La Pâtisserie des Rêves was one of my darlings during 2010. From their Gran Cru and Tarte Rhubarbe to the Calisson and Cylan, the flavors and textures were as dazzling as the modern, though chaste, compositions. When I returned to Paris this past year, I was a shocked to see not only how little new work was on display but how far quality had degraded. The Gran Cru’s once-silken glaçage was looking a little “rough” to be on display. The Tarte Rhubarbe appeared small and sickly. The cannoli were a bore. Then there were the nectarine and peach tartes that were so poorly prepared that they might well have come out of a neighborhood shop in some far-flung corner of the city. Premium prices demand that we be offered premium work, and too much of what I saw and tasted was orders of magnitude short of that.
Don’t get me wrong. When taken as a whole, La Pâtisserie des Rêves is still toward the top of the pack. Their brioche, chausson aux pommes, Saint-Honoré, Paris-Brest, Tarte Mangue, various Fruitiers des Saisons and more remain among the greats. You should definitely pay them a visit. But I’m hoping the return of Monsieur Conticini will lead them to tighten-up operations quickly. Café Pouchkine, Jacques Genin, and Hugo & Victor set the new standards these days; I’d love to re-include La Pâtisserie des Rêves in that company when I return in 2012.
Until je reviens sur Paris, I only have two La Pâtisserie des Rêves pieces left to share with you – that Tarte Mangue I mentioned and today’s Le Chouchou. So how was it? . . .
It’s hard not to love a delicate swirl of grapefruit-infused crème Chantilly. On its own, the crème would be superb, but the added kick from the pamplemousse turns its creamy goodness into something extra special. Amplifying the delights are the squat body and adorable chapeau of croustillant-covered choux. Pleanantly tender, they also serve as a fantastic textural counterpoint to the mélange of crème patissiere, orange coulis, light pâte d’amande, and grapefruit nestled within the belly of this tiny beast. The net effect is a thoroughly enjoyable wave of pacific and acidic tones, accented with conflicting though complementary textures.
But let me get back to complaining about the state of LPdR. Please take a look at this photo from the blog lavieenrosie.typepad.com: Fruitier de Saison and Le Chouchou. Why is anyone expected to buy a cracked and bleeding Fruiter de Saison like that for 6.80 euros? It’s completely unacceptable. And 4.80 euros for our little Le Chouchou? Much as I enjoyed it, they’re pushing Pierre Hermé’s humble work pricing, but the aesthetic quality doesn’t match. And that Gran Cru I mentioned? Take a look: Gran Cru. Bubbly, broken glaçage should not be sold. Again, it’s not acceptable.
Whatever the case, even on a bad day, LPdR still beats Arnaud Larher, Blé Sucré, Gerard Mulot and my other favorite punching bags. And this Le Chouchou is unquestionably light years ahead of the monotonous choux from Popelini. After all, Popelini doesn’t invest this much effort . . .
So, yes, Le Chouchou is shoushould-get. But if the ones on display are looking a little rough, make sure to specify that you want a pretty one instead. Do it for all their pastries so that there’s a little bottom-up pressure for the quality of compositions to improve.