You could easily be forgiven for deserting this blog after that horrible trick I played on you last week. Thank you once again for your patience. The time has finally come for your reward and we are about to embark on a little Parisian cake tour.
Let them eat cake … or that phrase that never seems to die down! Allegedly uttered by Marie-Antoinette, serious historians – and I’m not looking at you, Sofia Coppola – tell us the ill-fated Queen of France never said those words. Yet the myth surrounding it still persists today and, isn’t it a little bit ironic, that these days a crème brûlée éclair featuring an edible picture of Marianne, the emblem of the French Revolution, is taking Paris by storm?
Éclairs have been celebrating a bit of a revival this year in Paris, with Christophe Adam’s L’Éclair de Génie shop (a pun on the expression ‘a stroke of genius’) being the toast of town.
Before setting up his own concept store, Adam used to be the pastry chef at Fauchon, a food emporium on the Place de la Madeleine, which is a good place to start off our trip. First established in 1886, this younger, more stylish cousin of Fortnum and Mason often breaks with tradition and delivers innovative cakes with a design twists or two. Always a delight!
If you feel tired of strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries or shopping on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Angelina is a very pleasant place for lunch or tea. Founded in 1903, this salon de thé has become a bit of an institution. A no non-sense hostess, with nerves of steel, tightly rules over this teeming ship while waitresses, dressed in French Maid uniforms, swiftly serve you. A bit stuck in time, this charming tearoom plays on nostalgia and is always great for people-watching.
Angelina’s signature pastry is the Mont-Blanc, a meringue-based cake topped with whipped cream and sweetened chestnut cream. With a famous mountain for namesake and the ‘earthy’ nature of the crème de marrons, it’s no wonder the Mont-Blanc is very popular in Japan too. Angelina is also quite famous for its thick hot chocolate, which, to my shame, I haven’t tried out yet. I fear @notjaMilla will be kicking me for this omission all the way from Tokyo as she extols the virtues of L’Africain – ‘rich, delicious and worth every calorie’ – on her blog. If Milla says so, it must be true!
While I usually don’t like queuing for food (or exhibition tickets for that matter), I’ll make a rare exception for Pierre Hermé. I know, I’m full of contradictions, but aren’t we all? Time is precious, but rules are meant to be broken, especially when it comes to cake! Priorities. (I’m sure, @MarDixon will agree with me on this point, right?)
Hailed not only as the Dior of Desserts but also as the Picasso of Pastry, Hermé’s mouth-watering creations are actually worth waiting for and the chef pâtissier’s sleek boutique on Rue Bonaparte – @LondonSE4‘s ears just perked up – has quickly established itself as a must destination for me when I visit Paris. Indulgences range from (the now rather ubiquitous) macarons and cakes to pastries, pâtes de fruits, chocolate spreads, etc.
While my friend Laura patiently went off to Place Saint-Sulpice, I joined the aforementioned queue which often sprawls right onto the pavement. Luckily for me, this happened to be a sunny day and I didn’t mind waiting for 15 minutes. (I might have rapidly changed my tune in winter though!) A few moments before setting foot into the shop, a British couple suddenly stopped dead in their tracks and asked me, in English, why people were queuing here. Of all people, they must have instinctively thought, ‘Oh, this chap here knows how to queue properly, a vital skill in Britain, so he must be one of us!’. I solved the mystery for them and they swiftly joined the file d’attente. Good call!
In a nod to horticulture, Pierre Hermé’s signature flavour is called Ispahan and consists of a frivolously pink mixture of rose petals, raspberries and lychees. Floral notes can be tricky to master, however, this combination works well together and is absolutely divine. It’s highlighted in the Croissant Ispahan, which has often been named one of the most decadent croissants in Paris. I’ll confirm that, yes, the hype is completely justified! (For more glossy pictures of this pastry, check out Paris Pâtisseries. Click at your own risk – you’ve been warned!)
Un/Fortunately this brings us to the end of our Parisian cake tour today. (Maybe I should be thinking of organising one of those IRL?) I hope you enjoyed this post and that it hasn’t made you too hungry. I’ll be back next week with my first post on London – I don’t want you all to think this blog is just about Marie-Antoinette and Paris! (I wish.)