Oui Oui, Pâtisseries
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you as we shelter in place.
May 31st, 2020
During my trip to Paris in 2018, I set out to leave no pastry behind. I learned about history, enjoyed a lot of delicious bites, and experienced the high fashion of pastry in Paris. There are far more pastries and shops than what I’ve included here ~ smaller bakeries, hundreds of interpretations, thousands of meters of piped whipped cream and enough dusted sugar to coat the earth. But the places featured here were memorable for creativity, history, and dedication to adding art and beauty to the sweetness of life.
Of the pâtisseries I experienced, this was my favorite. Small, quaint and surprisingly quiet, Sébastien Gaudard felt authentically French. From the mosaic tile floor to the fonts on the menu, every detail was Parisian. We were welcomed with a smile and took a seat at a tiny café table in the interior. The pastries were displayed in a bright case – nothing over the top, just pure deliciousness among the chocolate curls, flaky puff pastry and creamy yellow custards.
Sébastian Gaudard himself has been called the “Tom Ford” and “Little Prince of Pastry.” His father Daniel, also a pastry chef, said, “Other children played with plasticine, my son played with almond paste.” Acclaimed and accomplished at a young age, Sebastien opened La Pâtisserie des Tuileries (the store I visited) in 2014. If you’re looking for more than sweets, something memorable, this would be my choice.
On the Rue de Rivoli, Anton Rumplemayer opened his shop in 1903. Named after his daughter-in-law, Angelina became known for a signature pastry called the Mont-Blanc which is described on the website as: “Crispy and dry French meringue under a smooth creamy dome of light whipped cream, covered by chestnut vermicelli. Its shape was apparently inspired by the trending women hairstyle at the time: the sleek short square bob.” You can see it far left in the display case photo of the gallery.
Among the variety of Angelina’s pastries, I would say the Mont-Blanc may be among the least beautiful. I opted instead for a whipped cream dome of another kind. It was light but decadent in keeping with Angelina’s baroque identity. I look forward to returning here again someday to pick up a treat to enjoy in the adjacent Jardin des Tuileries.
The story of this company reaches back to 1862 when Louis Ernest Ladurée opened a bakery in Paris. Years later, at the urging of his wife, the bakery transitioned into a tea room to accommodate the new trend of social gathering amid high society. These days, Ladurée has dozens of stores in France and around the world. Painted in Ladurée’s characteristic tint of blue-green, each store displays the incredible artistry of their historic macarons. Yet pastries are just as important and their designs are delicate and detailed, strikingly displayed on a charcoal gray surface. According to their website, “Each pastry’s attractive colouring and flavours are designed to stimulate visually as well as gustatorially – pâtisserie is consumed by the eyes before it even reaches the mouth, after all.” Oui, c’est vrai.
Even older than Ladurée, Stohrer’s history began in 1730. Nicolas Stohrer, pastry chef of King Louis XV, opened a pâtisserie on Rue Montorgueil where a Stohrer shop still exists today (pictured). Specialties include rum babas and eclairs but what I found most intriguing were the lemon tarts with lime zest. Stohrer tops these sweet little rounds with proprietary clouds of meringue only seen at Stohrer. Overall, their creations look like they’re made with a heavier hand than other pâtisseries, but they certainly deliver on taste and their raspberry tarts were some of the prettiest in Paris.
If modern art had an equivalent in pâtisserie, Cedric Grolet would be the acclaimed artist. At the helm of the shop, Grolet has elevated the French pastry to something almost unrecognizable. I’m not sure if what’s offered by Le Meurice appeals to everyone, but the artistry and creativity cannot be disputed. Every season, he and his team curate the featured flavors into a limited variety of pastries ~ only four to six at most. The depth of artistry increases the time spent making each one which limits the volume of production.
Walk into the at Le Meurice hotel and you’ll find an equally limited view. When we stopped by, just four pastries were displayed on a white countertop. Upon making our selection, our pastries were discreetly boxed and bagged by a man in a business suit and his assistant, and we were quickly on our way home to dig in. The biggest mystery was the flavor. The exterior gives a clue of course, as you can see by the apple and black lemon with citrus peel texture, but cracking into them revealed a few surprises. The apple was paired with dill in a delicate balance and the black lemon had hints of pear and a light chocolate cream filling. At up to 17 Euros per pastry, we only tried two!
If all the custards, chocolates and fancy whipped creams are too much for your palate, never fear … it’s France. You can always have a crêpe.