Putting on The Ritz Paris Teatime

Teatime at the Ritz in Paris was on my perfect French afternoon tea bucket list all during its four long years of renovation. Even as the luxury 5-star hotel was undertaking its €200 million face-lift on Place Vendôme, I still featured the Ritz in my recipe book, Teatime in Paris, knowing that they would unveil something exceptional. Together with our clinging French attire, my friend and I were excited to let time stand still and put on a Ritz Paris Teatime!

Ritz Paris Teatime new Salon Proust

Tea in the Salon Proust

Winter in Paris is perhaps the best time to indulge in the ultimate French afternoon tea. It takes place by the fireplace in the salon given homage to Marcel Proust, under his watchful portrait’s eyes.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

Author Marcel Proust came to the Ritz’s opening party in 1898 and chose it as his second home. He apparently took to the corner spot right next to the fireplace, finding endless inspiration for his novels using the hotel’s elegant surroundings and intimate salons of the literary and aristocratic elite.
Here he felt that “nobody would push you around”.

Ritz Paris Teatime at the Salon Proust

As soon as 2.30pm chimes, the loaded silver Champagne bucket beckons at the entrance to the open-curtained, cosy salon. Would you pick a flute of Reserve Barons de Rothschild Blanc or Rosé to add even more sparkle to the occasion?

Ritz Paris Teatime with Champagne Rothschild

The shiny marble table mirroring the impressive floral display is suddenly hidden, groaning with golden-framed glass boxes containing a whole range of biscuits, petits fours and cakes from yesteryear (les biscuits d’Antan).

Marcel Proust looks on wide-eyed, swooning over his childhood favourite sweet treats on overflowing tiered plates. He no doubt would have loved what’s to come from the talented head pastry chef, François Perret.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

It is a journey through the flavors of my childhood memories which I grew up with and which developed by taste buds.”

Chef François Perret insists, too, that he doesn’t use sugar to excess. This is my kind of pastry chef!

Exceptional teas from the TWG Tea Company in Singapore are given pride of place over pages and pages in the menu. The tea sommelier has picked out black, green and white teas, including semi-fermented, fermented teas and herbal infusions. I would recommend the Ritzy Earl Grey with added cornflowers. Non- tea drinkers are also spoiled for choice with the likes of hot chocolate, five different coffees, as well as iced and cold drinks.

Ritz Paris Teatime teas

A Right Ritz Paris Teatime

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is distinctly French in the Salon Proust. There are no patisseries or pastries as such; instead typically refined biscuits and petits fours from yesteryear plus mini tarts and cakes.

It’s the scalloped, humped madeleine teacake that takes centre stage from start to finish, as made famous by Proust in his novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu). Even the tea service evokes a golden madeleine motif: Chef Perret helped to design the French white limoges porcelain made by Haviland.

Ritz Paris Teatime Madeleines de Proust

Service is immaculate and convivial, as each element of this Parisian teatime is given a touch of relaxed ceremony. A mini madeleine arrives in a bowl for starters, then sumptuously immersed in lemon-infused milk – we’re asked to leave it to infuse for a minute to enjoy the experience at its best.

Three tiers of treats arrive, competing for centre stage: we’re introduced to each layer in order, starting with a quirky teacup as top tier. They’re all biscuits and petits fours that would have traditionally been served in the brasseries of the time: sponge fingers with cocoa nibs, Russian cigarettes, Florentines.

Ritz Paris Teatime Table

The second tier highlights biscuits such as Spritz, buttery Pailles au framboises (nothing like the French packet ones!), airy allumettes of egg whites and lemon, marshmallow bears. The bottom tier is devoted to tarts and cakes, with the lightest sugar tarts on a brioche base (I hear they’re now serving old-fashioned lemon tarts), pink praline meringue, marble cake and giant tuiles.

A most memorable treat is perhaps the “Pain au Chocolat”. Not at all appearing like the classic viennoiserie that we see in Parisian boulangeries, Chef Perret has played with the simple French childhood goûter (after-school 4pm snack) of a baguette sandwich filled with a couple of chocolate squares, cleverly transforming it into cocoa-nib-covered dark chocolate breads served with a platter of cocoa butter, coconut butter, whipped cream, and jam.

Pains au chocolat butters ritz paris teatime

The Madeleine du Ritz arrives hidden under a bell, unveiled as delicately perfumed with orange blossom and lemon-glazed. So not to completely ruin your surprise, they change the flavour combination every now and again.

Recipes for madeleines and tuiles are included in Teatime in Paris, just in case you’d like to recreate a ritzy teatime at home.

With all that tea, even a trip to the restroom was discrete ceremony, where the tap water glides from golden swans.

Tea break Ritz Paris restrooms

I’d missed the bill arriving, which was yet another wonderful touch (their discretion, that is – not that I’d run off to the bathroom!); elegantly and discreetly placed at page 46 inside an old edition of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, where Proust describes that perfect taste of a childhood memory through a Madeleine and some tea.

Ritz Paris Teatime check Proust book

Don’t be fooled by all the light biscuits and mini cakes: it’s just not possible to finish everything that’s presented (well, without needing a golden crane option at the end to lift us out). A box of untouched goodies are yours to take home, plus yet another finale: the most exquisite tiny tea caddy containing a Rooibos and yuzu tea with precise instructions to infuse 5g for 400ml at 90°C for 3-4 minutes, s’il vous plaît.

After such a Ritz Paris Teatime, it’s quite easy to take a stroll indoors and lose yourself in the sumptuous corridors leading to the Hemingway Bar. To access the bar, temptations continue with this elegant shopping gallery.

Ritz Paris Shopping gallery

With teatime starting at 2.30pm, by the time you’ve enjoyed an afternoon of it by the fire in such lush surroundings, it’s extra magical in Winter to come out to the sparkling lights of Place Vendôme.

So, what do you think of having a Christmas Ritz Paris Teatime?

Teatime Ritz Paris Christmas

Open every day: 2.30pm-6pm

French Teatime (Thé à la française): €65; Champagne Teatime: €85
Salon Proust
Ritz Hotel Paris
15 Place Vendôme, 75001 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 16 33 74

Metros: Opéra or Tuileries

 

Note: This teatime was in experienced in November 2016 but the original version of this article was finally first published for Paris Perfect in February 2017.

Essential Baking Utensils: Terraillon Review & Giveaway

Every home baker needs the right tools for successful baking. I’m not talking unnecessary fancy expensive gadgets, but straightforward inexpensive quality equipment that’s both compact and easy to use.
For the past couple of months, I’ve enjoyed testing Terraillon’s essential baking utensils for this review. You may have seen me (via Instagram, live stories) baking constantly over weekends and many weeknights, making tarts, macarons, financiers, ice cream, and more recipes from my latest book, Teatime in Paris, just to fully put them to the test.

To date, I’ve been most impressed with the digital scales from the macaron range.  If you don’t use digital scales to measure your ingredients for baking, then please read this article NOW. Please avoid using cups: weighing your ingredients exactly by grams (or ounces) will not just give you successful results – but consistently successful baking results.

Let’s start with this clever new mixing bowl kit.  As with all Terraillon’s baking utensils range, it’s approved by Christophe Michalak, one of France’s most prestigious star pastry chefs. As they say, Express Your Chef!

 

Terraillon Multi Function Mixing Bowl Kit

Terraillon's essential baking utensils

Mixing bowl that’s 5-in-1, compact and sleek

The compact design is ingenious: it’s a five-in-one mixing bowl kit stacked conveniently together to avoid cluttering the kitchen. It includes:

  • Transparent lid
  • Egg yolk separator
  • 0.5L microwavable silicone bowl
  • Anti-splatter and non slip support
  • 3L Stainless steel mixing bowl

Stainless steel bowls are essential tools and this mixing bowl is a dream for making macarons, particularly as it’s slightly heavier than my current ones. As a result, there’s more control in mixing the batter (macaronnage) and placed on its non slip support, I can turn it around effortlessly and securely while mixing. Without this support, I’ve been known to zealously whisk using a super light bowl with the bowl finally flying in the air and batter on the floor!  It’s not possible with this, rest assured.

The non slip support has a dual function, as an anti-splatter lid – and I’ve found it conveniently fits on all my other bowls in the kitchen.  It’s ideal for mixing up cookie dough, mousses or meringue without the splatter that can be caused using an electric whisk.

Terraillon's essential baking utensils

The non-slip support is brilliant for turning around the bowl easily during macaron-making

This microwavable silicone bowl is handy for directly catching the egg whites from the separator: put the lid on and store in the fridge for about 3 days if you’re making macarons. It’s also great for gently melting butter or chocolate directly in the microwave.  Although it didn’t fit my own smaller saucepan, it’s ideal for melting chocolate over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie) and I’ve used it for preparing ganache fillings for macarons and Tigré (financier) French cakes. It’s also handy for storing leftover batter or ganaches with the lid on in the fridge – it’s currently sitting neatly in my fridge with a savoury crumble mix.

terraillon's baking equipment review microwavable silicone bowl

Microwavable bowl for melting chocolate and butter

 

Essential Baking Utensils: Tall BalloonWhisk

Terraillon's essential baking utensils review tall whisk

Whipping up a lemon and passionfruit cream to go into a meringue tart…

The Premium Tall Whisk is part of the hand tools collection.  I already have 3 whisks that are used constantly for making smooth sauces, silky pastry creams, ice cream, etc. and so they take a beating.  2.5 out of 3 are already deformed and frankly, not good quality.
On the other hand, this tall whisk is very slightly heavier and at 35cm, with its comfortable ergonomic stainless steel handle with stainless steel arms, is sturdy and robust for continued easy whisking. I find it bounces along beautifully and copes well with the thicker sauces or custards, and I love the comfortable length. The silicone ring makes it easy to hang up too. As with the rest of the Terraillon baking equipment, it’s dishwasher-safe.

 

Terraillon Pastry Mat & Rolling Pin

Terraillon's essential baking utensils review pastry mat rolling pin

 

Yet another ingenious space-saving innovation is Terraillon’s rolling pin and pastry mat set. It’s just as compact: the pastry mat is neatly rolled inside the rolling pin tube, closed at the end of the tube with a silicone cookie cutter.

It’s a 2-in-1 mat (47.8 x 38cm) that’s graduated for precision to fit your tart rings/pans and – wait for it – goes DIRECTLY IN THE OVEN, withstanding temperatures up to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. This is particularly useful when using tart rings, for example, as once you’ve rolled out your pastry and pressed it neatly into the ring, it’s so much easier to keep it directly on the mat and place in the oven.  No transferring to the oven sheet is necessary: just slip the baking sheet under the mat.
I also find the mat washes well and, unlike other mats I’ve tried, it dries quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy film on it. Once cleaned, it’s easy to roll it up neatly with the elastic and pop it back in the rolling pin tube.

Terraillon new pastry mat rolling pin review

The perfect rolling pin: light, smooth with removable rings for dough thickness

How can you define the best kind of professional standard rolling pin?  It’s pretty subjective as some of us may prefer handles but after trying this rolling pin, I’m not going back to my old ones with wooden handles. For a start, it has a lovely length of 42cm and as it’s lightweight, just glides smoothly without the stickiness on the pastry dough.
Its precise graduations and 3 pairs of removable rings allows you to adjust the thickness of your dough: 4mm, 6mm or 8mm, making your pastry beautifully even.

essential baking utensils Terraillon Review

A 2-in-1 pastry mat that takes oven heat to 220°C

 

For tart and tartlet recipes, enjoy this chestnut flour, pumpkin, mushroom & sage tart.
Another essential item for the home baker? You’ll need my book, Teatime in Paris! As well as recipes for more macarons, éclairs, millefeuilles, ice cream, teacakes etc. there are also detailed instructions on how to make the perfect tart pastry (including chocolate) in the tart recipe chapter.

Essential Baking Utensils Terraillon Review

Teatime Tarts: Maple caramel nut, chocolate pistachio, vanilla raspberry, and chocolate Earl Grey with Grand Marnier profiteroles

 

Terraillon UK Giveaway!

The baking utensils experts at Terraillon have kindly given away the Rolling Pin & Pastry Mat Set (value of £34.99) to one of the lucky readers in the UK who entered with their comments below: Congratulations to Suzanne! Thanks to all of you who entered.

The Giveaway is over, but the products continue – both the Terraillon Rolling Pin & Mat Set and the Multi-Function Mixing Bowl Kit are available on Amazon.co.uk.

TO ENTER:

  • Entrants must be resident in the UK;
  • Follow @MadAboutMacarons on Facebook and/or Instagram;
  • Follow @TerraillonOfficial on Instagram (an advantage)
  • Leave a comment below, saying how you would “Express your Chef” with Terraillon’s rolling pin and pastry mat and why you think it’s one of the most essential baking utensils.

ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED.

 


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post and was given the above new baking equipment from Terraillon UK for the purpose of a review. I was not required to be positive and, as always, all opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are not affiliate links.

Relais Desserts Yule Log Presentation, Paris 2017

This week, the elite group of top pastry chefs had us floating on the Seine for their annual Relais Desserts Yule Log presentation of Bûches de Noël. You’ll remember me talking about the Relais Desserts group here before, as they organise the charitable event, the Fête du Macaron or French Macaron Day each Springtime.

relais desserts yule log presentation paris 2017

Even the boat’s pristine top deck looked covered in shiny festive glaze with seats of whipped meringues. Meanwhile, I was already in a daze to get started  downstairs: there was a LOT of patisseries to get through and their stars of pastry to meet. So, ready for a bumper gourmet edition? Grab a cup of tea and join me on the sweet voyage.

 

Presided by Frédéric Cassel on the left below, Relais Desserts invited us to taste the bûches/yule logs, meet the chefs behind each creation, ask questions and enjoy the tasting notes.  As I do in my patisserie recipe books, each creation suggests how to serve it: either chilled or, as in most cases, to take out of the fridge for 15-30 minutes beforehand in order to appreciate all the flavours and textures.  Recommendations for the perfect drink to accompany them are also given, although this one is easy for a festive meal if you like bubbles.

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

 

Each yule log was presented by collection. Have you ever seen chocolate paper before? This listing was printed on paper made by 45% of recycled cacao shells.

cocoa paper

I’m a sensitive cookie. If you’re like me and an obsessed gourmet, can you imagine walking in to one long room filled with the most outstanding French pastry chefs in one spot? I was overwhelmed yet bubbling to discover each creation.

 

Dried Fruit & Nuts Collection (Fruits Secs)

relais desserts yule log Bernardé

Sporting the renowned collar of a Meilleur Ouvrier de FranceNicolas Bernardé doesn’t give a name to this yule log but certainly provokes the goose-bumps, just thinking of the flavours: NOISETTES-MANGUE-PASSION.  It’s a mountain of hazelnut sponge, mango-passion fruit compote with a passion fruit cream, crunchy hazelnuts from Piemont and a Gianduja crème légère. Enjoy it with Earl Grey tea.

 

Relais Desserts Mercotte Roussel

The beaming smiles of Mercotte and Christophe Roussel were in full tasting swing. Mercotte – France’s wonderful answer to Mary Berry – is TV presenter of La Meilleur Pâtissier, patisserie blogger at La Cuisine de Mercotte, and on the jury for Christophe Roussel’s prestigious Amateur annual pastry challenge, Le Défi Patissier, of which I was most flattered to join them as guest on the jury last year in La Baule (read all about it here).

 

relais desserts yule log Christophe Roussel

Far removed from a traditional yule log, Christophe Roussel, also the star of La Baule and la Guerande, evokes icy snow with his ICEBERG. Served chilled, it’s a most refreshing end to any festive meal. Topped with glistening choux buns, break into creamy vanilla, toasted hazelnuts from Piemont with a zesty touch of orange.

 

Jean-Philippe Darcis ‘s ALESSANDRIA (top left below) is best served with a good pure Arabica coffee, to accompany the Gianduja mousse, Ristretto cream with a cappuccino marshmallow, hazelnut sponge and chocolate-hazelnut crunchy crumble. Attention: it’s a limited edition, with 300 examples for Christmas.

Relais Desserts Yule logs Dalloyau Lenotre, Darcis

Jean-Christophe Jeanson prefers to keep his UNE SURPRISE Bûche secret. Made for Lenôtre Paris, even the packaging evokes a mysterious snowy forest in Lapland.  I wonder if Laurent Duchêne was asking if he could reveal it?

Again on a snowy and marshmallow note, Nicolas Boucher’s KUKLA (bottom right) is for Dalloyau Paris. Its  chocolate cover evokes a matryoshka doll, revealing a variation on a theme of a pavlova: an almond meringue base with confiture au lait with a financier heart of mango-passion fruit compote and vanilla cream.  Glazed in white chocolate, this frozen bûche is surrounded with a citrus marshmallow. Recommended with a mature dark rum.

 

Chocolate Yulelog Collection

relais desserts yule log Pierre Hermé

I managed to catch an enigmatic smile from Pierre Hermé, as he looked on to his GÂTEAU DE NOËL ÉCORCES. Together with artist Sylvianne Lüsher who designed the clay base, it’s an ephemeral piece of art – and at only 20 examples being made for Christmas, it’s a cracker of a limited edition! A log within a log, encompassing Viennese chocolate sponge, dark chocolate and raspberry Chantilly, raspberry compote with dark chocolate salted butter shortbread. Three out of the four portions are dark chocolate: one is raspberry red to give the artistic finish.

 

relais desserts yule log Hévin Paris

Following on from last year’s French Touch collection (see my post on it here), Jean-Paul Hévin has been inspired through time, paying homage to designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld with his GÉOMETRIK.
A crunchy almond praline with poppy seed base is topped with a Peruvian Grand Cru chocolate mousse smoked with pine, topped with a hazelnut sponge and caramelised laurel-infused mousse.
A special tip for clean-cutting this Christmas is to cut the yule log with a warmed knife.

 

relais desserts yule log marc Ducobu

Marc Ducobu‘s MERVEILLEUX NOËL brings the classic chocolate yule log from Belgium with new notes based on meringue, Chantilly, Caribbean chocolate ganache, with different chocolate crispy textures.

Vianney Bellanger (above right) brings his chocolate CAROUSSEL from Le Mans, evoking childhood with a crunchy chocolate crumble, plus the more rare criollo cacao variety in a chocolate mousse from the Dominican Republic. It comes with a chocolate crème anglaise (light custard) with crunchy pearls.

 

relais desserts yule log Jeff Oberweis

Jeff Oberweis concentrates more on after Christmas when the traditional yule log changes time to New Year’s Eve, known here as SAINT-SYLVESTRE.  Inspired by Salvador Dali’s melting clocks, it’s ticking with Madagascan dark chocolate mousse with a Gianduja crunch, plus a Brazilian milk chocolate cream topped on a chocolate almond sponge.  I think it’s about time we visited Luxembourg with only 2 hours by TGV from Paris. After having lived in Guatemala, he knows a thing or two about chocolate!

 

Spicy Collection (Épices)

Relais Desserts Yulelogs Pignol Lyon

Jean-Paul Pignol‘s BELLECOUR pays homage to the silhouette of Lyon’s famous square and his Madeleine de Proust of childhood memories: devouring clementines from under the Christmas tree.
The warming hint of spices are in a soft sponge, a crackling nutty contrasting texture with a Peruvian chocolate mousse which is interlaced with the most deliciously acidic note of clementine marmalade and confit. After discussing macarons and Lyon with Chef Pignol, I have to return soon: on my last gourmet trip to Lyon (see my post on Lyon’s patisseries) I didn’t even try his speciality, La Tarte Ecossaise!

 

relais desserts yule log arnaud larder

Arnaud Larher is already celebrating 20 years’ anniversary since opening his first boutique in Montmartre, 1997.  With a mixture of nostalgia and his favourite recipes comes ÉPICÉA.  It’s a yule log filled with 66% dark grand cru chocolate and gingerbread mousse, orange marmalade on a gingerbread base and all topped with a glaze and 80% dark chocolate Chantilly cream.

 

Citrus Yulelog Collection (Agrumes)

relais desserts yule log Mulhaupt

Thierry Mulhaupt brought this dazzling ÉTOILE from Strasbourg and Colmar to take the chocolate brownie to new heights. An almond brownie is topped with the most succulent Maltese orange caramel and topped with a 66% dark chocolate mousse with orange marmalade.
He also makes a savoury bûche (salmon, lemon, broccoli as a starter) and has just published a new book on Bredeles Salés, filled with savoury recipes for aperitif nibbles.

 

relais desserts yule log Luc Guillet

Luc Guillet must have been inundated with fans since I couldn’t find him before I had to run off.  To celebrate his first Christmas in the family business, his CÉSAR is inspired by his Asian travels, with fragrances of yuzu, black sesame, chocolate and caramel.

 

 

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Bouillet

Also hailing from Lyon, Sebastien Bouillet brings on a touch of circus fun with his CHAPITEAU. Toasted popcorn and 44% milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut are topped with a beautiful yuzu cream and yuzu jelly that tickles all the senses. For more on his boutiques, see my article on Lyon here.

 

Yulelog Fruit Collection

relais desserts yule log presentation 2017 Paris

Claire Damon, the only woman chef in the group, has logged herself with a self-portrait in INITALES CD.  Evoking her childhood memories of freshly cut hay at the end of spring, she evokes a taste of summer on the plate this Christmas. Be transported with a compote of handpicked wild blueberries from Auvergne, a light sponge of rice flour and an airy mousse fragranced with cut hay. There’s even a touch of crunchy wild clover. She healthily suggests a modest glass of still water to accompany it.

 

relais desserts yule log presentation Paris 2017

Claire Damon has the spoon! With Laurent Duchêne, Arnaud Larher, Sebastien Bouillet

 

relais desserts yule log laurent duchene Paris

It’s the famous Black Forest Gateau that inspired Laurent Duchêne this year with his SOUS BOIS FORET NOIRE. The fun visual of being in the woods mixed with the legendary ingredients are taken to new heights with a light chocolate sponge, Tanzanian 75% dark chocolate creamy mousse, griotte black cherry confit and a Madagascan vanilla Chantilly.

 

relais desserts yule log Frederic Cassel

Frédéric Cassel continues the tradition of exchanging gifts, and his BOITE CADEAU continues the charm with 14 Christmas boules garnished with all sorts of delicious speciality surprises from his patisserie in Fountainbleau. It’s a limited edition, with 100 examples available this Christmas.

 

relais desserts yule log Michel Pottier Grandin

Called Royale, referring to the royal burgh of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where Michel Pottier runs the Patisserie Grandin on rue du Pain (quite aptly named as the original bakers’ street to King François I’s château, just around the corner). As I live in the area, check out my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye and a DIY Chocolate & Pastry tour in his royal town.

Serve chilled, Royale’s lime and raspberry mousses nestle between an almond sponge, topped with toasted meringue with a fresh raspberry coulis or sauce. I like the mini macarons as a slice guide, so there’s no cheating.

relais desserts yule log richard Seve

Richard Sève beckoned me over with a square of red chocolate. I felt like Charlie in a chocolate factory. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s due to open a new lab and chocolate museum in Lyon at the end of this month.
He made the chocolate using whole fresh strawberries without any added sugar to continue the pleasure of summer over the Christmas table. His COLIBRIS, referring to the exotic birds that feed off the rare nectars of tropical fruits and flowers, adds the most intense yet light natural strawberry ganache with a compote of mango and passion fruit to an airy sponge.

 

relais desserts Coco Jobard

To finish off my early festive log, meet the talented Coco Jobard, food stylist and recipe editor for the association’s new forthcoming book, Haute-Pâtisserie for Relais Desserts, due to hit the bookshelves on 26 October. You mean – there’s more?

So, after all that, am I the only one to have this inexplicable urge for Champagne?

Lyon’s Best Patisseries, Chocolates & Macarons

Now that you’ve had a tasting of some of Lyon’s best Bouchons and bistros in my last post, now it’s time to cover Lyon’s best patisseries, chocolate and macaron shops.

What are Lyon’s Pink Pralines?

It doesn’t take long to discover Lyon’s most popular candy/confectionary speciality walking past the bakeries along the historic Rue Saint Jean in the old town and all around the city: sweetly welcoming windows are filled with bright pink pralines.

Les Pralines roses are simply coated almonds in pink coloured sugar. Although you can eat them tel quel (as they are), they’re traditionally used in pink praline brioches or in the local tarts (Tartes aux pralines rose).

Lyon's best patisseries

 

Lyon’s Best Chocolate & Macaron Shops

With world-famous chocolate producer Valhrona only an hour’s drive south in Tain-l’Hermitage, it’s no surprise that Lyon’s chocolate shops are well covered (or well coated?).  If you do have the chance to venture to Tain-l’Hermitage during your Lyon visit, then why not visit the Valhrona Cité du Chocolat and chocolate shop (there are tons of chocolates to try – each time my husband goes in I have to drag him out like a little boy!). And just around the corner you could finish up with wine-tastings at Chapoutier and Jaboulet, while you’re at it.

Seve macarons lyon

Bernachon specialises in making their own chocolate from bean to bar and there are many other award-winning chocolatiers around, such as Philippe Bel, Bruno Saladino, Bernard Dufoux, to name a few.

Richard Sève, award-winning chocolatier who makes chocolate from bean to bar, and pâtissier, was the first to come up with savoury macarons – something I am rather partial to myself (See chapter of savoury mini macaron recipes in my first book, Mad About Macarons). His first savoury macaron was with foie gras, a world first!  I heard from him first hand, too, that he’s opening a new chocolate shop and museum (MUSCO) end of October 2017, so I’m looking forward to sharing this with you later.

Lyon’s Candy Specialities

best candy lyon

Since 1897, Voisin has been roasting not only chocolate beans but also coffee beans and are renowned for inventing the Coussin de Lyon, chocolate ganache covered in Curaçao marzipan, made a patrimonial French speciality in 1960. If you can’t get to Lyon, then you can still find them in Paris in speciality chocolate shops (e.g. De Neuville) and at Le Bonbon au Palais (they come in pink and purple as well as the traditional turquoise coussins), along with other Lyonnais confections, such as le Bouchon (a cork) and le Cocon, resembling a more delicious kind of silk worm, in homage to the famous Lyonnais silkworkers – more on my French regional confectionary post here.

best bakeries in Lyon

Lyon’s Best Patisseries

For delicious bread plus three varying types of the local doughnut-like speciality, bugnes lyonnaises, head to Ô Fournil des Artistes (next to the Maison de Canuts). En route via the Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse, try more pink pralines at Alain Rolancy, MOF.

The family Maison Pignol, run by Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Jean-Paul Pignol, is a veritable gourmet oasis in such a gastronomic capital, covering traiteurs (delicatessens) to brasseries to restaurants – and his original love of traditional patisseries, from Paris-Brest to the Baba au Rhum.  You’ll particularly love to stop at his patisserie in rue Emile Zola for a taste of macarons and 50 varieties of pastries and cakes.  I shall be returning to Lyon since I can’t believe I missed his speciality, la Tarte Ecossaise (Scottish Tart)!

Just around the corner from the chocolate concept store Chokola (check out the mesmerising chocolate wall fountain), you’ll also see chocolate lipsticks, caviar, and the Maca’Lyon caramel macaron completely dipped in chocolate continuing at the legendary patisserie of  Sébastien Bouillet (Place de la Croix-Rousse). I show this in more detail from my last trip. Moreover, to be totally Bouillet-ed, right next door is his new popular local bakery, Goûter.

gastronomic Lyon Sebastien Bouillet

With echoes of yesteryear, such a charming window lures us in with cooling tarts and cakes winking at us behind the panes. Long cakes, a sausage-shaped tarte tatin and brioches are cut to size, as they’re sold by the length: imagine asking for half a meter of Tarte Tatin? As if that’s not enough, buttery financiers and scalloped madeleines tempt us further at the counter (recipes for these are in my latest book, Teatime in Paris).

Lyon's best pastry shops

No gourmet Lyon trip can be complete without a taste of the famous Praluline invented by August Pralus in 1955. Today François Pralus continues to make this sumptuously sticky brioche, rising in another league, using almonds from Valence and Piémont hazelnuts to create the most compact pink praline buttery brioche in the city. After working at Bernachon, François Pralus also makes his own chocolate from bean to bar – and macarons, of course!

Pralus

Lyon Tea Salons

If relaxing in a tea salon is more your style, then a great tea list can be found in Rue de la République at La Maison Debeaux (OK, I admit to being seduced by the Kama Sutra!). They also do a great saucisson brioché (typical regional sausage-filled brioche), as well as a whole counter of tempting salads and savouries.  If you still haven’t had time to try pink pralines in any form, then you have no excuse, as their pinky goody selection would have Barbie in raptures. See my previous visit to Debeaux.

Moreover, Anticafé (9 rue du bât d’Argent, near the Opéra) is worth checking out just around the corner from Debeaux for its catching new concept.  At Anticafé (like its sister in Paris), you pay by the hour: so sit back and relax for 5 euros with free included beverages or drinks and nibbles while you work or meet-up and, although not advertised, they did tip me the wink that they don’t mind if you bring your own doggie-bag of pastries from local bakeries.

After a taster of a selection, what would you choose?


This post is not sponsored in any way.

Best Value Gourmet Lyon in 3 Days

Three puzzled faces stared as I announced Lyon as our destination. While most French families take off to the ski slopes in the February mid-term school holidays, we chose our destination centred around food – driving 4 hours south of Paris to discover the best value gourmet Lyon in 3 days.

Why Lyon?

Why Lyon? It may be the third largest city in France after Paris and Marseille but since 1930, it continues to earn its reputation as THE French Capital of gastronomy.

Ever since the Romans originally settled here in 43BC (known as Lugdunam until the Middle Ages), Lyon has been a strategic crossroads between the North and South of Europe. Built around the Rhône and Saône rivers, it’s almost squashed together with its tall buildings to compensate for the two imposing Fourvière and Croix-Rousse hills. Historical echoes of commerce ring throughout the City, as we imagine crammed sailing boats vying for trades in wine, spices and especially local silk fabrics, an industry that has flourished since the 15th Century.

Lyon France River Saône

Old Lyon

We started with a visit to the Medieval Vieux Lyon, on the Rive Gauche (left bank), made up of Saint Georges, Saint Jean, and Saint Paul. Directly under the towering Fourvière Basilica, on a beautiful clear day the panoramic view of the city is (literally) breathtaking after the climb to the top.  As Lyon’s Wintery February met us with wind and rain, we’ll leave that for our next visit. Museums were our answer, such as the Musée Miniature et Cinéma which shows props, realistic miniatures and special effects; and the Guignol Workshop Theatre, which not only highlights Lyon as the birthplace in 1808 of the Guignol puppets (much like Punch & Judy) but Damien Wels is the only Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman) in this domaine as sculptor and puppet-maker.

Traboules passageways in Lyon

What are Traboules?

If you’re like me and fascinated by historical French doorsyou’re in for a treat. Behind many of them are secret passageways, called Traboules. The Traboules in Lyon are unique in the world and date back to the Renaissance. Coming from the Latin for “passing through”, there are 350 of these secret narrow passages in the city. They were created as direct paths for the local silk workers (les Canuts) to transport their fabrics protected from the rain – so to avoid weaving in and out (sorry, can never resist an opportunity for a terrible pun) between their workshops and the crowded streets.

Like any of the locals, our friend, Jean-Paul who owns a gorgeous little gift shop in Rue Saint Jean, is familiar with the traboules. There are 24 of them in Rue Saint Jean alone! He led us to Number 7 as a short-cut to get to our restaurant that night: instead of walking around a couple of maze-like streets, we were directly led to Number 7 right on the Quai Romain Rolland.

It was our first experience of trabouling – yes, apparently it’s a French verb, to Traboule: so, j’ai traboulé! Avez-vous traboulez?

silk weavers history in Lyon

For a better idea of Lyon’s main industry, we headed up the “hill that worked” of the Croix-Rousse to visit the silk weavers’ museum. The Maison des Canuts (rue d’Ivry) demonstrates how silk was made using Jacquard looms and depicts the deplorable living and working conditions (the workplace was also their living quarters), leading to many uprisings from the 1830s, also penned in Hugo’s “Les Misérables”.

To get to the museum, we walked from our hotel – assured by Antoine that it was “just up the road”. Up was the word, bracing the steep pente or hill of La Montée de la Rochette to the Croix-Rousse plateau (note the lovely word plateau when you get to the top!)  If you have a step-tracking app or bracelet, you’ll be proud of such a condensed 10-minute climb to merit a taste of the local specialities!

The good news is that there are plenty of wonderful bakeries in the neighbourhood to satisfy your savoury or sweet tooth. There are so many, I’m preparing a separate post, JUST on the sweet side of Lyon – coming next.

lyon bouchons

What are the Bouchons Lyonnais?

Most important are Lyon’s restaurants, of which the lively Bouchons Lyonnais are famous worldwide for the local cuisine and friendly ambience. Catering initially to the early-rising exhausted silk workers with a Mâchon Lyonnaise (8-10am) around a hearty pre-lunch meal mainly of tripe, the bouchons arrived thanks to the Mères Lyonnaises in the early 20th Century. These strong-willed “mothers” created their own restaurants or bouchons serving “simple yet refined” cuisine at a time when the bourgeois families they worked for could no longer afford to keep them, especially after World War I.

La Mère Fillioux was the first to gain a reputation for her cooking; La Mère Brazier went on later to learn Mme Fillioux’s culinary tricks, popularising her Poularde de Bresse Demi-Deuil (truffles lined under the chicken skin). Mère Brazier then opened a second restaurant, passing on her tricks to a certain legendary Lyonnais chef Paul Bocuse. Moreover, in 1933 she was the first woman to be awarded THREE Michelin stars – and simultaneously for both restaurants!

A traditional bouchon is a cosy, welcoming home-from-home, almost as if sitting in someone’s own dining room filled with memorabilia, trinkets – many decorated with Guignol puppets. Wine is good quality, even if served in simple pots (small bottles) with mainly Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône.  The food is real terroir (local cooking from-the-land) using quality products.  If you love pork and bacon, you’re in for a bonus treat.

bouchons Lyon restaurants

On my previous trip to Lyon, I headed for Chez Hugon. This time we tried out two more  – of which Chabert & Fils (11 rue des Marronniers; open on Mondays) was our favourite: a real down-to-earth, jolly evening around an exquisite, typical kind of menu.

Typical Bouchon Menu

Expect a bowl of grattons, fried and seasoned pork fat with your apéritif drink (take this as a warning, as this is rather an acquired taste!)

Typical entrées (first course, starter) include saucisson sausages or the popular sausisson brioché with salad (lettuce leaves), Salade Lyonnaise (lettuce, bacon, croutons and more); I pounced on my absolute local Bourgogne favourite Oeufs en Meurette (photo above: poached eggs cooked in Burgundy red wine, onions and topped with croutons).

The most typical main dish (plat) is the Quenelle, formed into a sausage shape but made with bread and either chicken or veal, but the most proposed is the Quenelle de Brochet, made of pike and served in a Nantua sauce.  It looks pretty dense but you’ll be surprised how airy it is.

Dessert usually comes in some kind of pink form, with Pralines Roses as main feature: from Tarte aux Pralines, with a sticky pink garniture of pralines roses melted with cream. But the real classics that were served by the Mères Lyonnais were good old French tarte aux pommes, île flottante (floating meringue in vanilla custard), and a boozy Rum Baba – even if this was invented by Stohrer in Paris but when booze is concerned, I’m not complaining.

best value gourmet Lyon - pink pralines

Various pink praline tarts and brioches you have to try (Pralus, Bouillet, Sève, Alain Rolancy)

Best Value Gourmet Lyon Bistros

Lyon’s traditional bouchons aren’t the only great restaurants in town. There are many discrete Michelin-starred establishments around, with Paul Bocuse the ultimate star.  This time we wanted to try smaller bistro-style addresses with up-and-coming young chefs. These are excellent value for money – but note that they offer LIMITED CHOICE MENUS. Smaller menus are perhaps not suited for particularly fussy eaters but it’s fun to try dishes you wouldn’t normally think of ordering, if you’re open to new tastes and ideas.

Do remember we were only here for 3 days and so we need to return to try out more to complete the list!

Le Jean-Moulin (22 rue Gentil, Lyon)

Young chef Grégoire Baratier was recently awarded “Les Toques Blanches Lyonnaises 2017” amongst an impressive line-up of around 50 like-minded creative chefs and Meilleurs Ouvriers de France just in Lyon alone. Although he learned the ropes from local chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Anne-Sophie Pic, his cuisine bursts with his own personal style.

Seating is limited to a cosy 40 covers so booking is essential. I went for the 29 euro evening menu of starter, main and dessert – although confess to stealing tasting part of Antoine’s beautiful local Marcellin fromage plate too from his 4-course menu. A helpful bonus was an accompanying list of allergens of each menu item. Don’t miss the signature dessert: an iced vin jaune parfait, topped with crackling brûlée and surrounded by a light cèpe mousse. Yes, you heard me, mushrooms for dessert? Don’t worry, it’s so subtle yet intriguing.

best value gourmet Lyon

Arsenic (132 rue Pierre Corneille, Lyon) didn’t initially convince us by its name, somehow.  We were imagining all sorts of weird and wonderful dangerous potions appearing at the table, smoking through bowls under some molecular gastronomy spell.

Instead, Arsenic is more of a concept that highlights the latest talents of young chefs making waves in Lyon’s gourmet world. Having gone through the ranks with Christian Têtedoie (Meilleur Ouvrier de France – read my review of his restaurant here), we loved the surprising dishes from Benjamin Milliard when we visited – even the amuse-bouche of cauliflower and Jerusalem artichokes was sublime.  Cod and pear? Why not? He pairs them both beautifully too. With a great wine list, there’s some good value for money treats too.

Best value gourmet Lyon - halles paul bocuse

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

This was our last stop to stock up the car with local goodies before our drive back to Paris. There are 40 markets in Lyon but you can’t come to the gastronomic French capital without a visit to Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse.

Lyon gourmand specialities

Above: a typical Lyonnais saucisson brioché

It’s the crème de la crème of best producers under one roof,  highlighting local specialities from charcuterie, pâtés, poulet Bresse free-range chickens, and rows and rows of cheese; freshwater fish and quenelles; to chocolate, bonbons and patisseries from the finest Lyonnais pastry chefs and chocolate makers. Don’t despair if you don’t have room to bring anything home: stop for a bite at one of the welcoming stalls for a plate of oysters or quenelles.

A tour of gastronomic French capital Lyon

Where to stay in Lyon?

We stayed at the Hotel Metropole. Although many reviews say that it’s a bit out of town (Caluire-et-Cuir), we found it so easy just to jump on a 40 bus that whisks you into the centre of town (Bellecour) in about 15 minutes. Tickets can be purchased directly from the driver or better still, buy a carnet of tickets at any metro station in the centre of town.
By renting a couple of studios for 2, we purposely didn’t have breakfast at the hotel, so we were free agents to organise breakfast with traditional treats from Lyon’s best bakeries and pastry shops. Speaking of which, watch out for my next post on this sweet subject, as this merits its very own write-up!

Now the family are asking to return, especially as we didn’t have a taste of the “local” brasserie near the hotel, none other than Paul Bocuse’s Fond Rose.  It’s a lovely proverbial carrot to leave them on, don’t you think?

 


This post was not sponsored in any way. After writing this earlier this year, a UK magazine wanted to publish it this Autumn but has not gone to print since my images were not good enough, taken on a simple telephone. So, here it is finally for you to enjoy free on le blog, without the glossy fancy images.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museum

The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum Paris

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)