It all began innocently enough, my addiction to the confections of Tristan, the maitre chocolatier of the minuscule village of Bougy-Villars, in the hills above Rolle, just next to Signal de Bougy.
After all, who on this earth doesn’t love chocolate? And isn’t one of the prime pleasures of living in – or in my case, near – Switzerland that you get to indulge in some of the world’s finest, anywhere, anytime you please? It’s the rare place in the world where you can get your fix in, of course, the finest boutiques in big cities like Geneva, but also on supermarket shelves, in tiny-but-luxurious shops, even in the gas station.
A considerate friend left a little white shopping bag very discreetly on my doorknob one day last December when I was out. I thought all the usual appreciative platitudes: It was my birthday, she remembered, how sweet …
Until I opened the bag, saw the three innocent-looking chocolate bars, wrapped very plainly in see-through cellophane, and nonchalantly began to munch.
What revelation was there!
What my friend had chosen for me was three of Tristan’s thick, plain, unadorned plaques, studded with big chunks of nut. You can choose from caramelized pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts, and you can take your pick of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate. As always with chocolate, I am embarrassed to say that I vastly prefer the milk to any other type.
I say "embarrassed" because among choco-cognoscenti, chocolat noir is supposed to be the thing, the top, the crème de la crème. Call me foolish, call me unsophisticated, but it’s not for me. However, if it’s for you, Tristan’s got plenty to make you happy, with a choice of 50% chocolat noir and 83% chocolat noir (the latter for those who like their drugs extremely strong!).
What else does his tiny gem of a shop have to offer? There are elegant tablets of chocolate, studded with crunchy cocoa nibs, and slender batons of chocolate, plus gorgeous, artful packages and baskets for holidays such as Christmas and Mother’s Day, and truffes in a multiplicity of flavors ranging from the traditional (coffee, caramel, rum, champagne) to the cutting edge of the chocolatier’s art (green tea, whisky, even the eau-de-vie marc) The color of the green tea truffes alone is enough to let you know that you’re in no ordinary chocolate shop.
Best of all, small tasting samples of nearly everything are scattered in little dishes around the shop, so you can be an informed consumer, spending your francs and your calories wisely. Since a single hyper-addictive nut-studded plaque runs CHF10, a stop at Tristan’s can quickly add up. But although your bank balance and your hips may suffer, it’s well worth it, for a visit to Tristan’s is a little stopover in choco-heaven.
Tristan, Artisan-Chocolatier, Bougy-Villars, Switzerland; 021 807 21 25; www.chocolatier-tristan.ch
If you have a favorite market, shop, product, café, bar, or restaurant, or if you’re looking for a favorite item and can’t find it, let me know.