Café Pouchkine :: Paris-Moscou
While I was living in Paris this past year, my experience with Emmanuel Ryon’s work at Café Pouchkine vaulted him into my Holy Trinity of great Parisian pâtissiers. His croissant vanille was like crack, as were his macarons coeur pistache. That’s to say nothing of the half-dozen pastries of his to which I’d grown addicted: Tutti Frutti, Napoleon, Feijoa, Or Noir, Moskito and Roulé Pavot. The textures. The flavors. The sublime beauty of so many of them was leaps and bounds ahead of almost every other shop. If there’s anyone who comes closest to the best all-around pastry chef in Paris, it’s Emmanuel Ryon.
What I didn’t know about Monsieur Ryon, until just a couple weeks ago, is that his MOF title is as a Glacier. Yes, he’s a World Champion and Champion de France in pastry, but he earned his MOF as a master of ice sculpture and frozen desserts. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible for the guy to be any cooler. Together with his aforementioned command of flavors, textures and aesthetics – and thanks to his highly creative spin on ingredients – the Pouchkine pastry case truly is a wonderland. Nestled amongst the gems is this Paris-Moscou. So how amazing is it?
Believe me when I say I wish I could love this as a complete package, but I can’t. It all comes down to one unamusing bit, but let me return to that momentarily. Because, on the whole, it’s fantastic. The pâte à choux is dreamy, and its le crumble skin is as tasty as it is beautifully applied. The sweet chapeau of almonds, trapped in that sugary light-amber pane, are a delight. There’s nothing not to enjoy about the wonderfully gooey and delicate caramel crème mousseline that engorges the belly of this beast, and I would happily have a bag of the piped hazelnut crème onctueuse squirted directly into my face. But at the core of this little one is a curious gelée of Kvas, a mildly alcoholic beverage made from black bread. As its timid tones blend with the crèmes and choux, it feels like the life is being drained right out of the pastry. What had been quite tasty up until that point, comes off as a bit flaccid.
It’s not too unlike my experience with Pierre Hermé’s Émotion Vanille, which concluded with a mildly alcoholic gelée. I don’t think it’s naïve of me to expect the central or climactic element of a piece to either amplify the overall work or simply shine. Just referencing two of Monsieur Ryon’s other pieces – his Tutti Frutti culminates with a very bold and bright liquid strawberry interior that jumps out at you, while his Or Noir has a dreamy and very subtle vanilla crème than pulls the entire piece together into something that says, “I am deliciousness incarnate.” I’m just not getting that here with the Paris-Moscou.
Interlude: I’m working on a year-end, “Favorite Photos of the Year” entry, which I’m posting on December 26th. It’s going to be collection of dreamy shots like the one below. Cause really, it’s a pool or sugar, almonds and gold! What’s not to love about that?
And, since I’m already criticizing quite a bit, I’d say there needs to be a little more piped hazelnut cream, skirting the tête of the piece. With a color so close to the choux itself, some more volume could help it pop. It would also give a little more balance versus the extra-abundance of caramel crème in the pastry. But that’s just my opinion. I welcome Monsieur Ryon to give me a long, disappointed look when I one-day come in to photograph him. It’s the same way I’m cool with Hugues Pouget giving me dirty looks; I know my place.
So, no, while I would not recommend the Paris-Moscou, it’s one of the few works chez Pouchkine that I’d ever discourage you from buying. With a pastry case that’s home to some of the greatest pieces in all of Paris, there are at least a dozen goodies that can easily thrill you. Trust me when I say that the day I return to Paris in April, it’s going to be on my short list of shops to pillage.