CAPSULE REPORT: The chocolates of Jean-Michel Carre are well worth a taste. This Frenchman has brought his European schooling and years of international culinary experience to Carpinteria, California, a small oceanside community in Santa Barbara County. Now, lucky townspeople and beach visitors can partake in eating fine chocolate as well as enjoying great weather. See the full review below. This is Page 3 of a five-page review of artisan chocolatiers. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.
Chocolats du CaliBressan Overview
"Bressan" refers to a person from the city of Bresse. Bresse is an area in Burgundy between the Ain and Saône rivers. Along with the city of Bresse, several towns in France have "Bresse" as part of their names (Beaurepaire-en-Bresse and Bresse-sur-Grosne, for example). Bresse is known in culinary circles for its outstanding chickens, the poulet de bresse. And you may remember it for the Chocolats du CaliBressan.
For chocolatier Jean-Michel Carre, one-half of the driving force of Chocolats du CaliBressan, asking him not to work with food would be like asking him not to breathe. He started making chocolate at a very young age, assisting his mother as she rolled chocolate truffles in her kitchen in Bresse.
Jean-Michel attended culinary school beginning at the tender age of 15 (which is the typical age of entry to European culinary programs). Upon graduation, he worked in Switzerland, the U.K., and finally, California, where he met Jill-Marie, his wife. Jill-Marie had worked in the food and beverage industry for many years, and she would become the other half of the soul of this business. The name, CaliBressan, merges their backgrounds, California and Bresse.
The Collection Of Chocolates
While Jean-Michel is French and calls his collection "French bonbons and truffles," he actually makes chocolate in the Belgian style. Belgian chocolates are made in molds, which create the thicker chocolate shell around the filling. The technique of molding was created in 1912 by Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus. He developed a process to pour couverture into molds, creating a hard shell and allowing fillings of softer, more liquid cremes and liqueurs. Prior to then, firm centers like caramels, jellies and thick ganaches were hand-dipped into the couverture. (Learn more about the Belgian chocolate style.)
There are some unusual pieces in this collection, like the Geranium (flavored with geranium essence) and the Pain d'Epices: orange zest and spice-flavored milk chocolate ganache on top of a piece of gingerbread, covered with dark chocolate.
But the Carres understand that there's nothing wrong with more conventional chocolates that are brilliantly executed. Take their Champagne Truffle. A lot of people make champagne truffles, but very few get them right. Here, the ganache is of a perfect consistency, and, while you can taste the Champagne (and it's the real thing), it doesn't overwhelm the chocolate.
The puckish bonbon called French Bisous (kisses) is shaped like a pair of lips, and the exterior is a bright red, thanks to colored white chocolate (see it in the photo, below). Inside, a tangerine liqueur blends beautifully with a dark and milk chocolate ganache. And even if you don't have a shoe fetish, you'll like the Bressan, a clog-shaped milk chocolate and praline piece flavored with nutmeg.
Amusing shapes, intriguing flavor combinations and good ingredients; what's not to love?
Chocolats DU CALIBRESSAN
- 6-Piece Box
- 12-Piece Box
- 24-Piece Box
Purchase online* at ChocoCaliBressan.com
If you're passing through Santa Barbara County, the shop is located at 4193 Carpinteria Avenue, Carpinteria, California 93013. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. These items are offered by a third party and THE NIBBLE has no relationship with them. Purchase information is provided as a reader convenience.