Recently in Paris and France category

Introducing the All-New Paris Pastry App

I’m very excited to announce the release and relaunch of my Paris Pastry App. There are over 370 bakeries and pastry shops listed, with descriptions of what to get where you are there, opening hours, a glossary to common terms and pastries, links to websites and contact information, as well as multiple pictures from each delectable address, and maps to get you there. That’s over 700 photos of Paris pastries — so even if you don’t have a trip to Paris planned right now, you can savor the pastries until you come visit and sample them in person!

Paris Pastry App

iTunesStore

The new app features a sleek interface, and conforms to the most up-to-date iOS7 guidelines. All information is retrievable without a WiFi or internet connection (except, of course, GPS coordinates.) With the app, you can roam Paris and locate specialty ice cream shops, find the perfect tarte au citron or macaron au chocolat, and use the Top 25 function to find what are the top twenty-five places that you absolutely shouldn’t miss. (The Top 25 list is also listed in the free Lite version of the app.)

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Pierre Hermé Macarons

macarons

One of the things about living in a city like Paris is that you spend a lot of time – well, dealing with life. Bills to pay, paperwork to do, typos to avoid, stolen bikes to replace, smokers to dodge on sidewalks waving lit cigarettes (I got nailed the other day – ouch!), or buying a pair of shoes, can easily take up much – or all – of your days. It’s too-easy to get wrapped up in all that minutiae and let all the things you love to do get overwhelmed by the other things that tend to take over, if you let them.

I’ve let them and decided to do a little turn-around by revisiting the places and eating the things that I love in Paris. It’s easy to forget the pockets of wonderfulness that people see when they come here for a week – the parks, the boulevards, the chocolate shops, and just taking a stroll and getting some air (in between all the sidewalk maneuvering) and take in the city.

macarons

Macarons aren’t new. Macarons gerbet, or filled macarons are distinctly Parisian and have been around for about 150 years. True, they are available elsewhere nowadays. But like a New York or Montreal bagel, or Chicago deep-dish pizza, certain foods get designated with an appellation because they are so closely associated with where they were first made. (Bagels and pizza are from neither of those places mentioned, originally. And macarons, which were originally from Italy, then came to France and are usually available as simple, crispy cookies made with egg whites, sugar and almonds.) But that’s getting back into minutiae, a word I had to look up the precise spelling for, twice (more minutiae!) and I’m more interested in tasting pastries. So I took a stroll over to the relatively new Pierre Hermé macaron boutique in the Marais.

Macarons kind of had their day in the soleil. Everyone wanted to either make them, or come to Paris and sample them. For a while, almost every day a question or two would land in my Inbox from people who were making macarons, wondering why their macarons didn’t have the ruffled “feet”, or why their tops cracked – and could I diagnose them? Interviewers were astonished when they’d ask me what flavors of macarons Parisians made at home, and I responded that I couldn’t think of anyone that made macarons in Paris because no one had the space for a baking sheet on their kitchen counter. And honestly, it’s easier for people to get them at their local pastry shop or bakery.

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Éclairs in Paris

eclairs july 14 and pecan

I’m often asked about upcoming trends and each time it happens, I am sorely tempted to respond, “If I could see the future, I’d be buying lottery tickets.” I guess it makes good press – but the unfortunate thing about most trends is that they are often temporary. (In many cases, it’s a relief to see them go when their time is up.) Yet other times, a trend brings something to the foreground, allowing us take a fresh look at it.

eclairs

One trend that isn’t necessarily something new in Paris, is l’éclair, a torpedo-like pastry stuffed with a creamy filling then dipped or brushed with glaze. I’ve been eating them ever since I was a child, loving the tender, eggy pastry contrasting with the sugary icing striped down the top. Most bakeries in Paris have them and I pick one up every once in a while since they make a nice snack. They’re not overly rich, nor are they too-filling; they seem just enough to satisfy me without bogging me down. And they’re also easy to handle when navigating sidewalks riddled with walking people diagonally. (Although in spite of my holding on for dear life, I’ve almost lost a few in the fray.)

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La Manufacture de chocolat Alain Ducasse

pralines to dip

I don’t think there’s anyone happier than I am now that we now have our very own bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Paris. I remember when the movement started in America, and small chocolate manufacturers started popping up in the most unlikeliest of places by people curious about roasting and sourcing their own beans, then grinding them into smooth tablets of chocolate. I was impressed, but skeptical when it all started. But am thrilled the movement has taken off in so many ways and directions.

roasting cocoa beans for chocolate

For the past five years, Alain Ducasse has been nurturing the same vision in Paris, along with pastry chef Nicolas Berger, who is now running La Manufacture de chocolat, their chocolate atelier not far from the center of the city.

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Jacques Genin

Paris-Brest from Jacques Genin

I first met Jacques Genin a number of years ago when he was (somewhat famously) working out of a battered storefront, on an uninteresting street deep in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

chocolates at Jacques Genin

I say “famously” because as he became quite a bit better known, many folks learning about him through Mort Rosenblum’s book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark. And subsequently, people started gathering outside his workshop door with the one-way mirror, which allowed him to decide whether he wanted to open the door or not. I think I was too timid to give it a try on my first go-around and after pacing at the end of the block for a while, I ended up leaving.

jacques genin lime tart filling

If nothing else, longevity has its rewards and eventually I made it past that mirrored door and into his workshop. It was rather tight in there, to say the least. In order for someone to walk past you, you had to back up and get out of the way while someone held a tray of just-dipped chocolates high in the air, sidestepping someone else walking the other way with a tray of hot nougat.

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Rochoux’s Hazelnut Praline Paste

Hazelnut-praline spread from Jean-Charles Rochoux (Paris)

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I rarely go over to the Saint Germain des Près area much. I know, it’s a popular destination for many, but if I head over there, it’s usually for one thing, and one thing only: Chocolate.

Most of the chocolatiers are clustered over there because, well, if you can afford to live over there, that’s where most of the folks are who buy boxes of chocolate. Well, except me. So I make the trek over there to get my licks in, and say hi to the folks who haven’t seen me in a while.

One such person is Jean-Charles Rochoux, whose chocolates are at the top of my list in Paris. He has just one shop, not an enterprise, and is one of the few people who makes his chocolates in Paris; real estate prices make it hard for people to set up candymaking operations. So every day, Monsieur Rochoux gets started in his basement workshop, and every few months, I go over there and see what’s new.

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Henri Le Roux in Paris

Le Roux Chocolate Box

A favorite chocolatier of mine has finally made it to Paris, Henri Le Roux – although he’s best known for his C.B.S. caramels, which are made in Brittany, a region known for its copious use of salted butter. Whenever I’ve traveled to that part of France, I’m always delighted at their lack of restraint, and they use salty butter in everything from buckwheat galettes, to melting into large pots of salted butter caramel sauce, which they have no problem dousing on everything.

chocolate pistachio bar buckwheat chocolaets
chocolates at Henri Le Roux paris caramels from Henri Le Roux

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Fouquet’s Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows

chocolate-dipped marshmallows

I’ve been quoted on more than one occasion as saying something along the lines of “To a pastry chef, a good marshmallow is the equivalent of a pricey and rare black truffle to a regular chef.” And thinking about it as I type right now, every cookbook I’ve ever written has some sort of recipe for a marshmallow or marshmallow-topped dessert in it.

Fouquet chocolates Fouquet

When I was preparing our visit to Fouquet for my recent tour, Fréderic, the owner messaged me that he was going to give us a little avant-première of a new treat – but didn’t let me know to what it was.

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