Friday, August 14, 2009

September 28, 2000 - From the original Chocolate Diaries

Bonjour you all!

We are back in Florida, and Pierre is busy making chocolates! We officially begin shipping October 1st, and we look forward to hearing from you soon. Also, we're hoping no more hurricanes come our way! The last two did bring us some much needed rain, but it is hard when all the rain arrives at one time!

As always, being in France is an inspiration, so Pierre has created two new recipes. The first one was inspired by the combination of almonds and lemons so often found in pastries in the south of France. It is appropriately called St. Tropez, and is made with marzipan mixed with finely grated lemon rind and lemon juice, then covered with dark chocolate. The combination of sour from the lemon, sweet from the almond, with the bite of dark chocolate, is inspirational!

The second new chocolate, is called Piemontais. Here, Pierre has combined gianduja and praliné with ground caramelized hazelnuts and then coats it with dark or milk chocolate. The crunchiness mixed with the rich creamy texture of the gianduja-praliné…awesome!
Summer goes by so quickly, especially when you're having fun! For us, this was the summer of teenagers. We had five teenage girls with us in France. How exciting it was to see them discover and experience new things. Going to the grocery store was really exciting! They immediately zeroed in on the cookie and chocolate section their natural instincts working like finely honed radar to find the best ones. Impressive! We made sure they saw the Pont du Gard. It is always such a thrill to see this marvelous example of Roman ingenuity and architecture. It is located just west of Avignon, near the town of Remoulins.

Most days we would have lunch together, with lively conversations about travel, their hopes and dreams for the future, and French boys. Their favorite menu for lunch was easy. We would start with cold local melons that we get from our friend Jean-Claude. He has a farm nearby and we stop by often to get some of his delicious melons. He calls them American-Style melons. For me, they look and taste like a smaller version of the sweet cantelopes my parents used to grow in their garden in Florida. Unfortunately, they are a far cry from the cantelopes we find in the supermarkets today. In France, you can now find them along with the Cavaillon melons in the summer months.

The favorite main course for lunch was salad with chevre chaud, or hot goat cheese salad. We use a combination of lettuce, such as Batavia, Red Oak Leaf and Escarole (which adds a little zing to any salad). The vinaigrette is a standard mustard, oil and vinegar combination. (Up to this point, we can duplicate the salad in the States.) In France there is a pre-packaged goat cheese, made expressly for this type of salad. Each package comes with four individual slices of cheese that sauté quickly and easily. Over here, we have found that we can use the log style of goat cheese, sliced and coated lightly with finely ground breadcrumbs. Be careful when you put them in the fry pan however, as they burn and melt so quickly!

Here is Pierre's favorite recipe for vinaigrette.
Mix a tablespoon of good French mustard (such as Maille or Amora) with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (also good quality) in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of oil, one at a time, stirring to mix. The mixture will emulsify into a thick sauce. Taste for balance and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. The 1-1-3 formula can be doubled, tripled, etc. You can use sunflower oil, olive oil or a combination, but be sure and use the best ingredients you can find?especially the mustard.

Of course, after lunch the cookies and chocolate bars would appear, and occasionally the jar of Nutella would be brought to the table. Nutella, a decadent spread of chocolate and hazelnuts is a staple in every French household with children. Our girls would take the last pieces of baguette from lunch and heap on gooey globs of the luscious chocolate mixture. Pure decadence, plain and simple! Ah youth. Check out Nutella at their website

We want to be sure and mention a website we used this summer. Mme. Riina Ingle has a Paris hotel reservations service at She was a terrific help in making arrangements for the girls at a nice little hotel called Hotel Eiffel Rive Gauche. It was comfortable, clean, well priced and perfectly located near the Eiffel Tower. Also, if you are headed to Paris, you will want to check out Linda Thalman's newsletter at It's very handy, with lots of useful information!

The town of Albi in southwestern France is distinctive because of the enormous cathedral made of brick that towers over the other buildings. It is also the birthplace of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Albi has a website with some great information on the town and area.

This is also the home of the famous French chocolatier, Yves Thuriès We stopped in at the Yves Thuriès boutique, which is located on the square, facing the cathedral. Mme. Jacqueline Thuriès was there to greet us. She is charming and very willing to answer questions. She does not speak English, so if you don't speak French, you will have to rely on your chocolate instincts!

This is a beautiful shop filled to the top with chocolates, all made at a chocolate factory located nearby. The packaging is lovely, making these chocolates a delicious and elegant souvenir.

We drove to Albi by taking the long way through the backroads of the Averyon. This is such a pretty area of France. It is remote, so be sure and take a really good map. At one point, we were truly "in the middle of nowhere", when we came upon this nice lady selling her sheep's milk cheeses. Of course, we had to stop and buy one. During the winter she is under contract to sell all of her milk to the Roquefort cheese factories. In the summer though, she is free to sell her own cheese. It was rich and creamy, with a sharp bite that made it go perfectly with a hearty Côtes du Rhône red wine. What a find!!!
That's what driving in the countryside of France is all about for us. We trust our instincts and intuition in order to find the treasures that are scattered everywhere.That's what driving in the countryside of France is all about for us. We trust our instincts and intuition in order to find the treasures that are scattered everywhere.

Speaking of treasures,.we have some holiday chocolate treasures coming your way! Look for the next Chocolate Diaries for all the details!
A bientôt! Pierre & Rainey

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