Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paris Sweets, or The Sugar High that Lasted Six Days

No account of a Parisian vacation would be complete without mention of the sweets. Before our trip, I carefully pinpointed all of Paris's famous patisseries, chocolatiers, and such on a laminated city map and then determined the shortest route between each one. We ate dessert with every meal. The truth is, we ate dessert FOR every meal.

Although I'd marked a different one of their locations on our map, we immediately discovered that our apartment was in the vicinity of an Eric Kayser.

I actually spotted it before we found our apartment—believe me, my ability to hone in on pastry is like a sixth sense. And so our first meal in Paris was a poulet roti carved with a pocket knife and eaten with our fingers followed by a still-warm baguette and a delightful frasier.

A stroll to this particular bakery became our breakfast routine. We would pick up a fresh baguette to be eaten with a slab of salted butter from the neighboring cheese shop. And possibly a croissant or raspberry financier or madeleine or lemon turnover or tomato quiche.

Or a raspberry tart.

Yes, I shamelessly ate tart for breakfast. And sometimes, to augment our breakfast, we would pick up a little something at another bakery along the way, like a sackful of chouquettes.

Or a flaky palmier.

I'm really not much of a breakfast person except for when I'm in Paris.

Strangely, a good cup of coffee is not so easy to find in Paris. Each morning, clutching our bags of delectables from Eric Kayser, we would, I'm embarrassed to admit, cross the street into the Starbucks and order our daily dose of caffeine to go.

We stopped into Stohrer, famous for being the oldest pastry shop in Paris and for inventing the baba au rhum, to drool on the case.

The canelés were beautiful.

Speaking of canelés, we stumbled upon a shop devoted exclusively to the custardy cakelettes. And another with nothing but chocolate fondue. Only in Paris.

We waited impatiently in a line that wound around the corner to taste the famed ice cream at Berthillon.

I chose apricot and wild strawberry; Hubby decided on rose-scented raspberry and wild strawberry. Then we sat at the edge of the Seine, watching the world float by, licking our ice cream.

Fauchon was a favorite destination for their perfectly caramelized palmiers of gargantuan proportions.

The husband declared these the best in all of Paris.

He gave me his keep-your-hands-off-my-palmier face when I attempted to confirm the bold statement.

Chocolatiers were well represented on my map, with the first being Patrick Roger. As we marveled at the stunning chocolate creations, a woman was saying something about the "new little blue box".

I'd have to agree, the chocolates did seem as precious as jewelry. I especially loved their enormous take on the chocolate egg.

This work of art was the size of one of those funny little European cars. The displays at Christian Constant were full of chocolate handbags and shoes.

Fashion even I can get into. The most memorable chocolatier for me was Jean-Paul Hévin. Though I'm known for being indecisive when it comes to ordering, I can usually narrow it down to a couple of things that look best. I found it nearly impossible to pick standing in front of this amazing case.

I eventually settled on the Longchamp Chocolat.

Luxuriously creamy and not too sweet, it was my favorite chocolate dessert of the trip—no wonder they call it a champ. Jean-Paul Hévin also happened to have the sexiest footwear in all of Paris.

Too bad they didn't have my size.

Perhaps the place I was most excited to visit was Sadaharu Aoki, a patisserie known for combining French pastry techniques with Japanese flavors. Creative and imaginative are understatements. The cakes were visually stunning, the flavor combinations intriguing.

I'm a sucker for anything with green tea, so we tried the Bamboo.

It was surprisingly subtle and light.

Gérard Mulot won honors for having the most colorful display.

I loved the way the meringue was piped on the lemon tart.

And I loved the rustic look of these fruit tarts.

But as it was just a few short blocks away from Pierre Hermé, I ate only with my eyes.

Pastry Mecca Pierre Hermé warranted no less than three visits. We tried the vanilla tartelette.

And the world's single most perfect pastry, the Kouign-Amann.

Although the hubby and I both agreed that it was even more perfect plain, without the berry jam center. I had an exquisite milk chocolate and passion fruit macaron.

And a luscious, tarty lemon tartelette.

And he had a canelé.

All others pale in comparison.

Then there was the black currant and mascarpone cream verrine.

Which was almost overwhelming in intesity of flavor, and while I am a mere mortal and do not presume to quibble with a pastry god, the texture of the bits of skin in the black currant layer did not appeal to me. The last treat we got at PH was some sort of praline mille-feuille, but by this time I was flying so high on sugar I don't remember much about it except that it was divine. PH is, without a doubt, amazing. But perhaps because I'd been there before—twice during our first trip to Paris a couple of years ago—I wasn't as amazed as I expected to be. Funny how once you've experienced something, you can never recapture the feeling of that first time.

The one place that surprised and delighted me most was the one that didn't even make it onto my map. I have absolutely no idea how I could have missed it in my research, but luckily on the way to the Bastille Market my sixth sense kicked in again, and I spotted Dalloyau.

It was impossible to walk by this window display without going in.

Upon seeing the fruity flavors and the explosion of pink (ooh, pink!), I was hopelessly hooked.

This was definitely another case of wanting to try everything in the case. I was as excited as a little girl when I pointed at what I thought was a layered strawberry mousse cup. But it turned out to be liquid. It was topped with a wafer-thin cookie with a little hole in the center for inserting a straw. The most sophisticated (and expensive) smoothie of my life. On a return visit, I ordered a variety of pink cakes to share with my family.

The six of us polished off the three cakelettes within minutes. The Bubble Pêche was a winner just for having such a fun name—I mean, how can you resist something called Bubble Pêche? The hot pink cube cake concealed a chocolate cup holding another fruity smoothie-like concoction. The berry cake was my favorite. If only I had gotten the full-size version, each of us could've gotten more than two bites.

It's hard to believe, but these whimsical cakes were moist and delicious and tasted even better than they looked! The only thing about Dalloyau is I still don't know how to pronounce the name.

As much as I would've liked to hit Lenôtre, Ladurée, and Poilâne again, we abstained because we'd visited them our first time in Paris. With only six days for eating, we had to set some priorities.

It was a sweet vacation. But as you might imagine, we crashed hard after eating so much sugar.

Previously: Marvelous Markets of Paris.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Marvelous Markets of Paris

I wish you could've come with me to the markets in Paris. You would've seen so many wonderful things like…

The vibrant produce.

Luscious strawberries meticulously arranged.

And peaches wearing strawberry hats.

Fragrant melons.

Lettuce so alive.

Potatoes without a blemish.

Tomatoes of character.

Bouquets of wild asparagus.

Wild mushrooms split open.

Wedges of giant squash.

Splashes of color.

Creamy, tangy yogurt in collectible glass jars.

Ripe and pungent cheese.

Countless olives.

Purple, green, and black.

Each variety sharp and briny in its own unique way.

Marinated vegetables.

A flavor of tapenade to suit every taste.

More splashes of color.

Pristine fish fillets on ice in the open air.

Bundles of slender razor clams.

Baskets of oysters of all kinds.

Plump little frog legs.

Impeccably fresh whole gizzards, my favorite!

Pig extremities.

And other offal pig parts in the form of sausage, most definitely not my favorite.

Pâtés sold by the slab from earthenware bakers.

Artfully prepared terrines.

Then the cured meats.

Saucisson sec piled high.

Chickens spinning their way to succulent deliciousness.

And cooks wielding poulet roti.

It was a feast for the eyes.

Previously: Pictures of Paris.
Next up: Paris Sweets, or The Sugar High that Lasted Six Days.
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