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Sunday, February 17, 2013

February is D&B chocolates month

     To say that I am a lover of chocolate does not even begin to describe how I feel about it.  To me, chocolate is all about elegance, debauchery, exquisiteness and uniqueness.  It is something worth anything and everything, one of the pleasures of life that make it worth living.

     I have always been in pursuit of the best possible chocolate I could lay my hands on.  Places like La Maison du Chocolat or Neuhaus, the ultimate Italian chocolates like Amedei and Pernigotti, etc.  It was not too long ago that I came upon a series of amateur detective stories named the Lady Arianna Regency Mysteries.  Written by Andrea Penrose and set in England’s Regency period, they supply the best of both worlds for an avid reader of mysteries like me, and each chapter starts with a bit of chocolate trivia and a recipe.

     The first installment, entitled Sweet Revenge, introduces us to the main characters – Lady Arianna and the Earl of Saybrook, who will become more than just partners in crime.  Arianna finds herself entangled in the possible poisoning of Prinny (a.k.a. the Prince Regent), and Saybrook is employed by England’s government to uncover the culprit.  The story also introduces one of the oldest, and most distinguished chocolate houses in the world – Debauve & Gallais.

     Ms. Sulpice Debauve started his business as a chemist in the France of Marie Antoinette.  He was the pharmacist to the Royal Household.  As chocolate made its appearance in Europe at the time, he devised a way to hide medicines into “pistoles”, basically chocolate coins embossed with the house’s logo, so that the Queen did not have to taste the unpleasantness of her medication.  Marie Antoinette liked the chocolate confections so much that she commissioned them regularly, and thus Debauve & Gallais was born.  By 1804 they had expanded to over sixty shops throughout France.

Debauve & Gallais store at Rue de Sèvres

     After learning all of this, I naturally had to see what all the fuss was about.  I have tasted some pretty good chocolate in my lifetime, so the reason as to why this particular chocolate house would make chocolates worth up to $600 for a few dozen piqued my curiosity to no end.

Shop-window with "Le Livre", on the top right-hand corner.
A huge box of about 3' X 2' which will set you back 300
Some of the selection available at the store at Rue de Sèvres, which is not sold in the U.S.
The aromas and subtlety of the flavors are unique.  Huge sizes too!

     I gladly found that there is a shop inside Barney’s in New York City that will deliver next day.  So being Valentine’s week and all, I ordered a modest two dozen for just over a hundred dollars.  The chocolate melts in the mouth unlike any other I’ve ever tasted.  In all reality, it feels as if one is sucking on a lump of butter but with the taste of chocolate, which, coming to think of it, is how chocolate should taste every time.  The dark chocolates are dark and opaque, the milk ones, creamy and unctuous.  The pistols of Marie Antoinette show the prominent house logo, and one can understand how the chic Queen would have had no problem in taking her medicines disguised in this way.  Mss. D&G made them in different cocoa concentrations for the Queen to savor.

The modest box I was able to acquire in U.S.

     Debauve & Gallais are chocolates for that rare special occasion.  You cannot just buy them for the sake of having some chocolate.  After all, they were especially made for royalty and they should be given their status.  With a nice liqueur they will round up your evening nicely, and will make your honey feel ultra special if given as a gift, all the more for Valentine’s Day.

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