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.
Recently in Chocolate & Pastry Shops category
I don’t think about this so much anymore, but one of the reasons I moved to Paris is that I could, whenever I wanted to, go to Poilâne and buy myself nice chunk of pain Poilâne. Just like that. Although I’m from San Francisco where there are quite a number of excellent bread bakeries, there’s something special about the bread at Poilâne – it has a certain flavor, just the right tang of sourdough, dark and husky but with an agreeable légèreté that makes it the perfect bread for sandwiches, to accompany cheese, or as I prefer it, as morning toast with little puddles of salted butter collecting in the irregular holes and a thin layer of bitter chestnut honey drizzled all over it.
A week after I moved to Paris, a friend and I were invited to lunch with Monsieur Poilâne and his wife. Both were lovely people and Monsieur Poilâne was animated and still excited about the bakery he’d owned seemingly forever, which was (and still is) considered the best bread in the world. (I’ve never met a bread baker who didn’t use Monsieur Poilâne’s pain au levain as a reference point for excellence.) He took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down a list of places that he wanted to take me, which I thought was odd – yet rather generous – since the man had just met me.
At long last, I’d like to introduce you to the Paris Pastry app. It’s a project that I’ve been working on for a while, doing lots of delicious research around Paris, scoping out the best bakeries, chocolate shops, and confectioners in the sweetest city in the world!
In the app, you’ll find hundreds of the best addresses in Paris where to find the most buttery madeleines and financiers, how far you’ll have to go to get the dreamiest salted butter caramels from wherever you’re standing, where is the best cup of rich hot chocolate, and how soon you can get your hands on a scoopendous ice cream.
In Paris, a city full of spectacular pastry shops, it really takes something major to grab me by the shoulders and shake me to attention. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the other ones, but when you see something as jaw-dropping as the pastries at Café Pouchkine, you can’t help but stop and stand at full attention.
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.)
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)