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A l’Etoile d’Or: The Best Candy Shop in Paris

chocolate tablet

Forget Catherine Deneuve and Carole Bouquet.

The most photographed and revered woman in Paris is Denise Acabo. With her braided pig-tails, necktie, and crisply-pleated kilt, Denise is the sweetest woman in Paris.

CBS

Her shop, A l’Etoile d’Or, has an ethereal selection of artisan confections and chocolates from France and whenever I go, I invariably find something new to try, something tasty, something that is so amazing, that I’m compelled to go back for more. What’s a guy to do?

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I give myself at least one hour to shop. Minimum. Words fly out of her mouth in rapid-fire French. She’ll often use the tu word, instead of the formal vous, which suggests immediately comradery.

Don’t understand a word of French?
That’s ok, Just nod. She’ll keep going.

Continue Reading A l’Etoile d’Or: The Best Candy Shop in Paris…

The Grainy Breads of Paris

Bread from 134RDT

I’ve dedicated a healthy portion of my life walking the streets and boulevards of Paris to find grainy bread here. In a city where there’s a boulangerie on every corner, you can get excellent baguettes or a nice loaf of pain au levain just about anywhere. But it’s hard to find a loaf of bread with lots of seeds and stuff in it. Maybe it’s because the breads in Paris, like Parisians, are so refined. And as much as I love all the breads in Paris, it’s the grainy breads that I find especially appealing.

Here are some of my especially favorite grainy breads from various bakeries across Paris. These are the sturdy, hearty breads that I enjoy most. And the ones that I’ll happily walk across town for one.

Grain Bread

Norlander Bread
Christian Voiron
61, rue de la Glaçiere

I learned about this bread from Clotilde’s explorations and it’s a favorite. Tight and compact, Norlander bread is the heaviest bread I’ve found in Paris. And it’s also small, making it the perfect bread for a little afternoon snack with some contraband peanut butter, which a friend smuggled out of an American army base in Switzerland.

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Pain Nordique
Le Grande Epicerie
22, rue de Sèvres

I’ve been told the Grand Epicerie makes over 80 different kinds of bread underground, beneath this enormous food emporium. This is a lighter, airy bread, yet full of lots of sunflower seeds and a good amount of oat flakes. It’s excellent sliced-thin and toasted. But get there early: for some reason, by mid-afternoon they start feeding all the Pain Nordique loaves into the slicing machine and bagging them up.

Last time I was there, I was in the slowest line in the world, and as the lone saleswoman waited patiently on some madame that was bickering over the prices or freshness of a single roll or something. Meanwhile the other salesperson was tossing the brown loaves into a slicing machine as fast as he could. All I could do was stand there helplessly, hoping that my turn would come soon, before he could finish slicing all the loaves. I ended up getting the last two. Whew!

Pain aux Cereales
Eric Kayser
8, rue Monge

This is one of thes best breads in Paris, period. I don’t know how Eric Kayser does it, but each loaf comes out encrusted with golden sesame seeds. Slice it open, and you’ll find a delicate but full-flavored bread studded with crunchy grains of millet, sesame and sunflower seeds, with a naturally sweet taste. I used to walk across Paris to his shop on the rue Monge for a loaf (actually, I always get two and freeze the other.) Kayser has opened bakeries across Paris – and even one in New York City – so it’s easy to find this bread. It’s got a lovely lightness, along with the crackle of the grains, and is perfect with cheese or swiped with butter and honey for breakfast.

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Tradigrains
Au Pain de Saint-Gilles
1 bis, rue Saint-Gilles

When the quality of the baguettes of my local boulanger, Au Levain du Marais, slid downhill after their month-long summer vacation a few years ago, I agonized over the loss for weeks and weeks. I was torn. In France, your live your life according to your local bakery. You know when the loaves go in and come out of the oven, when the baker is off, and how to get the baguette cooked just the way you like it (bien cuite, svp!) You adjust your life, since most bakeries are closed two days of the week, so you need to plan your schedule and meals around those two days.

My supreme disappointment lasted for months until I discovered this grainy Tradigrains loaf at Au Pain de Saint-Gilles in the Marais, just a few blocks from chez David. Now this is proudly my baguette of choice. Do you see why?

Millet, poppy seeds and flax seeds ripple through the interior of each loaf. I can barely get out the door of the bakery without ripping off the end, called le quignon, and devouring it (a French tradition, after any baguette purchase…I think of it as an immediate quality-control check.)

[The loaf pictured at the top is from the 134RDT at 134, rue de Turenne.]

Related Links and Posts

Blé Sucré

Bazin

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc

Paris Favorites

Chocolate Bread Recipe

Du Pain et des Idées

Paris Pastry App

Paris Pastry Shops

Patrick Roger Chocolates patrick roger chocolate

Paris has some of the most amazing pastry and chocolate shops in the world!

I’ve written up many of them and you can browse through my archives to find out more about them: Paris Pastry Shops.

A recommended book for visitors is The Pâtisseries of Paris: A Paris Pastry Guide, which lists many favorites, along with addresses and specialties.

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The Perfect (New) Macaron

One of the great places for lunch in Paris is Cuisine au Bar (8, rue du Cherche-Midi), which has been touted as the French version of the sushi bar. The servers are welcoming and generous, and the tartines (open-faced sandwiches) are the most inventive and marvelous in all of Paris. A dedicated friend of mine lunches there every day.

I met Pim for lunch, and we both ordered the same thing: the chicken sandwich, a toasted slice of Poilâne levain bread (the bakery’s just next door) moistened with homemade mayonnaise, slices of plump chicken, filets of anchovies and a scattering of capers, which kept rolling off. We both systematically added flecks of coarse sea salt, then consumed. Delicious. Pim, being far more polite than I am, ate her sandwich perfectly reasonably with a knife and fork. I wolfed my down, polishing it off in record time, licking my fingers afterward.

After braving La Poste together afterward, we parted, making plans for eating Thai food with other Paris bloggers in June. However after we parted, I noticed she made a beeline to the astonishing pastry shop of Pierre Hermé on the Rue Bonaparte. So a few days later, I returned as well, and tasted one of the most stunning pastries of my life, his Arabesque macaron, which Pim had rhapsodized over earlier in the week.

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Normally a classicist, I prefer my macarons with chocolate, coffee, or pistachio. But this was an amazing creation. Delicate, crackly pistachio-dusted meringue cookies flavored with apricot. The filling was a melange of apricot cream and caramelized nut praline. Each season, M. Hermé introduces new flavors of macarons, some successful (olive oil-vanilla, rose-lychee, and caramel-beurre-salé) and some less so (his white truffle and ketcup come to mind.) However Arabesque was perfection and I was sorry that I only bought one.

I will be going back tomorrow for another.

Pierre Hermé

72, rue Bonaparte (6th)

184, rue de Vaugirard (15th)

4, rue Cambon (1st)-macarons & chocolates only

58, avenue Paul Doumer (16th)-macarons and chocolates only

Related Links

Pierre Hermé’s Ketchup Macaron Recipe

Sweet and Stinky

French Chocolate Macaron Recipe

I Love Macarons!

Making French Macarons



L’Autre Boulange

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Bread lined up at one of my favorite bakeries in Paris, L’Autre Boulange


So it’s springtime here in Paris. At my outdoor market, I’ve been buying colorful blood oranges from Tunisia and Spain and making refreshing sorbets, then candying the peel to serve alongside. (My grandmother never let me throw anything away…) As the weather gets warmer, dinner’s often a simple salad of peppery arugula and watercress sprinkled with a drizzle of argan oil, a favorite oil, made from argan nuts that have been munched by tree-climbing goats in Morocco, after which they’re “expelled”, then laboriously pressed.

I’ve also been baking tagines (Moroccan casseroles) using spring lamb and plump, sweet prunes from Agen. And sometimes dinner will just be a slice of Terrine Gascon which I get from my local butcher, made from shredded duck confit and I suspect an overdose of duck fat. (I figure if I down enough rosé with it, that will dilute the richness in my system.) There are also many new cheeses that I’m trying at my fromagerie, such as an earthy, crumbly, and pungent bleu cheese from Savoie, ripe and gooey brie de Meaux, and a new favorite, Langres, a copper-colored knob that when sliced, reveals a soft, creamy interior with the lovely sweet-pungent smell of fresh cream, grass, and barnyard.

And I’ve been trying as many new chocolates I can get. I’ve had some lovely bars from Green & Black’s organic chocolate from Great Britain, as well as handcrafted Tuscan chocolates from Slitti and Amedei that I’ll be visiting with guests in May during my upcoming Italian Chocolate Tour.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tuscan chocolates, they are some of the finest chocolates you’ll ever sample. Wish you were coming along?

The International Salon d’Agriculture in Paris

Each winter, the International Salon d’Agriculture occurs in Paris at the enormous Porte de Versailles exhibition center. The French are in love with anything agricultural. I recently saw a huge, room-sized map of France artfully composed of vegetables and fruits from the various regions.

And they love cows. (Well, living in a country with the most exceptional cheeses in the world, I am beginning to worship them as well.) When I last went to the post office, I was offered their newest stamps, which featured a cow. When I showed them off to some French friends that came for dinner that night, there was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

Although I do like cows as much as, um, the next person…I was more intrigued by the food representing all the regions of France and several other European communities and Africa. I bought a hunk of nutty Gruyère from the Swiss pavilion that was really, really good and sweet-scented, slender vanilla beans from the Antilles.

There was lots of unusual seafood to gasp at, delicious Basque foie gras conserved with pimente d’Espelette (smoked pepper powder), and much wine to sample, as well as Pommeau, an aperitif of Calvados brandy blended with apple cider.

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I’m Thinking of Giving Up Fish

I meet some lively Africans from the Ivory Coast, who split open a cocoa bean and fed me the slippery seeds within. If you’ve never seen a cocoa bean, they’re beautiful pods filled with slippery, almond-sized beans imbedded in a creamy liquid.

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African Cocoa Beans

Although the Salon is great fun, it’s always mobbed and this year was no exception. The one thing you never want to do is get between a French person and food. Otherwise, look out!

L’Autre Boulange
43, rue de Montreuil (11th)
and
12, place de la Nation (12th)