So, here it is - one last post about my time in France - and, quite fittingly, it's filled with pictures and reminiscences of food!
While we were in school we put together a Paris Pastry Hit List - a list of 15 or so top pastry shops we planned to visit once we got to Paris, often with a signature item from that shop that we wanted to try. So, on our days off, we would head out, a marked up map of Paris in hand, determined to work our way down the list. Unfortunately, I didn't get to all of them, but I made a valiant effort ...and I have the pictures to prove it!
A favorite was Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki - a sleek, elegant and peaceful shop that featured slices of layered cakes with a rainbow of colors and unique flavors. Aoki's masterful blend of Asian influences and French pastry techniques resulted in lovely pastries presented with an artful aesthetic.
And, of course, we had to make a visit to the famed Le Notre...ok, I confess, maybe more than one visit. They deserve the fame - both the look and the taste of the pastries was sublime.
After quite a bit of searching, we finally found Cafe Pouchkine - it's actually tucked inside the Printemps department store on Boulevard Hausman. The small, ornate boutique presents classic French pastry with a decidedly Russian influence - the result is elegant and delicious.
On the other end of the spectrum is Chez Bogato - this homey pastry shop (located in the 14th Arr, outside of the main tourist area) is focused on making cakes, petit fours and treats for children (and adults who want to feel like kids for a moment). The owner, a graphic designer turned pastry chef, creates a world of fantasy and fun with pastry - it was colorful, imaginative and quite a treat!
No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at Laduree - the folks who made macarons famous! Although the line to get in is always long, it's worth the wait.
My favorite chocolate in Paris came from Hugo & Victor, a sleek, high-end boutique in the 7th Arr. Their chocolate bonbons were beatiful to look at and and even more lovely to eat - decorated with splashes of bright colors and filled with smooth, rich ganache in all sorts of flavors (raspberry, cassis, salted caramel, hazelnut...the list goes on and on).
Additionally, their packaging was quite unique and impressive - rows of their brightly colored half-spheres lined up in a "little black book". I have to admit, the picture of the chocolates below is from their website - I don't usually post pictures I didn't take - but I had no choice. When I was trying to snap a shot of these delectable chocolates I was sternly reprimanded in French by Hugo - or was it Victor? But - it doesn't matter where the picture came from - these chocolate bonbons were stunning.
The minute you step into Patisserie des Reves - literally, Pastry Shop of Dreams - you are drawn in by the futuristic and inviting displays - bright colors, lights, glass, metal - all highlighting sleek, architectural and modern versions of classic French pastries. Even if you don't try a pastry, you need to visit Patisserie des Reves just to experience the boutique...
...but, I wouldn't recommend this - it would be quite a travesty to visit this shop without indulging in at least one of their delicious pastries.
It's not all about pastries - sometimes I went in search of bread! The unmistakable Parisian champion of bread is Poilane, best known for their large, round sourdough loaves, marked with their signature swirling P. This bread is delicious just as it is, but it is perhaps most famous for its use in restaurants throughout Paris as the base for tartines, rustic, usually open-faced sandwiches that can be covered with all sorts of toppings.
By far, my favorite pastry shop in Paris was Pierre Herme. He is known for his macarons - he was part of the Laduree dynasty - but, he's much more than just the King of Macarons - every pastry in his shop is simply amazing. Fresh flavors, bright colors, beautiful designs - ooh la la! If you can only stop at one pastry shop in Paris, Pierre Herme gets my vote.
One of my other favorite places to shop in Paris is Place de la Madeleine - this lovely neighborhood has some amazing food boutiques, like Hediard and Fauchon, where you can get everything from house-made fois gras to fruit pastes to champagne to petit fours to fresh raspberries to chocolate mousse cakes. This little corner is a must for any foodie who visits Paris.
Not all shopping has to happen indoors, however, the weekly outdoor markets in Paris are not to be missed. I spent a few mornings roaming around some of these markets (like the one below in Place Monge) and enjoying all the fresh flowers, produce, breads, cheeses and meats - but, most of all, enjoying watching the Parisians as they shopped for their provisions for the week.
I really felt like a local when we spent a Saturday morning at the Marche aux Puces (flea market) de la Porte de Vanves. We rode the Metro out to the fringe of the 14th Arr and dove into the swirling mass of people and goods that stretched for several blocks. This wasn't a touristy market - this was a real, neighborhood flea market where you could find everything from chandeliers to rugs to buttons to hammers to dog sweaters to soap -- ranging in price from 5 to 500 Euros.
After a enjoying some local color at the Marche aux Puces, we spent the next day at the opposite end of the city - in more ways than one - strolling the magnificent Champs Elysees. This wide boulevard, lined with some of the most luxurious shops in Paris, is a must for people-watching and window shopping. It ends at the Arc de Triomphe - which was lovely at dusk.
And, although I did love to take a cafe au lait break during shopping, it was quite a treat one day to stop at the Mariage Freres Salon du The for a pot of afternoon tea. This serene tea salon is surrounded by a peaceful and aromatic shop that is lined with hundreds of tins of tea - different blends, flavors, colors and fragrances from around the world.
Cheers to Paris - after all, where else can you stop for a champagne cocktail in the middle of the afternoon for a little shopping break - it just seemed like the thing to do!
Now, lest you think I didn't do anything cultural in Paris, you must know that I visited a few museums during my time there. Both the Rodin Museum and the Musee D'Orsay were food for my soul.
I wish I could capture all that I saw, felt and tasted in Paris - it was such a beautiful and captivating experience! I loved every minute of shopping and eating my way through Paris and I feel very lucky to have had such a delicious adventure.