Paris pastry wars
While Paris' neighbourhood patisseries rarely stray beyond the traditional chocolate, strawberry and pistachio gustatory palette, lately the city's top pâtissiers have been engaging in a sweet competition to come up with ever more original desserts. Load up with your spoils, head to a Paris jardin, then decide for yourself who is winning Paris' pastry war.
Flavour of the month
A favourite new flavour is truffles – as in the pricey fungus, not the chocolate. Pierre Hermé, the so-called Picasso of Pastry, pairs white truffles with hazelnuts in the cream-filled macaroons that people line up for at his sleek modern boutique, a stone's throw from the Luxembourg Gardens. He's even done a foie gras and chocolate macaroon. The multi-award winning Hermé, who cut his sweet tooth at food meccas Ladurée and Fauchon, also hasn't been above using grilled corn in his Dune gâteaux.
Ladurée, which dates back to 1862, has a frescoed ceiling that is a replica of the Sistine Chapel, only with cherub chefs instead of celestial angels. The current pastry chef, Philippe Andrieu, uses truffles in his religieuses, the ubiquitous cream-filled choux pastry. But Ladurée made its name with macaroons, and Andrieu hasn't neglected 21st-century versions, including one with basil and lime.
Pastry guru Christophe Adam, now at the helm of Fauchon, has confected a zebra-striped éclair filled with white truffle cream for pastry modernists. He also makes the Madeleine cookies that launched a thousand childhood memories for Marcel Proust. But what would the writer say about Adam's sesame coffee-flavoured version?
Meanwhile sybaritic guests at the tony Hôtel Plaza Athénée can have room service bring them one of Christophe Michalak's thyme-flavoured religieuses. Perhaps the oddest flavour enhancer of all? At Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, pastry chef Jean François Foucher actually adds a hint of the hotel's custom-designed perfume to the blueberry cream he uses in his macaroons.
Pierre Hermé, 33-1-43-54-47-77
Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 33-1-53-67-66-65
Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, 33-1-58-71-12-34
France's first celebrity chef, Antonin Carême, famously declared architecture the most noble of the arts and pastry the highest form of architecture. If he were to roam around Paris today, he wouldn't believe how much pastry big guns have taken his words to heart.
Looking-too-good-to-eat pastries include Ladurée's flamboyantly purple violet-flavoured religieuses and Christophe Adam's éclairs, inspired by Japanese cherry trees, that are as red as a bottle of Chanel nail polish. Adam also wants us to eat sweet and chic on the run; he's created the Tout de Suite, an individual cake on a stick, and the Fauchon Club Sandwich Cake, with pink sponge cake for bread and with raspberry and pistachio instead of tomatoes and lettuce. Along that same surreal vein, Andrieu, who worked at Fauchon for five years before joining Ladurée in 1997, recently created a Dali-esque cake of red lips.
(Karen Burshtein, a long-time Paris resident, covers the European fashion front for the National Post and also writes for publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, Gourmet and Paris-update.com.)
We offer daily non-stop service to Paris from both Toronto and Montreal and twice-daily non-stop service from Montreal during the summer. Book now. Plus, take advantage of our great deals on hotels and car rentals.
Back to top