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!

In true French slang, let’s say we’re not chocolate: 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

 

This article is 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!

Teatime in Paris at Angelina – New Autumn-Winter Patisserie Collection 2015-2016

As the clocks moved to winter mode last week, it also signalled a new season of pastries in Paris. So, in true Teatime in Paris style, I headed to Angelina, who kindly invited me to choose from the silver platter to show you nine new gourmet patisseries that are gracing their new Autumn-Winter collection.

Angelina Paris since 1903

Two years ago, the Parisian institution of Angelina celebrated its 110th anniversary. Just stepping inside you can imagine when this elegant tea room opened its doors in rue de Rivoli in 1903, the Parisian aristocracy swooned in wearing their fineries and celebrities of the fashion world rubbed shoulder-fitting suits with the likes of Coco Chanel seated at the marble tables.

pastry collection platter at Angelina Paris

Angelina sums up so well its Belle Epoque interior as being “an exquisite space, somewhere between serenity and indulgence.” As we were there at teatime, the sweet Parisian rush hour, out of respect for the full house of clients I didn’t take the interior, even although the delightful staff at Angelina don’t have a problem with photo-taking, a welcoming difference to many of the luxury establishments in Paris. As it was the school holidays, my daughter Lucie and I did, however, simply indulge serenely – and totally appreciated an invitation to such luxury that doesn’t happen every day.

Angelina’s Classic Pastries

The platter consisted of the regular Classic collection such as this caramelised flaky vanilla millefeuille (left); the Saint Honoré with its three little caramelised choux-filled puffs of vanilla pastry cream sitting on a ring of puff pastry and crowned with a swirl of whipped cream; the Paris-New York (a variation on the classic Paris-Brest – more on that later); a lemon tart with vanilla marshmallows and a chocolate éclair.

New Angelina Paris pastries

New Pastries

But we were essentially here for a taste of the ephemeral New Collection, highlighting the season with citrus fruits, exotic fruits; comforting chocolate or praline or the more sophisticated acidity of dark berries.

From the left, there’s the pear and chocolate charlotte; praline éclair with its traditional praline of hazelnuts (the French love this nut in their pastries); blackcurrant cheesecake; the bright red Babylone, an almond meringue biscuit with vanilla mousse, raspberry confit and strawberry marshmallow; the Black Forest (Forêt Noire); and the new Calisson, a pastry take on the traditional oblong confection of marzipan and sugar icing from Aix-en-Provence.

How could you choose? An absolute must was the new coconut and passion-fruit variation on Angelina’s iconic pastry, the Mont-Blanc, which has been its signature pastry since 1903. The classic is a mound of chestnut paste vermicelli which encases light whipped cream and a meringue heart. You’d think with the chestnut purée and meringue that the dessert would be pretty sweet but that’s what makes Paris’s top pastries so special: they’re surprisingly not as sweet as you’d think.

Angelina new pastry collection Autumn-Winter 2015-2016 Paris

The classic signature Mont-Blanc and the latest coconut and passion fruit Mont-Blanc.

Almost resembling some kind of ephemeral fashionable pastry catwalk on silver – even the elegant lemon and praline Religieuse looked ready to sit down next to us on the plush leather chair with her bright yellow hat tilted to one side.  It was a sign – but then the Joconde, the other new seasonal pastry just seem to say, take me, take me…and as I’m known to be mad about macarons …

Joconde macaron pastry from Angelina Paris

The Joconde is one of the most expensive of the pastries and has a sumptuous cream of cherry blossom tea sitting on top of a large macaron shell.  Raspberries surround its blackberry and blackcurrant heart and it’s finished off with a little macaron hat.

Joconde macaron pastry from Angelina Paris

The cream was so delicate and went beautifully with the light berries. Perhaps the cream made the macaron shell just slightly on the moist side.  It’s certainly best to ensure that you eat this pastry on the day itself if you’ve bought them to eat at home. I love how this pastry is particularly light – and gluten free.

Mont-Blanc black tea from Angelina Paris

African Chocolate

With my motherly are-you-really-sure-with-all that-pastry eyebrows raising to the glass ceiling above us, Lucie still proceeded with her order of their famously thick hot chocolate. It’s named “African” since it’s composed of three different cacao varieties from Niger, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. It’s even served with a pretty little pot of whipped cream – but seriously, that would be sheer decadence since already a little goes a long way!  For African Chocolate fans, there’s also a pastry that goes with it, the Choc Africain, a chocolate brownie with pure dark chocolate mousse and cream.

A pot of Mont-Blanc tea hit my perfect teatime spot, an ideal match to accompany such delicate treats with its hints of maple and candied chestnuts and apricot with toffee aromas.

Angelina Paris-New York pastry

Don’t ask me why but with such a dizzying choice, I even went for another to share – their classic Paris-New York. It’s based on the classic Paris-Brest (I mention all about this in Teatime in Paris, along with a macaron version and a Paris-Brest-Edinburgh) but instead of filling the choux pastry with a praline cream of hazelnuts, Angelina’s New York touch is to use pecan nuts for the praline and adds an extra crunchy pecan praline heart to it.

mont-blanc-passion-coco-angelina-paris

New Mont-Blanc Pastry

Our unanimous favourite from the tasting was the Mont-Blanc Passion-Coco.  Lucie in her excitement to pounce on it, realised afterwards that she’d been served with the classic Mont-Blanc (without the coconut on top) instead of the new version.  The staff were totally adorable and appeared immediately with the new version but as she had tucked into it wanted to finish and so we were even given a cute box to take it home with us.  We were reassured that we could easily eat it next day.  After all, one day of decadence was enough!

Mont-Blanc Angelina Paris Passion-Coco

Remembering the exclusive raspberry version from the Bac Sucré event in June (from the Angelina boutique in Rue du Bac), this version hit a very-special-pastry-nerve. The coconut whipped cream was so delicate with just a touch of passion fruit in its heart. With a sprinkling of coconut on top, it guards its snowy traditional resemblance of the Mont-Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Really, this is a sheer beauty and if it was on the catwalk, I’m sure would be the bride in the finale.

Angelina Tea room rue de Rivoli Paris macarons

Macarons

How could I take you to Angelina’s and not mention their ten macaron flavours? Chocolate, pistachio, lemon, coffee, vanilla, blackcurrant, caramel, chocolate-passion, raspberry and Mont-Blanc.

Angelina queues at rue de Rivoli Paris

To avoid regular queues like this, I strongly recommend you reserve a table like we had, especially for teatime. That way the special queue-saving time can be used instead to stroll off the desserts in the Tuileries Gardens across the road.

Parisian Mont-Blanc macarons from Angelina

I’ll leave you with a few Mont-Blanc macarons, my favourite here, filled with a chestnut cream and topped with crushed meringue. And if you’re in Paris on 4 November, I hear they’re having a special Mont-Blanc day featuring variations on their famous dessert.

So, after all that – what would you choose?

Angelina Tearoom
226 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Tel: 01-42 60 82 00

Metro: Tuileries

Lenôtre Tea Salon, Cour de Senteurs Versailles

As I stood there thinking about asking for some bread – or dare I say, brioche – at the massive gates to the Château de Versailles, I realised that we could eat macarons and pastries instead, just next door.

chateau de Versailles Main Gates

Would you believe we live not far from Versailles and yet I’ve never visited La Cour des Senteurs? The courtyard has, however, not long been renovated and celebrates the history of perfume around the 18th Century. Thanks to my friend, Francis, I have now discovered a quiet sanctuary of fragrances just 100m meters away from one of the biggest tourists attractions in the world.

Maison des Parfums Versailles

The Cour (or courtyard) houses Guerlain, the perfumery that recently created an exclusive Eau de Parfum edition, called Cour de Senteurs to celebrate the opening here in Versailles. In the most pretty bottles, the perfume is exquisite, and includes Queen Marie-Antoinette’s favourite fragrance, jasmine. As they describe beautifully,

“…sharing the magic and splendour of the lavish balls held at the Château de Versailles, it’s a sensual fragrance with a majestic trail in which jasmine leads the dance.”

Guerlain perfumery window in Versailles

I’m new to beautifully scented candles and now that I’ve discovered the wonderful fragrances (including jasmine, mimosa, rose, fig, and red berries) around the Diptyque boutique, they’re on my wish list. Suddenly my Ikea tea lights are disappointing… Or you could slip your hands into something comfortable at La Maison Fabre, known worldwide for its luxury gloves since opening in Millau since 1924.

Irises at the maison des parfums versailles

Fragrance houses also use spices, edible flowers and herbs – not just for their visual pleasure but a rich pleasure, marrying fragrance and taste. At the far end of the courtyard, tea and pâtisseries beckon as Lenôtre has a majestic tea salon, where you can eat outside (seats 30) or enjoy the classy interior (seats 20 for the tea salon, 40 for their restaurant for lunch). Their gourmet creations are inspired by the French gardens and the King’s Vegetable garden.

Macaron towers near Versailles palace France

Pastry chef, Guy Krenzer, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 1988 and 1996, added Jasmine flower to the filling of this Saveur Royal gold tinted macaron inspired by jasmine-loving Marie-Antoinette.  Alas, they’re so popular they were out of stock of these delicacies when I was there.

Macaron towers at Le Notre Versailles

Instead three delicate macaron flavours were worth ordering with tea: pina colada, strawberry-ginger (I loved the after-taste of the spicy ginger!), and by far my favourite – chocolate-yuzu.

Le Notre Tea Salon Versailles macarons

I have always ogled that lovely macaron porcelain tea-set but note that little cube of chocolate, the “L7G”. It has been in Lenôtre boutiques since September 2009 and as the name implies, it weighs 7 grams and partners dark chocolate with a coffee ganache. Thanks for that titbit, Francis.

Le Shuss pastry at Le Notre Paris

I couldn’t resist trying the Schuss, which is a signature dessert created by Gaston Lenôtre in 1968 for the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, where Jean-Claude Killy made France proud with 3 gold ski medals.  This is a revisited verrine version of his classic with red fruits, filled with joconde sponge biscuit and a light fromage frais mousse and served with a beautifully tart red fruit coulis.

I’m no skier, and flying downhill at high speed scares the living daylights out of me but I certainly couldn’t help enjoying its light freshness at full speed – Schhuuuusssss!

Lenôtre tea salon Versailles

For something more classic to welcome spring and the French strawberry season, who can resist a tarte aux fraises? These are one of my favourite treats for goûter – and I have an easy recipe for it in Teatime in Paris!

After teatime, take a stroll around the Cour des Senteurs garden. Plants are glass-cased like in an outdoor museum, complete with fragrance facts and perfumery notes. The walkway takes you to the Jeu de Paume Game Room (the predecessor of tennis, played by the court from 1686, now a French Revolution museum, open afternoons) and the Potager du Roi, or King’s Vegetable Garden.

Le notre at Versailles

What a civilised teatime – although I still want to try these jasmine macarons, famous at La Cour des Senteurs and retrace Marie-Antoinette’s jasmine dance at the ball. In the meantime, let’s just continue with the macaron dance while watching their dainty feet form in front of the oven.

La Cour des Senteurs
Rue de la Chancellerie
78000 Versailles

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm

Public Transport from Paris: RER C (commuter train) station Versailles Rive Gauche – 5 minutes walk.


This article was featured as Blog Finds in French Entrée Magazine.

Profiterole Chérie Tea Salon in the Marais

Ever since Profiterole Chérie opened in Paris’s upper Marais in December, I’ve been itching to go. The two times I’d managed to get there from our banlieue outskirts on a cold, wintry evening on the way to one of my favourite restaurants in the area, I’d see the boutique closed with its beckoning pink and black decor and neon lighting.  That takes some going, I have to say, as the boutique doesn’t close until 8pm. Luckily I was given a push when Lindsey of LostinCheeseland proposed we went for a tasting.

Profiterole Chérie, Rue Debelleyme Paris

Profiterole Cherie, Rue Debelleyme, Paris

The boutique is the latest brilliant concept of celebrity pastry chef, Philippe Urraca, who won the accolade of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) in pâtisserie in 1993 and since 2003, has been Président of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Pâtissiers. He is not only seen frequently on French TV  but he was a most kind and approachable personality at the annual Salon du Chocolat in Paris – but I shall not embarrass him here with my goofy smiles with our look-at-me-simple-mum-with-top-pastry-chef pic taken together.

Profiterole Cherie tea salon Marais in Paris

Notice the shop across the street? Jean Colonna is a haute couture designer – we perhaps share the same surname and dentist but one day I’ll pluck up the courage to step into his fashion boutique. In the meantime I’ll just munch on choux puff profiteroles and gaze across the road in ecstasy.

Freshly prepared in front of you at the pâtisserie bar, all profiteroles are based on a small choux bun with craquelin (crumble topping) and once you’ve chosen from the tempting choice of current 11 “Ma Chérie” flavours, the welcoming staff delicately mount the sweet piece of art in front of you.

Preparing cream puffs at Profiterole Cherie Paris

Either sit at the bar and admire the assemblage (requiring an extreme test of will-power as you watch each concoction pass by) or choose a relaxing – albeit squeaky – light grey leather chair from one of the spaced out tables, as you admire the dusky pink and shiny black interior reflected by giant mirrors.

I chose Ma Chérie Caramel, filled with caramel ice cream and served with a little plastic pot of caramel sauce.  I also couldn’t resist this Ma Chérie Citron meringué, with a lemon cream, candied lemon, meringue sticks and frilly meringue collar, finished off with lime zest, gold leaf and its little accompanying pot of tart lemon sauce.  I was so in awe of gazing at Lindsey’s Mont-Blanc that I completely forgot about the sauces.  The Earl Grey tea I chose was spot on, although next time I do hope they’ll serve their teas in teapots; somehow, paper cups just don’t give the beautiful pastries justice.

Lemon meringue choux puff by MOF pastry chef Philippe Urraca

There are plenty more exquisite iced (glacées) or cream profiteroles (pâtissières) like this one to choose from. Chef Philippe Urraca has also written a book in French entirely dedicated to his choux pastry art, and it’s no surprise at his title: Profiteroles.

Well I managed to restrict myself to only two flavours with good old French-style willpower so that just means I’ll have to return to try the others!  You’ll love it.

Profiterole Chérie

Open Tuesday-Friday 12.30-8pm
Weekends 10am-8pm

17 rue Debelleyme
75003 Paris (North Marais)

Metro: Fille du Calvaire (line 8)
Vélib’ stations 3003, 11045


 

Disclaimer: I was not in any way sponsored or invited as a guest by Profiterole Chérie and all opinions are entirely my own.