From London we travelled to Paris where I was celebrating turning 30. I decided a day trip to Champagne for my birthday was in order – what better way to celebrate than with real champagne in Champagne! It was a great day, visiting the countryside and stopping at Moët & Chandon and G. H. Mumm along the way. Not only was it great to drink the champagne, but learn a little about how it is made and visit the underground cellars. Cheers!
The one requirement I had for Paris was that out hotel room had to have a view of the Eiffel Tower. Not because I’m a hopeless romantic (far from it, in fact), but the place holds some special memories for me from a trip 12 years ago, and for me, there is something magical about it. We ended up staying at the Duquesne Eiffel Hotel, just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. We stayed on the fifth floor, and this magical view greeted us in the morning …
… and at night.
Paris turned out to be mainly eating and walking for us, with a few sights thrown in here and there. Between my list of places I’d marked, and David Lebovitz’s Paris Pastry iPhone app, we had more than enough places to visit, but then people on Twitter kept suggesting more and more. Our stomachs could not keep up! So, the highlights ….
Ladurée was the first stop and we picked up a box of 16 macarons. Considering we were on the Champs Élysées, a pretty major tourist area, the attitude I got from the sales assistant was unnecessary. Neither was giving me ‘vanilla’ flavour when I asked for ‘lemon’. Even our French friend Maly was appalled at the service! As for the macarons, I felt the shells were inconsistent, some to the point they completely disintegrated.
Not to mention the case of the missing filling. Certainly not my favourite macarons.
We visited Pierre Hermé three (!) times. The first was just after we’d been to Ladurée so we just wanted pastries, but the store we went to only had macarons and chocolate. So we picked up a small box of chocolates.
The next store we went to we picked up desserts. I had the Millefeuille Celeste while D got the Ispahan – rose macaron, raspberries, lychee and rose cream. Best damn millefeuille of my life. Seriously. Passionfruit mascarpone cream with strawberry and rhubarb compote in between layers of caramelised puff pastry.
The next day we found ourselves accidentally (I promise) near another of his stores, so we stopped by and I got the 2000 Feuilles, a millefeuille with caramelised puff pastry, Piedmont hazelnuts and praline cream. So damn good (but the Millefeuille Celeste was better). D had the Celeste, a version of my dessert from the day before with a macaron top with flavours of passionfruit, strawberry and rhubarb. Such tangy goodness.
We also picked up some macarons from Pierre Hermé. They didn’t have a huge range of flavours, so we just got seven. Beautiful shells and plump with filling. Winner.
This wasn’t a stop on our original list, but too many Tweeps said we had to visit so we caved to peer pressure! It also helped that we discovered a store about 500 metres from our hotel. This is what we had for breakfast … an almond croissant …
… followed by a matcha croissant …
… followed by the Sensuelle.
The Sensuelle was made up of layers of chocolate biscuit, hazelnut dacquoise, raspberry jelly, chocolate cream and feuillantine. It was incredibly light and fluffy with the tang of raspberries. The perfect choice for breakfast really!
We had to restrain ourselves to just one macaron each – I got the caramel and it was probably the best macaron I had in Paris.
Rose Bakery (no website, but we visited the 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 store)
We stoppe here for a light lunch, picking up a salmon quiche and roasted vegetable quiche. So good – and unexpected – that they could be eaten cold.
Just up the street from Rose Bakery we stumbled across Sēbastien Gaudard where we picked up a tartlette au citron. Such smooth creamy, tangy goodness topped with a slice of candied lemon. So damn pretty it was hard to eat. Not really.
I remember reading about Jaques Genin in a blog post of David Lebovitz’s and thinking we MUST go there. It’s a chocolate shop, but you can also buy caramels and jellies (jubes). We ate in, sharing seven chocolates and six caramels. The also gave us four jellies, free.
For me, the butter caramels were the most impressive, the mango passionfruit a work of art.
For D, he finally got to sate his hot chocolate craving, with chocolate so thick, they serve a glass of water with it!
From there were tried to visit Berthillon for ice cream but were thwarted by the fact they were closed for a few days.
We did however make it to Grom for gelati – salted caramel (surprise surprise) and nougat for me. D had dark chocolate and light, tart, pink grapefruit.
Last but not least, I picked up a Nutella crepe from a corner store.
Although it might seem like it’ we didn’t *just* eat sweets in Paris.
Le Petit Marché (no website, 9 Rue du Béarn, Paris)
This was our dinner on the first night and was an impressive way to kick off the visit. French food with an Asian twist. We were a bit dubious, but so glad we tried it. I ordered the duck, while D ordered ‘filet d’agneau en crepine de basilic’. He had no idea what it was, but it turned out to be pieces of lamb that were perfectly cooked.
My girnormous plate of duck came with grilled banana, and as you can see, was a huge serving! Good thing I liked it! This place comes highly recommended from me!
Barthélémy (no website, 51 Rue de Grenelle, Paris)
One evening we felt like cheese and bread for dinner. We still as some cheese leftover from Neal’s Yard Dairy, but I wanted a French cheese to go with it. We stopped at Barthélémy and my ‘parlez-vous anglais’ was met with a shake of the head. I put ‘Brie or Camembert, not too strong flavour’ into my Google Translate app, he read it, handed me a cheese and we were on our way! I had no idea what it was, but figured if I can’t trust a fromager to give me something along what I’d asked for, who can I trust? It was a Camembert, called Nicole et Odile and it was perfect. Exactly what we wanted. We had it with some freshly baked baguette while watching the Eiffel Tower. Bliss.
Last but certainly not least, we went to L’Arpege for my birthday dinner. It was a surprise until the day before when I accidentally got a text message meant for D!
I didn’t take too many photos (shock horror), but we had the 13 course degustation. The food was classic French, with technique after technique on show. Vegetables were definitely the star of the show, with only one course being meat (D had a couple of seafood courses).
One of my favourite courses was the cabbage, smoked potato, new onion and mint emulsion.
The following dish, which I can’t really remember, was the specialty of the chef, Alain Passard. The little log was cous cos rolled up with middle eastern spices.
The ‘main’ course was lamb, followed by an array of cheeses that were presented on a beautiful cheese board (hard to tell in the photo). They left the cheese board sitting next to our able for awhile, the wonderful aroma drifting our way.
We had a pre-dessert tray of petit fours, before the real dessert was brought out, a simple, classic millefeuille. The pastry was incredibly thin and crunchy, with just a few logs of creme wedged in between the layers.
At the end of the meal we were handed the knife we used for dinner and told it was a gift from the chef. A lovely touch!
The staff at L’Arpege were all attentive and spoke perfect English, which helped a lot. A great dining experience.
And now we head to Bordeaux, for wine and canelés.