We arrived at the Top Two Chocolatiers in the US – or What I Would Call: The Creme-De-La-Creme of Chocolatiers. So, Here is Number Two: La Maison du Chocolates
The Artisan/Robert Linxe/La Maison du Chocolates:
Robert Linxe, the creator of La Maison du Chocolates, learned his profession in Bayonne, before enhancing his knowledge and perfecting his artisic talent in Switzerland. He opened hist first chocolate boutique in 1955 in Paris and sold it in 1977 in order to establish the first Maison du Chocolat shop on the famous rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the basement of a former wine cellar. He selected this location specifically because it provided the ideal conditions to preserve chocolates—much like wine. He installed his laboratory and worked there for more than ten years. By 1987, Linxe’s shop became such a hit that he was able to open a second shop and three years later, he expanded to the U.S. and opened his first shop on Madison Avenue in New York City. To date, he continues to devote himself to his passion of creativity and share with others his dedication for perfection. No wonder that his colleagues and his customers consider him “The God of Chocolate.”
The Chocolates/La Maison du Chocolates:
Robert Linxe, the creator of La Maison du Chocolates, specializes in creating chocolates with the creamiest ganache, the most harmonious and balanced use of ingredients, and enrobed in the thinest couverture; there isn’t any comparable chocolate in the world (as of now). When you walk into the store on Madison Avenue, in New York City, you feel as if you must take a deep breath (inhale the air) and hold it, and hold it and never exhale; that is how wonderful the aroma that radiates from the chocolates that are displayed on the glass shelves so elegantly. Most of the time I try to get a seat at one of the limited number of tables and order their aromatic espresso (and if I really want to indulge, a gorgeous piece of chocolate cake next to it) to sip very slowly, so that I can extend the joy of the “chocolate high” you get while you are in the store. It is really hard to describe the ambiance where chocolate lovers must pinch themselves to feel if they alive or just arrived to chocolate heaven (which they do not mind at all).
Linxe’s passionate involvement in the creation of his pralines and bonbons are evident in every single piece. This is the only chocolate company (aside from Richart’s) that no matter how hard you try, you will never succeed to find a chocolate that you do not care for, or that the combination of ingredients do no work well with the chocolate.
As I said repeatedly, I always prefer dark chocolates with very deep and complex flavors but Linxe’s milk chocolate creations are not far behind with respect to feel, flavor, and texture; therefore, Linxe’s and Richart’s milk chocolates are the only ones that I enjoy almost as much as the dark chocolates.
Linxe categorizes his chocolates into groups, so as much as I could, I was attempting to select samples from each group. In general, all of Linxe’s bonbons and pralines appear to be elegantly simple (he does not need any extravagant designs, colors and other hoopla); the statements of Linxe’s creations are created in your mouth. His chocolates are also among the very few, that when you cut the piece into half, the ganache appears be perfectly smooth, no air bubbles, or “holes” between the ganache and the cover; just perfect. La Maison ships the hand-made chocolates from France several times a week to assure their freshness.
The Timeless Ganache
Caracas - as its name states made with Venezuelan beans and the feel of the chocolate certainly reflects that. This is the perfect example of a dark chocolate with deep complex flavors and a touch of light fruity aroma that lingers in your mouth for eternity following melting (and we are delighted that it takes that long for the chocolate to melt )
Quito -I have no idea what this name means but the ganache created with a combination of Venezuelan, Trinidadian, Ecuadorian and and Madagascarian beans, feels real special; once again, you get that deep, complex flavor, mainly from the Venezuelan bean, but here the vanilla is more prominent, I believe due to the beans from Madagascar.
Sylvia - This chocolate is one of the examples of a milk chocolate creation that, although a bit too sweet for my taste, its silky-smooth ganache melts sensuously in one’s mouth and the subtle, light touch of caramel notes are just icing on the cake.
The Timeless Pralines
In this group you can see that Linxe likes to name his chocolate creations after operas, arias and/or lead characters.
Traviatta - This chocolate is as playful and “ready to party” as the early scenes of the opera with the combination of crackling roasted, finely ground almonds and a tease of caramel notes; it could be the perfect accompaniment to a great glass of buttery, pink Champagne. I am glad that Linxe did not complete the creation with a tragic ending.
Figaro - Figaro here/Figaro there – hazelnuts here/almonds there and here comes the caramel; both nuts are roasted to perfection then added to the caramel and crushed together. The taste is perfect because the caramel was prepared to perfection (as Linxe describes it on the website: if the caramel overcooked, it becomes bitter and if it is undercooked it is too sweet – it is neither in this piece.
Pistachio- I love pistachio, so of course I had to taste this one. The way Linxe added the crushed pistachio to he ganache is quite unique – it does not effect the creaminess of the ganache yet it allows the full enjoyment of the light crunchiness the pistachio provides – and those perfect bright-green-colored morsels are unbelievably beautiful, WOW!
Malaga - Now this milk chocolate I could consume everyday (and you should too); the aroma of the powerful, well-harmonized taste of bergamot with the hint of the bitter orange taste that will linger on your palate indefinitely, is just heavenly – add to it a very light crunch that the hazelnut brings to the velvety sensuous ganache and you can feel the ultimate joy of a flawless chocolate creation.
Jolika - What can be better than the combination of almond paste mixed with bright green pistachio slivers throughout the ganache – nothing. It is beautiful, it is delightful to your palate and it is a memorable experience to allow it to melt slowly on your palate.
Intoxicating Ganache (I love this name)
Faust - Once again, it is the perfect name for this chocolate (if you know the story of Faust); under the very thin milky coverture lies a beautiful, silky milk chocolate ganache flavored with flambéed aged rum that enhances the flavor; however, it dissipates quite rapidly once the chocolate melted on your palate and leaves only the feel of the somewhat sophisticated smooth milk chocolate ganache.
Bacchus - created with a Valrhona’s venezuelan mix. The ganache is flavored with Smirna raisins from Turkey (the best in the world) that is steeped in hot water before flambéed with Caribbean rum. WOW! When the flame burns from red to blue, as the last alcohol drop is vanishes, a lid is clamped on and the raisins are left to macerate for 15 days. I never had a rum-raisin like this one. Talking about a memorable experience; I must try to recreate this one; this chocolate is not only out of this world, it is the world.
The Champagne Truffle is something you must experience personally. I cannot find the words in the English language that would do justice to describe the mouth-feel of this truffle. In addition, you can feel how the top quality cognac used in the creation is trying to exert itself during the melting process but the dark chocolate allows it only to partner with it for an end product that takes the best qualities of both and present it to your taste bud for one of the most remarkable experience.
Cookbook: La Maison du Chocolat: Transcendent Desserts by the Legendary Chocolatier
Robert Linxe’s Cookbook is the best chocolate book I own and the only chocolate book I read from cover to cover. If you ever had the desire to learn anything and everything about chocolate, to understand how to work with this temperamental product, how to create your own masterpieces, and what ingredients work the best with which type of chocolate, then look no further. Robert Linxe shares his phenomenal chocolate-making knowledge in this beautifully photographed volume. He shares his use of the purest ingredients, his secrets for creating incredible truffles and pralines, as well as cakes, cookies and other desserts where chocolate is the star. It is the best gift that you can give to a gourmand, a bride and/or a chocophile.
Where to buy:
La Maison du Chocolat has locations in Hong Kong, London, Tokyo and Cannes, in addition to seven retail stores in Paris and four in New York. The chocolates are also available at Bergdorf Goodman department stores. Its products can also be ordered online and are deliverable to 31 countries. The cookbook is available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles and Borders bookshops.