50 SHADES OF TOKYO DESSERTS | SHADE 3
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought it would be just the right moment to share a little romance à la Japan and tell you about the unique way of celebrating the universal day of love in the Land of the Rising Sun. You see, contrary to the western traditions it is not the men who have to think of all the romantic gifts and ideas to surprise their loved ones. It is the day for women to please their beloved men with some sweet treats. In particular, there is a strong tradition of Japanese women giving chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day. The most interesting thing about all this is that women give chocolates not only to their loved ones, but also to their close male friends. Thus, there are two types of chocolates, Giri-choco which is meant for friends, and Honmei-choco intended for a sweetheart. Don’t worry, men have plenty of opportunity to spoil their better halves exactly one month later, on a White Day on March 14th. Men are supposed to give return gifts to women and, needless to say, that also includes chocolates. Traditionally, the color of the chocolate is white, thus the name of the day.
It comes to no surprise that starting mid-January, the country gets immersed in the chocolatey commotion, and stores get packed with a large variety of chocolates and women! However, not a single display at an individual store can be as impressive as a chocolate festival straight from Paris – Salon du Chocolat. In other words, a real chocolate lover’s heaven!Place where the aroma of rich chocolate captivates the senses, names of the world’s best chocolatier, patissier and caramelier float in the air and fascinated Japanese ladies frantically pick sweet treats for their loved ones. Hosted in Shinjuku NS Building on January 27th-January 31st by the high-end department store Isetan (famous for its gourmet food stalls), the world-renown chocolate fair was definitely a place to see and be seen at. Hundreds of indulgent romantic Tokyotes gathered eager to immerse in the glorious world of the finest chocolates.And when I say hundreds, I mean it! An average wait time to get inside the festival venue was 3 hours! Now that requires quite some dedication and love of chocolate, don’t you think?Those who do not know, Salon du Chocolat, often translated as Paris Chocolate Show, is an annual event which started in 1994 in Paris. Like all things brilliant the show dedicated to the edible gold has soon spread around the globe and the festival is now held in many of the food-centric cities of the world like London, Milan, Monaco, Moscow, Seoul and, of course, Tokyo! The theme of this year was “Innovations of Chocolate and the Expressions of Cacao” which embodied the spirits and minds of the chocolatiers and images of the lands where cacao is grown.
Nearly 100 chocolate brands across 20 countries including Japan, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain gathered to showcase their latest selections. I was particularly excited about the prospect of meeting prominent chocolate makers themselves as they were enthusiastically hosting their chocolate stalls, giving out autographs and taking photos with the customers! It was truly a humbling experience and a great honor to exchange a few words with Jean-Paul Hévin himself who has wowed the world with his chocolate (My French teacher would have been proud!)! And and and… Alsatian master patissière Christine Ferber, also known as “Queen of Confiture”, whose sublime handmade jars of jams and jellies have stolen many hearts! I further had a chance to see some of the top Japanese chocolate virtuosos like Toshi Yoroizuka and Hironobu Tsujiguchi, both boasting with endless accolades… As well as chocolatier Bruno Le Derf representing his chocolate brand Le Derf… Chocolatier Antoine Santos representing CRIOLLO… Chef Patissier Kazutoshi Narita representing ESqUISSE… Ladurée pastry chef… And pastry chef Stephane Treand representing Occitanial… As much unorthodox of me as it may sound I have never been keen on pure chocolate. However, perusing numerous crowded stalls and admiring the latest chocolate creations and a range of exotic, hard-to-find treats displayed neatly like jewels was a sight to behold. The experience was further elevated by all the free samples they offered to visitors. In addition to chocolates, visitors could enjoy objects d’art made from chocolate and watch talk show events featuring chocolatiers. Totally swept away by the sweet temptations of this chocolate wonderland I left with some special treats to spoil my other half. ;)
Le Marais by Jean-Paul Hévin: a chocolate biscuit flavored with almonds and orange, a dark chocolate ganache and a light dark chocolate mousse created a delectable harmony. It was rich without being overpowering and layered with different textures of smooth mousse, crunchy almonds and a bit of orange zest. In fact, the flavors of dark chocolate from Madagascar and fresh orange created a beautiful mélange. But then I am irreversibly biased towards chocolate and orange combination.
Hironobu Tsujiguchi featured his Tarte aux Chocolat, dark chocolate tart shell filled and baked with bitter chocolate ganache. Very luscious and in fact I wish I had vanilla ice-cream to balance its rich flavor. Last, but not least, I snatched limited time caramel and chocolate “kouign amann au C.B.S.” by Henri Le Roux. This Breton specialty (a birthplace of Henri Le Roux) features a caramelized flaky crust and tender layered interior. I absolutely loved the caramel version – ample butter makes the caramelized surface crispy and savory, with a salty melted caramel inside. Pure deliciousness!
Waiting in that long line was absolutely worth it. I got a chance to peek into Japanese way of life and see what excites local taste buds. I also admired and sampled more chocolate in two hours than I would in one year. But most importantly, I left in a happy mood and a smile on my face. As some say, love AND chocolate make the world go around! Cheers to that! This post is part of travel link-up organized on wonderful Angie‘s, Jessi‘s, Kaelene‘s and Emma’s blogs!