Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Friends, welcome to a tasting of my lovely Parisian weekend; these photos are highlights from the baked goods and pastries that I enjoyed. I'll write more on the stories behind my experiences at another time, but I just wanted to give you un petit goûter of my companions on this mini-vacation.
This first photo was of some wonderful macarons that I ate while lazing in the sun for three hours on the Champs de Mars. Left to right, we have caramel flavored with fleur de sel, chocolate-violet, vanilla, and raspberry. The shop guy threw one in for free, which really made my day! French people were so nice to me on this trip. My favorites were the caramel and the vanilla, plus the pistachio which I consumed before taking the picture...
This is an individual-sized kouglof at Notre Dame. The kouglof is an Alsacian speciality; it's a flaky sort of bread-cake with a moist interior and spiced and well-sugared outside. I'm thinking bread-cakes are something new I'll have to explore - I tried a few that were drenched in syrup or other flavorings, and they still have to grow on me before I rave about them. I did like this one, though.
I'm not too crazy about this photo at Sacré Coeur, but I just had to include it because this is bread from Poilâne, called by my food guidebook the "Mona Lisa" of bread bakeries. Poilâne represents one of the first French bakers to revive the making of artisanal breads in the past few decades; it is a wonderfully-crusted, slightly sour bread with a marvelously textured interior. I ate it on its own, I ate it with creamed honey, I ate it with cheese. Yum.
Again, macarons, this time on the Pont des Beaux Arts, with Ile de la Cité (home of Notre Dame and more) in the background. Before this trip, I was a macaron virgin - something I did not want to admit to foodies. But now that I have eaten my first macarons from Pierre Hermé, I am ashamed no more. They were by far my favorite eats of the trip (hence the first picture at the Eiffel Tower, which were my second purchase of macarons). I have never eaten anything so amazing. Somehow the meringue halves are just crusty enough on the outside to hold things together, but give away delicately to a slightly chewy but soft and then ecstatically creamy center. These were even more delicate than the Eiffel Tower macarons (purchased at a less-renowned but still adequate bakery), as you will see by the slightly crunched one at the lower left - this from just having been carried in a plastic bag for a few blocks. I. Loved. Them. Clockwise from top left: vanilla, rose (my second favorite), bittersweet chocolate, and pistachio-raspberry (my favorite!).
One of the chocolate ganaches I purchased from chocolatier Christian Constant, pictured in the Luxembourg Gardens. This almond praline ganache is posed on a velum menu that describes each of the ganaches they sell, on top of one of the many green chairs available throughout all Paris public parks (a thing I love about socialism in France). Each of the ganaches was so smooth and melty...
And because I had to break the sweets up with some savory stuff, I got a sandwich grec to eat by the Seine - roasted lamb on a pita with some of the best french fries ever - in memory of my student days in Paris, when this was an expensive treat.
And, second only to the macarons, hand-made marshmallows accompanied me to the Louvre. Lightly flavored with rose and perfectly fluffy and chewy at the same time, these challenged my guimauve-making skills and primed me for my next attempt. I loved their uneven exterior and perfect texture with each bite.
I can only hope that my next visit to Paris will be soon and just as, um, productive.