Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dessert tasting with Johnny Iuzzini

It’s not every day you’re invited to a dessert tasting. Much less a gum tasting. So when the folks from Extra gum invited me to test-sample three new flavors—root beer float, lemon square and bananas foster—I opened wide.

For it wasn’t just chewing some gum that was on the menu. Johnny Iuzzini was too.

And before sticking a new flavor of gum in our mouths, we sampled the actual desserts that inspired them.

The idea is to pick a favorite of the three, and the winning flavor goes to market. You can weigh in by going to their Facebook page.

Their whole line of Dessert Delights launched last year. Already on the menu are strawberry shortcake, mint chocolate chip, apple pie, orange crème popand key lime pie. And, yes, we got to sample those inspiring desserts, too.

So. Eight desserts in one afternoon.

My personal favorites? Well, I wouldn’t want to sway the voting. But anything with bananas gets my vote.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Algerian pastries: the unsung heroes of Paris

With all the beautiful gateaux, sweet macarons and dreamy viennoiserie here in Paris, it’s easy to get lost in the neighborhood patisseries, never imagining that some other delicacies could seduce you. But last year, right before I moved back to New York, my friend Ana gave me a box of pastries from La Bague de Kenza. I had photographed their amazing heaps of petite pastries before, but never had I indulged.

Mon dieu.

If you like nuts, honey, dates, figs, marzipan, orange blossom, rosewater, phyllo dough or any combination thereof, you must visit this small chain of patisseries Algériennes.

There are so many beautifully crafted pastries. Half the fun is looking at the teetering towers of sweets and deciding which lucky ones get to come home with you.

With the four I chose, I tried for as much variety as possible, both with their ingredients and how they looked.

I got a piece of classic baklava, bien sur.

Another rainbow bar layered with marzipan and infused with orange blossom.

One sweet green pocket filled with finely ground pistachios…

… and another humble bar with almonds.

It was a lovely array of flavors, my small feast. But next time I come to Paris, I’m going to be sure to find a chaise longue where I can sprawl like a goddess and pluck many more Algerian pastries from their perfectly packed boite.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Afternoon tartes at Gontran Cherrier

When I read about the “sexy French baker” Gontran Cherrier on I Heart Paris, naturally I had to go. It’s taken me six months to have the opportunity but my eyes, and belly, were not disappointed.

The Montmartre space is clean, comfortable and modern, sitting on a corner and getting light from two sides. It’s perfect for the display of true artisanal baking.

The rustic breads…

many layered vienoisserie…

…the beautiful tartes…

and, well, bagels!

My Italian plum tarte was indeed tart.

But sweet too.

Simply. Delicious.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A fine day for Mary

Even though it was Jean Neuhaus who invented the praliné 99 years ago and, therefore, stands to define Belgian chocolate, the first stop on a Brussels chocolate tour should be Mary.

The 92-year-old chocolatier has its own history and pedigree, supplying bonbons to the royal family for decades. Their rue Royale boutique, the one Sarah, Jo and I visited last year, is undergoing renovations. So I visited their new boutique in the Galerie de la Reine for this year’s fix.

Les vendeuses at Mary are lovely. “If you need anything, just ask. We are here to inform you,” is how the one girl responded to my appreciation, after having asked her about 100 questions about the chocolates.

But from the caramels and marzipan fillings to the chocolate mousse, ganache and creams, plus the truffles and pralines, I needed some guidance in choosing my bonbons.

In the end, I decided to try something a little different: a raspberry teacake.

It’s a fresh cream filling flavored with raspberry (other varieties include mocha, vanilla or chocolate mousse), topped with a walnut, and then coated in sugar icing.

Sweet is an understatement.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sweet and pretty cakes

Remember this lovely patisserie from last year?

I couldn't ever forget Debailleul. I had to go back, though it was strictly a "just looking" visit...

Some girls sigh and blush over lacy lingerie and snakeskin handbags.

Moi? I just can't get enough of pretty little cakes.