As far as I’m concerned, if it’s good enough for the great Heston Blumenthal to use in his recipes (which he does), it’s definitely good enough for any home cook. Furthermore, it’s almost certainly among France’s best-kept secrets, despite having an international presence.
Founded in 1922, the shop and factory in the company’s birthplace of Tain l’Hermitage aim for and attract a curious mixture of tourists and world-class chefs: in spite of its Godiva-style price tags, the brand is one of the world’s foremost chocolate-makers, making ‘vintage’ chocolates from one single year of harvest from plantations in Madagascar, Trinidad and Venezuela.
Its dark chocolate is intense without being bitter, while its milk chocolate, too, has depth without being sickly. The range available is also staggering, providing something to suit every taste: as well as traditional dark and milk chocolates, there are ganaches and truffles, dark-chocolate enrobed slivers of orange peel, and chocolates flavoured with warm spices for those wanting something not only excellent, but a little bit different as well.
Even if you don’t want to splash out, you can still enjoy a Valrhona treat, with hot chocolate and chocolate sauce both coming in at under £10 (the latter under £5). If you visit the shop in Tain, you can also try before you buy, minimising the risk of wasting your cash. However, don’t make a spectacle of yourself by treating the shop like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
If you can’t make it to Tain, fear not – plenty of boutiques, online and in London, sell the stuff, so that all of your gastronomic needs can be met. Lamentably, I don’t work for them, and nor have I been sent any for free (…yet…), so I have to content myself with only occasional tastes of it (unless I feel like paying the Printemps’ extortionate prices in Paris). Probably better for my waistline all round, though.