Chocolate from Bayonne

Chocolat Cazenave

It is a little-known fact that Bayonne was the first chocolate-making city in France. In the 17th century, a wave of Jewish immigrants settled there, fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition and bringing the savoir-faire as a prized possession in their luggage. Local artisans quickly learned how to make the magic happen with those mysterious beans from the New World, and developped the production themselves. One century later, they created a Chocolate Maker’s Guild, and swiftly excluded Jews from it (how nice). These businesses were often family-owned, and transmitted from father to son. In the middle of the 20th century, the growing industrialisation of chocolate production made it difficult for them to survive, and many of these families had to close shop. Seven of them still exist to this day and I was very eager to visit the longest established, Cazenave, which was created in 1854.

Bayonne is renowned for its hot chocolate (originally flavored with cinnamon) and its dark and bitter chocolate — a very good thing since this happens to be my personal preference. In their very pretty boutique on rue du Port-Neuf, Cazenave offers a variety of chocolate bites and confections as well as caramels and turons, but to really taste the chocolate itself I simply bought a 100g-bar of chocolat à l’ancienne (lehen bezala in Basque), their 70% blend. You may find this hard to believe, but it travelled with us, untouched, all the way back to Paris.

Verdict? This is a very elegant chocolate: it has a powerful nose, and an excellent balance between subtly sweet and subtly bitter. Deeply flavored, with woody/mushroomy and spicy/peppery hints, it is slightly acidulated and nicely long on the palate. It also offers just the right textural resistance — your tooth needs a slight effort to break in, and after that the square just melts on your tongue with abandon.

I enjoyed Bayonne tremendously: paved little streets, lovely quays on either side of the river Nive (where weird guys insist you take pictures of them), and plenty of good restaurants. We had dinner (at Le Bayonnais) and lunch (at Chez Txotx) there, and I can recommend both places for their good service and excellent local specialties — a bonanza of seafood à la plancha, Basque tapas, chipirons (a type of squid) and piquillos (small marinated red peppers).

Chocolatier Cazenave
19 rue du Port-Neuf
64100 Baiona/Bayonne
05 59 59 03 16
[Note that the boutique also operates as a salon de thé, where they are said to serve a killer chocolat mousseux (frothy chocolate).]

Elsewhere in France and in Paris in particular, look for L’Atelier du Chocolat de Bayonne, 27 boutiques that belong to a franchise created by Serge Andrieu, a descendant of a local chocolate maker.

Le Bayonnais
38 quai des Corsaires
05 5925 61 19

Chez Txotx
49 quai Jauréguiberry
05 59 59 16 80

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  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    all that chocolate there… and me all the way here… life just isn’t fair!

  • http://monasapple.blogspot.com mona

    wow, that sounds like the perfect chocolate blend…i wonder if i could find it somewhere in the u.s.

  • http://www.lacoquette.blogs.com Coquette

    Now see, I didn’t realize on Friday when you brought this out with coffee how far it had traveled to make it to Paris (and untouched! what willpower!). You really spoiled me, Clotilde!

  • victoria

    Wow.

  • http://na-zdravi.blogspot.com/ Dianka

    The chocolate looks delicious! Any chance they ship to the US??

  • Jerry

    I love dark chocolate also…. but, in your travels you must have missed the Salon du Chocolate! I was in Paris in 2001 and spent the better part of a day at the Salon du Chocolate. It is what got me to appreciate “good” chocolate (before, I though milk chocolate chocolate bars were good!!

  • http://completerunning.com/chocolate-runners-blog Jon in Michigan

    Oh my. That sounds so very, very wonderful. I love the description. I’m pretty certain a nice 70% bar like that would not make it all the way back from Paris with me. :) I’ve had a bar of “chocolat à l’ancienne” made by Villars from Austria (milk chocolate) – dreadful. Like, throw away the bar because nobody would eat it. I’d love to find a place to buy what you had, here in the states.

  • http://www.carolgillot.com carolg

    I’ve been to Bayonne several times & missed these chocolate stores all together :( I’ll go again this spring & definitely hit these for sure.
    New York’s Salon Du Chocolat opens this Thursday…I can’t wait

  • Ann/brighidsdaughter

    What a lovely description of this chocolate — I can almost taste it.

    Guess I’ll have to make do with my ScharffenBerger 70% bittersweet. Jon, check to see if it’s available in your area. If not, you can buy it online.
    http://www.scharffenberger.com

  • http://dormdelicacies.blogspot.com E.

    Sounds divine :) Although I’m not much of a chocolate fan and I can’t really tell what’s “good” chocolate! I’m happy with my Hershey’s bar!

  • Cécile

    Thanks, Clotilde, for this post, as this reminded me the great holidays I spent in Pays Basque last year! I agree, Cazenave’s chocolates (one of my favorites is the cinnamon one) and “Chocolat mousseux” are fantastic.

    Another unforgettable chocolate moment I had in this area was a lunch at the Hôtel “Les Pyrénées” (Chef is Firmin Arrambide) in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Their ” Grande assiette de desserts au chocolat” (large plate of chocolate desserts) is a wonder. It includes 5 small chocolate desserts : chocolate millefeuille with pistachio cream, a little “cerises à l’Armagnac”, chocolate and whipped cream dessert (same tastes as in the “forêt noire”), a chocolate “mi-cuit” with vanilla custard, a chocolate ice-cream served in a little “Tulipe” , and an almonds and chocolate “genoise” … It was a wonderful experience !

  • http://www.stefoodie.net stef

    clotilde, the turons you talk about — are they the torrones of italy and spain, or something totally different? in the Philippines, turon is basically a deep-fried springroll filled with bananas, a few pieces of jackfruit and brown sugar. thanks.

  • http://www.happenstance.net happenstance

    Ooooooh chocolate. I too “make do” with sharfenberger, but am lucky enough to live mere minutes from where it comes from. My favorite by them is the extra dark 80 percent.

    Now when I am in paris in December I must try and find the chocolate de Bayonne and “make do” with that.

    Thanks Clotilde for another wonderful post about one of my favorite things!

  • http://www.davidlebovitz.com David

    I hope you tried the ‘Chocolat Mousseaux’ at Cazenave, their whipped hot chocolate ‘mousse’, which is fabulously chocolate-rich and delicious. Bayonne is great, and relatively unknown for chocolate (nowadays)…glad you made it a stop on your trip!

  • Anahita

    hi clotilde…..i hope u guys r safe frm da ongoin riots. tc

  • Cindy

    There’s one of those boutiques in Montpellier, a great great boutique, I love it.

  • Lucy

    Hi Clothide,

    I’ve just found your blog and I absolutely love it! Its inspiring and addictively readable.

    The chocolate looks fantastic. Having just finished an essay for a tutorial tomorrow (I’m a student) I could do with something indulgent…

    The main reason I wanted to send you a comment was to say thanks for the post about Carbonades Flamandes. My essay is on the fifteenth century Burgundian duchy so the theory about boeuf bourginon and its link to Carbonades Flamandes added a unique argument to my essay!

    I’ll keep you posted as to my tutor’s response :-)

    Lucy

  • Elizabeth

    Clotilde: Sounds like what we refer to as a busman’s holiday! Thank you for sharing this with us. You may be aware of the fact that your journey coincides with the publication of Paula Wolfert’s revised book on the cooking of South West France. There is an upcoming discussion with the author on egullet.org where the author is a member. I am not sure the link will register here, but for what it is worth, cf. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?&act=calendar&code=showevent&eventid=591

  • Lucy

    sorry i spelt your name wrong in previous comment – wasn’t looking properly – my vision was blurred by images of chocolate floating in front of my eyes!

    Lx

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Stef – The turon that was sold at Cazenave and other places in this region was similar to the one you can find in Italy and Spain, or to the French nougat.

    Elizabeth – Thanks for the link, I’ll keep an eye out for this discussion!

  • http://www.pagehalffull.com/humanyms/ Pearl

    Heady description and me caught with the pantry near chocolateless.

  • dave

    sounds delicious. Is there anywhere I can order this from?

  • marie

    I didn’t know Bayonne was that famous! It’s my city… I highly recommend you Sege Andrieu’s Bouquet de Chocolat -it’s incredibly délicieux.

  • http://www.yaekophotography.com Yaeko

    Wow. I love chocolate. I want I want!!!

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