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Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique, Paris

Let me be your online guide to the best pastries and patisseries on Rue Saint-Dominique in Paris.

Inspired by my second book, Teatime in Paris, which is essentially a pastry tour of recipes all around Paris, I include rue Saint-Dominique. All in the shadow of the Iron Lady, this sweet street boasts more than just a couple of pastry and chocolate shops and so it deserves its very own post – especially as this street has changed over the last few years.

This post was first published on 28th June 2017. Sadly, since then a few well-known addresses have changed hands or left so this post is now updated, featuring the latest patisseries and specialities in this famous Parisian street, just a few blocks away from the Eiffel Tower.

best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

My Best Loved Patisseries Near the Eiffel Tower

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!

We’re starting at the intersection with Rue Saint-Dominique and the bottom of the popular pedestrian street of Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement, walking along to the Esplanade des Invalides, an open-air playground for the boules-playing locals. Finish off your sweet stroll by watching them play: grab a bench nearby with a pastry box or two and caramels in hand.

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

 

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 – or les gaufres fourrées (vanilla and rum waffles) – being freshly prepared in the window. With its door always open, it’s not difficult to be lured in to this chandelier-clinking bakery, where Frédéric Vaucamp has brought us  back to 18th century specialities of Northern France and Flanders.

There are a few boutiques in Paris – I have fond memories of discovering the first one in the 16th, just off rue de Passy (rue de l’Annonciation) when I first started this blog in 2010.

aux merveilleux de fred rue st dominique paris

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.

best pastries rue saint dominique

Don’t forget to stock up with their legendary Cramiques for an extra sticky brioche-style breakfast. There are 3 kinds: either studded with juicy raisins, sugar pearls, or densely packed with dark chocolate chips.

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


Aoki macarons Rue Saint Dominique Paris

Sadaharu Aoki

Award-winning pastry chef, Sadaharu Aoki has been amazing Parisians with his distinct Japanese influences on French pâtisserie since he arrived in Paris in 1991. Previously teamed up with Jean Millet, this boutique with its secluded tearoom at the back was completely taken over by Chef Aoki as of May 2017.

The window is often loaded with Matcha Green Tea croissants and colourful macarons but step inside and be prepared for a museum-like experience with his range of pristine pastries – many decorated with his signature mini macarons – chocolates and rolled Japanese sponge cakes.

Many macarons are tea-infused with Hojicha grilled Japanese tea, and Genmaïcha, a green tea combined with roasted brown rice plus with sophisticated tones of white and black sesame.

Green tea is given another voice with his popular pastry, the Bamboo – Chef Aoki’s Japanese take on the classic Parisian Opéra 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.

For lemon tart lovers, you won’t be disappointed – but be warned! There are yuzu tartlets too, amongst others (like pistachio), so making your choice could be difficult.

 

Sadaharu Aoki
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)

 


Patisseries rue saint dominique Paris

Notre Pâtisserie

Turn right into Rue Amélie and you’ll see why it’s worth just a few steps off rue Saint Dominique. Decked out in turquoise blue and white, you’ll love the array of patisseries, macarons and viennoiseries dreamed up by talented pastry chef, Francesca and her team.

Check out the chic Parisian wallpaper and flowerpots on the original steel frames kept to remind you of the location’s history: it housed the workers of the Eiffel Tower in the 19th Century.

best patisseries 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. Pastry classes on request.

Notre Patisserie, 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)

Update: Since writing this post, Thoumieux have sadly closed down their patisserie but the chocolates and macarons continue with a new shop opened by pastry chef, David Liébaux since mid-October 2017.


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.

Karamel, 67 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris

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

best patisseries near Eiffel Tower


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!

teatime in Paris pastry recipe book

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Welcome to my delicious Do-It-Yourself guide: your own Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, the second part of my series on Day Trips Outside Paris.

As I mentioned in my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it’s where I live. There are about 400 shops in the royal historical town and, if you tend to look in the sweeter windows, then I have selected my particular favourites in the centre of town for your very own DIY tour, all within easy walk to and from the RER train station, opposite the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Grandin

Patisserie Grandin

Since Grandin opened in 1822, this pastry shop has been an institution on Rue au Pain, the oldest medieval street of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Michel Pottier (now retired, 2019), member of the prestigious Relais Desserts group, has continued with traditional French pastries from the Opéra cake to a legendary Baba au Rhum – but they also have three house specialities.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour grandin

Known primarily for the Saint Germain cake (individual versions seen above left in the foreground), it’s a compact cake made with ground almonds and topped with a boozy rum glaze originally created by the Patisserie Hardy around the corner.  See my recipe for the Gâteau de Saint-Germain here.

Le Debussy pays hommage to the composer – born in the house across the road – with a hazelnut sponge, praline mousse, rum and raisins, all glazed in dark chocolate.

The Saint Germain chocolates (both dark and milk) are filled with a good dose of Cognac. They were created for the opening of the new railway line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 14 August 1847.

13 rue au Pain
78100 Saint Germain en Laye

Tues-Sat 8.30am-7.30pm and Sunday 8.30am-2pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour osmont-patisserie

Patisserie Osmont

Originally in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine since 1987, the Osmont family spread their wings and opened another boutique here in 2009. The business is now run by the son, Vincent, who trained with Thierry Atlan at Lenôtre and with Pascal Caffet in Troyes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Osmont-pastries

Their bestseller is the Bois-Mort, the pastry that earned father Jean-Marie Osmont the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. It’s a crunchy meringue with hazelnuts interspersed with chocolate-hazelnut and dark chocolate mousses.  Other highlights seen in the above photo are the Tropique (lemon & mango caramel with coconut sponge), the Alliance (mint pannacotta with red fruit compote), and a Vanilla Profiterole Chocolate Tart (which inspired one of my recipes in Teatime in Paris).

There’s such a vast choice – including 15 macarons and a perfect Président pastry that thankfully never has to change.

3 rue des Coches
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7.30pm and Sunday 10am-1pm 

UPDATE December 2019: Sadly Osmont is no longer in Saint Germain-en-Laye but continues to flourish in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, west of Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Gontran Cherrier

Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie & Patisserie

Since 2013, Gontran Cherrier has tranformed this spot as an ex-garage into The hang-out just about 40 baguette’s length from the market place. After the Ferrandi school, Gontran Cherrier trained with Alain Passard at l’Arpège and Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton. Now he’s surprising us locals with a range of exciting breads, viennoisseries and pastries.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour gontran-cherrier-croissants

Here you’ll find me grabbing my favourite croissants during the morning market (Tues, Fri, Sun) – and if it’s teatime, a Cape and Cape African tea with a yuzu cheesecake just to travel far. Don’t forget to pick up either a mustard baguette or a squid ink loaf, both rather sensational – and more croissants!

rue de la Grande Fontaine
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Chocolate Shops

As it’s the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, let’s turn to the chocolate shops. As you can see, we’re rather spoiled.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour pascal-le-gac-chocolaterie

Pascal le Gac Chocolatier

This gem of an address is classed as one of the top 7 chocolatiers in France.

After working at La Maison du Chocolat for 24 years and reaching the accolade of Creative Director, Pascal le Gac set up his own boutique in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 2008.

He favours excellence over appearance, simplicity and lasting tradition over passing trends. Just peeking in the window, glistening classic pastries such as éclairs, moelleux au chocolat, truffles, macarons, millefeuilles and opéras all allure the Saint-Germanois to open that door.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Pascal-le-gac

Step inside and smell that chocolate. Ganaches from miel (honey), spices, to even Mango & Sage – where dark chocolate and mango play together – but a subtle herby sage says a cheeky bonjour in the aftertaste.

The chocolate bars are all particularly accessible. I say that since sometimes chocolate makers can make chocolate dry, earthy and complex that it can be difficult to appreciate. Here I thoroughly recommend a bar of Equator 68% which is delightfully fruity, and the more intense Venezuela 81%. Pascal le Gac also does a 100% cacao chocolate bar.

Before you go, taste at least a couple of macarons – the salted caramel and dark chocolate are my personal favourites.

61, rue de Pologne
78100 Saint Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7pm and Sunday 10am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Nicolsen Chocolatier

Each time I see Nicolsen’s thin chocolate discs or palets, it reminds me of Sulpice Debauve who was pharmacist to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and lived here in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Of Debauve & Gallais fame, the oldest chocolate shop in Paris in rue de Saint-Pères (where I normally started my chocolate pastry tour in Paris), chocolate discs were flavoured with ginger or coffee and the likes as a form of royal medicine.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Mr. Debauve was the great grandson of David Chaillou who was first to set up a chocolate drinking house in rue de l’Arbre Sec, near the Tuileries Palace in 1660 under Louis XIV.

Nicolsen, based in Chavanay, are easy to spot in summer as their ice cream cart is popular outside the shop, selling the famous glaces Berthillon. I hear they’ve decided to continue their famous saffron ganache, a house speciality.

19 rue au Pain
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 9am-7.30pm and Sunday 9am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Patrick Roger

Patrick Roger, Chocolatier

Last but certainly not least is the famous Patrick Roger, the chocolate sculptor who thinks well outside the chocolate box. A Meilleur Ouvrier de France for his house speciality: Amazone, a bright green dome of chocolate lime caramel which takes around 24 steps to obtain this look without using any colorants. If you’re looking for a taste sensation, try the Delphi for a blind tasting and let me know what you think is in it.  I personally love to stock up on Beijing, his large chocolate gingers.

A wider range of his chocolate sculptures are on show at his boutique in Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

2 rue de Paris
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Fri 10.30am-1pm; 2pm-7.30pm and Sat 10.30am-7.30pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Cakes

Have I at least whet your appetite to jump on that train from Paris?  It only takes 20 minutes on the RER A line from Charles de Gaulle Etoile station (Arc de Triomphe) and you’ll discover even more chocolate shops (such as Jeff de Bruges, deNeuville) and many more boulangerie/pâtisseries (Eric Kayser, Goulay, Maison Hardy, Paul, Fabien Ledoux, etc.), biscuit shops (La Cure Gourmande) and even a new American-style cupcake shop, Daisy Cake, which I still haven’t tried yet – I’ll leave that to you.

However, how could I finish a Saint-Germain-en-Laye Sweet Chocolate Pastry Tour without stopping for a cup of tea?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice

Chez Alice Salon de Thé

Hidden off the pedestrian precinct of Rue des Coches, Chez Alice’s tearoom is a quiet haven where you can secretly be decadent with a marshmallow hot chocolate and cream, a Champagne lunch, brunch on a Sunday (reservations a must) or a most civilised teatime with a selection of teas retrieved from one of the oversized Compagnie Coloniale tea caddies.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice Tearoom

Alice is not only one of the most adorable French women I know, but her cakes – all made by herself and her mother – are such a special treat to enjoy while escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday routine. In fact, I wish I could make it a routine to come here more often!

Chez Alice Salon de Thé
10 rue des Vieilles Boucheries
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 11.30am – 6.30pm and Sunday 12 noon-6pm

See my post on an introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye: Paris Day Trips

Next time you’re in Paris and want to avoid the typical tourist route, take a day trip to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The town is only 20 kilometres west of Paris and 15 km from Versailles.

It couldn’t be easier to travel from the City, as it takes only 20 minutes on the RER A line from Paris direct to the terminus of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. As we live five minutes away from this Royal Burgh town, I’m proud to present it to start off my new series on interesting day trips out of Paris.

St Germain chateau and park

Saint-Germain-en-Laye & its Scottish Connection

Not to be confused with the quarter of Saint Germain-des-Prés in Paris, the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is perched on the edge of a forest of 3500 hectares and today has a population of about 43,000. It’s home to the Paris Saint Germain football (soccer) team but before it was a Royal town, home to the Kings of France.

With my Scottish roots, I can’t help feeling particularly patriotic passing the church, where King James VII of Scotland (II of England) lies. Across the road from his tomb is the château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart family lived while in exile.

The town even has its own tartan, such is the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance with the Scots – and Saint-Germain-en-Laye is twinned with the town of Ayr in Scotland.

Chateau and church of Saint Germain-en-Laye

This French Royal Burgh has been a market town since King François I, who decided as of 1526 that there should be two market days.  Today there are THREE legendary MARKET DAYS: on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings (check out my Instagram feed, as you’ll see me regularly shop here!)

I joined Victoria’s weekly guided weekend walk, organised by the Tourist Office, tracing the influence of King François I on the town.  He stayed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye for over a thousand days – the longest for a monarch choosing between a wealthy choice of fairytale French castles. He left the town with its layout, a pentagon-shaped castle and a centre for trade.

Bread Street (Rue au Pain)

Update 2018: The tour (in French and English) meets up at the Tourist Office – now renovated and situated in the Jardins des Arts. Before its location was on the ground floor of the Claude Debussy Museum, birthplace of the composer in 1826 (the museum is free of charge).

Rue au Pain, the town’s oldest Medieval street, supplied bread to the castle. Today it’s still home to a bakery, chocolate shop, Pâtisserie and fromagerie. As we’re taken along pedestrian-only cobbled streets, passing boutiques and mansion houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, we learn fascinating facts from taxes to the gradual increase in population. The King had put Saint-Germain-en-Laye on the map.

chateau saint Germain

Today the castle is home to the National Archeological Museum and is currently undergoing renovations. Certain parts now look so pristine, it could have been build last year!  The castle dates from Louis IX in 1235, with the oldest part of the castle that’s left, the Royal Chapel, inspired the Saint Chapelle in Paris. Look up and spot numerous reminders of François I’s (F) symbol and the invincible salamander; N for the Napoleon III empire; and R symbol of the third Republic.

The chimney-packed castle roof is open to the public for visits too, on demand, from May-September.  See my article here all about visits to the Château rooftop, with views over to Paris.

Birthplace of Louis XIV

Saint Germain-en-Laye Pavilon Henri IV

The Pavillion Henri IV Hotel houses the small red-brick pavilion where Louis XIV was born and baptised in 1638. It’s all that’s left of the new castle (Château Neuf) which was demolished in 1776 at the request of Louis XIV’s brother, the Count of Artois. Rather than restore the castle that had run into disrepair while Louis had moved to the new royal residence at Versailles, the Count told the King he much preferred the castle in Maisons-Laffitte. So the people of Saint-Germain-en-Laye re-cycled the “new” bricks for their mansion houses.

It wasn’t just the King that was born here; the hotel is also famous for inventing the Sauce Béarnaise and Pommes de Terre Soufflées (puffed potatoes) after it opened in 1836.

saint-germain-en-laye-park-perspectives

The Park

The Grand Terrace, designed by Louis XIV’s favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre, is over 2km long. He worked on this before Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles.

For lovers of architecture, there are plenty of explanatory signs in English to learn more about the history and designs of the gardens.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Vineyards

Replanted in 1999, nearly 2000 Pinot Noir vines grow just under the Terrace to make the Vin des Grottes, although this isn’t commercialised. Instead it’s traditionally served at the harvest festival in September.

vines of Saint Germain-en-laye

Just look at this perspective, lined with lime blossom trees. Ready for a walk? Imagine in Louis XIV’s time this wasn’t paved or pathed, there was no grass and no railings with a drop of 13 metres. It was simply sanded so walkers may have felt slightly daunted…

Saint Germain-en-Laye Terrace

From the terrace, the cherry on the cake is this magnificent view of the west of Paris including La Defense: on clear days like this you can spot Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. Can you see them plus other Parisian landmarks?

view of Paris from Saint Germain-en-Laye

It’s a favourite spot for weekend walks, which leads eventually to the well-guided paths in the forest just outside the gates.

Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Let’s finish with a partial view of the park in Autumn.

Don’t forget Saint-Germain-en-Laye next time you visit Paris – add this ‘mini Paris’ to your bucket list! There’s so much to see just outside the City that’s within easy access; there’s not just the Palace of Versailles.

Just to whet your appetite, I have also compiled your very own DIY chocolate-pastry tour of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just to give you a taste of the wealth of award-winning chocolate and pastry boutiques the town has to offer.

saint-germain-en-laye park in autumn or fall

 

François I Tours: 3pm Saturdays (1.5 hrs) 9 April- 15 October
October-April: Various conferences, exhibitions & bigger group tours
For more information, tour reservations & visits, contact:

Tourist Office
Jardin des Arts
3 rue Henri IV
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tel: 01-30 87 20 63
(Updated 2018, following relocation)

Macarons vs Macaroons

macaron macaroon difference

It happened again.  I recently caught myself wincing at a teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant and prominent tea salons in Place Vendôme, where the famously stylish Parisian “macaron” was translated as “macaroon”.

I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems but please, get it right.

While Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, they are both totally different.

Macarons vs Macaroons

This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book, Mad About Macarons, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.

I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.

Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”

bitten macarons by Jill Colonna

Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?

The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.

So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.

But there’s more to it than that.

macarons vs macaroons Jill Colonna

Is it a macaron? A rougher looking amaretti cookie and a Parisian Gerbet macaron

What is a Macaron?

Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.

In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.

French macaron varieties Montmorillon

French Regional Macaron Varieties

But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).

For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey.
Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (more like an round almond cakes – see above. Here there’s also a Macaron Museum!), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.

macaron vs macaroon coconut or almond version

Macaron on the left (don’t be confused with the coconut on top, I was just being funny); Macaroon on the right. Both recipes in “Teatime in Paris”

What is a Macaroon?

Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.

It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.

Lee's orginal macaroon bar

Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional sugary bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s recipe at Christina’s Cucina.

To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.

Macaroon Jam tarts

Macaroon jam tarts

Macarons vs Macaroons

So before the confusion spreads any further between such differences between macarons and macaroons, let’s nip it in the bud.  In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today – unless a regional version is mentioned – refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot, otherwise it’s not a Parisian macaron.

Now it’s over to you to spread the word.


 

A version of this article was originally published for BonjourParis.com

Vegan Teatime Tour of the Shangri-La Palace Paris

It was an unusual time last week. Only a mere few days after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the already serene and discrete neighbourhood in Paris’s chic 16th arrondissement was particularly quiet.

Cast iron original gates to Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, Shangri-La Hotel Paris

Security was welcomingly tight and the original cast iron gates to the Palais d’Iéna were unusually ajar, but business was open as usual.  I was glad my lunch date wasn’t called off as I jumped on the RER train into the City. I just wished more visitors could have shared moments like this, rather than naturally take fright and cancel their trip.

All of us have been shocked, subdued, apprehensive, pensive, confused, but it’s time to get back to life and celebrate it, not let terrorism win. So let me whisk you back to Paris where life goes on, and come inside to admire a unique blend of Asian hospitality and French art de vivre.

Entrance to Shangri-La Palace hotel Paris

Parisian Palace Renovations

As soon as you walk into the welcoming lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, it clear that it’s not just one of the most elegant Palace hotels in Paris. It’s a fascinating step back to 1896 when Prince Roland Bonaparte (1858-1924), the grand-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, moved in to his residential home after four years of construction.

Today, thanks to the Shangri-La Hotel – who bought the palace from the French Centre of Foreign Trade in 2006 (it previously belonged to the Suez Canal Bank Company from 1925 amongst others) – the palace opened in 2010 after a mammoth four-year renovation project respecting its French heritage and, since 2009, much of the building is listed as a National Historical Monument.

Lobby of the Shangri-La Paris

The Palace retains its mix of 17th and 19th century eclectic styles plus is given a clever, contemporary luxury feel with all the comforts of a modern Palace hotel.

It’s no coincidence that the main grand Staircase of Honour looks so regal: it was designed by the Moreau brothers of the Château de Chantilly. The bronze statue of a child holding a torch leads us upstairs to the residential salons.

Grand Staircase Shangri-La Palace Paris

On the first floor with its giant reception rooms, the original marble continues throughout, as does renovated and original wooden flooring, stained glass and the likes.

Shangri-La Paris Hotel original marble from Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace

Original marble. In the ceiling, an original zodiac sculpture

Grand Salon, Shangri-La Paris

The impressive main reception or banquet space is the Grand Salon, decorated in Louis XIV style. What a venue for a wedding, and just across the landing is yet another terrace looking over at the Eiffel Tower. It’s enough incentive to get married again, even to the same husband!

This trumeaux mirror reflects yet another mirror which previously framed a large portrait of Prince Roland’s Grand Uncle, Napoleon I (his brother was Roland’s grandfather, Lucien Bonaparte).

Grand Salon of Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, now the Shangri-La Paris

Signs and Symbols of the Bonaparte Family

Imperial signs of Prince Roland are reminders of the Bonapartes, with recurring eagles and bees of the first and later second empire in the architecture throughout the palace.  Look out for the beautiful bees in the Chimneys – and you’ll see them flying around many lush curtains and other furnishings.

Prince Roland Bonaparte's ornamental symbols in the Palace Iena

Bonaparte imperial emblems of the eagle and the bee are present throughout the architecture

But reminders of his presence don’t just include the ornate bells and whistles that remind us that he was last male descendent of the Lucien Bonaparte line. Clever clogs Prince Roland was foremost an explorer, geographer and botanist, named president of the Geographical Society in 1910 – a position he held until his death in 1924 at age 66 – plus nominated President of the Scientific Academy.

Forced to abandon a military career due to new legislation in 1886 banning the relations of French rulers to serve in the armed forces, Prince Roland was devoted to botany. He cultivated the world’s largest private herbarium (2nd largest in France and 7th in the world), comprised of more than 2.5 million samples of about 300,000 herb and fern species. They were eventually moved to Lyon as there wasn’t enough space within Paris’ Natural History Museum!

Botanist drawings of Prince Roland Bonaparte's herbarium collection

Examples of his botanical collections are showcased in the lifts taking us to the 65 hotel rooms and 33 suites – many of them with unique views of the Eiffel Tower.

I was given a sneak peek at the spacious and bright Chaillot Suite, called after the Chaillot Hill upon which the hotel is located, and is the smallest of the three signature suites. That would do me fine, imagining myself as Julia Roberts sitting elegantly on this wrap-around balcony enjoying the Paris skyline sipping on something festive when the sun goes down and the City of Lights sparkle. But I dreamily digress.

Balcony of the Chaillot Suite, Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris

Room With a View on the Eiffel Tower?

Prince Roland wasn’t keen on the new Eiffel Tower built for the World Fair in 1900. His private apartments (now the vast Suite Impériale which is also listed with Monuments Historiques) are on the other side of the building, facing Avenue d’Iéna and overlooking the Guimet Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the West.

Is it coincidence? The Prince was particularly fascinated by the Eastern world and his world expeditions inspired him to write one such essay on the rising curiosity within Europe about China and its culture. I bet he would also have had a few things to say at the Climate Conference next week in Paris.

Gardens at the Iena Palace overlooked by the Eiffel Tower Paris

Back on ground to the present, another conference was taking place in the Michelin starred Abeille restaurant, with the view over the pristine garden. Their other restaurant, the Shang Palace, is the only Cantonese restaurant in France with a Michelin Star. But for teatime and for a light lunch or dinner, the social hub venue is here at La Bauhinia.

LA BAUHINIA

La-Bauhinia-restaurant-Shangri-La-Palace-Hotel-Paris

La Bauhinia takes its name from the iconic five-petalled orchid flower that graces the Hong Kong flag. This is a contemporary restaurant where creative executive Michelin star Chef, Christophe Moret offers French and South-East Asian cuisine, complete with a popular “100% Green Menu” with constantly varying vegan dishes since the summer.

I chose their signature Asian favourites since, although there are many contemporary French dishes to tempt, I felt the need to turn up the Autumn heat and make a culinary stop in Malaysia with this classic coconut chicken soup with lemongrass, Sup Santan Ayam. On the menu, it wasn’t given a spicy chili sign but had just the loveliest, hint of background kick to warm the senses.

Malaysian chicken coconut lemongrass soup Shangri-La Paris

Vegan Menus at the Shangri-La Paris

The menu is beautifully varied and there’s temptation for all palates. I’m normally looking at a simple pasta dish on simple bistro vegan menus – but pasta is not always vegan. Instead are such sophisticated offerings: two lightly spiced salads could have also been just the ticket – how about a grapefruit salad with prawns, coriander, peanuts and lime?  The soup went best with the main course, although the vegan options with mushrooms in thin sheets of chestnut with a hazelnut and soy emulsion were swaying me to confuse the waiter.

Even during the darkest of French winter days with a Murano three-tiered chandelier, the natural light still shines through directly from above in the 1930s-era restaurant. During the renovations of the courtyard, this glass and steel Eiffel Tower inspired treasure was discovered completely by surprise behind a false dropped ceiling put in place by the building’s former corporate residents.

La Bauhinia Shangri-La Paris Hotel - Coupole light ceiling

One of my most memorable dishes was Pad Thai when I visited Thailand.  I had a few of them but only one stands out in Bangkok, served in a banana leaf boat.  This didn’t need a boat as Chef Moret’s Shrimp Pad Thai just hit the spot and took me back to that special taste with its mix of textures, flavours and colours of rice noodles sautéed with shrimp, scrambled egg, soy bean sprouts, daikon, cabbage, peanuts, lime, garlic, tamarind.

A recommended glass of Savennières, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire, was the perfect partner with such exquisite exotic flavours. It was also the ideal excuse as a sipping break when noodles slipped between undisciplined chopsticks.

Next time, I could catch the waiter for the fish of the day with its saffron and truffle risotto or the Sole Meunière, opt for an Aberdeen Angus steak, or choose from the vegan menu with a pumpkin and squash Tatin with coconut.  If you prefer to light up the winter fire, then the stewed lamb in a Malaysian red curry with coconut would change the inner climate and possibly produce condensation on the coupole glass roof.

Shrimp Pad Thai from the Shangri-La Paris

Vegan Teatime Paris

Would you believe I couldn’t even manage dessert? How could I possibly turn down a chocolate tart on the menu, exotic fruits or even an Asian-style exotic puff pastry with Tahitian vanilla and spiced caramel?  Perhaps I’ve been deliciously sweetened out, tasting and testing so many of the recipes before Teatime in Paris was published!

Instead, I was surprised with a mini-tasting of the most innovative and healthy vegan French pastries, brilliantly crafted by the head pastry chef, Michaël Bartocetti, who joined the team in June 2015.

Vegan teatime Paris or afternoon tea at the Shangri-La Palace

Vegan pastry treats including a nutty financier, a fruity-nutty mosaîc, chocolate cookie,”les Figolu” fig roll cake, and a lime shortbread

Following nearly three months of research, chef Bartocetti recently introduced these healthy pastries which not only use seasonal products, but eggs are cleverly replaced by vegetable proteins; non-refined sugars (such as coconut oil and maple syrup) are used; and there are no additives. Flour is replaced by a range of chestnut, buckwheat “flour” (I say flour but chestnut is gluten-free and so is buckwheat which isn’t wheat at all – it comes from the rhubarb family!). Milk is replaced by homemade vegetable milks (almond, soya etc.)

About ten pastries fall under this vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free choice.

Vegan Teatime Paris with a Mont-Blanc

As for the other exquisite-looking vegan pastries, including this Chestnut and Blackcurrant Mont-Blanc (uses no egg whites), I’ll just have to save my appetite for another visit or perhaps I may have tempted you to get there before me.

As of 28th November, the hotel will be glowing with festive cheer and holiday magic – and, if you’re lucky to be in Paris between 5-25 December, I hear that Chef Michaël Bartocetti has created a special “Christmas Sphere” yule log!

Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris
10 Avenue d’Iéna
75116 Paris
Tel: 01 53 67 19 98

La Bauhinia Restaurant
Reservations: 01-53 67 19 91

Eiffel Tower Paris, November 2015

With sincere thanks to the Shangri-La Paris for sharing such an enlightening bite of French history.
Vive la France, its heritage and cheers to the French art of living!

October Wine Festival Montmartre, Paris

While the arrival of Autumn is reminding us of its gradual presence in the early mornings and evenings, Paris has been enjoying a blue-skied Indian summer this past week. It has been a time for us to head outdoors to celebrate it. I have an excuse for you to join in, too, with the October Wine Festival Montmartre (known as la Fête des Vendanges).

Sacré Coeur Paris Montmartre

Each year grapes are harvested from the Montmartre vineyard and made into wine. The locals have celebrated this tradition since 1934 – and so 2015 marks the 82nd edition of the Fête des Vendanges, or the Montmartre Paris Wine Festival which takes place around the second Saturday in October. Last year it attracted 500,000 visitors.

The Montmartre Vineyard

Montmartre was covered in vines in the Middle Ages (first evidence dates back to 944).  Just around the corner from Sacré Coeur (the second most visited site in Paris after the Eiffel Tower), you’ll see the Clos de Montmartre’s vineyard, rue Saint Vincent, on the hill or butte, with an altitude of 130 metres. 2000 vines were planted in 1933 in memory of the vines of times past with Gamay, Pinot noir and Landay grapes.

Today the grapes are cultivated without using any pesticides and about 950 bottles of Clos Montmartre are produced every year, elaborated in the cellar of the town hall of the 18th arrondissement of Paris.  Grape juice is also made for the children taking part in the events.

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Annual Wine Festival, Montmartre

This year, according to Sylviane Leplâtre, wine expert for Paris vines, the climate has been more favourable than previous years and a rosé has been particularly produced to suit public demand. How is it? According to Leplâtre, it’s unique colour is salmon pink, it has floral and sweet spicy notes on the nose and the taste is light and delicate.

The grape harvest celebrations last for 5 days and festivities are full on.  Just looking at the programme reveals all sorts of workshops (art including Manga; a how-to guide for the local beehives; floral displays, etc.), competitions, concerts (including a singing-in-the-wine Bordeaux evening), tours and lectures (many of them need to be booked in advance online), and of course the wine tasting and Parcours de Goût (Tasting Journey of producers of hams, cheeses, oysters, wine, etc from all around France) from Friday to Sunday.

For a feel of the celebrations, check out Carol Gillott’s artistic ParisBreakfast view of last year’s event. She recommends you bring your own glass, save yourself for the truffled omelettes, and perhaps even wear a black jacket and red scarf …

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Ever since the very first festival took place in 1934 with actor Fernandel as “Godfather” (Parrain) and actress Mistinguett as “Godmother” (Marraine), French celebrities are chosen by the mayors of Montmartre and Paris to lead the festivities. Next week actress/model Melanie Thierry and singer Raphael will take the lead. For example, every day we are adding new temporary phone number to verify your QIWI Wallet Nigeria account, and now we’re removing invalid numbers.

Saturday 10th October marks the main events: the Ban des Vendanges, a gathering of the robe-clad Confrerie brotherhoods of local food and wine; the Clos de Montmartre wine auction, when the produce proceeds go to charity organisations in the district; the Grand Parade (Défilé), when 1500 participants leave the Mairie of the 18th at 3pm and arriving at 5.45pm at Place Saint Pierre; and at night enjoy a 15-minute firework display orchestrated by world firework champion, Joseph Couturier, at the foot of Montmartre.

Montmartre Paris

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the chocolate (try the chocolate buttes and kisses!) and macarons from my pastry chef chocolate friend, Christophe Roussel, who is in Rue Tardieu, just opposite the 2,280 steps and entrance to the Finiculaire cable car. Please say bonjour from me!

For more information, check out the latest edition of the Fêtes des Vendanges de Montmartre (in French) or for details in English, head to the site of Sortir à Paris’s Montmartre Wine Festival.

Metros: Abbesses or Anvers.

 

Update: next edition is 10-14 October 2018.