Foucade: A Healthy 100% Gluten-Free Patisserie in Paris

I almost want to keep this address a secret. Last week I discovered this new patisserie, Foucade, in Paris – the difference is that all pastries here are entirely gluten-free. Opened just since December 2015, tucked between the Madeleine church and Rue Saint Honoré, this stylish bright violet boutique oozes chic. From the inviting entrance with violet hydrangeas, #healthy ‘ashtags and intriguing pastry postcards splashed on the window, the pastry counter leads through to a quiet and secluded tea salon.

Foucade-paris-pastry-glutenfree

I met the boutique’s energetic founder, Marjorie Fourcade, who explained the concept behind Foucade. Discovering she was intolerant to wheat and dairy (lactose) plus problems related to sugar, she worked together with nutritionists for three years. The result was the creation of this healthy “Patisserie Positive”.

Foucade gluten-free Tea Salon

The focus is on top quality products for a total gluten-free cast with the majority of pastries also dairy-free (sans lactose). Marjorie insists on using natural ingredients with contents both low in fat and sugars – without forgetting the utmost detail to taste and flavour.

An emphasis is on fresh fruit and vegetables – yes, vegetables. There are no food colourings used: to achieve the vibrant crimson red on a Fraisier, for example, her Japanese pastry chef, Saori Odoi, adds beetroot juice. I could even taste the beetroot’s subtle presence, which is unusual in a classic strawberry French pastry, but hey, I’m flexible.

As everything is totally healthy, my excuse was to try as many pastries as I could fit in their extra large pastry box, especially interested to taste with the family at home and test out their reactions.

Healthy pastries Foucade gluten-free patisserie paris

Each Foucade pastry comes with its corresponding postcard, detailing the nutritional facts – a touch that is no doubt appreciated by any sensitive Celiac sufferer or anyone prone to food allergies. For us, we were simply curious to know more behind the pastries.

All pastries are very much reduced in sugar, allowing each ingredient to shine. Let me give you a sample tasting:

La Citronnée – Acidulée! With an 81% reduction in sugar compared with its traditional gluten versions around Paris, we were preparing our cheeks for a complete puckering session.  WRONG! (I think the most puckering sensation I’ve had with a lemon & lime tart is at Carette.) Although still tart, the creaminess of the lime, lemon, and yuzu were all slightly sweetened by a hint of basil.  The crunchy texture of the tart base of unrefined almonds finished it off beautifully. My girls were impressed that they’d also had a +269% dose of vitamin E, at that.

foucade's spicy gluten-free clove apple eclairs

L’Eclair Spicy – Spicy it is.  The choux dough is so light, made with colza and chia grains, topped with a crunchy almond and hazelnut praline.  The apples are sautéd in three spices and the Chantilly is particularly heady with a strong kick of cloves, which makes for a totally new éclair experience.

L’Opérette Puissante (dairy-free) – This is the ultimate dark chocolate treat and powerful it is. With a mixture of 70%, 85% and 100% raw cocoa, with a light crunchy mixture of buckwheat and chia grains for the most deliciously healthy protein boost. I thought my girls would find it too “raw” and lacking sugar, but they totally loved it – it’s true that it’s robust in chocolate and so a little goes a long way!

Speaking of buckwheat, Marjorie insisted I buy a packet of the Foucade special gluten-free granola. As I normally make my own breakfast oat granola with no added sugar except roasted in maple syrup, I was expecting (more or less) the same thing. I’m still trying to get my taste-buds around it and, even although there’s no label on the packet to list the ingredients, I can tell there’s a strong play of buckwheat in amongst all the lovely nuts and cranberries. Personally I prefer buckwheat in galettes (traditional Breton savoury crêpes) or a lighter version in their Opérette.  Their cute mini moist lemon cake (Cake pur citron) was more my cup of tea – although buckwheat in granola is so intriguing I may become hooked!

All pastries are very much reduced in sugar, allowing each ingredient to shine. A particular personal favorite to give you an example is La Rustique – crunchy base of chestnut flour and brown rice, sweet potato and cinnamon purée and topped with baked apple. I loved the different textures and although not powerful, the hint of sweet potato is a clever touch. At 145 calories, it’s apparently 64% less than its traditional pastry, with 40% less sugar and has 97% more Magnesium and 44% more vitamin C! No gluten, no egg, no nuts and no soya. If you’re a real dark chocolate fan, then try the (also dairy-free) powerful l’Opérette, with a mixture of 70%, 85% and 100% raw cocoa for the most deliciously healthy protein boost.

One particular pastry which struck us at first as being a total classic surprised us the most. Described as “Authentique”, it’s cheeky ingredients made it our overall winner:

La Rustique – a crunchy base of chestnut flour and brown rice, sweet potato and cinnamon purée and topped with baked apple. We loved the different textures and although not powerful, the hint of sweet potato is a clever touch. At 145 calories, it’s apparently 64% less than its traditional pastry, with 40% less sugar and has 97% more Magnesium and 44% more vitamin C! No gluten, no egg, no nuts and no soya.

If you’re a demanding gourmet who pays particular attention to well-being and are sensitive to the most natural ingredients, then add Foucade to your best patisserie list on your next visit to Paris.

Foucade Paris
Maison de Pâtisserie Positive
Tea Salon
17 rue Duphot
75001 Paris

Tel: (33-1) 42 36 11 81
Metro: Madeleine

Tues-Fri 10am-7.30pm; Sat 11am-7pm


See my article about the top 100% Gluten-free Pastries in Paris at Bonjour Paris.

 

An African Teatime in Paris

The other day I couldn’t resist a visit to the Impressionists in Normandy exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum in Paris. If you’re like me and adore art, you’ll especially appreciate this museum as a do-able size, plus Monet, Degas, Renoir and Caillebotte paintings are so close that it’s pinch-your-arm worthy. But the cherry on the Stohrer cakes is the museum’s Café. As I mention it in Teatime in Paris as one of my favourites, this time Monsieur Antoine couldn’t resist joining me in an afternoon teatime.

Antoine never takes tea but he saw the menu listing Rooibos. It was enough to see his eyes as he sipped; conversation uncharacteristically changed to tea, as he recognised the familiar Rooibos from the Cape and we made a note of the label: Cape and Cape. Before we knew it, we were reminiscing and dreaming of another trip to South Africa.

Tea at Jacquemart Andre museum cafe rooibos

We first discovered Rooibos about ten years ago on my first trip to South Africa with Monsieur. Each guesthouse on our route had a tea tray with a kettle, and particular attention was drawn to the little jug of fresh milk in the room’s fridge. It all felt rather charming and colonial – until the conventional hotel sachets of regular black tea and herbal infusions were surprisingly replaced with this curious-looking Rooibos. When I asked the locals what they did with it, I was just to add a touch of milk. As a milk-in-my-tea Brit, this totally suited me. It tasted a bit like tea but it wasn’t with its woody undertones.

Over our holidays we both became infatuated with this drink – especially as its reputed health benefits (if not psychologically) helped outweigh the Cape wines we were drinking, which was the main purpose of our tour. With frequent returns to the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Hermanus (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley), Franschhoek, and north of Cape Town to Swartland we’re spell-bound by the dramatic scenery which changes around every corner.

Franschhoek vineyards South Africa

Franschhoek winelands South Africa – much further south than tea country

While we were tasting Chenins to Pinotages, another couple, Matthias and Gervanne Leridon had fallen so much in love with Rooibos, the South African tea of the land. They had done the full monty, heading another 100km inland north to Clanwilliam, the centre of Rooibos land and eventually set up the Cape and Cape company in 2013, exporting the natural teas to Paris.

WHAT IS ROOIBOS?

It’s a small bush that grows in the wild in South Africa – about 200km north of Cape Town. Its name, Rooibos (meaning redbush), is a red tea that’s rich in antioxidants, naturally low in tannins and completely caffeine-free.

NOT THE SAME

Returning to Paris, gradually Rooibos has been easier to find in the supermarkets (UK too) but nothing can approach that specific taste of Rooibos we had in South Africa – until the other day in Paris.

I had heard of this new Cape and Cape in Paris before but hadn’t stumbled on the boutique. It’s a rather hidden secret behind Trocadero on rue Vineuse, with rows of brightly coloured triangular tins uncovering tastes that will “broaden our horizons”. They have a point. Maria gave me a most welcome tasting of their pure and “simple” Rooibos, Safari au Cap from the Terroir of Nieuwoudtville. I closed my eyes and, like Antoine, was instantly transported to the Cape, something that the rooibos teas to date from supermarkets (including organic in health food stores etc.) just hadn’t achieved.

African tea collection Cape and Cape Paris

 

MORE THAN JUST ONE PURE ROOIBOS

I thought there was just one Rooibos – but there’s a wide variety of pure Rooibos to taste, since with each unique area – like wine – the varieties depend on the terroir or soil where the fynbos (South-African maquis or scrub) develops specifically to environmental conditions: in the south, green rooibos is lightly citrus; in the centre, it’s more down-to-earth and more of a substitute to black tea; while in the high-altitude north of the Cederberg Mountains, there’s more of a taste of red fruits and cacao.

According to Mikaël Grou, Second Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and taster for the House, the Rooibos-growing area is the equivalent to both Burgundy and Beaujolais regions put together.

Green Rooibos tea African Tea Cape and Cape Paris

I’m particularly fascinated with their Green Rooibos as it’s a real detox and haven’t seen it before. Green Mountain is so delicate and both flavours come through: the green tea first then a delicate, almost smoky rooibos aftertaste.  I loved the slightly “stronger” version, Stormy Joburg, with a hint of citrus too.

HOW TO INFUSE

As with red Rooibos, Sommelier Mikaël Grou explains that it’s important to infuse for at least 5 minutes, if not to 10 minutes using an extra-fine filter. The reason isn’t for the colour (which appears straight away) but for the total flavour to shine through. As with “normal” tea, it’s best to brew it using water just under boiling (90°C). He recommends pouring 4/5 boiling water from the kettle and topping up with cold water before adding the Rooibos or tea.

floral rooibos Cape tea

 

FLAVOURED ROOIBOS

If you’re into flavoured teas, there are plenty to tempt the tastebuds. Flirt with sweet and spicy flavoured Rooibos with evocative names such as Citrus Kiss, Oh My Ginger, Miss Grey, Shap Shap! Bon Bon (Strawberry-Vanilla. Shap Shap is slang for good good – how you doing?) and Flirt with Scarlet (Rose-Mango).

African teas Cape and Cape Paris

 

AFRICA THE UNKNOWN TEA CONTINENT

The teas at Cape and Cape don’t just stop at Rooibos. Calling themselves the “African House of Tea”, their third variety of teas are Natural African Teas.

As they say, AFRICA IS THE UNKNOWN TEA CONTINENT. I was astonished to learn that Kenya is the THIRD largest global producer of tea after China and India (the fourth is Sri Lanka).

There’s still a lot to learn about African teas. Perhaps the best teacup forward is simply to try their unearthed range of delicate white teas to the strong black teas from the Congo with hints of chocolate; floral and tangy black teas from Kenya; medium-strength fruity black teas from Rwanda; and woody and floral green or black teas from Malawi. I hear that there will be a new Tanzanian tea end of May too.

1-chocolate-rooibos-rosemary-macarons

COOKING WITH TEA

One of the Africaan ladies also explained on holiday that when her family gets sick, the first thing she makes is a rooibos infusion with rosemary. Needless to say, as soon as I returned home, I experimented with a macaron using a rooibos and rosemary-infused chocolate ganache (the family thought I was mad but it worked!) Try a blind tasting: it certainly has people astonished over such mysterious flavours!

Many chefs are infusing tea in their dishes these days. Have you tried this smoky beurre blanc with fish (using Lapsang-Souchong tea), or Theodor’s fragrant rice pudding? I’ve created a new Pinterest board, Cooking & Baking with Tea, and I’ll gradually add more recipes to this. I’m looking forward to trying Christmas Fireworks, a Rooibos filled with festive spices – a perfect infusion for desserts and macarons!

Eiffel Tower Paris Avenue Camoens near Trocadero

You’ll find Cape and Cape African teas not just in their hidden boutique at Trocadero, but gradually in more familiar locations in Paris, just like we saw at Jacquemart André. Gontran Cherrier, one of my favourite Parisian boulangeries also has realised its potential, as has Galeries Lafayette.

So next time you’re pushing the tourists aside to take a pic of the Eiffel Tower, head to the much quieter Avenue Camoens, take a different angle like above and walk just around the corner for a taste of African tea in Paris.

Cape and Cape
African House of Tea

19 rue Vineuse
75016 Paris
Tel: 01-45 24 77 70


Part of this article is published on Bonjour Paris! Do pop over and say bonjour

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

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.

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

 

A Perfect Lunch, Vegan Teatime & History of the Shangri-La Palace, Paris

It was an unusual time last week. Only a mere few days after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the already serene and discrete neighbourhood in Paris’s chic 16th arrondissement was particularly quiet.

Cast iron original gates to Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, Shangri-La Hotel Paris

Security was welcomingly tight and the original cast iron gates to the Palais d’Iéna were unusually ajar, but business was open as usual.  I was glad my lunch date wasn’t called off as I jumped on the RER train into the City. I just wished more visitors could have shared moments like this, rather than naturally take fright and cancel their trip.

All of us have been shocked, subdued, apprehensive, pensive, confused, but it’s time to get back to life and celebrate it, not let terrorism win. So let me whisk you back to Paris where life goes on, and come inside to admire a unique blend of Asian hospitality and French art de vivre.

Entrance to Shangri-La Palace hotel Paris

As soon as you walk into the welcoming lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, it clear that it’s not just one of the most elegant Palace hotels in Paris. It’s a fascinating step back to 1896 when Prince Roland Bonaparte (1858-1924), the grand-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, moved in to his residential home after four years of construction.

Today, thanks to the Shangri-La Hotel – who bought the palace from the French Centre of Foreign Trade in 2006 (it previously belonged to the Suez Canal Bank Company from 1925 amongst others) – the palace opened in 2010 after a mammoth four-year renovation project respecting its French heritage and, since 2009, much of the building is listed as a National Historical Monument.

Lobby of the Shangri-La Paris

The Palace retains its mix of 17th and 19th century eclectic styles plus is given a clever, contemporary luxury feel with all the comforts of a modern Palace hotel.

It’s no coincidence that the main grand Staircase of Honour looks so regal: it was designed by the Moreau brothers of the Château de Chantilly. The bronze statue of a child holding a torch leads us upstairs to the residential salons.

Grand Staircase Shangri-La Palace Paris

On the first floor with its giant reception rooms, the original marble continues throughout, as does renovated and original wooden flooring, stained glass and the likes.

Shangri-La Paris Hotel original marble from Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace

Original marble. In the ceiling, an original zodiac sculpture

The impressive main reception or banquet space is the Grand Salon, decorated in Louis XIV style. What a venue for a wedding, and just across the landing is yet another terrace looking over at the Eiffel Tower. It’s enough incentive to get married again, even to the same husband!

This trumeaux mirror reflects yet another mirror which previously framed a large portrait of Prince Roland’s Grand Uncle, Napoleon I (his brother was Roland’s grandfather, Lucien Bonaparte).

Grand Salon of Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, now the Shangri-La Paris

Imperial signs of Prince Roland are reminders of the Bonapartes, with recurring eagles and bees of the first and later second empire in the architecture throughout the palace.  Look out for the beautiful bees in the Chimneys – and you’ll see them flying around many lush curtains and other furnishings.

Prince Roland Bonaparte's ornamental symbols in the Palace Iena

Bonaparte imperial emblems of the eagle and the bee are present throughout the architecture

But reminders of his presence don’t just include the ornate bells and whistles that remind us that he was last male descendent of the Lucien Bonaparte line. Clever clogs Prince Roland was foremost an explorer, geographer and botanist, named president of the Geographical Society in 1910 – a position he held until his death in 1924 at age 66 – plus nominated President of the Scientific Academy.

Forced to abandon a military career due to new legislation in 1886 banning the relations of French rulers to serve in the armed forces, Prince Roland was devoted to botany. He cultivated the world’s largest private herbarium (2nd largest in France and 7th in the world), comprised of more than 2.5 million samples of about 300,000 herb and fern species. They were eventually moved to Lyon as there wasn’t enough space within Paris’ Natural History Museum!

Botanist drawings of Prince Roland Bonaparte's herbarium collection

Examples of his botanical collections are showcased in the lifts taking us to the 65 hotel rooms and 33 suites – many of them with unique views of the Eiffel Tower.

I was given a sneak peek at the spacious and bright Chaillot Suite, called after the Chaillot Hill upon which the hotel is located, and is the smallest of the three signature suites. That would do me fine, imagining myself as Julia Roberts sitting elegantly on this wrap-around balcony enjoying the Paris skyline sipping on something festive when the sun goes down and the City of Lights sparkle. But I dreamily digress.

Balcony of the Chaillot Suite, Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris

Prince Roland wasn’t keen on the new Eiffel Tower built for the World Fair in 1900. His private apartments (now the vast Suite Impériale which is also listed with Monuments Historiques) are on the other side of the building, facing Avenue d’Iéna and overlooking the Guimet Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the West.

Is it coincidence? The Prince was particularly fascinated by the Eastern world and his world expeditions inspired him to write one such essay on the rising curiosity within Europe about China and its culture. I bet he would also have had a few things to say at the Climate Conference next week in Paris.

Gardens at the Iena Palace overlooked by the Eiffel Tower Paris

Back on ground to the present, another conference was taking place in the Michelin starred Abeille restaurant, with the view over the pristine garden. Their other restaurant, the Shang Palace, is the only Cantonese restaurant in France with a Michelin Star. But for teatime and for a light lunch or dinner, the social hub venue is here at La Bauhinia.

LA BAUHINIA

La-Bauhinia-restaurant-Shangri-La-Palace-Hotel-Paris

La Bauhinia takes its name from the iconic five-petalled orchid flower that graces the Hong Kong flag. This is a contemporary restaurant where creative executive Michelin star Chef, Christophe Moret offers French and South-East Asian cuisine, complete with a popular “100% Green Menu” with constantly varying vegan dishes since the summer.

I chose their signature Asian favourites since, although there are many contemporary French dishes to tempt, I felt the need to turn up the Autumn heat and make a culinary stop in Malaysia with this classic coconut chicken soup with lemongrass, Sup Santan Ayam. On the menu, it wasn’t given a spicy chili sign but had just the loveliest, hint of background kick to warm the senses.

Malaysian chicken coconut lemongrass soup Shangri-La Paris

The menu is beautifully varied and there’s temptation for all palates. Two lightly spiced salads could have also been just the ticket – how about a grapefruit salad with prawns, coriander, peanuts and lime?  The soup went best with the main course, although the vegan options with mushrooms in thin sheets of chestnut with a hazelnut and soy emulsion were swaying me to confuse the waiter.

Even during the darkest of French winter days with a Murano three-tiered chandelier, the natural light still shines through directly from above in the 1930s-era restaurant. During the renovations of the courtyard, this glass and steel Eiffel Tower inspired treasure was discovered completely by surprise behind a false dropped ceiling put in place by the building’s former corporate residents.

La Bauhinia Shangri-La Paris Hotel - Coupole light ceiling

One of my most memorable dishes was Pad Thai when I visited Thailand.  I had a few of them but only one stands out in Bangkok, served in a banana leaf boat.  This didn’t need a boat as Chef Moret’s Shrimp Pad Thai just hit the spot and took me back to that special taste with its mix of textures, flavours and colours of rice noodles sautéed with shrimp, scrambled egg, soy bean sprouts, daikon, cabbage, peanuts, lime, garlic, tamarind.

A recommended glass of Savennières, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire, was the perfect partner with such exquisite exotic flavours. It was also the ideal excuse as a sipping break when noodles slipped between undisciplined chopsticks.

Next time, I could catch the waiter for the fish of the day with its saffron and truffle risotto or the Sole Meunière, opt for an Aberdeen Angus steak, or choose from the vegan menu with a pumpkin and squash Tatin with coconut.  If you prefer to light up the winter fire, then the stewed lamb in a Malaysian red curry with coconut would change the inner climate and possibly produce condensation on the coupole glass roof.

Shrimp Pad Thai from the Shangri-La Paris

Vegan Teatime Paris

Would you believe I couldn’t even manage dessert? How could I possibly turn down a chocolate tart on the menu, exotic fruits or even an Asian-style exotic puff pastry with Tahitian vanilla and spiced caramel?  Perhaps I’ve been deliciously sweetened out, tasting and testing so many of the recipes before Teatime in Paris was published!

Instead, I was surprised with a mini-tasting of the most innovative and healthy vegan French pastries, brilliantly crafted by the head pastry chef, Michaël Bartocetti, who joined the team in June.

Vegan teatime Paris or afternoon tea at the Shangri-La Palace

Vegan pastry treats including a nutty financier, a fruity-nutty mosaîc, chocolate cookie,”les Figolu” fig roll cake, and a lime shortbread

Following nearly three months of research, chef Bartocetti recently introduced these healthy pastries which not only use seasonal products, but eggs are cleverly replaced by vegetable proteins; non-refined sugars (such as coconut oil and maple syrup) are used; and there are no additives. Flour is replaced by a range of chestnut, buckwheat “flour” (I say flour but chestnut is gluten-free and so is buckwheat which isn’t wheat at all – it comes from the rhubarb family!). Milk is replaced by homemade vegetable milks (almond, soya etc.)

About ten pastries fall under this vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free choice.

Vegan Teatime Paris with a Mont-Blanc

As for the other exquisite-looking vegan pastries, including this Chestnut and Blackcurrant Mont-Blanc (uses no egg whites), I’ll just have to save my appetite for another visit or perhaps I may have tempted you to get there before me.

As of 28th November, the hotel will be glowing with festive cheer and holiday magic – and, if you’re lucky to be in Paris between 5-25 December, I hear that Chef Michaël Bartocetti has created a special “Christmas Sphere” yule log!

Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris
10 Avenue d’Iéna
75116 Paris
Tel: 01 53 67 19 98

La Bauhinia Restaurant
Reservations: 01-53 67 19 91

Eiffel Tower Paris, November 2015

With sincere thanks to the Shangri-La Paris for sharing such an enlightening bite of French history.
Vive la France, its heritage and cheers to the French art of living!