Do you like the Basque Country for the beauty of its coasts, its voluptuous hills, its festive atmosphere and its gastronomy… In fact, did you know that one of the flagships of Basque cuisine is the chocolate ? You have heard about the Bayonne Ham, the Espelette pepper, the Irouleguy wine, there is now a new exquisite treat to taste and bring back in your suitcases : the chocolate of the Basque Country ! Come with me and meet Franck Mendivé, Chocolate/Pastry Chef in Saint-Palais. Besides, it is also a lovely opportunity for a nice outing in the countryside !
The Chocolaterie / Patisserie Franck Mendivé is installed in Saint-Palais, in the heart of this charming village in the verdant hinterland of the Basque Countryside. It is located fifty kilometres from the coast, it’s a good reason for a day out to enjoy the mountains or for a stay in the heart of a rich environment, at the crossroads of multiple sporting and cultural activities.
Franck Mendivé talking about his fantastic chocolates and ganaches
Artisanal made chocolate
But who is Franck Mendivé ? Born and raised in Saint-Palais, his father and grandfather were pastry chefs ; the sweet taste runs in their blood ! Attracted by the great chocolate and the quality products such the Tahiti vanilla, the pistachio, almond and all the fruits offered by the nature to sublimate his creations, Franck Mendivé became a Chocolate / Pastry Chef so he could run wild with his creativity. To the greatest pleasure of his customers, big fans of his delicacies…
The cocoa bean (on left, green and ripe) : Franck uses the finest chocolate pellets to create his recipes
Entrance of the shop Franck Mendivé, in Saint-Palais
Since 3 generations, the Mendivé family work with the local produce and offer classic pastries, with a considerable skill, mixing audacity with tradition. Do you like Basque cake ? You can find delicious ones here, with this soft shortbread biscuit, with traditional fruits : « My grandmother used to make Basque cake with the apples and peaches from her garden. Cherries, during the season, were turned into compote to garnish this cake that we enjoyed as a family ». A true delight, a « Proust’s Madeleine », for the artisan who reproduces this simple and traditional delicacy which can be found in the shop all year long.
The Basque cake, in mini version, cherry and cream flavour
Chocolate reached the Basque Country via the Spanish border during the 17th century. The beans were brought back from America and were smuggled to France about four centuries ago… A subversive product… The Basque artisans worked with this exotic bean and made chocolate many creations. The Corporation des Chocolatiers de Bayonne was created in 1761 to establish the tradition and skills of the Master Chocolate Maker. (Check this story on our article on the Atelier du Chocolat de Bayonne)
The chocolate, a Basque speciality !
A discovery package for the new taste sensation and finest chocolate enthusiast
In his workshop Franck Mendivé and his team choose the finest chocolate, to create moulded sweets of all shapes, ganaches with exceptional melting properties… In this shop, there is a great choice of chocolate tablets which are combined with fruits, some dry fruit pieces, fudge… It is really difficult to choose, I got a mixture of chocolate tablets to taste with my family. Your children do not like dark chocolate ? Franck Mendivé thought about the delicate palate of the youngest and their attraction for funny shapes : A children’s range (Xistu, a cute character created and designed by Franck’s son) offer bear shaped sweeties, there are also lollipops and spreads, all prepared with the finest milk chocolate, praline or brown (it is a chocolate slowly caramelised, yum). For the sport enthusiast, Franck has designed a range of sweeties shaped like rugby balls, or Basque pelota (the Pilotak, with its crusty heart). The lovely chocolate woodpigeon (with a superb drawing on the sticker, made by Franck’s wife, a truly fully artistic family !), a symbolic animal of the Basque cuisine, is beautiful to decorate a table at coffee time.
Franck Mendivé’s shop in Saint-Palais
The chocolate tablets stall, heaven for the sweet tooth
Chocolate sweeties in rugby ball shapes or Basque pelota
The Chocolate woodpigeon
Some of the lollipops and sweets brought back home for my children
The chocolates did not last long ;) My children did love them
For the festive periods such as Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine Day, the shop dresses in the colours of the events and specialities are made for the special occasion. Chocolate chicken, rabbits and bells, are prime presents for children and also for adults (reeling back the years)… Come on ! Treat yourself !
Chocolate is also used in cakes. Franck Mendivé is a virtuoso. He likes creating pastries with unique shapes and flavours. Besides, he also carries a little notebook for doodling his ideas (like this superb « chocolate pizza » which makes my mouth water). There are large cakes available in the shop but in order to optimise their freshness more are available on order. « During the week, but especially during the weekend, we offer around twenty small cakes. There are some classic ones such as the eclairs, the real rum baba (that children can also enjoy, as the rum is incorporated to a syrup and the alcohol evaporates during the heating process), creamy desserts, tarts and biscuits. When we create something new, and in order for the customers to taste our new and audacious savours, we make it in small format : like this, they can try this novelty at a reasonable price, before potentially ordering a bigger version ».
Rasberries, pistachios, almond and vanilla are precious ingredients for Franck
The shelf of biscuits, shortbread biscuits and cakes for tea
Choice of some twenty pastries during the weekend !
Yum the delicious and beautiful chocolate pizza !
Franck’s pastries and cakes are made without food colouring. Do we need to add any when we know how to take advantage of rich colorimetric pallet offered by the nature ? « We add nothing artificial to our creations ; everything is made with natural pigments, fruits and natural products. The pistachio, for example, when it is freshly prepared, displays a superb green ! The clients are sometimes surprised by the colours, but everything is 100% natural and this translates into a fine and delicate but also well pronounced taste in the pastries. ».
I can confirm : I brought back home a Napolitain cake « special Franck », my children enjoyed it and ate it all !
Yum, Franck Mendive’s version of the Napolitain cake, that I brought back home !
In the shop, you can also find macaroons, shortbread biscuits and small biscuits cookies style or biscuits for tea time. All made with care in the adjacent workshop, by Franck, his team or his father who still works with him.
Note : Egg, gluten or lactose intolerant? Treat your self with a good cake for your birthday : « We adapt to our customer needs and most of our creations are gluten free, we work with various flours ».
Pistachio pastry, homemade
Delicious small biscuits
Franck Mendivé also offers a range of ice creams and artisanal sorbets. A must try made with the best raw material : creamy milk, rich, fruits, top quality Tahiti vanilla and homemade pistachio pastry (Franck loves pistachio !)… For the festivities, it is a festival of colours, Yule logs and cakes decorated beautifully and placed in the shopping window… The good weather is coming ? Go to Saint-Palais to taste a delicious ice cream !
I brought back lots of chocolate! And you ???