In what could be the hardest-sell on the planet, I always try to talk people who come to Paris into trying Pruneaux d’Agen fourrés, which are prunes stuffed with prunes. In spite of their reputation, prunes are a great delicacy in France and rightfully so; one taste of even just a regular pruneau d’Agen (especially mi-cuit, or “partially dried”), and you’ll plotz the first time after your first bite. (Although sometimes you need to give it a few hours for the full effect.)
Recently in Chocolate & Pastry Shops category
There are a lot of things I like about living in Paris. There’s shopping at the outdoor market and knowing the vendors and having them give you the good peaches, and not sticking a few icky ones in the bottom of the bag. Picking up a still-warm baguette and ripping the end off the very moment you step outside the bakery. And getting to go all the way home and re-do that file of paperwork that you carefully spent the last six months assembling isn’t acceptable because you’ve used staples to fasten the pages together rather than a paperclip.
Living abroad in a different culture certainly has its challenges (like being able to determine if paperclips or staples will be acceptable…and at which particular agency), and sometimes one wants a big ol’ generous American hug rather than just a few bisous pecked on both cheeks. For the same reason French people congregate on Claude Lane in San Francisco, sometimes you just want to walk in somewhere and not have to worry about feeling like an outsider. Or you want free WiFi that’s doesn’t shut down after twenty minutes. Or you want ice.
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.
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.
Fouquet is one of my favorite shops in Paris. I’m absolutely addicted to the thin crisps of spice bread enrobed in dark chocolate as well as to the house-made pâtes de fruits and the coconut-filled rectangles cloaked in chocolate. And, of course, the caramelized almonds, too.
It’s rare to find a shop still making candies the old-fashioned way and I thought it would be fun to share it with you, along with meeting Fréderic Chambeau, whose family has owned the shop for several generations.
36, rue Laffitte (9th)
Tél: 01 47 70 85 00
Two other boutiques in Paris:
-22, rue François 1er (8th)
-42, rue du Marché Saint-Honoré (1st)
Related Posts and Links
Fouquet (My Previous Visit)
A Visit to Patrick Roger (Video)
Ready for Dessert (Video)
I cannot not tell you about Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I bought three small meringues to share with friends, and when sitting on a nearby park bench waiting for one of them to arrive, I dug into the first meringue. I don’t swear on this blog so I won’t share exactly what I said, but take it from me, a few expletives were uttered.
I just realized that I haven’t used the word “astonishing” in a while. I’m not jaded or anything. I still walk around the streets of Paris sometimes and think, “Wow, this place is pretty spectacular.” And on my travels, including a recent trip to Chicago, I was wowed by everything from terrific Mexican food to a wonderful bakery.
But sometimes adjectives aren’t enough, and every so often you drop into a place and your jaw just kind of drops as well. Le Bonbon au Palais is such a place.
I had the good fortune to go to Japan many years ago. I was teaching at culinary schools and didn’t have time to see much, but I ate very, very well when I managed to go to a restaurant in the evenings. The Japanese people I ate with seemed surprised at how much I liked – and wanted to eat – Japanese food. One night we went to a restaurant that set bowls of soy milk on a heater in the center of our table and as a skin formed, we carefully peeled it off with chopsticks and slid the thin slippery skins in our mouths. Another night at a simple sashimi restaurant, one of the courses was set down in front of me, a few pieces of raw seafood in an elaborate, and enormous bowl made of shimmering pieces of glass attached together. Except when I touched it, the whole thing shattered and I realized it was made of ice chips, each one somehow magically attached to each other.
But best of all was the wagyu beef restaurant: a bib was tied around my neck, slender rectangles of meat were brought out, and each piece of beef was singed for perhaps one-half of a second on each side then placed on my plate. And for a moment, everything around me stopped and I sighed as this rich, incredibly tender and juicy morsel of warm beef literally dissolved in my mouth. It was nearly eight years ago, yet I remember every bite I had in Japan.
Recently I visited the laboratory of master French chocolatier Patrick Roger. His shops in Paris are some of my favorite places to swoon over chocolate and it was wonderful to have the chance to step behind-the-scenes and watch him make his extraordinary confections and impressive chocolate sculptures, as well as visit his garden and apiary.
(To view the video in a larger format, you can watch it at Vimeo.)