Saturday, 1 March 2014

Cake Blitz in Paris

During October last year, my wife and I spent 6 days in Paris.  Looking back at the trip, makes me realise how amazing Paris is as a city, which makes me miss it even more. There is just something magical about Paris whether it be the Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, the Impressionist art or just strolling around districts like Marais and St Germain with their Parisian charm.

But what I am missing the most is the food. How delicious are the cakes and pastries! Amongst all the sightseeing, we managed to cram in as many patisseries as my stomach allowed. This meant having several cakes per day, sometimes back-to-back. The calorie count was surely going through the roof, but these cakes were impossible to resist! 

Anyone who has been to Paris will attest to the sheer number of patisseries there are, they are literally everywhere! Trying to decide which patisseries to visit can be a bit daunting, so I had a few places in mind beforehand although many of the places we stopped by were through sheer luck. Here's a selection of what I did end up trying during my 6 days in Paris (stores listed in alphabetical order):

Mont Blanc & Hot Chocolate
Address:  Pavillon d'Orleans, Chateau de Versailles, 78000 Versailles, France

This one's not technically Paris, but you will find Angelina, a tea salon, in a number of locations in Paris. We decided to drop by Angelina for a tea break after our visit to the opulent Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. We ordered their hot chocolate and Mont Blanc, which are both signature items. Both were good and enjoyable, particularly the hot chocolate. A bitter Dark chocolate from Africa was smooth, rich, extra-thick and extra tasty with whipped cream. The Mont Blanc comes as a dome of squiggled chestnut puree with crisp meringue and whipped cream inside. The Mont Blanc was quite sweet but it was moreish. So much so that my wife decided to buy a tube of chestnut puree to take back home. 3/5 (Good) 

Arnaud Larher
Paris Brest
Address: 93 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris, France (6th arrondissement)

I stumbled upon Arnaud Larher during our stroll around the beautiful Left Bank district. I was looking for that wonderful pastry, Paris Brest, which is a ring of choux pastry that is cut in half and filled with whipped cream. This one that I found at Arnaud Larher is not quite a traditional Paris Brest, instead coming as a row of mini choux pastries filled with hazelnut cream. I thought this was a good Paris Brest with a nice, crisp pastry and a pleasant hazelnut cream, although I found the cream to be slightly dense. There was also some chocolate stuck to the bottom of the pastry, which I thought was a nice touch as hazelnut and chocolate are best friends. 3/5 (Good)          

Yuzu Yoghut & Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
Address: 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France (4th)

Berthillon is famous for its artisinal ice creams and sorbets. They can be found in cafes and restaurants all over Paris but I decided to sample their famed ice cream at the flagship store, which is on the main strip of the beautiful Saint Louis Island. You can't miss Berthillon as normally you will see massive lines snaking outside the store. But I managed to avoid the queues... by going at 10.30am! There is never a bad time for ice cream, after all it's got calcium :)

I decided to go with the classical salted butter caramel flavour and also yuzu yoghurt. I quickly realised after my first spoonful why people queue for this ice cream. The flavours were just amazing!The salted caramel was wonderfully buttery and had a great balance of sweet and salty. Yuzu is my favourite citrus fruit so there was no doubt that I was going to enjoy this flavour. I thought the zestiness of the yuzu and the slight tartness from the yoghurt made for an interesting and delicious combination. This was a really refreshing sorbet and would be absolutely perfect for a Sydney summer. 4/5 (Great)

Eric Kayser
Baguette from Eric Kayser
Address: 14 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France (5th)

Obviously not a cake nor a pastry, I wanted to include the place where I found my favourite baguettes, Eric Kayser. The red-headed Eric Kayser is a world famous bread maker that has built a bread empire that includes 17 boutique stores in Paris and 12 stores in other countries. 

Bread is really cheap in Paris. Baguettes are usually less than a euro so I made numerous stops at boulangeries for a cheap snack. There are many different types of baguettes at Eric Kayer, but the one pictured here is just a plain one. I adore a good crust on bread and this was the best that I had in Paris. The locals come here in droves for a reason! 4/5 (Great)

Jacques Genin
Millefeuille with Vanilla Cream - so good that it needs to have shots from various angles!
Address: 133 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, France (3rd)

Jacques Genin is a large store and tea salon that sells a range of chocolates, caramels and pastries.  Jacques Genin has a reputation for being one of the greatest classic pastry chefs in Paris. His signatures include chocolate eclairs, chocolate tarts, lemon tarts, Paris Brest and Saint Honore. But I only had enough stomach space to try just one of his pastries after lunch at the 3-Michelin starred l'Arpege. 

I decided to have the millefeuille with vanilla cream (this is also available with chocolate). It is difficult to tell from the above pics, but the portion is massive. This was a serving for 2 but I think this would be enough for 3, maybe 4. These are made to order, so the pastry is fresh and just incredible! It's crispy, buttery, super flakey and without the slightest hint of sogginess. The vanilla cream was amazing too! So decadent! The combination of that vanilla cream and the flaky pastry is to die for! 

A millefeuille is an incredibly messy thing to eat at the best of times, with cream and pastry going everywhere, especially if you are given a single fork. This is where my fold-away knife from l'Arpege came in, which all diners receive as a souvenir to take home after their meal. I was able to cut the pastry into small, manageable, bite-sized chunks.        

This millefeuille was the BEST cake/pastry of my Euro trip. I now know what a real millefeuille should taste like! The only problem was that it takes a while to get service at Jacques Genin with customers taking their time selecting individual chocolates, so you will need to be patient as it will certainly be worth the wait! 5/5 (Excellent)

Patisserie Ciel
Sesame Noir & Praline Rose Angel Cakes
Address: 3 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France (5th)

I would not have known about Patisserie Ciel if not for social media! I randomly came across them while browsing FaceBook at the hotel and thought I'd check them out given my love for soft, fluffy chiffon cakes (or angel cakes as Ciel calls them). Patisserie Ciel are run by Japanese people and specialise in chiffon cakes. So chiffon cakes is all they do.  If you are going to make one thing, you better be bloody good at it...

Well their chiffon cakes are just nothing short of spectacular! If I must say, the best chiffon cakes I have ever had (including ones that I have tried in Japan, I know big call)! It had the perfect sponge cake texture: so soft, so fluffy and so light! The cakes come in a range of Japanese or French style flavours. I tried sesame noir and praline rose. I am a sucker for all things black sesame so I was always going to love the sesame noir. Praline rose was great too with its nice subtle hints of rose. 5/5 (Excellent)

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki
Address: 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France (9th); 35 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris, France (6th) 

Sadaharu Aoki is a master when it comes to integrating Japanese flavours and ingredients with classic French pastries. Simplicity may be Aoki's motto, but there is incredible finesse in execution. All his creations are beautiful to look at and wrapped in wonderful (and excessive) cardboard packages to ensure your cakes stay pretty.      

Matcha Millefeuille & Zen
The first thing that my wife and I did after dropping off our luggage at the hotel was to go straight to the basement level of Galeries Lafeyette, where you will find its expansive food hall, with enough goodies to make any foodie squeal with excitement! After I purchased my cakes from Aoki, I headed for the roof level where you can set up a picnic and enjoy the amazing views of Paris.    

As you can see, I am a matcha green tea freak so I bought two pastries with green tea. My favourite of the two was the matcha millefeuille. Although not as amazing as the millefeuille from Jacques Genin (nothing is, so that's an unfair comparison), this was a really enjoyable version of a French classic. The pastry layers were thin and crispy and the the green tea cream was delicious, moreish and loaded with matcha green tea flavour. 

The Zen contained two my favourite Japanese flavours: green tea and black sesame. There was white chocolate cream sandwiching matcha dacquoise, a layer of sesame cream with cognac, and a sesame shortcrust pastry base. I really liked the green tea and black sesame flavours in this cake, but I did find the cognac to be a bit overpowering. 4/5 (Great)

Creme Matcha Azuki & Soleil
My next visit to Aoki was at the boutique store in the Left Bank. I decided to grab a bottle of creme matcha azuki and a Soleil cake to have back at the hotel. 

Anything that the Japanese sells in those cute, little bottle has to be good, right? Indeed, the creme matcha azuki was a heaven sent delight! It was basically a French style creme with Japanese flavours. I will never get sick of the classic combination of matcha green tea and azuki red beans. The creme was incredibly delicious, smooth and creamy. 

The Soleil was a summery cake as the name suggests (Soleil is sun in French). There were layers of soft sponge cake and mango cream with mint accents. A simple and refreshing dessert. 5/5 (Excellent) 

Pierre Herme
Address: 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France (6th); 133 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France (8th)

Pierre Herme needs no introduction. He is perhaps the most famous pastry chef in the world, with his macarons adored by foodies all over the world. Pierre Herme is not one to be missed, but with numerous stores all over Paris, you will likely stumble into one of his stores. Pictured above is his flagship store in St Germain, which always has long queues. It is as much a tourist attraction as it is a store, as evidenced by the above couple posing for a pic with the store hehe.

Macarons from a drugstore
Our first stop at a Pierre Herme store was at the Public Drugstore on Champs Elysees. Don't let the name fool you, the Drugstore is quite a trendy place featuring a grocery store, an international newsstand, shop for products, jewellery, clothes, alcohol and cigars. It is also the home of 2-Michelin star restaurant, l'Atlier de Joel Robuchon.    

The purpose of this visit to Pierre Herme was simple: to try his famed macarons. These macarons, for mind, were the best macarons I have had anywhere in the world! The flavour combinations were unique, interesting and pure genius. Pierre Herme is known for his use of savoury ingredients such as olive oil and fleur de sel (French salt) and what I enjoyed the most was that the macarons were bursting with flavour and not overly sweet.

I am not going to describe each macaron, as I would be simply repeating myself (i.e. this macaron was yummy), but here are the flavours (from left to right in above pic):

1. Mogador (passionfruit & chocolate)
2. Mosaic (pistachio, griottines & cinnamon)
3. Arabesque (pistachio & apricot)
4. Infiniment Cafe Iapar (Coffee from Brazil)
5. Infiniment Cafe au Cafe Vert and au Cafe Bourbon Pointu de la Reunion 
6. Envie (vanilla-violet cream and blackcurrants)
7. Rose
My favourite was Mogador. There is just something about the combination of passionfruit and chocolate that I love so much. 5/5 (Excellent)

Ibiza & Sarah
Next Pierre Herme stop was his flagship store in the 6th arrondissement. After 20 minutes in the queue and lots of indecision, I finally decided on 2 cakes: Ibiza and Sarah. As beautiful as the island Ibiza off the east coast of Spain, is the wonderful Ibiza cake. The cake consisted of pistachio dacquoise biscuit sprinkled over the top, with layers of rich almond genoise, a slightly zesty orange mascarpone cream and a light turron mousse. The crispy almond nougatine surrounding the cake provided a textural contrast.

Even better than the Ibiza cake was Sarah. It was a wonderful combination of textures as well as smoky and tart flavours. There were layers of tender chestnut biscuit, candied chestnut cream, rich cream with matcha green tea and a tart passionfruit compote. Simply to die for was Sarah! 5/5 (Excellent)

Rose Bakery
Address: 46 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris, France (9th)
No website

Rose Bakery is a small British cafe and teashop run by a Franco-British couple. The dining room is minimalist and is packed at lunchtime and weekend brunches. I went to the original store in Rue de Martyrs but there are 2 other stores in Paris.

Raspberry Tart & Rhubarb Crumble
Rose Bakery have a range of savouries including quiches and salads, but we came for their sweet goods. We decided on the raspberry tart and rhubarb crumble. The raspberry tart was my favourite out of these two delectable pastries.The raspberry tart was really delicious. The pastry was buttery and so short that it just disintegrated in the mouth. The smooth, eggy custard was divine and the raspberries had the right amount of tartness to complement the custard. The rhubarb crumble was also enjoyable. The rhubarb was quite tart, but the crumble was yummy. It was buttery, and had a nice crunch. 4/5 (Great)

Sebastien Gaudard
Address: 22 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris, France

I walked by Sebastian Gaudard on my way to Rose Bakery. I was lured in by their elegant shopfront filled with beautiful pastries. When I perused their display, I thought I may as well try one of their pastries. I decided on tropezeinne, a disc of soft, fluffy brioche sliced in half and filled with lots of vanilla cream. Not as good as my first encounter with tropezeinne at Pierre Gagnaire in Seoul, but enjoyable nevertheless. Word of warning, if you are going to pick it up to eat, make sure you don't squirt vanilla cream all over yourself, because that's what happened to me! 3/5 (Good) 

So that's all folks! The cakes and pastries I tried in Paris were some of the best I have ever eaten. But I do wonder whether the French or the Japanese are better at making cakes? I love them both so I am going to sit on the fence on this one, to avoid the risk of upsetting anyone :) What does everyone else think?

For more posts about my food adventures during my trip through Europe, click on the following link: