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Fine French Patisseries, Pastries And Cakes Are The Parisian Affordable Luxury



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." 


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7th Arondissement - Eiffel Tower
Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Photo courtesy of Aux Merveilleux


The Aux Merveilleux shops deserve to be credited as one of the very first (if not the very first) fine pastry shops in Paris who dared to offer one product and one product only. The Aux Merveilleux cakes are a tradition in French pastry that dates back in history, but it wasn't until Frederic changed the recipe to his liking and added different flavors that the pastry really took off. The selection now includes The Incroyable (white chocolate), The Impensable (coffee flavored), The Merveilleux (dark chocolate), The Magnifique (praline with almond chips and caramelized hazelnuts), The Sans-Culotte (with caramel whipped cream), and The Excentrique (cherry whipped cream and cherry meringue). Most of these come in both individual sizes and minis. A few come in cake size that can serve 6 - 8 people. Everything is made fresh before your eyes. Success has never tasted so good!

Recommended for Patisseries because: This is one of the first French pastry shops in the capital specializing in one specialty product - the Merveilleux.

Paige's expert tip: An a given Saturday afternoon at any of the Paris locations you will see lines out the door. These confections are part cake, party confection and all French pastry. The owner of the boutiques (Frederic) has also added the Cramique in recent years which are large pieces of just out of the oven brioche bread with large chunks of chocolate or raisins or crystallized sugar in them.

Read more about Aux Merveilleux de Fred →


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1er Arrondissement
Aki Boulanger
Photo courtesy of Aki Boulanger


This is a self-described franco-japanese pastry shop and bakery. The items here are reminiscent of what you find in Tokyo - meaning they are wonderfully japanized cakes and fine pastries such as matcha-flavored pastries and the classic doruyaki or sweet red bean cakes. One of the classics here is the matcha-millefeuille which is exactly what the name implies: a classic millefeuille whose cream layers have been flavored with matcha tea. The lunch crowd gets pretty crazy here as they also offer some savory selections like tonkatsu sandwiches for the surrounding office workers who don't have time to eat at their restaurant across the street. Another treat they have here for Japanica lovers is Calpico, the yogurt flavored soft drink. It pairs perfectly with that matcha Millefeuille chased by a doruyaki.

Recommended for Patisseries because: Fine pastries are firmly a French culinary creation and tradition, and one that Japanese pastry chefs have now mastered. This is a great example.

Paige's expert tip: The best time to stop in here is either before or after the lunch rush. For anyone who loves Japanese culinary influences like sweet red beans or matcha tea flavored pastry cream or even things like Calpico, the yogurt flavored soft drink, you will be turning pirouettes here. This pastry shop offers the best of a French-Japanese pastry fusion.

Read more about Aki Boulanger →


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1er Arrondissement


Laduree does a lot of things very well, especially fine pastries. But few things in the world equal their mastery of le macaron. A dozen or so are emblematic and will always be there for you. While other flavors, like chef Claire Heitzler's ginger heart that has been created for this season, will change as new inspirations come. Gift boxes are another of the specialties here and the selection here is unequalled by any of the other shops. The gift box themes change each month at Laduree so here is where you can find past favorites as well as new creations that have yet to be released at other locations. There is even a treasure chest of macarons available here for those who can't say Non! to a delicious little Laduree macaron.

Recommended for Patisseries because: Claire Heitzler's mastery of the macaron is taking even Laduree's legendary status to new heights.

Paige's expert tip: Now you can delight in their brand new flagship shop just a few feet from the bejewelled Place Vendome. This shop done up in a stylish rock-n-roll feel (think Marie Antoinette as interpreted by Sophia Coppola) is dedicated solely to macarons. Here you will find a selection of 32 different flavors of macarons.

Read more about Le Macaron Laduree →


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18éme Arrondissement
Love And Cakes
Photo courtesy of Culinique


Searching for real buttercream frosting in Paris can be a challenge. In fact, after years of looking for the real thing (since Sugar Plum closed) you could say you just had to be satisfied with sugar icing in its place. But now, since late 2016, this young French woman (with Haitian roots) has succeeded in mastering the art of buttercream frosting and has added it to her delicious cakes and cupcakes. What's more, she's convinced her florist neighbor to add beautiful fresh flowers as decoration and Voila - the perfect wedding, birthday and special occasion cakes. It's definitely worth the scenic bus ride up to the 18th arrondissement to pick up one of these beauties. But keep in mind, for full size cakes, they must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance.

Recommended for Patisseries because: It's extra fun to support young women entrepreneurs, especially when they make delicious buttercream frosting covered cakes with lots of love.

Paige's expert tip: The joys of buttercream frosting, and I mean real buttercream frosting, know no bounds here. Flavors follow the seasons so expect a daiquiri inspired pineapple-coconut for spring summer with more autumnal slants come Fall.

Read more about Love And Cakes →


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5th Arondissement - Latin Quarte


This patisserie in the idyllic and old Latin Quarter of Paris will become as much a reason to visit this neighborhood as the nearby rue Mouffetard and the Arenes de Lutece. Every once in awhile a pastry chef comes along who has a hand so light and masterful of technique that his confections of cream, sugar and pastry flour sprout wings of their own. Such is the case of the pastries you'll find here at this Left Bank, classic Latin Quarter address. Chef Patissier Marletti had been at his craft several decades before opening his own boutique. One of the first things he did was create a fine pastry for his new wife - called Lily Valley and topped with a beret of spun lilac-purple sugar. Another signature cake is chocolate-based and incorporates pop rocks into the crust, hence the sensation is truly one of exploding chocolate ecstacy.

Recommended for Patisseries because: Even other Paris chefs rank this guy in the top of French pastry chefs. He tends to use flower essences and other surprising ingredients.

Paige's expert tip: Walk all the way down to the bottom of rue Mouffetard, the idyllic Latin Quarter market street, and once you reach the church, turn around and there you will be facing this super-secret top Paris pastry shop. Here the cakes all come in individual size. If you would like to order something larger to share with others, you must order at least 24 hours in advance.

Read more about Patisserie Carl Marletti →


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6th Arrondissement - Rive Gauche


Since embarking on his entrepreneurial endeavors, this pastry chef extraordinaire has been popping all over Paris. One of his newer shops is in the beautiful neighborhood of Place St. Sulpice. One of the best things about visiting the shop and loading up on pastries and chocolates is that you can head across the street and sample your treasures while watching the beautiful fountain just in front of the St. Sulpice church. Michalak brings his fun and playful spirit to his pastry-making craft. Everything he does is infused with a rock-n-roll vibe - so expect the unexpected. For example, many of the pastry cakes actually come in small glass containers and are meant to be eaten with a spoon. Once you've visited you'll know exactly why the presentation is creative and deliciously pushes the boundaries in the world of French pastry-making. He also makes excellent chocolates.

Recommended for Patisseries because: The French pastries you find here are an all-together different re-imagning of what fine French pastry means.

Paige's expert tip: There are a few French pastry chefs whose dexterity of hand and comprehension of precision when it comes to doses of flour, sugar, butter and cream make all the difference. Michalak is one of these and the results of his work in the kitchen are oh-so-flavorful pastry bombs.

Read more about Patisserie Michalak Saint Germain des Pres →




He was voted France's best pastry chef in 2012 and ever since, his pastry shops in Paris have taken off. This location is particularly charming given that it is just across the street from the Tuileries and the Louvre Museum. The pastry shop greets you as you enter on street-level with its old-fashioned glass counter and display cases reminiscent of sweet childhood memories. The tea room is upstairs and offers seating overlooking the golden statue of Joan of Arc and also the Tuilerie gardens. These pastries are the embodiment of lightness and finesse. You won't walk away feeling any heaviness or lingering aftertaste of overly sweet. Though your arms might be laden with lots of goodies since the shop also offers chocolates, jars of Baba au Rhum pastries soaked in rum syrup, and other sweet nothings. And of course the pastries - must try's are the Montblanc and the Mussipontain.

Recommended for Patisseries because: Here you'll find an old-fashioned French pastry shop that has been re-created by a young, hip French pastry chef, as he remembers from his childhood.

Paige's expert tip: The best way to enjoy this experience is to select your fine pastries from the glass enclosed pastry display case downstairs, then wander upstairs to the tea salon. The quiet calm of this space offers a cocoon-like respite from the busy city. In this fashion, enjoying a fine French patisserie becomes something of a sweet ritual.

Read more about Sebastien Gaudard Patisserie & Tea Salon →


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6éme Arrondissement


For 40+ years Chef Patissier Gerard Mulot got up and made the day's pastries all from scratch here at this location. Late in 2016 he decided to retire and handed these tight, successful reins to the young Fabien Rouillard, also a Chef Patissier. Gerard Mulot Patisserie is a Left Bank institution. At Christmastime people line up around the block to pick up their Christmas cakes in time for the holiday dinner. Here you won't find innovation so much as classic interpretation of the classics. Like your Baba au Rhum just so? Here is where the recipe will not have changed since your grandparents started coming here. The pastry shop's signature pastry is called the Amaryllis, named after the flower. What's even nicer is that in time for summer they have launched their ice creams and sorbets - for takeaway. Their tea salon is also just a few doors away.

Recommended for Patisseries because: There is also a selection of savory items - the perfect stop for a picnic in the nearby Luxembourg gardens.

Paige's expert tip: Generations of Left Bank Parisians have been coming to this pastry shop and hence they remain loyal to their childhood memories of flavors. The Kugelhoff is one of the house specialties as well as the Amaryllis, the fine pastry. Under new pastry chef reigns, the promise has been made that things(flavors) will not deviate from your childhood memories.

Read more about Gerard Mulot →


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1er Arrondissement


A specialty shop of the very popular and Moscow-originated Cafe Pouchkine, this is where you go to get your cream puff fix. These aren't just any cream puffs, though. They are conceived of by Julien Alvarez, the pastry chef who has under his belt the title of world champion pastry chef. Each bite-sized cream puff that comes in flavors like Tahitian vanilla, rose petal, rum, orange flower and pistachio almond is frosted with a confectioner's spun frosting and crystalized sugar that complements the flavor variety of the puffs. All of this is to be had while on your way to or from visiting the Louvre. Then again you could enjoy your box of six or 12 Pouchkinette cream puffs before or after visiting the world famous museum since there is so much shopping to do at this underground mall, the Carrousel du Louvre. It's open on Sundays as well.

Recommended for Patisseries because: In addition to the stand-alone cream puffs, Pouchkinette has the best chocolate macaron in town. And the classic Russian medovics are a must.

Paige's expert tip: While the cream puffs are the name-sake of this Franco-Russe patisserie shop, they also offer top shelf pastries, macarons and other goodies. Chef Patissier Julie Alvarez, working with his team, like Demmo who oversees the Carrousel du Louvre location, offers seasonal fine pastries and fancy cakes sure to tantalize your tastebuds. New on the horizon is the Pouchkine creation of orange and cappuccino tarte - one of those surprisingly delicious flavor combinations. Also available are signature teas and beautiful candles.

Read more about Pouchkinette →


1
9éme Arrondissement

This is the pioneer patisserie in Paris that launched their no-gluten menu of fine French pastries. When they did that, several years ago, no one in this town was doing it yet. Since then, a number of their pastries have become cult classics and are, mind you, gluten- and dairy-free. Some favorites include their Lemon Tartelette with meringue, La Madame de Fontenay ( a re-visited "Religieuse"), their éclairs and the La Tartelette Pistache Rouge which is a pistachio-based cake adorned with perfectly-perched red fruits. These creations are all conceived of by Marie Tagliaferro, who works with co-founder and husband François.

Read more about Helmut Newcake →


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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige

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