"If you want to indulge, Mariage Frères, one of Paris' oldest tea salons, with a selection of more than 560 teas from all over the world and excellent pastries, is a good place to do so."
Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of tea unless it's liberally infused with sugar and milk. By that point it tastes less like tea, more like sugary milk (a cuppa spiced chai is one of my favorite drinks). I destroy tea—I shouldn't be anywhere near it. And considering the prominence of Mariage Frères in the tea world, it would be best if I didn't taint it with my excessive sugar and milk-loving ways.
But I did go, at the insistence of my tea-loving friends. I tried some tea—I don't dislike it, I just wouldn't go out of my way to get it—and then felt guilty because it was probably wasted on my taste buds. It's like when I try wines; I'm interested in tasting them, even if I know I won't like them. Then I can tell people, "At least I tried it; now get off my back." Mariage Frères also has baked goods and other foodstuffs if you want more than tea, but I just stuck to the pricey vegetal-flavored liquids.
I recommend going if you enjoy drinking tea, which appears to be most of the population. If you don't, the potential excitement of staring at a huge-ass tea menu might be lost on you.
"The yaourt Bulgare (Bulgarian yogurt) is my favorite in Paris; its fermentation process gives it a particular, tangy, and delicious taste."
I wish I had known to get the Bulgarian yogurt before trying scoop of strawberry basil sorbet. Not that there was anything wrong with that flavor. And I really have no idea why I ordered that when other flavors included salted caramel, honey and orange flower, and almond milk—must've been in one of those rare sorbet moods. 2.10 euros got me an itty bitty portion that I could have eaten in two bites, if I opened my mouth widely enough. Tasty? Well...duh. Worth the money? Perhaps if the portion were just a weeeeny bit larger.
"Eric Kayser, boulanger extraordinaire, is a household Paris name known for his excellent breads. His eleven shops around the city (and others in France and around the world) sell every imaginable variety and combination of grain, nut, cheese, or fruit."
I just went for the bread—the baguette de monge, in particular. And it was magic, magic, MAGIC I SAY, encased in crust. The Maison Kayser website described the baguette best as having "an odor of harvest." Oh yes, how that first bite transported me back to the time of gathering wheat on the ol' farm!...wait, that wasn't me; I grew up in suburbia. Oh well.
Les Deux Magots
"Les Deux Magots is well known for its history as a prestigious literary hangout, not for its food. So who would've guessed that this famous café has delicious desserts? Go and enjoy the legendary atmosphere over coffee and a creamy, rich dark chocolate mousse or warm tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream."
That's where I went wrong—I didn't try the desserts. But I did try the hot chocolate, which didn't do much for me—I craved more chocolate-ness and richness. On the bright side, it didn't put me into a chocolate coma like Angelina's did. Overall, a nice place to accomplish people-watching, but if you're me you'd rather eat a kick-ass croque monsieur than stare at passersby.
"Not surprisingly, there is little consensus on Mulot's 'best' creations. Some say the macarons (orange ginger, passion fruit basil, orange cinnamon, or simple chocolate, to name a few flavors) are incomparable. Many claim his croissant is perfection. Others line up for slices of cherry clafourtis or peach tart from baking sheets stacked on the counter. Sentiments run strong for his classic cakes. But there is unanimous awe over the extensive selection, and the quality of everything."
If I were to ask Valerie, my roommate in Paris, what she remembered most from Gerard Mulot, she'd probably say, "The cute boy behind the counter." I didn't notice the boy, but I do recall stacked rows of macarons in more colors and flavors than I had ever seen before. Unfortunately, I wasn't very into their macarons—the textures were fine, but the high sweetness levels masked the flavors. One of the guys behind the counter (not the cute one Valerie couldn't stop talking about) kindly gave us an extra huge-ass macaron, perhaps because he thought my photo-taking was funny, or more likely because Valerie is one of those girls who most people would describe as "hot." A nice plus, even if the macaron didn't blow me over.
What you should get at Mulot: a chocolate tart and a lemon tart. The cookie crusts were of the heavenly, crispy, butter sort, and unlike the macarons, the flavors were balanced.
Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki
"The citron praliné is a soft mound of lemon and white chocolate cream over a lemon macaron and praline feuilleté pastry."
Having eaten this very same dessert, I can tell you that YOU SHOULD ORDER THIS DESSERT. IN CAPS. Because you want cream and crunch and lemon and almond together in one bite. I will eat pretty much anything that contains praline feuilleté. Sadaharu also makes pastries with matcha and black sesame (among other ingredients categorized as Asian). And you know how black sesame is one of my most favorite flavors ever. I'm still kicking myself for not having tried his black sesame macarons.
Patrick Roger Chocolatier
"Patrick Roger has a reputation as the wild child of the chocolate world."
I stuck in the above quote just because it sounded so...random. There you go.
I went to Patrick Roger to buy a gift for my homestay mom who said that his chocolates were her favorite. Having passed the store many times before and taken note of its life-sized chocolate penguin statues (uh, awesome), I had been planning to try it at some point anyway. The store had lots and lots of stuff, but I best recall the wall of chocolate bars featuring single origins and all different cocoa percentages. I was also a fan of their pretty teal packaging. Makes a nice gift!
Pierre Hermé Paris
"Not usually a huge fan of macarons, I melt over Hermé's light, springy outer cakes yielding to a creamy, intensely flavorful interior. . . .All over Paris, in fact, the mundane sandwich cookie has become a sophisticate, its ingredients able somehow to perfectly capture the essence of a variety of flavors. Bit name patisseries artisanales try to outdo one another with increasingly unusual, even bizarre flavors. But Pierre Hermé's are among the best."
Pierre Herme is my favorite patisserie (and patissier) ever. Ever. Ever? ...Ever. I keep forgetting that most people don't give a crap about French pastry chefs and ever so often I'll blab his name in excitement only to be met with confused silence followed by, "Who's Pierre Herme?" Who is he? Who is he? WHY ARE WE FRIENDS?
Just kidding; that's harsh. I mean, I love introducing his desserts to those who have yet to be touched by his mastery of sugar and butteer (and a few other things, but I think those are the more important components). His macarons are my absolute favorite (too soft for some people, but perfect to me) and the ispahan (the macaron sandwich made with rose-flavored macarons filled with lychee cream and whole raspberries) just made me go, "Holy shit, that was really good."
Many of PH's desserts elicited that "holy shit" response—they tend to makes familiar flavors taste brand new. You think you know what that vanilla tart is going to taste like, but then it ends up tasting 1000% better than whatever your brain can pull out from its flavor memory bank and it's just like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, NOTHING TASTES THIS GOOD except the flesh of God, and then your taste bud are forever ruined, for they will never be able to appreciate anything else again.
...Maybe it's not that extreme. I've had a few things from Pierre Herme that made me go, "meh," but then there were many things that almost made me want to cry because I knew the chances of me encountering such tasty desserts again were slim.
I used to curse PH for not opening a location in NYC when there are a bunch of them in Tokyo (Japanese people do seem to have a greater love for French pastries and chocolates than New Yorkers, though), but easy access to PH would be dangerous on the wallet and the waistline. So it can stay in Paris, thus giving me more excuse to visit frequently in the future.
November 24, 2006: Pierre Hermé overload + interview with a pastry chef
November 29, 2006: Intense home cooking + intense giant salad
December 28, 2006: Last day in Paris
March 18, 2007: Spring Break in Paris: Day 1
March 31, 2007: Spring Break in Paris: Day 6
April 2, 2007: Spring Break in Paris: Day 7 & 8
"France's most famous bakery is known for its eponymous sourdough loaf, but sweet lovers should take note of Poilane's butter cookies and apple tarts."
You're going to think I'm stupid for having passed both of Poilâne's locations and not actually going into either of them. And you'd be right. (Tristan has reminded me many times that I failed to eat their bread, considered by some to be the best in the world, thus I fail at life.) But at the very least I did try the punitions, or the super awesome buttery cookies that are just slightly more addictive than crack. These were from Casino and not the bakeries so they were probably made in a factory somewhere, but I can't imagine that made much of a negative impact on their deliciousness. Casino sold them in large bags; I can't imagine buying them any other way.