolate: kakawa = cocoa, atl = water.  In the second part of the 16th century, the Spanish however used the word chocolatl, taking the Mayan word chocol to mean hot and the Aztec word atl to mean water, which later became chocolate.

Drinking pots Aztec period - Paris Chocolate Museum

How Chocolate Comes to Spain

The Mayans traded with cacao beans and so when Christopher Columbus saw this, he brought back the beans to Spain then, thinking they were bitter almonds, chucked them over his shrugging shoulders, thinking there wasn’t much they could do with them.

In 1519 it was the Spanish explorer, Cortez, that discovered the Aztecs drinking this bitter drink, chocolatl, from ceremonial pots.  King Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (I need a hot chocolate just to pronounce that one!) managed to produce 2000 large goblets of cocoa for his warriors.  It was a drink to fight fatigue and build resistance.  The drink wasn’t just bitter (vanilla and honey were added to sweeten slightly) but it was also spicy using mexican pepper, chili and allspice.  Thinking that Cortez was a feathered serpent god, the King offered him some of the royal potion and the story began…

Cortez finally brought cacao back to Spain in 1528.  Up until 1580, the Spaniards managed to keep this special drink pretty quiet by forbidding it to be exported and in 1580 opened the first cacao processing plant.  By this time they also added sugar and cinnamon to the spicy drink.

chemist chocolate bottles Paris Chocolate Museum

Chocolate – the best medicine!

Fast forward to 1753 and the the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus names the cocoa tree Theobroma Cacao.

In Spain, cocoa products were originally sold in pharmacies. When it came to France, it was given the same treatment.  Cocoa butter was also sold as ointment.  I was just thinking about that as I was rubbing in my favourite cocoa butter moisturiser after my shower this morning – it’s just as good!

sugar cone pouring stand - Paris Chocolate Museum

Sugar

Sugar was obtained only from the sugar cane.  The sugar cane was pressed and the juice thickened into a very sweet liquid, which was poured into conical moulds.  After crystallisation, a cone of sugar was obtained.  This is how sugar was sold at the time, as it still is today in certain regions of Morocco.

Sugar cone cutters - Paris Chocolate Museum

Chocolate tools look more like Hallowe’en torture implements!

The sugar cones – also known as sugarloaf – or pain de sucre, needed some rather sinister looking implements to cut them!  For Facebook friends who tried to guess what this was over Hallowe’en, here’s your answer!

It was only by the beginning of the 1800s that sugar beet came to be used in Europe.

The juicy bits of history – when the chocolate drink comes to France via the royal courts and is then consumed as chocolate today – is missing here as this would end up being a mammoth post!  My colleagues and I talk about this during our chocolate and pastry walking tours in Paris via Context Travel.

Bonbon presentation boxes - Paris Chocolate Museum

The top floor also covers the first adverts, chocolate in France and collections of pretty chocolate and bonbon boxes, porcelain or ceramic.

chocolate presentation box French - Paris Chocolate Museum

And rather interesting looking chocolate pots.  I particularly like this modern version from Marseille, complete with a Molinillo-style chocolate beater, or moussoir.  Although the pourer does look like a rather long talking point!  Chocolate as an aphrodisiac is also covered – it even goes back to the Mayans and Aztecs.  The kids seemed to spend a long time trying to understand this section… ahem.

French designer chocolate pots Paris Chocolate Museum

The Paris Chocolate Museum finishes with a short documentary film (which is needed, as the actual making of chocolate needs more emphasis, I felt) and a 15-minute demonstration downstairs.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions: my group were either too timid or too busy eyeing the samples offered.  The girls and I were too polite and took only one and missed the others.  Is that a British, “After you”.. trait?

I also bought the tasting of hot chocolate at the end of the visit for the girls.  They had a choice of flavour, including a more Aztec style of drink, full of spices which was more intense in chocolate.  The tasting takes place in the museum shop.  As it was in the holidays, it was quite crowded but nevertheless it’s a visit I do recommend if you would love to learn more about the fascinating world of chocolate.

Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat – Choco Story
28 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
75010 Paris

Métro: Bonne Nouvelle

Open every day 10am – 6pm

20th Salon du Chocolat Paris

How could you resist? Week 2 of the French mid-term school holidays and the 20th Salon du Chocolat Paris kicked off yesterday.

chocolate fashion dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The kids ruled (my excuse, anyway) so it was time to head over to the Porte de Versailles for a taste. Arriving in the vast upstairs gallery, most people were making for the chocolate dresses.  Hey, did someone pinch that meringue at the bottom? It wasn’t me, I promise…

chocolate and macaron candy dress salon du chocolat Paris 2014

The fashion show parades at 3pm and 5pm, when the crowds form around the central podium.  That’s when I ventured around to visit other attractions, including the ground floor, full of chocolate from around the world.  The last time I came here was with talented artist, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfast fame: her fabulous artwork was in full view behind Fréderic Kassel’s pastry stand – although I don’t understand how I missed it.  It’s huge here – and not for nothing I lost Carol last time, too!

chocolate sculpture Paris 2014 court of Louis XIV

Jean-Luc Decluzeau, chocolate-maker and passionate historian put this sculpture together, celebrating how chocolate came to France around the 17th Century.  This represents the court of Louis XIV. It’s made with 500 kilos of Leonidas chocolates – including 2300 pralines – representing 300 hours of sweet labour.

Leonidas chocolate sculpture Paris salon 2014

Personally I had my eye on a leg: I’d be quite happy with the seat alone, weighing in at 35 kilos!
This time, macaron-lovers would certainly be happy.  These gluten-free treats were … everywhere.

macaron displays at the salon du chocolate Paris

And even more macarons from a huge central stand devoted to Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolates – including a White Bar, serving cocktails. I intended to return but became carried away… His chocolate macarons are top of my list, for sure.

macarons by Pierre Marcolini Paris

By lunch time, the kids and I were starving.  Looking around for a sandwich…. all we could find were these savoury macarons from les Macarondises (Paul, the only savoury boulangerie stand had sold out – my 12-yr old daughter Lucie has decided she’s setting up a stall next year).  That was definitely a first: savoury macarons for lunch.  Well, it was a gluten-free sandwich or few: salmon-dill, goats cheese-honey, foie gras and gingerbread and foie gras with chocolate (but of course).   The salmon was our winner with chèvre-miel a close second.

savoury macarons from les macarondises

We followed it off with another box for dessert from Les Macarondises.  Do you know what?  I much preferred the savoury ones – they were so much less sweeter and full of flavour, just enough filling, not too much.  Perfection.

macaron box at the salon du chocolat in Paris 2014

Before I knew it, I bumped into Christophe Roussel, the most friendly chocolatier-pâtissier in Montmartre.  He didnt have a stand this year being busy as a new Dad but was one of the judges – you must check out his new chocolate Eiffel Towers, called iTowers!  Then just around the corner, Philippe Urraca, one of my pastry chef heroes, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, s’il vous plaît, was demonstrating how to make chocolate truffles.

Philippe Urraca Cemoi chocolate demonstration Paris

Enough name-dropping (and grinning in a photo with him together – more are on Facebook and now on Instagram).
Look at Sadaharu Aoki’s stand: preparing the Tokyo Macaron Yaki – a large chocolate macaron sandwiched in between green tea waffle batter.

Sadaharu Aoki Tokyo macaron yaki for the Salon du Chocolat Paris

Every stand has something going on.  So much to take in, smell, taste, then bring out the wallet and pocket money… this is when I realise my kids love good, dark chocolate.

Japanese chocolate houses at the salon du chocolat Paris

Not only exquisite chocolate, but the best in artisanal lollipops, full of flavours such as the classic of salted caramel, chocolate-pear, green apple, honey, chocolate-nougat, chocolate-pistachio…

Artisanal lollipops salon du chocolat Paris

Chocolate mousse – the traditional chocolate mousse bar run by the famous house, Chapon – here’s Patrice Chapon’s recipe for his 100% cacao Chocolate Mousse.

chocolate mousse bar Chapon

Then the more chocolate, chestnut, coffee, praline flavours of macarons from Laurent Duchêne.  Then I was tempted by his Baba au Yuzu… just finished it tonight, split with the girls to taste.  Thanks to Carol Gillott for tempting me with a photo of it in the morning – this was the final straw and had me legging it to le Salon!

Macarons Laurent Duchene Paris

Not forgetting that pastry chefs and chocolatiers are real artists, there was a huge emphasis also on chocolate artwork as well as the sculptures.  Here, Romain Duclos  demonstrated his artwork, ‘Valse Chocolat’ showing the movements of chocolate through 15-second vibrations every 1.5 minutes underneath the table.  At one point, the vibrations were so powerful, we could have been in Iceland watching some kind of chocolate eruptions.  Wonderful imagination.

chocolate artwork by Romain Duclos Valse Chocolat

Then back to art on canvas – macarons.  Carol Gillott should have a stand of her amazing macaron and pastry watercolours.  Just saying for the next Salon du Chocolat Paris …

macaron artwork

Next door, the kids posed for a Giant King Kong in chocolate, were particularly taken by a chocolate owl who was weeping, then we gazed up at these painters still preparing something for the following few days…

painters in action at the salon du chocolat Paris

Hubby was brought up in Africa and so spooky masks are something I’ve tried to avoid.  Now that these are in chocolate by Chocolats Colas, I could live with that…

african art chocolate masks by chocolats Colas

Suddenly we heard the crowds again: the next fashion show was parading around with chocolate dresses.  Meanwhile, this little girl was up to a few tricks and treats: watching attentively as the strawberries were dipped into the most tempting of melted chocolate.

Godiva-chocolate-strawberries-Paris

By now we were flagging.  I’m sure you are too by now?  There are more photos on the other social network channels (I’m starting to give it a go) for those of you who need more chocolate.

giant macarons

By this time, giant macarons were rather on the big side – even for macaronivores.

chocolate and coffee macarons

What would you go for, now that Autumn is here: lemon, praline, coffee, speculoos (cinnamon), crème brûlée, chocolate?

macaron-tower-salon-du-chocolat-Paris-2014

Next edition of Le Salon du Chocolat Paris: 31 October – 4 November 2018

Going Macarons at the Paris Salon du Chocolat

How come I’ve never been before? It took my talented artistic American friend, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfasts, to entice me along finally to the 2011 Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Was I too busy making macarons? Perhaps more because it’s at Porte de Versailles, an area that’s a nightmare to park and with all the exhibition halls for someone with no sense of direction, it’s like suffering an orienteering course for a sports exam when it’s not your sport. Arriving seriously late with a lame excuse of being too nice in traffic jams, she was an angel to still take me under her wing.

Who was more mad about macarons? Check out Carol’s eye-catching gear of tee-shirt and matching macaron bracelet. Not difficult to lose her – although she might tell you the opposite. Each stand visited, we were greeted with “Superb T-Shirt!” followed by more chocolate tastings, thanks to her savoir-faire.

Carol knows a thing or two about Paris fashions – not surprising, as she has the artist’s eye. Macarons are definitely à la mode (by that I don’t mean the American ice-cream on top, I’m talking trendy Parisian fashion here.)

See?  Macaron ruffled necklaces are obviously in.

Another necklace – this time just like her bracelet, plus macarons dotted around the dress.

Should I perhaps give some macarons to the French fashion creator, Jean Colonna? We could create Le Colonna macaron dress. Just an idea…

Meanwhile, looking around, it’s macarons galore – perfect for a macaron blog.

A rather foxy (get it?) macaron-shell tower in all its glory by Gregory Renard and then his Eiffel Tower of macarons…

While we’re gazing at the Paris monuments, what about l’Arc de Triomphe by Léonidas?  It’s the one time I can negotiate the traffic around it without needing a bumper or aspirin.

Eye-spy, my little eye falls on chocolate-dipped macarons by Christophe Roussel.

Then a tasting over at Arnaud Larher‘s stand, even if the taster macaron bits were so near yet so far behind the counter. Pain d’épice (gingerbread) and orange. What a gorgeous filling texture, although I didn’t really get the orange, sorry.  Hm – what’s that electric green colouring for pistachio? Never mind, it’s delicious!

Quite the chocolate treat from Arnaud Larher: these are chocomacs. They’re not macarons but chocolates in the shape of macarons. Now when you see macaron molds, you understand it’s not to make macarons but chocolate-shaped macarons.

There’s also a Professional Salon du Chocolat downstairs, including packaging, equipment and all kinds of tricks for the trade. This macaron-making machine might be rather bulky for the kitchen, n’est-ce pas? It also looks rather complicated but worth it if you need to make macarons in their thousands daily. Give me the simple piping bag any day.

Meanwhile, time to check out the World Chocolate Masters 2011. It’s serious business between the top chocolatiers strutting their stuff until something catches my eye in the audience. I should really learn to concentrate.

Imagine this blissful scene: somebody is just sitting with their arms out, holding these miniature macaron beauties.  Of course, I asked if I could try just one since I LOVE macarons. Wouldn’t you do the same on seeing this sight?

This was a Grand Marnier mini macaron, with a macaron shell on top of the most exquisite chocolate by Spruengli in Switzerland. What lovely people!

Then came Sébastien Bouillet. He’s a pâtisserie legend in Lyon and his speciality?

The Macalyon.  It’s a salted caramel macaron dipped completely in 70% dark chocolate.  Only €6.80 for a box of four…

It was with his Macalyon that I was inspired with this bitter chocolate macaron for the book, but only dipping it in half. Then Christophe Roussel also does it. What do you think? Personally I prefer seeing a macaron’s feet, rather than hiding it all. Although…

Chocolate macaron from my book, “Mad About Macarons”

 

My chocolate! Is that the time already? Now if I was really Smart, I could get in this nifty Salon du Chocolat special edition car and whisk myself home, weaving in front of the crazy drivers, just in time for school pick-up. It’s sweet but macarons were missing on it, don’t you think?

If you’re in Paris, then do check it out: the Salon du Chocolat is still open until Monday 24 October!

It’s guaranteed you’ll have a smashing time!

Ah. Just as well I’d made more chocolate macarons back home for dessert. All this chocolate is making me crave more.  I wonder why?