A Champagne Teatime in Paris

When the heavens open in Paris and driving Spring rain pelts on even the most chic of umbrellas, the City of Light always has a bright side.

On the popular Rive Gauche (Left Bank of the Seine), near the Sorbonne and Pantheon and just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Boulevard Saint-Germain, I’ve recently discovered a new quiet haven on rue des Ecoles: the Hôtel des Bulles de Paris.

Bulles de paris Hotel Rive Gauche Pantheon

This charming, modern hotel has a theme around bubbles. Happily we’re talking about my favourite bubbles: Champagne.
Just walking directly into the lobby, the welcoming staff is bubbly. Led (couldn’t resist that one) into the sparkling breakfast and tea-room on even the most gloomiest of days, the room is dappled in light with a very apt quotation from Louis Pasteur decorating the pastel walls:

Un repas sans Champagne est comme un jour sans soleil
A meal without Champagne is like a day without sunshine

Louis Pasteur

Les Bulles de Paris teatime lights

This new teatime brings back the sunshine. There’s no need for a menu since the choice is pure and simple: tea or Champagne – or both – served with the hotel’s signature patisserie.

To accompany the patisserie, two teas have been chosen by master of teas, Madame Tseng of La Maison des Trois Thés, nearby in rue Saint-Médard. Either choose a rather subtle black tea from Nepal, Makalu SFTGFOP 2nd flush. Tasting it on its own before the patisserie, I was trying to pin down the floral, fruity Muscat and rose notes with an accent of honey. It wasn’t until I tried it with the patisserie that the flavours came through, and could then see why it was a good match.

Teatime at Les Bulles de Paris hotel

For those of you like myself who love a more fragrant floral tea, then go for Madame Tseng’s white Jasmine tea, Xiu Qiu, from the Chinese province of Fujian. Even the hand-rolled pearl-shaped tea-leaves evoke the idea of bubbles!

The signature patisserie’s design had been re-modelled as an Easter egg nesting on strands of white chocolate, but the pastry remains the same: hiding inside the pearl-rose white chocolate shell is a Champagne jelly, topped with a raspberry sponge and delicate vanilla mousse.

Easter egg patisserie bulles de paris teatime

The real honour of this new teatime goes to the Champagne, selected by the Hotel des Bulles de Paris by Bocquillon: a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru with white floral notes, white fruits and a subtle hint of citrus, the perfect match with the patisserie.

Champagne Teatime Bulles de Paris

If you do opt for the tea and Champagne, I would recommend tasting the tea first and finishing off with the bubbles.

Champagne Bar Paris

Peeking inside the Champagne bar, I couldn’t help being drawn in to its quirky bubbly decor, and can just imagine finishing off the day after my chocolate and pastry walk nearby in Saint Germain with a glass of one of their wide choice of Champagnes in a bubble chair.  I hear another of their walls speak to me:

Start the day with a smile and end it with Champagne

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

Champagne Bulles de Paris flute bottle

The new Champagne Teatime is served Wednesday – Sunday, 2.30pm-5.30pm

Signature Pâtisserie with choice of two teas or a glass of House Champagne: 15€
(for all 3: €20)

Hôtel Les Bulles de Paris
32 rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris

 


This article is published on BonjourParis.com

Easter Chocolate Displays in Paris

If you hop around Paris today on an egg hunt, I promise you’ll be astounded by the immense choice of Easter Chocolate Displays.

As artisanal chocolate shops work flat out for one of the busiest seasons of the year, it’s no wonder that the French so aptly describe the term of window-shopping as faire du léche-vitrine, as the urge to lick the delectable displays couldn’t be higher. Who can resist Jean-Paul Hévin‘s sense of humour with that in mind for his Easter shopfront?

Hevin chocolate window for Easter

Already the choice of eggs in itself is awe-inspiring; but add to that the different-coloured chocolate hens, chicks, diverse other animals (owls, tortoises, sheep, cows), bells, and the fish that we typically find in the French chocolate boutiques.

Where can we start?  Before we get cracking with a sampling of Easter eggs (oeufs de Pâques), let’s start with the most typically French in the Chocolateries: bells and fish.

Easter chocolate bells Hevin Paris

Chocolate bells with golden fish at Jean-Paul Hévin, Paris

EASTER BELLS (Cloches de Pâques)

Listen carefully for the Church bells over Easter weekend: in France they stop ringing from Good Friday when Jesus died to Easter Sunday morning. After Church Mass, to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, the bells joyously peel around France as they fly back from Saint Peter’s in Rome, dropping chocolate eggs in gardens as the children are eager to hunt for them.

Even my girls (who are French) have always found it a crazy tradition – perhaps as parents we simply poorly described it – but imagine trying to explain to your kids that church bells had flown with wings all the way to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope to help everyone in mourning, then returned (with no hands) to hide chocolate.

The Easter Bunny still makes more sense, even if it doesn’t figure that much in France, but over the years, more are gradually hopping into the boutiques – such as these pastel cuties from Hugo & Victor.

pink chocolate easter bunny hugo & Victor Paris

Bright coloured Easter chocolate bunnies at Hugo & Victor, Paris

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CHOCOLATE FISH?

I’ve always been intrigued by the schools of chocolate fish in the windows.

Fish are popular for April Fool’s Day since in France it’s April fish or Poisson d’avril as the children’s chorus goes! If you’re any decently duped April Fool in France, you’ll probably be sporting a school of colourful paper fish taped to your back. There was one year I discovered that, after various not-so-discrete pressing to my back, I had been modelling a mobile primary school wall.

1-Poisson-d'avril

Eager to find out the history behind it, I  tried to go to a school of fish myself, rummaging around for more clues but the fishy story remains rather unclear. Various sources cite the most popular: it goes back to the 16th Century under Charles IX reign, who changed the New Year to the 1st January. Until then in France, the New Year started around 1st April and was celebrated by fresh fish to herald the arrival of Spring (following the zodiac sign of Pisces, perhaps). As not everyone was au courant or kept forgetting this new calendar, jokes gradually spread the custom of pinning fish on their backs.

A la Mère de Famille particularly has a huge choice of chocolate fish and scallop shells. Like eggs, many are garnished with yet more miniature fish. The smallest fish and other seafood shapes, called friture, often garnish the insides of the bigger Easter eggs or are sold simply in sachets to eat comme ça, just like that.

This year’s sample of fish can be found hooked up vertically in a line, lined up in a jigsaw pattern, or found randomly swimming in clouds.

Easter chocolate fish Paris

Chocolate fish by Pascal Caffet (praline), Jean-Paul Hévin, Michel Cluizel, Patrick Roger, and A la Mère de Famille

EASTER EGGS WITH PERSONALITY

As with outside of France, eggs are still the most popular at Easter and over the years they’ve gradually transformed from brightly decorated hard-boiled to more chocolate. Symbolising the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday with the rolling stone that covered Christ’s tomb, the rolling of eggs transformed death into life, bringing new life and fertility – much like a chick popping from its egg.

Many high-end chocolate boutiques, confiseries (candy shops), pâtisseries, or top hotels have created their eggs from simply chic, amusing, to popular characters, or impressive giant sculptures as works of art.

Jacques Genin has gone wonderfully wild with a vivid, brilliant lacquered look for his masterpieces this year. Otherwise there are his clowns, fish and hens to choose from.

Jaques Genin easter collection

From Far West Cowboys at LeNôtre; Peter Pan and Captain Hook at Gerard Mulot; to Mangas of Pierre Hermé (along with many others) – what about some cool scateboarding eggs at Dalloyau?

Dalloyau easter skateboarding chocolate eggs

Dalloyau Easter 2016 Paris

Looking through the glass, Pierre Marcolini has chosen an Easter Wonderland theme, complete with this grinning Cheshire cat. Or what about a box of mini praline eggs: including pistachio, almond, nougat and hazelnut?

Pierre Marcolini Chocolate Easter Wonderland paris

Pierre Marcolini’s Easter Wonderland

From Le Manufacture de Chocolat of Alain Ducasse, you’ll find traditional artisan chocolate eggs and contemporary designer hens – but what caught my eye is this original DIY Easter Egg box for you to fill yourself, complete with a white glove for that in-boutique chic experience at home.

Alain-Ducasse-chocolaterie

Henri Le Roux has dressed his eggs Harlequin style – and, talking of clowns, Arnaud Lahrer‘s major act this year is the Circus Chocolate with Plou the Clown, sealions, elephants, and monkeys. Eggs are also clowning around at De Neuville.

Clown easter eggs Paris

Left to right: Henri Le Roux; Arnaud Lahrer; and De Neuville

We’re totally in love with Paris – and eggs disguised in an amusing collection this year from Christophe Roussel, including Paddle La Baule and Udon le mouton. Incidentally, highly glossy sheep also feature at Edwart Chocolatier. You could say they’re ewe-some. Ba-ah!

Easter egg creations by Christophe Roussel Paris 2016

Photos courtesy of Christophe Roussel, Paris 2016

 

FRIED CHOCOLATE EGGS

You’ll notice a few fried eggs (oeufs au plat) around too, such as these smashing takes by Patrick Roger and Georges Larnicol. The eggs in cartons look real – they are: except filled with chocolate praline.

Easter Chocolate Fried Eggs Paris

WHY SO MANY CHICKS and HENS?

During the 40-day Christian tradition of Lent, meat or eggs were not allowed to be eaten. Meanwhile, hens continued to lay their eggs so by the time Easter arrived signalling the end of Lent, there were so many eggs to be used.  Many hens are garnished with miniature eggs, my personal favourite being praline.  And if you’re fond of praline, try Pascal Caffet‘s plump hens, “mini Pious” and pralines made with hazelnuts from Piemonte.

Easter chocolate hens Paris

From top: Jean-Paul Hévin, A La Mère de Famille Below: photo courtesy of Pascal Caffet, and Patrick Roger

HAVE A HEART

A la Mère de Famille have also created chocolate hearts filled with the traditional fritures pralines for the upmarket grocery, Maison Plisson in the Marais.

GIANT EGGS

Just imagine the Easter bells trying to deliver some of the more giant sculptures from Rome.  What about this giant 7.5 kg  (about 17 pounds) Oeuf Plume, packaged giant ready to be delivered at Les Marquis de Ladurée? It’s garnished inside with Les Marquis’s famous mini cameos in dark, milk and white chocolate.

Easter Chocolate Displays Paris

Easter chocolate collection at Les Marquis de Ladurée Paris

 

CLOCK CHANGE

Alas, there are so many more but this is a selection of my personal best Easter Chocolate Displays in Paris. But now that I’ve “wound you up”, don’t forget in France that the clocks go forward on Easter Sunday, so let me leave you with this impressive clock egg structure by pastry chef, Pierre Mathieu at the Mandarin Oriental’s Camélia Cake Shop – available from today.

Egg clock by Pierre Mathieu, Mandarin Oriental Paris

Photo courtesy of the Camelia Cakeshop, Mandarin Oriental, Paris

I’d say it’s time to call it a marathon in chocolate. I’m sure you have enough chocolate here to nibble on until next Easter, although I’ll be posting more Easter treats in Paris every day this week on Instagram and Facebook.

Happy Easter to you from Paris!


I’m thrilled that my article on Easter chocolate in Paris is on BonjourParis.com! Please pop in and say Bonjour…

Bonjour Paris Publication Contributor Jill Colonna

Complete Guide to Macaron Day Paris 2016

As our thoughts are happily turning to the budding arrival of sweet Spring, it’s time to get planning so here’s my Complete Guide to Macaron Day in Paris.

The official spring date of Sunday 20 March unveils the 11th annual Jour du Macaron in Paris – but this year we have a bonus: it will stretch over the weekend, starting on Saturday 19th.
Initiated by the Picasso of Pastry, Pierre Hermé, Macaron Day is a charitable event which is followed by the high-end pastry chefs of French pâtisserie throughout France, Europe and the World over who are all members of Relais Desserts.

complete guide macaron day Paris

 

This year, it has been a bit of a secret, and on social media I’ve seen, “It seems quiet in Paris this year…”
It’s rather the opposite!  I’ve been phoning around the boutiques and here’s what’s happening.
So let’s get planning!


Update 2 Feburary 2017: It’s the same this year, as so far nothing is yet mentioned!
However, this guide is still helpful for Macaron Day Paris 2017, as each year the same boutiques take part.

This year The Jour de Macaron takes place 19-20 March 2017.


So, how does it work for Macaron Day in Paris?

It’s that simple: One donation (un don) = One macaron.
Your donations go towards the association, Vaincre la Mucoviscidose – Fighting Against Cystic Fibrosis. Their volunteer workers rally around the Relais Dessert boutiques with their tins and each time you add your donation, you pick the macaron of your choice.
Last year the Association raised a fabulous €50,000 and so this year, let’s help them top it!

To assist your planning of the perfect macaron weekend in Paris, each participating boutique for Macaron Day is listed below as well as opening times. N.B. some boutiques are closed on Sunday.

Pierre Hermé

With a gourmet choice of 25 macarons, you’ll probably be glad there’s a queue on Macaron Day at Pierre Hermé, just so you can decide on a few.  Just look at this list below!
If you need my help, I’d recommend the latest flavours which are divine – such as Mahogany (salted caramel, mango and coconut); Vénus (rose and quince); Céleste (passion fruit, rhubarb and strawberry); and Yasamine (Jasmine, mango & grapefruit).  Or go for the classics such as Mogador (milk chocolate & passion fruit) or his Rose & Jasmine. I’ll leave you to decide!

Choice of macarons Pierre Herme for Paris Macaron Day 2016

4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
39 avenue de l’Opéra, 75002 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
18 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Publicis Drugstore, 133 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-10.30pm)
89 boulevard Malesherbes, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Le Royal Monceau Raffles, 37 avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 3-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm. Closed Sunday)
185 rue de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday 9am-5pm)
58 avenue Paul Doumer, 75016 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Printemps, Parly 2 shopping centre, Le Chesnay (Saturday 10am-8.30pm; closed Sunday)

complete guide macaron day Paris

Laurent Duchêne

With at least 15 macarons to choose from including the great classics, I’d also pick the more unusual flavours such as his Chocolate-Yuzu or Mojito macarons.
Update: Popcorn & Salted Caramel is a new flavour, launched as of Macaron Day!

238 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-7.30pm & Sunday: 8am-1.30pm)
2 rue Wurtz, 75013 Paris (Saturday: 7.30am-8pm; closed Sunday)

Dalloyau

This historical institution, on the go since 1682 from the original boutique in 101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, now has ten boutiques in and around the City of Lights offering a range of flavours of our favourite Parisian macarons.

For Macaron Day, Dalloyau are launching FOUR NEW FLAVOURS for Spring:
Damas Rose & Raspberry; Orange Blossom; Caramel Toffee; and Chocolait Coco.

complete guide macaron day Paris

5 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Bastille, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
2 Place Edmond Rostand, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
63 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 8.30am-9pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm. Closed Sunday)
69 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8pm)
Galeries Gourmandes, Atrium du Palais des Congrès, 2 Place de la Porte Maillot, 75017 Paris (Saturday: 11am-8pm; Sunday 10am-8pm)
18 Place du Marché, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine (Saturday & Sunday: 9am-8pm)
67 Jean-Baptiste Clément, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt (Saturday: 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-2pm)
21/39 rue d’Alsace, 92300 Levallois-Perret (Saturday 10am-9pm. Closed Sunday)

Macarons Paris Jean-Paul Hevin chocolates

Arnaud Larher

I love to pop into the boutique in Rue de Seine, especially after one of my chocolate-pastry walks in the Spring and Summer in  Saint Germain-des-Prés. Choose from the normal selection of exquisite flavours (Pistachio is good; and Café – infused Grand Cru coffee ganache from Southern India), or opt for something different, such as his Mille Fleurs (raspberry ganache with flower essence); Marrons-Cassis (candied chestnut with blackcurrant marmalade); or Chocolate-Lime with dark chocolate from Brazil.

93 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday: 10am-7pm)
57 rue Damrémont, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 9.30am-1.30pm & 3.30pm-7.30pm; Sunday: 10am-1.30pm)
53 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 10am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-1.30pm)

Parisian macarons from Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate

Jean-Paul Hévin

As I write, the pastry chefs are busy working on a special chocolate macaron for the event. What will it be, we wonder?  A double-coloured chocolate duo or a single cacao cru to nibble on? Watch this space – as soon as I hear from the boutique, I’ll update this here and let you know on my social media networks (see links above).

231 rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
41 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
3 rue Vavin, 75006 Paris
23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet, 75007 Paris (all 4 boutiques open Saturday: 10am-7.30pm. Closed Sunday)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussemann, 75009 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm. Closed Sunday)

Sadaharu Aoki

This Japanese-French pâtisserie is highly Japanese but I can assure you that the Japanese macaron language helps gets the ooh and aahs of communication going, macaron-munching style! Try spectacular flavours such as Matcha Green tea; Black Sesamé; Genmacha; Hojicha; Earl Grey; or I find this perfectly acidic citrus Yuzu macaron always hits the spot.

complete guide macaron day Paris

56 Boulevard de Port Royal, 75005 Paris (Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm)
35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris (Saturday 11am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Saturday 8.30am-9.30pm; Closed Sunday)
25 rue de Pérignon, 75015 Paris (Saturday: 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)

Christophe Roussel

This boutique, “Creative Duo with Julie” (Christophe’s wife) at the bottom of the Montmartre hill, has come up with the launch of a new macaron in time for Macaron Day weekend: Strawberry-Passion Fruit.

Strawberry Passion macaron from Christophe Roussel for Macaron Day

Photo of strawberry-passion macarons courtesy of Christophe Roussel

 

gateaux a Bord sticker for Macaron Day in Paris

Also created for the event by Christophe Roussel is this French car sticker, meaning “Cakes on Board”, with 3€ of each sale given to Cystic Fibrosis and it’s so clever, he’s trademarked it.

For other macaron flavours, why not try the Morello Cherry and Chili; Passion Fruit and Lemongrass; or Apricot and Lavender, making us dream of a hot, fragranced summer in the South of France. One of my all-time favourites, however, is his Cheesecake macaron – you have to try it!  On second thoughts, try them all.

 5 rue Tardieu, 75018 Paris (Saturday and Sunday 10.15am-8pm)

 

 


Enjoy yourselves, happy tastings and make a charitable weekend out of eating macarons in Paris.  Not only is it gourmand, but it’s all in a good cause.  Why not share your macaron experiences together on the MadAboutMacarons page on Facebook? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Macaron Day in Paris – or make yours the perfect Parisian macaron weekend!

Circus Teatime in Paris – Homage to the New French Film “Chocolat”

News is spreading in Paris this week of tomorrow’s release of Roschdy Zem’s new French film, “Chocolat”.

Chocolat French film Paris advert

Thankfully the shiny billboard’s image of a clown dispels any confusion with the previous film about a woman and a daughter opening a chocolate shop in rural France. Instead, this film is based on the true-life story of Raphael Padilla, nicknamed “Chocolat”, a former Cuban-born slave who became the first black circus artist in France at the end of the 19th Century.

Nouveau Cirque rue saint honore paris 19th century

Photos currently on display at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris

Historical Address

Most of the film’s story takes place at number 251, rue Saint Honoré – now the modern location of the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The hotel is proud of its prestigious historical past: previously a convent, a hippodrome, royal equestrian school then the Nouveau Cirque. The film centres round the renowned modern circus popular with the elite Parisians from 1886 during the Belle Epoque era.

Mandarin Oriental Paris plaque Foottit et Chocolat Paris clowns

On 20 January, a commemorative plaque was unveiled outside the hotel by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the “Chocolat” film crew. It reads:

“Here, at the Nouveau Cirque Raphael Padilla known as the “Chocolate Clown” (c. 1868-1917), born a slave in Cuba, and Georges Foottit (1864-1921) invented the clown comedy, associating the White Clown and Auguste”.

 

White Clown and Auguste; Foottit and Chocolat

It’s no surprise that the role of the more sophisticated, “sad” White Clown, George Foottit, is played by James Thierrée, a celebrated circus performer himself – and grandson of Charlie Chaplin. Known on film as a character clown, Chaplin wrote and directed the blockbuster silent film, The Circus (1928), considered one of his best comedies.

Clowns Foottit et Chocolat poster

Omar Sy plays the role of Raphael Padilla. Padilla was sold into slavery at age 9, then escaped to Europe to be discovered by Foottit when he was 18. As the outrageous Auguste clown, Padilla was known as “Chocolat” on stage. It’s a term that made it into French slang, as the expression “Être chocolat” (to be chocolate), means to be ridiculed or abused.
Foottit repeated, “Monsieur Chocolat, I’m obliged to hit you”. After being regularly duped, Padilla announced to his captivated audience, “I’m Chocolate” – a formula that would lead to 15 years of phenomenal clowning comic success.

Bento Circus Teatime Paris

Candy Floss, Clown Bow Ties and Red Noses

To celebrate the historical duo and such a glorious history of the Mandarin Oriental’s location, Thierry Marx and pastry chef Pierre Mathieu have created an exceptional gourmet duo together with their afternoon tea in Paris – with a difference. Be prepared to tickle your taste-buds with the “Bento Circus” at the Camélia restaurant and Cake Shop.

Three mysteriously stacked dishes gradually unveil a clown-inspired feast of nine entertaining treats for the senses.

Circus Bento Teatime Thierry Marx Camelia Paris

The three mini “starters” are perhaps savoury but with a Pomme d’Amour of fresh goats cheese rolled in piquillo pepper, sesame and parmesan, the first smiles are guaranteed.
An adult version of candy-floss has us deliciously tricked with hidden foie-gras, but for me the showstopper is the more serious mini tart of smoked duck, sweetcorn cream and caramelized popcorn.

Smoked duck tartlet sweetcorn cream and caramelised popcorn

The Auguste clown comes more into play with the next sweets on stage: a pistachio flowered hat, a crispy praline chocolate mousse with a lion ring – and a memorable coconut star crowning an exotic fruit tartlet that has me believe my feet have outgrown their shoes.

pistachio exotic fruit praline tartlets Thierry Marx Paris

As our charming server poured more tea from an oversized pot, he seemed surprised how little milk was used for a cloud of milk (“une nuage de lait”). No clowning about: for just a drop of milk, next time I’ll remember clowns’ tears: “Une larme de lait.”

At this point, it’s hard to believe that the show still goes on. The finale demonstrates an inventive vanilla clown’s eye, an explosive lemon bow-tie and an oversized red nose, concealing blackcurrant-blackberry confit and a vanilla-rose mousse in white chocolate.

Clown bento teatime Paris for French film Chocolat

Service is faultless: attentive, friendly yet relaxing – all ingredients for the perfect teatime of stylishly clowning about in Paris! And at 38 euros for such a prominent address, this celebratory Circus Teatime at the Camélia is great clowning value.

Bento Circus Teatime (until 31 March 2016)
Camélia Cake Shop
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré
75001 Paris

Tel: (+33) 01 70 98 78 88

Update: Winter Teatime at the Camélia.

This article was published over at BonjourParis.com


 

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to taste the Circus Teatime. I was not required to write a review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Best Galettes des Rois in Paris for 2016

The New Year parties may be over but there’s yet another gourmet celebration to enjoy in Paris this week. Just when it’s time to take down the festive decorations, trust the morale-boosting French to have a wonderful tradition of cutting “la Galette des Rois” (or king’s cake).

A giant puff pastry dessert filled with frangipane (almond cream added to pastry cream), the galette des rois is traditionally served on Epiphany, the Feast of the Kings (Twelfth Night), on January 6th or the first Sunday in January. The Parisians have such a wealth of patisserie choices that the Galettes des Rois continues in the City of Light throughout the whole month of January.

Perhaps best appreciated as a family dessert, the Galette des Rois comes with paper crowns and is particularly exciting for children, as there is a fève (“bean,” although now a more elaborate trinket) hidden inside the cake. Whoever finds the trinket is crowned King or Queen for the day but, so there is no cheating, tradition has the youngest person present sit under the table to announce each person’s name in the room as the galette is cut by an “older and wiser” person above. This could be fun at the office!

2016 is no exception to the creative genius of Paris’s pastry chefs, who have once again produced a spectacular line-up. I can’t possibly mention them all, although my aim is to try and taste most of them – in between copious amounts of soup – until the end of January. In the meantime, here are just a few ideas of the choices available from many of our Paris favourites.

La patisserie des Reves Galette Paris 2016

Photo courtesy of La Patisserie des Rêves, Galette des Rois by Philippe Conticini

TRADITIONAL

Most pastry chefs propose the classic version and many also offer other variants. Philippe Conticini (Pâtisserie des Rêves) loves going back to the classic gourmet tastes of childhood and takes the traditional frangipane route, with its classic hint of rum in a sticky puff pastry, as does Carette; I particularly love the trinkets with pyramids of macarons. Stohrer, the oldest pâtisserie in Paris, also simply goes classic and includes vintage metallic bean trinkets covered in gold leaf.

Breaking away from tradition, Gâteaux Thoumieux adds cinnamon and crunchy Speculoos biscuits (Biscoff cookies) as a topping instead of the usual sun-decorated golden pastry; while Jonathan Blot of Acide gives a mysterious dark look adding pecan nuts and adding a natural, non-refined sugar, galabé, from the isle of Reunion.

Not a huge fan of frangipane? Pascal Caffet just adds more of a hint of almond and presents his galette as a Couronne des Rois or crown, complete with a surprise pot of artisanal praline or chocolate spread for you to do some of the work too.

Galette-des-Rois Pascal Caffet Paris 2016

FEVES, BEANS & TRINKETS

If it’s the fèves or trinkets you’re after– (my daughter Lucie keeps a collection of them, although not large enough to open the likes of the Loire Valley’s unique fève museum in Blain)– many patisseries have joined with designers to keep collectors happy and some patisseries sell the trinkets separately.

For queens who love to thread through a collection of porcelain trinkets portraying the flowers of Grasse used by the perfumery, Fragonard, Lenôtre have a flower galette which comes with a mini vaporiser of orange blossom water, to spray on the galette just as it comes out the oven to reheat.

More for the Petit Prince type of King, Christophe Michalak fills his with rocket trinkets and if you’re looking for a crown with a difference, try the super-hero mask instead.

Gerard Mulot goes for gold with his trinkets designed by Simlucide in all of his six varied galettes.

For the curious gourmet, Cédric Grolet of Le Meurice surprises us with notes of coriander and the trinket is even in the form of a coriander’s outer shell.

CITRUS NOTES

Pierre Hermé adds candied citrus peel on top a fine layer of rice pudding for something a little bit different. Arnaud Larher adds a touch of lemon; Fauchon adds zesty lime as well as apple compote all in the form of a holly leaf…

SQUARE

Who said the galette should always be round? This year Dalloyau has a malted puff pastry encasing an almond cream elaborated with peanuts and cinnamon-poached pears. Also square and with orange notes is by Christophe Roussel, whose galettes are exclusively available at his Montmartre boutique only this Sunday 10 January.

CARAMEL NOTES

Actress Catherine Deneuve is also the queen of caramel: the result of her influence on Hugo & Victor is a svelte caramel layer to the inside frangipane.

Sadaharu Aoki fills his galettes with an ample amount of frangipane which, for me, adds to its perfection. This year he adds a caramel and hazelnut version to his traditional almond galette, and I’m happy he has also continued with his famous Japanese-inspired Macha green tea signature delicacy.

Angelina Galette Chocolate Chestnut 2016 Paris

CHOCOLATE

For the chocoholics among us, it’s no surprise that La Maison du Chocolat continues with their chocolate galette, but others such as Jacques Genin propose a chocolate ganache filling and chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin also tempts us with a Brazilian Grand Cru version hinting some candied chestnut. Chestnut being one of the signature Mont-Blanc pastries at Angelina, their galette also includes dark chocolate chips.

HOMEMADE

As if these aren’t enough, don’t forget you’ll find Galettes des Rois in many French supermarkets. Although Monoprix has an organic galette filled with open-book trinkets that could have you winning a diamond, I spotted many ready-made puff pastry rounds with Calimero trinkets to make your own version at home.

This is a recipe where I like to cheat and see nothing wrong with using good quality ready-made puff pastry; just ensure you use pure butter pastry. I have included a detailed step-by-step recipe for a Pistachio and Griotte Cherry Galette des Rois in my new book, Teatime in Paris but here’s a basic traditional galette recipe. The Galette des Rois is normally served slightly warm. Just reheat it for a few minutes in the oven before serving.

Pistachio cherry galette des rois Jill Colonna

My Pistachio and Griotte Cherry Galette des Rois from “Teatime in Paris”

If you’re in Paris this weekend, then a must visit is to La Galette du Coeur on Saturday 9 January, 9am-12pm in the church square of St Germain des Prés. Top pastry chefs (last year saw Eric Kayser, Hélène Darroze, William Ledeuil, Gilles Marchal, Guy Savoy, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Gagnaire …) will be selling their galettes in aid of Gastroparesis & Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction.

Wishing you a happy Epiphany, many Galettes des Rois this month, and enjoy being King or Queen for the day – although no cheating who’s the youngest at the table!


 

This article was published for BonjourParis.

Festive Paris Magic at the Patisserie des Rêves – 2015 Yule Logs

A touch of Christmas magic arrived in Paris this week with a tasting of not one but three new French Bûches de Noël or Yule Logs.  Launched by the Pâtisserie des Rêves at their tea salon in BHV Paris it was also a unique opportunity to chat with the extraordinary pastry chef behind them, Philippe Conticini and creative director, Thierry Teyssier.

Just walking into the pink pastry boutiques of La Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris reminds me of that enchanting scene in the film, Mary Poppins; as the family jumps on a carousel, wooden horses take off and they ride in the air to discover a cartooned magic kingdom, then sip tea from porcelain cups.

But imagine opening up a secret door into a delightfully real theatrical world – with oversized glass bells announcing an ever-changing line of exquisite pastries, giant pink spiral lollipops standing to attention in jars, with a pile of humped-back madeleines, buttery-rich financiers and viennoiseries all sitting on the counter. It’s no surprise that children are also the focus of attention here, with special goûter (a French afternoon teatime snack) days organised especially for the little ones.

Patisserie des Reves Paris BHV tea salon

Literally the “Patisserie of Dreams”, the unique concept of the Pâtisserie des Rêves was born in 2009 when chef Philippe Conticini and theatre and hotel entrepreneur, Thierry Teyssier (owner of Maison des Rêves), partnered their talents together to create the first pastry shop in Rue du Bac.  Over the last six years, the internationally acclaimed pastry chef and creative artistic director have expertly aimed at rekindling precious childhood gourmet experiences to create a memorable magic experience in pastry for the next generation.

Chef Conticini aims at awakening the senses by modernising traditional French pastries with his own magical touch of surprise to the likes of the Saint Honoré, Millefeuille, seasonal tarts and Paris-Brest pastries – all still his signature pastries that have global gourmets queuing in his boutiques from Paris to Japan and now in London.

Today Philippe Conticini is not only one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary pastry chefs, he’s also one of the rare chefs to have also achieved a high-level cuisine career in the savoury world too.  He literally grew up in the kitchens of his parents’ restaurant, south-east of Paris in the Val-de-Marne area, and by 1986 was co-owner of the Table d’Anvers until 1998, catching a Michelin star along the way.  During that time (1994) he was creator of the verrine: instead of serving dishes horizontally on plates, they’re served vertically in transparent glasses – a brilliant idea making desserts also easy to transport, now copied the world over.

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier

Ten years before the Patisserie des Rêves was the turning point when he shot to international fame while with Petrossian Paris. In 1999, while creating a café-boutique concept for the house in NYC, he baffled the culinary world with his unexpected dishes around a Caviar theme, wowing American gourmets. In the space of just 5 months after first being featured in Food Arts Magazine, news spread quickly of his immense talents and within only 18 months he was awarded a Michelin Star.

Today, in between being a TV star with appearances of the popular French equivalent of the Great British Bake-Off show – among others – he teaches the sensation of taste with ongoing workshops, and continues to revitalise the universe of scents, taste, textures, flavours, and presentation that generate that special Madeleine de Proust feeling of déjà-vous (or should I say déjà-goût?).

You would think with all of these credentials, chef Conticini would be distant. It couldn’t be more the opposite since for myself, it was memorable magic in itself for him to chat informally, demonstrating his modest sincerity, and willing to share in his most intrinsic form of expression through pastry.

Buches de noel Patisserie des Reves Paris

Bûches de Noël 2015

Chef Conticini stresses that his take on the classic Christmas Yule log is simple – yet his three Bûches have taken 2-3 months to prepare. It takes time to produce something so tecnicially complicated, he says, and that has to appear effortless, to as to remind us of the traditional French festive dessert from childhood but with that modern Conticini touch.

2015 Christmas Yule Logs by Philippe Conticini

Vintage Vanilla Yule Log

This is for pure vanilla fans looking for that creamy intensity, rolled to a black centre of vanilla grains with touches of griotte cherry throughout. He suggests finely grating a touch of lime zest to finish off the dessert: the lime delicately magnifies the vanilla beautifully.

Millésimée au Chocolat Yule Log

What’s Christmas without chocolate, they say? Classic chocolate and vanilla are worked into a symphony of textures and its warming sensations of silky dark chocolate are sumptuously progressive.

Praline lemon French Christimas Buche 2015 from Patisserie des Reves

Main photo courtesy La Pâtisserie des Rêves

Praline-Lemon Yule Log

Following his signature Paris-Brest with an extra secret praline centre, it’s no surprise that his famous praline continues to excite the senses here. On a base of salted crunchy praline and a light hazelnut sponge, the lemon is extremely delicate within a vanilla mousse with a round finishing sensation.

Extra fine Praline chocolate bars

Together with Carol Gillott, of Paris Breakfasts fame, we tasted the range of new chocolates for Christmas.

Christmas chocolate praline bars patisserie des reves

Following on the success of his white chocolate collection, the new collection is presented in a magic box of golden secrets for the festive season, with 10 extra-fine mini tablets revolving uniquely around praline. The praline predominates the palate – whether it’s dark, milk or white chocolate – but the whisper of raspberry, fleur de sel, lemon or coconut make each nibble a special treat.

I particularly loved the milk chocolate and passion fruit, as he leaves the fruit seeds in the chocolate, giving it that extra fine crunch. I don’t normally like seeds in pastry cream, but here it’s a surprise that works.

Philippe Conticini and Thierry Teyssier new book

Having already published award-winning recipe books which are also a reference for professional chefs, Philippe Conticini’s latest, Souvenirs Gourmands, is now on the shelves and co-written by Pascale Frey.

I couldn’t resist snagging my own as an early Christmas present from hubby since it’s filled with delightful childhood gourmet memories of 50 French celebrities (Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Christian Lacroix …) with their favourite souvenirs linked to their recipes that are all given the Conticini twist. I’m sure we could entice them to produce an English version too.

New book by Philippe Conticini, Souvenirs Gourmands

As famous bear of ParisBreakfasts was creating his own gourmet sensations to treasure, Carol Gillott wowed Monsieur Conticini with her exquisite watercolour of Rue du Bac, just one of her Paris map creations since illustrating the first one for my book, Teatime in Paris!

Carol Gillott Paris maps rue du Bac

As the first patisserie in Rue du Bac, the Pâtisserie des Rêves has been such a go-to address that other prestigious pastry boutiques have followed suit to join in one of the most sweet gourmet streets in Paris. In June this year, Chef Conticini was chosen as Godfather of the first ever Bac Sucré event, to celebrate the talents of his artisan neighbours.

Fortune cookies by Philippe Conticini

Also just in time for Christmas, are pink gift cards which will come in handy for pastry lovers (hint, hint, Antoine) – but this is my favourite lucky hit: the new buttery Fortune cookies with their subtle hint of coconut.  It’s perhaps the French answer to pulling British Christmas crackers at the table. As I opened mine, the message read:

Le Bonheur est toujours à la portée de celui qui sait le goûter.
“Happiness is achievable to those who know how to taste”.

That simply sums up the essence of Chef Conticini’s sweet magic.


 

This post is linked to my first article now featured on
BonjourParis online publication


 

The three Bûches de Noël will be available as of 10th December. Both the praline-citron and chocolate bûches are now available as individual portions.

Patisserie des Rêves
93 rue du Bac
75007 Paris
Tel: +33 1 – 47 04 00 24