Best Patisseries and Pastry Shops in Paris: Oh, Sweet Heaven
By Paige Donner
Paris Local Expert
There is actually a pastry shop – a patisserie – in Paris that is called La Pâtisserie des Rêves. That translates to Pastry of (Your) Dreams. Quite frankly, that title could be applied to all of these patisseries as each and every one of them will have sugarplum fairies and other fanciful sweet things dancing through your head once you’ve savored a bite of the day’s rationings.
One absolute not-to-be-missed are the French macarons. Until you've tried one you'll have no idea what all the fuss is about. Suffice it to say that they are nothing – and I repeat, nothing – at all like our macaroons (notice, please, too, the different spelling). French macarons are bursting-with-flavor little cookie cakes with a cream ganache center that comes in flavors like passion-orange, rose, salted caramel, licorice, lavender, chocolate and just about as many other flavors as you can imagine. They are tiny little light-as-air things but Oh My ! do they ever pack the flavor punch.
There is just one question that you will have to answer by the time you leave Paris, though. And that is, are you a Ladurée, Lenôtre or Pierre Hermé macaron fan ? Of course you can love all three, but Parisians tend to live on one or the other side of the divide, which is Pierre Hermé or Ladurée ? Taste them all and decide for yourself. And be sure to mark March 20th on your calendar, it’s Macaron Day in France !
10 Ladurée - Champs-Elysées
Macarons are the crowning glory of French patisseries. An odd statement if you've only ever seen the little round cookies with their ganache filling and never tasted one. Because they are so humble-looking, the explosive flavor power packed within each tiny little morsel comes completely unanticipated. Surprising, too, are the flavor combinations that the patissiers, especially these at Ladurée, conjure up : Orange-ginger, Lime-basil, Strawberry-poppy, Rose, Violet, Strawberry-candy. The seasonal collections are always awaited with abated breath. Ladurée is known as the originator of macarons because it was Pierre Desfontaines, Louis Ernest Ladurée's second cousin who, back in the 1930's, happened upon the innovation of layering a creamy ganache between two macaron shells. The recipe is simplicity itself : almonds, eggs and sugar. But the finesse and precision it takes to make a good macaron is mystery and magic wound together. You absolutely must try one...or a dozen ! (01 40 75 08 75)
9 Pierre Hermé
The Ispahan, a rose-flavor-filled croissant, is just one of the things that put Pierre Hermé on the map. And on the map he is. From Paris to Tokyo and I've lost count of all the other places inbetween. This is also the genius patissier behind the founding of Macaron Day in France. A day where macarons are free when you stop in at participating French pastry shops. (Thank you, Lord !) But mostly why gourmets sing the praises of Hermé are for his macarons. Yes the rose-flavored macarons are good sellers, as are the passion-fruit, the mango, the lavender, the cherry-vanilla and the seasonal inspirations. Another not-to-be-missed treat is his pre-boxed lemon pound cake that makes for some bittersweet memories of Paris once you get back home. (01 43 54 47 77)
8 La Patisserie Cyril Lignac
The chef's personal favorite is anything made with salted caramel. Hence the salted-caramel eclairs here leave you gasping, Don't! Stop! But that's not all to be enjoyed at La Patisserie Cyril Lignac which is a team-up by Chef Cyril Lignac and talented pastry chef Benoit Couvrand. The offerings change each season and here you'll find playful mixtures of flavors such as strawberry/verbena/lime or raspberry/shizo/vanilla, alongside the French pastry staples of chocolate, praline and caramel. Several things on offer never change, one of them being the Baba au Rhum, exceedingly humble-looking and every bit delicious. Other perennials are the lemon tart and the chocolate ganache. The location of the original patisserie, just near Chef Lignac's bistro in the 11th arrondissement, stocks the same cakes but aesthetically is not nearly as charming as this newer location just across from the Musée Galliera and Palais Tokyo, that he opened in 2013. (01 43 25 40 93)
7 Pâtisserie Lenôtre
Gaston Lenôtre founded what became his patisserie empire back in 1957 in a small pastry shop and bakery in the 16th arrondissement. When he died in 2009 he had created over 60 pastry boutiques in 12 countries. The lightness, airiness and devotion to exquisite presentation in French patisserie are all revolutions that Lenôtre is credited with. He reduced the quantities of flour and sugar in pastry recipes and replaced them with airy mousse and unfloury creams. Today there are Lenôtre pastry and catering shops all over Paris. Lenôtre is known as the Paul Bocuse of patisserie because of his fresh approach to French cuisine. New for 2014 is the Palette Arty collection of patisseries, chocolates and ice creams. These include colorful combinations like basil-lemon, strawberry-ginger and milk chocolate-caramel-orange (ice creams). But the toppers for this summer's "Amazing Jungle" collection is the Planète Fruits Rouges cake and their mojito macaron. (01 45 24 52 52)
The history of this house dates all the way back to Versailles and King Louis XIV's court. That puts us back to 1682 when the family Dalloyau first served the court as the King's caterers, a gig that lasted all the way up to the Revolution. This location is the original one established in 1802 and is said to be the first gastronomic catering shop in Paris. It's also a fabulous patisserie. Their classic top sellers are their Opéra, Echequier and Religieuse pastries. The Dalloyau shop window is decorated for the changing seasons and come summer time you see beautiful fraisiers with lots of strawberries and cream in them. During the holidays, the offerings are equally as tantalizing, often featuring creative Bouche de Noël, the French traditional Holiday Logs (frosted cakes). (01 42 99 90 00)
This famous tea room and pastry shop is most well-known for its Mont-blancs and its thick-as-soup hot chocolate. A montblanc is a fine meringue enrobed in cream and candied chestnut frosting and combined with a serving of their hot chocolate is enough sugar and sweets to give your heart a pleasure attack. The location of Angelina's main tea salon across from the Tuileries makes it an easy stop-in after the Louvre or a stroll through the beautiful gardens. Several of the department stores have Angelina outposts now so if you forget to pick up your souvenir jar of hot chocolate starter, not to worry. The real fun part though is the charm of sitting in the tea salon and enjoying your decadence of sugar overload. The counter-display of pastries can also be bought for take-away, however, to enjoy at home or across the street in the Tuileries. (01 42 60 82 00)
4 Des Gateaux et du Pain
Can pastries taste of nature and humanity ? Yes. Here at Des Gâteaux et du Pain, under Chef-Patissier Claire Damon, the pastry cakes evoke a walk in nature, a childhood scent-memory, a sense of trust in one's own vision, imagination and creation. All that aside, however, these cakes are, frankly, delicious. Several choices : lipstick cake, cashmere cake, vert absinthe, grapefruit cheesecake, blackcurrant-violet Saint Honoré, caramel religieuse, an exquisite lemon tart and even a sultry chocolate cake. Take the Vert Absinthe cake, for example. This delicacy was conceived of like a perfume, on a morning walk along a trail fragranted with thyme and mint. The chef translated these nature elements in her kitchen with absinthe, lime and crisp angelica. The tart itself is composed of a fresh angelica compote at its base, topped with a lime and mint curd and finished with a green tomato jelly for an herbal note. (33 1 45 38 94 16)
3 L'Eclair de Genie Christophe Adam
The éclair in infinite variations. Perhaps that's the fundamental reason why Christophe Adam was named the patissier of the year here in France : he dared go where no others before him had gone. Re-imagining a staple like the éclair in the world of French patisseries is no small feat. And this chef has pushed the boundaries quite far, in terms of the deceptively simple pastry. Try the : Strawberry Cake éclair, Butterscotch and sea salt éclair, Caramel Popcorn éclair, Red Raspberry éclair or perhaps the Grand Cru Chocolate éclair which is featured each month with a new variety of cocoa. The anchor shop is in the Marais with a second shop now in Passy Plaza. For Chef Adam, « the éclair is an endless source of creations, taste and design. » Since they tend toward the small size, share a box of four, 5euro each éclairs, with a friend. (01 42 77 85 11)
2 La Pâtisserie des Rêves
Philippe Conticini is the chef patissier who co-founded these dreamy Paris pastry shops. But that was after he forged a successful career as a chef who pioneered the savoir-faire of serving a plate of food in a « verrine » or a glass. His shop in the brand new Beaugrenelle shopping mall in the 15th arrondissement is designed exactly like his iconic rue du Bac location : mouthwatering pastries presented under glass globes against a confectionery pink background. It's worth noting that Conticini's two books, Tentation (Temptation) and Sensations (2009) are regarded as Bibles by many respected pastry-chefs. (33 1 42 84 00 82)
1 Patisserie Carette Vosges
The newer location of this venerable pastry shop and tea salon sits right on the Place Vosges, the square in the Marais that is often called the « prettiest in Paris. » Its other location, the original opened in 1927, is on Place Trocadéro, also not too shabby real estate. The charm of this location is that you get to sit under the canopy of the 16th c. arcade and watch fashionable people passing by and children playing in the park. Carette's raspberry charlotte is a reference even in this town and there are some who prefer their macarons to all the others, even, too. You'll find a selection of the standards as well like millefeuilles, religieuses and St. Honorés. You can sit and enjoy your pastry with tea, coffee or juice or buy them to take-away. (01 48 87 94 07)
About Paige Donner
Paige is a transplanted Parisian. She first arrived as a young bride in the early 90s to live in Paris, having uprooted herself from her native California. Since then it has been an on again, off again love affair for her with the City of Lights, one that has grown fonder over time. Paige hosts World of Wine for World Radio Paris. When discovering a new wine region, her dog accompanies her as the little canine has proved to be the ideal vineyard companion. As a journalist, Paige has written for the NY Times, Variety, LA Times, Fodor's, Blackbook...
Read more about Paige Donner here.