Friday, 2 April 2010

Which Came First, the Bunny or the Egg: Easter chocolate highlights

Which came first, the bunny or the egg?

Who knows. Who cares. But if they're made of chocolate, Easter is probably around the corner.

Each Easter chocolatiers use their imagination and talent to delight us with their delicious new creations. I made the rounds at a few of my favorite chocolate shops to see what they had come up with for this year. I was not disappointed.

Jacques Torres Chocolate (New York City)

At the Hudson Street location of Jacques Torres Chocolate in Manhattan, Jacques had the window of his shop packed with giant chocolate bunnies. The picture below gives you an idea of how many (if you can see past the window glare) ...

... but not of how big the bunnies are. The next picture does:

Now that's a big bunny. Basically, the size of a small child. At the Hudson Street shop, the chocolate factory is on full display for all walker-bys, so anyone can see how the chocolates are made. The feel of the shop is like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory--so much chocolate all in one place!--but without the creepinees. Jacques manages to keep the atmosphere approachable, too (the look is as if a corner of the factory was cleared for retail space), while still showing you he is serious about his chocolate. These babies are not just eye candy.

For my purchase, I chose an egg carton filled with a dozen chocolate eggs. Jacques makes milk and dark chocolates the size and shape of real eggs, wraps them in colorful foil, and puts them in a transparent carton. Rather than a bottle of wine, try bringing one of these to a dinner party (just $12):

La Maison du Chocolat (Paris, New York and many other locations)

Next stop: La Maison du Chocolat. At their Manhattan Rockefeller Center location I bought an "Egg Coquille" ($12.50):

Coquille is French for shell. This sophisticated treasure is a real egg shell, that has been carefully hollowed and then filled with dark praline.

(Here, "praline" means nuts--usually almonds and/or hazelnuts--that have been coated in a caramelized hard candy sugar syrup, and then ground into a creamy paste.) The inside of the egg shell is coated with dark chocolate and then filled with the ground up caramelized-sugar-coated-nut cream. The Egg Coquille is then finished with a tiny gold paper seal placed on top of the egg to cover the little hole made to empty out it original eggy contents.

Consider all the work that went into this (and how many broken shells had to be tossed). La Maison du Chocolat does not fail to wow.

Biagio Fine Chocolate (Washington, DC)

I ended my chocolate shopping with a visit to my favorite local Washington, DC chocolate shop, Biagio Fine Chocolate. Biagio does not make any chocolate of their own but sells quality chocolatiers by dedicated producers from all over the U.S. and the world. It's like a one-stop-shop for high-end chocolate. I chose this little locally-produced bunny (don't remember the price, but definitely under $10):

A Virginia native, this rabbit is made by Fleurir of caramel-filled dark chocolate and splashed with speckles of pastel colors.

Easter comfort food

Hey, I know times are tough ...

... But chocolate certainly helps with most problems that are not weight- or cavity-related. (Gilles Marchal, the creative director of La Maison du Chocolat, told me that the company's New York sales actually went up after the stock market plummet of 2008.) A sense of humor is good, too. If my chocolate happens to be shaped like a bunny and wrapped in pastel-colored foil, all the better.

Happy Easter!

Related Links:

Jacques Torres Chocolates (for store locations and online shopping)
La Maison du Chocolat (for store locations and online shopping)
Biagio Fine Chocolate (for store location and links to their facebook and twitter posts)
Fleurir - Hand Grown Chocolates (for online shopping)

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