Saturday, 4:12 PM: I’m in the outer reaches of the Marais, trekking up a non-descript section of rue de Turenne. I slog past endless menswear shops displaying iridescent suits, luminous ties, flashy tuxes. It might sound like kitschy fun, but really it’s just depressing.
This is not pretty Paris. It’s bleak and a little gritty. Even the handwritten sign pointing the way to uber-chic Surface 2 Air—it is Fashion Week after all–doesn’t merit a glance from tired parents pushing strollers along the sidewalk.
But there’s hope.
On the corner up ahead, in a pale 17th century building, is Jacques Genin.
Well, not the self-taught “rebel” chocolatier himself, but his long-awaited boutique which opened to thunderous applause in 2008. Inside it is unusually spacious, spare but with dramatic embellishments like flowing red velvet curtains.
In the tearoom Saturday shoppers are reviving themselves with Genin’s legendary millefeuilles and pots of black tea.
Like a magpie, though, my eye is drawn to the pate de fruits, sugared fruit pastes glistening like colorful jewels, in a case by the front door. (Think of them as jellies for grownups.) Would I like to try one? Bien sur! It’s so soft and so fresh that it almost trembles and, tasting like pineapple, begins to dissolve the moment it touches my tongue. And there are other luscious flavors like apricot, passion fruit, and raspberry rose…
Nearby are the flavored caramels that nearly everyone raves about, made nightly in the atelier’s upstairs kitchen. For some, these caramels, delicately scented with spices such as cinnamon and tonka bean, are reason enough to make the trek to this out-of-the-way boutique.
But moi, I’m flying down the steps in another direction.
There, along the windowed wall in front of tall jars filled with spices, are glass vitrines displaying rows of Genin’s exquisite chocolates.
I’m dazzled: Each 2-centimeter square is a miniature work of art. Menthe, its silken ganache infused with fresh spearmint, has a thin coverture embellished with delicate green brushstrokes suggesting bamboo leaves. Another, richly redolent of coffee, appears to have been stamped with many tiny peacock feathers. I’ve fallen for the mint’s vibrant taste, but there are so many others to try: among them, Chine (black China tea), basilic, reglisse (licorice), gingembre, cardamome, poivre noir (black pepper), and poivre de Jamaique (allspice).
What to buy? Oh, one of every delectable flavor. A vendeuse fills a silvery tin with nine squares of chocolate—and another with a dozen of those glowing pate de fruits. These are for B. We parted company this afternoon, after he tired of my dithering over the colors of the blank books I was buying at Papier +.
Not that I blame him. Why not lounge around the hotel when your nearest and dearest will return bearing delicious gifts?
Jacques Genin, 133 rue de Turenne, Paris 75003. Phone: +33 (0)1 45 77 29 01