L’Etoile d’Or

L'Etoile d'Or

L’Etoile d’Or is a little candy store in the rue Fontaine, sprung right out of a fairy tale.

It is but a ten-minute walk from where I live, so I find it charmingly ironic that I owe its discovery to my Bay Area blog-friend, Derrick, who mentioned it to me in a recent email : he and his wife Melissa have taken several trips to Paris, and food lovers that they are, they have excellent finds to share.

And so it is that just a few days ago, following Derrick’s advice, I set off towards the Moulin Rouge to hunt for this little boutique, in the maze of narrow streets lined with cabarets and bars which have seen better days – days when they were all risqué and glamorous and shady, days come and gone, leaving them touchingly derelict. The very picture of a woman, way past her prime, with a tight leather top and too much makeup.

But I find L’Etoile d’Or easily in the midst of this, surrounded as it seems to be by a golden glow, showering down on me beneath the awning. The pleasant impression is confirmed when I push the door open to the ring of a bell, and step inside the store, all glass cases and mirrors and golden shelves and candy, candy everywhere, as far as the eye can see. I find myself alone inside, a little intimidated, a little Goldilocks.

But then I hear the deep voice of the owner, and I turn to discover, coming out from behind the counter, a fifty year-old schoolgirl. Complete with the long pleated kilt skirt, the v-neck sweater, the white shirt with a round collar and a little tie, and two long, blonde braids.

And the schoolgirl tells me kindly that I should take as much time as I wish to look around, that I should absolutely not feel pressured to buy anything, and that if I have any question at all she is right there, ready to help. And then she proceeds to count the bars of different varieties of chocolate lined neatly on a table, taking more out of a cabinet, evening out the piles, and talking animatedly to herself all the while.

Blinking with disbelief, I slowly walk around, taking it all in. The chocolate bars and bites, the calissons, the bonbons, the almonds, the pralines, the nougatine, specialties from all around the Great Kingdom of France, the jams, the tea, the biscuits, and the Hall of Fame, with news articles from around the world, all featuring the schoolgirl, at various ages, forever standing at her counter with a smile of pride.

And then I talk to her and she says “tu immediately and starts telling me, in a random order, about her Japanese customers ; about Sharffen-Berger himself who came and informed her she was a San Francisco celebrity ; about how she’s the only one in France to sell Bernachon chocolate apart from Bernachon himself ; how she has dressed the exact same way forever and doesn’t see a reason to change ; how she can make me an assortment of the tiniest chocolate bites so I have more to taste for the same weight ; how funny it is that an American has told me about her ; how I can come back whenever I want ; and how the pistachio and the caramel chocolates are her favorite because they are “très veloutés“, with the accompanying gesture.

Wanting to buy the whole store, but refraining from doing so to leave some for next time, I settle for a small box of the various nut confections that she sells : pralines and dragées and chocolate-covered coffee beans and walnuts and almonds and hazelnuts.

C’est pour toi?“, she asks, and it is indeed for myself, but she says she will gift-wrap it for me anyhow, because she uses the original papier d’Epinal, on which old-fashioned jokes and puzzles are printed. But then she says she will just give me the sheet of paper because she doesn’t want to cut and fold it, it’s so beautiful.

As I get ready to leave, she explains that I’m more than welcome, some other time, to buy just one small caramel : she will weigh it carefully for me, and I will get the same warm smile. Every time.

I thank her, tell her that this is a precious thing, and leave the fairy tale, with a smile on my face and a whistle on my lips.

L’Etoile d’Or
Denise Acabo
30 rue Fontaine
75009 Paris
01 48 74 59 55
M° Pigalle or Blanche

  • Amy C.

    You just put a smile on *my* face – and I needed one (…long story)!

  • http://www.americandemeter.motime.org Karen

    Ah, to walk into such a place would make me feel like I’d died and gone to heaven!

  • christoph

    What I nice description. I think a can’t resist to suggest Montmatre to my wife for our weekend walk. Do you know if it is open on sundays?

  • http://www.americandemeter.motime.org Karen

    Hi Clotilde–I wrote a positive review of your blog on my blog! It’s the first of an occasional series of reviews of my favorite blogs by women.

  • http://gastroblog.com Jackie

    Clotilde, add this one to the list of places we will visit together in Paris — I can’t get there quickly enough!

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    christoph – i would just call and ask her if she’s open. She seems to have quirky hours. We almost gave up on going in last time we were there (which was our second attempt to go in), because we were there at her opening time and she got there 15 minutes later.

    Fortunately our debate about how long we should give her lasted longer than her tardiness.

  • http://www.writersbloc.biz olga

    clothilde, your site’s become a more regular read of mine than the New York Times :) Thanks for your regular posts and your lovely pictures. If you are ever in the New York area, there are two places you must check out for amazing hand made artisanal chocolate. The first one is called Lunettes et Chocolat (in a part of New York called NoLIta, which stands for North of Little Italy) and yes, they sell glasses as well as the most beautiful chocolates ever. Also, the best hot chocolate too!! The second place is called The Chocolate Garden and it’s on Thompson Street in SoHo – the woman there makes the most interesting filling combinations like lime basil!!

  • Melissa

    Your experience there was much as we’d imagined it might be! We were enchanted, too. One thing the “schoolgirl” told us was that she only stocks chocolates and candies that she loves (and has tested) so that she can personally recommend everything. :-)

    Unfortunately I can’t recall the name of a tin of candies she suggested to me. I know that it was on the left hand side of the store…a little round dark blue-black or green-black tin with metallic writing. It had these candies inside that were so delicious and unlike anything either Derrick or I had experienced before. They seemed like hard candies, but you had to let them warm in your mouth a little and then they were chewy. Like a sort of caramel coating with an soft center that tasted like a gourmet tootsie roll – this is a bad description. Derrick says they were made in Alsace. The schoolgirl had a whole article on the candymaker.

    Needless to say, I plan on visiting the shop every time I am in Paris! (I think part of our frustation the second time round was that we were so eagerly early and so our wait felt like eternity as we stared into the windows of of candy, candy, candy.)

  • Sylvie

    Ma chérie, c’est un petit chef-d’oeuvre cet article ! J’adore la patronne qui ne voit pas pourquoi elle changerait de tenue (peut-être pour la laver ???!!!). Mon seul regret c’est de n’avoir jamais repéré cette boutique en me baladant dans le quartier quand je travaillais rue Lafayette !

  • serena

    clotilde, love this post! it was the perfect thing to come back to after a day of snow here (at the end of february, & when the flowers are already starting to bloom) – nothing better than to read about a candy wonderland in beautiful paris when it’s all quiet outside with the heaviness of snow. all part of a magical day :)

    (also, as i was browsing through cookbooks in the bookstore earlier, i noticed in diana henry’s crazy water pickled lemons that she speaks of a childhood penpal of hers called clothilde – made me think of you :)

  • http://jde.blogspot.com julia

    fairy tale sweet shops with 50 year old school girls? i’m going to paris.

  • http://cascatel.free.fr JoYa

    Bonsoir Clotilde,

    Un grand merci pour ce blog qui sait si bien m’ouvrir les envies ; )
    Ce n’est qu’au fur et à mesure de mes lectures que j’ai découvert que nous sommes du même quartier. Aussi, je me permets de mettre mes pas dans les tiens afin de découvrir certaines excellentes adresses : ) que tu as la gentillesse de nous signaler.
    Quant à l’Etoile d’Or, j’y cours demain en sortant du travail et La Famille c’est pour très bientôt.
    Je reviendrai donc régulièrement. JoYa

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    And I should add that Melissa and I have been eagerly anticipating this post; we *knew* you’d love it!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Amy – Glad I gave you that smile! Hope you feel better today…

    Karen – Indeed, it was quite out of this world!

    Christoph – I have included the phone number to l’Etoile d’Or, give Denise a call to find out if she’s open this Sunday!

    Karen – Thank you so much for the wonderful post about Chocolate & Zucchini!

    Jackie – Sounds like we’re gonna need a whole week to do it all! :)

    Derrick – It’s true that small Parisian stores can’t really be relied upon for opening hours. But that kind of situation should be seen as a great opportunity to go and have an espresso in a nearby café! Thanks again for the recommendation!

    Olga – Thanks a lot for the tips, they sound really good! You can be sure I’ll give them a try when I make it to NY, soon I hope!

    Melissa – Could you be talking about the bergamot candies? The tin looks like you describe, but I’ve never tasted them so I’m not sure they would fit the taste description. I will try to find out next time I go!

    Maman – Merci, je suis ravie que ce petit texte te plaise! :)

    Serena – So happy this teeny bit of magic fit into yours!
    Funny about Diana Henry’s penpal, although I have to say : Clothildes with an “h” are a totally different breed from the Clotildes without an “h”, who are the only real ones ! :)

    Julia – Yes, come on right over, it’s worth the trip!

    JoYa – Chouette alors, tu me diras ce que tu en penses! Tu habites vers où?

  • http://cascatel.free.fr JoYa

    J’habite pas loin de la station Anvers pour te donner une petite idée..
    Hier soir, avant mon miam ! délicieux curry de crevettes, j’ai proposé les aubergines farcies au Carré Frais et tout le monde a adoré. Disons que la recette va circuler ; )
    Allez, je file en espérant trouver des Negus à l’Etoile d’Or.
    Bon week-end Clotilde !

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    JoYa – En effet, nous sommes proches voisines! :) Et je suis ravie que les rouleaux d’aubergine aient plu à tes convives!

  • christoph

    Hi Clotilde,
    I really have to say you and Derrick thank you very much for this tip. We were there on saturday together with my father who visited us in Paris and I think the visit at the etoile was for him a real fantastic experience (ok for me also because he gifted us two Bernachon chocolates). We stayed there for three quarters of an hour and I learned from her so much about chocolat and how good candied mandarines with nougat and dark chocolate can taste. Hope the presents for my family in germany will reach their destination.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Christoph – So happy your visit was wonderful too! And you know, we almost bumped into each other, I was there on Saturday too, around 6pm!

  • Dot

    Clotilde — for my 60th birthday I invited friends to dinner in Paris, and was thrilled that many were able to join me. On the day itself we journeyed to this chocolate shop, a photocopy of your blog article in hand. While five of my friends gloried in the shop, I translated the article for Denise. When I came to the bit about her talking to herself, she said “Mais non! I don’t talk to herself, but to my customers. They’re just not listening.” It was a wonderful experience, all part of the fairy tale of being in Paris with loved ones for my birthday. Thank you.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Dot – I’m happy to know that your Paris trip went well, and was most amused by your Etoile d’Or anecdote! That lady is priceless, really.

  • Cathy

    I was so happy to find your review, this was beautiful, and brought a smile to my face, because I too, had a fairy tale experience at this very chocolate shop. I was traveling to paris on business and myself and some colleagues were walking through Pigalle when we stumbled on this gem of a store. It was as if it had a golden halo around it, we took one look at the outside and could not resist looking inside. When we walked in, we too had the warm inviting hospitality by “the girl in pigtails” as it is said in her write ups on the wall, she was wonderful, and I felt like I had landed in Willie Wonka but better. She led me to her caramels, “LeRoux” and they were buttery and melted in my mouth. I also bought 2 bars of Bernachon and let me say, you cannot leave this shop again without buying some, as it is the best chocolate I have eaten anywhere. thank you for bringing the memory back to me.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/axiomaxiom Peter

    Thank you for this review. I also had an amazing experience at L’Etoile D’or. If you’d like, you can read about it here:

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/axiomaxiom/142325.html?view=1123573#t1123573

    Wonderful place, marvelous woman.

    –Axiom

  • http://blog.org/ David Brake

    Her shop also got discussed by David Lebovitz on a radio programme recently:

    http://wpr.org/book/051204a.html which is how I found myself Googling for “Denise Chocolat Paris”.

    Luckily my in-laws live there and I live just across the channel… You might also want to take a look at other chocolate shops including some in Paris at: http://www.flickr.com/groups/chocolatestores/pool/

  • edward collins

    Enjoyed reading this immensely. Will be coming to Paris for the first time end of April beginning of May and intend to visit this candy store. I wish I could speak french to Madam Acabo as she seems delightful to converse with but alas i am very limited. I don’t think she speaks English so communication may be a problem.

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