Richart (Paris, NY, SF, Barcelona, & More) – Intense Citrus
It’s easy to mistake the San Francisco Richart store for yet another shoe store in Union Square – a generic window filled with a slew of white and gray boxes evokes the necessary minimalism to sell high heels. I walked by many times without a moment’s glance before someone told me it was a chocolate store. Intrigued, I bought boxes of the Citrus and Floral chocolates. One bite and I was instantly hooked – never had I had such clean, intense flavor in a chocolate before.
Richart’s story can be found in other places but the short version is that Michel took the business over (from his father) and updated it using contemporary art as one of his primary influences. Indeed, design is the immediate distinguishing feature – bold bright colors that look too intricate and impossible to place on chocolates. The chocolates below, while striking in their simplicity, don’t show the detail and color of other designs. Designs are “printed” using cocoa butter.
Permanent flavor families are offered as well as special editions throughout the year. The permanent families include Balsamic, Roasted, Fruity, Citrus, Herbal, Floral, & Spiced. Special offerings include themes based on seasons, children’s themes, and even a yearly contest that features a lucky kid’s design.
The chocolate used is 70% minimum of the Criollo bean from Venezuala. From there, they claim to grind it finer than other chocolate makers – from 20 to 12 microns – to ensure an “ultra-smooth palate experience.” The chocolates come with a variety of fillings – ganache, praline, and coulis. The ganache is made with cream from Normandy or Bresse and the coulis contains actual fruit pulp.
The flavors are as vibrant as the design – crisp, bold, bright, and clean. Some flavors, particularly the orange, taste like an entire piece of fruit has been concentrated into the small chocolate somehow. It’s amazing how such small squares have such impact.
From Left to Right, Back to Front:
Grapefruit Praline – bitter grapefruit upfront yields to a sweet hazelnut finish.
Mandarin / Green Orange Ganache – very orange, nearly concentrated in impact, vibrant.
Kumquat Coulis – crisp kumquat flavor with some bitterness from its pulp in the coulis, fairly long finish.
Bergamot Ganache – the chocolate remains strong with bergamot inflections, the ganache quite creamy and very smooth.
Citrus Essence Coulis – orange, lemon, and bergamot flavors dance around, none dominating, but maintaining the citrus essence throughout.
Orange Zest Coulis – intense orange flavor with a fair amount of bitterness that slowly decays and cedes to the underlying chocolate notes.
Lemon Ganache – intensely strong lemon flavor, almost a concentrated lemon confit taste, big and very bright.
The coulis citrus chocolates are the best – the fruit flavors are boldest and cleanest, presumably from the inclusion of actual pulp. All are intense and pack more flavor than most chocolates from any other producer. The chocolate shells are not always the freshest, unlike Paul Young (London) or Kee’s Chocolate (NYC), but the explosive flavors make up for deficiencies in the shell. If you could get them fresh from Lyon (Richart’s home base), they could oust Paul Young from my top ranking.
Official Site: http://www.richart.com/