Edible Paris Cinthya Sopaheluwaken, Contributor, Paris | Travel | Sun, May 09 2010, 11:44 AM
For many, the word Paris no doubt conjures images of the Eiffel Tower, romance, haute couture and fashion. But for others, like me, Paris is a place where one can indulge in worldly culinary delights. On my last trip to Paris, I decided to design the trip around pâtisseries, fromageries, chocolateries boulangeries. The first and foremost pâtisseries I visited was that of Pierre Hermé. Hermé was dubbed the Picasso of Pastry, and his famed macarons are reportedly so good that it is obligatory to pay it a visit. The store looked pretty low key. I could not find the Picasso of Pastry rules here. The other Pierre Hermé pattiserie, near La Marche, was crowded in the afternoon. It was a chic establishment with a chic crowd. The first thing that you see in the pattiserie are rows of pastries and pies. Round pies adorned with fresh strawberries, thick chocolate squares, meringues, millefeuilles and assorted petits fours.
Next to the pastries are rows of some of the prettiest macarons can imagine. Macarons are tiny little round pastries made from meringue and almond powder filled with cream, ganache, or jelly between the biscuits, which make it like a sandwich. The biscuits are crispy, light and airy and the cream is soft. The origin of the macaron dates back to the Renaissance period. It originates from Venice, where it was called maccheroneor fine paste. Another theory traces it back to an Italian monastery. The modern version of the macaron was developed by Paris’ own Laduree pastry. The choices of macaron are plenty. The thin, crispy round outer biscuits come in a variety of colors and color combination. The pastry comes with quirky names like Ispahan, Mogador, Eden and Montebello, and they all have unique flavor combinations. There’s rose and raspberry, salted butter caramel cream, rose and quince, lemon and hazelnut praline, pistachio, lemon, dark chocolate and blackcurrant and even olive oil and vanilla. My personal favorite is Ispahan (rose, raspberry and lychee), Jasmine, a taste of delicate jasmine flowers and Eden, a combination of peach, apricot and saffron.
The macarons are a delightful treat, and every bite is a rich experience. They are expensive, but the rich flavor is more than enough to justify the hefty amount you spend for it. The next stop was Androuët, the famous fromagerie. Androuët was established in 1910, first as a crémerie and developed as a family business into a fromagerie. stocks up to 200 kinds of some of France’s best cheese. Inside are cheeses galore. All cheeses are grouped by region. On my visit, the attendants were helpful enough to help me tell the difference between cow’s cheese, goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese. One of the attendants helped me answer these questions; which one should I try? How do I match them? How do I deal with those smelly, stinky ones? What about those cheeses wrapped in leaves? I ended up buying a Banon de Provence (made from unpasteurized goats’ milk wrapped in chestnut leaves), a Pérail debrebis (a traditional cheese made from sheep milk in Aveyron), a St Marcellin (a soft cheese made from cow milk with a hard outer rind and strong smelling) and Tête de Moine (literally means “monks head”; a hard, cow cheese that has to be scraped off for consumption using a special tool). I told myself not to buy any more cheese. I was successfully obeying my own advice when I caught a glimpse of a bright orange cheese in a fromagerie somewhere in rue Cler. Seductively named mimolette, its outer rind was coarse and shaped like a cantaloupe. As soon as I got home, I grabbed my cheese bible by Steve Jenkins and discovered that it was an attempt to imitate the Dutch Edam. It does taste waxy and dry, much like the Dutch’s oude kaas.
One of Paris’ gems that can’t be missed is Maison du Chocolate on the corner of rue Pierre Charon and rue François 1er. Once I was inside the establishment, I ordered a cup of hot chocolate, the house’s specialty. It was served in a cup adorned with a chocolate colored rim. There’s extra chocolate in a small jug and whipped cream in a small cup. The taste was so rich and it took me a while to get used to the thick consistency. I savored it bit by bit to appreciate the complexity of its flavor. It felt right, not too sweet or too bitter. After this, drinking chocolate will never be the same again. My last stop of the day was the famous boulangerie Poilâne. in 1932, the boulangerie is located in the vicinity of a hostel where I stayed on the rue du Cherche Midi. It’s a rather small, rustic brick building; its walls are covered with golden bread loafs. And as I approached, the smell of fresh bread was divine. It easily soothed my frustration from finding the place. Poilâne sourdough bread is made from sourdough ferment, stoneground flour and Guarande sea salt – all hand-molded into the famous loaf. It’s round and crispy, with a crunchy outer rind and a moist, slightly acidic inside. Aside from the sourdough loaf, they also have country loaf, rye loaf, walnut loaf, rye bread and raisin bread. I bought one sourdough loaf, and you only need to put butter on it to make it a delicacy. I also bought a box of the store’s favorites, called punitions. There’s nothing punishing about them as they are just small butter cookies made from flour, sugar and eggs. They’re the perfect company for tea, or to nibble on while sitting in Jardin des Tuileries watching Parisians walk by. Beyond the Eiffel Tower, beyond the city lights, beyond all the haute couture, Paris is a culinary magnet. My short trip only allowed me to get a little taste of Paris culinary wonders; a hors d’oeuvres of the very best of Paris, which left me still hungry for more. Dior? Chanel? Non, merci, just give me my macaron. — Photos by Cinthya Sopaheluwakan Recommend
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