Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Finest Pastries in Paris

Sofia Coppola's film of Marie Antoinette chose to focus on the "Let them eat cake" cliche. The film, like the wildly over-rated, "Lost in Translation" is a waste of 2 hours of a life. Far better to spend those 2 hours on the cakes themselves. Despite the British claim to tea as both a drink and afternoon recreation, Paris is the city for great tea-shops, and the pastries that are part of them.

Here are five fabulous pastries. We'll tour the teashops in another post.

1)Millefeuille a la reglisse - La Duree.
This one sounds terrible in translation - Licorice millefeuille. I'd avoided it until a Parisian friend talked me into trying one at La Duree's Champs Elysees cafe. The pastry is 'croustillant', the creme patissiere is light and not too sweet and the licorice is subtle.
2) Crumble/fruit-rouges/pommes/rhubarbe.
This crumble is served at Cafe Bertrand right next door to Notre Dame de Lorette in the 9th arrondissement. It is as good as anything you'll find at a village tea shop back in the crumble's English homeland. The French tend to know better than to oversweeten anything and the crumble is buttery and crunchy.
3) Fauchon, the posh deli opposite the Madeleine have recently introduced a dull little cafe on the ground floor - the only advantage I can see is that it gives a visitor a chance to try one of their excellent eclairs without schlepping it back to your hotel room. The eclair flavours rotate, rather in the way that art galleries rotate their paintings. If you are there on a day when the turquoise blue 'eclair aquatique' is available give it a try. I'm not normally attracted to blue food but this jewel-like pastry flavoured with mint and vanilla is the exception.
4) The St Marc at little, long-established Millet on my old street, the Rue St Dominique in the 7th arrondissment - it's the street that stretches from the Esplanade des Invalides to the Eiffel Tower. You'll see the St Marc in Millet's window, halfway along on your left if you are coming from the Invalides. It's a three layered, chocolate, creme patissiere and crispy caramelized topping. It has looked and tasted delicious for the 20 years that I've been eating them.
5)And finally, why not head out to Marie-Antoinette's old home in the years before it all went so terribly wrong for her. On the Rue de La Paroisse in the elegant town of Versailles, Gaulupeau, a tiny little tea-shop with room for a handful of tables serves an exquisite "Plenitude" - chocolate macaroons, dark-chocolate mousse, a chocolate ganache and crispy caramel.

Of course, there's Pierre Herme - I'll give him a post to himself next time

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