If you are planning to spend the weekend chocolate shopping for the holidays, allow me to make a suggestion. Log on to chocolatier Hasty Torres’s website where you will find some 100 chocolate items in twenty-three different flavors. Her nickname is Madame Chocolat, as she is the wife of Mr. Chocolate, Jacques Torres. (Remember the chocolate kitchen ovens he created at Le Cirque?) From bonbons to chocolates in the shapes of watches, shoes, purses, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Hanukkah items, holiday glitter truffles and much more, the result will surely be a sweet ending.
Some couples are diabolic, but Jacques & Hasty Torres aka Mr. Chocolate and Madame Chocolat, are “chocoholic.” Jacques operates out of Brooklyn, Hasty out of Beverly Hills. If you are in the Los Angeles area and cannot drive to Beverly Hills or cannot fly to New York to indulge in their chocolate creations, you have a chance to get their pieces at two pop-up stores. One is located at The Grove in Los Angeles (near the foot of the Christmas tree across from Crate & Barrel), and the second one in Glendale at Americana at Brand (102 Caruso Ave. across from Trattoria Amici restaurant and Barnes & Noble, formerly Guess Accessory store).
His chocolate products are wrapped in brown and orange, while hers are in brown and beige, so there is no reason to be confused. Since it’s the holiday season, we recommend Jacques’ Christmas tree, snowman, and Santa Claus and Hasty’s nutcrackers, watches or gift baskets. They run from $1 to $200.
You will also find their classics: Hasty’s Eiffel Tower, High Heel Pumps, or truffles; and Jacques’ chocolate caramel corn, espresso beans or chocolate-covered marshmallows (I never had those, so they’re next on my list.)
I have had the pleasure of meeting French chef Bruno Lopez many times throughout his career. I’ve tasted his dishes when he was working at different The Ritz-Carlton hotels, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire (now a Four Seasons), and the Hotel Bel-Air. I was most impressed with his peach gazpacho with truffle oil, which he made when he was at the restaurant of the Raffles L’Ermitage hotel (now part of the Viceroy Hotel Group). I was sorry when he stopped serving the public when he became a private chef at the French Consulate Residence in 2009.
Last Friday, I got to congratulate him on his skills yet again, but the setting was quite different. Lopez received the esnigns from French Consul General David Martinon making him an officer of the Ordre National du Mérite Agricole, in recognition for his work in promoting French cuisine in the USA.
Jacques Torres, aka Mr. Chocolate, got help from a few of his fellow chef friends while in town to celebrate the release of his third book. “A Year in Chocolate” is all about chocolate recipes for holidays and special occasions, including eighty ultimate creations for all chocolate lovers. The event was held at his wife’s store Madame Chocolat in Beverly Hills, a dream shop for many of us.
Just as we were taking the photo with Jacques his wife Hasty, and chefs Denis Depoitre (The Dining Room), Bruno Lopez, Sylvain Rivet (Amuse Bouche), Remi Lauvand and Guy Gabriele (Café Pierre), restaurateur and interior designer Barbara Lazaroff (Spago) walked in and suddenly made the picture much better!