I stepped out of my apartment yesterday and directly into the type of Parisian morning people fantasize about – cloudless sky, birds singing, a cool 65 degrees. And as I walked through the little squares of crisscrossing streets by the Panthéon, the pink and purple buds on the trees, backlit by the sun, were . . . electric. This was the type of day for a long walk; this was the type of day for Carl Marletti. It’s not only a beautiful stroll to take, dotted with quaint winding streets, but when you finally arrive, La Rue Mouffetard spills out onto an old stone fountain in the middle of yet another idyllic cobblestone and tree-lined square. So when I arrived, exhausted from absorbing so much Parisian splendor, I clearly needed to buy four pastries to replenish my energy. Fewer than that would have been woefully insufficient. The first one chosen was the Belle Hélène . . .
Two bites into this and I realized once more that Monsieur Marletti is phenomenally talented. The interplay of the vanilla mascarpone with the pear, crushed noisettes, thin layer of chocolate, and crumbling shell was perfect. Flavors blend, flavors surge and then recede – the mascarpone brings the crust to life, and then your attention is drawn to the exquisitely ripe pear, which fades beneath the chocolate until the hazelnuts whisper on your tongue as you take your next bite. The experience is symphonic. I’ll need to purchase it again to confirm the assessment, but this could very well be the second pastry on the blog to receive 5 stars.
The only problem with the Belle Hélène is that it has left me even more spoiled than I was on my last visit to Monsieur Marletti’s. Imagine taking a Maserati for a spin and then being forced to drive an ’89 Ford Taurus. Torture. I have my weekly dazzling with Carl Marletti and then get saddled with some of Carton’s detritus or perhaps a wildly uneven Aoki. Sure, I try to keep things in perspective when I write other reviews, because if Marletti, Caffet, La Pâtisserie des Rêves or Ladurée were the yardstick, I’d wind up trashing many pieces much more viciously than I already do*.
So, yes, the Belle Hélène is one not to miss. Monsieur Marletti continues to play on another level.