…where in Paris do grown men and women go weak in the knees?
When Parisians slip out of their offices between 5 and 7 P.M. - the traditional hours for a romantic rendezvous - they have an appointment with an entirely different kind of cookie. They may be thinking sweet thoughts about the marvels at Mulot; a crispy croissant, perhaps, an éclair au café, a luscious chocolate macaroon at Ladurée, the subtleties could fill a thesis.
Parisian pastry lovers will crisscross the city in search of the perfect pastry they may patronize six or seven different pastry shops, each for a particular specialty. Dalloyau for eclairs au café; Carette for chocolate macaroons; at Lenôtre, the pistachio macaroons are the best; the pain au chocolate 'made with a thousand calories of butter' in Neuilly.
The cliché would have these fabulous French pastry shops filled with ladies of a certain age – and certain girth - tucking into creamy concoctions. The reality is that the Gallic passion for patisserie is a national obsession and arouses a craving no mere member of the opposite sex can satisfy. Nobody is immune as Marcel Proust famously proved. Would Swann ever have gotten on his way without the madeleine?
The ravenous French sweet tooth is sunk daily into the most ravishing and imaginative pastries ever devised by a pastry chef. A mille-feuille is never just a mille-feuille, but distinguished by the flakiness of its layers of puff pastry, the voluptuousness of its confectioner’s custard, and its choice of toppings; a dusting of powdered sugar, crunchy praline, or marbleized frosting.
Chocolate charlottes sport hats of sculpted black chocolate. Fruit tarts are constructed with the colorful complexity of a stained-glass window. Style is matched by substance. Haute patisserie is the creative celebration of the best-money-can-buy ingredients, which explode on the palate in a banquet of natural flavors. Made fresh each day, destined to be eaten immediately, these pastries bespeak a light hand with flour and sugar(elements necessary for longer conservation), which may account for the otherwise unaccountable slenderness of French pastry fans.
Here is a selection of talented pâtissiers concoctions that are the very pinnacle of this wondrous art, the best of the best.
Lines up on a tray in the window of Peltier, small pools of glossy, dark chocolate encased in golden crust beckon like beacons of sheer indulgence.
Even the most well-bred Parisian child will lose his cool when confronted with a window full of these pastries.
Stohrer’s smart navy lacquered storefront, with gold lettering and a sunshine-yellow awning, promises good things.
Stohrer’s aristocratic past – it was founded in 1730 by Louis XV’s own pastry cook - is sustained by the patrician pastries of its present. Cakes designed to please a king will also captivate the commoner.
For more than a century, Paul Baudry’s murals have decorated the walls.
Gaston Lenôtre's father was head chef at Paris’ Grand Hotel; his mother cooked for Baron Periere. Gaston took up the metier of pattissier at age 13 and has founded an empire.
What a blessing that I had only a very short time to explore,
but a la prochaine as the French say...next time...