In recent years, Paris has been witness to the trend of mono-product pastry boutiques. One of the great pastry shops that are doing this remarkably well are the Pouchkinette shops which specialize in cream puff pastries that come in fanciful flavors as thought up by their head pastry chef the "world's best" Julien Alvarez, such as rose petal, coffee and of course Tahitian vanilla. They also offer an array of divine French pastries as well as the best chocolate macaron in the city. Speaking of macarons, Laduree is still on the cutting edge and have just this year opened their boutique dedicated to that delicacy alone. But the pioneer in this mono-product strategy remains Aux Merveilleux which is a meringue, cream, chocolate flake cake-confection that must be tasted in order to be understood. Their lone shop in Passy has now duplicated around the city and can be found in the Marais and also near the Eiffel Tower.
French chefs are a competitive bunch, always striving for excellence and evolution. This couldn’t be more true for French pastry chefs. The friendly rivalry between top pastry chefs in Paris has always been present but in recent years it has become even more heightened. One of the greatest challenges for French Pastry Chef looking to stand out in Paris is to create a signature patisserie, or two, that requires you to make the pilgrimage to that particular shop in order to get it.
Pastry chefs who have succeeded in this are Christophe Michalak, now with several boutiques around Paris; Carl Marletti whose shop at the base of rue Mouffetard is so popular his full-sized cakes must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance; Sebastien Gaudard whose native Loire Valley roots has translated into fine pastries that are like eating chantilly lace; Gerard Mulot whose classic St. Germain des Pres location, now being overseen by his young new replacement Fabien Rouillard, promises to maintain the tradition of their signature Amaryllis fine patisserie cake; and Aki Boulanger which, in good Japanese fashion, not only has mastered the skill of fine French pastry-making but added their own Japanese twist to the recipes. And if a good ol' layter cake with extra-whipped buttercream frosting is what your tastebuds dictate, look no farther than the 18th arrondissement where you'll find the newly opened Love & Cakes.
Not on this list this time are the stalwarts (because they are on everybody’s best lists and therefore easy to find for yourself): Pierre Herme, voted the best pastry chef last year; Lenotre whose boutiques are still the bastion of classic French pastries such as the Millefeuille, the Opéra and the Fraisier; Dalloyau which stays with its classics and has been providing fine delectables to Parisians since the days of Louis XIV and Hugo & Victor whose shops continue to offer standout fine French pastries. Another young fine pastry entrepreneur, Cyril Lignac, has also expanded since I first wrote about him back in 2012, with two more shops opening recently. Pain de Sucre is another fabulous pastry shop just near the Centre Pompidou with original cakes that look almost too beautiful to eat. And for the sheer pleasure of making your walk around the prettiest parts of St. Germain des Pres sweeter, be sure to stop in at La Maison du Chou on the Place Furstenberg.
So, happy pastry hunting.The one really gratifying thing about French pastries, besides biting into one, is that they remain a thoroughly affordable Parisian luxury.
*When Lenôtre passed away in 2009, the French President at the time said, "He succeeded in raising...patisserie to the rank of an art."