Monday, April 14, 2008

Tasty hiatus: Part 1

The first and last place I visited in Paris was Pierre Hermé. In fact, over the four days we spent in Paris, four visits were made, once to the rue Vaugirard boutique and thrice to the flagship rue Bonaparte boutique which was merely a short five minute walk from our hotel (not a coincidence). Unlike our 2007 visit, I streamlined my pâtisserie exploration to just six locations and concentrated the majority of my sucrose exposure to just 5 pastries and 17 macarons from Pierre Hermé, all shared equally with Eric, of course. We even had to wait patiently in queue this year on two occasions but the anticipation made it even more satisfying.

There is an air of formality in the boutique, as customers shuffle along, intently inspecting their choices, ooing, aahing and pointing, while the staff are bustling efficiently to help you. Larger entremets come first, then the individual sizes, followed by the macarons, with Viennoiserie, confections, and chocolates along an opposite wall. Let me introduce to you the spectacular items which graced our tastebuds after intense dissection. Excuse me if I sound like I am gushing, but it is truly indescribable how magnificent the balance of flavours and textures and the execution of Pierre Hermé's creations are.

Ispahan. The classic, often copied, pink beauty which features the signature triumvirate of rose, raspberry, and lychee. Strangely delicious even though I do not actually like rose or lychee very much individually. So gorgeous to look at, it was slightly tragic to have to stick a fork into the pink exterior, but after one bite, we had no reservations and dove head first into the rose macaron, rose cream, raspberry and lychees.

Plaisirs sucrés. This delicious marriage of milk chocolate and hazelnut is masterpiece which must be fun to assemble. By stacking a chewy hazelnut dacquoise base with fine milk chocolate tiles, praliné feuilleté (mixture of hazelnut paste with crisp wafery flakes), ganache, and milk chocolate cream, the result is actually very light on the palate with a pleasurable crunch.

Carrément Chocolat & Tarte au Café. The dark chocolate cube is minimalist in design but deceptively complex in texture, filled with the obligatory soft chocolate biscuit and rich mousse, but also fine shards of cocoa bean (much finer than cocoa nibs) for the most delicate crunch. A tart unlike no other, the coffee essence captured in this almost plain looking creation was unparalled. It was like drinking the best cup of espresso but in creamy ganache and chantilly form, finished with a buttery sandy pâte sablée crust and coffee fondant glaze.

2000 Feuilles. It's not an exaggeration. Millefeuille's big brother has the flakiest puff pastry, caramelized and buttery, sandwiched with hazelnut mousseline and praliné feuilleté. Anything between this puff pastry would be worth eating. I do not envy whoever has the job of cutting this fragile creation.

Macarons. The best for last. Undeniably the best in Paris, in my humble opinion, bordering on ridiculous how delicately thin the outer crisp skin of the macaron is, without any hint of chewiness or excessive sweetness, just a soft flavour implosion. My favourite is a tie between Arabesque (apricot & pistachio) and Mogador (milk chocolate & passionfruit). I could have eaten 3 dozen in one sitting if given the chance but I did need to leave room for salt and protein in my diet.

On the morning before our flight to Italy, we managed to squeeze in our final visit to Pierre Hermé and saw a Pierre Hermé delivery truck just outside our hotel. The temptation to hijack the truck was fleeting but did exist. Everything else we did in Paris, including Europain 2008, was eclipsed by the sheer delight I had in choosing, buying, inspecting, photographing and finally consuming the entremets and macarons shown above. Gushing now complete. Stay tuned for adventures at Europain and impressions of Milan and the Amalfi coast...


Cannelle Et Vanille said...

Oh I am so jealous right now... I was waiting for this post and I am not disappointed. I love the gianduja cake... I made it myself once and it was fabulous. I wish I could taste the infamous Ispahan!

Helene said...

I wish I could sit him down one day and pick his brains! What a fabulous break! One of his books had his tarte au cafe recipe nad it was one of the bests I have had! Look at that choco cube...decadence!