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July 9, 2011

Tristan, Artisan Chocolatier

by Anne Paddock

Swiss chocolatiers make some of the finest chocolates in the world, most of which are available throughout the globe but there is one chocolatier in particular who makes magnificent chocolates but only sells them in the local Geneva area. Tristan Carbonatto – a warm, engaging man with a big smile – is the “Tristan” in Tristan Artisan Chocolatier, a small light filled shop that looks like a garden of chocolate. A man with a passion for chocolate, Tristan clearly enjoys sharing “la joie de chocolat” (the joy of chocolate) with the rest of us. tristan-chocolatier-banniere1

Tristan opened his chocolate shop in 1998 in BougyVillars, a tiny village half way between Geneva and LausanneBougyVillars is a charming town on the side of a mountain with breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and France in the distance. With only about 500 residents living in the town, Bougy Villars turns into a busy village when Tristan’s is open, which is not very often by American standards: Wednesday – Friday from 10:00 am – 12:00 noon and 1:30 pm – 6:30 pm and on Saturday continuously from 9:00-4:30 pm.  The store is closed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.tristan-chocolatier-banniere4

During the holiday seasons (Christmas, Easter) the store stays busy and there are lines out the door because no more than ten people can fit in the shop at any one time. Also, it is important to know Tristan’s closes for about 7 weeks every summer from early July to the end of August and for a short time after Christmas and Easter.tristan-chocolatier-banniere9

One day I had a particularly busy morning and was rushing to get to Tristan’s before the shop closed. After I found a parking space (not always easy), I raced down the street in my sneakers following the smell of roasting nuts and chocolate.  Upon entering the shop, patrons are encouraged to take a small wicker basket to place the chocolates lest your warm hands start to melt the confections.

While I filled my basket, Alexandre, a chocolatier was in the showroom setting up a display. He noticed my running shoes and started talking to me in French and pointing to his running shoes. When he realized I didn’t speak French, he switched to English and told me that he and Tristan were runners. Alexandre called Tristan out to the front of the shop and we all stood there agreeing that chocolate and running were it – the ultimate aphrodisiacs for us.Unfortunately, Tristan broke his leg that winter when he slipped on some ice and I have since heard he switched to cycling.chocolat-banniere7

Tristan’s chocolate isn’t beautiful like a piece of chocolate from Maison du Chocolat, Richart, or Jacques Torres. Nor is Tristan’s chocolate sold in elegant wrapping or specially made glossy boxes. In fact, the chocolate looks rather plain packaged in small plastic bags with a natural grosgrain ribbon or in a chocolate basket covered in clear plastic. And, that’s the point. Tristan and his team of chocolatiers put all their energies into producing amazing chocolate. Packaging is secondary and is best described as understated Swiss.au-coeur-du-chocolat

Tristan sells a variety of chocolates but my favorites include:
  1. Truffles:  There are usually about ten different types of truffles that include noir (dark), lait (milk), champagne (champaign), blanche (white), cafe (coffee), caramel, and rhum (rum).  My favorite are the simple milk or dark.
  2. Plaques: Bars of milk, dark (50%, 70%, and 80%) and white chocolate that are delicious in their simplicity.  Bars with roasted and caramelized California almonds, Italian hazelnuts, Sicilian pistachios, Spanish pine nuts, and pecans from North Carolina are also scrumptious.
  3. Fondantines: Small rectangular shaped bars that have a fondant filling of ground roasted caramelized almonds. The texture is almost like a whipped truffle.

Once the chocolate is paid for, the sales clerk says “merci beaucoup” and asks you to choose the truffle of your choice as a thank you. She uses a pair of small tongs to pick up the truffle and carefully places it in your hand for you to enjoy right away – the perfect ending to a shopping trip.chocolat-banniere1

If you’re interested in seeing a video of Tristan at work, there is a YouTube video entitled “Tristan Chocolatier BougyVillars” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6DoJMXJDWE) that gives a glimpse of this treasure of a store.

Tristan’s is located on the Grand Rue in BougyVillar. The website is www.chocolatiertristan.ch.

Directions from Geneva:
  • Take the motorway towards Lausanne.
  • At Exit 13 (for Rolle and Mt Sur Rolle) exit (you are about 5 minutes from the store at this point). At the stop sign take a left and cross over the motorway.
  • At the circle, take the first right onto Route de l’Etraz.  Drive slowly (pay attention to speed limits as there are speed cameras and police enforcing the speed limit) passing through a small village.
  • In about 2 kilometers, there will be a sign on your left that says “BougyVillars.”  Take this left. There will not be a street name.  Swiss villages are small so signs with the name of a village in close proximity are placed at intersections along with an arrow pointing you in the right direction.
  • Bear to the right and drive up the mountain continuing to follow the signs toBougyVillars. This road will turn into “Ch de la Gaillarde” and then lead you directly to the main road into the village of BougyVillars, the Grand Rue. Tristan’s is on your left.
  • Park in a designated space or look for a “P” and drive one block to a small parking lot on your left.

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