Carl Marletti :: Lily Valley
If I ever write a book about my pastry adventures, the above is the current frontrunner for the tome’s cover. Why? It might just be the greatest all-around pastry in Paris’ patisseries. By that I mean that not only is it a delight of flavors and textures (the only criteria I used in my Top 17 Best Pastries ranking), but it’s also aesthetically dazzling. I mean . . . it looks like you imagine fine French pastry should look. Granted, there are many plated pastries in the city’s great restaurants that would blow your mind, but in the world of pastry shop patisseries, this little lady does more to capture the storybook fantasy than perhaps any other.
It’s a shame more people don’t get exposed to Monsieur Marletti’s work. Since his shop is at the end of Rue Mouffetard, it’s about as far as any tourist is likely to venture into the lower 5th arrondissement of Paris. Perhaps that keeps his work a bit more authentic than that of more centrally-located patisseries, which are forced to pander a bit to tourists’ tastes. And maybe he just likes being tucked-away in a quieter neighborhood, where fellow shopkeepers are his friends – like his florist, the namesake of this ode to violets, Lily Valley.
Always a stickler for details, Monsieur Marletti has woven that violet essence through almost every bit of this pastry: the crème patissiere, the crème Chantilly, the sugar garnish, the fondant. If it’s violet-toned, then that’s also how it tastes. Most shops would just dye everything to keep with the theme, leaving all but the crème patissiere flavorless. Monsieur Marletti has far too much integrity and love for his craft to ******** us that way.
Every little morsel of this work is a delight. My notes says that the choux puffs are, “just popping with violet goodness.” They virtually explode in your mouth, unleashing their elegantly floral crème interiors, while the choux itself tenderly succumbs to each bite. The feuille base – sweet, crumbly, and characteristically complex – supports that quartet of caramel-anchored puffs and the heart of crème Chantilly nestled within them . . . one that spirals its way up to lend support to that deep-violet sugar crown. Enjoy it as the appetizer, the last bite, or ensemble with the rest, it’s a sublimely elegant touch to this incredibly refined work of pastry art.
Though I never saw it at his shop, I can only hope Monsieur Marletti spins this off into other flavors: rose, fleur d’oranger, framboise, etc. I suppose a vanilla version might be the most apropos, given that this is the master’s take on the classic Saint-Honoré. But, hey, I’d buy any and all of them. Anything even half as fantastic as this Lily Valley would still be an incredible experience.
The next pastry I feature here on the site will be something from my latest adventures in Paris, as the Lily Valley closes out the last of the patisseries from my 2010 photo sessions. Starting next Friday, after a week-long entry hiatus – for me to get settled back into Paris, you’re going to be privy to the latest work from the newest shops. Get ready to see what’s in store at Café Pouchkine, Un Dimanche a Paris, ACIDE and more. Also expect plenty of new entries from many of the greats I’ve covered here in the last year: La Patisserie des Reves, Sadaharu Aoki, Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Pain de Sucre, Hugo & Victor and of course Carl Marletti. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
So, yes, absolutely grab a Lily Valley. If you live in Paris, just stroll on down to Rue Censier next time you’re south of the Pantheon. And, if you’re just visiting, since you’re bound to visit Rue Mouffetard anyway (and you should), take a few steps beyond the fountain at the end of it, and saunter into Monsieur Marletti’s shop. There’s a Lily Valley waiting to be loved . . . and gluttonously devoured.