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Monday, April 9, 2012

For the love of Chocolate

I love my chocolate. Always have and I suspect I always well.  And since yesterday was Easter, a number of us probably have tons of if sitting around the house.  Just don’t let your kids catch you sneaking a piece out of their basket.  
  
I keep a bag of Hershey kisses in my desk at work.  Sometimes just one or two are all I need around three in the afternoon.  In my office at home, I have miniature Reese’s cups. The protein from the peanut butter keeps me going and I can write more (it’s my story and I am sticking with it). 

As for beverages, I like a thick rich drink with steamed milk (and whipped cream, of course).  In a pinch, I will make my own cup of hot cocoa (not one of those powders you add to hot water).  Just follow the recipe on the back of the cocoa can/tin by adding the right amount of warm milk, vanilla, salt and sugar – yum!!!!

However, my favorite chocolate bar would have no less 75% cocoa.  That’s right – rich, almost bitter, dark chocolate. The higher the percentage the more I love it. Next year (crosses fingers) I will have an opportunity to visit Paris and a few other cities and one of the things I plan on doing is embracing my passion on a Chocolate Walk. What better place to eat, drink and enjoy chocolate than Paris? Of the seven places listed on the walk I picked, I think the last will be my favorite because of the history alone: Debauve & Gallais.  They were founded in 1800 and have been in their current location since 1818.  Their history is fascinating (at least to this chocolate lover).  You can read about it  here, here and here.

Sulpice Debauve (one of the original owners) was a former chemist for Louis XVI.  While with the royal family, the queen, Marie Antoinette, complained her medicine tasted too strong and suggested taking it with her hot chocolate.  I am not sure if they discovered this was a bad idea by trying it or if Debauve knew it wouldn’t work and came up with the idea of putting the medicine in a chocolate.  The Queen was delighted and called them Pistoles.  These first chocolates were made of cocoa and cane sugar with the medicine mixed within.  She requested more, but with an improved taste.  Debauve then produced more Pistoles (chocolates) with orange blossom, almond milk, Orgeat cream, coffee, vanilla, and I am assuming other flavors.

Following the French Revolution, and I am grateful nobody found it necessary to take off Debauve’s head, Debauve opened his first chocolate shop in 1800 and called it “A la Renommée des chocolats de France” (“Fame – fine reputation – of French Chocolates”).

“Sulpice Debauve had most probably read the findings of doctor Stephanius Blancardius from Amsterdam who, almost a century before, in 1705, claimed: ‘Chocolate is not only pleasurable to the taste, but truly is a balm for the mouth, keeping glands and mucous membranes healthy. That is why those who drink it have such a sweet breath.’ A doctor recommending chocolate consumption as a therapy must have pleased our chemist / chocolate maker very much, all the more since he said: ‘Do eat chocolate, as it frees you from the cough that shakes your entire body like a fury. It softens the ills better yet than any other syrup. Come and have some if your digestion is difficult.  You will recover your strength in no time, and your winter will turn into a verdurous spring…’”

In 1804, Debauve opened over sixty new shops and his products were even mail-ordered and delivered by horse and carriage.  In that same year Grimod de la Reynière wrote about Debauve and ended the article with “I demand he opens up new shops in each city or town regardless of its size, so that everyone can enjoy the medicinal and sensual benefits of the best chocolates known to date.” There is a note that the first Parisian chocolate maker of its kind came to be around 1670 but I cannot find any information on my beloved chocolate dating before Debauve.  

Since those first chocolates, hundreds have been invented and companies have come and gone.  Some of my favorites to date are Hershey, Godiva, Ghirardelli, oh, there really are too many too list. I have a feeling that Debauve & Gallais chocolates may be a favorite, if I ever actually have the opportunity to taste them.  However, they are a bit out of my price range since a 1.7 pound box of Pistoles De Marie Antoinette sells for $200.00 (pictured to your right), and that was in their store in New York.  I was going to ask my critique partner, Jerrica Knight-Catania, to swing by and pick me up an itsy bitsy bon bon and bring it to me when we meet up in Chicago for the Romantic Times Convention but I just learned they closed :(.  Guess I will need to get my chocolate from France after all.

I know that it is widely believed that there were no chocolates in Regency England, and I don’t dispute this. I have found no evidence of chocolates being sold or made in England. However, given there have been so many shops in shops in France since 1804, I consider it plausible that at least one Englishman may have stopped in a Debauve & Gallais shop and sampled. And, this is why I have allowed my hero in His Contrary Bride to make chocolates for the lady he was courting.  It may be a stretch, but not impossible.  And besides, I write fiction and since it was possible that chocolates could be made, I don’t see why he can’t make them.  Though I do wonder, if there were so many shops in Paris, why didn’t anyone open one in London? It would have been all the rage, I am sure. Or, maybe they did, and we just can’t find the evidence of it.  

I am looking forward to my Paris Chocolate Walk more than before.  It will be a healthy experience because not only will the walking be beneficial, but the chocolate is healthy too, or so said Dr. Stephanius Blancardius in 1705 and I believe him.

Are you a chocolate lover? Which is your favorite?

Jane Charles 
Countess of Content

36 comments:

  1. I love the chocolate theme of todays blog. I would be a chocolate fiend. Love the stuff and can't get enough of it. I do have my favorites. For the pricer chocolate I like Godiva. Lindt would be my next choice on. I really like how that stuff just melts in your mouth. However, I normally stick with whatever candy bar calls my name. Mmm, I like Ghiradelli too. I normally stick with Toll House for baking purpose, but I decided to tried the Ghiradelli chips for my scones. I don't think I can go back to Toll House that ever again. I just need to find a white chocolate chip then coconut with white chocolate chip will be Heavenly.

    Love chocolate.

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  2. Melody,

    Lindt completely slipped my mind, another excellent choice. I've always stuck with Nestle chips for my cooking (habit from childhood I am sure, and they never fail to please :)). I will have to pick up Ghiradelli chips next time I am going to bake.

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  3. Jane! How can you write a blog about chocolates when I'm trying to be sooo good on my diet?!?! I adore chocolate, but I haven't had a bite in nearly two months. I've found that having one little bite is my downfall (sweet breath notwithstanding.)

    A few years ago when I cruised western Europe, I was fortunate enough to buy a box of French chocolate from a shop in a tiny fishing village called Honfleur. It was amazing. So smooth, so much smoother than the chocolate I'm used to here in the States.

    BUT the best had to be the chocolate I got in Belgium. The entire street in Brugges smelled like chocolate, and they tasted better than they smelled. ;)

    Now I'm going to pretend I never read your blog and reach for my cottage cheese.

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    1. Ava- next thing your you are going to have chocolate dream and you are going to blame Jane for it.

      Don't worry I'll eat chocolate for the both us. I'm stressing out with the move and going to my comfort.

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    2. Ava,

      So sorry to tempt you. I've never had Belgium chocolate - from Belgium that is. I will have to figure out how to get some. However, I have eaten chocolate from small shops in Paris before and it is sooooo good.

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    3. Melody ~ I am happy to blame Jane for so many things. ;) LOL! Good luck with the move, how much time do you have?

      Jane ~ If you're going to be in France, you need to find a way to hop over to Belgium. Truly, the best in the world. ;)

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    4. Tomorrow the packers come and they should be here for 2-3 days. Then we are cleaning the house. Until the 18th and we stay in temporary lodging

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    5. Good luck, Melody! No wonder you're stressed. You should have an entire bag of chocolate to take the edge off. ;)

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    6. Lol. I don't think I could do that, but I needed to get my soda fix. I will make it.

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  4. I love these historical tidbits--almost as much as I love chocolate!

    Growing up, there was an amazing chocolate factory in the next town. That is my all time favorite--it tastes like home! These days, if I'm not buying Sarris, I'm buying the dark chocolate, too.

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    1. Deb,

      Having a chocolate factory that close while growing up must have been heaven. I am not sure I've tried Sarris chocolate. I think I will have to find some for sampling :).

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  5. Jane,

    What an interesting blog. I love learning something new. My favorite chocolate is Lindt. No doubt about it.

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    1. Samantha,

      Lindt is high on the list. I think it is my daughter's all time favorite.

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  6. I'm not a big fan of chocolate, so I don't really have a favorite. When I do buy it I tend to gravitate towards bitter chocolate, or just semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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    1. Misty,

      My problem with chocolate chips is when I open a bag to bake, I tend to keep popping "just a few" in my mouth and then the cookies, or whatever I am baking at the moment, may not end up with the amount originally called for in the recipe.

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  7. LOVE this! What a great bit of history. And how cool is it that you get to check it out in person when you go to Paris? Make sure to take lots of pictures for us jealous folks! :)

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    1. Thanks, Andris. Oh, I will take lots of pictures as I taste my way from one shop to the next. Hopefully I will walk enough to burn off all those calories.

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  8. I'm a milk chocolate fan. What can I say, my relatives lived in Eastern PA and Hershey was a favorite summertime stop. I went when they still gave tours of the actual chocolate factory. MMMMmmm and the little kisses on the street lamps are cool. A whole town devoted to the love (and profit) of chocolate.

    Ghirardelli is my higher end chocolate favorite. I like the Lindt truffles but for actually using chocolate to bake, Ghirardelli wins.

    But I did go to Belgium and their chocolate was good too. Different but good. We brought some back and I gave it to my mother-in-law who watched my oldest who was a baby at that time.

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    1. Beth,

      I always wanted to visit the Hershey factory when I was a kid. I rated up there right next to Disney. I'll have to arrange a visit to the town sometime. I want to see those street lamps :).

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    2. I will say that I think it's been commercialized more than I remember as a kid. Then again, it could be I'm an adult now and more cynical than the bright-eyed child I'd been.

      But it's been a very long time since I've been there. And since my husband neither likes chocolate or Amusement park rides, it's difficult to get him to consider a trip to Hershey when the beach is calling.

      I hope you get there and enjoy the trip. I saw a Travel Show special where they went to one of the high end resorts and they had Chocolate Spa days. Every thing had versions of chocolate. Sprinkled coco in the bath, Chocolate mud masks, Coco Oil Massages. Wish I could afford something like that. You could smell like chocolate all day long.

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  9. I. Love. Chocolate.

    I especially love a good, smooth dark chocolate. The darker the better, as long as it is smooth. For an everyday indulgence, nothing beats a Dove dark chocolate. Not too expensive, nice and rich, and very, very smooth. Heaven.

    I have not had any real Belgian chocolate or French chocolate, though, and I'm fully prepared to swear that nothing but one of those will do, once I have tried them.

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    1. Catherine,

      Dove Promises are a weakness of mine. Oh, and an absolute favorite are the Raspberry and Dark Chocolate. Addictive!

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  10. *Eating cadbury mini-eggs while reading*
    Mmhmm - I'm with you guys! Love me some chocolate - especially dark. And lord do I crave Starbucks hot chocolate in the winter. The interesting thing is that chocolate was an acquired taste for me, and oddly enough, I actually hate chocolate ice cream to this day. Go figure!!

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    1. I received a canister of Starbucks Hot Chocolate for Christmas. I have a tiny bit left as it's been such a mild winter. Had a cup this morning.

      I've also tried Schokinag drinking chocolate - specifically the Triple Chocolate. Since I read all those Regency stories and they talk of chocolate in the morning, I figured I might as well try some. It was better than the Swiss Miss stuff I'd been drinking, but I couldn't get the chocolate melted or the milk temperature right. It would either not melt or I burned it. Starbucks is cheaper and easier to deal with.

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    2. Erin,

      That is funny that you hate chocolate ice cream but love chocolate. I am a mint choc chip person (yum). Starbucks hot chocolate is wonderful. I had more than my fair share this last winter.

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    3. Erin ~ me too! I do *not* like chocolate ice cream. It doesn't taste right. I'm much more of a vanilla girl.

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  11. What a blog post, Jane! I love dark chocolate. And I firmly maintain there is NO SUCH THING as white chocolate. It's a myth. ;)

    My favorite way to eat dark chocolate is in truffles. There's this place in a town near me that makes fresh chocolate truffle each day. So, soo yummy!

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    1. Marquita,

      Oh, white chocolate does have its place though. I discovered its use in a White Chocolate and Raspberry Martini just this past weekend. I think it is probably good that I don't live near any place that makes fresh chocolate anything. I would probably be there every day.

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  12. Oh a post after my own heart...I love chocolate! I am a chocolate fiend and especially since I've learned that chocolate boosts the female's libido...all excellent news btw. What's not to love a bout chocolate??

    I do have to admit I love milk chocolate more than a bitter, dark chocolate...but I am not that picky! I'll eat it all!

    I love the history here and I would have never even known there wasn't any chocolate found in the regency era, Jane. That's fascinating. But I know that I've read a few books where the heroine drinks hot chocolate. Am I wrong on this? I'll have to look back at some of my books to be certain. Was there hot chocolate but no, chocolate candy there?

    Great post!! Loved it!

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    1. Thanks, Suzie,

      Drinking chocolate was popular in Regency, from what I gather. There weren't any chocolates (as in candy) that I could find, however. How sad for them.

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  13. I Love Dark chocolate. Last year I signed up with Godiva & get a free piece of chocolate every month (if I go to a mall with one of their stores). Then I can't resist their Macaroons dipped in dark chocolate.

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    1. Di,

      If I had a Godiva store close, I would be all over that deal. Macaroons dipped in dark chocolate sounds wonderful.

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  14. Fascinating post today Jane. I'm with you that the intake of chocolate is beneficial. LOL At the moment my favorite is Lindt, but I'm open to all brands at least three times.

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    1. Heather,

      LOL - glad you limit it to three times and don't stop at just one :). Lindt seems to be popular. I may just need to eat more of it.

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  15. Great post, Jane! I love reading about the history of foods. I took a whole class in culinary school based on the history of food, and it was fascinating. It's interesting to realize just how modern chocolate as a dessert really is!
    My favorite is milk chocolate. I love a creamy, rich milk chocolate. I'm not big on dark, and don't you contaminate my chocolate with fruit flavors! I do love peanut butter and chocolate- it's like heaven. And hazelnut too. Mmmm.
    God. Now, I have to go find some! Bad Jane, bad! :D

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    1. Sorry, Olivia.

      I agree, chocolate and peanut butter were made for each other. I am not a big hazelnut fan, but with chocolate, almost anything is good :).

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