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.
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.
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 whip up the most incredible salmon ice 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.
Update 31 May 2016: Il Gelato del Marchese ice creams are now also available on the Champs-Elysées Terrace of the Hotel Marriott.
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
It happened again. I recently caught myself wincing at the teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant tea salons, where the famously stylish Parisian “macarons” were translated as “macaroons”.
I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems, but get it right.
Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, but they are both totally different.
Macarons vs Macaroons
This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book five years ago, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.
I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.
Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”
Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?
The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.
So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.
But there’s more to it than that.
Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.
In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.
But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).
For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey. Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (which looks more like an round almond cakes), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.
Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.
It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.
Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?
Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s blog at Christina’s Cucina to see how to make the real McCoy bars!
To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.
MACARONS vs MACAROONS
So before the confusion spreads any further between macaron and macaroon, let’s nip it in the bud. In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today, unless a regional version is mentioned, refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot.
Now it’s your turn: if you spread the macaron word, it will be no mean feat!
This article was published over at BonjourParis.com
It’s just how I imagined it. Rio’s Copacabana Beach showed off this scene on our first night, directly in front of the hotel with the blue moon looking on. Although it’s winter, the weather is perfect at this time of year, with temperatures hovering around 25°C. As one new Brazilian friend teased, “Winter in Rio was last Wednesday”.
Although we weren’t there at the time of the famous Carnival, we quickly realised how much more there is to Rio than Copacabana. For a start, there’s also Ipanema Beach.
Arriving off our night flight and feeling a bit new in this exciting City we were thankful to have booked an ideal 2-hour “Welcome to Rio” walk with Context Travel. Our lovely and lively guide, Amber, came to meet us and was itching to explain Rio’s different neighbourhoods and help us prepare our visit. Knowing we also love good food, she pointed us around the corner from the Copacabana Palace to show us some typical snacks. It didn’t take us long to taste our way around the bacon popcorn and carts of freshly baked brigadeiros, sweet chocolate fudge truffles made with condensed milk.
Pao de Queijo – warmed cheese bread balls, were my favourite and became rather addictive during our trip. They’re not unlike Gougères – French style cheese puffs typical of Burgundy, made with choux pastry – but the Brazilian version is more dense and heavier in weight. This is because instead of making them using normal all-purpose flour (as in Gougères), these cheese balls use cassava flour or tapioca flour.
Surprisingly, we saw Pao de Queijo on each hotels’ breakfast buffets during the trip along with the most succulent local mango, guava and papaya served with lime wedges. Limes are more popular than lemons and so a must try is the national Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha at one of the many kiosks along the beach (more on that in the next post) or by the pool as a special treat at the famous Copacabana Palace, which opened its Art Deco doors in 1923.
Another Context Tour really helped us get an idea of the City Centre (Centro), Founding Rio, the Marvellous City. Beth walked us through Rio’s fascinating history, starting with the Portuguese sailing into Guanabara Bay in January 1502. Thinking it was a mouth of a river, they called it Rio de Janeiro, or January River.
By 1822 Emperor Pedro I declared Brazil’s independence with Portugal and the evidence of old Colonial with new is evident throughout the City, who’s ports served as the Capital for the gold, coffee and diamond trade. It wasn’t until 1960 that the Capital was moved to Brasilia, a more central location. The tour ended here at the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. Finished in 1979, it looks rather like a Mayan pyramid amongst the mix of Colonial and more modern structures.
A note on security: it wasn’t as bad as we’d heard. Like any big city, you do need to be streetwise: don’t wear a watch or jewellery or walk around with cameras on show, and stay clear of the dodgy areas at night. In preparation for the 2016 Olympics, the police have tightened security and gone through a major project to pacify the favelas (shanty towns) and with police presence around the city, we felt safe. Just be practical and in areas in the North East, know where you’re going otherwise take a taxi.
Antoine had to talk sweetly to get me up Sugar Loaf Mountain. With vertigo, you can imagine why I’d be scared just looking at this picture. I still can’t believe I did it! There are two cable cars. The first takes you to the flatter, Urca Mountain, and from there you are whisked up by second cable car (some mountaineers decided to brave it up the only other way) up 400m. My secret was to stay in the middle and not look out of the window. There is a lot more room up there than you think to walk around, believe me!
Don’t forget your kids’ IDs in order to qualify for price concessions. We didn’t cart around our passports (naturally in a big city!) and found ourselves paying full over-21 adult prices for our 12 and 15 year olds. Lucie turned 13 a couple of days later; I know she’s tall but 21? Really.
The promised sweet talk started with one of the best ice creams in Rio at Felice in Ipanema. I opted for the passion fruit and chilli dark chocolate. The pistachio was also delicious – and just the right colour (you know how fussy I am about pistachio colour!).
However, for the best Teatime in Rio head to the famous institution reminiscent of the Belle Epoque, the Confeitaria Colombo in the heart of the City.
It was busy. Apologies for the terrible shot above here but I get excited in places like this, surrounded by Art Nouveau decor and wondering who exactly walked these floors since 1894. Queen Elizabeth did, apparently.
Needless to say, my choice was for the Pastels de Nata. I even had a savoury one, with cod fish followed by a most exquisite Pastel de Caipirinha (could you guess?). They also had French-inspired éclairs, Napoleon millefeuilles, lemon meringue tarts and chocolate tartlets (recipes in Teatime in Paris!).
Talking of food, we tried out a number of places for dinner in our 5 days in Rio but here are our best restaurants for a 3 day stay:
- Ten Kai Japanese restaurant in Ipanema;
- Zaza Bistro in Ipanema (we ate upstairs, where you take off your shoes and eat at low tables);
- Aprazivel, Santa Teresa. Some people told us to avoid this at night. For lunch you have spectacular views from the top but at night it’s just as good. (Just ensure that you take a taxi directly there and not walk the hill as you pass a favela). Order the palm hearts for starter. One between 2 is enough but it’s served cooked from the palm tree. Absolutely delicious!
- From Aprizivel we went on to Rio Scenarium in Lapa, a live music club on 4 floors. Take ID with you for the entrance (also a small fee). We were unlucky since we booked in advance but there were no tables left and the 2 bands out of 4 stopped playing after 10 minutes for a break – so it was just recorded music. Hopefully you’ll be more lucky since it’s a must-do here for some Samba dancing!
Another essential must-see in Rio is up the Corcovado (Portuguese for “hunchback”) mountain to see the monument of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Rendentor). The most popular transport to get there is by train. Normally we would have done it early in the morning to avoid the crowds but since this was Winter and the sun was shining with a great view potential, we took a taxi up to Paineiras Road then bought our tickets for the park vans to take us to the top.
Again, like Sugar Loaf Mountain, there is a lot more room at the top than you think for the weaker amongst us. And the view of Rio de Janeiro is incredible. If it’s misty, however, don’t even bother going there. The whole point is for the view and to see the statue perched on this granite rock of 710m. On a misty day you won’t see either of them. We also saw some monkeys on the way down in the Tijuca Forest, which just made Lucie’s 13th birthday!
On our last day we enjoyed our final walking tour with Amber from Context: Bohemian Rio, Santa Teresa and Lapa. Even although we had already seen a bit of Santa Teresa, we would never have seen all the secret parts of it without a guide.
Amber showed us the original trolley car, famous in Santa Teresa but which was stopped in 2012 for security reasons following an accident. The area is full of renovation work in anticipation of the Olympics next year but it looks like the trolley will be back in action again soon.
We loved visiting this traditional bookstore with a difference, where this passionate writer keeps the tradition alive of writing booklets on academic subjects – some of which were in English. There are many flamboyant artists in the area too, finding ingenious ways to recycle abandoned objects, including a Beetle car shell!
As we walked on the typical mosaic tiled pavements in Rio – originally brought from Portugal and replaced by gold on the way back – our tour with Amber finished with a hidden viewpoint in the heart of the city to watch the most magnificent sunset.
Stay tuned for the next post where we stop off at two destinations north and south of Rio, Buzios and Paraty, for a taste of the lazy beach life and islands plus the local Cachaça.
(Note: this was not at all a sponsored trip but our private family holiday I wanted to share with you, in preparation for the Olympic Games in Brazil, August 2016)
We’re just back from Charles de Gaulle airport, dropping off our eldest for an adventure away from the nest for TWO weeks. Julie confirmed I’m a fussy mum. Have you got your identity card? Don’t forget this form and remember to … “Don’t worry. I’ve got it, Mum!”
To calm down on the way home, we called Antoine’s parents. They are in a different world in the south. As we were talking, stuck in Parisian traffic, they were sitting looking at this view from under the shade of an oak tree in their quiet Provençal village of Saignon.
Over the past week, this heatwave has continued to hit us hard in Paris. One way to keep our cool indoors is ensuring the shutters are closed: that’s something that my mother-in-law fusses about – even more than me.
Another rule in the south is to take an afternoon nap, or sieste. Call me a rebel, but that’s when I normally sneak out of the sleepy house and head into the village. Although there are over 1000 habitants, as you can see from the photos I took on our last summer visit in August, most people head indoors during the hottest part of the day. For me, it’s paradise. Even the cats were sleeping indoors.
Turning the corner from their driveway just underneath the imposing rock in the village, the only sounds are the drumming of the cigales (cicadas) hidden in the trees and, gradually going up the steep slope towards the church, the sounds of trickling water come from a small communal washing place or Lavoir, as if stepping back into another century.
I have always loved the chairs just outside some of the front doors. They’re for the neighbours to gossip, chat, exchange recipes, perhaps?
As you gradually climb up the village, which is 500m above the market town of Apt, many of the picturesque houses date back to the 16th century. Gargoyles included on some. The cars are far more modern…
This 12th Century Roman Church of Notre Dame (also known as Saint Mary of Saignon) reminds us of Julie’s very windy Christening there 14 years ago (where did the time fly?) and many other family events, joyous and not as much.
Just behind the church, the cinema had prepared the chairs for the night’s viewing. I guess cushions would be a good idea.
It’s also at the back of the church that the steps lead to the imposing rock in the village. It’s not that much of a climb but we heard the story about some adventurous tourists that had to be rescued from a helicopter, as they went off track. As you can imagine, the neighbours chatted about this one for a while.
This is only the back view of the rock. On the other side, the view is over the Luberon valley.
This is where I found people! So quickly making my descent, headed for the main lavoir in the village’s centre, the Place de la Fontaine. Just imagine the locals from another era all gathering around here, doing their washing and catching up on the latest news…
with this as their view.
Keep your cool and have a lovely week! I’m looking to sharing some easy yet delicious recipes from my friends in Provence. You up for a touch of garlic?
Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps. Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer to liberate us from any of the year’s accumulating cobwebs. Next time I’ll take a bike (although I need to practice on flat ground first) but in the meantime we did plenty of cyclist watching, hypnotically driving behind previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.
As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door. Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours. We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.
This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived. You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.
Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!
It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors. Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC. On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.
It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.
After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls (Valérie, a good friend in Provence, has a sign in her WC saying “If you’re not embarrassing your kids you’re not living life to the full”.) Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice cream flavours from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.
Somehow, however, I feel I can live life to the full without selfies. The girls were trying to explain how to take them properly but I was more interested in ice cream. Julie didn’t give up: “Well at least make a silly face, Mum.” I tried.
I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates). Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.
As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at the local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce. Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, dark chocolate cake, or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons. It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colour (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?
It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a Sunday afternoon lunch last weekend. Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio-strawberry creamy desserts.
Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons! I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen. It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them. Rouen – there’s another place I should tell you about later.
Perhaps I could call the chocolate-hazelnut macarons (one of the 38 macaron recipes in the book BTW) Baci macaron? Bite into one and it’s a chocolate kiss. Oh-la-la. Enough of that nutty talk. Time to get on with the recipe!
Recipe: Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis
Makes enough for 8 mini verrines / shot-glasses
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2.5 hours minimum
3 sheets gelatine (@2g each)
400ml crème fleurette or whipping cream (30% butterfat)
100ml whole/full fat milk
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste *
3-4 drops pistachio extract (or almond extract)
1 gelatine leaf (@ 2g)
300g fresh strawberries
50g caster sugar
* If you don’t have pistachio paste, make up your own: whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder. Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of pistachio extract and a tablespoon of water.
1. Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.
2. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted. Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.
3. Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
4. Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes. Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor. Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water). Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.
Funny. As I’m writing, I can sniff the waft of pizza floating upstairs. Lucie has discovered how to make pizza all by herself. It has been so good that she’s starting to make it quite often – and she’s even excited at cleaning up – well, nearly.