Monday, February 2, 2009

La Chandeleur

Last night we celebrated the fête de la Chandeleur at La Châtelaine Chocolat Co. Our small chocolate shop, candlelit and brimming with ambiance, was filled with the valley’s local chapter of Alliance française & francophiles alike. What is Chandeleur? To be quite honest, I (the all-american girl) had to inquire with my Frenchman husband. He didn’t give me much of an answer, other than “it was the fête where Maman et Papa fell in love”. So I had to inquire with our friend Brigitte, the director of the Alliance française de Bozeman. She says that Chandeleur, or Crêpe day, takes place 40 days after Christmas and has religious and pagan origins and that Chandeleur “comes from the latin Festa Candelarum or candle feast link to a custom consisting of lighting candles at midnight.” Mostly now in France it is a day in the dark of winter that is celebrated by eating crêpes (and the French can certainly eat beaucoup de crêpes) by candlelight. To prepare for the fête, my husband, Brigitte, and Bruno (the talented French chef that helps us enrobe chocolates during the crunch times) flipped crêpes in Brigitte’s kitchen (I supported them by standing around sipping Lillet). I think they made approximately 100, all while arguing en français about whether the recipe needed sugar or not or the skillet was hot enough. The next afternoon, I prepared the hot chocolate. In my shop, I insist on making hot chocolate from scratch with real ingredients like 72% Venezuelan chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla beans, and organic milk (no powders or mixes). It takes a lot of time and cannot be made in too large of batches. I wasn’t sure how many gallons we’d need – we ended up only needing 1.5 gallons. Later at the fête, my daughter R. Alexandria frothed the hot chocolate to an airy viscosity (this really improves hot cocoa) and served it to our guests. As if the crêpes, hot chocolate & chocolates weren’t enough, Bruno showed up with a gâteau de crêpes filled with almond pastry cream! What a gourmandise! He spent hours making this and I think the $2 per slice was inadequate. Maybe a piece of cake from a grocery store made with lard and cake mix, but not a handcrafted pastry or dessert made with real ingredients. We vacillated whether we should serve chocolate samples from the case since we planned on donating a portion of the proceeds from sales to the AF. Would too many goûter thwart sales? Nahhh. Spread good cheer, right? I think I was right, judging by the boxes we sold. That said, we genuinely enjoyed this event and hope to assist the Alliance française more in the future. Contact Brigitte Morris ( if you’re interested in what the AF de Bozeman has to offer.

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