Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beautiful Food in Paris

In the life of a student, luxury is something that normally comes in small doses, so I have come to be very appreciative of the luxurious pastries that pass through my life (=mouth). The parisian macaron is of course one of those extravagant moments that I love the most, and while a few dollars seems like a lot to spend for a few bites of bliss, it certainly can fit an economical budget from time to time.

Pierre Hermé, my favorite macaron provider in Paris, is closed for another four days for their summer revamp (not that I'm counting or anything), so meanwhile I have explored a few other options. The macarons above are found, well, at McCafé, and I believe are only 90 centimes. I tried the caramel au beurre salé, and it really wasn't bad! I have had much worse from patisseries in Paris, and it turns out that McCafé gets their macarons from the same provider that Ladurée does, albeit of a slightly lower quality (more on Ladurée later). Quite the affordable, speedy, and widely available option.

The McCafé at the Louvre food court

I also did a bit of research into cooking classes here; thanks to David Lebovitz and Clotilde Dusoulier's fabulous sites/books, I was introduced to the affordable Atelier des Chefs. Some of their lessons are as low as 15 Euros for a class that can be taken at lunchtime, which includes the food that you make so that you can eat it for lunch. They have many locations and different classes in Paris - and other cities in France - so you can choose one at a convenient place and with a menu that you find interesting. I chose a class for 36 Euros at the BHV store on the rue de Rivoli which featured financiers and caramel macarons. Predictable, perhaps, but given the opportunity to take a class on macarons in Paris, I had to take it!

In the end I learned some valuable techniques from the class, and will definitely use the pistachio-confit orange financier recipe (and will post it in English; click here for a demo video and the recipe in French). The final product of the macaron shells, however, was quite disappointing - they were crunchy, and not as smooth on the surface as I would have liked. So, I will take what I learned and supplement it with the other recipes and techniques I have read.

The Atelier des Chefs kitchen at BHV rue de Rivoli

I finally succeeded in making it to fine chocolatier Pierre Marcolini's store at a time when they weren't closed for their long daily lunch break - this is the third trip to Paris when I've tried to buy their chocolate-covered marshmallows/guimauves.

Pierre Marcolini rue de Seine boutique

Some of the best gourmet marshmallows I've had, and of course the chocolate was excellent! I love that the French for these is "Vanille enrobée de Chocolat" - as if the marshmallow is clothed in the chocolate.

Of course, other beautiful things popped out at me once I entered the PM shop, so I returned another day to buy these macarons, which were not quite delicate enough, but well flavored and very pretty.

Mojito and Limoncello Macarons

And this bouchée of nougat and chocolate cream topped with crisp cookie wafers had me intrigued, so I had to try it:


I also made a stop at the nearby Patrick Roger shop, where I bought this caramel dome for a ridiculous 4 Euros, which I assume pays for the fact that it comes in its own box like a piece of jewelry (like I said, moments of luxury):

liquid caramel with a touch of citrus encased in chocolate

And my final moment de luxe this week was my first trip to Ladurée, the classic and classy tea shop that invented parisian macarons. As I have confirmed with my trial of their macarons and conversations with Parisians, these are good macarons, but not the best. The flavors were good, but the texture was lacking the magic of the Pierre Hermé macarons. Their shells were slightly too thick, and the filling in the middle not quite plentiful enough, so that the result was less delicate and less fondant in the middle. All the same, good, just not mind-blowing.

Ladurée to-go bakery at the Champs-Elysée location

I did very much enjoy the other pastries I got at Ladurée, which included a millefeuille praliné (praline napoleon) and an Ispahan macaron, which is actually a flavor creation of Pierre Hermé's: rose, raspberry, and lychee all together (which I had in croissant form back in June, amazing).

Ispahan and millefeuille praliné from Ladurée

But Paris on a daily basis for me has been typified by the wonderfully fresh foods that are all around the city in outdoor markets and even neighborhood supermarkets. My generous hosts even picked up pastries from a local shop for one breakfast:

And I have enjoyed this lunch on a number of days: whole grain cracker with goat cheese and fresh peach slices (see the caramel macarons in the background from my cooking class?). No complaints here! Gotta balance the rich pastries somehow.

Thank goodness for gorgeous weather to go running through the Parc des Buttes Chaumont!


  1. Lisa, you made an amazing tour of pastries and chocolatiers this week. I'm thoroughly impressed! It was lovely meeting you this week, and thank you for passing on some of your favorite tips on "edible adventures."

  2. I hope you find some of my comments helpful, and I hope you have a great time this week as well! I look forward to hearing about your own findings :).

  3. Yummy! When you get back to LA perhaps I could come up and be your sous chef while you try all these recipes again.

  4. What ? You were in Paris in 2001 and tried Macarons from ladurée only this year ??? Can't believe it !
    If you want it, I have a great recipe from Pierre Hermé for a chocolate mousse with black olives. Exquisite, even if Pierre Hermé is always too sweet for me.
    - Okay. Try also Mariage frères, for its wonderfoul teas (go to the 1st shop/restaurant in Marais, rue du Bourg Tibourg, and ask to smell some teas before buying one pack of 150g); They also make great sorbets au thé. A bit expensive, but it might be possible to take the sorbet away. But if you go for the sorbet during the weekend, you're gonna wait for hours; prefer the week (
    - And of course Berthillon ice creams, on Ile de la Cité. Flavours change with seasons. My favourite one is marron glacé. Maybe too soon for this.
    - La Maison du Chocolat is the place where French connoisseurs buy their chocolate (luxury, still).
    - I also like to go to Chapon. Excellent chocolates in wonderful packagings. i discovered it 2 years ago, when somebody who had lost his wallet in RER was so happy to have my phone call telling him I had found it. (it proved to my colleagues that honesty was still rewarded !)
    - Thanks for making me discover Patrick Roger. I have to go and taste now. mmmm...
    - Go rue des Rosiers in the marais and try sacha finkelstein's delicatessen (the little yellow shop). I am completely crazy with their green olives caviar. What you can do is order for lunch a sandwich with that caviar and venitian tuna. A cheap and excellent lunch. Their pastries are also very good. If you order Sachertorte, mix it with a strudel, I find it a bit dry otherwise.
    - The cheesecake from the kosher restaurant in rue pavée is excellent. You can take it away.
    - I have read a lot about "La pâtisserie des rêves" de Philippe Conticini @ 93, rue du Bac - 75007 Paris
    - My favourite patisserie in Paris is Gosselin, not far from where you read; just a few meters from Musée d'Orsay. I love their Lutécia, but every patisserie is great; They are supposed to sell one of the best baguettes of paris too.
    - Ex-aequo : my other favourite patisserie : Chez Julien.
    - and finally : this website could be useful (

  5. Hi Lisa,

    So we took the class and enjoyed it. Our macarons turned out much chewier that yours seemed to have turned out. The chef must have left them in too long as you suspected. I'd try the recipe again. My mom and I would also brown the butter for a less time which would soften the taste a bit.

    enjoy enjoy enjoy!

  6. so glad you enjoyed the class, and glad the macarons turned out better! I hope the rest of your week went well.