Archive for July, 2010

Awaken to French Chocolate in the Search for Johnnie Depp.

Posted in East of France, Food and Recipes, French Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Apologies for being away for what seemed like forever, but I’ve been to beautiful Melbourne, Victoria- home of the wonderful Belgian chocolate cafe chain called Koko Black, who have absolutely no qualms in serving you the most deliciously dark Belgian molten chocolate- literally the best I’ve ever tasted.

It was all too hard to surpass (and why should I?) I think I stayed beyond what reality deemed as reasonable. but who cares? On that same sinful occasion, I chose one single handmade chocolate to accompany my hot chcolate. The lower half of it was a replica of a shelled walnut, filled with a creamy hazelnut praline and crowned with a hand cracked  fresh walnut, reminding me of France in an instant…. and there you have it! My absence.

To get an inkling of these hand made indulgences, take a wee peep at:

The ‘Koko Black’ my friend Mary and I visited, is located half way through Melbourne’s  grand  Royal Arcade, between a hive of gorgeous hat and knitware shops and galleries boosting with new season colour and pizzazz and not to mention near the fabulous SUGA store (co-owned by Koko’s Shane Hills) with its rolling ribbons of striped rock candy under your very eyes!

To top off the whole chocoholic Koko seduction, chocolate is served by equally warm and attentive staff who, like fine nurses dispensing to the sick and infirmed, encourage and nurture in the best way possible. I like that. Shane Hills seems to be doing things right and it’s a quality establishment in which he should be very proud.

The black and white checquered tiled flooring of the Royal Arcade and the gorgeous glass roofing has a definate Paris ‘Awaken to the Glass Passageways of Paris’ feel to it, but it was that little walnut chocolate which tasted so much like those which I had in France which sent my French awakening into a deluge of French chocolate memories reeling about in my head. So let me tell you…

It all began in the eastern region of Burgandy, in the fortress town of  Semur en Auxois.

Under it’s fifteenth century Porte Guillier (or medieval gateway), the inscription in stone of 1552 reads,“ les semurois se plaisent fort en L’Acointance des estrangers”, translated as, “the people of Semur take great pleasure in meeting strangers”. That was good enough for me.

Our welcome at the café brasserie, “Le Mont Drejet” a few metres from the arch in Rue Buffon, proved that this inscription was so accurate today.

But Semur was famous for something else…chocolate.

Just a few steps away was the famous but solidly closed ‘Les Semurettes’ chocolatier and patisserie. The locals had told me that the owner and chef chocolatier, Bruno Coeur (in the family business) is famous for providing his chocolate knowledge and chocolate making tools  for the film ‘Chocolate’. We took its closure as a sign to go right to the heart of the ‘Chocolate Film’ itself-to Flavigny Sur Ozerain.

Twenty two kilometres from Semur en Auxois, we pulled into Flavigny Sur Ozerain, a medieval fortified town and  home to many of the scenes of one of my favourite films, ‘Chocolate’ starring Juliette Binoche, Leslie Caron, Dame Judy Dench and my personal legendary heart throb, Johnny Depp.

I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough, gobbling signs in all directions and ready to pounce. I could only remember a few times when I have felt like this. Could it have been at the door of David Jones for the post Christmas sales or when I won two tickets to the Elton John concert?

Our Mission was to find the actual site where Juliette Binoche had her chocolate shop in the film, ‘Chocolate’. We obsessively perused the narrow winding maze of streets and alleyways, piecing together size and location of buildings, slope of streets and shapes of windows.

I had remembered that the shop in the film had an arched window showcasing amazing chocolate statues and temples and other Easter treats, with a large door on its left, (the same door that Johnny Depp had offered to fix in the film.) Possibilities narrowed as the only arched window we could find was the one directly in front of us. We both looked at one another.

Peering through the window, the elaborate chocolate display had long since disappeared and thick dust had settled inside and out. The counter top where Juliette Binoche’s would offer customers their favourite type of chocolate was also gone and a single table and chair stood alone in a darkened room.

Time had passed since the filming. We noticed however, fine lettering across the window pane with the name ‘chocolate’ in a calligraphic scroll not unlike the name ‘Eternity’ I saw under the Harbour Bridge one New Years Eve evening. It wasn’t large or in lights but it was a clue.

I turned around to my dear friend The’re’se and there was a local woman behind her by this time. My hesitations about the shops authenticity completely disappeared as I caught her eye. She nodded and smiled to me approvingly. The locals knew the secret and we had found it. There was only one thing I could do. I walked over to the large wooden dusty old door and kissed it. Yes I kissed the door that Johnny Depp had stroked and breathed a long sigh of contentment…

The search for chocolate can bring amazing results…

A chocolate obsession can take you anywhere. Blame any welcoming signs.

P.S I have to go to Melbourne again next week. Oh well…

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell