Is It Chocolatine or Pain au Chocolat?
Depending on where you are in France, the singular treat is called by many different names.
I love culinary debates. Deep dish or thin crust? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Should chili have beans? Pick a topic and let’s discuss, debate, analyze, and nitpick.
But, I really love linguistic culinary debates.
What do you call a sandwich on a long skinny bun?
Like many culinary linguistic questions, the answer depends on where you live.
If you’re like most people in the United States, you call this sandwich a Sub or Submarine. But, in New England they’re called Grinders, while in New York City they’re called a Hero, and in Philly they’re Hoagies. In Louisiana, ask for a Po’Boy. There’s more than a dozen regional terms for this sandwich.
Even little Peoria, Illinois has their own name for it; The Gondola.
Chocolatine, Pain au Chocolat, or something else?
One of the great joys of a trip to France is visiting a bakery or cafe for breakfast. Unlike in the U.S., the French typically eat a very light breakfast consisting of espresso or tea and a croissant or maybe a piece of bread with jam.
But, for a little treat, you’ll get a croissant with dark chocolate inside.
The only question is, what do you call this piece of carby goodness?
In Paris, you say “Pain au Chocolat.” On the other hand, “Chocolatine” is what you should say in Bordeaux and southwest France. They’d argue that there’s no bread (Pain) in the Chocolatine, so calling it Pain au Chocolat is incorrect. Parisians clap back that Paris is France and what they say goes.
Meanwhile, far northern France calls the pastry Petit Pain au Chocolat. And, in a part of eastern France it goes by the name Croissant au Chocolat. There’s even a tiny sliver the country where you need to ask for a Couque au Chocolat.
What makes these word fights interesting is that people dig in, get emotional, and, in the end, no one is really moved by the other’s points. Just try convincing someone who calls Marinara “gravy” to start calling it “sauce.”
When it comes to eating Pain au Chocolat/Chocolatine/Petit Pain au Chocolat /Croissant au Chocolat/Couque au Chocolat, pretty much any bakery or cafe in France will have what you’re looking for. If you’re in Bordeaux (and you should be, that city is magnificent), go to La Boulangerie Saint Michel. They have great Chocolatine and also serve the divine local mini-cake called Canelé.