Part 1: Five French Pastries We Adore
1. Religieuse Experience:
The first ever pastry we tried in Paris was the Religieuse. An iconic-looking pastry, the Religieuse
is apparently named for its resemblance to a nun's habit, although we're not sure if there is any further religious association with its invention. What we do know is that the fancy eclairs, which can be filled with various fillings, are exceedingly delicious and beautiful. Also, for lovers of the religieuse and cupcakes, run, don't walk, for this fantastic wallpaper
which we discovered through Chocolate & Zucchini
. (Religieuse, pictured left, from Laduree's
2. Debutante Divorcé: The second pastry we tried in France was the Divorcé. Though its name would infer separations, we think it's probably more of a heavenly marriage of flavors: though some variations existed, our favorite was an eclair-ish pastry topped with half-chocolate, half-coffee icing, and then inside the pastry, beneath the chocolate iced section there is coffee cream, and beneath the coffee icing there is chocolate cream. Mon dieu! (Photo left, from a flickr pool).
3. Mac Daddy:
Naturally, the macaron plays a big role in our French dreams. What could be Frenchier than those sweet little burger-cookies? (For more on the dear treats, check out this previous posting
4. Grosses Bises for the Mille-feuille:
This pastry is also known as the "Napoleon"--but although it's a mighty little bite, it's said by some that it's not actually named for Monsieur Bonaparte, but instead is named after Naples the city, where it is said to have been invented. What in the world is a mille-feuille though? According to Wikipedia
The Mille-feuille (French 'thousand sheets'), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as "millefeuille" and "mille feuille".
5. Chiboust, a Coup de Coeur:
ah, the Gâteau Saint-Honoré
. It's a cake "named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 AD), bishop of Amiens"-- but really what gets us excited is the creme filling, named after the pastry chef who invented it circa 1846: "Crème Chiboust, also called Crème Saint-Honoré, is a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) lightened with whipped cream or stiffly beaten egg whites"...this pastry cream is the stuff of dreams, light and rich all at once, not too-sweet; and when contrasted by the perfect pastry crust, not a taste easily forgotten. (Picture shown: individual Saint Honore pastry).
Part 2: Five Frenchie Things and Places We Adore:
1. Boulangeries et Pâtisseries: As a general cultural note, any country that is advanced enough to have two genres of bakeries is really just fine by us. So what is the difference between the two types of French bakery? A Boulangerie is where you'd got to get your baguette; a Pâtisserie is where you'd go for an eclair or tarte au citron. There can be crossover of course, but in our minds, it's the Boulangerie for carbtastic treats; the Pâtisserie for creamy and chocolatey treats.
2. Lovely Laduree: A simple visit to the Laduree website is like a mini-escape from real life--but a visit in person to one of the venerable Paris teahouses is like going into an Alice in Wonderland world. No, they're certainly not cheap, but can you really put a price on true magic? Multiple locations; online at laduree.fr.
3. Bagels and Brownies:
Yes, this is an actual place in Paris. When we came across it, we were...intrigued. Tucked in a side street near the Alliance Française
, there was a line out the door every day for this purveyor of American-style treats, including jumbo cookies, blondies, doughnuts and, bien sur, their namesake items. So how was the Parisian take on American baked goods?Heartbreakingly delicious, and most certainly not
. Bagels and Brownies, 12, Rue N D des Champs, 75006 Paris, France; +33 1 42 22 44 15.
4. Pastries on the Rue de L'U: One of our more memorable experiences was a trip to the Rue de L'Universite, which to any hardcore foodie is not merely a street, but The Street Where Julia Child Lived. As a tribute to the dearly departed Julia, we picked up an Opera cake and ate it (daintily, with a fork) while strolling down the Rue De "Loo" as she called it--we think Julia would have liked the idea of Cake Gumshoes making a pilgrimage to her old 'hood, especially with chocolate and gold leaf smeared on our faces.
5. Markets, Markets, Markets:
From the ginormous Le Bon Marche
to the enchanting street markets (check out a list here
), markets are part of the romance of Paris, and in our opinion they live up to the reputation and then some. Who wouldn't love to be walking down the street with a fresh baguette, tearing off the top for the first bite, like a native? Le sigh.