Monday, November 30, 2015

Paris - everything and more!

I've been home from Paris for almost a week and I want to go straight back!. Usually when returning from a holiday, I'm happy to be home. Not this time! - hubby stated more than once he thought we were born in the wrong country and should've been born in France. Admittedly we arrived on the worst possible day, with the Paris terror attacks occurring that evening, with France declaring a state of emergency (which hadn't happened in over 50 years)

I must again extend my thanks to all my lovely Kiwicaker's who sent messages of support and encouragement, it meant a lot, as we sat up in the middle of the night watching media updates on our phones with hundreds of police sirens and military helicopters as background noise. (The Bataclan theatre was in fact not far from where we were staying).

Our travel plans were somewhat upended with public places (such as museums, schools, markets etc) all being closed for some days. However we simply changed the order of our itinerary. And by the end of our time in Paris, only two things had been missed from our itinerary, the result of this was other things had been added, so we could hardly complain. And all throughout, I simply reminded myself that we were alive and well, so anything else was a bonus.

I've received lots of lovely messages from Kiwicaker's who have Paris on their own travel itinerary over the next 12 months, asking for recommendations of places to visit. Over the next few weeks, I'll attempt to document some of the great places we visited. I've opted to not work in chronological time order for events. Hopefully I'll bring you the stories in a way that makes sense by topic.

On a lovely sunny Monday afternoon I met my tour guide Roberto for the Saint Germain Pastry & Chocolate tour (3 hours). Roberto works for the tour company Meeting The French I actually booked all of my tours through House of Travel here in NZ  - it's just as well I never saw the entire of the Meeting The French website, or I'd never have been able to decide which tours to sign up for. Roberto was an incredibly interesting man, I could fill a page on his life story alone. However back to the pastries & chocolate!

We started our adventure outside La Maison du Chocolat at 19 Rue de Sevres. The staff were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and an absolute pleasure to talk to.

They've a huge range of truffles and macarons

And for those wanting a snack on the run, giant macarons, complete with little silver takeaway plate (I actually saw a lady walking down the street eating one)

The chocolates and pastries we ate on the tour were included in the tour price. Roberto announced at our first stop, we'd each be having two truffles. A kid in a candy store would be a good phrase to describe me trying to choose, in the end I threw caution to the wind and simply picked something. I chose an almond praline with silky dates YUM. But by far my favourite was the milk chocolate truffle with pieces of crsipy crepe inside a creamy ganache.

Chocolate stores are certainly busy in France, yet every customer whether buying one chocolate or a whole box, is treated equally (which is very well)

I saw a gentleman who was buying one of these advent calendars being shown how to work it. The salesperson waited patiently whilst he selected chocolates to fill it.

On my tour day we were only a group of three. Which was actually really lovely, as Roberto had more time to talk to each of us. Sadly, the cancellations were due to the terror attacks and people cancelling their travel plans. The chocolate stores are so used to people calling in to the store, just to eat a truffle, that they have special silver trays they pop on the counter, with your selection and you can eat right in the store.

Throughout my entire stay in Paris, most of the chocolate stores I visited had a degustation truffle focus, that would allow you to taste the varying cacoa/chocolate both by region and by bean type. Not something we encounter in NZ very often.

Our next stop was Hugo Victor at 40 Boulevard Raspail for a patisserie. Hugo Victor doesn't normally allow photographs, but as we were part of the tour, they said it would be OK. 

Each pastry was a work of art. Roberto announced we were having one each. I was starting to worry how I'd make it through three hours of eating. But according to Roberto we'd be "doing lots of walking so it's OK". 

I tossed up between the all chocolate dessert and the lime cheesecake, in the end I chose the chocolate dessert, because I loved the chocolate collar on top (which I found later features in a lot of stores atop desserts) I had two lovely older Japanese ladies from Australia with me on the tour (one of which announced she didn't really like chocolate, but was on the tour with her friend). They suggested we split our pastries, so we could try all three. Which was great, as I got to try their two choices "Pumpkin Pie" and "Cassis" (blackcurrant) dessert

Again it was placed on a counter within the store and we could eat it right there.

I just wanted to bring it all home!

But no rest for the wicked it was on to Jean-Charles Rochoux at 16 Ruse d'Assas. This wonderful shop is the brainchild of a brother and sister team . Even in a chocolate saturated city like Paris it is hard to not be impressed by their chocolate sculptures which are created in a tiny workshop just below the boutique.

The smell from within this store was amazing. And everywhere you looked there was another wonderful 3d creation to delight.

This stag was hanging in the window.

Roberto pointed out, two specialties they are known for the tobacco (at front) and the rose petal (at centre)

At this store Roberto told us our sample simply had to be these wonderful truffles, as it was the only item in the entire store they did not ship worldwide (as it has a ten day shelf life). It was a wonderful buttery creamy truffle, that just melted in my mouth.

Here's where I got a little bit excited, I saw the chocolate curling device and just had to have one (and yes I bought replacement blocks too). After all I had a little birthday money given to me by family, so I was charged by them to find something French that I loved to bring home

They even had their own special wine brand

From here Roberto lead us on a lovely walk, we received an awesome history lesson during this time, he then brought us to a stop outside  Dalloyau at 63 Rue de la Grenelle - imagine this - they've been in business since 1682!. Here we were each treated to a macaron, I chose lemon, as I was needing something to cut through all the sweetness, at the last moment, I tucked my macaron in to my shopping bag, and saved it for later that evening. As even with my high tolerance for sweets I was feeling a little maxed out.

Grandma Kiwicakes has a great fondness for nougat, from here I brought her home one of the little nougat envelopes, she declared it the best nougat of all - at only 5.00 Euro, it's an affordable gift.

And onwards to Henri Le Roux at 1 Rue de Bourbon le Ch√Ęteau. Here Roberto announced we were to have one of their famous caramels. Caramels are one of my very favourite things. Henri Le Roux designs caramels according to the season, with flavours such as Orange-Ginger, Tea, Bitter chocolate, Raspberry, Buckwheat, Pina Colada, Christmas Spices, Hazelnut/Coffee, Chocolate-Orange, the famous CBS and for their Fall/Winter collection Black Sesame, Blackcurrant, Tatin (caramelized apples), Morello cherry cardamom - to name just a few. 

Whilst all of the flavours sounded great, I am a traditionalist when it comes to my caramels, so I had a CBS (salted butter caramel) and it was divine!. at only .50 Euro, they're a super affordable snack.

Walking the streets we strolled past this gorgeous tiny store, they filled choux pastry while you waited, with your choice of fillings, it wasn't a stop for our tour, but I couldn't resist grabbing a photo.

Roberto and I had been chatting about macaron, both he (and others I'd spoken too) had varying but similar opinions that Laduree, had become quite commercialised, and had lost something along the way. However as I'd asked him if anywhere in Paris had violet macarons, as I'd been unable to find any (despite it's unusual flavour I've always loved violet macaron). So as we approached Laduree Roberto announced "I will see if they have Violette" He came out of the store with a huge grin on his face, they had "Cassis & Violette", which is blackcurrant and violet. I raced in grabbed two - for later eating. Roberto told me it had been years since he'd seen violet macarons in Paris - it seems they are somewhat out of fashion at the moment.

Laduree has amazing store displays & packaging

As well as other speciality pastries.

My black currant and violet macarons (taken late at night right before hubby and I devoured them)

Whilst I was in store - I purchased two Laduree Christmas ornaments, for the Kiwicakes Christmas tree. Laduree has come up with a cunning sales ploy, there's six to choose from - but what you receive is a surprise. At 14.99 Euro, they're not overly expensive. but if you have to keep buying them to find that one you haven't got, it could get a little pricey.

Roberto took us on to an amazing tea store called Lupicia at 40 Rue Bonaparte. I forgot to ask how many types of tea they had, but if these sample tins are anything to go by, it's a lot. Your're encouraged to open the tins and sniff. And they offer free "tea of the day" in store

Now I've a secret shhhhhhhhhhhhhh dont tell anyone - I don't like tea. However after smelling the The Au Chocolat (chocolate tea) and the Framboise Chocolat (raspberry chocolate tea) which made me swoon, I decided if anything could convert me, it would be these, so I left the tea store a happy girl with my new tea in tow.

And last but not least a trip to the world famous Poilane bakery at 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi (however they've other stores around Paris). Here Roberto gave us some of their raisin bread to try, I am not a fan of raisin bread, but was able to appreciate that as far as raisin bread goes, it was pretty fine. What I am a fan of is sourdough, and I had heard from my friend Julie Le Clerc that this was a must visit. Here I brought some of their sourdough bread. It's hard to describe, there's so much flavour in the crust. If you ever get the chance do try it. Many restaurants around Paris proudly proclaim on their menus, their bread is from Poilane. 

You can order specially decorated bread, if you've a special occasion requiring it.

Their standard sourdough loaves have the Poilane "P".

You can order named table setting rolls, for a wedding or party too.

Just off to the side of the cashier was a special room, serving no other purpose than to showcase a bread chandelier (which has apparently been there for many years). Along with paintings of bread - it sure was a sensory delight whilst inhaling the lovely bakery scents.

I'd been after a bread raising basket for some time, so with a little birthday money I purchased one at Poilane, along with a lovely Poilane bread knife. Over the weekend just passed, I've had time to use both of them. I couldn't make my bread taste as good as Poilane, but it was pretty darn good.

It's hard to believe we packed so much in to three hours, yet on the other hand time seemed to just whizz by and the tour was over. In this post, I've only included photos relating to the chocolate and pastry tour. However we also were regaled by Roberto with stories relating to Paris' colourful history and architecture. I couldn't resist adding these wee doggy photos. As literally there are small dogs everywhere. (and unfortunately their poop, so do watch where you step)

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