L’Instant Cacao: Bean-to-bar Chocolate Shop

If you’re old enough to remember, the Grateful Dead had a song that went, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” (There are other reasons you might not remember things back then, especially if you were the type that listened to the Grateful Dead.) But that could be the tagline for a number of things, some as recent as 2020, the Covid crisis, and others…

If you’re old enough to remember, the Grateful Dead had a song that went, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” (There are other reasons you might not remember things back then, especially if you were the type that listened to the Grateful Dead.) But that could be the tagline for a number of things, some as recent as 2020, the Covid crisis, and others that stretch back longer, such as the bean-to-bar chocolate movement.

I was there at the beginning of it in the United States, and I clearly remember when Robert Steinberg handed me a melting wad of freshly-made chocolate he pulled out of his pocket at a baking event, that was folded up in a little foil packet, as if it was a part of a drug deal. That eventually bloomed into Scharffen Berger chocolate.

They were the pioneers of bean-to-bar chocolate making in America, back in 1996, and now there are close to two hundred artisan chocolate makers in the States. That’s amazing, considering when Robert and his business partner John Scharffenberger, told me they were going to make chocolate from scratch, I thought it was a crazy idea and would never get off the ground. Thirteen years later, they sold the company for a reported $50 million. So if you want to ask someone for business advice, you might want to ask someone other than me.

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Sain Boulangerie

I was expecting something a little different when I took a stroll over the Sain boulangerie, a bakery I’d heard about, which was on my list of bakeries in Paris to visit. My friend Romina of Les Madeleines bakery was is in town, and she’s always up to visit new places, or places new to us, so I arranged to meet her there. I figured…

I was expecting something a little different when I took a stroll over the Sain boulangerie, a bakery I’d heard about, which was on my list of bakeries in Paris to visit. My friend Romina of Les Madeleines bakery was is in town, and she’s always up to visit new places, or places new to us, so I arranged to meet her there. I figured we’d walk into a place with polished glass showcases, brass-tipped racks of breads, and a line-up of attractive pastries. Instead, we found an unassuming neighborhood spot, not a shop where the pastries were displayed like jewels, whose pastry counter was right on the sidewalk.

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The French Bastards

When the bakery sign went up, I thought, “Well, that’s rather audacious. I wonder what it’s going to be?” A bakery had been in that space, which had once been a pretty good, but had slid in quality, until one day, the doors closed for good. It’s a bummer to see a place decline but exciting when something better opens in its place, which happened….

When the bakery sign went up, I thought, “Well, that’s rather audacious. I wonder what it’s going to be?” A bakery had been in that space, which had once been a pretty good, but had slid in quality, until one day, the doors closed for good. It’s a bummer to see a place decline but exciting when something better opens in its place, which happened.

There’s been a renaissance in Paris over the last few years of young bakers, who understand techniques and traditions, but use them as springboards to go beyond them. And three of them have set up shop, calling themselves The French Bastards.

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