Have a healthy start to the day with these breakfast waffles inspired by Brazilian cheese puffs!
A perfectly light dessert that celebrates summer in France.
Queues for ice cream are inevitable when the Parisian summer sun heats up the City of Light. But there’s a hidden corner of Paris where we can taste the highest quality Italian ice cream in style, right in the heart of Saint Germain-des-Prés.
Il Gelato del Marchese is tucked away on Rue des Quatre Vents, just behind the crossroads at Odéon in an area known as the Chocolate quarter, due to its high concentration of chocolate and pastry shops, and it’s where I occasionally conduct pastry tours.
On passing this pristine golden and white ice-cream parlour after it opened in December 2014, I remember first gazing in the window, wondering if the caped gentleman at the counter was the Marchese or Marquis, with such an alluring air of mystery.
The mystery was unveiled when I was happy to meet the lively Marchese himself, Renato. Together with his wife, Veronika Squillante Montoro, the dynamic duo with savoir-flaire have created a luxury brand in the heart of Paris’s 6th arrondissement and it’s already taking off with a boutique newly opened in Saint Tropez, a new larger laboratory in construction near the Canal Saint Martin, a recipe book due to be published in October and many more surprises in store.
Marco Radicioni is the creative ice-cream maker or Maître Glacier behind Il Gelato del Marchese’s HQ in Rue des Quatre Vents. Also known as the star of ice cream in his home town of Rome with his popular boutique, Otaleg (reads gelato, backwards), Marco spends his time between Rome and Paris, continuously perfecting the art of ice cream.
Now certified Vegan, Il Marchese’s ice creams and sorbets are all made with top quality healthy ingredients using mineral water, unrefined sugar, and no colourings or preservatives are in sight.
Veronika provides that extra touch of elegance with her choice of porcelain and delicate glasses to complete the plush furnishings.
Thanks to my friend, Maggie, who insisted I taste a selection of savoury ice creams before the sweet, as I would never have normally dared at teatime – would you? What a revelation! Spoonfuls of delectable savoury ice creams to tickle the senses arrived with water, but imagine tasting these on mini toasts with a glass of Champagne or Prosecco in hand: Tomato-Basil sorbet, Artichoke-Walnut Cream, Olives, and Mustard ice creams.
They also do salmon cream which is not only good on small toasts as an aperitif, but they suggest mixing it into hot tagliatelle pasta, as with their parmesan ice cream. My personal favourites were olive, imagining it on the terrace in Provence with a glass of chilled Rosé (a refreshingly cold tapenade sensation), and the mustard which, like my mini curry macarons from the savoury chapter in Mad About Macarons, it provokes a spicy-sweet tremble!
When I first tasted the Marchese’s pistachio ice cream last year just after the book launch of Teatime in Paris around the corner, I admit that it has been hard act to follow elsewhere. Using the finest quality pistachios from Iran, it’s not just its exquisite taste that hits the spot but if anyone knows how I shy away from anything that says pistachio without the right natural colour (see my previous blog article), you’ll understand how this is such an important factor too.
As the tasting continued, the Sencha green tea was recommended as an ideal partner with all the ice creams and sorbets, a special selection by La Confrérie du Thé.
New flavours appear sporadically according to season and creative artistic flair. The day I arrived, the menu selection was a traditional but tremendously tasty Tiramisu, to an unusual – slightly tart – Ricotta Cacao; then a crunchy passion fruit sorbet, with a finale of chocolate sorbet using 70% dark chocolate from Italian chocolate makers, Domori, based in None – all served with the most delicate (albeit sweet) Chantilly cream, Matcha green tea cakes, light ginger biscuits, and mini cornets.
The Marchese’s ice-creams pop up around Paris at the most luxurious addresses, such as at the Italian Embassy, Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and now they have a pop-up boutique at La Grande Epicerie, part of Bon Marché’s Rive Gauche chic department store until 22 August, where I hear the Pear and Ceylon Cinnamon sorbet is melting customers.
Artisanal cones (cornets) are made on the spot. I never normally choose a cone but when they’re as good as this all the way until the last crunchy bite with its hint of honey, I’m not just going for a plain little paper tub to carry out!
I couldn’t resist popping in for another dose with the family; this time pure sorbet in the weekend heat – a taste of mango and their new Detox Vegetal sorbet. It reminded me of what Renato said:
It’s more than ice-cream; it creates an emotion.
I found myself giggling at such a surprise concoction of predominant cucumber and apple, with cheeky hints of lemon and ginger – were there herbs in there too? You have to try this refreshing cocktail and tell me what you think are the ingredients!
To finish off your afternoon, walk up Rue de Condé to the Luxembourg gardens and sit at the Medici Fountain to complete the luxury taste of Italy in Paris.
Il Gelato del Marchese
Italian ice-cream parlour/tea room or take away
3, rue des Quatre Vents
Tel: 01 46 34 75 63
Open every day: 12 noon – midnight
Rain in some Kirsch in these dark chocolate and cherry macarons!
What? You’ve never been to St Rémy de Provence? Valérie plopped frozen raspberries instead of ice-cubes in her refreshing homemade citronnade. She always has brilliant ideas. Would we just stay by the pool and chat during our long-awaited Bastille holiday weekend visit, or should we venture out in this heatwave and have a bit of culture next morning?
I felt embarrassed. How could I have visited the parents-in-law in their Saignon village since 1992 and not even discover one of Provence’s most picturesque villages just south of Avignon? But, in our defence, when we visit family in the south we don’t do the touristy things. We do what the family does: either sit around the house and chat, watch the Tour de France in the cool indoors, take “kid-naps” or have rustic picnics around the Mont Ventoux.
So before we knew it, Antoine and I were whisked off to the town where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life in 1889, painting his blockbusters like Irises and Starry Night while at the psychiatric centre at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.
There are no cars in the centre of the town, which makes walking around an extra relaxing pleasure. Street names are in Provençal, with the town’s coat of arms.
A must stop is at the fountain of Michel Nostradamus, celebrating the famous astrologer, apothecary and seer born here in 1503. His world predictions are best known in his publication, Les Propheties, which has rarely been out of print since the first edition came out in 1555.
I wonder if he predicted that his home town would be filled with some kind of curiosity shop around many a corner?
Or ice cream shops too?
Or restaurants serving typical provençal dishes with a base of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and served with the local chilled rosé during the summer?
Valérie predicted that I’d be making for Michel Marshall’s pâtisserie in the heart of town, in Place Joseph Hilaire.
Michel Marshall’s exquisite artistic pastries were disappearing fast. No wonder – this talented pastry chef has worked previously with Pierre Hermé at Ladurée and with Philippe Conticini at Le Pétrossian before eventually opening his own boutique, just like the others. Had Van Gogh been around, I wonder if he would have painted them? In any case, I’d say that Michel Marshall is the Van Gogh of Pastry here – and predict more boutiques opening.
Overheard in the shop was a guide taking around American visitors – just what I do with the chocolate, pastry and macaron walks with Context in Paris, St Germain-des-Prés. Valérie encouraged me on, otherwise I was in danger of pretending I was in the group and tasting like the others – especially as I had my eye on a savoury pastry. My hand must have been shakily excited too as the photo was terrible so I’m afraid you’ll just have to imagine that the artistic topping was a giant basil leaf.
Then I found myself lingering around another pastry shop. This time with over-sized lemon meringue tarts, giant macarons, and violet Réligieuses: one bite-sized choux puff placed on top of a bigger one and filled with fragranced pastry cream. Recipes for all of them are in Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Pâtisserie Recipes.
Stumbling on another boutique, named so prettily, “The Pastry Chef’s Daughters”, it was more of a curiosity shop. Although, don’t show that you’re too curious; the shiny-muscled pastry chef was looking rather suspiciously from the window above as he was tucking into his lunch.
Sounds are also pretty different in Provence. Above the trickling of the fountains, it’s sometimes deafening to hear the cigales or ciganes
singing rhythmically screeching in the trees. I took a video of it and will share it with you next time. Over them, we listened to a busker playing in the shade of the plane trees.
Window boxes are remarkably sweet in the town hall square. This is when I lost the others while getting carried away taking photos. Does that often happen to you too?
They had already headed towards the chocolate shop. Let’s catch up with them on Tuesday, so join me then on the rest of our walk in St Rémy de Provence, to discover chocolate!
For sweet fans who love to awake the taste-buds and discover memorable unique pleasures in pastry, confiserie and chocolate, rue du Bac is your address in Paris this week. Running until Sunday 21 June 2015, the Bac Sucré is the first ever annual event organised to celebrate the transformation of sugar by the famous artisans that have made this Paris pastry street become so special on the Rive Gauche.
Just before the official opening yesterday evening by the Mayor of the 7th Arrondissement, Rachida Dati, I made my way starting from the Rue du Bac metro, popping in to the first chocolate shops.
First stop, Pierre Marcolini. This Belgian chocolate maker is one of the few chocolatiers in Paris who makes chocolate from bean to bar. Normally I love popping in to the shop in Rue de Seine on my St Germain chocolate walks but for this occasion, the welcome for Bac Sucré was with Monsieur Marcolini’s unique and healthy “Cocoa Infusion”, which has taken three years to master.
It was served refreshingly cold for the summer, inviting a new angle on cocoa drinks. Although labelled as “plain” (the other version is subtly perfumed with rose), this naturally delicate but stimulating infusion is a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants that play a role in combating cell ageing (I’ll drink to that!). The addition of citrus slices and vanilla is a lovely touch yet in the background is still the hint of cocoa. The infusions can be taken warm in winter or in summer, infused in hot water and left to chill.
Don’t forget to taste Pierre Marcolini’s macarons, too; for the record, he also won the world pastry championships in Lyon in 1995.
Next visit, Chapon across the road at number 69. Patrice Chapon is another rare chocolate maker in Paris who takes the art of chocolate further by perfecting his chocolates directly from the source of the cacao bean.
I took notice of Patrice Chapon’s name ever since my first Paris Salon du Chocolat. Every October during the Salon, there’s always a queue in front of his famous Chocolate Mousse Bar. For amateurs of dark chocolate, how can you turn up a tasting of a spectacular 100% pure cacao Venezuela chocolate mousse? Or a Madagascar light and fruity mousse with a slight menthol taste; a Cuba mousse with a slightly smoky, underwood taste (hm – could I have that with a peaty Whisky, please?) or why not a rounder taste in the mouth of the light notes of apricot, dried fruits and caramel with the Perou?
Next time I pop in, I should pick one from the bar to take a mousse cone to go. Or it could be this deliciously gooey chocolate cake? It’s called VSD: Vendredi Samedi Dimanche – with a name like that you know it’s going to be special. It was another real treat to have Patrice Chapon there himself to take us through the tastings for the event with his lovely team.
Patrice Chapon explained his method of selecting the beans from across the world; from the Ivory Coast, to Ghana, to Venezuela, to Peru, to Madagascar (there are many more) – to roasting until he’s left with the cocoa nibs (or grué – very edible at this point, even if bitter, ideal for savoury cooking, in my opinion) then the next stage is spent grinding it down in his conching machine. This machine below is just a small version he uses on a daily basis but normally it’s on a bigger scale in Chelles, 20 km north-east of Paris – something I look forward to posting for you later.
Then there are the pralines, with the Agates popular with customers. His latest are on the same lines but are Smileys, with a crunchy, powerful praline of almonds and hazelnuts enrobed in white chocolate.
As a previous marketer, I appreciate packaging to show off and preserve the contents for high-end goods. Patrice Chapon has something to smile about since not only are each of his chocolate bars given a pretty nostalgic theme, but the wrapper is re-sealable in able to preserve the chocolate as long as possible for dark chocolate-nibbling squirrels like myself.
Roll on Saturday, when I’m bringing along Lucie to take part in one of his demonstrations during the day at the workshop behind the shop. (Call 01 42 22 95 98 to sign up for either 15h, 15h30, 16h, 16h30 or email).
Next is Dalloyau, just around the corner on 63 rue de Grenelle. For the event, the institution’s emblem reminds us that they’ve been around since 1682, as it’s firmly nestled into the religieuse heads of these pastries. Don’t be fooled by their appearance. These two are savoury! Not sure of the salmon being so yellow, but hey, I haven’t tasted it yet – for the next visit or tell me what it’s like if you get there first!
Continuing on rue du Bac, just on the next corner to rue de Varenne, is the new boutique of Jacques Genin. Known for his signature caramels, chocolate and exquisite pastries at the Tea Salon in Rue de Turenne, Monsieur Genin was presenting his latest daring taste sensations to add to his fruit jelly range: he’s invented vegetable jellies!
Admittedly, I’d already tried them last week with my friend, Francis. Curious to taste, we tried cucumber, pepper, beetroot and turnip. The cucumber is wonderfully fresh for the summer and fun on the palate. The pepper and beetroots’ sweetness were unearthed too but somehow the originality of the turnip just didn’t do it for me. As a Scot, I’m perhaps too stuck in my ways enjoying the humble turnip with my haggis and mash. For the rest of the tasting, you can possibly see that the green rhubarb jellies were suspiciously low on stock with me being around the stand…
Now, Monsieur Genin was definitely demonstrating how cheeky he can become when chocolate is concerned. No wonder he was posing like this for the camera when you taste his latest number! Ladies and Gentlemen, meet his chocolate bars with capers. I love the size of the bars rather than small chocolates, as the saltiness of the capers don’t come through straight away. There’s a crunchiness in the chocolate that makes it quite a sensation. I’m looking forward to posting more about Jacques Genin soon from his laboratory in the Marais.
After that wonderful capering around, on to more classic pastries at 108 rue du Bac. Angelina have created a raspberry twist to their signature Mont Blanc dessert especially for the Bac Sucré event. Normally crème de marrons (chestnut vanilla cream) is rather sweet but that’s what makes these pastry houses so special: they are not too sweet at all with just the right balance. Yes, that’s something to smile about!
The Godfather of the Bac Sucré event is Philippe Conticini, known for making the patisseries of dreams from La Pâtisserie des Rêves. This was his very first store at 93 rue du Bac. Now he continues to make clients dream of their sweetest childhood memories through his creations via his characteristic glass-belled boutiques around the world.
For the event, even the taste of his sweeties tasting of sweeties (bonbons tasting of bonbons) were childhood-provoking. A real privilege to meet chef Conticini himself, he was most sincere how he explained how the critic scene in the Disney film, Ratatouille, was a turning point for him and how meeting a group of Japanese tasting something so French and completely different to what they’d tasted before could evoke such déjà vu memories of something they’d thought they’d eaten before. “It wasn’t possible!”, he confided. That was the revelation: to realise he could aim to create that intrinsic pleasure of evoking delicious childhood. Sweet dreams, indeed.
I encourage you to head over to rue du Bac for the Bac Sucré event until Father’s Day afternoon on Sunday 21st in Paris. There are so many other boutiques to visit yet – I’m aiming for Hugo & Victor, Foucher, La Grande Epicerie and Des Gâteaux et du Pain (Claire Damon is the genius behind the patisserie, seen below) and Eric Kayser over the weekend.
For the full programme, follow the link below. And if you can’t get there, that’s my job to transport you there via le blog. Thank you to the organisers of Le Bac Sucré and to the wonderful chefs for making this new event happen and for sharing their savoir-faire with us. Thank you, Carol of ParisBreakfasts for spotting this last week! Loved making new friends too: Virginie, Charlène, Solli – see you soon!
Bac Sucré® Event
Rue du Bac
7th Arrondissement Paris
Tuesday 16- Sunday 21 June 2015
For the full programme, go to BacSucre.com
—>Next Edition 2016: 15-19 June!