Get ready to party with this fun apéritif at any time of year!
There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.
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
The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants. Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.
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 …
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.
All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!
The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.
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.
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.
Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.
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.
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.
The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
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)
An easy dessert made in advance: rhubarb rose compote, crunchy oat crumble & a light white chocolate mousse. Just top with a macaron!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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)?
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!
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!
Cheers to Saint-Honoré and to your year ahead of happy baking!
Detox Menu (Breakfast, Lunch & Teatime)
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré Paris
Retro brandy snaps given a lime, mint and rum twist to make a celebratory cocktail adult dessert
If you don’t have them already, digital kitchen scales are an essential item for home cooks and bakers. Before I talk about the Macaron Digital Scales Giveaway by Terraillon, let me first explain why you need them.
Why Do I need a Digital Kitchen Scale?
Do you love baking cakes or have a precise approach to cooking? Then weighing your ingredients accurately will help you produce consistently successful results each time. In fact, don’t even start making recipes that require precise measurements (such as macarons and patisserie) without them!
What’s more, digital scales are also great at economising on washing up, as you can weigh each of your ingredients directly in the bowl or saucepan you’re using.
Grams or Ounces = Same Language
As baking in France and in the UK (and rest of Europe) is measured in metric GRAMS (millilitres and kilos), the recipes here on the blog and in both my books are also given in grams.
However, if you’re used to baking with imperial OUNCES (fluid ounces and pounds), it’s so easy to change weight measurements with digital kitchen scales by a simple tap on the UNIT button.
Weight vs Volume
We’re told in France that baking or making patisserie is a science. Let’s not get all technical, but yes, it’s a chemistry and if you change anything from 20g to 50g of flour or sugar in the oven, it can be a disaster (believe me, I’ve been there before digital scales). Making macarons or pastries require EXACT quantities to the nearest gram (or 1/8 ounce), so you’ll need digital scales to weigh your ingredients precisely.
CUPS are not an accurate enough measurement to enable us to bake or cook CONSISTENTLY well. For example: one cup of plain (all-purpose) flour isn’t the same weight as whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour, for example – and a cup of almond flour (ground almonds) is NOT the same weight as a cup of plain flour either.
Likewise, you can’t just throw in 4 egg whites and hope for the best that it’s 150g if a macaron recipe asks for it. It may just work, but next time you try it could go wrong since 4 egg whites could be anything between 120g and 160g. Although some recipes (such as muffins, pancakes and bread) can be forgiving, measurements have to be precise by WEIGHT – not volume – in order for recipes to work successfully each time.
I could go on – but do you get the picture?
So imagine my joy to discover these stylish MACARON digital kitchen scales by Terraillon. But were they up to it, being so lightweight?
“Macaron” Digital Kitchen Scales
Ever since these shiny raspberry-coloured scales arrived a few weeks ago, I’ve been constantly testing them – and they have passed with flying (and glossy) colours!
To choose the best digital kitchen scales, I find that Terraillon’s Macaron Scale ticks all the right criteria boxes and more:
- The LCD display is easy to read and buttons are large;
- It measures in BOTH metric and imperial weights, so if I’m following a recipe in ounces or in grams, I can switch back and forth at the touch of a button. That way we’re speaking the same international kitchen language;
- It’s ACCURATE to the nearest gram or 1/8 ounce – and measures liquids too;
- It’s full 5kg (11lb) CAPACITY is a lovely feature. Some of Terraillon’s macaron scales go up to 3kg (9lb) capacity, which is still more than enough for making pastries at home. My last scale would go into overdrive if I placed a heavy glass bowl on it but this one is much more bowl friendly as a result;
- It has a TARE function, which means being able to reset it to zero so you can add and weigh more ingredients in the same bowl. Just switch back to zero to weigh the next ingredient. This economises on washing up;
- It doesn’t mention on the guide, but weight is indicated for a whole TWO MINUTES. This is a feature I love compared with my last (and expensive!) scale, since often I’ll be measuring out icing (powdered) sugar and I run out towards the end. By the time I get another packet, the scale used to switch off. This scale doesn’t thus saves me the hassle of re-weighing;
- Although they rely on batteries, the macaron scale uses only TWO standard AAA batteries – my previous one used a whopping four and yet this one lasts so much longer. It also warns you when you need to change batteries too, although it still hasn’t run out after 2 months of constant use;
- Its sleek DESIGN is slimline, it’s super lightweight, easily transportable with an integrated handle, and the surface area is wide enough to accommodate standard bowls and pans. Although I chose raspberry, it comes in 12 more delicious glossy colours from shiny liquorice, plum, bright grenadine, mojito, frosted silver, to white meringue, for example, so would look stylish in any kitchen colour theme. It’s also so easy to clean at just a wipe of a cloth.
Digital Macaron Scale UK Giveaway
This Macaron Digital Kitchen Scale could be yours!
The lovely people at Terraillon are giving away a Macaron Scale (value of £20) to TWO lucky UK readers.
TO ENTER, it’s easy:
2. LEAVE A COMMENT below saying why you need these digital scales, and what colour you’d prefer (choose from the Macaron Digital Kitchen Scale range here).
GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. Congratulations to both Bea Trundle and Joy Murphy, whose names were picked at random and have won a set of Terraillon Macaron Digital Kitchen scales each. For the rest of us, the macaron digital scales are available on Amazon.co.uk, in various colours.
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post and was given a Macaron Digital Kitchen Scale by Terraillon for the purpose of a review. I am not required to be positive and, as always, all opinions are my own.