After reading David Lebovitz’s blog entry about Le Bonbon au Palais, I knew I had to pay a visit . . . asap. It’s been almost two months since then, and I’ve managed to consume several hundred euros worth of candy. I’m not kidding. The place is a wonderland of traditional French confections. Everything in the shop is super olden-timey authentic, trucked in from every corner of the country. There’s no way I can resist. And you, my friends, won’t believe it ’til you see it.
Above all the other gems in the store, the one thing that has me hooked like heroin are the guimauves (marshmallows). In fact, my favorite among them are the coquelicot (poppy), which might explain the narcotic qualities. I’m no stranger to buying a bag of them and then downing it all within the span of an hour. It’s way too much to eat, so I briefly consider bulimia before opting instead for a long nap.
Now, there’s almost as much difference between French and American marshmallows as there are between French and American macaro(o)ns. Our disgusting shelf-stable, plastic bagged flavorless travesties are little more than gelatinized sugar. The guimauves in these photos, however, are handmade in Bayonne – just outside the Pyrenées – prepared in small batches and assaultively perfumed. When you bite into them, they’re incredibly soft and begin to dissolve almost instantly. It’s a pure rush of flavor and sugar, all delivered in that texturally delicate framework. Even if you think you hate marshmallows, there’s an excellent chance you will love these. They’re just . . . amazing.
Extra cool is that the jolly owner of the shop, Georges, carries a very thorough range of flavors. While they vary from week-to-week, here’s a non-exhaustive sampling: violet, litchi, fleur d’oranger (orange blossom), rose, banana, passion fruit, réglisse (licorice), coqeulicot (poppy flower), orange zest, vanilla, pistache, poire (Williams pear), cherry, and on-and-on. Buying eight of them will cost you around 12 euros, and will make for a fine lunch or dinner. Trust me, I sometimes eat an 8 (or 12) pack for just that reason. I mean, sure, Slim-Fast has “meal replacement bars”, but I have “meal replacement bags of marshmallows”. Which would you rather eat?
The shot above is a pile of my favorites – the coquelicot. I don’t know if I love them because they are delicious or because we don’t have poppy flower flavored things in the United States. It might be both, which is also why I am addicted to tonka-flavored chocolates. However, in the case of tonka, it’s actually illegal in the U.S., whereas coquelicot is merely not-yet-popularized. And if you’re wondering how the **** to pronounce it, it’s like KOKE-uh-lee-KO.
So, yeah, obviously go run over to Le Bonbon au Palais. It’s at 19 Rue Monge (not too far from the Pantheon), and it’s open from 11am-7:30pm Tuesday through Saturday. Tell Georges that Adam sent you, and he’ll know exactly what guimauves and candies you’ll be looking for.