I was lucky enough to be invited to the inauguration party of the Salon du Chocolat Lille where it has taken place at the Grand Palais each March since 2011. This is a serious Chocolate show where visitors can taste and buy the best chocolates and sweet things in France – all under one roof. It’s a chance to meet with and see in action the best pastry chefs and chocolatiers from France and from further afield, and to see chocolate sculptures and even a fashion show where the clothes and accessories are made of chocolate!
I arrived, a bit fraught after a long drive from my rural French home and with a headache from the stress of it all – but the minute I walked into the salon, the sensuous waft of chocolate hit my senses and I was transported to chocolate heaven!
Stall after stall of macarons, ice cream, chocolate, candied fruit, nougat, fudge, herbs, spices and jams – the very best you can find in France, from the south to the north, all gathered in one room!
If you’re a chocoholic, you may think you’ve died and gone to heaven, though you had better take a large purse with you! This is not supermarket chocolate of the “stack ‘em high” sort, this is chocolate made by artisans and experts, people who spend years learning how to make chocolate, sweets, jams and cakes and it comes at a price, as you’d expect for such a huge amount of work.
Some of the stalls offered a “dégustation”, a little taste of chocolate or produce they were selling and I absolutely fell in love with a pear and caramel jam from the South of France, it was like summer in a jar. I was actively encouraged to try all the jams which had the most amazing names like “confiture de bisous” (jam kisses) it was heavenly. I also had a taster at the Beussent chocolate stall, it was melt in your mouth, top quality, smooth, sweet, spicy chocolate. Beussent have an atelier (workshop) in Pas de Calais, in the north of France which makes for a fun visit, it’s hard work but it has to be done!
The Salon du Chocolat is famed for its fashion show with costumes featuring elaborate chocolate accessories but I’m afraid we were disappointed that the small runway area was so absolutely crowded that it was impossible to see anything. Frustratingly cheers and gasps were heard from those who had queued to get to the front where they could see so we have to assume it was good, if you ever go to the Salon du Chocolat and want to see the chocolate outfits – get there early!
The Salon du Chocolat organisation run events all over France and indeed around the world, if you’re into chocolate – check out their website for details of all their events.