Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sweet Teeth in Paris

A common sight in Paris: enticing pastries of every color and flavor
imaginable...pig flavored too?? (Click for larger view).
Paris is the home to Euro Disney, but I didn't have to go there because the city of Paris itself was  Disneyland enough for me--especially for my taste buds and even more for my sweet teeth (yes I'm pretty sure I have more than just one).

As I mentioned in the last post, I ate a lot of both sweets and savories and did not gain a pound.  Paris may not offer the outdoor sports activities that Hawaii does, but to see Paris properly you're on your feet a lot more than on your butt (although the most fun I had was sitting and eating!).  That said, many people claim it's not just the walking but also the fact that French (also Italian and Spanish) food is much healthier with less additives.  See below for a link to an interesting, yet embarrassing obesity chart by country.  Embarrassing for us Americans, but when in Paris, you can relax knowing you're in skinny territory and can do like we did (Reminder: Click on photos for larger image):

At Angelina's on Rue Rivoli near the Louvre Museum
1) You don't have to wait for lunch to have dessert.  At the famous tearoom, Angelina's, we had their famous hot chocolate which was dark, thick, and rich.  We each had our own little pitcher of whipped cream.  With it we had a huge palmier (buttery sweet flaky palm leaf) which was a childhood favorite of mine--anyone remember the old Alexander Hotel in downtown Honolulu?  We also shared a pain au chocolate (croissant-like roll with dark chocolate inside).  Charlie continued his Parisian chocolate eclair taste testing.  After this breakfast we were ready for the trek up the Champs Elysee.
Clockwise: fresh whipped cream, chocolate eclair, palmier,
the famous Africain hot dark chocolate, and pain au chocolat.

2) Before arriving in Paris I didn't know what a macaron was.  It's related to neither macaroni or macaroons.  It's an interesting "sandwich cookie" made of two delicate meringue shells (egg, sugar, and almond powder) with a cream, jam, or ganache filling.  Flavors are endless and creative ranging from the usual chocolate and vanilla, to the exotic passion fruit, rose, and licorice.  Being flourless, you could say they're more a candy confection than a traditional cookie.  It's easy to get obsessed comparing the macarons around Paris and finding your favorite flavor.   The consensus seems to favor Laduree as the best source for macarons.  After all, they're credited with being the creators of the modern macaron.

The famous Laduree macarons--they come in every color. 
3) Another dessert we sampled more than once in Paris was the profiterole.  It's not as exotic as the macaron, but for a chocoholic ice-cream-addict like me, it's just as good and much easier to understand.  It's simply a small cream puff with an ice cream filling (usually vanilla), topped with chocolate sauce.  Many of the cafes we went to offered this dessert due to its popularity.  Our first profiterole was the best because it didn't taste like what you'd expect.  Somehow the vanilla ice cream tasted different and the chocolate sauce obviously wasn't from a squeeze bottle.  I was happy to find that although the components were
This one's a bit large and messy...or possibly someone
got to part of it before my camera did.
"ordinary" to us Americans, the flavor managed to say "Yes, it was worth traveling for two days to get here!"   The profiterole in the photo was the second or third we had.  It's relatively large, while the first ones we ate were smaller (three on a plate rather than one large).  Susan, Jordan, and I devoured it before realizing that we'd forgotten to take a photo.  We waited in vain for the waitress to pass by with another order, but it was just as well.  Would we really have had the nerve to say "Wait!  Let us photograph your profiteroles!"

Fruit Tart from Le Croissanterie at Forum de Halles
4) One of my favorite pastries are fruit tarts.  The one pictured here was part of our first lunch in Paris purchased at La Croissanterie at Les Forum des Halles, an underground shopping mall.  The raspberries were so large I thought they were strawberries.  Like all of the desserts I tried in Paris, although the tart appears to be very sweet, it wasn't overly sweet.  This could be another reason we didn't gain weight there.

La Croissanterie, I learned later, is part of a chain of "fast food" cafes.  Brioche Doree is another similarchain that we inadvertently visited.  Thirty-five years ago Paris didn't have these chain cafes so it didn't occur to me that we'd been frequenting
 Click on this photo to see a larger version of the little pink
pigs made of meringue.
chains--duh! I probably would've avoided them knowing they were indeed part of a chain, but I think the food was still delicious regardless.

5) The best part about walking the streets of Paris is definitely "window licking" (the literal translation of the French term for "window shopping",  lèche-vitrine).  If you ask me, that's an appropriate term since so many of the shop windows in Paris pretty much make your tongue hang out. 

Patisserie de Sud Tunisian
Photo taken by Denis Prezat

The delicious windows are not limited to just the French patisseries, but to other cuisines as well.  While visiting the Latin Quarter, I found the "South Tunisian" (similar to Greek) pastries irresitible in the window of Patisserie du Sud Tunisian.  Again I neglected to take a photo, but found this online.  I chose something similar to baklava and Jordan chose, of course, a chocolate cookie.

6) Berthillon ice cream was born the same year I was and it's said to be the best ice cream in the world so obviously it was a very good year.  We went searching for it one day on Ile St. Louis.  On every block on the little island there was a shop selling it so we got a little confused.  We then learned that the original store was closed that day, but happily we still got to purchase some at one of the other shops.  I love almost any ice cream so yes, it was at least as good as Haagen Daaz. On any given day they offer over 60 different flavors which change with the seasons.  Check out a list of the flavors linked below--pretty amazing.  Unlike American ice cream, Berthillon relies less on add-ins such as candy bits--although they're not above adding them--and more on varying the flavor of the base ice cream itself using fresh seasonal fruit, spices, liquers, etc. And again, natural ingredients.
I could be wrong, but possibly the Cochon (pig) is France's
mascot or national animal.  "La Vie En Rose" is on the right.

7) One evening on Rue Montorgueil it was fun to find Jordan's idol Edith Piaf honored with a dessert called "La Vie En Rose,"  a concoction of rose ice cream and strawberry sorbet...and a pink piggy.  Naturally we ordered it for her.  Susan's dessert also came with a cute meringue cochon.  Well, the cafe is called "Le Pied de Cochon," after all! 

8) Research before, not after, your trip. On our last evening in Paris, I was panicking.  It was a Sunday.  I had promised Jordan, after denying ourselves a few days earlier, that we'd have "fancy pastries" on our last day.  I found several patisseries that I had hoped to buy from closed.  The French are not like Americans.  They actually like to rest on Sundays so most stores are closed or close early.   Just when I was feeling very disappointed, we discovered a patisserie open on Rue Montorguiel.  I didn't even notice the name of the shop since I was just so relieved that we'd found our "fancy pastries."  We chose a few to take back to the apartment.  Again, they looked super sweet, but oh my goodness, they were so incredibly delectable, I'm not ashamed to admit I was glad Charlie and Susan were too full to want any!
Pastries from Stohrer's on Rue Montorguiel.  The chocolate
one in the middle was a-maz-ing.
Now keep in mind that we had just two months to plan this trip so procrastinator that I am, I didn't get to do the research I should have.  I actually read more about Paris after our trip than before or during.  It was during this after-the-fact research that I discovered that Stohrer's is  the oldest patisserie in Paris and one of its most reputable...and located on Rue Montorguiel.  I ran to look through my receipts and sure enough, that "last resort" patisserie we'd found open on our last day was indeed Stohrer's!  It had been a blessing in disguise that the other shops had been closed because if I had returned to Hawaii without sampling Stohrer's wares, I would've been devastated, considering we'd been staying just a block away! 

I know there are a hundred other patisseries and cafes I'd love to try in Paris.  You can be sure I'll have my list ready with me if I am lucky enough to return to my Disneyland of Food. 


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