Vincent Van Gogh once bartered paintings for pieces of Debauve & Gallais chocolate, but visitors to the French company’s new Manhattan boutique (212.734.8880, www.debauveandgallais.com), the chocolatier’s first in the United States, need not part with precious possessions to savor the bittersweet confections that have tempted kings, queens, czars, and artists for more than 200 years.
Sulpice Debauve, pharmacist to Louis XVI, enjoyed making pistoles for his master’s ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. In 1800, after the French Revolution, he opened a chocolate shop on Paris’ Left Bank. Within a few years, he had been appointed chocolatier to Louis XVIII and had opened more than 60 shops throughout France. Not until last year, however, did Debauve & Gallais (Debauve’s nephew, Antoine Gallais, became a partner in 1823) open a store on American shores.
Located on the corner of 69th Street and Madison Avenue, the Debauve & Gallais boutique tempts visitors with wafts of heady, espresso-strength chocolate. The morsels on display feature ingredients such as Piedmont hazelnuts, Turkish grapes, Bourbon Island vanilla, West Indies rum, and highly concentrated (60 percent to 99 percent) cocoa. Although decidedly more attainable than a Van Gogh, Debauve & Gallais delicacies begin at a lofty $84 a pound.