A Subtle Parisian Chocolate Is Hard to Find


Alexander Maksik

After two weeks of unbearable heat, the air is finally cool in Paris. Earlier this morning, a storm ripped the sky open, and until a few minutes ago rain pounded the zinc rooftops and the wind nearly tore our curtains from the window. As I walk along the perimeter of the Luxembourg Gardens, the air is filled with the familiar smell of wet grass. Finally my appetite has returned, and I walk faster at the thought of the Tablette du Samedi I've ordered from Jean-Charles Rochoux.

Rochoux is a talented chocolatier who is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Though his boutique is located on the very chic rue d'Assas, it is as unpretentious and simple as his website—both perfect representations of his work. Here you're welcomed with a smile, and refreshingly absent is the arrogance and snobbery one often finds in gourmet shops in Paris.

The first Rochoux chocolate I ever tasted was his now iconic 70-percent chocolate bar filled with semi-liquid caramel. It is packaged in a silver cardboard box embossed with a barely perceptible pattern of crocodile skin. The contrast between the slight flash in his packaging and the subtly designed chocolate comes as an echo of a recurrent theme in Rochoux's art—contrasts between the firm chocolate and the soft caramel, between sweet and bitter.

One side looks like an ordinary chocolate bar pattern, while the other reveals large, hand-chosen raspberries delicately covered by a thin layer of velvety chocolate.

Above all, what I admire in Rouchoux's products is confidence. He does not rely on elaborate design —handbags or elephants made of chocolate. Instead, he allows the chocolate itself to inspire and awe. Everything I've tasted of his has been of the highest quality, smartly combined with taste and elegance. He is Chloé, not Versace.

It is just after one and they're already sold out of their Tablettes du Samedi. Only those I reserved remain. We made fewer today, the woman explains, because of the heat and because of the juillettistes—a French neologism to describe the portion of French people who take their summer holidays in July as opposed to the aoûtiens, the partisans of August.

As its name says, the Tablettes du Samedi are made exclusively on Saturdays. Each week, Rochoux chooses a single seasonal fruit and arrives at 6:00 a.m. to his workshop to produce the few bars that will be sold that same day. You have 48 hours to eat them, before the fruit is no longer good and the quality of the chocolate is compromised. On this first Saturday of July, raspberries are the stars.

I walk home slowly, trying to feel the cool breeze from every pore of my skin. As the coffee is brewing in the Bialetti, I take the bar out and lay it on a white plate. One side looks like an ordinary chocolate bar pattern, while the other reveals large, hand-chosen raspberries delicately covered by a thin layer of velvety chocolate—so thin that I can see the raspberries' little whiskers pushing through.

I cut a piece from the bar, and bite. The chocolate cracks to reveal the soft fruit—tart and juicy—its flavor combining with the rich and bitter chocolate. The smell of coffee fills the apartment. As the breeze keeps coming through the windows, I savor what I know I might not have again until next summer, until the raspberries are good enough, until Rochoux finds them up to his standards, and until I go to the shop early enough to buy one.