It’s no secret that I’m deeply fascinated by Jacques Genin’s work. While all the other pastry chefs craft flavor combinations and forms that push the limits of imagination, Monsieur Genin has thrived – one might even say triumphed – by focusing almost exclusively on the perfection of French/Parisian classics. What a paradox that some of the “simplest” pastries in the city are actually the most developed and complex. Jacques Genin is a wizard.
Despite Monsieur Genin’s excellence, he does have one major shortcoming . . . he has too many phenomenal pastries, chocolates and caramels. Unless you visit his shop with a friend or two, and share portions of his greatest pieces, you can’t enjoy all the most perfect work. It’s for that reason that I go home from his shop a bit sad every time. Even with a chocolate éclair, tarte citron, box of chocolates and bag of caramels in hand, a gem like this Choux Vanille might have been passed-up…
I suppose I can break the piece down into its constituent bits: the tender choux, the crackling caramel sugar chapeau, and the thick vanilla crème within. But the real experience of the piece is all these elements taken together. There’s something about the tug and chew of the pate subsiding to the crunchy/dissolving delights of the caramelized sugar – all of which sets the stage for a gooey flood of unabashedly Madagascan vanilla. This hefty, fist-sized wonder takes you to an indulgent pastry dreamworld. You’ll be left saying, “Ummhhhmmm…dihhhhsssss…ishhh…shooo…goooooooood.” Then you’ll swallow, become articulate and go, “Mmm, that was so good.”
To offer a bit of a criticism, I’m not a particularly huge fan of Madagascar vanilla, which – at least to my understanding – is the only type employed here. I’m more of a Tahitian vanilla kind of guy – or perhaps even a Tahitian/Madagascan blend kind of dude – or even a Tahitian/Mexican/Madagascan melange sort of chap. That said, Madagascan vanilla is widely considered to be “the” vanilla flavor, so if you’re into it . . . you’ll love this. If not, just eat it enough times (as I have), and you’ll warm up to its island charms.
I love how thick the crème below is. It all just feels so . . . substantial.
So, yes, this is definitely a piece to try. Make sure to have a chocolate éclair, tarte au citron, baba au rhum, a bunch of chocolates, a ton of caramels and other goodies there, too. In fact, I’ll just recommend that you go there for “lunch”, eat as much as you can, then walk around Paris for a few hours, only to return in the early evening to enjoy some more. Monsieur Genin’s work is just that good.