TL;DR. It would be sacrilegious to visit Lyon and not make a pilgrimage to chocolate maker and chocolatier, Bernachon.
In the two days I spent in Lyon, I was pretty disappointed with the pastry selection. While pink pralines are a specialty, I just couldn’t get over the artificial hot pink coloring of the pastries. Lucky for me, I found Bernachon, a legendary chocolate maker and chocolatier, whose delicate morsels of cacao are only available from their flagship in Lyon (and one store in Paris). Had I known that their chocolates would be so hard to source outside of France, I would’ve filled my luggage with more of this sweet sweet contraband.
At Bernachon, they roast and grind their own cacao, in addition to creating the chocolate confections that we consume as an end product. These days, it’s pretty rare to find a producer that works end-to-end from bean to bon-bons, let alone a lineage of chocolate making that has been passed down through three generations (to the grandson of Paul Bocuse, nonetheless!). David Lebovitz has a great post on his blog that explains the difference between chocolatiers and chocolate makers, if you want to learn more. Naturally it was through his blog that I learned about Bernachon (David lives in Paris, so I checked to see if he had recommendations for Lyon).
There was definitely sticker shock when I spent €50 on 300 grams of their signature palet d’or (dark chocolate ganache bon-bons flaked with gold leaf) and two tablette bars. Money, which was very well spent, and which I wished I had spent more of.
I’m not sure what compelled me to do so, but I decided to wait to savor the chocolates in good company. I was in Lyon by myself and after many indulgent meals, I was happy to hold off on enjoying my treats. That was mistake #1. Had I known what I was getting myself into, I would’ve happily thrown myself into the deep end.
Over the next two weeks, I gingerly transported the chocolates in my carry-on, in my backpack, and always on my person, to avoid any chance of them melting. I will never forget the smell of the cacao as I opened the ballotin. When I finally bit into one of the bon-bons, the experience was transcendent–some of the smoothest, full-bodied dark chocolate ganache I’ve ever had.
I waited another two weeks to try the bars that I had brought back to Australia for Rob. The Jour et Nuit was half chocolate and half milk and the Amandine was a dark chocolate bar with almonds. The former was not my cup of tea (not a milk chocolate fan, and the chocolate was very milky), but the latter was the best chocolate bar I have ever laid my taste buds on. The whole almonds were blanched and lightly candied and then encased in a tablette of dark chocolate.
In case you ever make it over to Lyon, I’ll have a dark chocolate tablette s’il vous plaît. In the meantime, I’ll placate myself with Guittard and Recchiuti, respectively my favorite chocolate maker and chocolatier in San Francisco.