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, you can 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 museumThe 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

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 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)

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique, Paris

best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

If you’ve read my second book, Teatime in Paris, you will have discovered not just easy French teatime goûter recipes, but also the sweeter addresses in Paris – plus some fascinating titbits of history that accompany many of the pastries.

With such a wealth of the best sweet addresses in Paris, imagine how exciting it is to have the most delicious oasis of patisseries, bakeries, chocolate and caramel shops plus Salon de Thé tearooms concentrated IN JUST THREE BLOCKS, all near the Eiffel Tower! What’s more, there are now two new delicious arrivals on the block!

Let me be your online guide to the best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique – starting at the bottom of the foodie pedestrian street of Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement, to the Esplanade des Invalides, an open-air playground for the boules-playing locals. Finish off your sweet stroll by watching them play, or grab a bench in the quieter little parks around it with a pastry box or two and caramels in hand.

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique

best pastries rue saint dominique

Aux Merveilleux de Fred

Right on the corner of the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou, marvel at the Merveilleux meringue-and-Chantilly-cream domes freshly being prepared in the window. It’s not difficult to be lured in, door wide open, to this chandelier-lit bakery, where Frédéric Vaucamp has brought back the 18th century specialities of Northern France and Flanders. There are a few boutiques in Paris – remember me discovering the first one in the 16th, just off rue de Passy?

Each Merveilleux meringue cake comes in large, individual or mini, and each take a theme from French society. Choose your size, for example, with a whipped cream and caramel that’s called the Sans-Culottes – meaning “without breeches or pants” – referring to the common people who largely took part in the French Revolution. Cinnamon lovers will enjoy the Incroyables (cinnamon speculoos cream), or why not try the Unthinkable (the Impensable) with its crispy creamy coffee meringue? For a cherry in your cake, go Excentrique.

Don’t forget to stock up for an extra-sticky brioche breakfast of Cramiques, either studded with traditional raisins, sticky “plain” sugar, or with dense, dark chocolate chips.

94 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 9am-8pm
Sunday 9am-7pm (Closed Monday)


best-pastries-rue-saint-dominique-paris

Jean Millet Paris (by Sadaharu Aoki)

Award-winning pastry chef, Sadaharu Aoki has been amazing Parisians with his distinct Japanese influences on French pâtisserie for the past 20 years. The window is enticing enough with Matcha Green Tea croissants and colorful macarons but why not step inside to taste the yuzu citrus and the black sesame macarons in the tranquil tearoom?

Many macarons are tea-infused with Hojicha grilled Japanese tea, and Genmaïcha, a green tea combined with roasted brown rice. Green tea is given another voice with his popular pastry, the Bamboo – Chef Aoki’s Japanese take on the classic Parisian Opera cake, with each delicate layer consisting of joconde biscuit, buttercream, chocolate ganache, syrup and glaçage (glaze) – but in place of the traditional coffee syrup, chef Aoki exchanges it with Matcha green tea and a splash of Kirsch liqueur, adding that special je ne sais quoi to the opera notes – Yo, it has its own pentatonic scale! For more of his pastry tastings, see my previous post here.

103 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm
Sunday 10am-6pm (Closed Monday)


best pastries Rue Saint-Dominique

Lemoine

Stop here for a taste of the other speciality of Bordeaux, the Canelé. As winemakers used egg whites to clarify their wines, the local nuns came up with this delicious idea to use up the egg yolks in the 18th Century and the Canelas was born. Over the years the name has changed but it’s still a fascinating little caramelised crunchy fluted cake with an eggy vanilla and rum interior.

They also have macarons and chocolate but you can’t leave France without tasting a Canelé! The good news is that they can keep for a few days, so prepare your doggy bag for later as there are still many treats to try yet.

74 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Monday-Sunday 9am-8pm


best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

If you’re looking for a good, crusty baguette and a choice of delicious sliced breads, pop into the Boulangerie Nelly Julien, 85 rue Saint Dominique and be tempted with even more pastries.

Monday-Saturday 6.30am-8.15pm. Closed Sunday


Best pastries rue saint dominique

Le Moulin de la Vierge

The bakery window says it all: “Viennoiserie – Tout Au Beurre”.

Here you have to taste their Viennoiseries, the delicious umbrella word which covers the best buttery, flaky croissants, pains au chocolat, pains au raisin, apple chaussons to name a few – and typically eaten for breakfast. More butter cakes come in the form of little Financiers (friands) teacakes, plus their selection of traditional pastries. Rows of fresh crusty bread, flutes and baguettes wink at customers behind the cosy lamps on the counter. They also offer soup and sandwiches to either take out or sit in.

64 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Thursday-Tuesday 7.30am-8.30pm (Closed Wednesday)

 


notre patisserie Paris near Rue Saint-Dominique

Notre Pâtisserie

Turn right into Rue Amélie and you’ll see why it’s worth a few steps just off rue Saint Dominique. Decked out in turquoise blue and white, this most welcoming new patisserie has been dreamed up by talented pastry chef partners Christophe and Francesca.

Christophe Rhedon, a former pastry chef teacher from the prestigious Lenôtre school and a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (sporting the typical red white and blue collar), emphasises that “Notre Patisserie”, is the result of a family team input. He says, “we’ve been working together like a mayonnaise”, all whisking up creative ideas together, right down to the teapot knickknacks by his Mother-in-Law. I personally adore the chic Parisian wallpaper and the flowerpots on the original steel frames that they’ve kept to remind you of the location’s history: it housed the workers of the Eiffel Tower in the 19th Century.

macaron classes best sweet address near Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

You’ll also be lured in to watch the chefs in full swing producing their picture perfect pastries and brioches from the lab in full view behind the counter.

I was most honoured to have a pre-taste of the exclusive macaron classes for Paris Perfect Rental clients that will run from September. More on the hands-on workshop will be detailed on their website.  For those of you who can’t make it to Paris, then grab a copy of either of my books for a step-by-step guide on how to make macarons at home in your own kitchen. 

7 rue Amélie, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 9am-1pm (Closed Monday)

 


Thoumieux best pastries in Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Gâteaux Thoumieux

As the word, “Thoumieux” implies with its play on French words, everything’s better! Just across the road from Chef Jean-François Piège’s famous eponymous brasserie, his cake shop has been taking Paris by storm since 2013 with the famous Chou Chou (a chou bun with a mini chou hidden inside).

Pastry chefs Sylvestre Wahid and Alex Lecoffre play with seasonal inspiration to create artistic treats using natural sugars and honey as well as some gluten free options. You’ll love their fraisier, mango cheesecake or lemon cake with a white chocolate crust. Don’t miss their fresh brioche buns – although my firm favourite still has to be the Chou Chou, which comes in various seasonal combinations.

58 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 8am-8pm
Sunday 8am-6pm (Closed Monday)


best sweet addresses Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Henri Le Roux

Who would have known that salted caramel is a recent discovery? Not only is this one of the top chocolate shops in Paris but Henri Le Roux is also known as Caramélier. Fans of salted caramel have Henri Le Roux to thank, as he created the CBS© (Caramel au Beurre Salé) in 1977 in Quiberon, the location of his first chocolate shop in Brittany and where salted butter is added to many local specialities. Ever since, salted caramel has appeared the world over and so he wisely registered it in 1981.

Don’t leave Paris without a taste of the CBS, with its deliciously dark and soft half-salted caramel with crushed walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds giving it such a unique texture – and now celebrating its 40th birthday! There are dozens of additional flavours to choose from, including a subtle Sakura cherry blossom caramel to welcome the arrival of Spring. Peruse the mouth-watering range of chocolates (including one with truffle), as well as the caramel (Caramelier) and chocolate (Bonsoncoeur) spreads that are a special luxury on crêpes or simply on the best baguette!

52 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-2pm; 3pm-7.30pm (Closed Sunday & Monday)


best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique Paris, Karamel

Karamel

Stick with me, as caramel continues to unwrap at the next block! Karamel is the new concept tearoom and patisserie created by another caramel-loving Breton, Nicolas Haelewyn, after a career at Ladurée with the last 5 years as international pastry chef.

Sitting in front of a long glass case of traditional looking pastries, it’s difficult to choose just one, as each masterpiece is intriguing – from the giant 1001 Karamel Mille feuille to some more dainty-looking treats. While I’m pondering, I’m thrown off track with tasting cups of a huge tureen of Teurgoule (or Terrinée), a dark-skinned slow-cooked caramel rice pudding from Normandy as Mum and our good friend, Rena, already tuck in to their pastry choices.  I won’t spoil your surprise of my rather curvy caramelised pear on a tartlet – but open it up and Oh-là-làs are guaranteed! Sharing this somehow would have been difficult (well, that’s my excuse).

The teas by Kodama are all beautifully explained. Amazed at such a surprising match of green tea with lively ginger and lemon, the extra touch was a caramel slipped behind a dainty floral porcelain teacup.

67 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris

Monday-Friday: 7.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm
Sunday 9am-1pm


Want to make your own financiers, canelés, madeleines, tarts, millefeuilles, éclairs, choux buns and macarons yourself at home? Don’t forget you’ll find the recipes in my second book, Teatime in Paris!

Saint Honoré Paris: A Pastry Party and a New Healthy Menu

The words, Saint Honoré Paris, mean more than the ever-so-chic luxury shopping street in the first arrondissement. Saint Honoré – the patron saint of bakers – is now given a double tribute at the Mandarin Oriental, the most modern of the Parisian Palace hotels, just around the corner from Place Vendôme.

Saint-Honoré Vendome

This week, la fête du Saint Honoré (16 May) was honoured in true Parisian Mandarin Oriental style, with celebrations centred around the famous Saint-Honoré pastry, originally invented by Chef Chiboust on the eponymous street back in the 19th century (1847 to be precise).

Whilst the location of Chef Chiboust’s original patisserie isn’t known, thanks to the Mandarin Oriental hotel on rue Saint-Honoré, it’s now an address (that I’m personally glad to see, as it was previously lacking) which honours the patron saint with their very own signature pastry, completely re-modelled in the hotel’s modern style.

(Did you know that the actual location of the hotel used to be on the same spot as a circus?  See my article all about the Bento Teatime and the true story of Chocolat the clown, who was made famous here.)

saint honore paris pastry mandarin

It’s a double whammy, as such a contemporary re-model of the pastry classic (originally designed by David Landriot) doesn’t stop there.

l’Honoré: New Healthy Menu

The Saint Honoré celebrations announced the opening of l’Honoré, the start of a new style of a healthy-eating detox menu experience from breakfast, lunch to teatime – served in the re-looked stylish lobby and the more discrete cosy alcoves.

Mandarin-oriental Paris

Butterflies follow us around the hotel: starting from the reception area with 138 Swarovski butterflies, representing each of the hotel rooms, to every stylish nook and corner.

saint honore paris

Michelin-starred Executive Chef, Thierry Marx – one of the pioneers in France by indicating vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free on his menus here – takes it a step further with l’Honoré by offering menus to cater for those with dietary requirements, or for those who simply like a particularly healthy but gourmet option.

L'honoré restaurant Mandarin Rue Saint-Honoré Paris

Photo courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Paris

(Update 24 May 2017) Honoured to try out the new l‘Honoré menu, I plunged right in with a taste of the carrot, apple and ginger detox drink. The detox concoctions change daily, but I would easily drink this every day given the chance: it has the perfect dosage of reviving ginger without it being too strong and the carrot is balanced beautifully with green apple (checking my complexion in the mirror today to see the benefits!).

The 100% vegan options on the menu are a mix of light quinoa style salads to avocado toast but the vegetable burger is more substantial, served in a rice-flour bun with pickles, salad and the most addictive parsnip chips. Spice lovers will adore the green vegetable curry with coconut and delicate rice: I found it hard to imagine that seasonal vegetables without meat or fish would be so satisfying, especially with its fragrant mix of fresh Thai basil and coriander.

honore paris new healthy menu
Dessert options are fruity and light – but if you’re feeling a bit more decadent, you can choose a pastry from the cake shop that sweetly beckons across the hall.  The one downside is that the new plush seats are so comfortable – it’s just too easy to wish to linger for teatime and, as you’re slightly hidden from view (not from the attentive service), it’s tempting to get working on your next project in such a discrete, peaceful haven.

Saint-Honoré Pastries on Rue Saint Honoré Paris

Back to the pastry party! Chef Thierry Marx and his prestigious pastry team had exceptionally created SIX different flavours of their signature Saint-Honoré pastry just for the occasion: including Matcha green tea, praline, and rose-raspberry. I’ve put in a word that they continue them during the year, so fingers crossed!

Saint Honore pastries Paris

But there was no time to stop and marvel at the Cake Shop’s window. Out in the leafy courtyard during a brief Parisian heatwave, Chef Thierry Marx was kicking off the Saint Honoré celebrations – starting with a demonstration of a giant Saint-Honoré savoury pastry.

Thierry Marx Demonstration Saint Honore

Renowned for his molecular gastronomy with touches of Asian exoticism, chef Marx explained his techniques with an impressive, speedy precision – interspersed with his charismatic sense of humour we’ve loved watching over the years as jury on the first few episodes on French TV’s popular Top Chef on M6. He’s my idol. He may be a celebrity chef but he’s a most modest human being and helps others to succeed.

He fires off a number of baking tips: from how to create the lightest puff pastry in the blender; to the preparation of an avocado and mascarpone cream with a hint of spice, while he pipes it out like luxurious clockwork using a special Saint Honoré piping tip. Finishing flourishes of the most delicate garlic flowers, spots of preserved lemon compote and lime zest are added before popping on the crab-filled choux with scallop coral hats. Et voilà!  As he sprays the masterpiece with ice, he announces that the tasting begins.

Saint-Honoré Thierry Marx

Before we know it, he hands us our aprons and we’re in Giraud’s hands to learn how to make a sweet Saint-Honoré cocktail.  Each cocktail coupe is decorated with their Saint-Honoré signature mini caramelised choux. Our tasting group is given a doser, the vanilla syrup, caramel and coconut water – and we learn to shake that ice shaker like a pro, right up to how to pour the cream to rest on the top.

The final touch is edible glitter, which I find difficult to get it in the glass. If you find glitter in their hedges, that’s still my cocktail masterpiece (well, it was my first ever homemade cocktail!)

saint-honoré-paris cocktails

All change to the next workshop: with the lovely Anne-Charlotte giving us the job of decorating the ready-prepared caramelised choux bases.  Our hardest job was decision-making: what cream to use (vanilla vs pink rose)? What piping tips (starred, plain)? What toppings (raspberries, blueberries, chopped nuts, whole almonds, chocolate marbles)?

Saint-Honore Paris Pastry

Celebrations continued into the evening, with a gigantic meters-long Saint-Honoré pastry – which needed four bakers to carry it while dodging the firework candles!

Here’s my Mandarin Oriental Saint-Honoré. Now I’m wondering how I could have piped out one of these beautiful butterflies: just imagine that stuffed raspberry on its side, fluttering about!

Saint Honore Paris pastry

If you’d like to make the easier classic version of the Saint-Honoré pastry, then it’s the final recipe in Teatime in Paris, as part of the special tea party chapter!

Saint Honore Teatime in Paris

Cheers to Saint-Honoré and to your year ahead of happy baking!

L’Honoré
Detox Menu (Breakfast, Lunch & Teatime)
7am-7pm
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré Paris