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Chocolate: Treats from Charbonnel and Walker
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On my first trip to the United Kingdom, too many years ago to count, I remember shopping in the popular Waite Rose supermarket and buying Peek Frean biscuits because the packaging carried the intriguing and exotic Royal Warrant.  I had no idea then what a Royal Warrant was--and we sure didn't have them on package goods at my local Shop Rite.  The cello warp bore a coat of arms, or some such important-looking thing, along with the message that these biscuits or the biscuit-maker/bakery was "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen."  And I thought, "Heck, that ought to mean something."

And indeed, it does.  These warrants do not come lightly; handpicked purveyors of goods and services are selectively granted the right to display that warrant, and it is usually bestowed by one of perhaps three people in the royal household.  I have since learned what a Royal Warrant is and since then have also made dozens of trips to London and other parts of England, Wales, and Scotland, and as a sort of fun game, am always on the lookout to see which master shoemaker, piano-builder, perfumer, or grocer is anointed with that privilege, accorded the honor to display and boast that Royal Warrant. 

One such warrant-holder is the chocolatier Charbonnel and Walker which happily for us has come stateside, with a shop on the eighth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. And since it is holiday time, there are plenty of reasons to pick up some of the company's charming, round boxes of truffles (the newest flavor, Champagne, in the round pink boxes, is a SURE hit!), or one of the handsomely packaged Christmas hampers, as the Brits call them (we'd say gift baskets), for hostess presents, or to just indulge in a few bits of chocolate, for a little treat after a hard day of shopping.

The company was established in 1975, when Edward VII (then Prince of Wales), cajoled a certain Mme. Charbonnel to leave the French chocolatier Maison Boissier to join a Mr. Walker in London, where the two could ply their skills extraordinaire, and open a fine confectionery.  The original shop was housed on New Bond Street and it has, in essence, remained in that spot since--located today in the prestigious Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street, in the shadow of the original footprint.

Charbonnel and Walker has been known since that time for its fine handmade chocolates with a silky and flavorful courverture, sumptuous flavors, mouthwatering bonbons, and its beautiful packaging.  (The line has some charming boxes for upcoming Valentine's Day and the spring season...tiered trays that swivel in and out of stunning oval containers, bedecked in colorful, gay ribbons and so on.)  But, you don't buy chocolates for the packaging alone.  Charbonnel and Walker produces some truly fine products--chocolate sauces, rose and violet creams, chocolate bars, fancy truffles, delectable nibbles, and cocoas, among the extensive line.  The best thing is that there is a little café on Saks' eighth floor where you can sit down and rest during your holiday shopping marathon and savor some tasty hot chocolate or feast on to-slaver-for pastries.  And while you're resting, compile a list of the hostess gifts you need between now and the new year (include a few boxes of treats for yourself), and cross a few names off your shopping list, knowing you're giving the lucky recipients a universally beloved present.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by appointment of Ruth and occasional substitute scribe, Austin Katz.


Posted on December 22, 2010 - by

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About the Author: About the Author: Ruth J. Katz is a well-known shopping and service writer based in New York City. She has written about shopping for 25 years for New York magazine; covered the topic on-air at Fox-TV for several years as the Home Services expert; and had her own show on both the USA and Lifetime Cable networks. Katz wrote extensively for The New York Times as well, and contributed periodically to the New York Daily News. She is a passionate shopper, always looking for not merely a good buy, but the best buy, ferreting out a "steal" or discovering up-and-coming designers. She has written five books and is a former contributing editor to Hearst's Redbook, Classic Home, and Colonial Homes; she is currently a Contributing Editor of New York Home, Golf Connoisseur, The Modern Estate, and Promenade magazines. She is also the former Shopping Director for Davler Media's Manhattan Living.

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