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Best Chocolate Shops
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Chocolate, as we all now know, is an excellent source of anti oxidants, and can now rightfully be called a health food. For those of us who have been eating chocolate with abandon all along, this is our validation. For all you Johnny-Come-Lately’s that have been foolishly watching your sugar and chocolate intake all these years for nothing, time to catch up.

And if chocolate is now a health food, then it follows logically that chocolate shops are the new health food stores. And in the interest of our health and the health of our readers, we have been travelling the world in search of the best chocolate shop. Here are our top picks.

5. La Maison du Chocolat
Health conscious New Yorkers flock to their favorite health food emporium, La Maison du Chocolat, for its fabulous melt in your mouth chocolates, truffles and pastries. This famous French confectionary has outposts on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, at Rockefeller Center, and on Wall Street. Fashionable Madison Avenue power shoppers stop in for a quick boost of energy from the rich chocolates and creamy ganaches displayed so artfully at this elegant boutique.

4. Chocolat Michel Cluizel
No that is not a typo. That’s chocolat, as in the French spelling of chocolate. Chocolat Michel Cluizel on Paris’s rue Saint-Honoré should be on every chocolate lover’s list of must see attractions in the City of Light. Chocolat Michel Cluizel is unique in that it controls the entire process from bean to bar, using only pesticide free cacao, pure bourbon vanilla beans and stone ground praline. The result is nothing short of amazing. It had us wondering how something so good for you can taste so delicious!

On our last visit to Chcolat Michel Cluizel the clerk behind the counter recommended we try three dark chocolate truffles, one with raspberry filling, one with orange, and the third filled with a creamy dark chocolate ganache. The scent, the taste, the creamy melt in your mouth texture, were all nothing short of amazing. Our calorie counting editor, who has somehow convinced himself that the jelly candies sold in Parisian chocolate shops are fat free, savored the blueberry, strawberry and apricot varieties, called pates in France. He loved them.

Sadly, Chocolat Michel Cluizel does not have a shop in North America, but they do have a web site where you can buy many of their confections online.

3. Jean-Paul Hévin
Just a short walk from Paris’s Chocolat Michel Cluizel sits another high temple of chocolate, Jean-Paul Hévin. Its shop on the trés chic rue Saint-Honoré also has a small salon de thé where you can relax over a cup of tea and one of their amazing cakes, like the decadent Choco Passion with chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache, or the Ecuador, made with chocolate mousse and almond meringue. And no, you cannot charge it to your health plan.

The macaron chocolat a l’ancienne that we ordered, filled with rich chocolate ganache, was heavenly. For years, we have been a loyal fan of the macarons at Ladurée, just down the street. Ladurée actually created the macaron in its modern form, but to me the macarons at Jean-Paul Hévin are every bit their equal. You’ll have to try for yourself to see which you like better.

Macarons do not travel well, so although Jean-Paul Hévin does ship, the macarons are only available in the store.

2. Payard Patisserie & Bistro
Payard is not a chocolate shop, but we cannot tell you all about the deliciously sweet macarons at Paris landmarks like Ladurée and Jean-Paul Hévin without letting you know where to find good quality macarons here in the United States. That would be just plain mean.

If you have never tried a true French macaron, don’t be confused by the name. This is nothing like the American coconut macaroon. A macaron is a deliciously rich pastry, shaped like a sandwich cookie, made with egg whites, almond powder, sugar, sugar and more sugar. The dense ‘cookie’ parts are usually flavored with almond paste, although sometimes with coconut. The filling is a creamy ganache. Traditional fillings like chocolate and raspberry predominate, and they usually come in bright cheerful colors reflecting the flavor of the ganache – pink for raspberry, yellow for lemon, and so on.

Parisians will argue with you for hours about where to find the best macarons in the city (actually Parisians will argue with you for hours about nearly anything, but that’s another story). In New York the choices are more limited. If we need a true French macaron and we can’t wait for our next trip to Paris we always headed straight for Payard, on New York’s tony Upper East Side. They offered a true French macaron, creamy and dense, with that delicious rush of sweetness and flavor. Unfortunately Payard closed its doors, but did open FC Chocolate Bar on the fourth floor of Mauboussin's boutique on Madison Avenue which is now our go to for macarons. Payard has another location at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas which also serves a wide selection of traditional French pastries.

1. Richart
The confectioners at Richart are true artists of the world of chocolate. They take great pride not just in the flavors of their chocolates, but also in the artful shapes and elegant designs. Their sleek minimalist stores reflect this artistic sensibility, and only add to the sensuality of eating a fine chocolate.

Richart uses only the best Venezuelan Criollo cocoa, which produces a mild, full flavor. We visited their Boston store recently and were completely taken with the purity and richness of their dark chocolate. It’s no wonder their creations have won France’s prestigious Ruban Bleu award seven times!

Richart originated in Lyon, and it has a shop on the Boulevard St. Germain in Paris. In the United States their gallery like ‘Art and Design’ stores are located in Boston’s shoppers’ paradise, Copley Place, and on Sutter Street in San Francisco.

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