Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk

Lately I’ve had visitors to Paris asking if I still lead my mad chocolate and pastry food tours in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Alas I don’t but, to make up for it, I have created this self-guided walk around my favourite less-touristy parts of Paris’s artistic hilltop village. Welcome to this Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk!

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk kisses

This walk came about when my French girlfriends came up north for our annual girls’ weekend and, as we had so much fun previously exploring chocolate and pastries in Saint-Germain, I surprised them by preparing my new Montmartre chocolate pastry walk – around the more hidden side of Paris’s most famous village.

It wasn’t completely a chocolate and pastry ‘tour’ as such, but more of a day-long, meandering walk while munching on chocolate, pastries and macarons along the way. We added a simple Amélie-style lunch, drinks then a historic dinner – where we could feel Toulouse-Lautrec keeping a more low-profiled, spectacled eye on us, as we checked out the absinthe being poured at the next table, comme à l’époque.

Montmartre café autumn

As you can imagine, I can’t possibly mention everything to do here, but it hopefully gives you an idea that there is more to Montmartre than Sacré Coeur and Place de Tertre, much as they’re special.

Are you ready? Take a seat and on y va!

Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk

Montmartre walk from metro Blanche

My self-guided Montmartre chocolate pastry walk starts at Metro Blanche, with Hector Guimard’s familiar Art Nouveau entrance. As Montmartre’s hill (‘la butte’) is 130m and boasts 38 staircases, we want a minimum to climb so this is a good starting point.

Chocolate Haven in Pigalle

For an immediate dose of chocolate endorphins, head to 30 rue Fontaine, a bit south of Place Pigalle, À l’Etoile d’Or. See my separate post on a visit to the pigtailed chocolate goddess, Denise Acabo’s boutique.

Did you know that just above the shop was one of 3 apartments where Toulouse-Lautrec lived on the same street? He also lived at N°19bis, where Degas had his workshop – although didn’t get the chance to exchange with the more illustrious artist at the time. Can you imagine being une mouche on the wall, witnessing them crossing on the staircase?

LEtoile D'or Denise Acabo Paris

Calling Henri to come down for a chocolate break?

Stock up on a bag of chocolate Sauternes-soaked raisins, and head to the Cemetery of Montmartre, passing the iconic cabaret, Le Moulin Rouge, which celebrated its 130th birthday (1889) this year.

Montmartre cemetery entrance on avenue Rachel

Entrance to the beautiful Montmartre Cemetery is via avenue Rachel. Grab a reference map by the door on the left, as there are many avenues to negotiate to find your favourite personalities. Ours included Michel Berger & France Gall, Emile Zola, Offenbach, Berlioz, Degas, Dalida, Sacha Guitry (he’s right there at the entrance with a funny greeting) and Louise Weber, known as La Goulue, creator of the French Cancan.

Montmartre cemetery fall

Rue Lepic: Music, Film and FOOD!

The 18th arrondissement of Montmartre beckons with a walk up Rue Lepic. Queue many film soundtracks from here, one of my favourites being ‘Les Ripoux’ (1984) starring Philippe Noiret and Thierry Lhermitte. Spellbinding accordian waltzes from Yann Tiersen came in 2001 with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film, ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain‘ (aka Amelie, played by Audrey Tautou).

For a treat, I sometimes book lunch at Amelie’s Café des 2 Moulins (referring to the 2 remaining windmills). Normally during the day it’s bustling, with 2CV cars stopping by so I managed to snap it later during a rare, tranquil moment!

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Amelie brasserie

Stopping for a drink here can be pricey but a no-fuss brasserie-style lunch is great, soaking in the ambience by the familiar zinc bar. We could have gone for Amélie’s favourite crème brûlée, cracking into the caramel layer with the back of a spoon. However, with so many places still to see and treats to try, we kept space for the rest like good French girls. Although they also make a savoury foie gras crème brûlée – for next time!

Montmartre Amelie Poulain

Montmartre’s Tempting Tarts

You’ll find many people at both windows – à faire du lèche-vitrine – literal window-licking at Les Petits Mitrons, also on rue Lepic. This family-run artisanal bakery is The Montmartre address for les tartes, churning out the most delicious seasonal vegetable or thinly caramel-crusted fresh fruit tarts.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk

My ‘radishing’ girlfriends couldn’t decide the best and I’m still tasting to find out – although the plum and apple tarts are rather exquisite in Autumn.

That wasn’t me holding radishes for a wee snack: there’s a small market by the side of the street, just in case there’s not enough food already from the boucher, poissonier and fromagerie to choose from here!

French Family Chocolate & Confectionary

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Mere de Famille

Across the street is À la Mère de Famille, is known as Paris’ oldest chocolate shop. The first green and gold-facade shop opened as a grocery in rue du Faubourg-Montmartre in 1761 (I strongly recommend you visit the original, which is classed a historical monument with wooden counter and rows of confectionary jars).

Today the family has an impressive chain of a dozen more chocolate-confectionary boutiques around Paris, all reminiscent of la Belle Epoque. Fans of chocolate orange will love their different orangettes plus calissons: losange-shaped, mouth-sized iced marzipans from Provence.

Where Korea Meets French Savoir-Faire

Turn right onto rue des Abbesses then first left on rue Tholozé for Chocolat Illèné.
Since 2015, Koreans Hyunsoo Ahn and Hyejin Cho both set up shop here after a star-studded chocolate-pastry career in Paris. While Hyunsoo was being trained by chocolatiers Michel Chaudun and Patrice Chapon, Hyejin was learning from pastry chefs Christophe Adam at Fauchon and Camille Lesecq at le Meurice.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk macaron tower

Don’t be shocked by this macaron tower. It’s a mix of the smooth Parisian gerbet macarons and deliberately cracked, old-fashioned macarons à l’ancienne which are simply melt-in-the-mouth gluten-free almond deliciousness. (I’ve written an article for more on the different kinds of French macarons.)

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk illené

Choose from seasonal flavours or the favourites at all times of year: pistachio, caramel, sesame, black sesame and soya milk. I was most intrigued by l’Armoise. Yes, you can even taste a MUGWORT herbal macaron, which I believe should have a more scrumptious name in English, don’t you?

Their signature chocolate, l’Illené, with timut pepper ganache and Korean candied plum demonstrates their art of blending Korean culture with French savoir-faire.

Montmartrois Humour

Although we could continue and see the many interesting cafés, bars, brasseries, boulangeries (Grenier à Pain) cheese shops, ice cream shops (Une Glace à Paris, Emmanuel Ryon MOF is a must), etc. on rue des Abbesses, turn back towards rue Lepic, as we’re going to follow it around uphill, now that we need to a break from eating and discover the rest of Montmartre’s ‘butte’!

Montmartre chocolate pastry macaron walk

First, some typical Montmartrois’ quirky humour. You’ll spot artistic graffiti with their play on words on many corners and alleys (I loved ‘Gilles est jaune’, sounds like my name Jill in French, Cheeeele, Giles is yellow – referring to the Gilets Jaunes yellow vests) but this one is a cracker, referring to the difference between Macaron vs Macaroon.

The Hunchback of Montmartre

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk teacakes

While we’re here, La Bossue is a cosy address on the corner of rue Lepic for weekend brunch (reservations essential), also lunches or for tea and cake. Thanks to my bubbly local friend, Lily Heise, we nibbled on the most delectable homemade gluten-free financiers and I immediately added this gem to my on-growing list of favourite Parisian tearooms. Lily is the author of 2 Parisian romance novels and her blog includes the most romantic places to visit in Paris.

Montmartre Van Gogh appartment

Just opposite, continuing on Rue Lepic at N°54 is a blue door that, paradoxically, always looks like it needs a paint! It’s where Vincent Van Gogh stayed with his brother, Theo (1886-88) before he moved south.

Bold, Buttery Boulangerie

Continue gently up the hill here by just one block, turn left on rue Tourleque and check out the bold and buttery viennoiseries (croissants, pains au chocolat, pain aux raisins…) from artisan boulanger, Gontran Cherrier.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Cherrier
Try his naughty Kouign Amann: Breton for butter cake (if you love these, try also Georges Larnicol‘s ‘Kouignettes’ on rue Steinkerque, which earned him Meilleur Ouvrier de France, MOF). Gontran Cherrier also makes curry and squid ink baguettes and buns, if you fancy something that bit deliciously different. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s workshop is just across the road (corner of rue Tourleque/rue Caulinacourt).

Incidentally, further up rue Caulinacourt, is another MOF, Arnaud Lahrer. Try his macarons or his speciality, Le Pavé de Montmartre, a sumptuous, moist biscuit of almonds and marzipan. For the sake of this walk, however, let’s stick to our path.

Montmartre’s Windmills

Montmartre madeleines

Returning up the winding hill of rue Lepic, follow it around until it stops at the Moulin Radet (built in 1717), now the restaurant of Le Moulin de la Galette. A windmill site for centuries, this one turned into a dancing club which inspired Renoir’s Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette (Musée d’Orsay), also immortilised by Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Utrillo. The other remaining windmill, Le Blute Fin (1622), is behind this but now private.
Where did I get this lemon madeleine? Patience – it’s coming.

Montmartre man in wall sculpture

Turn left onto rue Girardon and then right on rue Norvins passing Place Marcel Aymé, dedicated to the local writer who lived here and wrote The Passer Through Walls (Le Passe-Muraille). Actor Jean Marais immortalised the sad tale with this sculpture (1989).

If you plan on seeing Place du Tertre, continue along the busier half of rue Norvins. While there, pop into the Biscuiterie de Montmartre – otherwise I recommend taking the other oldest parallel street in Montmartre, rue Saint Rustique.

Oldest Streets in Montmartre

Montmartre restaurant la Bonne Franquette

La Bonne Franquette (playing on a French expression meaning unfussy, simple food) has been a legendary restaurant with the Montmartrois. Regulars such as Degas, Renoir, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec all loved to love, eat, drink and sing here.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk cabaret

Turn left onto rue du Mont Cenis. At N°13 stood the Cabaret Patachou, now an art gallery. Go in to the foyer and feel the echos of Edith Piaf’s last public performance. It’s also where Brassens, Brel and Charles Aznavour started out.

Montmartre’s Oldest House

Turn left onto Rue Cortot, looking right to N°6 where composer Erik Satie (known for his piano Gymnopédies) lived for 8 years. As I discovered at the Satie Museum in Honfleur, he had an oh-là-là wee affair with painter Suzanne Valadon a couple of doors down at 17th century La Maison du Bel Air, the oldest house in Montmartre – now the Montmartre Museum.Montmartre chocolate pastry walk rue Cortot

If you have time, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Montmartre Museum plus a drink in the Renoir Gardens (see my article on the Café Renoir), where you can see the famous swing immortalised by the painter, who also lived there.

On the crossroads of rue de l’Abrevoir and rue des Saules is La Maison Rose. It’s a restaurant-café made famous by Utrillo’s paintings (son of Suzanne Valadon) and where Charles Aznavour enjoyed many after-song drinks on la Butte. Lucky for us it was renovated in 2017.

Montmartre’s Vineyard

It’s hard to believe you’re in Montmartre at this point: right on rue des Saules, discover the last vineyard in Paris, le Clos de Montmartre, at the back of the Musée de Montmartre.

The annual Fête des Vendanges is quite an event since 1934 every second Saturday of October – see my wine harvest festival article for a wee online taste.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk vineyards

Gill’s Red-Scarfed French Rabbit

I’m aware we’re further away from the chocolate and pastries in Montmartre, but you can’t come here without seeing just the next corner – and the next. The Cabaret, Au Lapin Agile was frequented by many artists and authors. In the 1880s the owner of the former “Assassins’ Cabaret” asked the caricaturist, André Gill (pronounce that ‘cheel’ again), to paint a logo. He produced a rabbit wearing a red scarf and green hat, avoiding being cooked in a pan while balancing a wine bottle on his paw. The locals called it ‘Le Lapin de Gill‘ and the name transformed – just-like-that!

The story goes that Picasso lunched regularly here and paid with his unsigned drawings. When the owner asked why they were never signed, Picasso wasn’t popular afterwards when he retorted, “I just want to buy lunch, not the restaurant!”

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Lapin Agile

Fall for Autumn in Montmartre

Turn left onto rue Saint-Vincent, especially in Autumn. It’s also where the last scene of Amélie is filmed.

Montmartre chocolate pastry macaron walk

Then a macaron comes into view and the eyes go blurry.

That’s a sign of a true macaron-ivore. For the macaron recipe, tips and how to control Parisian macaronivore symptoms, see my book Mad About Macarons.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk macaron

Macarons? Jings, we’ve walked so much it’s time to head back down la Butte de Montmartre for more chocolate, cakes and macarons. This is Christophe Roussel’s melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake macaron.

Moreover, just for the raspberry-coloured autumnal ivy treat, we’ll have to walk UP a flight of steps on the left – the only one going up on this walk (not bad). I’ve saved you a Petite Butte de Montmartre pistachio chocolate – finally coming below at Christophe Roussel, our last stop on this Montmartre chocolate pastry walk.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Butte

A post-chocolate sprint up the steps and Place Dalida awaits with a statue in memory of the famous French-Egyptian singer. I’ll leave you with the surprise to see what the locals do – to either keep their hands warm or carry on a warming tradition!

Look up at rue l’Abrevoir. We’re nearly there and it’s all downhill now. Next stop: the French’s favourite hunchbacked cake, baked by Gilles Marchal.

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour madeleine

Ahead in Montmartre with Saint-Denis

Montmartre walk autumn fall

Walking straight on rue Girardon is the entrance to Square Suzanne Buisson. Come here in November and this tranquil public garden is alive with chrysanthemums, symbol of immortality following Toussaint’s 1 November French tradition.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk St Denis

Here the statue of the first bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, is holding his own head. Decapitated in Montmartre in 250AD, legend has it that when he dropped dead, his head rolled down the hill to the spot that became the famous royal Abbey and Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Exiting onto Avenue Junot with a view of the second Blute Fin windmill, rows of stunning private villas continue down to the cul-de-sac of Villa Léandre. Here is home to celebrities, fluffy watchful cats and a pianist who often practises if you’re lucky to catch the sounds with a window open. Back DOWN rue Girardon, walk past singer Dalida’s mansion house on rue d’Orchampt until Le Bateau Lavoir on Place Emile Goudeais, which was home to Picasso and Modigliani and the birth of cubism.

Montmartre Madeleine Moments

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour Gilles Marchal

On the corner of rue Ravignan, you’ll find the delights of Pastry chef, Gilles Marchal. Also from Lorraine, like the scalloped madeleine cake made famous by Marcel Proust, try his speciality: fresh madeleines. Choose from his classic salted caramel, chocolate, orange, Sicilian pistachio – or even nature.

For Autumn, Monsieur l’écureuil‘s (squirrel) praline is a cracker and I personally love the glazed lemon madeleine. If you’re lucky, he may have some truffle madeleines warm from the oven. His pastries are also divine – try the pear and almond tart (like the Bourdaloue tart), les mille-feuilles and éclairs.

Metro Abbesses, the Deepest in Paris

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk abbesses chestnuts

Continue downhill on rue Ravignan and turn left onto Place des Abbesses. Wafts of roasted chestnuts are at the famous Art Nouveau metro entrance, signalling Autumn and Winter in Paris. Pick this metro as your Montmartre starting point and either take the lift or be prepared to climb 181 steps. It’s the deepest metro station in Paris (36m underground). Mind you, the climb is interesting, as 7 artworks of Montmartre were added after its renovation in 2007.

Behind in Place Jean Rictus is wall fresco by Frédéric Baron saying “I love you” in 311 languages. Queue these chocolate kisses from our next and last stop! Walk down rue des Trois Frères, stopping en route at N°56 to see ‘Collignon’s’ grocery from Amelie, then turn left on rue Tardieu.

Montmartre’s Exclusive ‘Butte’ Chocolates

Location is spot on here. Imagine tantalising us with a chocolate and macaron boutique right in front of a flight of 222 steps, next to the Funiculaire (price of a metro ticket) up to Sacré Coeur? If you prefer to start your walk here from Anvers or Abbesses metro, then ensure that you stop for a chocolat chaud and stock up your goodie bag first from Christophe Roussel Duo Avec Julie in Rue Tardieu.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk Christophe Roussel

Christophe Roussel is The veritable chocolate and pastry star from La Baule and along France’s north-west coast. Thankfully for us chocolate and macaron fans, he recently opened this Paris boutique with his wife, Julie (read my introduction here).

Sensitive to environmental and social practices, Christophe has chosen his exclusive, signature chocolate as pure origin Bahiana® from Brazil. All dark chocolates and pralines are rich and intense, with 65% cacao – my personal favourites? Taste his crispy raspberry ‘Kisses From’, Tokyo Sésame Pralines, petites buttes de Montmartre range and chunky Electro’chocs – all Oh-là-là divine.

As I say in my recipe book, Teatime in Paris – Christophe is one of the most genuine, talented yet fun-loving pastry chefs I know. I’m also extremely proud and flattered to have been twice (they even asked the clown-girl back?) on such a prestigious French jury for his annual Amateur Pastry Competition in la Baule – the latest challenge was end June 2019. Pop in for a taste of this high-end yet convivial French pastry-making Roussel challenge. Who knows, perhaps you could give it a go next year?

Montmartre chocolate pastry tour buttes chocolates

Don’t leave without trying Christophe Roussel’s ‘Petites Buttes de Montmartre’. These little chocolate hills of heaven are produced ONLY for the boutique in Montmartre. One of my favourites is a milk chocolate coconut praline with sparkling candy (sucre pétillant). Your mouth is guaranteed to fizz and turn like the carrousel with Sacré Coeur looking on.

For me, it’s the final flurry of fireworks to end this Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk.

montmartre bars

Absinthe-Minded in Montmartre

If you’re looking for some authenticity for dinner, Montmartre’s oldest restaurant, Le Bon Bock on rue Dancourt still has original decor from 1879. If it wasn’t for clients’ clothes and mobile ‘phones, one could really imagine being transported to la Belle Époque, even if it’s not even Midnight in Paris!

This is one of the rare establishments left that still serves Absinthe as it was done during the time of Toulouse-Lautrec. Here is information donated types of games like apps and see online friv games, which are played on devices and gadgets, such as laptops, mobile phones and others. Many of these games can be found on various websites and some of them are free. Call me a wimp but I prefer to look on others trying it out. Instead, I stuck with bubbling Mamie’s Gratinée à l’oignon and poulet fermier with Camembert. Somehow, after all the treats we had, I just couldn’t manage dessert.

I wonder why?

Montmartre traditional Absinthe bottles

Montmartre Guided Walking Tours

This is a whirlwind online walk and I can’t possibly mention everything I’d normally ramble on about in person. The best way to really do Montmartre is with a guided tour. See my list of recommended Paris Food Tours.
For more information, consult the Official Tourism Office of Montmartre.
They also have a wonderful “Discover Montmartre” map and fliers on the village’s history and what’s on.

Montmartre Chocolate Pastry Walk Tips

  • Even off-season, Montmartre is busy – especially around Sacré-Coeur, Place de Tertre and the metro stations. PLEASE be careful of pickpockets.
  • Montmartre is on a rather steep hill, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk a lot;
  • Bring water with you, especially if you plan to enjoy a lot of chocolate – regardless of the weather;
  • I recommend these addresses and specialities for this Montmartre chocolate pastry walk – don’t forget to pace yourself and do try to keep some aside for later;
  • To really enjoy Montmartre to its fullest, please allow a whole day – or at least an afternoon – for the walk.

Montmartre chocolate pastry walk kisses

 

Disclaimer: None of the addresses or recommendations in this post are sponsored. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit (Paris Day Trips)

I promised you this taster of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit. It’s a fabulous way to discover this royal town’s history which breathes around the Château and boasts a rooftop view over the River Seine to Paris.

As Paris visitors flock further west to the Palace of Versailles – also in les Yvelines – this visit will uncover the importance of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with the Kings of France before the court moved to Versailles in 1682. Birthplace of Louis XIV and also the composer, Claude Debussy, you will find that Saint-Germain has had a few surprising culinary births too.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Following on from this introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye as part of my series of easy-to-do day trips from Paris, guided visits on the castle roof run between May and end September, and are easily reserved in advance (see all practical details at the end of this post).  Although visits are only in French, English can be organised in advance if done in a group.

In the meantime, before your visit, let me whet your appetite as a Scottish-French local and guide you on your own DIY tour.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

There were two castles: the current pentagon-shaped Château Vieux and the Château Neuf . The latter newer castle was built under Henri II, finished by Henri IV and dismantled under Louis XVI and his brother, future Charles X. It’s one of the rare castles dismantled before the French Revolution, with the bricks and stone recycled by the Saint-Germanois.

Today, the Château Vieux now houses the National Archaeological Museum. A model in the museum gives us an idea of both castles’ grandeur, terraces and gardens which, at the time, cascaded all the way down to the Seine (now the town of Le Pecq).

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Rooftop visit

The layout of both castles in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (apologies for the unavoidable reflections on the glass case)

Today the castle’s inner courtyard is one of the Renaissance’s most beautiful.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

A visit on the castle’s rooftop is pretty special, showing off a panorama of the Seine Valley – including a skyline view of Paris to La Défense and Sacré Coeur. Look carefully, and you catch sight of the Eiffel Tower, poking out behind the Mont Valérien.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Just by visiting the Castle roof in the space of 30 minutes, we gathered nuggets of delicious history as we walked around the chimneys.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The fortified castle originated in 1122, when Louis VI le Gros built on the plateau of Laye. Only the dungeon (the square tower on the left of the museum entrance) retains the original shape, with a Campanile tower stuck to it, much like that of the Louvre in Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Louis IX (Saint Louis) completed the castle and by 1238 had a chapel built, the only part of the castle to survive the fire during the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 between Philippe VI Valois and the Black Prince. It was Charles V that re-built the castle by 1367, adjoining the Gothic Chapel.

Saint Louis Chapel

Louis IX’s Gothic Chapel was probably good practise for his Saint Chapelle in Paris built ten years later, constructed on much the same lines.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

It’s here that the story starts to get deliciously interesting at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as it’s where François I married la Reine Claude in 1514. Since then, the rosace was filled in, as the banquet hall he added on was right behind it.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Each time I walk around the Chapel, I can’t help thinking of greengage plums. What? Plums? Did you know that the Greengage plum is known as Reine Claude in French, named after François I’s Queen as she adored them so much? Speaking of which, have you tried my Spicy Plum Jam? La Reine Claude would have surely approved with it spread on her royal baguette over breakfast with François I.

François I at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

This was François I’s favourite residence. He loved the castle so much, he turned Charles V’s fortress into a Renaissance palace.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

He is said to have spent 1000 days at Saint-Germain-en-Laye which, considering the sumptuous castles in the Loire Valley and Fontainbleau, is quite something!  François I’s symbols are not difficult to spot on the roof: his crowning initial with the Fleur de Lys carved in stone and flaunted on the imposing chimneys high above the town. Spot also his salamander, especially on the enormous banquet hall chimney inside.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle roof visit

François I’s son, Henri II continued with more of the building work, including the new castle which was completed under Henri IV. During the reigns of both Henri IV and Louis XIII, the Château Vieux was left to royal children and their household staff.

Louis XIV and Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The Sun King, Louis XIV was born in Saint-Germain’s Château Neuf, 5 September 1638. All that’s left of the “new” castle is the red-bricked Pavillon, now part of the Hotel Henri IV that looks over the Seine to Paris. This hotel boasts a couple of other births from the culinary world: soufflé potatoes and the legendary Béarnaise sauce.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

I was lucky to see the original birth and baptism papers from the local archives during an enlightening conference of Louis XIV in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, thanks to our local historian, François Boulet. The baptism took place in the St Louis Chapel when Louis (le Dauphin) was 4 years old in the presence of his parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.  It was such a long awaited royal birth that 30,000 bells peeled all around France to celebrate!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Following Louis XIV marriage in 1660, he moved into the Château Vieux, breaking with tradition with the new castle.

From his reign in 1666, Louis XIV spent a staggering quarter of his reign at the castle before eventually moving to his newly embellished Versailles in 1682. In Saint-Germain, it wasn’t merely for hunting but for the Court, where the greater part of his powerful and personal decisions were made. We often just associate Versailles with Louis XIV but we can frequently forget just how important Saint-Germain was for the the Sun King and the court. It’s also where he learned to dance and where Lully performed many of his premières in the giant ballroom.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Improvements were made to the castle by Jules Hardouin Mansart and André Le Nôtre designed the French gardens and the vast terrace overlooking the Seine before his other wee gardening job at Versailles.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain Pharmacist Treats Royal Headaches with Chocolate

As the longest reigning monarch in France, Louis XIV probably ate extremely well at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I suspect one of the ingredients to a long and prosperous life was chocolate, introduced to the French court by his mother, Anne of Austria, and his wife, Marie-Therèse who both brought over their chocolate luxuries – in the form of a chocolate drink – from Spain.

Later at  Versailles, it was under Louis XVI that chocolate finally flourished outside of the French court in Paris, thanks to the pharmacist in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Sulpice Debauve, appointed King’s Physician in 1778 to help cure the Queen Marie-Antoinette’s headaches through chocolate coins or pistoles. More on that later, as this addictive subject merits its own post – but again, Saint-Germain is one of the ingredients!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

James VII of Scotland in Exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

When Louis XIV and his court permanently moved to Versailles on 20 April 1682, the Sun King ‘lent’ the Château Vieux to his cousin, James VII of Scotland (II of England) while the Stuarts were in exile from Britain during the Glorious Revolution. He stayed here with his family for 13 years until his death in 1701 and is buried in the church across the road from the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof

Many of the Jacobites stayed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye until the French Revolution and finally left in 1793. For a brief summary of the Jacobites, read this great article here. Did you know that Saint-Germain is twinned with Ayr in Scotland?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

French Revolution, Wars to Today

During the French Revolution the castle was used as a prison, then a hospital for the treatment of contagious diseases, a cavalry school under Napoleon Bonaparte, barracks then a military prison.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Thanks to a visit from Queen Victoria to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1855, eager to learn more of its British past with the Stuarts, she urged Napoleon III to save the castle from abandon and so it was restored. In 1862 Napoleon III created the Museum of Celtic & Gallo Roman Antiquities as part of the castle and the following year it was listed as a historical monument. Restoration work was carried out by Eugène Millet, who studied under Viollet-le-Duc (of Notre Dame restoration fame).

The Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed at the castle on 10 September 1919, officially ending WWI with Austria.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The Castle was used as Headquarters by the German Army in France during the German Occupation (1940-1944), as was the Château d’Hennemont, which is now the Lycée International. Many German bunkers are reminders throughout Saint-Germain of around 18,000 soldiers occupying the military town. Thankfully, and astonishingly, Saint-Germain wasn’t bombarded by the allies. There are two bunkers right next to the castle in between the hôtel particuliers or mansion houses.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle Museum

Today, the castle houses the National Archaeology Museum. It includes the world’s largest collection of prehistoric art, illustrating the life and inventions of men from their origins to the merovingian period. Furniture is replaced by countless exhibition cabinets, showing a fascinating insight into life to the middle ages.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s Speciality Cakes

No visit can finish without a taste of the local culinary specialities. Both puffed potatoes or some Sauce Béarnaise, born at the Henri IV hotel’s restaurant, are not the easiest to sample on the street (see the recipe for Sauce Béarnaise here), so I’d recommend popping in to at least two patisseries in particular for their speciality cakes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Teatime in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Since 1920, the Pâtisserie Hardy has been making Le Gâteau Saint-Germain, of which I’m constantly told that the recipe’s secret has never left their boutique. It’s a sweet tart filled with almond paste with bits of almonds and glazed with a light icing – see my recipe for le Saint-Germain here.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Debussy

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s chocolate speciality, Le Debussy, was created by the Patisserie Grandin to celebrate the birth of composer, Claude Debussy on the same street on rue au Pain, the oldest street in town (called bread street, as at the time of François I, this was where the bread was baked as there was no oven at the castle.)

Le Debussy is a hazelnut sponge with praline mousse with raisins soaked in rum and coated in dark chocolate. You’ll also find a Saint-Germain cake at Grandin. If you love rum, then it’s guaranteed to satisfy with its boozy glaze!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

We loved the compact yet relaxed 30-minute roof tour: simply book on the morning itself directly at the Museum ticket office to ensure your place. Alternatively, book a longer visit by telephone or email in advance, and you’re good to go (precise details below). Note: I may add that I suffer from vertigo but I honestly had no trouble on this Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit.  As groups are small with a guide and another member of museum staff behind us with clear footpaths, it’s very secure. No children under 10 are admitted, however.
So, on a lovely day, jump on the RER A express train line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, pop into the ticket office just across the road to book if it’s not done already, then enjoy a walk around. There’s so much to see and do.

What Else to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

I often call Saint-Germain a mini royal Paris, as it’s so beautifully compact for boutiques and there’s plenty to do. I thoroughly recommend wearing good walking shoes as there’s plenty to do:
  • The farmers’ market (Tuesdays, Fridays & Sunday mornings – the latter is the biggest);
  • The quaint boutiques! Even the several cheese shops alone are worth a stop. Check out Foucher’s interior – it’s like stepping back to 1923 when it opened.
  • Walk in the extensive castle grounds (it’s free), including the long terrace built by Le Nôtre overlooking Paris, plus a walk through the beautiful forest (the walks are all well signposted);
  • Have a picnic in the park, or why not do it in style by ordering a gourmet version straight from Monsieur Fine Bouche, who offers €10 off your first order when you use the code, ‘MadAboutMacarons’;
  • Visit the church across from the castle, where James VII Scotland rests;
  • An afternoon visit to the Claude Debussy Museum, recently refurbished at N° 38 rue au Pain (closed Mon/Tues);
  • Maurice Denis Museum – this is currently closed for renovation until 2020;
  • The Fête des Loges in July-August is one of Europe’s biggest fairs. Shuttles run from the RER station.
  • An absolute must? My DIY chocolate & patisserie tour – Patrick Roger, Pascal le Gac (formerly from Maison du Chocolat), Gontran Cherrier, Eric Kayser, to name a few more, plus an ice cream stop at La Fabbrica de Luca, a few doors away from the oldest house in Saint-Germain on rue de la Salle. Have I missed anything?
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Practical Information

SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE CASTLE ROOF VISIT: Open 2 MAY – 30 SEPTEMBER
2 Types of Visits are possible, organised directly at the Chateau Museum in FRENCH ONLY. For a guided visit in English, advance reservation should be done for a group.
  • Historique du château et visite des toits” (1h weekly visits – 1h30 on weekends Full price each 5€/7€)
    ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ONLY by telephone (01-34 51 65 36) or by email  (Reservation.man@gmx.fr)
  • Promenade sur les toits (Duration: 30 min Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 2.45pm Full price each €4). Reservations to be made on the day itself, weather permitting, directly at the boutique/ticket office of the Museum.
Musée d’Archéologie nationale – Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Place Charles de Gaulle
78105 Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Billetterie/Ticket Office: Tel 01-39.10.13.22
www.musee-archeologienationale.fr
Jardin des Arts
3 rue Henri IV
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Getting There from Paris:

Only 20 km west, this makes for an ideal day trip from Paris with a short 30 minute train-ride on the RER A line (red) west (ouest) to the terminus at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

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DIY Paris Day Trips Saint Germain

Melting Meringue Snowballs

We need a French festive dessert for the holidays – even if our Christmas tree isn’t up yet.  Let me introduce you to these easy yet oh so chic Melting Meringue Snowballs that are so simple to assemble, plus can be prepared in advance.  What’s more, the inside has a generous surprise awaiting. Now it’s just over to you to ‘throw’ a meringue snowball party around the dinner table!

Melting Meringue Snowballs

French Pastry Chef Inspiration from Christophe Michalak’s Paris Lab

The recipe may look long but please don’t be put off.  It’s just all explained in detail and so worth the effort.

Thanks to the hosts, Terraillon France, I was invited to a special Christmas Noël pastry demonstration given by Chef Alexandre Favre at Christophe Michalak Masterclasses.
French pastry demonstrations are run in their new Parisian pastry workshop behind the chic boutique in rue du Faubourg Poissonnière in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

French meringue snowballs

A New Concept for French Meringue Pastries

For me, this was a meringue revolution! I’m not the biggest fan of meringues as I find them too sweet – so imagine my surprise when meringues had been piped out using upturned silicone cake moulds to make a large hollow inside, leaving a cavity to fill and balance the sugar!

French meringue snowballs

Meringue Snowballs – Hollow Ready to Fill

Chef Alexandre’s boule de neige meringues were sensational mini meringue snowballs – as he had smaller moulds and piped them out as more realistic snowballs without any swirly effects.  As my moulds were slightly larger, I piped out a spiral effect to make them into larger, rather melted meringue snowballs.

Two separate desserts were prepared during the demonstration, including these impressive Mont Blancs with pear, lemon jelly and praline on lemon cake bases.  I was so smitten with the tart lemon jellies that I added them to my melting meringue snowballs to add that zingy acidity to make the meringues slightly less sweet.

Mont Blanc Poire Marron

A Tart Citrus Filling Takes A Lemon Meringue to New Paris Pastry Heights

The result? The lemon just makes it! Although the lemon jelly recipe calls for sugar, it doesn’t even need it if you prefer a tart surprise inside. TIP: If you’re using organic unwaxed lemons for the juice, grate the lemon zest, place in a zip-lock bag and freeze. You’ll love this for an even quickly-made Moist Lemon Almond Cake, for example.

Chef Alexandre uses the French meringue method for his boules de neige snowballs – just like I use in my recipe for Parisian macarons in both my books. I find it so much easier to work with and there’s no need to fuss about with a thermometer. Why make things complicated when you can keep it simple?

Melting meringue snowballs

Why It’s Essential to Weigh Out Ingredients to Make French Pastry

Equal quantities are measured out of the egg whites (like the macaron recipes in my books, I use egg whites that have been stored in the fridge for 3-4 days), sugar then whisked together until soft, firm peaks. Then the sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar) is folded in using a good spatula.

Don’t forget that measuring out your ingredients using a good digital scale is vital in French patisserie (read my article here to find out why). Incidentally, I use Terraillon’s Macaron digital scale for precision in my baking.  After constant use for over a year since I’ve had it, the batteries finally gave up on me yesterday.  The good news is that this kitchen scale let’s you know STRAIGHT AWAY with “Battery” flashing up so that your baking is kept consistent.

melting meringue snowballs

How to Prepare Hollow Meringues Using a Silicone Mould

The new Terraillon silicone piping bag comes with a variety of exciting tips, easily clipped on to the bag’s holder. To push the batter or whites in the piping bag, use a patisserie scraper (corne en plastique). I used a simple plain tip to pipe out around the moulds.

Two hours later, once the meringues are left to cool, they easily come off the silicone moulds – with a most beautiful hollow ready to fill!

Melting Meringue snowballs

Each meringue base just needs to be filed off using Terraillon’s new microfilm grater, part of their new baking utensils range.

This way your melted meringue snowballs can sit perfectly upright without falling over.

Melting meringue snowballs

Surprise!

Split the meringue in the middle and you’ll appreciate how the hollows means less dense sweet meringue and more delicious fillings.

Melting meringue snowball

Hollow Meringues Filled with Praline, Lemon & Vanilla Chestnut Cream

It’s not just a Melting Meringue Snowball – it’s generously filled with toasted hazelnut praline, bitter lemon jelly, unsugared vanilla cream and I added a candied chestnut (marron glacé) just to complete the French-style festive touch.
melting meringue snowballs filled with praline

Again, weighing out the ingredients carefully, the praline can be made in advance and kept at room temperature for up to a month.

Separate the meringues into couples and in each half, fill with praline and lemon jelly; the other half, fill with unsugared vanilla cream and drop in half a candied chestnut (marron glacé).

Melted meringue snowballs

Stick them together with the vanilla cream, add a tiny dollop on top of each melting meringue snowball and top with some gold leaf and white chocolate shavings.

Melting meringue snowballs

Serve with a semi-sweet Champagne to celebrate.

With huge, special thanks to Terraillon France for hosting the event and to Chef Alexandre Favre for such a wonderful festive demonstration and meringue inspiration from the Christophe Michalak Masterclass in Paris.
Now it’s over to you – Express Your Chef!

Melting meringue snowball

Melting Meringue Snowballs

5 from 1 vote
Melting Meringue Snowballs
Melted Meringue Snowballs
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 50 mins
 

Melted Meringue Snowballs, generously filled with roasted hazelnut praline, lemon jelly, vanilla cream and candied chestnut for a special French festive dessert, inspired and adapted by Chef Alexandre Favre during a Michalak Masterclass by Terraillon in Paris.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: easy meringue method, Filled meringues, French meringue,, Meringue fillings, Praline cream meringues
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 290 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
French Meringue:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) egg whites (I use 3-4 days aged whites)
  • 100 g (3.5oz) sugar
  • 100 g (3.5oz) icing/powdered sugar
Hazelnut Praline:
  • 50 g (2oz) sugar
  • 100 g (3.5oz) hazelnuts
Vanilla Cream:
  • 100 g (3.5oz) Whipping cream 30% fat
  • 1 vanilla pod/bean - seeds scraped (or 1/2 tsp powdered vanilla)
  • 50 g (2oz) mascarpone
  • 4 candied chestnuts, cut in half
Lemon Jelly (Optional):
  • 100 g (3.5 fl oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 25 g (1oz) water
  • 7 g (0.25oz) sugar (optional if you prefer a more tart lemon surprise)
  • 2.5 g (one sheet) agar-agar
Instructions
French Hollow Meringues:
  1. Using an electric whisk or a stand-mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until the whites start to foam.  Add 1/3 of the sugar then increase speed until the meringue starts to form.  Gradually add the rest of the sugar while beating until the peaks are soft, shiny yet firm.

  2. Stop the mixer and fold in the icing sugar using a spatula until well incorporated. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag with a plain 10mm tip then pipe out spiral mounds around an upturned silicone mini cake mould.

  3. Bake in a cool oven at 80°C fan for 2 hours (according to the chef but I can't make my oven that low - so baked at 110°C fan/130°C/250°F/gas 1/2 for 2 hours. As the meringues were bigger than his minis, it still worked out well at 2 hours.  After 2 hours, switch off the oven, open the door and leave inside for 10 minutes. Remove to cool then lift off the moulds.

  4. Once cool, grate the wispy tops off half of the meringue shells to smooth in order to let the meringues stand upright.

Lemon Jelly:
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice and water to the boil. Add the sugar (if using) and the agar-agar.  

  2. Pour the mixture immediately into mini silicone cake moulds (preferably the same size as the meringues) and leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Once set, they're easy to remove from the moulds.

Hazelnut Praline:
  1. Toast the hazelnuts under a hot grill for a couple of minutes. When cooler and able to handle, rub the hazelnuts between your hands to easily take off the skins.

  2. Gradually heat half of the sugar with a few drops of water in a small saucepan until it starts to melt. Add the rest of the sugar and leave to melt until a golden caramel forms.

  3. Immediately transfer the warm, liquid caramel to a food processor and mix together with the toasted hazelnuts until it forms a soft paste. Transfer to a piping bag.

Vanilla Cream:
  1. Using an electric whisk or a stand-mixer, whisk the whipping cream with the vanilla on high until it thickens. Whisk in the mascarpone then transfer to a piping bag.

Assembly:
  1. Separate the meringue shells into couples for each Melting Meringue. Pipe in the praline into one half, top with the lemon jelly. In the other halves, pipe in the vanilla cream and add half a candied chestnut.

  2. Stick both halves of each meringue together with the cream.  Add a tiny blob of cream on top and garnish with white chocolate and gold leaf.

Recipe Notes

Decorate with gold leaf and white chocolate shavings. Sprinkle each meringue with the meringue powder, following grating of each base.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Lemon Praline Meringue Snowballs

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making these Melting Meringue Snowballs?  Please leave some comment love below, take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram or Facebook – or just spread the word about le blog!

__________________

Disclaimer: I was invited by Terraillon France to watch this demonstration. I was not compensated for this post and not obliged to write about the experience. As always, all opinions are my own. Huge thanks to Chef Alexandre Fevre for permission to use his recipe.

Macaron Day Paris 2018 – Plan your Visit!

As our thoughts are happily turning to the much awaited, budding arrival of Spring on 20 March, it’s also the official date of Macaron Day Paris.

Macaron Day Paris 2018
starts the weekend of 17 March and continues to Tuesday 20 March.

(see new post for Macaron Day Paris 2020)

Macaron Day Paris

Initiated by the ‘Picasso of Pastry’, Pierre Hermé (Vice President of Relais Desserts), Macaron Day is a charitable event which is organised by the high-end pastry chefs of French pâtisserie throughout France, Europe and the World over who are all members of Relais Desserts.

Macaron Day Paris 2018

Photo courtesy of Relais Desserts

Macaron Day Paris: The Motto

The motto is simple: One donation (un don) for One macaron.
Donations go towards the association, Vaincre la Mucoviscidose – Fighting Against Cystic Fibrosis. Their volunteer workers rally around the Relais Dessert boutiques with their tins and each time you add your donation, you pick the macaron of your choice. Last year the Association raised a fabulous €50,000 and so this year, let’s help them top it!

To assist your planning of the perfect macaron day (or weekend) in Paris, each participating boutique for Macaron Day is listed below as well as opening times. N.B. some boutiques are closed on Sunday or Monday.

Pierre Hermé

With a gourmet choice of about 20 macarons which will be available for tasting, you’ll probably be glad there’s a queue on Macaron Day at Pierre Hermé, just so you can decide on a few!

About 20 delicious flavours will be available for tasting, such as:

  • Rose, Jasmine and Fresh Mint in the Infinitely collection;
  • Ispahan (rose, raspberry & lychee), Licorice and Violet from the Signatures collection;
  • or new Lemon, Honey and Orange Blossom flavours from the Garden of Atlas collection.

Don’t forget the all-time favourites too. Mine are Mogador (milk chocolate & passion fruit) or his Infinement Vanille (Madagascan Vanilla), Montebello (pistachio & raspberry), and Yasamine (jasmine, mango & candied grapefruit)… but I’ve kept the best until last:

There’s a NEW SIGNATURE MACARON FOR MACARON DAY PARIS: Garden of Lima with lucuma nut and caramelised ginger.

Macaron Day Paris Pierre Hermé

Photo courtesy of Pierre Hermé: New Signature macaron “Garden of Lima” with lucuma nut and caramelised ginger.

4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
39 avenue de l’Opéra, 75002 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
18 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Publicis Drugstore, 133 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-10.30pm)
89 boulevard Malesherbes, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Le Royal Monceau Raffles, 37 avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 3-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)
185 rue de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday 9am-5pm)
58 avenue Paul Doumer, 75016 Paris (Saturday & Sunday: 10am-8pm)
Printemps, Parly 2 shopping centre, Le Chesnay (Saturday 10am-8.30pm; closed Sunday)

 

Sadaharu Aoki

This Japanese-French pâtisserie is highly Japanese but I can assure you that the Japanese macaron language helps gets the ooh and aahs of communication going, macaron-munching style! Try spectacular flavours such as Matcha Green tea; Black Sesamé; Genmacha; Hojicha; Earl Grey; or I find this perfectly acidic citrus Yuzu macaron always hits the spot.

56 Boulevard de Port Royal, 75005 Paris (Tues-Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed Monday.)
35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris (Tues-Saturday 11am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm)
103 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris (Tues-Sat 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)
25 rue de Pérignon, 75015 Paris (Tues-Saturday: 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)

Macaron Day Paris Dalloyau Macarons

Dalloyau

This historical institution, on the go since 1682 from the original boutique in 101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, now has ten boutiques in and around the City of Lights offering a range of Paris macaron flavours.

For Macaron Day, Dalloyau are on a floral theme, with 2 NEW FLAVOURS: Fraise-Griotte-Coquelicot  (strawberry-black cherry-poppy) and Rose-Framboise (rose-raspberry). Both new seasonal flavours will continue after Macaron Day Paris for another 3 months in their boutiques:

5 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Bastille, 75004 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
2 Place Edmond Rostand, 75006 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
63 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8.30pm)
101 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, 75008 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 8.30am-9pm)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris (Mon-Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)
69 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Saturday & Sunday 9am-8pm)
Galeries Gourmandes, Atrium du Palais des Congrès, 2 Place de la Porte Maillot, 75017 Paris (Saturday: 11am-8pm; Sunday 10am-8pm)
18 Place du Marché, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine (Saturday & Sunday: 9am-8pm)
67 Jean-Baptiste Clément, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt (Saturday: 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-2pm)
21/39 rue d’Alsace, 92300 Levallois-Perret (Saturday 10am-9pm. Closed Sunday)

 

Laurent Duchêne

With at least 15 macarons to choose from including the great classics, I’d also pick the more unusual flavours such as his Chocolate-Yuzu or Mojito macarons. For Macaron Day Paris, his NEW SIGNATURE MACARON is Le Limoncello, with Limoncello cream and jelly with a hint of basil.

238 rue de la Convention, 75015 Paris (Tues-Fri: 8.30am-2pm, 3pm-7.30pm; Saturday: 8.30am-7.30pm & Sunday: 8am-1.30pm)
2 rue Wurtz, 75013 Paris (Monday-Saturday: 7.30am-8pm; closed Sunday)

macaron day Paris

Photo courtesy of Jean-Paul Hévin, Paris

Jean-Paul Hévin

Try Jean-Paul Hévin’s new macaron, Annam: between two Grand Cru chocolate hulls from Vietnam, discover a chocolate ganache, tangy chocolate taste, yellow fruit notes. This new creation plus all the other chocolate favourites will be available in all Jean-Paul Hévin stores around Paris.

231 rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
41 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
3 rue Vavin, 75006 Paris
23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet, 75007 Paris (all 4 boutiques open Mon-Saturday: 10am-7.30pm. Closed Sunday)
Lafayette Gourmet, 35 Boulevard Haussemann, 75009 Paris (Saturday: 8.30am-9.30pm; Sunday 11am-6pm)

 

Arnaud Larher

There are 4 new macaron flavours that I confess I haven’t yet tasted, but hope to try them out on Macaron Day:

  • Chestnut cream filling with pieces of candied chestnuts and black currant;
  • Praline + milk;
  • Yuzu fruit ganache spread, featuring the Yuzu citrus; and
  • Olive oil-based ganache filling;

Otherwise choose from his classic selection of exquisite flavours: my favourites are Pistachio; Mango-tangerine; or Coffee and chocolate cream laced with strong coffee.

93 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris (Saturday: 10am-8pm; Sunday: 10am-7pm)
57 rue Damrémont, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 9.30am-1.30pm & 3.30pm-7.30pm; Sunday: 10am-1.30pm)
53 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris (Saturday: 10am-7.30pm; Sunday 10am-1.30pm)

Macaron Day Paris 2018 LeNotre

Photo courtesy of LeNôtre, Paris

LeNôtre

The legendary house, LeNôtre will donate 25% of its macaron sales and courses from its “Ateliers de Gaston” (Gaston’s Workshops) to the Vaincre la Mucoviscidose (Fight Cystic Fibrosis) Association.

10, rue Saint Antoine, 75004 Paris (Mon-Sun 9am-9pm)
15, boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris (opening times as above for all boutiques)
22, avenue de la Porte de Vincennes, 75012 Paris
61, rue Lecourbe , 75015 Paris
44, rue d’Auteuil, 75016 Paris
48 avenue Victor Hugo, 75016 Paris
121, avenue de Wagram, 75017 Paris
Parly 2 Commercial Centre, Centre Commercial, 2, avenue Charles de Gaulle, 78150 Le Chesnay (closed Sunday)

Christophe Roussel

This boutique, Creative Duo with Julie (Christophe’s adorable wife) at the bottom of the Montmartre hill, has a most sumptuous selection of macarons to choose from..

Try their Pistachio Morello Cherry; Caramel Coated with Dark Chocolate; Passion Fruit and Tarragon; or Lavender Apricot, making us dream of a hot, fragranced summer in the South of France. One of my all-time favourites, however, is his Cheesecake macaron – you have to try it!  On second thoughts, try them ALL!

 5 rue Tardieu, 75018 Paris (Mon-Fri 10.15am-7pm; Saturday and Sunday 10.15am-8pm)

 

Enjoy yourselves, happy tastings and make a charitable weekend out of eating macarons for your donations during Macaron Day Paris.  Not only is it gourmand, but it’s all in a good cause.  Why not share your macaron experiences together on the MadAboutMacarons Facebook page? I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Macaron Day Paris – or make yours the perfect Parisian macaron weekend and let’s top last year’s target!

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris – Valentine’s Creation

Just picture it. A French bakery run by a couple passionate about patisserie called Baisers Sucrés – literally translated as Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

After Kévin and Gnagalé Béziers’ Galettes des Rois tasting last month, I was fascinated to find out what the creative couple were dreaming up for Saint Valentine’s Day. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to share in their unique Valentine’s creation at their recently opened boutique in the heart of Paris’s 10th Arrondissement for an exclusive article here on le blog.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris

Kevin Bézier is no stranger to teaching patisserie and with a serious line-up of 20-years’ experience at the hotel Lutétia, Georges V and Ritz-Escoffier school, on meeting his wife, Gnagalé the couple created Baisers Sucrés in 2013. As of April 2017, their boutique is more of a showroom for their patisserie consultancy/catering business already based in Bagnolet, east of Paris.

Their showroom boutique is not far from Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and around the corner from the 10th’s Town Hall or Mairie: perhaps not the most romantic side of Paris, and when I visited last week during the floods in Paris, the nearest Metro stop at Château d’Eau seemed particularly appropriate.  Needless to say, taking photos for you wasn’t in the best of conditions with such a lack of sunlight but the colourful display of cakes and pastries made up for it.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris cakes

An astonishing showcase boutique it is: from macarons in the window, to all sorts of shining éclairs, cakes (from traditional French “cakes” to patisserie items) and seasonal fruit tarts from lemon to apple or pear tartes aux pommes ou poires. The velvet red cube, “L’entremet Révolution”, is another of their specialities with a chocolate and Earl Grey mousse with a slightly bitter raspberry ganache.

It’s unusual for a patisserie to also sell bread, but I could see it was just as popular with the locals. By the time we’d finished in their lab, most of the oversized brioches, rustic baguettes, and other Viennoiseries – the umbrella term for croissants, pains au chocolat, chaussons aux pommes, and the likes – had pretty much disappeared!  I hear they also make giant Kouign Amman pastries for 6 people.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

The real star of the show at Baisers Sucrés is the house speciality, carried on from the tradition of the previous boutique, Tholoniat, and it’s here that they’ve been breathing their own new life back into the boutique.

Etienne Tholoniat originally opened the boutique in 1938 and went on to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1952, spreading her reputation as far as Japan and the Vatican, where Pope Paul VI ordered a sugar basket in Vatican colours. It was her Semifreddo, however, that stole the show and continued with her son, Christian.

Sweet Kisses patisserie Paris Speciality

I watched the Baisers Sucrés dream team in the back lovingly prepare this frozen dessert, spreading a mixture of whipped cream and caramelised nougatine between génoise sponges, then finishing it off like a crème brûlée.

Moreover, we can’t forget it’s also a chocolatier, chocolate shop. I cheekily asked Kevin and Gnagalé if they were tempted to follow the Nutella riotous promotions and reduce their Chocolate Caramel spread – but of course, chocolatiers don’t do that with such quality!

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate shop

Which brings us to the Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine’s creation they were about to show me backstage in their lab, situated at the end of the most charming Parisian courtyard.

With severe lack of light and yet another downpour, let’s keep it romantic and steer our attention to the glistening cobbles and green plants before entering a tiny sweet haven in the midst of the 10th.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris

First, the wafting smells of traditional, artisanal bread from their gigantic oven had me in raptures. I’d already had breakfast chez moi, but when the sizeable prize loaf was revealed then transported across the courtyard to the boutique, I was hoping I could grab a fruity-nutty slice en route. They make this pain aux fruits every Wednesday and Saturday.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

Chocolate Valentine Creation

It was time to get cracking on with the first stages of the Valentine’s creation, The Hibiscus Flower, or Fleur d’hibiscus. There were no hearts in the creation; instead they were saying it with flowers – and their love for chocolate as a couple.

Already the chocolate was being tempered to 31°C.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris chocolate tempering

A loaded tray of dark chocolate half sphere shells were waiting in line, as a large pot of simmering water acted as a Bain Marie to melt the tops of each, then plunge them into cocoa nibs coated in silver edible glitter.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris Valentine chocolate

It’s at this point that Chef Kevin shows me a tip. As he’s tempering the chocolate and using a thermometer, he finds the best test is to dip in a ripped off piece of baking parchment and leave it on the counter to see if it hardens correctly.  It’s ready, as he peels a bit off the paper.

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate tips

As they both roll up baking paper into mini cornets to pipe out the chocolate, the ingredients now come into place.

The tempered chocolate acts as a delicious glue, holding a half sphere of chocolate filled with a previously prepared dome of hibiscus jelly covering a lemon and Earl Grey sponge.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés chocolate

Next come the hibiscus chocolate petals, previously prepared using half-sphere chocolate moulds. Each chilled chocolate petal is stationed in line before being sprayed with a coloured white chocolate velours. The effect is magic, with micro particles coating the chilled petals.

velours spray on valentine chocolate

Kevin and Gnagalé prepared 3 different versions: a plain chocolate-petaled flower, a fully sprayed version and this version of just half sprayed on the petals, which the couple eventually decide to choose for the Valentine’s Hibiscus Flower.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine creation

On goes the chocolate glue to stick on the petals, followed by quick freezing sprays to hold them in place.

The flower’s dome topping of Pink Champagne mousse perfumed with hibiscus flowers is given a neutral glaze with added silver lustre for that special je ne sais quoi.

Hibiscus flower Valentines Chocolate

Meanwhile, picture the scene as the team is swarming around our table in such a small space, carrying off their latest tarts and cakes to the shop.  Totally distracted I was, watching this pineapple coconut tart being topped with mango and lime then finished off with coconut shavings – a taste of the exotic which I gather is from Gnagalé’s native Senegal.

Pineapple mango tarts at Baisers Sucrés or Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Another tip from the chef came as these lemon cakes were being prepared.  He adds the final touch: a thin piping of butter in the middle to help crack open the cake in the middle.

Isn’t that funny?  In the UK, we’d be in horror with cracks in our cakes but in France, they encourage it!

sweet kisses patisserie paris cake tips

More petals for another dessert were sitting ready for their turn in the lab but back to the Hibiscus Chocolate Flower.  Gnagalé carefully tops each dome with silver leaf and the Valentine’s chocolate is ready to go.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine Creation

Hibiscus Flower Valentine’s Chocolate

Now for the cross-section and tasting!  Here you have it in a Hibiscus Flower: a Mexican 66% dark chocolate dome filled with hibiscus jelly with lemon and Earl Grey tea sponge, topped by a silver-glazed dome of Pink Champagne and hibiscus flower mousse, all encased in red chocolate velour petals.

The verdict: a tour de force of textures from the soft, crispy and fondant with light and subtle flavours to be enjoyed at room temperature (since this was still chilled.  It also wasn’t that sweet – something I keep mentioning about why French patisserie is in another league: they don’t add too much sugar so that you can appreciate the flavours.

All that was missing?  A glass of pink Champagne and my Valentine!

hibiscus flower chocolate Valentine Paris

With huge thanks to Chefs Kevin and Gnagalé Bézier for inviting me into their lab and Tholoniat Boutique of Baisers Sucrés.  Now it’s over to you to visit them and taste their specialities for yourselves. I discovered that they’re true to their credo: to share in the pleasure.

Baisers Sucres Sweet Kisses Patisserie paris

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day with the Fleur d’hibiscus from Baisers Sucrés, or let’s say from Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés Valentines Chocolate

Baisers Sucrés – Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Baisers Sucrés
Pâtisserie Chocolaterie
Boutique Tholoniat
47 Rue du Château d’Eau
75010 Paris

Métro: Château d’Eau
Tel: (+ 33) 01 42 39 93 12

 

Update!  This has proved so popular with clients that Baisers Sucrés have decided to continue with the Fleur d’Hibiscus, even after Saint Valentine’s!

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 the 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.

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

Alas, this post is not sponsored.