You’d think that visiting Pierre Hermé’s shop every day, as I’m wont to do, could quickly get a bit played-out, but, no. The man has an uncanny knack for introducing fresh work on a very regular basis. It’s not uncommon to walk in one day and discover two new pastries that hadn’t been there the day before or even six new pastries and a few macarons that – just 24-hours earlier – weren’t part of his already grande gamme. Ask one of the salespeople what the gems are all about, and you’ll most likely be told they’re part of Monsieur Hermé’s latest “Fetish”: Envie, Vanille, Ispahan, Azur, Mahogany and on-and-on. Some might be available for months at a time, while others will be gone in just a few weeks. It’s sweet that there’s always a fresh batch right around the corner, but it’s cruel that some of the best are so fleeting.
You know from past reviews that I definitely have a thing for the Fetish Vanille. The tarte. The millefeuille. The éclair. And, of course, that macaron vanille! When that little guy was out, it was pretty much always my choice for the free macaron(s) the team would slip me. As I’d be ringing up my other purchases, one of them would casually motion to the case. I’d give a playful little shrug – like neither of us knew exactly what I was about to say – and almost whisper “Vanille. Pourquoi pas?” But I digress. Among the other fetishes, it was the Céleste that really got me going. You’ve seen the gorgeous Tarte Céleste before, but its little sister, the Surprise Céleste, was even more beloved by yours truly. So let’s dig in, shall we?
That moon-rock-like exterior belies the brilliantly sweet and fracturingly delicate meringue that it truly is. To even eat the piece, I usually turn it upside down so that my hand cradles the meringue, helping make the Surprise far less likely to shatter with every bite. Enjoying it inverted, you get a light waft of the biscuit base, before you first breach the meringue and instantly release the tropical tones of passion fruit crème mousseline within. Even I, with an arsenal of adjectives – both real and imagined – cannot do it justice. Let’s just say that the net effect of the flavor, acidity and texture in that crème is . . . rapturous. Diving yet deeper into the confit of rhubarb and strawberry, its wonderfully bright fruit tones sing out and gayly frolic with the muskier notes of passion fruit.
But it isn’t just the flavors that make this little one such a delight. No, the textures bring it all together into something a little more than special. The meringue, crème mousseline, and confit are further complemented by a smattering of toasted almonds atop the biscuit base. Their combined forces would make them a joy even in the absence of flavor. True fact.
I usually don’t focus on Monsieur Hermé as being a wizard of textures. Not to say he doesn’t have some great work on that front, but it’s usually someone like Claire Damon that would “tickle my fancy” in the textural realm. But the mouthfeel of all the elements – from the base in photo above to the shell and inner-workings in the photos below – achieved a decidedly glorious balance.
I’d usually save this little lady for one of my afternoon snacks. It’s light enough not to be too filling, and made for a great treat in between lemon tartes, éclairs and 12-pack sachets of coquelicot marshmallows. Now deep into a 1400 calorie/day diet, as I work my way through the 35lbs. I gained in Paris, I long to return to that diet. And, yes, I use that term very loosely.
So, yes, absolutely make sure to grab a Surprise Céleste. Assuming Monsieur Hermé sticks to last year’s Céleste schedule, it should be yours for the taking between the end of May and mid-September. Pair it with a Tarte Céleste and half-dozen other goodies from his Bonaparte shop, then walk across the street to Place Saint-Sulpice and indulge.
PLEASE NOTE: With the holidays upon us, there will be no Friday entry this week or next. But I will have a fun 15+ photo post for you next Monday. And I’ll resume as usual on January 2nd. That’s also when I’m beginning to unleash some of the most interesting pastries and special entries. There’s so much I’ve been saving!