Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Holy heaps of Algerian pastries!

La Bague de Kenza, now open for your visual and oral pleasure.

What will it be? Soft diamond pouches filled with walnuts and lemon?

Semolina cake stuffed with almonds?

Honey fritters?

Nothing but time and temptation to sample...

136 rue Saint-Honoré, 1eme

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crumbling at Les Deux Abeilles

Two years ago, when I visited Paris for the first time ever in summer, I was Velib’ing down rue de l'Université, when I slammed on the brakes and practically flew over my handlebars. The cause for this moment of graceless drama? The cakes and tarts beckoning from the window of Les Deux Abeilles.

This darling family-run tea salon is everything you envision a darling family-run tea salon to be: decorated with floral wallpaper and antique furniture and filled with warmth and light; run by a lovely, friendly staff that makes you feel at home; and, most important, a menu filled with homemade tarts and crumbles and cakes and scones, served alongside pots of tea or glasses of ginger lemonade.

I know all of this now since I finally made it back there for an afternoon indulgence.

Two years was worth the wait.

Out of all the irresistible-looking desserts, I came really, really close to selecting the pear-praliné clafoutis, which waved to me like a moist and dense, satisfying glimpse of heaven. I was also tempted by the tall, airy domes on the lemon meringue tart and the towering crust that surrounded the cheesecake.

But after a very laborious decision, I opted for the rhubarb-apple crumble.

It was served with a side of fresh whipped cream, and I ate it with French Vogue opened to the gorgeous Kate Moss spread. This was intended to inspire me not to finish the whole serving.

But it didn’t work. I crumbled (hardy har) and cleaned my plate.

189, rue de l'Université, 7eme

Monday, May 17, 2010

A visit to Lisbon's Claudio Corallo

I am sitting here in Paris, three days after my trip to Lisbon’s only gourmet chocolatier, enjoying a block of 70% dark chocolate with raisins and a unique and potent liquor extracted from the pulp of the recently harvested cocoa fruit. It’s heady and delicious.

It was on my recent trip to Portugal’s capital that I was fortunate enough to have a friend with a Frommer’s Guide. Inside, it shared a little-known address on a not-so-well-known street: that for Claudio Corallo on Rua Cecilio da Sousa.

I knew my chocolate block was going to be a winner since the moment we rushed into the small boutique, we were warmly greeted and eagerly treated to a chocolate tasting.

We sampled the 70%, 80% and 100% chocolates, a tasting that ranged from semi-sweet to acidic. Some of the bars had ginger or orange pieces, adding a touch of lovely sweetness.

And some of the pristine chocolates are made into more whimsical bonbons, like these lovelies made with pine nuts.

Claudio Corallo is not for everyone. With a devotion to pure cacao that's cultivated on the tiny African archipelago of São Tomé, the beans are meticulously sourced and produced into dark chocolate without any sugar or vanilla. It’s hardcore chocolate.

But how wonderful (and, to me, delicious) to discover an Italian man, living in Africa, producing chocolate in Iceland and offering it at a hole-in-the-wall in Lisbon.

Sometimes when you’re crazy for chocolate, you really will go to the ends of earth for it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A sweet neighborhood gem

With decadent boutiques like La Patisserie des Reves and Hugo & Victor opening alongside an astounding number of cupcake cafes, it’s sometimes nice to revisit old favorites—patisseries that are top-quality and inspiring, enchanting and artistic, patisseries that never fail to seduce and impress and that are (lucky me) close to home. Patisseries like Pain de Sucre.

Opened in 2004 by Pierre Gagnaire’s former pastry chef (Didier Mathray) alongside the internationally experienced palate of Nathalie Robert, the two have been making magic happen in the form of flavored marshmallows (cassis, pistachio, caramel… red pepper!??)…

… and chocolate bars studded with wild berries, flaky coconut or slivers of almond.

And even though they create a world of macaron flavors, and offer lovely and inventive desserts of mousselines accented with fruit compotes and crumbled biscuits and dark chocolate…

…along with spectacularly tempting individual desserts, from raspberry and lemon tarts to almond-grapefruit-chocolate ganache cakes…

…I can’t help but be most wowed by their tarts.

Square, not round, relying more on clementines and limes than apples and pears, flecked with crushed pistachios or speared with rosemary sprigs, these are masterpieces you don’t see often.

Tasty, too.

And bonus points: Pain de Sucre is open on Sundays you can have the ultimate finale to an indulgent spring weekend.

14, rue Rambuteau, 4eme