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Eating My Way Through Paris


ajgnet
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I really mean that I don't like his food. Nothing personal. Just that I still have to have something really good in any Ducasse's establishment. I am open to arm twisting, though.

I am a big big fan of Senderens. Lucas Carton under Frédéric Robert is my top restaurant ever. I can remember seven totally marvellous meals there, sophisticated and brutal, eye-closing, lifechanging.

I never had the full Jamin Robuchon experience, but I am a fan of some Atelier dishes like the merlan or the ris de veau. And I was a big fan of Benoit Guichard's Jamin and I am a big fan of Briffard at Les Elysées.

To go further, my reference other than Senderens is Loiseau.

You?

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42 rue Jacob, 6th for some of the best croissants in Paris

I took a little trip here yesterday for breakfast. What an excellent croissant. I'm hoping to return tomorrow bright and early for some warm pastries.

Does anyone have any other pâtisserie recommendations in the 6th ?

In the meantime, I'm typing up my thoughts of my recent Alain Ducasse dinner. A bit disappointing. Thanks !!

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I really mean that I don't like his food. Nothing personal. Just that I still have to have something really good in any Ducasse's establishment. I am open to arm twisting, though.

Have the Cepe Risotto at Le Louis XV - the best risotto dish on the planet (although, it is Cerruti's recipe.) :biggrin: Also, the wood pidgen IS fantastic...

I am a big big fan of Senderens. Lucas Carton under Frédéric Robert is my top restaurant ever. I can remember seven totally marvellous meals there, sophisticated and brutal, eye-closing, lifechanging.

Agree completely. Senderens was my favorite Parisian chef in the 1980's.

I never had the full Jamin Robuchon experience, but I am a fan of some Atelier dishes like the merlan or the ris de veau. And I was a big fan of Benoit Guichard's Jamin and I am a big fan of Briffard at Les Elysées.

To go further, my reference other than Senderens is Loiseau.

You?

Again, agree completely. To be more specific, my joy in eating at Le Louis XV is as much due to Cerruti as Ducasse. And, the desserts, cheeses, breads, and coffees are just great.

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Guy Savoy

18, Rue Troyon

Photos available here.

After taking a look at Guy Savoy’s autumn menu, full chestnuts, squash, and truffles, I knew I had to take a little trip over to the 17th for some seasonal indulgence. The restaurant is situated at the dead end of Rue Troyon, an arm’s reach away from the Arc de Triomphe. For those who are daring enough to drive there’s even valet parking, or at least a uniformed guy who looks like like he’d park your car and actually return it. Despite arriving nearly forty-five minutes early, I was promptly seated without hesitation to begin a five hour meal that would ultimately leave me disenchanted.

The restaurant itself is divided into several small rooms, making the atmosphere a bit quieter and comfortable. Due to the size of the rooms, there were no middle tables: everyone had a wall. The decor was modern, with multicolored glasses, plates, and miniature butter cups making each table a bit more fun. The ceiling of the room in which I ate had a faux skylight, illuminated by a blue-tinted fluorescent light mimicking end-of-the-day sunlight. The ambience was a bit more light and jovial than I would have expected from a Michelin three star restaurant, which was refreshing. I started with a glass of champagne and began to slowly peruse the menu.

Glancing through the menu, there were several dishes that caught my eye; particularly, tout châtaigne, an all chestnut soup and turbot et champignons à la mode d’automne, turbot and seasonal autumn mushrooms. I knew I had to try soup d’artichaut à la truffe noire, perhaps Chef Savoy’s most famous dish, despite the off-seasonality. Decisions, decisions. There was a tasting menu, “Le Menu Prestige,” but there were several dishes that I would have wanted to substitute (veau cuit lentement en bouillon, quelques racines en compote et champignons de bois, slowly cooked veal with a vegetable root compote and wild mushrooms, and poêlé de moules et mousserons, jus “terre et mer,” a poêlé of mussels and foam with a “land and sea” sauce to name two). But then, my hands accidentally flipped over the page where I saw a very special menu, “Couleurs, Textures et Saveurs,” an 11-course extended tasting that featured every dish I wanted to try, without any substitutions necessary. Done!

The restaurant had quite an extensive selection of bread, over 15 types, in fact. Country, whole wheat, olive, raisin, almond, sourdough, chestnut, and rye, to name a few. The breads, most impressively, came in such interesting shapes and sizes. One of which was a gigantic ring with stegasaurus-like spikes. I really wanted to try that one; but it didn’t seem to be available for cutting.

The first amuse bouche was truffled foie gras pâte and “toast” served on a skewer. The toast had indeed been toasted; but it was at room temperature by the time of service, making it more like a croûton. This hard texture was unappealing. But the nuttiness of the foie gras and the fragrant truffle oil certainly did jump start my senses. The second amuse was served rather creatively, a duo of chanterelle soup with a baby potato filled with minced chanterelle and topped with a small caramelized onion. The soup came in an espresso-sized cup conneced to an upside-down cup that covered the potato. I really enjoyed the mushroom soup, particularly the warm hearty consistency, which was surprisingly dense with flavor. The boiled potato, on the other hand, was bland. A little salt could have gone a long way.

The first course of this tasting was L’Huître en nage glacée transparente, a single suspended oyster in a transparent gelée. The presentation for this dish was very original, a cold clear glass bowl sitting on top a bed of seaweed, invoking images of the sea even before the tasting began. Sitting on top of the oyster was a small piece of sea urchin, the shape of which was flattened due to the weight of the gelée. I was told to eat this in one bite so as to let all the flavors mix at once. This did indeed taste like the ocean, the cool gelatinatious texture of the gelée and sea urchin blending with the smooth surface of the oyster. What a nice way to begin a tasting menu.

I’d never tried raddish leaf before, a part of the raddish that is often discarded; but in the next course, turbot et champignons à la mode d’automme, turbot and autumnal mushrooms, the leaf added a really fresh and crisp contrast to the cozy olive oil mashed potatoes. This dish consisted of filet of turbot sitting atop a bed of olive oil pommes purées, surrounded by small wild mushrooms, rolled white radish, and white radish leaves. I really liked the firm texture of the turbot, which magically held its shape after each bite, when combined with the soft potatoes and crispy radish leaves. My biggest problem with this dish was the rolled white radish, which was surprisingly wet. The water from the radish began to pool around the perimeter of the olive oil potatoes, creating a stark temperature contrast that seemed a bit sloppy. That being said, it was amazing to me how much flavor could be locked into these radish leaves. The spiciness of the leaves added a bit of dimension to the turbot, both in terms of flavor, temperature, and texture. Overall, this dish was very nicely balanced.

It’s pretty hard to accurately depict how excited I was for the next course: tout châtaigne, or entirely of chestnut. For me, no food more powerfully incites images of the fall than chestnuts, except perhaps pumpkin and white truffle. I look forward to chestnuts every summer, and a big smile came across my face when I saw them on the menu. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed. This next course was three large chestnuts, a chestnut crème, and wild mushrooms. The dish was sauced table-side with a chestnut soup and foamed milk. The chestnut broth was incredibly thin, having the consistency of low-fat milk. This thin texture did not adequately support the firm starchiness of the chestnuts. In addition, the soup had an indiscernible chestnut flavor, and was much more reminiscent of milk than chestnuts. The chestnut crème in the center had a similarly dull flavor. This dish had so much potential.

The most beautiful course of the night came next, Colors of Caviar, 4-layers of colorful crèmes and foams stacked inside a transparent glass cup. From top to bottom, a truffle sabayon, green bean gelée, fromage blanc custard, and chestnut mouse. There was a lot going on here. I was instructed to eat all four layers at a time with my mother of pearl spoon. I enjoyed every layer in this dish except the fromage blanc, the acidity of which assaulted every other layer, particularly the truffle sabayon. The airiness of the sabayon only emphasized the truffle’s fragrance; it was a very intelligent decision to make that the top layer. Each layer utilized the caviar for salting which ensured that it’s flavor was not muted. Aside from the clashing of the fromage blanc, this was a pretty interesting course.

Next came the highlight of the tasting, homard bleu juste grillé racines oranges, blue lobster grilled for an instant with orange root vegetables. Let me start by saying lobster jus and puréed carrots is a wonderful combination, especially during the fall. The carrots were so finely puréed that they seemed to float on the plate, the flavor of which at times pointed in the direction of butternut squash. I do think this dish was a bit under-sauced, especially on the lobster tail, which seemed to dry out from the lack of sauce. But the lobster was timed just on the verge of undercooked, something I really appreciated. There was a random radish leaf standing upright in the carrot purée, which frankly had no purpose in this dish other than for variety of color; but the flavors of this dish were so rich, I just pushed it to the side and my eyes quickly tuned it out.

Following the highlight of the meal was also the low point, foie gras de canard rôti et nage de chou rouge avec choux frisés au raifort et moutardes, roasted foie gras in a broth of red beet. The foie gras was cooked for quite a bit of time, making the texture a little firmer than I would have liked and preventing me from tasting the creaminess of the liver that, for me, is one of its strengths. The flavor of the beet broth was too intense, making it difficult to taste anything other than beet. Similarly, the raifort was too strong, pummeling all the other flavors on the plate. The plate was also burning hot which continued the cooking process of the already over-cooked liver. This was no good.

One of Chef Savoy’s better known dishes, soupe d”artichaut à la truffe noire, came next, an soup of Jerusalem artichokes with lentils and black truffles served with a “brioche feuilletée aux champignons et beurre de truffe,” a brioche layered with mushrooms and truffle butter. It’s incredible to me the way this soup captured the flavor of artichokes, to the level where at some points, if I were blindfolded and texturally inept, I would probably say I were biting into the heart of a summer fresh artichoke. The texture of this soup was really special, hearty with just a touch of grain to remind you that this is indeed a vegetable soup. The fragrance of the black truffles were quieted by the broth, perhaps table-side shaving would have fixed that as I had a difficult time smelling them. That aside, this was definitely a very nice soup. The truffled mushroom brioche sure did smell nice, and the table-side buttering was kind of funny; but I don’t think it added much to the soup — it’s not like I was going to use it for dipping. As a little intermezzo, I was brought a small cup of truffled squash consommé, a rich and creamy introduction to the meat course to follow.

Last of the savories was pigeon poché-grillé, polychromie d’endives crues-cuites, a textural mix of pigeon poached and grilled, with endives both raw and cooked. This competed with the Colors of Caviar dish as being the most colorful of the evening, with the burgundy colored endives complimenting the rare game. The pigeon sat atop a bed of caramelized endives, which were incredibly sweet, a nice balance to the salty pigeon. The dish was drizzled with a few drops of parsley oil, adding forest green to the pallet of colors. Aside from the caramelized endives, which was definitely among the best preparation of endives I’ve had, the game was rather lackluster and the raw endive salad seemed misplaced.

Next was the cheese cart. Oh, the cheese cart. Unsure of where to start amongst this diverse selection of French cheeses, I asked fora small wedge of pretty much everything, minus a few generic cheeses I don’t particularly like like époisses and brie. Let me note that the table to my right, with only two cheeses, kept glancing at my two plates of 20 cheese with a bit of plate envy, or, perhaps they simply thought I was crazy. The highlight of this cheese tasting was the 40-year cave finished comté, a hard cow milk cheese with nuances of caramel.

Last came the desserts, prunes à la syrah, granité aux poivres and noir, prunes in syrah with a pepper granité, and dark chocolate sorbet atop a chocolate tart. Both of which left me rather unfulfilled. The syrah was way to overbearing on the prune ices, making it very difficult to taste anything remotely plum-related. And the chocolate could have benefited from a little fleur de sel, the presence of which always seems to make chocolate desserts more interesting.

The highlight desserts came along with he bon bon trolley where, as usual, I opted for one of everything. Particularly interesting was the raspberry cheesecake which was just under-sweetened and even a bit salty, to actually exaggerate the flavor of cheese. The texture of this was light and fluffy, unique for cheesecake. I also very much enjoyed a small cake of pistachio, raisin, and coconut. The small cake was mostly fruit and nuts using the bread only as a binder to hold everything together. While the waiter was working hard at the bon bon trolley, another waiter brought me a warm prune petit four that had just a slight smell of coffee. What a difference a warm pastry makes.

A waiter placed a lemon scented mashmallow in my hand, as if I didn’t have any say in the matter (I dislike mashmallows very much and this one was no different). One of the petits fours from the bon bon trolley had a hidden surprise on the bottom, which when flipped over, revealed the Guy Savoy logo.

I was disappointed by the vanilla and chocolate macarons which were very hard; but, I liked the cherry Madeleine. The Madeleine actually didn’t come from the dessert trolley, it was brought out warm from the kitchen. Again, what a difference a warm pastry can make.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Guy Savoy; but it was underwhelming. The restaurant remains so traditional at its core that it seemed afraid to take risks. A lot of the dishes were a bit bland and at times, frankly, boring. Some of the dishes, particularly the all chestnuts dish, had tremendous potential but materialized to be only fair. Would I return here? Absolutely; but not too soon, there are too many other restaurants in this city!

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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excusez-moi,

question indiscrete: how much did your breakfast bill run up to?

:)

bonjour mademoiselle -- the continental breakfast runs around 30 euros, including service and tax, which is what i would recommend.

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wow, it's alarming difficult to get a reservation at L'Ambroisie. the next available date for 2 people, giving no restrictions whatsoever (anytime, anyday) is mid-december!

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Pierre Hermé

72, rue Bonaparte

Photos available here.

Macarons are my favorite cookies. There's something very special and unique about the versatility of these texturally perfect special treats: light enough for a snack, fancy enough for a gift, yet tasty enough for anytime of the day. Is there any meal that wouldn't pair perfectly with a macaron? I certainly can't think of one. They even come savory, as seen with the foie gras macarons at Eleven Madison. You can only imagine my excitement to find out that Pierre Hermé would be along my walk to school, and also, ironically, on the way back from the gym. But so far, in the two weeks that I've been here, I'd always woken up a little too late and had to walk quickly to classes without time to stop by. And by the time classes end, Pierre Hermé was always closed. My nutritionist friend would be proud; that is, until this past Sunday, when I made it the day's goal to stop by while it was open, and finally taste the wondrous goodies Pierre Hermé had to offer.

I stopped by just after breakfast, only to see a long line of hungry people standing outside. I tried to convince myself that this line wasn't for Pierre Hermé; but that thought was quickly interrupted by the defensive voice of a macaron-hungry french woman telling me, "the end of line is back there, sir." What did she think, that I was going to cut? God ... who would so such a thing. Though people have been known to do crazy things while under the influence, of macarons. My stomach and I waited about twenty minutes before being admitted to this reputed macaron heaven. Upon entrance, I glanced at the extensive selection. This was going to be difficult. Carefully, I decided to get one of everything try a few things here and there that looked appealing. Since the weather was nice, and since there were no tables inside, my friend and I headed to the Luxembourg garden with our four boxes and three bags of reasonable amount of pastries to eat à l'extérieur.

We found a nice bench in the sun, and decided to start with the macarons, clearly, a beautiful assortment of pastel-colored treats. The first victim was the Truffe Blanche & Noisette, a glittering tiny cookie of white truffle and hazelnut. The surface literally shimmered in the sunlight, the sparkling film transferring to my fingers which soon became iridescent as well. There was quite a bit of crème in this cookie. Nearly a third of the cookie, perhaps more, consisted of this crème layer. This made the cookie somewhat dense and, as a result, a bit heavy. The first bite was indeed pleasant, the savory taste of truffle followed by a cool and sweet vanilla crème finish. But, while the flavor was enjoyable for the first bite, the excessive amount of crème became cloying.

As for the beautifully colored Rose macaron, it should be noted that I generally dislike Rose-flavored macarons. In fact, I cannot recall anything rose that I would willingly order a second time. This macaron was the exception. It was exquisite; essentially a light crème flavored macaron with a slight hint of rose petal. Its scent, paradoxically, was nothing of rose; but the flavor was there! It tasted as I expected it to smell, and it smelled as I would have expected it to taste not knowing that it was rose, that is. Frankly, this was the first rose macaron I've tasted that was not reminiscent of soap, a memorable feat in my book. This was the highlight of the Pierre Hermé macarons, for me. And, unfortunately with the other macarons, it was sort of downhill from here.

Next up was Infiniment Vanille, or infinite vanilla. It should be said that vanilla and pistachio are my two staple flavors for comparison, so I certainly looked forward to this. Sadly, it did not taste much like vanilla. I waited for the strength of the vanilla beans to kick in; but eventually, I gave up waiting. It was really bland, and I was disheartened. Additionally, and most upsettingly, the texture of this was awful. Despite having waited for the macarons to adjust to the proper temperature, the crème layer had a texture of refrigerated butter. No good; way too dense.

The fourth macaron was the Mogador, Fruit de la Passion & Chocolat au Lait, a melange of milk chocolate and passion fruit. The texture of the crème was heavy, very similar to cake batter -- way too pasty! That being said, the flavor was a balanced mix of chocolate and fruit, with the first taste being of bittersweet chocolate, and the second being the sweetness of passion fruit on the finish. This was not at all excessively sweet and, as said in the three little bears, it was just right. The cocoa powder dusted shell, while pretty, certainly did make a mess! But I can certainly sacrifice a clean shirt for some macarons anytime.

Next came my second staple flavor, and generally my favorite, pistachio. This macaron would be a little different, however, as the ganache was of white chocolate rather than pistachio. Perhaps that's what made this excessively sweet. The taste of pistachio was somewhat muted as this tasted a bit more like vanilla than pistachio. The green color of the inside was also very bright, which felt overly artificial. There was slightly less ganache in this macaron, which made it more texturally appealing; but the flavor was just too sweet.

I first thought I had accidentally purchased double pistachio macarons; but after the first bite, I was very quickly reminded that there was indeed another green flavor: olive. This macaron, titled Huile d'Olive & Vanille, was surprisingly tasty at first. Mainly because it tasted like essence of olive rather than actually tasting like an olive. But, this quickly changed when there was a solid piece of green olive in my cookie. What the? This flavor completely assulted any sweetness of the cookie, the acidity of which cut through any form of pleasantness this cookie had to offer. There was also a bit of a metalic aftertaste that irritated me. Eesh.

The final three macarons were up, and I began this countdown with chocolate. So thick! I couldn't help but think of a marshmallow-less s'more, a bar of chocolate placed between two cookies. Why was this chocolate so thick? Where was the crème? Where was the love?! This did indeed taste like chocolate; but it didn't taste so much like macaron. Too much chocolate!

Oh god, chestnuts. I do indeed have a strong attraction to chestnuts. The next macaron was of chestnut and matcha green tea. I was disappointed that they did not have just chestnut; but I kept an open-mind and embraced the new flavor. But the texture was awful. The pastiness of the matcha green tea weighed down the entire cookie, the texture of which was very similar to marzipan; only a vibrant green. Too heavy for a macaron, I think. The green tea flavor also removed the distinct whisper of autumn that chestnuts give. I couldn't consider the green tea anything more than a distraction.

The macaron degustacion finished on a higher note, with a Pléntitude Chocolat & Caramel, a dual-colored macaron with a chocolate top and caramel bottom. My friend commented that this had a slightly burnt taste, which I appreciated very much, as the combination of this flavor with the fleur de sel really grounded this cookie and prevented it from falling off the cliff of too sweet. Caramel on the edge of burnt, with fleur de sel, is a brilliant combination. The texture was still a little too dense for me, with a significantly thick layer of crème; but the flavor was wonderful.

Finishing up with the macarons, we moved on to the cannelé. My favorite cannelés are at Petrossian Bakery in New York. I do have a small theory that tap water drastically effects the flavor of cannelé, which could possibly explain why New York's Petrossian bakery has the most delicious cannelé; but, texture is also crucially important and somehow, Petrossian always gets that right. For me, the magical part of cannelé is the first bite through the outside layer, which if made properly, is chewy and tight at the same time. A cannelé should never be dry, and the inside should be so rife with moisture, like a fresh bread pudding. This cannelé was very dry, likely a factor of my arrival at the store in the early afternoon. The shell was crispy and began to flake. I almost wanted to take a spoon and scoop out the inside, which was indeed tasty.

Next up was the plain butter croissant. The artisanship of this pastry was very clear: a thousand fine layers blanketed together with butter in the shape of a crescent. Maybe I arrived too late because this was parched! Granted, there was a shatter effect; but I had to forcibly break this thing apart, with both hands! Pulling or tearing would not suffice. Ouch.

The almond croissant was a bit more interesting: perhaps the icing acted as an insulator locking in the moisture. But while the texture was a bit fresher, the distribution of almonds was a thin tube throughout the croissant, making each bite very uneven. Aside from that, the icing was wildly sweet, evocative of cake frosting. While definitely more enjoyable than the butter croissant, this was too sweet for me.

And now for what I believe to be the golden jewels of Pierre Hermé, the tartes. At least all of the three that I sampled were magnificent. Oh god. The first off was titled Désiré, what I believe to be a round pistachio-crusted lemon crème, layered with wild strawberry and banana compotes, supported with a lemon-accented biscuit, and garnished with whole wild strawberries. At first glance, this looked like it would be dense; but then, I lifted it up. Extremely light! The ground pistachio let me poke the outside without the crème sticking to my fingers, the resilience of which was much like prodding an ultra-soft marshmallow. Oops, I poked too hard ... looks like I get the first taste; oh well. What a pleasant balance of textures! This dish was carefully thought out. This dish was by no means monotonous. Each soft bite was sprinkled with the crunch from the pistachios and finished with the lemon biscuit at the bottom. There was no one particular flavor that dominated, the banana, lemon, and strawberry joining together. The bites with wild strawberry were particularly fresh, a reminder that sometimes nature supplies quite wonderful ingredients that don't need modification. Mmm.

The Victoria was next, an almond dacquoise crowned with a pile of fresh pineapple, mint leaves, lime zest, and coconut atop a coconut crème. My first bite of this was a reminder of summer, a cool refreshing splash of succulent pineapple and mint, with the comfort of coconut crème. Essentially, this was the piña colada of tartes, with a very balanced flavor profile: those black specks are not vanilla beans. It's black pepper. It sounds startling, I know; but don't hate. Those specks added a hint of spice that made this impressively more complex. It should also be noted that there was not a single dry part on this entire tarte -- every single corner was teeming with moisture. Another hit, in my book!

But, save the best for last. Isaphan - biscuit macaron à la rose, crème aux pétales de rose, framboises entières, avec letchis. This rose macaron was filled with rose petal crème, whole raspberries, and lychees! What an engaging combination: rose and lychee. But before we get to flavor, this presentation was visually gorgeous, especially the sugar "dew" that beaded on the rose petal sitting atop. Beautiful. The raspberries were flawless as well, and aligned perectly with the hollow-side down. It became clear very early on the level of care and intricacy that went into this. The flavor was also stunning -- a gentle rose crème which tasted like vanilla but smelled mildly like rose, accented by the crisp lychee and raspberry, with the ultra-fresh meringue from the macaron. Something about eating this just felt delicate and elegant, as if magnificence were edible. Amazing.

This pastry tasting ended on a relatively good note with the Kugelhopf, although candidly, it's very quickly put in its place by the one I had at Alain Ducasse. I thought this was excessively sweet, which can be seen by the excessive amount of sugar. In addition, this Kugelhopf had quite a few raisins, which only amplified the sweetness. It was a little dry by the time it met its maker, with the crust soaking up the internal moisture with each bite.

So, what did I think of Pierre Hermé. Did they have the best macarons I've ever tasted? Will I never be able to eat macarons from anywhere else again? Is it worth flying to Paris just to taste these treats? Do French people just do everything better? I would say no to all four of these (with an emphasized no on the fourth one). I found all the macarons (every one) to have way too much ganache: this is the Pierre Hermé trademark. Some people like it; for me, it's cloying and makes these delicate cookies too dense.

Some of the flavors were very original, particularly the white truffle and hazelnut -- I almost want to dissect it and remove half of the crème, that would fix a lot of the problem. As of right now, the best macarons still lie at L'Atelier, New York; although my pâtisserie list is indeed large and that is bound to change. I would, however, say that Pierre Hermé was much stronger with its tarte selection, particularly with the Ispahan. Were I to return only able to purchase one thing, the Ispahan would definitely be it.

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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Les Ambassadeurs

10 Place de la Concorde

Photos available here.

Since 2004, Les Ambassadeurs has been the home Chef Piège, the former chef from Alain Ducasse who grew up in the farming hillsides of southeastern france, which perhaps explains his strong devotion fresh ingredients. Located inside the Hôtel de Crillon, however, this is no afternoon farm picnic. The dining room, in fact, might exemplify all of what I dislike about the atmosphere of haute french restaurants: baroque and stuffy. But despite what I believed to be a relatively uncomfortable dining space the food, in all honesty, was brilliant.

While Versailles might symbolize the pinnacle of Louis XIV’s reign over France as a display of opulence, setting up a table in the middle of its hall of mirrors would probably be a bit uncomfortable. That’s how I felt dining here, as this room was laid, floor to ceiling, with marble accentuated by gold leaf molding. There were countless mirrors, each of which making the already large room feel even larger. There was no carpet, or really anything else that might have warmed this room’s coldness. Everything felt hard and cold, especially with the echos that spilled in from the adjacent hotel lobby. It was like eating in a grandiose hallway. Beautiful, indeed; just not for a restaurant. Perhaps this room was better suited for purgatory a hotel lobby or large public space as it lacks intimacy.

Things started off sky high with a remarkable amuse bouche titled sur l’idée d’un plateau télé, platter of five small appetizers on a tray resembling a TV dinner. The serving of this course started with my waiter wheeling over a cart of an iced canister and small cups, the waiter then proceeding to spray carbonated carrot purée and lemonade into a small glass. The rest of these treats were placed on a tray which seemed perfectly designed for this purpose. The other amuses included Gâteau de foie blond selon Lucien Tendret version 2007, a beautifully layered glass of foie gras royale, émulsion de foie gras, and jus d’écrevisses (crayfish). This was the best part of the amuse selection. The warm creamy foie gras royale crowned by the cooler foie gras foam, a textural and temperature mix that indisputably awakened my taste buds. Some of the other items included a cromequis d’une pizza, a small pizza-flavored croquette which did indeed taste like pizza, the liquid contents spilling in my mouth with a single bite. There was also a variation croustillante d’un jambon et fromage, a sweet pastry cylinder filled with a ham and cheese crème. Very delicious, particularly the crêpe-like sweetness of the shell and the saltiness of the ham. Last was a wrapped bon bon of beurre de truffe noire à tartiner, a black truffle butter designed to be spread on the three loaves of bread placed besides me. Not like I accidentally ate this in one bite forgetting that it was butter for the bread; but, the wrapper could, potentially, be a bit deceiving.

The momentum continued with the next course, langoustines and caviar: croustillantes, sushi, bouillon, and with golden Iranian caviar. Some say this is Chef Piège’s signature dish. The diversity of this plate was incredibly well-thought out, each preparation equally impressive. The langoustine croustillante was a large langoustine tail encrusted in a langoustine-flavored dough, much like ultra-thin strips of tempura. These crispy strips were ultra thin, allowing for the juicy crustacean to retain its moisture rather than absorb it. They were also slightly salted, further bringing out the natural shellfish flavor. Despite being deep fried there was, remarkably, very little oil and this was by no means greasy, a parallel to some of Japan’s finest tempura houses. It should be noted that the juiciness of this mollusk, perfectly hovering on the cooked-raw boundary, nearly gave me a shiver. Incredible. The bouillon had a very concentrated langoustine flavor. And while this was a thin soup, the small portioning and dollop of caviar and crème in the center kept it interesting. This was the lesser of the four variations of shellfish; but it was still very good. The third preparation was the sushi, raw langoustines wrapped with thin slices of cucumber and topped with caviar. A very simple preparation, the naturalness of which suggests chef Piège’s modesty as a chef, unafraid to let high quality ingredients stand out on their own. The freshness of the cucumber really contrasted nicely against the other preparations. Very fresh. Last, but certainly not least, was the bowl of caviar with a pleasantly salty finish.

The first main course was the turbot two considerable portions of fish wrapped in a galette de Bretagne, a cookie-like pastry with a slight sweetness. This galette drew in moisture from the fish, making it slightly soft but by no means soggy — this cookie stayed crisp! In many ways, the galette was as a second-skin for the skinned fish, one that was slightly sweeter and more attractive than the original. It even had wafer-scales. Surrounding these turbot pillars was a coquillage of giant clam and green herbs, the more salty oceanic component to this already texturally diverse dish. It should be noted that the parsley leaves garnishing this dish are by no means raw and have been candied in sugar, maintaining their green crispy appearance from a quick blanching. The fish itself was succulent, and the mélange items surrounding this plate prevented this generous portions of fish from becoming monotonous.

While this meal was progressing really nicely, this next course is what really stole the show and remains such a memorable preparation of sweetbreads. These ris de veau were prepared three ways, lait blanc, brun, and spaghetti carbonara. Michael Mina would have been proud. The first thing that struck me was the variety of colors and preparation for this single ingredient. What a beautiful plate: a heavenly spectrum of sweetbreads, the sauces melding together into a colorful gradient of flavor. There was also a gradient of textures, with the most crispy croustillante on the left, the semi-crispy carbonara with a crouistillante topping, all the way to the soft and rich white milk. The croustillante preparation was perhaps the lesser of the three, a creamy oblong encrusted in bits of dough rife with clarified butter. The textural contrast was fantastic. To the right was the sweetbread pâte wrapped in spaghetti, a tribute to the more classical yolk-based carbonara, although Aaron was quick to point out that this sauce was startlingly white for one based on egg yolk. The line of ham flavored brittle sitting atop deftly kept this dish texturally interesting and diverse. And last, but certainly not least, was the white milk. Oh god. This rendition was spectacular; but certainly not for those trying to save a few calories. The velvety milk accentuated the buttery sweetbread, adding a slight hint of sweetness which was countered by the little circular bacon-flavored crisps sitting on top. Wow.

Following dessert came the cheese course, two large carts of cheese wheeled over by three people. Each cheese had an individual glass dome covering it which was certainly pretty; still, this did prevent any aromas from the fine cheeses from surfacing. I was still pretty hungry getting kind of full from all the food, particularly the heaviness of the sweetbreads. I selected five cheeses; livarot, Fourme D’Ambert, St. Marcelin, Abbaye de Citeaux, and Comté. I enjoyed the light caramelization of the 4-year-old aged comté very much, though it was not quite so intense as in Guy Savoy. Though, my host mother was quick to inform me that the correct pronunciation of comté leaves the “m” silent. The apex, however, was in fact the Fourme D’Ambert, an incredibly creamy blue cheese that’s relatively light on the tongue. I generally like strong blues, particularly Bleu D’Auvergne and Bayley Hazen; but this was really fantastic.

After finishing my cheese, I was handed a light popsicle of chocolate and almond coated almond sorbet, which cut through much of the cheese flavor left behind in my mouth from the previous course. Nothing particularly interesting; but I did feel surprisingly fresh afterwards.

Next up at Per Se The French Laundry was a selection of mignardises which, starting from the bottom up, included a biscuit moelleux sangria et noisette, a selection of quite a few macarons pomme Granny, as well as miniature pastries described as paille d’or framboise. Even though I sent it back empty, this silver mignardise container was startlingly heavy. It’s always a good sign in my book when I have to handle macarons carefully, which was the case with these granny smith apple treats. The top and bottom meringue layers began to slide around each time I lifted one, a sign of their freshness. The tart apple flavor with slightly grainy texture was surprisingly nice, too. I didn’t much like sangria and hazelnut cookies, that flavor combination seemed a little off to me. As for the gold and rasberry pastries, very tasty; though, I would have liked to see a little more of a rasberry center so the flavor wasn’t so overwhelmed by the dry pastry.

I was also given a box of 35 dark chocolate truffles. It wasn’t clear whether or not I was able to take this home with me, so I finished all of them right then and there tasted a few and moved on to some of the other goodies. I will say that I was very curious to find out if all of these were the same and, as it turns out, they were. Surely an excessive amount of chocolate.

The next course, still before dessert officially arrived, was particularly interesting. A cup of miniature “baguettes,” with liquid chocolate and popping sugar. The waiter recommended that I dip the bread stick into the chocolate, and then coat with the bursting sugar. Definitely an interesting sensation in my mouth, tiny explosions with each bite; but the flavor of the chocolate was slightly disappointing and I ended up having my cracking sugar fun with just a spoon.

Alas, the dessert. And a beautiful dessert it was: a cylindrically-shaped verbina leaf sorbet with strawberry center surrounded by a meringue cage. A generous scoop of frais des bois was added at the table. The cage was decorated with gold leaf flakes which, visually, contrasted beautifully against the bright white cage and luscious red strawberries. The fresh lemon flavor from the verbina leaf sorbet added a nice hint of citrus with each bite of sweet meringue and wild strawberries.

After my dessert, in Japanese style, I was brought a hot towel to cleanse my hands before the tea cart rolled over. I’ve never seen this done in a French restaurant before; but I’m a firm believer that every restaurant should adopt this: a warm towel before and after each meal. This cart contained a variety of fresh herbs, my decision boiling down between mint and verbina, where I ultimately chose the verbina. The waiter cut the leaves in front of me and placed them into the pot to steep. About 5 minutes later, he poured a bit into my glass, as if I was tasting a fine wine, and asked me if it was “ready.” I opted for a few more minutes, I like my tea strong. This was a light and soothing way to end a substantial meal.

This was a marvelous meal. Chef Piège’s creativity and culinary craftsmanship really came through in every course. Despite the somewhat awkward dining room, it is indeed beautiful and truth be told, my attention was so focused at what was on my plate that I didn’t pay much to my surroundings. For all visitors to Paris, I would definitely recommend taking a visit to Les Ambassadeurs. I left that night with an enormous smile on my face.

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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I'm really enjoying your descriptions of meals in Paris. The food is so unlike anything I've ever had the opportunity to try. Your descriptions are so clear and thoughtfully written, I feel like I was there with you.

I would love to try one of the Rose-Litchi macarons - it sounds heavenly, and I love litchis. I'm definitely in the crowd that prefer a lot of ganache.

Please keep up your reports.

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Your descriptions are so clear and thoughtfully written, I feel like I was there with you.

Thank you very much!

I would love to try one of the Rose-Litchi macarons - it sounds heavenly, and I love litchis. I'm definitely in the crowd that prefer a lot of ganache.

Oh god, the rose-litchi macarons. Heavenly, indeed. The ganache question is really interesting; because a lot of it, to be honest, depends on quantity. Sometimes, I might prefer one or two ganache-heavy macarons to ten or twenty of the lighter ones. I guess it depends on whether or not you view macarons as icing-rich little cakes (in which case one or two is more than enough) or airy cookies (in which case, 40-50 a handful is a nice portion). I'm taking a trip to ladurée this afternoon ... that should be a lot of fun!

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Oh god, the rose-litchi macarons. Heavenly, indeed. The ganache question is really interesting; because a lot of it, to be honest, depends on quantity. Sometimes, I might prefer one or two ganache-heavy macarons to ten or twenty of the lighter ones. I guess it depends on whether or not you view macarons as icing-rich little cakes (in which case one or two is more than enough) or airy cookies (in which case, 40-50 a handful is a nice portion). I'm taking a trip to ladurée this afternoon ... that should be a lot of fun!

Well, one or two is all I'm sure I'm able to afford, so in that case, they suit me fine! :biggrin: If you had to limit yourself to , say 5 flavours, which would you choose? I've just found out that Pierre Herme has several shops where I live, so I'm going to try some for myself.

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Thanks for all the reports - it's great to read through. Ducasse breakfast sounds amazing.

Keep an eye out this winter for the premium Herme selection - I saw it advertised when I was there in Octoober. Aged balsamic, fig and foie gras, white truffle, black truffle... Sounds interesting.

And if you like Chestnut, I think Bethillon ice cream has a good version every autumn.

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Macarons: my strictly personal taste is the best are Gregory's Renard. But in any case, I recommend to taste them while you are in Paris. See http://www.julotlespinceaux.com/2007/09/di...-macaroons.html for more detail.

Thanks! I will definitely stop by. Judging from your photos, these look very tasty.

Thanks for all the reports - it's great to read through. Ducasse breakfast sounds amazing.

Keep an eye out this winter for the premium Herme selection - I saw it advertised when I was there in Octoober. Aged balsamic, fig and foie gras, white truffle, black truffle... Sounds interesting.

And if you like Chestnut, I think Bethillon ice cream has a good version every autumn.

Already on my calendar! These new flavors look fantastic, particularly fig and foie gras! But I am a bit hesitant to think that they will make the ganache center hard, dense, and thick like all the others I've sampled; although, this could work for more savory flavors. Nevertheless, I will be there to try! Thanks for the reminder!

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  • 3 weeks later...

And my laptop has died ... surprising that there are no apple stores in Paris! Then again, I suppose apples are more of an American fruit. Anyone have any recommendations of where I can get this guy fixed?

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Ladurée

21 rue Bonapart

Photos available here.

When it comes to tea, England and Japan regularly garner much of the world’s international attention. But to France’s credit, that doesn’t mean that tea cannot be enjoyed in Paris. Perhaps due to its role as a trading hub for Europe, or possibly because of its close proximity to England, Paris does indeed have a handful of tea salons, the most famous of which being Ladurée, which has been around for over 150 years. There is certainly a bit of pretense within the sit-down dining room full of mother-daughter tea parties and power business lunches, which is why I would recommend getting things to go. But that being said, the real specialty of this tea establishment is the Ladurée macaron, a heavenly pastry for which I have fallen head over heels.

I stood in a brief line at the St. Germain Ladurée amongst my hungry international peers, each waiting to bring home a box of happiness in the form of petites miniature cookies. There was a very impressive selection of macarons, over seventeen flavors, in fact. In addition to the macarons were rows of colorful tartes and tempting butter-striped pastries. Decisions, decisions. Thankfully, there were several people in front of me and I had time to mentally choose a few of my favorite treats before being served. There was no tasting menu, or any other socially acceptable excuse for satisfying my hunger, so I decided to create my own tasting: two of every macaron, three tartes, a millefeuille, two croissants, and a cannelé. Indeed, I kept it light this time. I decided to take the long way home, carrying my bag in both arms, fearing that the crowds of people on the main street would threaten the textural safety of my delicate delights.

I started with the rose macaron, two rose-colored halves of meringue contrasting against the pure white middle layer. The ganache had an ultra-light texture of whipped cream, making this the lightest macaron I’ve ever lifted. Despite this cookie’s floral flavor, there was no soapiness whatsoever – only a delicate flavor of the scent of rose. Sweet, indeed; but the airiness of the ganache prevented any cloying repercussions. This cookie brought a smile to my face after the first bite, the bright white ganache of the second bite smirking right back at me. What a pleasant way to begin.

Next was the staple pistache, a flavor that rests just in-between one-time inventiveness and daily satisfaction: I’m always in the mood for pistachio macarons. The color was just amid green and brown, hinting at natural pistachio color rather than the commercialized bright green notion of what that color should be. This cookie was only slightly heavier than the rose, perhaps due to the presence of small chips of actual pistachio nut. The ganache was still fluffy, a word that does not seem to exist in the world of Pierre Hermé. The flavor was strikingly similar to the ground pistachio nut, with a small hint of dulce de leche on the aftertaste. There was also a slight mention of salt, which made sure the sweetness would stay within reign. I could eat a lot of these.

Since my first two cookies were stunning, I wanted to follow it up with a flavor I have always hated, just for comparison. It came down to coffee and licorice, the latter of which winning because of its jet-black color and golden-green filling. Sit down for a second, please; because what I’m about to suggest might sound alarming. Ladurée’s licorice macaron is the single most delectable macaron I have ever tasted. I know how it sounds. “But licorice ?!” I was a bit startled myself; so much so, in fact, that I later returned and tried a large box of only licorice macarons for confirmation. Confirmed. This flavor is special is because it tastes more like chestnut or almond than liquorish, while still maintaining the winter cool fresh aftertaste of licorice. The cookie also smells like licorice. A strange discovery indeed; but, this was hands down delicious. A must for trying, in my book.

It seemed that intuition had been failing me, and I decided to randomly pick the next flavor: pain d’épice. This seasonal gingerbread macaron indeed smells like gingerbread cookies, quickly bringing to mind holiday imagery of turkeys, gravy, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin, chestnuts, egg nog, stuffing, sweet potatoes pine trees and snow. Unlike gingerbread cookies, however, this macaron left a tingling trail of spiciness, a clue that real ginger was in fact involved. This cookie was not too sweet at all, a characteristic I find pretty frequently in other gingerbread macarons. Also, for some reason, this was the softest of the macarons: I had to use two hands to take it out of the box as the meringue halves were sliding around – a clear sign of extreme freshness.

Praliné was next, and by the specks of brown in the tan colored cookie, I knew this was going to be good. And it was, having a slightly grainy texture – another reminder of the use of actual pralines. The creme center was slightly dense, like a chantilly; but, by no means heavy. It was a little pasty, in fact. For some reason, after finishing this cookie, the only taste left in my mouth was that of fresh pralines — as if I had just taken a handful of the raw nuts and eaten them. Nice.

Next up was citron, a brilliant lemon colored yellow that made me wonder what would happen if I took out my blacklight. The coloring was a little exaggerated, and certainly artificial; but the bright flavor of this treat quickly put appearances aside. The flavor was actually a bit sour; but the airyness of the ganache with the sweetness of the meringue made it less offensive. I probably wouldn’t order this macaron by itself; but, it served well as a palate cleanser midway between this extensive cookie tasting.

Continuing with the theme of fruit, framboise was the next victim. The ganache was more like rasberry preserve as in, certainly not airy. The rasberry seeds were left in which made for occasional bursts of texture as well as flavor. I thought this macaron was a little too sweet, the flavor being overwhelmed by the jelly-like consistency of the center. I’ve never seen a cream-based rasberry ganache; but that might be a nice alternative — particularly to make the inside texture lighter and less cloying. That being said, the freshness of this macaron caused it to literally fall apart as I began eating it, the top and bottom halves sliding around between my thumb and index fingers with a single bite for each bite.

Cassis was next, a fruit that, in France, is oddly ubiquitous alongside strawberries and raspberries. The color was a provocative purple, one that clearly stood out among the rest of the colors while not appearing artificial. The flavor was very tart. This was pretty similar to the framboise in that the filling was just too cloying from its preserve-consistency. The flavor was a little too sour and acidic for me, similar to eating a handful of raw cranberries.

I soon realized that it was time to take a break from fruit, and I headed in the opposite direction: chocolate. Ladurée offers two flavors of chocolate, chocolat and chocolat amer (bitter chocolate). I started with chocolat — a macaron that seemed as if someone had secretly snuck a chocolate brownie inbetween my layers of meringue … too dense! It was a workout even to lift it up, certainly the heaviest of the selection. The flavor was nicely balanced: a blend of sweet cocoa with a touch of salt, a combination that goes very nicely, I thought.

Following the chocolat was chocolat amer, the bitter chocolate version. At first, it was a little challenging to identify the exact differences between these two flavors; but, by the third macaron, they became apparant. The bitter chocolate macaron was much lighter with the ganache having a texture a bit thicker than heavily whipped cream. This macaron was also noticably less sweet, which would be expected. I’m not sure that I would order any of the chocolate macarons on their own again, mostly because I’m not chocolate-crazed; but if I had to choose between the two … bitter chocolate would be it. It won both texturally, and in terms of flavor.

Fruits rouges was next, a blend of red fruits that was strangely similar to framboise without the seeds with what tasted like a splash of shirly temple (grenadine). If macarons had siblings, this would be the little sister of framboise — most of the flavor with the slight textural difference of being seedless. This was also not sour at all, and was much brighter than the framboise. The texture was jelly-based; but there was such a thin spread, and since there was no tartness, it did not become cloying.

Vanille. Wow. This was, frankly, incredible. Before eating this light cream-colored treat, the first thing that struck me about it were the hundreds of tiny black specks of vanilla beans throughout. That’s always a good sign as it indicates the full vanilla flavor will matriculate, rather than tease. The ganache center was a little heavier than some of the other vanilla macarons I’ve tasted, with a texture somewhat similar to room temperature butter. But this was not at all a bad thing because it provided a sturdy vehicle to carry the rich flavors. The only flaw I can come up with was that some might find this a little too sweet — I did not. Delicious.

I eagerly await the day I enjoy coffee flavored desserts and pastries; because, this certainly was not it. This cafe macaron, indeed tasted like coffee and indeed, I did not like it. The flavor reminded me of the bottom of a poorly stirred cappuccino with sugar — very sweet, almost barable; but still, coffee. The texture was pleasant though, a spongy grey-brown cream with a slight graininess. The macaron smelled like the real thing — in fact, it scented my entire box of macarons with the smell of coffee beans. At the end of the day, I’m sure there will be people who enjoy this. It just wasn’t for me.

Something about salt and caramel goes together really nicely, and this was certainly the case with my next macaron, caramel au beurre salé, a beautiful marriage of the sweetness of sugar and butter tempered, and made more complex, by the addition of salt. The inside was sticky, similar to dulce de leche, which means that this must be eaten at room temperature or the inside will be too hard. Perhaps I would have liked a little more of a burnt caramel flavor; but I was impressed that this was not cloying.

I was intrigued by what seemed to be a vanilla macaron without the vanilla beans from above; but, contained a light green filling. It smelled a bit of citrus; but certainly not lemon or orange. After giving up on the flavor game, I glanced at the cheat sheet and discovered it to be Fleur d’Oranger, or orange blossom, the product of orange tree leaves producing something very similar to a citrus-scented rosewater. The texture of this ganache was like a light custard — light; but not quite whipped. There was no acidity or sourness at all, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say this had a bright flavor, it was sweet — almost like candied orange rind. It was interesting to try this flavor; but, I’m not too sure I’d go for it a second time … though I certainly would not complain.

Rouge Diva was certainly interesting, a mix of red fruits and gingerbread with the scent of chocolate. To me, this seemed to be trying to do too much at once, particularly because I thought the chocolate scent polluted the warm flavor of gingerbread with the candied sweetness of the fruit. The texture of the ganache was too dense and a bit pasty, which I suspect was due to the presence of chocolate. There was also a slightly carbonated flavor — hard to pinpoint the source, though I’m tempted to blame all things bad about this macaron on the chocolate.

And that sums up the macarons; oh wait, we have two hybrid macaron-tarte varities. Having been thoroughly impressed by what I believe to be Pierre Hermé’s most expressive creation, the Ispahan, I had high expectations here at Ladurée. But while Ladurée’s Ispahan was a worthy competitor, it did not stand up to its competition down the street at Pierre Hermé. Aside from the subtle differences, such the lack of a sugar dew droplet and the wonderfully fragrant scent of rose, Ladurée’s creation hid the presence of lychee with an overwhelming amount of sugar in the creme center. The macaron component was also a little dry, likely a factor of the tarte having been produced the day before. The presence of rose was also somewhat a secret, something I would have liked to be more conspicuous. Definitely a beautiful creation; it just lacked a bit of luster.

Next up was the Charlotte poire et figue, a pear custard tarte topped with slices of fresh fig. I admit, I selected this because of the presence of figs; but was ultimately disappointed. First, the figs lacked sweetness of any kind. While this might have been due to their off-seasonality, I would have liked to see them a little sweeter — a bit of sugar would have gone a long way. As for the rest of this creation, the texture got boring very quickly — it was a monotonous custard from top to bottom with a soft sponge base. Something crispy, perhaps a light tuile, would have been a nice contrast. I also found the flavor too light on the sugar, which became particularly evident since the figs were not candied. After eating this, I took another look at the title which reminded me that this contained pears. Aside from the light green color, where were they? I completely forgot they were included.

I was starting to get a little full, so I took a brief break to get a glass of water and a wedge of bleu d’auvergne. When I came back, the thought of fresh fruit seemed really appealing, directing my stomach towards the macaron pommes caramel, a caramel macaron with slices of baked apple. Unlike the caramel au beurre salé macaron, the flavor of this caramel had a burnt essence, adding a beautiful dimension of flavor to the sweetness of the caramel. The combination of apple and caramel reminded me of a candied apple, with two pieces of macaron so my fingers wouldn’t get all sticky. As a textural contrast, hardened caramel was placed on top adding a crispyness to each bite. This was nicely balanced, both in terms of flavor and texture. While I thought this was the best of the tartes, my only complaint might be the excessive size of the apple slices — the water component of the fruit absorbed a lot of the concentrated flavor of the caramel and meringue. While this did prevent the flavor from being cloying, I would have prefered that the task of temperment be left only to the salt — half-sized or third-sized slices of apple would have done this well.

Last for the miniature tartes was the St. Honoré, a light puff pastry made heavy with caramel and topped with chantilly. Unfortunately, this has an incredibly short shelf-life. By the time I ate it, about 30 minutes later, the pastry had already started to become soggy. The caramel acted as a water-proofing seal against the chantilly; but the pâte à choux was attacked by the inconsistency of the caramel — some parts were runny, others were crispy. This would normally suggest improper storage; but considering I walked home in the cold and ate it immediately after, it likely wasn’t a problem on my end. I was pleasantly surprised when I bit into one of the three small pastry spheres restingon top, each of which was filled with vanilla custard. There was a slight salt and burnt caramel essence, making this flavor nicely balanced; but, I found its textural faults too distracting. I’d like to try this again, at some point.

Oh yes, the millefeuille praliné. Aside from the obvious macarons, I think it warrents a special trip to try layered cake. Salt, burnt caramel, spongy nut-flavored creme, crispy sheets of pastry — this treat had it all. It was so light and delicate! Thin sheets of chocolate were replaced with praline, a much better alternative. I very, very briefly thought about sharing this with my host family; but, turned that idea down after realizing it would be impossible to divide. Too bad. Despite being at room temperature, the cool creme filling made this pastry feel even lighter than its already apparent weightlessness. Little crisps of caramel, salt, and hardened pastry were scattered throughout — keeping my interest with every bite. Awesome.

Strangely labeled a cannelé, this was more like a cinnamon bun with raisins then a caramelized bread pudding. But names aside, this would be a pleasantly moist and tasty way to begin a day with a cup of coffee. The cinnamon flavor was strong, and complimented the sweetness of the raisins and sugar. Despite being loosely rolled which, increases the surface area and exposure to air, this pastry was not dry, at all. I didn’t find this to be anything particularly special, perhaps because it was overcast by the strength of Ladurée’s other delicies.

Next up was a startlingly large butter croissant with which the butter stripes became apparent after the significant expansion in the oven. I’m not sure why this croissant was so large; I’m pretty sure it had double the calories nutritional contents of other croissants. While it wasn’t greasy or oily, the inside was very dry making it difficult for me to place it on a level playing field for comparison.

The highlight of the croissants, however, was the pain au chocolate amande, which is the most impressive chocolate almond croissant I’ve ever tasted. To start, the almond filling contained morsels of almond, making for a really nice texture. The chocolate was an ultra-thin strip adding a touch of bitterness to the almond without being distracting or dominating. Together, these two fillings tasted very fresh. The croissant itself was light, and despite having a thin strip of filling, I was still able to pull out pieces of the center with my two fingers — something I have never been able to do with any other chocolate almond croissant. It’s safe to say that I will be waking up early one morning, with the ambitious hope of trying one of these hot.

It is now clear to me that Ladurée has the best macarons in the world. Aside from an impressive selection of flavors, most of the cookies are texturally perfect obeying the perfect ratio of ganache to meringue. And while Ladurée did have some experimental flavors, such as pain d’épice and rouge diva, they still remained true to the simple flavors such as pistache, vanille, and chocolat. After sampling both places, I learned of the rumor that when Pierre Hermé left Ladurée he took with him his recipe for Ispahan, which confirmed my strong opinion that Pierre Hermé is clearly the leader when it comes to this tarte. However, in terms of macarons, it was perhaps a good thing as everything Pierre Hermé does wrong with its petits gâteaux Ladurée does right. I think that Pierre Hermé gets the macaron attention that it does because of the innovativeness of its flavors — which are certainly innovative — they’re just held down by the heaviness and excessive cloying quality of their ganache. That being said, I would take the texturally perfect but simple elegance of Ladurée’s vanilla or licorice macaron to any of Pierre Hermé’s creative flavors, at any time.

And in addition to the macarons, let’s not forget about the millefeuille and chocolate almond croissant which were also spectacular — the millefeuille having a flaky yet creamy texture with a beautiful flavor contrast of salt, praline, and caramel, while the chocolate almond croissant tasted so fresh, genuine, and true-to-description that I was actually taken aback. For anyone on a macaron mecca to Paris, this is an absolute must-stop and, despite prejudices, try the licorice please, and don’t neglect the millefeuille. And for those who pooh-pooh Ladurée’s macarons in favor of the shiny new ones of Pierre Hermé these people are crazy I see where this opinion comes from, and I respect it — good luck with that, I’ll be down the street.

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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Yes, humor.

He's a brilliant writer, having a fantastic time - eating his way through Paris.

I laugh and enjoy every morsel (if I could figure out how to cross that out I would)-

I mean I laugh and enjoy every word (no, cross that out too)-

I mean I laugh and enjoy chaque chose!

Philly Francophiles

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And my laptop has died ... surprising that there are no apple stores in Paris!  Then again, I suppose apples are more of an American fruit.  Anyone have any recommendations of where I can get this guy fixed?

France (33) 0825 888 024 www.apple.com/fr/support Now hurry up and get it fixed!

http://www.apple.com/fr/buy/locator/ is the search form for finding a service center in France.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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