This morning I am going with two friends to a chocolate place in Bougy Villars, a little town in the Canton de Vaud in French-speaking Switzerland near Geneva. This place is supposed to be “the” place to go to for artisanal chocolates. In Switzerland, chocolate making has been elevated to an art form since last century. The Swiss revere their chocolates and have particular tastes and preferences. Truffles are very big here, and white chocolate is looked down on as “pour les malades” (for sick people). There is of course the commercial side of mass production by © Nestlé and other factories in Switzerland which is in turn exported all over the world, and carried by tourists as they leave Swiss airports taking pieces of Switzerland back home. But then again, there are those little places, where those out of the way chocolate artisans lovingly prepare their own masterpiece creations with anything from chili, absinthe to mushroom chocolate on offer. I have discovered a few of those places across Europe. In France, in a little village called Arbois in the French Jura, where Louis Pasteur was born there is a little chocolatier to die for. Annecy, the impossibly beautiful French city less than an hour from Geneva, is where I usually go for the antique market on the last weekend of every month that I could, or just invent reasons to go there to have their crepes and go pay a visit to my favorite chocolatier opposite the cathedral. You go in and you are assaulted by a chocolate aroma so sweet you never want to leave. I have explored a few chocolatiers in Brussels, Liechtenstein, Paris, Nice, and lately in Luxembourg, where a brilliant little place exists opposite the archducal palace which makes the most wonderful chocolates-my favorite: chocolate fig balls, my friend had to drag me out of the shop I had so many of those tiny little pieces of heaven. There is also the liquid variety of chocolate, also in Luxembourg, where you have a selection of hundreds of flavors of chocolate cubes on a stick to dunk into your frothed milk (soya in my case as lactose intolerant), some with their own grappa that you add to your delicious concoction, to make a hot chocolate so delicious, as if made in chocolate utopia. In the cafés of Bourg de Four in the old town of Geneva, you can usually have excellent chocolat chaud, as well as the chocolate house in the open market place in Divonne-les-bains in France.
Is all this talk of chocolate making you crave the stuff? Yeah, me too, but soon I will be going to a place famed to be the Mecca of chocolate in Suisse Romande. And to think I have been living here for years and never went on the sacred pilgrimage to the magic Chocolate place in Bougis Villars. I will take photos and post them tomorrow, just to whet your appetite and entice you to go visit the little out of the way chocolate places in Europe that capture the charm of the old world and raise your blood sugar level.
I am now listening to an old song by Joe Dassin called ‘siffler sur la colline’ which always makes me happy. I am not in the best of moods this morning. I am resigned that there are things that I cannot change no matter what, and thankfully the trip to the chocolate place will take my mind off things, at least for a few hours.
What is it with women and chocolates? The guilty feelings we have when we enjoy a wonderful silky melting chocolate piece can only be rivaled by the pleasure we get from being so naughty. It is a guilty forbidden pleasure that we all experienced and reveled in again and again.
The song I am listening to now is ‘avec le temps’ by Isabelle Boulay about the power of time to make us forget, a beautiful song, now on repeat.
We have to thank the Mexicans for chocolates. It was the Aztecs in Mexico who were the first to go into chocolate beverages three thousand years ago and the word derives from the Aztec word “xocolatl” which means bitter water. Thanks to sugar and milk, it is not bitter any more, now it is the definition of what is delicious and good about the world. I’m getting too carried away, but I do love the stuff so much. Chocolate has been claimed to raise serotonin levels in the brain, this is hormone responsible for our moods, and recent research has found that dark chocolates are actually good for you, as they have antioxidants that decrease harmful free radicals in your body. All this information about the benefits of chocolates works on reducing the guilt factor when eating the heavenly things. We have been eating chocolates for ever, and associating them with our festivities and holidays, and I cannot imagine the world without chocolates. I don’t care much for mass-produced chocolates, I prefer chocolate fondue, and little artisanal places that offer handmade chocolate drops of paradise rainbows that target the soul and makes one forget their worries, heartaches, down feelings. That and watching Johnny Depp in ‘Chocolat’ his most amazing film, how is that for serotonin. This is a movie every woman should own two copies of, just in case one is scratched or destroyed by boyfriend or husband, a backup copy is always required.
Aaaah, can’t believe I’m going to the chocolate perfection center soon. I am dizzy with anticipation. Yay. I know you are all jealous. Well, live with it. Or go watch Johnny Depp or something.