The greatest benefit of being a Parisian pastry blogger, together with all of you as my partners in crime, is the all-access pass we’ve earned to the legendary pâtisseries. Not only can I take photos in shops that ordinarily forbid them, but I get invited to snap away from any vantage point I like, and I mean any, as you’re about to see.
Pain de Sucre was at the top of my “hit list” from the first time I walked in. Even if Ladurée has the opulence and Hugo & Victor has the swank, Pain de Sucre is the one that feels most like it was plucked from a storybook. From the well-worn planks underfoot, to the obscenely ornate ceiling and wall-to-wall goodies, it drips the most elemental pastry shop vibe you could ever imagine.
Passersby stop to gawk. Their faces light up, and you see the cogs turning in their heads. “This place looks amazing. Should I go in? It’s gonna ruin’ my diet, but… Sweet Baby Jesus, look at that tarte! Oh…oh…oh my God, whaaaaaaaat…they have six types of gigantic marshmallows?! I have to get something here. No, I can’t. Yes, I can. No, I can’t. Yes, I can…” It’s basically a 60/40 shot at that point. The average person’s willpower is no match for the supernatural temptation of Pain de Sucre…
It’s incredibly popular with the locals, too. While I was doing the shoot, at least a dozen folks stopped by. And without even saying a word, Monsieur Mathray knew exactly what to hand them. The best was the 70’something guy who shuffled in and actually did grunt out his request – “Deux sablés! [Two cookies!]” Once he paid, without a “thank you”, he simply did an about-face and shuffled out as slowly as he’d shuffled in. Awesome!
The rest of us tend to have less focused objectives, and as we step inside, Pain de Sucre begins its sweet seduction with a gigantic platter of chocolate covered marshmallows. You’d probably agree with me that more stores should adopt this “design element”…
To your left is a miniature sugar habitat for chocolate elephants and hippopotami. That’s some top-notch quirk, my friends…
And before we actually get to the pastry shots, let me just escort you to the far end of the shop, with its fine assortment of baguettes, croissants, brioches, assorted breads, ice creams and more. You know I love my pastries, but I could easily binge on anything and everything in the frame here. In fact, when I trotted these photos by David Lebovitz last week, he was quick to say, “…I think their breads should get more attention than they do.” Indeed.
Amplifying the temptation is the insane spread of “hot pockets” , cookies, cakes and every conceivable chocolate/nut combination known to man.
As I snapped the above photo, it dawned on me that kids never get to see things from adult angles, so I positioned the lens at my waist and popped off the below. Imagine being 5-years-old and soaking that in. That’d be enough to keep anyone fascinated by sweets and pastries for life…
Looking all the way up is maybe the coolest ceiling ever. I need to ask them if it’s original. It’s too cool not to be, yet in such amazing shape that I wonder if it’s new or heavily restored.
Ok, now that you’ve been patient with the non-pastry part of the tour, let’s dig in. We’ll start with the average person’s view of their spread. A beautiful vista of gâteau, pâte sucré and crème…
But that’s the not the reason you have me, my dear readers. Here’s our view…
Don’t you wish you could live in there?
I just love Pain de Sucre…
And like almost all pâtisseries, they carry the 4-6 person size of their inidividuels. Personally, as long as it’s still technically 1 pastry, I would treat it as a single serving. Logical, n’est-ce pas?
Before you go through more of the photos, we need to pause here. Don’t skip ahead; this is important. There are two main camps of macaron love in the world – those who love Ladurée and those who adore Pierre Hermé. They are completely different styles, but you know what? So is Pain de Sucre. Start considering them the 3rd piece in a holy trinity of macarons. Next time you go in there, get a menthe, a caramel au beurre salé, and a cerise-pistache. You’ll see exactly what I mean. The textures are completely different than Ladurée and Hermé, and the approach to flavor is quite distinct, as well. I can almost guarantee at least 20% of you will defect from the two giants to Pain de Sucre right away.
Imagine how hard it was to resist just grabbing at them while I took my shots. I mean, seriously, it was excruciating standing in front of hundreds of macarons without being allowed to touch.
Would Monsieur Mathray have noticed if I snuck a few into my pocket? I mean, he was in and out of the kitchen the whole time. So I had ample opportunity.
I resisted and took a couple more shots, like the below, from the vantage point of Monsieur Mathray and Madame Robert.
And then there was this one, where my ultra wide angle lens came in handy. Doesn’t it look like I was glued to the ceiling while taking the shot? And maybe I was – “hiding” up there until they closed the shop, and I could descend to feast on macarons.
Monsieur Mathray noticed the ample attention I was devoting to the macarons, and what happened next was possibly the coolest thing to ever happen in the history of pastry addiction…
As I snapped away, he literally tossed a latex glove on the counter in front of me and said, “Do you want to eat some while you take your photos?” WHAT!!!!!?????? You should have seen my face. I just looked at him and said, “Now?! I can just eat them?!” to which he replied, “Yeah, take whatever you want.” On the 0-10 scale of awesomeness, this was approximately a 73. I know a lot of you would kill to have this opportunity. With that in mind, I ate 20 of each flavor right then and there, as not to waste the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or maybe I only had 6. The point is . . . at that moment, I was the luckiest pastry lover on earth.
It’s a little tricky to take photos of your own hand feverishly snatching macarons, but this had to be committed to film. This was a true ******* Kodak moment, if ever there was one.
Every single one of the guys in this lineup was found guilty of scrumtrulescence and hastily devoured….
Even after all those macaron shots, I still hadn’t finished the shoot. Pain de Sucre is famous for their pastries and macarons, but they’re also renowned for their marshmallows. Coconut, rose, pistachio, fleur d’oranger, and on-and-on. I don’t know about you, but I love this idea of gigantic glass jars full of huge gourmet ‘mallows.
Remember the first pastry shot I showed you – the one from the usual customer’s point of view? Well, here are the same rows of tartes and domes, the way we get to see them, my friends. Much as I had done on my visit to Carl Marletti’s shop, I made sure to poke my finger in each and declare them all , “MINE!” It was just my way of showing my enthusiasm for Monsieur Mathray and Madame Robert’s work
Here’s an equally loveable angle on the same treats…
This is how Madame Robert and Monsieur Mathray see Pain de Sucre. Can you imagine being tempted like that all day? For me, it would be like a cocaine addict working on a coca plantation. I’d weigh 700 pounds within a year.
The last thing I should point out in Pain de Sucre is their enormous wall of fine preserves. After you’ve sampled a few of those, you could never go back to Smuckers again Of course, anyone reading this probably ditched them long ago.
Visually delighted and stuffed with an assortment of macarons, it was time to head out. I took one last look at that insanely cool ceiling…
I said goodbye to animals in the chocolate zoo. They said goodbye to me…
After giving my thanks for the unprecedented access and buying “a few” pastries for my walk home, I turned and popped off a final shot of Monsieur Mathray hard at work filling orders.
And I bid adieu to the amazing Pain de Sucre. Oh, but don’t worry . . . I’ll be making plenty of return visits in 2011. In fact, Madame Robert and Monsieur Mathray have even invited me to photograph them at work, crafting their goodies. They wanted to do the shoot now in September, but since I left at the end of July, we decided we’d do an interview to tide all of you over. So keep an eye out for the that later this year or early next. I have other pâtisserie tours, interviews, and in-kitchen sessions to amuse you with until then.
After seeing all of this, I’m sure I’ve instantly sown the seeds of Pain de Sucre obsession in the lives of a few thousand people. If so, mission accomplished. Without question, it is one of Paris’ grandes pâtisseries.
Pain de Sucre
14 Rue Rambuteau
75003 Paris, France
01 45 74 68 92
Become a Fan: Pain de Sucre’s Facebook Fan Page
Become a Friend: Pain de Sucre’s Facebook Friend Page