Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top 10 Must Eats in the City of Lights!

It’s no secret at all that Paris, the city of gastronomy and gourmandise, hides abounding delicious treats in its numerous corners. I had the good fortune to live in Paris throughout this past school year, and I therefore had the chance to thoroughly explore the culinary scene in Paris to my heart’s content :) After much consideration, I have at last compiled a list of the top 10 eats in the land of gourmandise (in no particular order) and hope you will also one day have the chance to profit from the awesome culinary scene in the City of Lights! Régalez-vous!

1.The Scone at Bread & Roses
It’s true that people generally associate scones with England, but honestly, Paris succeeds much more at producing wonderfully delicious scones. I tasted numerous scones in both Paris and London, and without exception, I preferred the scones in Paris. One of my favorite places to take a break for afternoon tea and a pastry was Bread & Roses, an uber-chic, modern salon de thé, located but a block from the famed Luxembourg Gardens. The pastries served here are truly exceptional, but the scones prove particularly special. Served with butter, whipped cream and strawberry jam, the scone is very flaky and perfectly cooked, and it goes wonderfully with the house Garden of Luxembourg tea (“Thé Jardin du Luxembourg”), or even a glass of wine. But the scone is also very, very filing, so I would suggest not eating a meal beforehand! The house cheesecake is also exceptionally delicious, very unctuous and light in texture, but not heavy like traditional New York cheesecakes! Bread & Roses has a second location, much larger but just as charming, by Place de la Madeleine, that serves the same menu, but at a higher cost.


Bread and Roses: 7 rue de Fleurus, Paris 75006
Metro Rennes or Saint Placide
Second address: 25 rue Boissy d’Anglas, Paris 75008
Metro Madeleine

2.The Religieuse Caramel Fleur de Sel at Des Gâteaux et du Pain
The religieuse, a dessert made from pâte à choux, the same dough used for éclairs, and filled with pastry cream, usually chocolate or coffee-flavored, is appropriately named, for it is indeed something to be revered. Especially the one at Des Gâteaux et du Pain. This gem of a patisserie prepares their religieuse with neither chocolate nor coffee flavor, but with salted butter caramel! This is one pastry you need to be in the mood for. I call it the queen of gourmandises because it is so rich, so creamy, so exquisite! With pâte à choux well-cooked(some have actually argued that it is overcooked, but I enjoy it the way it is because it doesn’t taste sweet at all and cuts the richness of the cream), salted butter caramel pastry cream that is not too sweet but simply perfect, all topped off with a scrumptious caramel icing, this decadent pastry is without a doubt my favorite Parisian pastry! In fact, I cannot do justice to this delight with words. You’ll just have indulge and see for yourself! ☺


Des Gâteaux et du Pain
63 Boulevard Pasteur, Paris 75015
Metro Pasteur

3.The Tarte à l’Orange at Carl Marletti
If you desire something light and refreshing, but nonetheless tasty, Carl Marletti’s tarte à l’orange is for you! This marvelous pastry provides an equilibrium between fruity desserts and rich, creamy desserts (like religieuses). Very creamy, but still light and smooth without being oversweet. Also, don’t miss M. Marletti’s pistachio religieuse, lemon tartelette, and if you love, love, love chocolate (like me!), the Dôme, one of his original creations! I don’t hesitate to recommend this pâtisserie to anyone-there is certainly something to please all taste buds!


Carl Marletti
51 rue Censier, Paris 75005
Metro Censier-Daubenton

4.The Escargot Rhum-Raisins from Du Pain et des Idées
I have already blogged about this wonderful boulangerie, but this outstanding viennoiserie simply had to make the top 10 list! Traditionally made with brioche dough, this version of the pain aux raisins makes all the others uneatable. Made with flaky croissant dough, lightly garnished with vanilla pastry cream and raisins macerated in rum, hardly sweet, this breakfast pastry, which also makes a great snack, will assure you a very happy day! The escargot rhum-raisins illustrates perfectly how oftentimes the simpler things can be the best! Also be sure to try the delicious breads, including the Pain Pagnol and the Pain des Amis, made with natural leavening.


Du Pain et des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic, Paris 75010
Metro Jacques Bonsergent or République

5.The Croissant aux Amandes from Boulangerie Julien
I love plain butter croissants, but, the gourmand that I am, I often look for something a little more special. Croissants aux amandes (almond croissants) are simply day-old croissants that have been sliced, dipped in a sugar syrup, filled with almond cream and rebaked. They are often way too sweet, overbaked or just too heavy on the almond extract. But, Boulangerie Julien knows how to whip out one perfect almond croissant! Actually, they know how to whip out dozens and dozens each day ☺ Soft and perfectly cooked, theirs taste of pure almonds and are without a doubt the best almond croissants in Paris…and I’ve tasted my fair share of almond croissants here!

Boulangerie Julien
85 rue Saint Dominique, Paris 75007
Metro La Tour Maubourg or Pont de l’Alma

6.The Fallafel Spécial at L’As du Fallafel
You probably don’t need any introduction here. But, I can only use one single word to describe this emblem of what a falafel sandwich should be: paradisiac! I’ve previously written about this spectacular sandwich, but think of freshly fried falafels, layered with slices of grilled eggplant, grated fresh cabbage and a bit of hummus, topped of with tahini and the house special spicy harissa, flavored like nowhere else!

L’As du Fallafel
34 rue des Roziers, Paris 75004
Metro Saint Paul

7.The Millefeuille at Jacques Genin
Formerly an anonymous chocolatier, Jacques Genin made Parisians very happy when he finally opened his own pâtisserie with a salon de thé where customers could sit and enjoy his delicacies close to Place de la République. Certainly don’t miss his chocolate ganaches and his exquisite pâtes a fruits, candied jellies. But, more than anything, take a seat in his elegantly designed salon de thé and order one of his millefeuilles (napoleons) made to order! I have tried countless millefeuilles in Paris, but Jacques Genin is the only one who makes them fresh to order. Genin offers 4 flavors: chocolate, vanilla-raspberry, praliné (carmelized almond), and caramel. The freshness is incomparable, the puff pastry so flaky and so perfectly cooked. I of course tried the caramel flavor. A good choice, so pure tasting, tasting more of caramel than pastry cream. Honestly, it was one of the top millefeuilles I enjoyed in Paris. Again it’s quite large and filling, so go hungry!


Jacques Genin
133 rue de Turenne, Paris 75003
Metro Temple or République

8.The Scone at A Priori Thé
Yes, another scone! Be it “à la folie” with a red fruit coulis and mousse made with mascarpone cheese, be it with crème fraîche and homemade jams, be it with salted butter, here you will find yet another scone that will most certainly delight! Lighter than the scone at Bread & Roses, but just as tasty, with lemon zest and raisins, the scone at A Priori Thé is best enjoyed in the company of one of their many teas, including the “Cérisier de Chine”, cherry and a hint of rose infused into a base of green tea, and the “Thé Gazelle”, flavored with vanilla and caramel-but necessitating no sugar! A Priori Thé is located in the Galeries Vivienne, the largest of Paris’s many covered passageways, and therefore, boasts a calm, cozy atmosphere perfect for escaping the whirlwinds inherent in big-city life! Also noteworthy is their summertime chocolat frappé, an iced version of the infamous French chocolat à l’ancienne, rich hot chocolate made with cream, milk, pure melted chocolate and cocoa powder, as opposed to only cocoa powder (My sister enjoyed this concoction so much that we returned two days in a row during her visit to Paris just so she could enjoy more!). The New York cheesecake, made with a blend of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and the French fromage blanc, doused in the house red fruit coulis, is simply sublime. Say hi to the owner, Peggy, if she’s in-her warm smile and welcoming attitude will keep drawing you back to this gem of a salon de thé.


A Priori Thé
35 Galeries Vivienne, Paris 75002
Metro Bourse

9.The Macarons at Pâtisserie Hugo et Victor
When it comes to the infamous French macarons, one always hears people speak of Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, and Dalloyau, but since the opening of Hugo et Victor, the competition has dramatically augmented! Described by many as the “Luxury Pâtisserie”, a name well-deserved due to its lavish, extravagant display of pastries that makes one feel as if he or she were in a jewelry boutique! I have tasted the macarons at all the big name patisseries, but Hugo et Victor without a doubt takes the cake! Their macarons achieve a perfect balance between soft and crisp, and they are just barely sweet, like most of the other magnificent pastries on offer. I especially enjoy the summer fruit flavors such as black currant, red currant and strawberry, but also the caramel, mango and chocolate flavors. A fun story: my mother wanted pistachio macarons to bring home to the United States, but Hugo et Victor doesn’t normally offer this flavor. However, the owner and pastry chef M. Hugues Pouget agreed to prepare this flavor for my mother because she had already ordered about 50 macarons to bring back home. And honestly, the pistachio flavor is nothing short of exquisite! Hugo and Victor’s other amazing pastries include the salted butter caramel millefeuille (you should realize by now that I am a salted butter caramel addict!) and the blood orange éclair, with a soft, springy pâte à choux and an orange pastry cream simply bursting with flavor (Délicieux!)!

Pâtisserie Hugo et Victor
40 Boulevard Raspail, Paris 75006
Metro Sèvres-Babylone
Second Address:
7 Rue Gomboust, Paris 75001
Metro Pyramides

10. The Quiche Poireaux(Leek Quiche) at Dominique Saibron
Only the second savory delight to make the cut! Yet, you cannot leave Paris without relishing quiche. Boulangerie Dominique Saibron is generally known for its baguette, which is doubtless excellent (their baguette de tradition was ranked number 3 in the 2010 competition), but the fact that it also produces excellent quiches is certainly no secret! With a very flaky, tasty crust, the quiches are extremely buttery and delicious without being too eggy, as is often the case. I particularly recommend the leek variety. The portion is quite large, but the quiche is so delicious that you won’t have any trouble polishing it off! You can sit down in the salon de thé, where you will also receive a side salad and an assortment of the house specialty breads, or you can take your quiche packed to go for a relaxing picnic in the nearby, beautiful Parc Montsouris!

Dominique Saibron
77 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Paris 75014
Metro Alésia

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy (Belated) One-Year Anniversary to The Spice Savant!


Well, after an incredibly busy, but fun-filled hiatus, I’m finally back to celebrate my one-year anniversary!! A little late, yes I know, but I of course had to prepare something super special to celebrate. What a year this has been, with all the nonstop adventures that came with living in Europe, not to mention all the delicious food! :) I took my one-year blog anniversary as the perfect opportunity to make something I wouldn’t ordinarily prepare, and so cheesecake was the first thing that sprang to mind! Yes, I love it-it’s kind of hard not to love that super smooth and silky, luscious and dense, yet not too sweet treat. But it’s precisely because it’s all of those wonderful things that I hardly ever eat, let alone make, this gem of a dessert and tend to keep it for special occasions. As I was browsing recipes, I came across Giada’s recipe for cheesecake made with a mix of regular cream cheese and mascarpone cheese, one of my all-time favorite ingredients J It sounded just perfect, and so I set out, without a hand mixer, but with only my bare hands, to whip, whip and whip, bake and finally garnish this masterpiece. The only changes I made were I used the infamous French speculos cookies(the French equivalent of graham crackers, if you will) to make the crust, orange juice instead of lemon juice, and blackcurrant jam in lieu of chocolate to top the cheesecake .Verdict? Nothing short of sublime! Super-rich and creamy, but lighter in texture than traditional New York cheesecakes. It’s not too sweet at all, and to complement it, I topped with a bit of cassis (black currant) jam (another of my all-time favorites!). Sliced strawberries provide the perfect finishing touch with a bit of freshness to offset the richness of the cheesecake itself. Will I make this again? Of course (when I have another occasion!)! And actually, even without an electric mixer, it’s a cinch to put together! If you are a cheesecake lover, try your hand for your next special occasion get together-you and your guests will be nothing short of impressed!


Recipe (adapted from Giada de Laurentis's Mascarpone Cheesecake with Almond Crust):

Crust:

1.5 cups speculos cookies, crushed

3 tbsp. melted butter


Filling:

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 8 oz. packages mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1.25 cups sugar

2 tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature


Topping:

3/4 cup blackcurrant jam

! cup washed, sliced strawberries


Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together crushed speculos cookies and melted butter, and spread on bottom of a 9" springform pan or pie plate. Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let the crust cool, and lower the oven temperature to 325F.


Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add in the eggs 1 at a time, and beat until just blended.


Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan(if using pie plate, put roasting pan on bottom rack). Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves sightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake in with the door ajar for another hour. Then let the cake completely cool before refrigerating overnight. Once cold and before serving, spread the top of the cheesecake with the blackcurrant jam and arrange the strawberries on top in desired pattern. Slice, serve and relish!



 

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