Some time ago between the beginning of this year and yesterday (I aim to tell the truth by being extremely vague), I received a book in the mail. For freeee!!! From the nice people at The Little Bookroom! To promote the most awesome book ever: Patisseries of Paris by Jamie Cahill. Did you hear me? MOST AWESOME BOOK EVER! ...Aside from anything written by Jhonen Vasquez.
If you're familiar with at least 5% of my personality, you know that I flip my shit at any mention of Paris. Hearing someone speak French fills my brain with images of the abundant baked goods-glory (and beautiful architecture and gardens and fashionable people and other things that make me like America less) I was surrounded by one and a half years ago. Paris is a lot like what I imagine heaven to be like, with the advantages being that you don't have to be dead to go there. And it's real!
Would I recommend Patisseries of Paris for those who love sweets and aim to eat them in all their glorious, health-depleting forms? Baked, flaked, frozen, molten, and more? Hell yeah! After reading the description for each of the 92 businesses listed in the book, my heart filled with warm happiness...and then my eyes filled with tears of sorrow for the food I may never get to eat again if the dollar continues on its trajectory towards being worth almost as much as a pile of dirt.
So that's my review. The end.
Okay, there's more. A little. Over the course of three posts, I'm going to comment on the places I've been to that Jamie mentions in her book, splodge up some food porn for you because I know you want it, and share links to previous Paris-filled entries. It'll be so much fuuuun! WHY AREN'T YOU EXCITED, JESUS CHRIST!!@# (It's really humid right now. And it's past midnight. The components for clear thinking, this is not.)
"The place is filled with tourists and locals alike, almost all relishing le chocolat Africain, hot chocolate so rich you practically need to eat it with a spoon. Those who aren't sipping it are cracking into the hard meringue of the Mont Blanc after conquering its outer mounds of whipped cream and squiggles of candied chestnut cream."
Well, Jamie, I did BOTH. And then I FELT LIKE PUKING. So I'm glad you don't recommend doing both.
Since the hot chocolate is super-rich and thick, it comes with additional unsweetened whipped cream to help cut through the richness. However, as whipped cream hardly qualifies as chocolate anti-matter, the resulting whipped cream-and-chocolate stomach-coating liquid is still a fairly potent mix of chocolate and cream, and fat, and chocolate, and fat. Drinking this on an empty stomach was stupid on my part, but I think there still would've been some resulting stomach discomfort even if I had eating something beforehand. Not to say that it wasn't delicious—oh man, it was intense—it's just that the groans of deliciousness were mixed with moans of organ failure.
The Mont Blanc, basically a base of meringue covered with a huge mound of whipped cream and topped with a layer of chestnut cream, was really sweet. Don't get me wrong—I like Mont Blancs—but they probably don't go with small pitchers of hot chocolate with lava-like consistency. I was three millimeters away from diabetes.
On that note, you should totally go.
La Boulangerie Julien
"There is often a line outside Julien: at lunchtime, when the shop does a brisk business of quiches, tourtes, sandwiches, and salads to go, and in the evening, when its famous baguette tradition comes out of the oven."
I went to school near one of Julien's locations and indeed, the lunchtime rush went mad for sandwiches. Or perhaps that was just me. My heart belonged to the Poulet St. Moret sandwich, although by this point I'm not exactly sure what that sandwich entailed; chicken and stuff. Mayo? Yes, mayo sounds good. I was also a big fan of the curry chicken salad sandwich. Their baguettes traditional were also dangerously easy to polish off in one sitting, at least when accompanied by a stick of salted butter. And you know I always had salted butter on hand. If there had been a convenient way to carry it around in my pocket, I totally would've.
Deliziefollie possibly had the most beautiful mounds of gelato I had seen in Paris. Unfortunately, beauty doesn't translate equally to deliciousness (it's not my favorite gelateria in Paris; that title goes to Pozzetto), but it's definitely worth trying if you're in the area, as their pistachio is of the warm roast-y type that makes Italy proud. They have lots of interesting flavors and fluffy cloud-like bins of gelato that you just wanna stick your face in and hug. And then devour.
Cahill doesn't mention macarons in her entry on chocolatier Jean-Paul Hevin, but they're (unsurprisingly) the first things I ever tried there. Early in the semester I went to the La Motte Piquet location (it was near my school), flexed by meager French-speaking skills, failed to get a look of "You mangled my language"-based disgust from the shopkeeper (she was nice!), and took my treasure to the nearby park by the Eiffel Tower for a solitary macaron gorging. And those were some fine chocolate macarons. You could get non-chocolate macarons at his other shop down the street, Hévin2, but I didn't think they were as good as his chocolate ones.
"The éclair is a specialty, featured in a multicolored selection of flavors—rose, passion fruit, pistachio, even poppy flower, and of course vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. Gosselin's real pride and joy is its baguette."
I went to Gosselin one Sunday morning (a time when many bakeries are closed) just to try its famed baguette. And it was awesome: chewy, crusty, and full of warm grainy flavors. I also tried a croissant and pain aux raisins, neither of which did much for my taste buds. The éclairs looked beautiful, but I didn't try any since éclairs generally disagree with the pleasure receptors of my brain, moving more towards the part that goes, "This tastes wrong." Although by "this"' I just mean the usually tasteless choux pastry; I'll gladly eat the creamy filling. Buckets of it.
Pain de Sucre
"Pain de Sucre's unusual concepts are hard to resist, tempting you to taste bizarre combinations like endive and orange marmalade, brioche, beer mousse, and crumbled candied chestnuts."
The closest I got to going to Pain de Sucre was taking photos of the outside (I heard that they don't let you take photos inside). The one day I triumphantly decided to visit Pain de Sucre and actually try some of their desserts, they happened to be closed. My soul, it was crushed.
Amorino may be Paris's chain gelateria, but that doesn't mean it sucks! Hoorah! I wouldn't say you should go out of your way to try it, but if you pass one and have a gelato craving, by all means fulfill it at Amorino.
"By far the most famous name in French ice cream, Berthillon has elevated the childhood treat to gastronomique status in France. Some say the glace is overrated, but its freshness and gourmet flavor selection were novel when it opened its doors in 1954. Nevertheless, the intensely-flavored ice cream's and fruit sorbet's fame was established, along with lifetime devotees and a reputation that continues to this day as Parisians and tourists line the sidewalks of Ile Saint-Louis to get a scoop or take-away tub."
Many French people would probably be horrified to find out that I only tried Berthillon ice cream once while in Paris. I'm afraid that I'm a gelato girl at heart. My one Berthillon-eating experience, which occurred on the third day into my semester in Paris, wasn't memorable enough for me to...well, remember much about it, aside from learning that une boule in Paris is the size of a freakin' ping pong ball. Sure, we're excessive in America, but ice cream scoops in France are sized for 5-year olds. Give me a heaping mound of gelato any day. I don't doubt that Berthillon makes amazing ice cream (I'd definitely try more flavors next time I go), but I'm not kicking myself for failing to have tried more. Eating at Berthillon was one of many seemingly quintessential Paris experiences that I didn't fully experience during my semester there.
September 7, 2006: bits of Paris
"Boulangerie Malineau's unique specialty, pain au chocolat framboise, is almost always sold out by lunchtime. No matter, since they are best eaten fresh anyway while the chocolate and raspberry filling is still warm and oozing. If you prefer banana to strawberry, Malineau also has a pain au chocolat banane."
I didn't get the specialty. Goddamn it.
But I did gorge on marshmallow logs. Oh, how I feel in love with those guimauves; never in my life had I come across such addictive marshmallows, and I wouldn't even label myself a marshmallow fan. Near the end of my spring break, I bought one stick of every flavor they had (five of them, perhaps), coconut being the favorite of Diana and me. What made those marshmallows so magical? I have no clue. Whatever it is, they don't have it in NYC.
Part II of my Patisseries in Paris overview will (hopefully) be coming soon.