Denise Acabo. The name doesn’t mean much to 99.9% of the world’s population, but those who do know it are fanatical about the woman, her Parisian chocolate parlor and her devotion to France’s best chocolatiers and candy makers.
With a daily uniform of long blonde braids, a tartan plaid skirt, and the sexy-schoolmarmish blend of bifocals and Chanel No 5 that only a middle-aged Frenchwoman can pull off, Acabo is a cult character here in Paris. But for more important reasons than her signature look, or even her choco-knowledge. It’s her irresistible charm and infectious enthusiasm that reels them in.
Everyone who walks through the doors of her SoPi (South of Pigalle) boutique is treated like the most important person in the world. She grabs you by the arm and gushes about her products: that they’re the best of the best and that she’s the exclusive carrier in the city. She’ll tell you how the cab drivers come in and clean her out of Le Roux caramels and that Japanese tourists fax her magazine articles in which she’s appeared. She talks a mile a minute and is as much an entertainer and theatrice as a chocolate connoisseur. She could prattle on about pralines for hours—and she will if you’re not careful. I looked at my watch when she paused for a breath and was shocked to see 30 minutes had passed. It’s a shame I could understand only a fraction of what she was saying.
But, importantly, what I did understand is that, outside of Lyon, she is the sole carrier of Bernachon chocolates.
This famed chocolatier, Maurice, and his son, Jean-Jacques, operate a bean-to-bar factory that churns out dozens of flavors of delicate bonbons and hunky tablettes. So how do you choose between so many amazing flavors—espresso, orange, hazelnut, rum raisin—when you’re in that enviable position? For me it was simple: I let Denise do it.
And thank goodness. When I unwrapped my Pâte d’Amande Pistache at home, I was suddenly inhaling vats of fresh chocolate in a factory. Delicious without even taking a bite. Between the richness of the 62% cacao and the sweet grittiness of Sicilian pistachio paste, I thought I had ascended to chocolate heaven. It’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever eaten.
She was equally pointed and strong-willed with my bonbon selection. After careful consideration, I had selected six from the case, but she shot two of them down. She wanted to make sure I had the best of the best so I wound up with a selection from all over the country (Gevrey-Chambertin, Bourges, Lorraine) from masters including Henri Le Roux (salted caramel), Bernard Dufoux (balsamic vinegar truffle) and more from Bernachon (a praline noisette).
There were so many exquisite sweets that I didn’t get (this time), including the Breton caramels. But I was happy to see she also carries Jacques Genin’s caramels—more proof that Acabo only carries the best of the best.
30 rue Pierre Fontaine