When I think of Paris, it’s always sunshine, the sparkling Seine, a flowy dress, and a nice hat. What never seems to come to mind is layers on layers (today I wore four); frozen noses; frozen toes; and that cloudy Parisien grey. Which is how I found myself that morning. The pick me up: the promise of chocolat chaud at Carette; the glimpse of la Tour Eiffel a stone’s throw at Trocadéro; and (don’t laugh) the three Smart Cars that were parked in a neat little row, right where I was standing. They almost got ticketed, but their drivers ran out to pull away just as the municipal police came to inspect. Honestly…how could you have the heart to ticket something so small and cute?!?!!?!!
Something I’m discovering about the City of Light is that tea salons are not an out-of-the-ordinary fixture: they’re very much ingrained into the landscape. From the most casual spots to the ornate and renowned Angelina, tea salons don’t need a special occasion to exist. The man who later sat at the neighboring table came to read his newspaper and take an espresso.
Carette, while being a salon de thé, also serves mighty fine hot chocolate. But, whether you take tea or cocoa, you can be assured of the dainty cups accented with florals and a blue trim, plus silver, rustic chocolate pots (because they were filled with chocolate). If you know me, you know that I usually go for fruit over chocolate desserts, but I’d come back to Carette for their chocolat Carette (their hot chocolate). That and to sit under their skylights.
Hot chocolate in Europe is serious business for a gal that was raised on Nestle hot chocolate (think extra-sweet; water; no milk). My first chocolat chaud experience was at Trieze Bakery, and it was a bit strong (read: overwhelmingly bitter) for my wimpy chocolate palate. Carette’s was pleasant — thick and creamy, but not too creamy, so the chocolate could really shine — and it was dark chocolate, not milk. I can’t stand milk chocolate. There is a bitter kick, but it’s not overwhelming — in fact, if you order a pastry, the bitterness reconciles the sugar, as I discovered, having ordered a kouign amann. Gasp, not a croissant! (Although I did see a glossy croissant on my neighbor’s plate and had some regrets. Guess I’ll have to come back, zut!)
I have good things to say about the kougin amann, as it is my favorite French pastry. It’s a traditional butter cake from Bretagne and the one made by Carette is buttery and chewy — a sheer delight. Coated in sugar, the final product has a delicate sheen and a texture akin to a harder caramel (one that’s cooked just past the soft stage). The sweetness is accented by the savory, feathery inside, which is probably pure butter. Just the way I like! The bottom was crunchy and added a nice contrast, and between sips of hot chocolate, made for a mighty fine mid-morning.
Overall, I’d recommend; would come back; will be back for a croissant and some tea.
4 Place du Trocadéro (Where I was)
25 Place des Vosges 75003 Paris
7 Place du Tertre 75018 Paris