I literally stumbled into this sweet shop the other day in the 5th Arrondissement. It was raining cats and dogs and, instead of taking the metro back to Châtelet, drifted with the howling wind as it directed me downhill like some kind of sweet calling. The sudden sight of glistening jars filled with chocolates and bright pastel confections halted my track and lured me indoors. I stepped back in time like a curious, mesmerised child into this haven in Paris. It’s le Bonbon au Palais.
I remembered Carol Gillot of ParisBreakfasts talk about this sweet shop and its owner, ‘Professor’ Georges. Well, here he was in person, proudly presenting his range of the best regional and artisanal sweet delicacies from around France all under one roof. As he says on the giant blackboard, life is much more beautiful with sweets or candies. His shop resembles a classroom from yesterday, with Nicolas and Pimpranelle looking on (yet another story: Antoine and I dressed up in PJs as the children’s TV characters at a fancy dress party, only to discover that everyone else was in elaborate Carnaval of Venice costumes.)
With Brassens (another Georges) singing and strumming his guitar on the vintage radio, Georges opened several giant apothecary lids as he explained some delicacies while I tasted and relished in the jolly Georges ambience.
The Pierrot Gourmand symbols of the Comedia dell’Arte displayed France’s oldest lollipop, or sucette.
Georges Evrard created the Pierrot Gourmand company in 1892 and invented the first lollipop in 1924. It was also one of the first companies to envelope lollipops in printed paper. The milk caramel was the original flavour, nicknamed ‘Pégé’ for P.G. Pierrot Gourmand now sells around 140 million lollipops each year.
I’d already fallen in love with le Coussin de Lyon (chocolate ganache perfumed with curaçao) during my gastronomic weekend in Lyon. Here, Georges also had framboise (raspberry) and myrtille (blueberry) versions plus the Coussin’s sweeter cousin in bright yellow (top right), Le Cocon de Lyon. The cocon resembles the silk worm’s cocoon, paying homage to the silk-weavers of Lyon.
Barley sugars, jellies and fast emptying jars of salted caramels from Normandy and Brittany line the pristine, glossy white shelves.
How many times have I visited family in Provence but I never knew about the Calisson de St. Rémy? It’s not quite as sweet as it’s popular and brighter yellow oval Calisson cousin since it’s made with different almonds.
Mother-in-Law in the Vaucluse has certainly never introduced me to these spicy sweets, either. Instead she orders traditional candied fruits from Apt from the factory shop by the kilo. I’ve still got two kilos of candied ginger and orange peel left to add to desserts and macarons.
I’ll have to return with my girls and our pocket money. There’s so much more to learn about French candies. Meanwhile, I’m hiding my Bonbon au Palais bag under my desk like a naughty squirrel. Georges said these delicacies can keep for up to 6 months so all the more reason for me to keep them aside and savour them on the palate (notice the play of French words with palet/palate and palais/palace).
These Tas de Sel from the Loire (literally translated as salt stacks) and Tétons de la Reine Margot from Pau in the Pyrénées-Atlantique, (meaning Queen Margot’s nipples) are definitely for secret, special, oh-là-là moments.
Like this wonderful moment. I’ll tell you why next time, but meanwhile we’re finally off on that summer holiday we cancelled last year. I just need to taste another téton de la Reine Margot, just to ensure my chocolate palate gets the taste of orange and the Cognac.
Le Bonbon au Palais
19, rue Monge
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine