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The Haute Couture of Chocolate
Richart Chocolates

The Richart chocolate tradition began in Lyon, France, in 1925. Today they operate more than a dozen boutiques across Europe, in the U.S. and Tokyo. Richart's range is vast. The first time you indulge in a ballotin of Richart chocolates, you probably won't know where to start. If it's one of Richart's special occasion assortments, you'll find the petits (chocolates) hidden beneath an inscribed chocolate plaque. In the case of the Envol ballotin, you'll be faced with some 49 luscious cubes decorated with hand-applied cocoa butter designs. Each is a tiny work of art, pleasing to both eye and palate.

The precocious petits are sometimes esoteric, frequently exotic and always exquisite. They are made with the fine (and expensive) Venezuelan criollo cocoa—difficult to grow but worth the price for its rich, mild flavor. Fortunately, the ballotin is escorted by a compact manual entitled le petit livre blanc du chocolat: passion, pleasure, tasting and sharing. It contains all of the explanation, instruction and background necessary to navigate this French chocolate adventure.

The Envol chocolate assortment contains seven varietals. The Balsamics are noteworthy for their cocoa-based ganache fillings including Haiti Cocoa Ganache, Venezuelan Cocoa Ganache and, to shake things up a little, Licorice Ganache. The Citrus family includes sparkling flavors like Kumquat Coulis, and Grapefruit Ganache. Florals such as Ylang Ylang, and Lavender are heady and romantic, while the basic Fruity petits are straightforward but exciting (Passion fruit, chestnut, apricot, prune...). Both Herbal and Spiced varieties are sensuous, mysterious and a bit provocative: Anise and Fennel Ganache, Curry Praline, Jasmine Tea Ganache. Aromatic and buttery Roasted petits are filled with pralines of Hazelnut, or Almond, rounded out by a Coffee Ganache.

There's also the Little Gourmet Collection featuring children's artwork on the petits, using more restrained fillings. They sell sublime Marrons Glacés and Pâte de fruits in smart combinations like Morello Cherry/Verbena and Apricot lime. And, for a mere $825 you can acquire a Burl Wood Chocolate Vault stacked with an extravagant Richart collection.

There are special seasonal and holiday collections throughout the year, especially for Valentine's Day. You'll pay dearly for anything Richart, but this is the haute couture of chocolate.

Call 888-RICHART, or shop online at www.richart-chocolates.com.

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