Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cookies au chocolat

The fancy French name for chocolate chip cookies. Or, at Eric Keyser, chocolate chunk. Rich chocolate chunks.

They're ensuring I'm ready for cookies in NYC. And, when I'm back in Paris, I'll check out the new Eric Keyser on rue Danielle Casanova.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pralinés good enough for kings

Founded in 1800, Debauve & Gallais is the oldest chocolatier in Paris.

Sulpice Debauve, a pharmacist by training, opened the boutique after the Revolution and gradually built a reputation across the continent for exquisite chocolates. By 1818, he was appointed King Louis XVIII’s chocolate supplier, and then Charles X’s and then Louis Philippe’s. And now me.

It’s a beautiful old shop, which had me worried that the chocolates, too, were going to taste outdated. Silly girl.

The half moon counter is a genius way of displaying all the bonbons, bouchées and tablettes—you’re practically surrounded by chocolate, and it’s just a matter of closing your eyes, pointing your finger and discovering which rich treat you’re going home with.

I kept my eyes open, indecisively (as always) going back and forth, back and forth. I couldn’t decide if I wanted milk or dark chocolate, something filled with Cointreau or Calvados, covered in nuts or dusted with cocoa… Sensing my panic, the patient dame behind the counter steered me towards the almond praliné, for which I’ll forever be grateful.

This praliné heart is one of the best sweets I’ve had in a long time. Creamy, nutty and rich, not to mention generously proportioned, it gave me 1, 2, 3, 4…. I dragged it out to 12 bites of blissful pleasure. It was the kind of treat that made me really savor each mouthful—something I couldn’t imagine King Louis doing after all his years of exile.

30 rue des Saints-Perès

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perfectly portioned decadence

Christian Constant gets my vote for little chocolate cakes that I would bring to a dinner party.

So if any of you are having a dinner party anytime soon, I will bring dessert.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August Tour: A Sweet Peak at the Ninth Arrondisement, Part I

The ninth arrondisement is largely unknown to tourists and under-appreciated by locals. But that’s all changing. So enjoy this neighborhood, and its abundance of sweets, while the sidewalks and shops are still unclogged.

Start at A la Mere de Famille (35 Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre). The old-timey tiled floors and wood paneling will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to 1761 when this lost-in-time candy and chocolate shop opened. There are house-made chocolates and caramels and cakes, but since they have the best dried pineapple in the city, I’d put my centimes to the fruits secs.

Carry on north up rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, which will bring you to rue des Martyrs, a heavenly street of fromageries, poissoneries, caveaux, produce markets and beaucoup de boulangeries. Pop in to #15 for a quick sugar fix—Karamell, a Swedish candy store, offers all manner of gummies, suckers and chocolate bonbons by the piece.

Keep hoofing it up the hill (today, you’ve got to burn extra calories) to Arnaud Delmontel (39 rue des Martyrs). One of the best breadmakers in the city, Delmontel also creates gorgeous cakes and pastries. My favorite? The big, flakey bear claw filled with pistachio and almond paste.

Still hungry? Keep climbing. At 47 rue des Martyrs, Caramella is waiting to serve you dreamy creamy ice cream in adventurous flavors like peanut butter and jelly and good old standbys like chocolate.

Along the way, did you notice Rose Bakery across the street? We’re saving that for Part II.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chocolate covered macarons

After being shut out of some of my favorite sweet spots this month, I was thrilled to stumble upon Sadaharu Aoki’s Boulevard de Port Royale location. I knew from his rue de Vaugirard patisserie that my eyes would be treated to exquisite cakes and pastries.

It was just a matter of what my belly was craving.

Despite the gorgeous display (earl grey, wasabi, caramel, yuzu, strawberry and lemon but a few of the choices), I’m not a big fan of Aoki’s macarons. But that didn’t stop me from trying his new treat: the chocoron, a chocolate covered macaron.

Just as the whoopee pie was the happy little blast from the past last year, I found this to be a nostalgic treat. The chocoron is like a scooter pie reincarnated.

Of the six flavors, I opted for chocolate, at the shopgirl’s suggestion.

A genius concept but unfortunately the inside macaron was a little stale so my chocoron wasn’t as spectacular as it could and should have been.

But I did sample a piece of dark chocolate with sesame seeds and it was, sigh, divine.

56 Boulevard de Pot Royale

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shut out

August is the cruelest month. At least in Paris.

While I admire France’s devotion to les vacances, what’s a Sweet Freak to do?

There is no chocolate at Charles or Chapon chocolatiers.

No pain au raisin or éclairs at Stohrer.

No brioche, which Isa said is the best in the city, at Bread & Roses.

And no macarons, no cakes, no nothing at the shuttered Pierre Hermé.

I never thought I’d wish away the summer days.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


When I was here in Paris as a student in the ’90s, I clung to my American roots. Every opportunity I had to eat a tuna fish sandwich, cheeseburger or chocolate chip cookie, I did. In fact, I ate so much to stave off my homesickness that I brought home an extra 15 pounds—carried firmly in my middle parts—at the end of my semester.

This time around, I’m embracing everything French: the cheese, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables (coincidence that I’ve lost weight since being here?). The idea of going to an American restaurant or bakery seems silly—repugnant even. That said, there’s something about a cupcake, isn’t there? Every time I walk by Berko, I’m drawn to their windows as if I were 19 again.

The cupcakes here are not as lovely nor as lovingly made as the beauties at Cupcakes & Co, but, still these bright, cheeky creations are fun to look at.

To be fair, Cupcakes & Co is strictly cupcakes. Berko offers lunch—quiches, salad, etc—as well as other sweet treats like blueberry tarts and cheesecake (another American dessert the French are fascinated by). And lots of them.

What I’m really interested in are these bars:

I’ve never seen anything like them before. And if I consider them a French treat at this American-like bakery, then there’s certainly no shame in indulging. We’re forever students after all.

23 rue Rambuteau