Richart Design et Chocolat
Art & Chocolate Meet And Thrill
Walking through the doors of a Richart chocolate boutique, a jewelry store sense of elegance wafts through the air. It is a serene environment, where the only thing to focus on is the precious contents on display. Glass cases present colorful gems in a multitude of designs and colors. Emerald greens, ruby reds, and sapphire blues adorn the showcased pieces.
But this is not jewelry: it is chocolate from Richart.
Richart is a family business that was founded in 1925 in Lyon, France by master chocolatier Joseph Richart. The company entered a new era in 1987, when second-generation chocolatier Michel Richart moved beyond the classic approach to designing fine chocolates. Inspired by contemporary art and design, Michel has been a pioneer in creating chocolates with a dazzling array of patterns and colors. The distinctive designs he places on the surface of each bonbon—using a technique known as cocoa butter transfer—are as captivating as the flavors within. This concept of Design et Chocolat (Design and Chocolate) is what elevates Richart chocolates above mere flavor enchantment.
In order to achieve exquisite flavor, only the finest ingredients are used. Black currants, apricots, pistachios, hazelnuts, spices, et al are obtained directly from their sources in order to achieve the most authentic flavors. Richart prefers Venezuela’s renowned Carenero Superior cacao as the base chocolate for his filled pieces. Predominantly of Criollo pedigree, Carenero Superior lends an intense, yet delicate and complex, flavor to the chocolates. Richart uses as little sugar as possible to enable each piece of the eighty-plus different filled chocolates, and his solid napolitains, to achieve its full flavor potential.
All in the Flavor Family
When you purchase a box of chocolates from Richart, your first decision is not how many pieces, but what flavor family. Richart makes seven flavor-themed collections, called “families,” that are distinguished by the ingredients that flavor the chocolate centers. These fillings come include coulis (fruit purée), ganache, praline, creams, and caramels.
Many more flavors exist within each family, of course. By consuming chocolates along these lines, one can concentrate on the essence and purity of the ingredients in each family and the harmonious relationship of each chocolate in the box to the others.
Flavors are crisp, clear, and easily distinguishable. They tend to jump out and demand attention rather than and forcing one to concentrate on (or guess) the flavor. The single origin ganaches are also highly characterized by the cacao of their respective origins. Coulis pieces are lively and vibrant on the palate. The Mango-Passionfruit Coulis might make one pucker in ecstasy, while the Coconut Coulis conjures up comparisons of an ultra-gourmet Mounds bar. Caramel are buttery decadence, and pralines convey the purest flavor of the nuts that comprise them.
Single Origin Cacaos
Of particular interest to the student of chocolate is the Ultra-Fine Ballotin, a selection of 72 assorted napolitains sourced from the world’s top cacao-growing regions. These thin tasting squares of solid, single origin chocolate come in a variety of cacao contents that let you taste both the bean origin and the intensity of the cacao. After a taste of a 46% milk, the selection jumps to 70% Haiti, 71% Grenada, 70% Sur del Lago (Venezuela), 73% Ivory Coast, 75% Carenero Superior, 75% Madagascar, 82% Carenero Superior (Venezuela), 82% Dominican Republic, 82% Ecuador, 82% Madagascar, and 82% Sur del Lago. With this collection, Richart allows chocolate lovers to explore the different profusion of flavors among the world’s great cacaos. For example, Madagascar is light on the palate, with mild and sweet citrus tones. Haiti is also light but with an intoxicating natural sweet rum charm befitting its Caribbean locale.
As previously noted, a stunning array of 80 flavors is offered throughout the year. Twenty new pieces are introduced yearly, and there are special seasonal and holiday assortments. Like a couturier, Richart is always designing a new collection: recipients marvel at the complexity and beauty of the designs as well as the flavors. The Summer 2005 assortment, Douceur Tropicale (Tropical Joy), consists of three ganache or coulis flavors expressing the “joy” of banana, the “joy” of coconut and the “joy” of pineapple. Valentine’s Day can be celebrated with Petits Hearts, and the Easter of the World Collection features Easter designs from a different country each year.
Special Chocolate Gifts
Where to Begin
Richart’s flavor families come in two sizes: the traditional-sized bonbon and what Richart calls the Petit. The Petit appeals to those who wish to explore a wide array of flavors, and to chocolate-lovers who have the restraint to satisfy their cravings in smaller portions.
Unless you treat yourself to the Burlwood Chocolat Petits Vault, you need to decide where to start. We could suggest the Herbal collection, because as we have discovered, herbs and chocolate are a wonderful combination. The Thyme Praline is stupendous: fresh thyme explodes on the palate with a lightly sweetened nutty tone underscoring the length. Jasmine Ganache joins the calmness of jasmine tea with the high level of flavor intensity that Richart prefers—an eye-opening yin-yang.
The chocolates are packaged immaculately in white drawer-like ballotins and tied with a satiny lavender ribbon. This sleek and elegant, yet minimalist, presentation gives the impression of a painting of chocolates captured on a white canvas. Ballotins can be stacked to form a multi-tiered “box” that allows one to simply slide out the desired drawer, select a chocolate, and slide the drawer back. This clever design avoids the challenge of digging through layers of a traditional box to find what appeals to you.
Whatever you select first, like diamonds in the chocolate rough, Richart’s chocolates are gems awaiting your discovery.
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