For the love of chocolate

Ah, springtime.  Flowers are coming out, the sun shines later, the weather…tries to change.  And then it goes from 70 and sunny down to 40 and blustery in an instant…back to the type of weather where it’s much more comfortable to be inside, under a blanket, with a good book.

You know.  Hot cocoa weather.  Today would be a perfect hot cocoa day.

And this thought made me a little nostalgic for Paris.  I suddenly had a strong craving for a warm, thick chocolat.

Chocolat is easy to find at any cafe or restaurant in Paris…but there’s always the one that sticks out in the traveler’s mind, the one that has that…je ne sais quoi.  For me, that one happened to be recommended by a friend (which can be a slippery slope – what if you hate what your good friend loves?).  In this case, the recommendation was spot on, and I went back any time I had a visitor in town (or was a visitor in town myself).

I made my first return pilgrimage to Paris over the holiday break in 2013.  I hadn’t been back in 15 years – not since the summer of 1998.  One of my coworkers, who had been back more recently, was just as excited as I was about my trip – and told me I just had to go to this place on the rue Rivoli, near the Tuileries, that she had discovered after a long day in the Louvre.  She said the chocolat was the best she’d had – high esteem, coming from that one coworker who is the nearly-professional-baker of the department.  A bit pricey, she said, but so rich it’d be sharable, and worth every centime.  I was cautiously intrigued.

My father and I couldn’t find this place on our first wandering pass (I had neglected to write down the address before our wanderings – we found a delightful hotel bar instead).  We found it another afternoon.  We had to wait on line – I internally groaned a bit, at this suggestion of something perhaps so touristy, so popular; we wondered whether it would be worth the wait, but both became so stubborn about it that we refused to give up.  To our delight, the line moved reasonably quickly for that time of day (mid-afternoon).

We were led back into the ornate, old-fashioned tea room – with wall-length mirrors, frescoes, chandeliers, and intricate crown molding – and seated on plush, velvety green chairs at a delightfully tiny Parisian table.  We ordered two chocolats – which came in their own small pitchers, with separate bowls of freshly whipped cream.  The first sip was nothing short of magical – it was a teacup of dense, rich, chocolately heaven – so thick that we almost needed the spoons to drink it.  It was so rich that we didn’t even have room for a rich, Parisian dinner that night.  (Granted – we each also tried one of their desserts – the Mont Blanc, and a chestnut cream-filled eclair – so no wonder.)  And despite the line to get in – in true Parisian fashion, no one hurried us.  We lingered over our sweets as long as we pleased (and – also in true Parisian fashion – the servers paid little attention, even when we wanted to settle our bill).

What is this magical place?  It is Angelina, at 226 rue de Rivoli (across from the Tuileries metro station, on line 1), opened in 1903, at the height of the Belle Epoque – and the decor has evidently not changed.  They also serve (and sell) an array of pastries and desserts and, I discovered on another visit, delicious “real food” – my favorites were the chestnut soup (thick and velvety, also perfect for a surprising winter reemergence) and their eggs Benedict (my post-thesis-defense brunch).

It was the only dessert place to which my father, the foodie, the champion of the multi-course savory meal, repeatedly requested return visits – on that trip, and on multiple trips thereafter, even.  And that’s saying something.  We actually learned something by going back so frequently – to avoid the line, go early.  I’m talking like 9 or 10 a.m. – which might sound ridiculous for a chocolat, but let’s be honest – chocolate is an anytime-of-day food group.  (The crowds seem to appear after long days trekking through the Louvre or the Tuileries or other touring activity.  Get there before them.  Stock up on calories to sustain you during these touristings.)

Angelina inspires a sense of nostalgia just walking through the door and sitting down, and this weather inspires a bit of meta-nostalgia for my favorite chocolat for this – or any, really – kind of weather.

There are plenty of other places to find a delicious cup of chocolat in Paris (try Les Deux Magots, which is of course worth a stop in its own right) … but I left my heart at the marble-topped tables, amidst the gilded crown molding and mirrors.

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