"If we resist our passions, it is more through their weakness than from our strength."
- François de la Rochefoucauld
Passion Chocolat, the new French patisserie in Vinohrady, is hard to resist.
It is located in an upscale, recently reconstructed building, about a ten minute walk from the top of Wenceslas Square.
Angels and swans, surrounded by gold leaf, stand guard above the doorway.I took a long look at the offerings in the front windows. That day, there were quiches, croissants, brioche, and pain au chocolat.I also saw many of their pastries and cakes there, including their Tarte Tropezienne, which I first sampled earlier this year St. Tropez.This is a first-class, quality establishment. They've created a bright, cheerful space with high ceilings, good lighting, and artistic renderings of green vines, with what look like cocoa beans, crawling up the walls. I was told it was done by Czech designers.But it is the display cases where the true art work resides (sorry, no pictures of the inside cases). As I studied the many cakes on offer, the proprietor, Nadine Musso, offered to explain them.
This woman is as sweet as her desserts. She took genuine delight in telling me about the various creations and answering my many questions. She truly has a passion for her work.
Her husband, Jean-François Musso, is the pastry chef. He is usually hard at work in the back, creating the desserts. If you are lucky, he might pop out with something he is working on and give you a taste.
Given the name of this shop, I decided to try the most intensely chocolate dessert they had. I picked out the cake and asked Madame Musso what it was. She said it was made with a very special type of chocolate.
"Valrhona?" I asked.
"Yes!" She had a big smile. She knew I understood. This is special stuff. I first discovered the unique taste of Valrhona chocolate years ago at the Atlanta restaurant, Bacchanalia.Madame Musso told me that she had an arrangement with the Valrhona company for special deliveries. She said the Four Seasons hotel is the only other establishment in Prague that gets it delivered from France. She even brought out a large bag of the Valrhona cocoa powder from the kitchen to show me.
The cake itself was sublime. It is like an extra thick chocolate mousse, with layers similar to a sponge cake inside.Just a small bite is all it takes, and the intense cocoa flavor will hit you. It has a unique flavor, with the slightest sour note on the side of the tongue after the initial sweetness passes.
On top of the cake are two bittersweet pieces of Valrhona chocolate. They are even more intense than the cake itself.
There are a lot of good pictures on the Passion Chocolat website, but it is mostly in French now.
I'm not a big coffee drinker, so I got a small pot of Earl Grey tea to go with it for 70 CZK. The pot has enough hot water for two cups.
Passion Chocolat serves Lavazza coffee. An espresso is 40 CZK, a cappuccino is 47 CZK, and a cafe latte is 50 CZK.
I decided to take a few pastries to sample at home. They were placed on a cardboard base and then wrapped with paper in a triangular shape and tied with a brown ribbon to protect the contents. So French.
First, I had a raspberry and cream tarte. This is going to be one of my regular favorites.It has a cake-like base. On top is a sweet cream that is whipped so thick, it is almost like butter. Around the sides, it is studded with six fresh raspberries. On top, there is a crunchy, thin, very sweet sort of meringue.
I ate it like a sandwich -- the best, most decadent sandwich I've had in a long, long time. The dense cream is firm and holds its shape as you take bites out of it.
Another dessert that attracted my attention was the nut tarte.It had hazel nuts, walnuts, almonds, and after much discussion, what I believe were sunflower seeds. Maybe I even missed a nut in there somewhere. They are all coated with a dulce de leche, some of which gathers at the base of the tarte.
If you are crazy about nuts, this is the dessert for you.
I did not get an itemized bill. But it is worth mentioning that these rich desserts do require deep pockets. The tea, chocolate cake, raspberry tarte, and nut tarte added up to 285 CZK.
On another visit, I noticed there were more savory items, including some simple sandwiches, in the window. Small salads were also on offer, along with the quiches. They will not be doing real, French-style baguettes. I was sorry to hear that -- I'd really love to find a place to buy some.There were three or four sandwich choices. One was tomato and cheese. I got chicken breast on a crusty roll to go.It looked a little dry, so I asked for a little salad dressing on it. The sandwich, with olives, lettuce, and tomatoes was fine but nothing too special.Also for take away, I got a layer cake with coffee butter cream icing. It got a little banged up as it traveled to my office. It looked much better in the shop.The cake layers between the icing were soaked in espresso, giving the dessert a flavor similar to tiramisu, but richer. I actually got a little caffeine jolt from it. It all sits on a very thin base of dark chocolate.
On top, are two very sweet, meringue-like sugar cookies with a little of the coffee butter cream in the middle.
I asked for a pain au chocolate. Those were gone, but Madame Musso took a stick of the high-quality chocolate they use, broke it in two, and inserted the pieces into a croissant for me.The croissant was small and light, not so crunchy, a little on the chewy side by the time I ate it after lunch. I gave it a little zap in the microwave at work. An short spell in a conventional oven would have been better. Still, the chocolate melted inside, and the combination was heavenly.The tab for the cake, croissant au chocolat, and the sandwich was 185 CZK.
I also tried a "brownie," which is tastes like a brownie, but is made with really fine chocolate. It is crunchy around the edges, but smooth and chocolatey in the middle. It has toasted nuts on top.And I had a very small tarte with cream and raspberries. The raspberries are very fresh. It was a great little bite. There is also a full-size version.Though not cheap, Passion Chocolat is a special place. It is as if they picked up a French patisserie and everything that makes it run and dropped it in the middle of Prague. In fact, the owners also have a shop in Fréjus, in the south of France.
They will also be selling their own chocolate bonbons by the box. There's a machine in the back of the shop so customers can watch the treats being made.
I'll end a quote that was not made by a famous Frenchman, but was made to a famous, if fictional, Frenchman, one Jean-Luc Picard.
It really captures my feelings about Passion Chocolat:
"Resistance is futile."
Patissier-Chocolatier-Salon de Thé
Tel. (+420) 222 524 333