Recently in Chocolate & Pastry Shops category

Larnicol: Kouign Amann in Paris

kouignamann-blog

People come to Paris and want to try Kouign amann and I can’t say I blame them. And I truly feel for them when I tell them that although you can find Kouign amann in Paris, you really need to go to Brittany and have one. Well, I used to tell them that—but I don’t have to anymore because Brittany has finally come to Paris, courtesy of pastry chef George Larnicol.

Kouign amann is one of the most elusive pastries to make, not very tricky, but it involves a few steps..and a whole lotta butter. In fact, the name comes from the Breton language and translates to “butter cake”, and I don’t know of any cake (or dessert, for that matter) that has more butter than this. A few bakeries in Paris make them, and you can come across examples at some of the markets, but some foods don’t really translate outside of where they’re from (few outside of Norway really crave lutefisk, for example, and I can’t say I’m been on the prowl for haggis in Paris) and Kouign amann falls into that category.

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Meert, Franck Kestener & Epices Roellinger Come to Paris

Three sweet spots have arrived to Paris. I took a bit of time to sample a few of their specialties—although I’m looking forward to going back to explore more of their confections. Here’s a few favorite tastes from each…

Meert

This outpost of the famed pâtisserie Meert in Lille has opened on a corner, just a few blocks from the bustle of the overly-hectic streets of the Marais. Known for their spiced Speculoos cookies, pain d’épices, and brittle pain d’amande cookies, Meert is most famous for their “gaufres”. Quite unique, these dainty, chewy waffles come sandwiched with either vanilla or speculoos cream. The shop is a bit austere, so expect understated elegance rather than opulence, a nice change of pace away from the shoppers crowding the sidewalks a few blocks away.

Meert
16, rue Elzévir (3rd)
Tél: 01 49 96 56 90
(Closed Monday and mid-day Sunday)

and

3, rue Jacques Callot (6th)
Tél: 01 56 81 67 15
(Closed Monday and Sunday Afternoon)

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How Much Butter Can Be in a Croissant?

croissant

Living in France for a number of years, my French has gotten pretty good. As long as I’m talking about food, that is.

Last night I was having dinner at Le Vin au Vert (70, rue de Dunkerque) wine bar with a few friends. One talks really quickly and with the noisy bobo patrons at the surrounding tables, chattering on les smartphones and getting up and down all night to race out into the sub-zero cold for a cigarette (at one point, there were more people outside than inside), it was hard to hear anything. So I really had to pay attention, and my attention wanes in direct proportion to how many bottles of wine have been emptied.

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Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles

l'escargot

You might not remember the days before the internet, but when we used to travel somewhere, we’d ask a friend to scribble down a list of suggestions. And we’d often be asked to do the same in return. Then when computers became widely used, other ‘favorites’ lists started circulating, including suggestions posted in online forums and in blogs.

So think of this list as my modern-day scribblings of places to go on the rue Montorgueil. Aside from it being perfectly located in the center of Paris, it’s a great place to take a stroll, and is pedestrian-friendly and wheelchair accessible, as it’s flat and closed off to cars. It’s a lovely walk, and everything is in a three block radius, making it easy to sample some of the best food shops, bakeries, chocolate shops, and kitchenware stores in Paris in one fell swoop.

roast chicken list meringues

The area was, for centuries, the home of the famous Les Halles covered market, which stood in the center of the city. As part of the modernization of Paris it was dismantled in the 1970s, replaced by an unattractive shopping mall (which is widely reviled), and the merchants were dispatched to Rungis, a large industrial complex on the outskirts of Paris. Still, reminders of Les Halles remain, including restaurant supply shops, late night dining spots, and the rue Montorgueil, which has become a vibrant street lined with restaurants, food stores, chocolate shops, and lively cafés.

The street is the perfect place go if have just a short time in Paris, as there’s a lot to see—and eat, in a very concentrated space. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can take the métro and get off at Etienne Marcel, Les Halles, or Sentier.

You’ll probably want to visit the restaurant supply shops, which you might want to schedule at the end of your stroll, so you don’t have to lug purchases around with you.

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A l’Etoile d’Or

bonnat bars

You get a little lazy living here. At least I do. And because I’m not as spry as I used to be, if someone proposes a trip that’s more than one métro change away, I usually find a way to opt out of it. Arrondissements that are far, far away, like the 15th or the 17th, may as well be on the outside of the périphérique (or l’hexagone, for that matter) and I haven’t stepped foot in the likes of them in years.

One place that’s worth going out of my way for is A l’Etoile d’Or, and I broke my cardinal rule when Cenk from Café Fernando came to Paris for a visit and he asked me where to meet up.

cenk & denise french chocolates

I’ve known Denise Acabo, who lords over her confectionery wonderland, even before I moved to Paris, when I’d stop in and gawk at all the amazing chocolates and confections.

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A Great Kouign Amann, in Paris

frenchpastries

I’m not going to say a thing, because I’m certain I did the same thing back in the day. But a lot of people who are en route to Paris ask me where they can find things like bouillabaisse, a true salade Niçoise, or Kig ha farz, and when I answer, “You can’t”, they either don’t believe me, or get irked because they think I’m being elusive and keeping those addresses a secret and probably say mean things about me behind my back.

To get those things, you need to go where they originate; they just don’t travel outside their particular region in France. I’m not sure if it’s because in America, we’re used to things being available whenever and wherever we want. Or because of our “melting pot” status, we readily accept foods from other parts of the country and the world with a little more fluidity than they do elsewhere.

But I’ve been duped one too many times in places like New York City, that advertise “San Francisco-style” burritos, which are about as close to the original as most of the rice-plumped salades Niçoises you’ll find on the Île-de-France are.

(The true salade Niçoise should only contain raw vegetables: cooked eggs are allowed, and in some cases, canned tuna or anchovies. But that’s it, folks. And don’t get me started on those New York City burritos…and I use the term “burrito” loosely. If you cut it in half and can see any air pockets, it’s not a burrito.)

I’ve learned my lesson and will stick to Black & White cookies, corned beef sandwiches, and the Halal stand in Manhattan.

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Paris Gastronomy Tour

Doing a culinary tour in Paris is always fun, because not only do I get to meet some new people and make new friends (important…since the old ones keep deserting me), but I get to revisit my favorite places in Paris. And this week, we made a detour in Lyon as well. So there was a lot more to see, and eat…

bernachon chocolates

Lyon is a wonderful city. Kind of a miniature version of Paris, but younger, more spacious, and more relaxed. The people are plus cool, and in less of a rush—perhaps because they are so busy digesting all that rich food down there.

thermometer dial chocolategrinder

I’ve written about Bernachon before, and this trip, we had an especially warm greeting in their adjacent café, starting with puffy brioche and warmed pitchers of hot chocolate, made with the famed bean-to-bar chocolate that’s fabricated just a few doors away.

brioche copper pots

It’s no secret that I love Bernachon chocolate.

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Puerto Cacao

chocolate chaud

I keep a piece of paper near my front door. On it are places in Paris that I want to visit. When I hear about a place that sounds interesting, on the list it goes. Unfortunately, it seems as soon as I cross one off, a few more get added. And the list gets longer and longer and longer and longer and…

One particular spot that I’ve had my eye on for too long was Puerto Cacao, located in the farthest part of the city from where I live, requiring more than my limit of two métro changes. The focus of the shop is chocolate équitable, or fair trade chocolate.

So I was surprised when I was walking near the Marché d’Aligre and the store with the pricey mid-century modern furniture that I used to covet was gone. And in its place was a new hot chocolate spot.

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