4/26/17

The Jacques Genin Experience

You are visiting Paris.  You have 20 or 30 left in your wallet.  The weather has just taken a turn for the gray and you have a hankering for a pick-me-up.  Of course, you could go to Le Bon Marche to hide from the rain, find some gifts to take home, and have a bite to eat.  It also wouldn't be a bad idea to head over to Shakespeare and Company  or Pont Neuf for a boat ride.  But, if you really want to spend your time and those last few euros wisely, you really ought to make your way to Jacques Genin.  



This perfect boutique and tea room is located in a tastefully updated old building on Rue de Turenne.  Chocolates and confections are expertly displayed and a serene tea room is set up on one side of the shop with fresh flowers on each table and a spiral staircase to heaven/the pastry kitchen     




I have visited this special place many times now and have grown to have a great respect for Chef Jacques Genin and the quality he manages to maintain day in and day out.  The chef himself seems truly to be present in his kitchen.  During one of my visits, he descended inconspicuously to place bags of perfectly baked madeleines on the sales counter.  My companions and I saw him strolling outside with an interviewer and he later returned to go back to his kitchen.  My mom, who was visiting from the US, told him how exquisite her experience was and he humbly thanked her like a real professional.  


Each front-of-the-house employee is dressed in refined black clothes and they all at least speak French and English.  If you can, visit around the time of a holiday to see the elegant chocolate displays and take one home with you to enjoy that evening. Because let's be real, no matter how beautiful it is you are not going to be able to resist having a taste.  If you are lucky enough to visit when the chef himself descends with a limited amount of some special treat he has whipped up, snatch a bag without hesitation.  They will not last long and are worth the price.  



The chocolates at Jacques Genin are mostly decorated with acetate cocoa butter transfer sheets.  Genin chooses minimalist designs that allow the rich tones of the dark and milk chocolate to shine through.  This master works with Valrhona chocolate and he knows how to add flavor to this perfect product without compromising the taste of the chocolate itself.  Many of his offerings are delicately infused with spices and herbs while others are filled with classic praline mixes that never disappoint.




If you have the time to sit in the tea room and order a pastry, you will leave Paris feeling that you have had a true French experience.  You will have the choice of several beverages to accompany your freshly made pastry.  You will be presented with your coffee, I recommend the café crème, a glass of water, a small plate of chocolates and/opâtes de fruits, and your flawless pastry.  Even if you are trying to resist the tourist itch of taking photos of everything you eat, you will not be able to resist documenting these wonders.  



Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest is a pastry that was created in the early 1900s by Louis Durand in honor of a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris.  It consists of pâte à choux ring, meant to symbolize a bicycle tire, sprinkled with sliced almonds, baked, and filled with rich praline cream.  It is often adorned with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Jacques Genin makes the minor change of swapping the almonds for chopped hazelnuts because the praline paste he uses savors primarily of hazelnut.  



Tart au Chocolat (Chocolate Tart)

Normally, a chocolate tart is a simple pate a sucree shell filled with a ganache of dark chocolate.

Chez Jacques Genin does not deviate from the original.  It is a smooth and crunchy morsel of deliciousness.



Saint-Honoré

The Saint-Honoré is named for the patron saint of bakers.  This wonder mixes a few of the most delicious components in French pastry.  A base of puff pastry is adorned with a ring of pâte à choux, and cream puffs with caramelized sugar.  The cake is filled with crème chiboust and topped with crème chantilly.  

Traditionally, this pastry is in the form of a circle.  Genin updated it's format by beginning with a rectangle and omitting the piped pâte à choux.  His version still includes the cream puffs.



Fraisier

Perfect for springtime, the Fraisier is a strikingly beautiful and classic cake.  Genoise, or buttery sponge cake, sandwiches a generous layer of vanilla cream bejeweled with fresh strawberries.  The entremet is finished with a thin layer of almond paste or marzipan.

The marzipan layer is often artificially colored green, but at Jacques Genin you will not find any fake colors in your almond paste.



Forêt Noire (Black Forest Cake)

This well-known cake originated in Germany, but that does not stop other nations from making it.  You will find layers of chocolate sponge cake and whipped cream highlighted with boozy cherries and chocolate shavings.

The version at Jacques Genin is modern and sophisticated.  Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse, and whipped envelop whole cherries and a shard of tempered chocolate sticks like a piece of fancy jewelry to the side of each slice.  



Well, internet, now you know my obsession with Jacques Genin.  If you want to see the man in action, but cannot visit the shop, check the links below for a few short videos.




Jacques Genin

http://jacquesgenin.fr/fr/

Perfect bonbons, refined tea room, and perfect ambiance.  

133 Rue de Turenne
75003, Paris

Metro: Republique

27 Rue de Varenne
75007, Paris

Metro: Varenne or Rue du Bac

4/16/17

Easter in Paris

Easter in Paris is particularly chocolatey...like most things here.  It's impossible to avoid the colorful egg displays and bright decorations adorning the chocolateries.  

One sunny spring day I picked up a bag of praline eggs at Franck Kestener and enjoyed them in Square René Viviani with Notre-Dame de Paris in view.  I think the bag contained 9-10 eggs and cost me about 8€.  

I previously visited Kestener's shop in Saarbruecken, Germany.  Kestener is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France and creates beautiful chocolates, macarons, and pastries.  



The assortment included milk chocolate chestnut pralines...





...dark chocolate hazelnut...


...dark chocolate peanut butter...


...and dark chocolate vanilla ganache...


His shop was fully stocked and ready for the festivities.  His chocolates are well-balanced, flavorful, and his ganaches are wonderfully emulsified.  But, perhaps his packaging could use a little refining?



Each shop has whimsical chocolate displays.


I especially like the variety of displays at Michel Cluizel .  Michel Cluizel is the place to find whimsy and class mixed together.


You're bound to find creative and artistic showpieces at the chocolateries around Easter, too.  Patrick Roger's offerings particularly impressed me.  Maybe one day I will be able to afford one of his hedgehogs.  Roger does a great job of making each piece special.  In other words, you get the impression that each product is one-of-a-kind.  


Jacques Genin has become one of my favorite spots in Paris.  Of course, it's wonderful if you have time to sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee and a handmade pastry.  But even if you don't have a dollar to spend, it's enjoyable to stroll around the shop and take in the beauty.  The inside was resplendent for Easter.  A modern silver dish held the classic praline eggs.  Unique, eye-catching eggs, chickens, rabbits, fish, and whales all made of chocolate crowded the shelves.  They were busy with customers -for good reason- well in advance of Easter.



I've come to the conclusion that Easter is one of the best times to visit Paris.  The weather has been lovely which makes strolling around and peeking in shop windows even more enjoyable than usual.  Plus, the displays are more striking than any old time of year.

As I was strolling one day last week, I found Sebastien Degardin tucked away on a street near the Pantheon.  I bought two hazelnut-praline eggs without a second thought.


It's worth mentioning that the supermarkets here sell all of the regular Easter chocolate that I'm used to finding in the United States.  My boyfriend made me feel at home with the Lindt bunnies we also have back home.  Here they even have a little bell attached to their bows.


This post will end with the information of the shops mentioned.  But, before I sign off, I'll just mention my beautiful Easter bunny from my host-mom.  This little gal was from La Maison du Chocolat.  She was made of delicious Valrhona chocolate and filled with praline eggs and solid dark chocolate fish.  The perfect Easter treat.  American chocolatiers: take note.   

Joyeuses Pâques!


Franck Kestener

http://www.franck-kestener.com/

Chocolatier and patissierie with two locations in Germany and one in Paris.

7 Rue Gay Lussac
75005, Paris

Metro: Luxembourg

Michel Cluizel

http://www.cluizel.com/en/

French chocolate bean-to-bar and bonbon producer with locations all over the world.  Including 4 in the Paris Area.

Patrick Roger

https://www.patrickroger.com/

The most impressive chocolate show-pieces in Paris and exquisite bonbons and tasty treats with eight shops in France.

Jacques Genin

http://jacquesgenin.fr/fr/

Perfect bonbons, refined tea room, and perfect ambiance.  

133 Rue de Turenne
75003, Paris

Metro: Republique

27 Rue de Varenne
75007, Paris

Metro: Varenne or Rue du Bac

Sebastien Degardin

http://www.sebastien-degardin.com/

A boutique full of cakes, pastries and chocolates.  It's a pleasant surprise in a neighborhood full of students.  Closed on Monday and Tuesday.

200 Rue Saint-Jacques
75005, Paris 

Metro: Luxembourg

La Maison du Chocolat

http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.fr/en/

Perhaps the most well-known chocolatier in the world, this place has never disappointed me.  They manage to keep the quality high and they have customer service like no one else.  The establishment has been around for 40 years and has locations all over the world, including eight in Paris.






4/15/17

Eclairs

One of the things that is shaping my Parisian experience most is pastry.  From choux-based classics to thin cakes in between layers of mousse, it's my mission to experience them all.

This post will focus on a familiar classic: l'éclair.  Traditionally, éclairs consist of baked pâte à choux, chocolate or coffee pastry cream, and a stripe of chocolate or coffee fondant.  However, especially in Paris, you will find innovative flavors in addition to the traditional ones.  

I've tried éclairs from five or six different places here in Paris and here's my current list.  You will find a list with information and addresses at the end of this post.




This multi-store patisserie was founded in 1859 and continues to turn out lovely food and create a clean, sunny atmosphere.  They've got 13 stores in the Paris area.  No small operation.  In 2015 they were named makers of the best éclair au chocolat in Paris.  

I stopped by their Saint Michel location for a mid-morning snack one sunny day.  In their refrigerated case, they displayed their award-winning éclair au chocolat, as well as salted caramel and passion fruit varieties.  


   
I opted for the award-winner.  The quality of the chocolate glaze was good, nice and dark.  The pâte à choux was baked well, but overall they lacked the perfection I was seeking in a 4€ pastry.  The filling was not the most flavorful and the choux was a little soggy, which I suppose in bound to happen with creamy fillings.  A good snack, but for me, not the best éclair of Paris.


L'Eclair de Génie

Perhaps the most well-known purveyor of éclairs is L'Eclair de Génie. With boutiques all over the world, Christophe Adam has created a sensation.  The meticulously created pastries here are always perfect.  One could easily eat lunch in Paris for the 6€ it costs to enjoy one of these treats.  

Unfortunately, my only photo of éclairs from this place is dark and unflattering.  But, just trust me.  These things are incredible.  Each creation is classic and new, sweet, crunchy, smooth, gorgeous...  

Pictured L to R are: Salted Butter Caramel, Vanilla Pecan, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio Raspberry    





From all appearances, Thevenin is an up-and-coming patisserie in Paris.  You can grab lunch at one of their shops to go with your bread and fancy pastry.  Their éclairs weren't the most beautiful, the choux wasn't baked quite as darkly as I prefer, but the flavor and filling was spot on.  The Thevenin éclairs au chocolat are more milk chocolate than dark, which is a nice change.



It was a pleasant thing to enjoy in the park by Notre-Dame de Paris.


I'm sure that I've barely scratched the surface of éclairs in Paris.  Please leave comments of your favorite éclair in Paris!

Maison Pradier

http://www.maisonpradier.com/

Well established patisserie and popular for their brunch as well.  Check out their beautiful website for a peek at their methods.  

13 Locations in the Paris area. 

The Saint Michel location is open each day and accessible by the Saint-Michel and Cluny/La Sorbonne metro stations

14 Boulevard Saint-Michel 
75006 Paris

L'Eclair de Génie

http://leclairdegenie.com/

Bright and beautiful store-fronts welcome you in for a beautiful sight to go with beautiful tastes.

9 Boutiques in Paris, 5 in Japan, 5 in Hong Kong, 2 in Italy

Thevenin

A great spot for a good pastry or loaf of bread.  Notre-Dame-des-Champs location is closed on Sundays

119 Avenue du Général Leclerc
75014 Paris

14 Rue Daguerre
75014 Paris

5 Rue Notre Dame des Champs
75006 Paris


3/21/17

Je Suis Parisienne and Other Lies

Lie 1: Je suis Parisienne

It's not that I truly think I'm Parisian.  I mean, maybe a little.  But, each time I successfully give directions, am able to carry out a food order entirely in French, or have a baguette poking out of my bag I feel like I belong here. Plus, I love cheese; it's pretty Parisian to love cheese.



Aside from that, there are ways that I will always be American.  I continually pronounce English words like an American instead of like a French person.  For example, the word "bagel" is pronounced more like "bagelle" by French people.  I'm sorry, but it's an English word and I can't bring myself to mispronounce it.


Lie 2: Expensive is better

The crêpe in the next photo was delicious and cost me 3€.  The crêpe in the following photo cost 4€ and tasted far worse.  


This guy was made lovingly by Patricia, the woman who runs the crêpe place at the market.  It is made with buckwheat flour, cheese, butter, eggs, and ham.  


This guy, on the other hand, was more expensive and made at a busy crêperie near Centre Pompidou.  It was not made with the buckwheat flour which is traditional for a savory crêpe.  It was over-filled and not folded in that lovely way that Patricia has.  

Lie 3: There is no good Mexican food in Paris

So maybe I still haven't sipped a great margarita yet in Paris, but it is possible to find decent Mexican food here.  



Lie 4: It is possible to overdose on viennoiserie

It's simply not true.

Arguably the best croissant in Paris





Bocamexa

Quick Mexican food and drinks.
Two restaurants and one food truck.

http://www.bocamexa.com/
95 Rue Oberkampf, 75011 Paris
127 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris

Gontran Cherrier

The best and most beautiful croissant I've enjoyed.

http://www.gontrancherrierboulanger.com/
22 Rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris
8 Rue Juliette Lamber, 75017 Paris
1 Rue Grande Fontaine, 78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Dominique Saibron

Big, busy bakery where you can
watch the boulanger work through the window.

http://dominique-saibron.com/en/home/
77 Avenue du Général Leclerc, 75014 Paris



2/26/17

Life in Paris

The perks of living in Paris are many, so I'm sure that halfway through writing this post I will become annoyed at my inability to express my love for this place.  But I'll do my best, dear readers.


Food

It's a given that I'm truly here for the food.  As I sit down to write this post, I'm munching on chocolate and thinking about my next meal.

Cooking starts with the ingredients and Parisians care about their ingredients.  Fresh markets abound and they always seem to be busy.  In addition to markets, the French place importance on specialization.  Sure, you can go to a Carrefour and find everything you need to make a nice dinner, but you can also go to the boucherie for your meat, the fromagerie for your cheese, the boulangerie for your bread, and the épicerie for your produce. The people want to know where their food is coming from and I respect that.

A month or so ago, a man in a truck knocked on our door pedaling crops from a farm in France. My host mom bought loads of carrots, potatoes, shallots, onions, and Asian pears.




If you ever come live in France, do not underestimate the importance of bread.  If you don't bring a baguette home to eat with dinner, you're doing it wrong.  I often find myself on the RER feeling downright Parisian with a tradi sticking out of my bag.



When you buy a loaf of delicious bread, you may as well indulge in a little butter, too.  For butter addicts, the dairy section of a French grocery store is a happy place.  Perhaps for the average butter consumer it could be overwhelming.  I've made it one of my missions to try as many types of butter while here as possible.  You can choose from organic, salted, unsalted, soft, and much more.  It's truly an art here.  Some brands mold or shape their butter into beautiful forms.



Culture

Yarn in France is cheaper than in the US.  For a knitter, this is clearly good news.  Since my arrival I've ordered wool from a popular european provider and purchased some local yarn at a yarn and fabric exposition.  There is a knitted blanket in my future.

  

Art is everywhere.  There are famous establishments like Musee D'Orsay or the Louvre, but also local spots and festivals where anyone can roam around and enjoy someone else's creativity.  It's impossible to be bored in this city.



More soon, readers.  What would you like to hear about?