I’m pretty thoroughly addicted to Pierre Hermé at this point. Sure, I go to Ladurée every single day, but the 3 or 4 days I give Hermé is still pretty habitual. I just need, not want . . . need, the Croissant Ispahan and Tarte Vanille. It’s all because of a really complicated “medical condition”, related to my chronic Countchoculitis. And while I’m in there, I get to listen-in on the conversations of others queued-up. They point, they giggle, there are a few “Oh my God[s]” thrown in, so it was curious yesterday when these two women walked in and one, minus the usual shock & awe I tend to see, started giving the other a very thorough rundown of what was in the shop. The way she was speaking wasn’t so much the tone of a friend as it was that of a tour guide. She ran through the offerings along the wall and pointed out some of the traditional pastries in the case, before moving on to the macarons, which she underscored with a, “Now this is what you’d really want.” It took every fiber of my being to resist going, “Are you ******* kidding me?” If you think those are the highlight of this place, you have no idea what you’re talking about, Miss Macaron. As someone whose diet is 80% pastry, please, take my word for it. Among the twenty other things that outshine that freak’s favorites is our friend here, the Montebello.
In Italian, Montebello of course means “beautiful mountain” – or “handsome mountain”, if we want to get gender-specific about it. Rather than igneous rock, this one is composed of biscuit Dacquoise, pistachio crème and strawberries. The strawberries were nice and ripe, although I did find them to be a little overpowering in volume, though not so much in terms of flavor, in relation to the other elements. The pistachio crème was wonderfully handled and served as a tasty intermediary between the fraises and Dacquoise. And that Dacquoise itself was really the highlight for me. Not only was the internal texture of it moist and slightly spongy, but it had a beautiful sweetness and surface texture that Mr. Tongue found thoroughly amusing.
I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing a little more pistachio crème worked into this piece. I know Princess Macaron would only want a little glob of the stuff sandwiched between two bland layers of baked almond flour and egg whites, but I prefer my fillings to be a full textural experience. I think it just has too much to compete with in the strawberries and Dacquoise. Taken separately, they’re all great. I’d just like a little more finesse to bring them together.
Berry/crème issues aside, it’s an excellent pastry. Were I to pit it against the very similar Pain de Sucre Maelys I reviewed yesterday, this is what I’d reach for. Although the berries were not quite as awesome as what Pain de Sucre employed, the overall textural experience and presentation was a cut above. So the verdict is . . . skip the macarons, and pick the Montebello instead.