A Pompidou Walk to La Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris

Paris and St Valentine are a couple that go hand in hand, don’t they?

This past couple of weeks, in between steely, dreary days and an unrestful flurry of snow, the sun has popped out to say bonjour.  Passing the Hôtel de Ville, I found myself reaching for giant floating hearts. Bubbles were in the air.

Hotel de Ville Paris with ice rink

For the romantic ice-skaters amongst you, the ice rink or patinoire at the Hôtel de Ville will remain open until 1 March 2015.

Instead I was walking to the Centre Pompidou to meet up with a visiting friend from Provence with the most contagious, lilting sing-song accent.  Did you know that the Centre Pompidou has been open to the public since 1977 and owns the biggest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe?  Its contemporary tubing exterior is also arty symbolic: red for circulation, blue for air and green for water.

Centre Pompidou Beaubourg Paris

There’s been a lot of hype around the Jeff Koons exhibition there, “The Retrospective”. It’s at the top floor of the Pompidou Centre and is running until 27 April 2015. Personally, I found this a highly different cup of tea to swallow. Industrial hoovers, adverts, basketballs floating in glass cases, a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson sitting with a monkey? I just didn’t get it. Balloon Dog and Hanging Heart look as light as balloons but they each weigh about a ton in stainless steel.

Jeff Koons exhibition Centre Pompidou in Paris

A heavy heart indeed!

Being on the 6th floor, you’ll love looking out over the surrounding rooftops of Paris. It’s a great place to come to see breathtaking views. I had one thing on my mind: where we could venture out nearby. After all, it was time for tea! There’s restaurant Georges on the top floor if you wish to splash out (stunning red roses were on every table) but for a teatime goûter, there are so many pâtisseries to choose from around here, especially along rue Rambuteau (more on that another time – especially as I have many more suggestions in my forthcoming book, “Teatime in Paris“). Since it was rather cold and the end of the sales in Paris, I had a sweet idea.

Rooftop view of Paris from the Centre Pompidou

Walking down Rue du Renard (fox street) towards the Hôtel de Ville, we turned left into rue de la Verrerie and headed less than a couple of short blocks to the BHV store (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville), a Parisian institution.

Heading for the 3rd floor, it was time for tea and pastries at the Pâtisserie of dreams, La Pâtisserie des Rêves.  Pastry chef, Philippe Conticini, dreamed up his first concept pastry boutique in rue du Bac in 2009. He now has six boutiques in the Paris area – and has also opened in London and Japan. The Parisian tea salon in BHV is the latest to have opened in July 2014 – and admittedly I checked it out last summer with Mardi Michels (blogging friend of Eat.Live.Travel.Write fame). Each summer I meet up with Mardi, it’s Champagne flutes rather than teapots, dahlinks. When in Paris, I love it when Mardi goes for the pink bubbles – and in this case, it perfectly matched the Pâtisserie des Rêves décor!

Patisserie des reves BHV store Paris

Check out these teapots. It was like drinking from an oversized doll’s tea-set. That’s Philippe Conticini’s concept: to evoke memories of sweet childhood. Now that’s more like creating memories; imagine this coffee éclair, wrapped in caramelised chocolate?

La Patisserie des reves Paris tea room with tea-set

Even the simple jug of water is classy. I don’t normally drink much water but the touch of lime zest made it actually taste pleasurable!  This is the first time I’ve tasted his éclairs.  Don’t judge: I normally go for the ongoing fabulous classics: the Saint Honoré, Paris-Brest and oh, his tarte au citron meringuée

La Patisserie des Reves in Paris tea salon

There are many more to choose from. Through my tastings over the years, many of his pastries are slightly sweeter than most. Funnily enough, Conticini is one of the rare pastry chefs that doesn’t do macarons. I’m certainly not complaining; there are plenty more exquisite pastries to choose from including limited editions, according to his creative whim and delicious seasonal fancy.

La Patisserie des Reves in Paris

On Wednesday, children are the focus of dreams here. As there are no French school classes in the afternoon to enjoy extra-curricular activities, this is the favourite form of workshop.  When we were there, there was a crêpe party for them with plenty of the well known rose-pink balloons.

My tea may have been an ephemeral moment in Paris but my sweet tastings from La Pâtisserie des Rêves happily continue at the boutique in Parly 2, our shopping centre near Versailles for us who live out of Paris. I’d better hurry up and order his special Valentine’s cake for two with raspberry and lemon mousse, although please don’t tell Antoine I tried it, haha. Proof is the girls and I tasted even more pastries this week. I’ll have to write another post!

Patisserie des Reves Parly 2 shopping centre near Paris

I’ll leave you with a quick shot of this giant bubble before it soared above the Hôtel de Ville.

Blowing giant bubbles above the hotel de ville Paris

Have a lovely Valentine’s weekend. Fill it with fun, sweet dreams of Paris and lots of bubbles!

La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Philippe Conticini)
BHV Store, 3rd floor
36, rue de la Verrerie
75004 Paris

Disclaimer: Like all my blog posts, I am not sponsored by anyone and have in no way been asked to write this post. All views are entirely my own.

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Paris Pâtisseries and Perfect Macarons

I think I upset some friends on Facebook.  I “rubbed it in”, as it were.  Well, yes I did and I’m sorry.  Sorry because now I’m going to talk about it yet again: eating pastries in Paris.

These last few days I’ve taken a break from baking.  The weather has been surprisingly summery after such a LONG winter that for once, it seemed wrong to stay in the kitchen.  So there was nothing else for it but to take the short ride into Paris for a taste of some pastries and macarons. Would I do it on my own?  Of course not.  The pastry binge was with one of the most serious pastry tasters I know.  Here he is in action:

Adam from ParisPâtisseries.com

My gourmet friend, Adam Wayda, has finally arrived from the US to spend the next few months in Paris, tasting his way around the best pâtisseries in the City of Light. You probably already know him from ParisPatisseries.com fame.  Tasting pastries with the reviewer himself was seriously fun.  I mean, this was my breakfast and lunch: for Adam, he had already a head start beforehand! How does he do it? Fat pants, he says.

Genin’s luxury boutique is more like a chocolate museum

This was my first time at Jacques Genin’s chocolaterie in rue de Turenne and I was so glad that Adam had suggested it.  The luxury chocolate boutique is full of the most incredible sculptures that are showcased like museum pieces.  Time for a seat and a taste of Monsieur Genin’s Ephemère: a mix of chocolate mousse and passionfruit on a charlotte base, while Adam attacked a caramel éclair. Would he stick it under his nose like a moustache first? Just take a look at that hot chocolate. It’s not for the faint hearted.

What did Adam think of the caramel éclair?

We couldn’t leave without getting a few of Mr Genin’s legendary caramels.  Adam persuaded me (it didn’t take much convincing) to try the mango/passion fruit caramels and the caramels au gingembre.  True, at 110€ a kilo, one or two is fine.  But you know me, that’s inspiration enough to make some at home à la Jilly.  In the meantime,  why not add some ground ginger and finely chopped glacé ginger to a crème au beurre salé?

Genin’s boutique was wonderful but he didn’t have any macarons.  So Adam suggested a wee stroll up to rue Rambuteau to drop in for some macarons at Pain de Sucre.

macarons from Pain de Sucre patisserie Paris

macarons from Pain de Sucre, Paris

This is what was left from my doggy bag: chocolate mint, caramel au beurre salé, morello cherry-pistachio and chocolate-passionfruit.  My first taste was his Fleurs de Sureau (Elderflower) macarons.  Absolutely delicious.  Cassis/Blackcurrant was excellent, too.  The chocolate mint was just so refreshing with a dark chocolate button in the middle.  Although it was hard and I had to take it out and eat it at the end, it was full of flavour. In fact, all of Monsieur Mathray’s macarons are just bursting with flavour at Pain de Sucre.

That’s what I adore in a macaron. But as you can see, the shells are not quite perfect.  Some were coarse, some had cracks and some not perfectly round.  But does that REALLY matter? Even Monsieur Mathray isn’t worried about absolute perfection.  Some of his macarons may have a slightly bumpy shell (or “homestyle charm” as Adam calls it) but the taste is just fantastic.

Pain de Sucre’s refreshing chocolate-mint macaron

On the other hand, there are also many famous Parisian macarons that LOOK absolutely perfect but if you were given a blind tasting (i.e. not influenced by its colour or fancy name associated with it), it’s often difficult to tell the exact flavour you’re eating.

Beautiful macarons…

Many readers are excited when they get their macarons perfect first time.  That’s brilliant! Even my Dad made fabulous macarons recently for the first time ever and he doesn’t even BAKE for goodness sake!  But I’ve been amazed at some readers who make macarons for the very first time and are expecting complete and utter perfection.  They worry when they have a slight crack or feet that are not big enough.  Please, don’t be so hard on yourself! It will come …

Giant macarons in a luxury pastry shop

There are macarons – expensive macarons –  in many great pastry shops in and around Paris that have been making them for years and they’re sometimes not quite “perfect”: not the perfect looking shell or perhaps a perfect shell but not enough flavour.  They are made by professionals with the right equipment with fancy ovens.  Professionals have access to liquid egg whites in cartons that do act differently.  Many use macaron-making machines.  We’re making them at home in our own kitchens, often with ovens that are so-so.

There’s no end of macaron flavours

Just remind yourself of this and have confidence that the next time you’ll get it right, once you’ve ensured you’ve done everything in the recipe and followed the tips in the book.  Have you checked the oven’s exact temperature with an oven thermometer?  Did you whisk your egg whites enough to stiff but still glossy peaks? Feet not good enough?  Then leave your macarons out to dry a bit longer before baking them.  Some people say they don’t need aged whites or they don’t need to dry out their macarons.  Great.  But again, we’re baking them in our own home kitchen and not as a professional baker. We can get perfect macaron results each time but if you have the odd crack now and again, don’t worry. It could also just be your egg whites – are they organic? These are best. If you’re going to the trouble of making macarons, don’t skimp on so-so ingredients.

Making macarons is not a competition: it’s about having fun, being creative and above all, enjoying them! There’s nothing quite like getting that rush of excitement when the feet form in the oven and you can think up your own flavours, bringing out the artist in you.  To be able to say “I did that”.  I mean, have you done the macaron dance out of sheer excitement with these things? The proof in the pudding, though, is the taste.

OK “I did that” and admit I did the macaron dance…

Talking of being creative…. for all macaronivores who are fans of the forthcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate, I’m looking to showcase YOUR inspired macaron creations for a Special Royal Macaron Procession on Le Blog on 29 April.  It’s not a competition.  Just a fun post to share our macaron ideas; it could be a typically British inspired flavour or on a decorative flag theme of red, white and blue.  Please send me your photos to jill(at)madaboutmacarons(dot)com and I’ll add them to LeBlog.  Have fun!  But wait…

pineapple curd egg yolk recipe

1st guest post and new series for egg yolk recipes with pineapple curd

Before you go, just a word for anyone who missed our first Blog Post from Erin, author of BigFatBaker.com.  She is kicking off a brand new series of egg yolk recipes on the site with her organic pineapple curd.  Just perfect for all those egg yolks left for making macarons!