Monday, 18 November 2013

My Paris, My Sweet Challenge

Preparing for my Paris trip this year I read Amy Thomas's memoir Paris, My Sweet. Perfect fare for me of course. Although quite a bit of it is about New York too. But I'm not obsessed with New York, so I tended to glide over those bits a bit more.

At the back of the book Amy gives up a top 10 of Paris sweets (with a New York top 10 too). I soon realised that here was a Paris challenge that I could fully embrace. So in June, July 2013 I gave it a crack.

Amy's comments are before the pictures. Mine are after the pictures.

1. A good, ol' oozing Nutella street crepe.

I can't believe that it's taken me three trips to France to get to eating one of these. It was good. I'll definitely go there again.

2. La Folie at La Patisserie des Reves: the heft and texture of this squat pastry are pure magic. The doughy, whipped brioche is piped full of vanilla pastry cream that has a hint of rum raisin. Topped with praline crumble and a touch of confectioner's sugar, it's unbelievably yummy.

This was good, but there is so much astonishment in Patisserie des Reves, I would probably go for their patisseries rather than their bread products. I need to do a whole post about my passionate love for Patisserie des Reves some day- they made what was one of my very favourite delights in Paris this year- the magnificent Lemonta Granita. 

3. The insanely addictive praline from Pralus Chocolatier in the Marais. This buttery, chewy, crunchy, caramelised sweet brioche, chock-full of almonds from Valencia and crushed hazelnuts from Piedmont, is meant for at least four people. But I would eat an entire one myself.

I had high, high hopes for this one, having seen it on blogs and heard about it before for quite some time. But you know, it was ok, but really didn't do it for me. I would try it again, but wouldn't run back to Pralus as my first thing in Paris.

4. The sweet little strawberry Couer from Coquelicot in Montmartre. Relatively modest in size- just four or five bites- but this petite cake has a pitch-perfect texture that's both spongy and moist.

Sadly, this little couer didn't set my heart on fire. It was springy and moist, but just not my sort of thing.

5. A chocolate eclair from Stohrer. The crisp pastry shell envelopes an uber generous chocolatey custard filling and is slathered with a sweet chocolate glacage. It's a serious sugar rush.

Both Mr Wicker and I got a very strong coffee vibe from this one, and as neither of us like coffee it wasn't a good thing. The look was pretty, thinner than many Paris eclairs, and the pastry firm and lovely. Next time I'd try their equally famous Puits d'Amour.

6. Angelina's stick-to-your-teeth chocolate chaud. It's like sipping melted truffles. In a tea room that Coco Chanel used to frequent.

OMG, this is so, so good. Totally worth the trip to Angelinas (there are quite a few Angelinas now, but my favourite is still the original salon at 226 Rue de Rivoli, pretty much every visit to Paris will have you nearby at some time). I've had this on every trip to France. Wait for a cool day, and go. Run, do not walk to Angelinas and have a chocolate chaud L'Africain. And a pastry to go with of course- the eclairs and Mont Blanc are sensational.

7. Speaking of truffles, Jean-Paul Hevin's truffles are le mieux. And his mendiants. And his cakes. Hevin= heaven in my book.

Master Wicker pondering the delights at JPH Rue Vavin

And mine too. We love JPH here in the Wicker house. We've had his chocolates, macarons, mendicants and cakes on every trip to France too. Mr Wicker has even splurged on occasion and paid to have them shipped to Australia for mon anniversaire!

8. The rice pudding at Chez l'Ami Jean. I never would have thought I'd care a lick about rice pudding. But a dinner at Cafe Constant made me reconsider, and a later dinner at Chez l'Ami Jean changed everything. Served in a massive bowl with sides of candied granola and salted caramel cream, this is an unforgettable dessert.

9. The Plenitude Individuel from Pierre Herme. While his macaroons are, oui, divine, this little cake is transporting. Fluffy chocolate mousse under a dark chocolate shell. Kissed by salted caramel. Adorned with tiles of more chocolate. It's gorgeous, exquisite, and delicious.

Everything Pierre Herme does looks magnificent, he is certainly one of the big names of Paris patisserie, and I sampled his work quite a few times on the most recent trip. I actually found this one a bit overwhelming, so chocolatey. Too chocolatey? Mr Wicker found it a bit one dimensional. I was glad to just eat a third- it was so rich! Do check out his website- it's ever changing and always glorious to look at, totally droolworthy.

10. An almond croissant from Boulangerie Julien. When my friend Ben and I split one of these we were giggling like school kids in the middle of rue Saint-Honore. Fresh and flaky, slightly chewy and caramelised at the edges, heavy with almond paste and lightly dusted with powdered sugar and slivered almond. I mean, how can something be allowed to taste so good?

I had to go to Julien at least three times to get one of these so they must be popular, as they were always sold out. I didn't find it all that amazing actually. It was good mind you, but your palate becomes very picky very quickly in Paris. I had other almond croissants that I preferred this trip.

So overall I got to experience 90% of Amy's Top 10! I was pretty happy about that, but it's pretty clear we have different tastes. I prefer more fruity or lemony delights. Amy picks quite different things to what I would usually select in a patisserie. That's fine of course, it was still it was fun to try all these, a few times going off my beaten track and exploring new neighbourhoods. And I'd still love to get to Chez l'Ami Jean one day for the rice pudding. I do love a rice pudding ….

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking
a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads


drzoe said...

Can't believe it took a book to get you to try a Nutella crepe!!!

Parisbreakfasts said...

What an accomplishment. Where was the Nutella crepe did you say? Not in St. germain..ahem
You must try the crepes at Le Comptoir stand near Odeon though I usually get the crepe du jour - not sweet.
I'll have to hit on these - many I haven't tasted yet.
Big Merci

Louise said...

Drzoe- I know it's shameful to have to read a book to get me to trying a nutella crepe. I'd always meant to have one, but had always gorged myself on other things first.

Carol- the nutella crepe was on Ile de Cite- at a particularly touristy place in the shadow of Notre Dame! I knew about the crepes at Le Comptoir, and we even had lunch there, but were too full after lunch. Another great reason to go back to Paris!

Paulita said...

Louise, I never should have read your post before I'd eaten. OMG, as they say. I haven't had a nutella crepe either, so I'm in the same boat. I love that you made a list of the author's recommendations and tried them all. I think we probably need about a week per patisserie to try everything. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Maria said...

Hi Louise, I'm definitely etching that 'Angelina's stick-to-your-teeth chocolate chaud' in my memory!

Joy said...

Thanks for the photos! I tried to imagine what I was reading in Paris, My Sweet, but I see now that my imagination didn't do these treats justice. They are beautiful!

Joy's Book Blog

Esme said...

thank you for reminding me of her book-I find La Patisserie de Reves too overwhelming-with their one pastry under the dome concept. Stroher does nothing for me-love the praline dessert-I had one of those in Lyon last year and it was heaven. La Comptoir off of St. Germain has amazing crepes. I am returning soon and the apt. manager gave me the name of a bakery that looks awesome. I will leave you the name.

skiourophile said...

Ah, Angelina's hot chocolate and a Mont Blanc. I loved those both so much. Now I'm going to dream about them!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

My sister-in-law is taking her family to Paris next month, I'm sending her your post.

Unknown said...

Ooh, I have such a sweet craving after reading this post!

Beth F said...

In America I say I'm not much of a chocolate fan, but when I'm in Belgium, I have a different opinion. I'm thinking Paris could change my mind too. :) I'm bookmarking this post for the future.

JoAnn said...

This is a challenge I could totally get behind! Am adding this book to my wish list… and may attempt the New York list in the spring. Thanks for the idea. Your photos are making me drool!!

Cecelia said...

Oh wow, sounds like a fun way to structure your vacation! I love planning the food portion of trips and taking tips and advice from different people - you always end up experiencing different things than the usual.

Louise said...

Paulita- we definitely need a week per patisserie to try everything. I tried my darndest with Patisserie des Reves and Hugo and Victor, and failed miserably. They have too much deliciousness in every store to get through it all.

Maria- I hope you get to try it one day, I hope everyone does, it's magnificent.

Joy- the treats of Paris are always beyond imagination. I have no idea how the locals stand it.

Esme- I can't wait to hear what new delights you find, more recommendations are always welcome. It's always changing, always something new to try.

Vicki- Angelina's is definitely the stuff of dreams.

Diane- I hope she has an amazing trip, and can get to try at least some of these delights. No trip to Paris is complete without at least a little patisserie gazing.

Janel- I had one after writing it too!

Beth- oh yes Parisian chocolate would convert you too. JPH is fabulous. There are many others of course.

JoAnn, I hope you get to try the New York list, I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Cecelia I didn't quite structure my holiday around trying these. I did take the list with me- well I'd deliberately included it in my review of the book, so I knew I could access it while I was away. Then I checked the list, realised that I'd done a few, and then the quest was on. It was fun, and got me out trying new and different things. I don't mind at all if they don't turn out to be favourites- it's the thrill of the new, and discovering new things about Paris that is such a big part of it for me.

Angela said...

This is such a fun challenge. Everything looks so delicious!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

What fun! I love coffee so would have enjoyed that eclair!