(John Hartley - a culinary patriot eating & cooking in Northwest England)
The Observer, my Sunday newspaper, today announces its annual food awards.
And winner of the “Best Producer” category is Bisous Bisous, a few minutes drive from me (and which I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times on other threads). Now, bear in mind, this is best producer, not just best patisserie.
I am lagging in write-up. Here you go, mid November’s visit in the 15e shop by Mr. naf. Des Gâteaux et du Pain, resemble more a jewelry shop than a cake shop. All black interior and the spotlights made the pastries look precious. From the name of the shop, you know they sell bread as well as pastries.
Mont blanc cassis - Shortbread, blackcurrant crisps, chestnuts, crispy meringue, whipped cream, chestnut. Usually Mont Blanc is quite sweet, the acidity of blackcurrant confit in this version contrasted with the sweet chestnut. A nice interpretation of a classic. My favourite
Claire Damon’s version with meringue beneath the lemon curd. Not for faint heart, her curd is very lemony, the sugar is found in the meringue. Usually French dessert is more of a balance of flavours, this one shows instead contrasts. I think it’s either you love or hate it.
Satine - Pierre Hermé isn’t a cheesecake fan, this is maybe the only cheese cake in his collection -
Shortbread pastry, biscuit imbibed in passion fruit juice, fluffy cheesecake, orange marmalade, and light cream cheese cream
The hazelnuts and the chocolate pastry stand out among all the 3. Both are of intense flavours. Me too, usually not a big supporter of cheesecake, I usually find them too soft. This one is subtle, light and refreshing.
(John Hartley - a culinary patriot eating & cooking in Northwest England)
Oh, I’d love it. The more lemon the better for me. And the pastry looks excellent
Philippe Conticini is considered as an important figure in the modern French pastry. Back in 1994, he has invented the pastries in verrines, the presentation of vertical dessert inside a transparent glass using a spoon to scoop the layers of flavours and texture and have that in 1 bite. He is also known for his reinterpretation of classic pastries like Paris Brest or éclair. Chef Conticini opened his first shop Pâtisserie des Rêves in rue du Bac 2009. I remembered hearing a lot of him back then, his shop and the media has promised he would be as great as Pierre Hermé with his creativity. Then suddenly silence radio. I have read later that during this time he has been very sick. He recovered eventually but need a cane to walk.
Back around in 2014, I have bought his pastries in the rue du Bac shop, I found them alright but not exceptional, and didn’t quite understand the buzz. It was only reviewed later: for a few years he had became only the brand of his chain of shops, he was not involved with quality control of his creation. He was disappointed with the owner vision of business, and left the company in 2015. Towards the end of 2016, a new buyer took over the chain and re-invited Conticini back to involve in the company’s creation and daily operation.
Mr naf bought the pastries from the Beaugrenelle shop in the 15e, left bank of the Seine.
Russe - chestnut sponge cake, praline cream, liquid pure praline centre.
Love this, nutty in every bite with a silky cream, good balance with different texture
Tiramisu - the best I have eaten. Unusally, Tiramisu contains mainly of ricotta and can find a bit heavy. Here, you can see the consecutive layers, with crispy praline moka, caremelised crunchy almonds and slight touch of salt (fleur de sel) and didn’t feel heavy at all as a dessert. I would like to find the recipe.
Orange tart - not an easy pastry, orange doesn’t have strong character as other citrus fruit and was usually very sweet or bitter. You found a crunchy tart biscuit on it a thin layer of nutty sponge, on it with crystallized sweet and sour orange, with a smooth orange flavoured cream. Not bad at all if you like the fruit.
Paris Brest - A French Classic that you can find in nearly all the bakery. Here the Conticini version: with the extra melting praline cream and a liquid centre, the texture of chou pastry with streusel made this common dessert exceptional.
Chocolate tart - Crunchy pastry filled with an intense and smooth chocolate cream, with a layer of hazelnut biscuit hidden inside the cream. Nice, but I preferred the Chocolate Grand Cru consumed last time.
Vanilla grand cru - the base was subtly crunchy duja vanilla, on it a layer of vanilla sponge, then a black layer - creamy black vanilla filling, topped with white chocolate and vanilla mousse - a must for vanilla fans!
All of the 4 desserts were well executed, my preference were Mille Feuilles and Vanilla Grand Cru, both with intense vanilla flavour, light and a balance of sweetness. Great to confirm that in both degustation, we have no deception with any of the cakes (even though some flavours aren’t usually what I like), but the skills and the attention given to each dessert, thumbs up.
Note that on their site, the pastry has much more toppings. Their marketing team made splendid photos, but I feel they should be more honest and show the pastries they are really selling, the caramel cubes on the website photo was missing in reality.
It was alright, not particularly exciting. But I have to admit that I was never a big fan of Michalak’s verrine, I don’t know if it was because of the plastic packaging vs glass, I never had the same sensation as with Hermé’s verrines, for example.
They shrank my favourite chou dessert, now they are miniscule! It used to be 150 g selling at 9 €. Of course I know that they have reduced the price, with 26 g less made a significant difference in feeling when eating. Now it felt like a normal religieuse found in a good pastry shop, the feeling of magic was gone. I feel they should exist in 2 sizes, maybe the bigger one on weekend. Give it a chance, I want it back!
See the original size here:
Overall I couldn’t say it was bad, but the “wow” effect I found in the past was missing, maybe I had too much expectations.
Christiophe Michalak Saint Germain
8 rue du Vieux Colombier
What I like about the dessert of Philippe Conticini, the flavours are frank yet they are still classical: for example if it is a vanilla dessert, it would taste maximum vanilla than you can think of (at times with different types of vanilla) and in different form and texture, pushing the ingredients to its limit but yet still remind loyal by not changing the fundamental of the classical aspect of the dessert. Good ingredients is essential, and a deep understanding of the classic to develop this reflexion. Good examples to illustrate this: Le Saint-Honoré, Tarte tatin and Calisson.
I tried to find more information on this cake, I believe it was similar to Hévin’s famous Guayaquil. You should taste it if you can find a Jean-Paul Hévin shop, they exist now in many countries. The texture was interesting, not only the look.
We were visiting La Goutte d’Or Patisserie by Yann Menguy, in the 18e. The talented pastry chef has worked in Masterclass of Christophe Michalak and as pastry conception chef in Ladurée before venturing in his own shop in 2016.
La Pavlova - lychee, rose water, raspberry, meringue and chantilly - 5,50 €
Gianduja choclate icing, with a hazelnut cream, a disc of milk chocolate, moist chocolate cake, hazelnut praline, with a chocolate hazelnut biscuit as the base. Under the disc, there was a thin layer of chocolate chantilly.
The hottest “rock star” pastry chef in town, Cedric Grolet has just opened his first shop on 20 March, while keep his job pastry chef at Dalí, Meurice, which is quite rare. Don’t be surprise that the waiting line is at least 30 minutes minimum to get into the shop of Hotel Meurice.
Visually speaking, they are very impressive, that comes with a very high price tag.
Grolet signatures are sculptured fruit pastries which made him world famous in Instagram. The pastries selling in the shop were the past collection serving in the restaurant at teatime. Depending on your point of view, you need 50€ + to taste his cakes at the tea salon, so we might said it is a bargain now!
Taste wise, it is a bit complicated to describe and need some thinking. They are quite different from the usual taste from other pastries I had. Mr. naf liked them, noting the taste to be not too sweet. I find them very fine, delicate and original in taste, but I would have preferred the pastries to be sweeter, especially the lime. The apple tart I found it a bit bland. The coffee tart was good, but my favourite is still of Pierre Hermé. With the recent price tags getting higher and higher, it looks like Pierre Hermé is now a bargain! Personally, I would say the pastry of Grolet seduced more visually than the taste. If you like his pastries and up to some challenges, there are quite some French pastries blogs posting the recipes.
If you are going, be beware of the 4 pm closing time.
La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet
6 Rue de Castiglione
Wow, what awesome deliciousness!
If you would be so kind as to answer a question:
What are your current favorite Top 5 shops based on flavor, experience and value?
My husband and our teenager (who is learning French and loves French music) will be spending a few days in late July/early August based in the Gard du Nord neighborhood of Paris. Museums & gardens are on the list as well as pastries, bread and food in general. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
My top 2 Pierre Hermé - 72 rue Bonaparte Paris 5e is the flagship store. As for the other shops check before you go. Some are just selling macarons and chocolate, no pastries. Signature: Ispahan, Infinite vanilla tart, Coffee tart, mogador macaron…
La Pâtisserie des Rêves by Philippe Conticini - The taste is classic but Conticini uses good ingredient and pushes them to the limited, resulting in very intense flavour, never dull. Vanilla grand cru, Mille feuilles, Paris Brest, Tiramisu, noisette are some of my favourite.
Those 2 are important chefs, their work influenced the new young star chefs of today.
I like some of Christophe Michalak’s pastry, especially his yuzu lemon tart discussed in up thread, but they are only available in big cake portion. To avoid, his “jar” pastry, too expensive and plain.
Cyril Lignac pastries are quite even, good baba au rhum and lemon tart.
I must say, they are all expensive, maybe Yann Menguy’s La Goutte d’Or (18e which is quite close to Gare du Nord), the pastries are mostly between 5 and 6 euro.
As for the others, it depends a lot what you like. If you like choux pastry, you should try l’éclair de Génie of Christophe Adam. Since you are based in Gare du Nord, you can go to Gallery Lafayette gourmet in the 9e and try out several of them (Pierre Hermé, Café Pouchkine, l’Éclair de Génie, Jean-Paul Hevin, Sadaharu AOKI). Another shop I recommend is Fou de Patisserie (45 Rue Montorgueil, Paris 2e), they have a good selection of different chefs in 1 place, saving you time to go to different shops.
Avoid cakes from bread bakery, they are much cheaper but usually inferior. Brioche and viennoiseries are fine.
If you live in Gare du Nord, the bread bakery Du Pain et Des Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010) is not too far, their bread have strong character.