For sweet fans who love to awake the taste-buds and discover memorable unique pleasures in pastry, confiserie and chocolate, rue du Bac is your address in Paris this week. Running until Sunday 21 June 2015, the Bac Sucré is the first ever annual event organised to celebrate the transformation of sugar by the famous artisans that have made this Paris pastry street become so special on the Rive Gauche.
Just before the official opening yesterday evening by the Mayor of the 7th Arrondissement, Rachida Dati, I made my way starting from the Rue du Bac metro, popping in to the first chocolate shops.
First stop, Pierre Marcolini. This Belgian chocolate maker is one of the few chocolatiers in Paris who makes chocolate from bean to bar. Normally I love popping in to the shop in Rue de Seine on my (previous) St Germain chocolate walks but for this occasion, the welcome for Bac Sucré was with Monsieur Marcolini’s unique and healthy “Cocoa Infusion”, which has taken three years to master.
It was served refreshingly cold for the summer, inviting a new angle on cocoa drinks. Although labelled as “plain” (the other version is subtly perfumed with rose), this naturally delicate but stimulating infusion is a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants that play a role in combating cell ageing (I’ll drink to that!). The addition of citrus slices and vanilla is a lovely touch yet in the background is still the hint of cocoa. The infusions can be taken warm in winter or in summer, infused in hot water and left to chill.
Update 2017: Pierre Marcolini’s boutique on Rue du Bac has closed but the nearest is still on Rue de Seine.
Don’t forget to taste Pierre Marcolini’s macarons, too; for the record, he also won the world pastry championships in Lyon in 1995.
Next visit, Chapon across the road at number 69. Patrice Chapon is another rare chocolate maker in Paris who takes the art of chocolate further by perfecting his chocolates directly from the source of the cacao bean.
I took notice of Patrice Chapon’s name ever since my first Paris Salon du Chocolat. Every October during the Salon, there’s always a queue in front of his famous Chocolate Mousse Bar. For amateurs of dark chocolate, how can you turn up a tasting of a spectacular 100% pure cacao Venezuela chocolate mousse? Or a Madagascar light and fruity mousse with a slight menthol taste; a Cuba mousse with a slightly smoky, underwood taste (hm – could I have that with a peaty Whisky, please?) or why not a rounder taste in the mouth of the light notes of apricot, dried fruits and caramel with the Perou?
Next time I pop in, I should pick one from the bar to take a mousse cone to go. Or it could be this deliciously gooey chocolate cake? It’s called VSD: Vendredi Samedi Dimanche – with a name like that you know it’s going to be special. It was another real treat to have Patrice Chapon there himself to take us through the tastings for the event with his lovely team.
Patrice Chapon explained his method of selecting the beans from across the world; from the Ivory Coast, to Ghana, to Venezuela, to Peru, to Madagascar (there are many more) – to roasting until he’s left with the cocoa nibs (or grué – very edible at this point, even if bitter, ideal for savoury cooking, in my opinion) then the next stage is spent grinding it down in his conching machine. This machine below is just a small version he uses on a daily basis but normally it’s on a bigger scale in Chelles, 20 km north-east of Paris – something I look forward to posting for you later.
Then there are the pralines, with the Agates popular with customers. His latest are on the same lines but are Smileys, with a crunchy, powerful praline of almonds and hazelnuts enrobed in white chocolate.
As a previous marketer, I appreciate packaging to show off and preserve the contents for high-end goods. Patrice Chapon has something to smile about since not only are each of his chocolate bars given a pretty nostalgic theme, but the wrapper is re-sealable in able to preserve the chocolate as long as possible for dark chocolate-nibbling squirrels like myself.
Roll on Saturday, when I’m bringing along Lucie to take part in one of his demonstrations during the day at the workshop behind the shop. (Call 01 42 22 95 98 to sign up for either 15h, 15h30, 16h, 16h30 or email).
Next is Dalloyau, just around the corner on 63 rue de Grenelle. For the event, the institution’s emblem reminds us that they’ve been around since 1682, as it’s firmly nestled into the religieuse heads of these pastries. Don’t be fooled by their appearance. These two are savoury! Not sure of the salmon being so yellow, but hey, I haven’t tasted it yet – for the next visit or tell me what it’s like if you get there first!
Continuing on rue du Bac, just on the next corner to rue de Varenne, is the new boutique of Jacques Genin. Known for his signature caramels, chocolate and exquisite pastries at the Tea Salon in Rue de Turenne, Monsieur Genin was presenting his latest daring taste sensations to add to his fruit jelly range: he’s invented vegetable jellies!
Admittedly, I’d already tried them last week with my friend, Francis. Curious to taste, we tried cucumber, pepper, beetroot and turnip. The cucumber is wonderfully fresh for the summer and fun on the palate. The pepper and beetroots’ sweetness were unearthed too but somehow the originality of the turnip just didn’t do it for me. As a Scot, I’m perhaps too stuck in my ways enjoying the humble turnip with my haggis and mash. For the rest of the tasting, you can possibly see that the green rhubarb jellies were suspiciously low on stock with me being around the stand…
Now, Monsieur Genin was definitely demonstrating how cheeky he can become when chocolate is concerned. No wonder he was posing like this for the camera when you taste his latest number! Ladies and Gentlemen, meet his chocolate bars with capers. I love the size of the bars rather than small chocolates, as the saltiness of the capers don’t come through straight away. There’s a crunchiness in the chocolate that makes it quite a sensation. I’m looking forward to posting more about Jacques Genin soon from his laboratory in the Marais.
After that wonderful capering around, on to more classic pastries at 108 rue du Bac. Angelina have created a raspberry twist to their signature Mont Blanc dessert especially for the Bac Sucré event. Normally crème de marrons (chestnut vanilla cream) is rather sweet but that’s what makes these pastry houses so special: they are not too sweet at all with just the right balance. Yes, that’s something to smile about!
The Godfather of the Bac Sucré event is Philippe Conticini, known for making the patisseries of dreams from La Pâtisserie des Rêves. This was his very first store at 93 rue du Bac. Now he continues to make clients dream of their sweetest childhood memories through his creations via his characteristic glass-belled boutiques around the world.
For the event, even the taste of his sweeties tasting of sweeties (bonbons tasting of bonbons) were childhood-provoking. A real privilege to meet chef Conticini himself, he was most sincere how he explained how the critic scene in the Disney film, Ratatouille, was a turning point for him and how meeting a group of Japanese tasting something so French and completely different to what they’d tasted before could evoke such déjà vu memories of something they’d thought they’d eaten before. “It wasn’t possible!”, he confided. That was the revelation: to realise he could aim to create that intrinsic pleasure of evoking delicious childhood. Sweet dreams, indeed.
I encourage you to head over to rue du Bac for the Bac Sucré event until Father’s Day afternoon on Sunday 21st in Paris. There are so many other boutiques to visit yet – I’m aiming for Hugo & Victor, Foucher, La Grande Epicerie and Des Gâteaux et du Pain (Claire Damon is the genius behind the patisserie, seen below) and Eric Kayser over the weekend.
For the full programme, follow the link below. And if you can’t get there, that’s my job to transport you there via le blog. Thank you to the organisers of Le Bac Sucré and to the wonderful chefs for making this new event happen and for sharing their savoir-faire with us. Thank you, Carol of ParisBreakfasts for spotting this last week! Loved making new friends too: Virginie, Charlène, Solli – see you soon!
Bac Sucré® Event
Rue du Bac
7th Arrondissement Paris
Tuesday 16- Sunday 21 June 2015
For the full programme, go to BacSucre.com
—>Next Editions: 15-19 June 2016; and 14-18 June 2017.