One day, last May, I got an email from Café Pouchkine. Chef pâtissier, Emmanuel Ryon, wanted to know if I could come in and check out their pastry lab in Montreuil, just outside of Paris. I’d requested an audience with his majesty a month or two prior but was told the master was extremely busy and might not have enough time for a nice visit until the fall. But there’d been a change of schedule, and I was invited up to see the facility and get an inside look at how they make the magic happen. Was it a pretty cool experience? No. It was the coolest.
Stepping into the laboratoire, I was blown away not only by the size but by all the natural light. Not too unlike Jacques Genin’s kitchen, but bigger – much bigger – and . . . with no one in sight; the team had just wrapped-up for the day. But I somehow got lucky and spotted one of Monsieur Ryon’s sous chefs who, when asked where I could find the man himself, pointed me down a long hall. Right then, Monsieur Ryon popped out from one of the rooms, shot me a smile, and extended a hand for a shake. Even though I’d photographed other World Champions, French Champions and MOFs before, I was nervous, expecting someone far more reserved and intense. Friendly and relaxed was what I got instead, and he asked if I was ready for a tour around. But first there was a snack to be had, a freshly made Moskito…
And what’s the perfect accompaniment for an ultra-luxe pistachio-laden pastry? Water? No. Wine. Nuh-uh. Remember that this is like visiting the most upscale Willy Wonka factory you could imagine. So what we had was some freshly prepared Mors nectar. If you’ve never had it, think of it as a cross between cranberry and raspberry . . . but 10x as fancy.
Sugared-up, I was ready to go from room-to-room and hear all about how Pouchkine brings fantasy to life. There was the weighing room, where a team just weighs ingredients, all day every day. There was the macaron room, where a team devoted to macs toils sweetly away. There was even a sugar decoration room, where sugar specialists worked on fantastically amazing garnishes for the pastries. Of course there was a chocolate room, too. Really, there was a room for just about every sub-specialty and duty you could think of. And I’d show you some of the shots, but not only are they kind of top secret, but I have so many more of pastry magic happening that I thought it best to get into them instead.
After a thorough tour of the facility – and despite having been fed – I was still pretty hungry. “Monsieur Ryon, if it’s not too much of a pain, could you custom-craft your Pavlova for my amusement . . . now?” Maybe it was because I asked so nicely, or maybe because I’m naturally endearing – I don’t know – but he agreed to whip up the requested treat on-the-spot. He happened to have some of the very special crème he uses in the Pavlovas already prepared; the other bits and pieces were carefully put in place by his assistant . . .
Monsieur Ryon even got the meringues ready and did a thorough final inspection. “Sufficiently meringue’y, Monsieur?” Oui! . . .
So he snipped a poche open…
Finished preparing that super-ultra-incredibly thick Tahitian vanilla crème . . .
And then filled the bag up with its gooey goodness.
Wielding it like a nunchuck of creamy deliciousness, he was ready to start piping.
First, he had to set a little “glue” in place . . .
And delicately affix the lobes of meringue to the gateau and cassis layers . . .
Then he was on the attack!
One billowy bookend of crème . . .
Then the other . . .
Followed by undulous mounds thereof . . .
But the aesthetic wouldn’t be complete without sparkles! Because, as I’ve said many times before . . . sparkles make everything better. So Monsieur Ryon whipped out his trusty bottle of sparkle vodka and the sparkle gun.
And loaded that puppy up . . .
His loyal assistant was summoned over, freshly-piped Pavlovas in-hand . . .
And a fresh coat of shimmering goodness was applied . . .
It’s already more beautiful than almost anything at any other shop, but the master wasn’t done. Oh, no.
Using his very specialized pastry shears to set a rose petal in place . . .
And then affixing some fresh berries . . .
The Pavlova was ready to receive its wisps of decorative grass. Monsieur Ryon summoned every bit of concentration to insert them perfectly. Can’t you just feel his excellence in the shot below (my favorite photo in the set, btw)?!
I should also take a moment to explain to you that all of Pouchkine’s pastries are more refined and deeply considered than any other shop’s. As Monsieur Ryon develops the recipes and designs, he engages in a collaborative effort with Café Pouchkine’s creator, the brilliant restaurateur Mr. Andrei Dellos. They’ll go back and forth on the flavors and design of each, as many as 80 or 90 times, before they perfect every single facet of the piece. The aim is undiluted excellence, and it is achieved.
The final touch was to be a few dabs of 24K gold . . .
And, with that, the Pavlovas were done and hastily consumed by yours truly. Were they as tasty as they look? No, they were even more delicious!
So, yes, make sure to visit Café Pouchkine as soon as is humanly possible. In fact, if you happen to be in Paris at this moment and can get over to Printemps Mode, just go right now. Even if the Pavlova isn’t in the case the day you visit, there are only like a few dozen other pastries you should absolutely buy. From the vanilla croissant to the Moskito, Or Noir, and essentially any and every macaron there, you’re sure to be dazzled. And make sure to pick up some hot chocolate or Mors nectar, as those are the most appropriate accompaniments to all of Monsiur Ryon’s treats.
Address: 64 Boulevard Haussmann (inside ‘Printemps Mode’), 75008 Paris Phone: +33 01 42 82 43 31
Store Hours: Open Monday-Saturday from 9:30am until 8pm. Closed Sunday.
I was shocked last week to see that Paris Pâtisseries had been nominated in Saveur.com’s 2012 Best Food Blog Awards. Apparently their editorial team reviewed 40,000 sites, submitted by their readers, and whittled those down to six sites in sixteen categories. Needless to say, it’s an honor just to be nominated.
Seriously, I am flattered just for the nomination. You’ve probably long since noticed I don’t even have an “About Me” page – filled with “I’ve been featured in…” references – as I’m usually not keen on anything more than tongue-in-cheek braggadocio (hence the headline of this entry). So please seriously consider the other nominees in the category for your vote, too. They’re all awesome and deserve the recognition: Snap Food, Kevin Eats, Ulterior Epicure, Tiny Urban Kitchen, and Judging Your Breakfast.
Oh, and remember that you have to sign in to Saveur.com in order for your vote to count. This is important, because I’d love to see some of my favorites win in their respective categories. My friend Meg at Paris by Mouth was nominated for Best Culinary Travel Blog. And the blog I most admire for fully leveraging the potential of blogging – The Pioneer Woman – was nominated for Best Celebrity Food Blog.
And what if I don’t win? I’ll probably be forced to binge on pastries and candy until I no longer feel the bitter humiliation of defeat. And if you’re thinking, “Won’t you already be courting diabetes on a daily basis by that point?” Well, yes . . . yes, I will. So I guess my psychological pain will be dulled, no matter what.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out who to vote for in the Best Baking & Desserts category. But why am I not seeing Jacques Genin and his team there? Oh, wait, that’s because Julien’s too busy making caramel here to get a blog started.
Sometimes recipe books just captivate too many people—the world over—and quickly exhaust their 1st edition printing. Such was the case with ‘Mad about Macarons!’, the now-famous bible of macarons by my friend, Jill Colonna. It’s just gone into its second printing, so I feel compelled to give a couple copies away!
How might you win one? Well…
[THE CONTEST IS OVER AS OF 7:24AM ET APRIL 6, 2012.]
After deeply considering all the entries, I narrowed it down to 11 semi-finalists. If you think you were one of them, and even though 70 people submitted an idea, you probably were one of them. Because, hey, your idea was that awesome, right?! Then I trimmed that down to four finalists: Chris, Karen, Yoko and Yannis. But since only two people can win, here’s who gets the book:
Yannis: Sidertis-infused macaron shell with a tonka/vanilla accented quince interior
Chris: Ceylon-infused macaron shell with a lavender buttercream and orange marmalade interior
I will follow-up with each of the winners by email.
1. Leave a comment below, where you describe what you think the most amazing macaron flavor would be. I expect you to be at least as specific as this example: a chestnut flour Italian meringue shell with a cremeux of Corsican clementines. But feel free to elaborate as much as you like; I want to believe you love macarons and will put the book to great use.
2. Make sure to include your first name and email address in the “name” and “email” fields. Your email address will not be shown publicly; I just need it so that I can contact you, if you win.
I will arbitrarily choose two winners this Friday, based on how much I personally like your macaron flavor idea. Until then, behold the deliciousness this book will unleash upon you . . .
Beyond the very valuable pages of technical advice with which Jill graces us, including the all-new troubleshooting section (awesome!), the most incredible facet of it all is the recipes. The endless list of killer recipes! She covers the basics: vanilla, coffee, almond, pistachio, rose, chocolate and way more. But that’s just the prelude, friends. Then she starts getting into the fancy and exotic varieties: sticky toffee, tiramisu, chocolate-cardamom-ginger, bloody mary, liquorice & white chocolate, and on-and-on.
The tea pairing advice is my favorite part. Should you be serving your macarons with Lapsang-Souchong, Earl Grey, Rooibos or something else altogether? You won’t know until you read this. And any macaronisto/a worth his or her weight in powdered almonds shouldn’t be walking around ignorant to these details.
Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to make macarons or need some great macaron recipes, to take your macaron skills to the next level, this is the book for you. Perfecting any of the recipes is sure to make you an acclaimed chef in the eyes of friends, family and coworkers. And, really, if you want to show-up any archrival baker in your life, this is the kind of material that will help you do it.
So enter the giveaway now by leaving your most amazing macaron idea below. The winners will be announced here on Friday. And make sure to check ‘Mad about Macarons!’ out on Amazon, if you want to snag a copy right away.
When we left off on Monday, after tantalizing you with various baked goods and sweet pastries from the downstairs kitchen of Un Dimanche à Paris, I’d taken you upstairs with me to see chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly in a cryptic scene. What could he have been doing? As it turns out, it was the above – tapping liquid chocolate from a conical mold. But why?! We’ll get around this, in time, my friends. But first let’s see the process…
After warming up a ton of chocolate, fending off my repeated attempts to grab it, and ladling it into a pastry bag, Quentin delivered squirt after generous squirt to his forms…
Tapped-out, they were then set aside to firm-up, while he went to work on the rest of the batch…
Then it was time for quality assurance. Was the coat even and complete? Yes? Great. No? Then Quentin would furiously slam the mold against the wall and scream. Just kidding. They were all perfect, and he embodies composure anyway. Well, at least at this stage he did. For you see, this was maybe around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And as Quentin finished-up with the chocolate cones, I asked if I could come back that evening to get some shots of him in full form at work in the kitchen. He suggested 9:30. Would things be as laid-back then?
No. I arrived promptly at 9:30 – a time Quentin had chosen, thinking the worst of the night’s rush would be past. But as I flicked my camera on and made a few quick adjustments to the manual settings, here’s what I captured …
Within the span of a whole nanosecond, Quentin had managed to slip on his oven mitts, yank a perfectly baked chocolate soufflé from the oven, slide it onto the counter and slam the door shut behind him. And he did all this while still in intense pain from a badly injured leg that had had him in the hospital for the preceding two weeks, on the heels of an unfortunate scooter accident.
His feverish intensity cooled for a few seconds, as he gave a liberal dusting of powdered sugar to the soufflé. He almost looks peaceful. That was the last time I would see that face in the next 45 minutes I spent with him.
For whatever reason, Quentin prefers to work alone. That means an entire restaurant’s fancy plated dessert needs are being serviced by one guy. And then there’s the dessert/chocolate salon on the upper level that’s also creating dessert orders for him to handle. If only the dessert menu were limited, this might seem sane, but it’s fairly extensive and decidedly swanky.
Of course the one time I ate in the restaurant I didn’t even get to order any desserts from it. Everything, from the appetizers to the main course of the meal had been preordained by the chefs, and the three off-menu desserts were trotted out before I could even consider asking for either of the ones below. The cruel irony of being pampered! I clearly need to have a conversation Pierre Cluizel, the owner of Un Dimanche, to see if we might arrange a dessert-only dinner, where I eat everything they have . . . twice.
Here’s Quentin scooping some gelato, while 9 tickets stare at him from the right wall. He has at least five different pieces in some stage of preparation at this very moment – some slated for a warm plate and others for a cool one … stacks of which are just waiting. It’s madness!
Love the quenelle application. The right hand is gently positioning it, while the left is providing micro-adjustments. It must be perfect.
Remember all that chocolate and cake we saw Thomas and Maxime working with in Monday’s post? Well, here it is!
And here are almost 30 more of the same. Everyone loves their chocolate at Un Dimanche à Paris. And that’s because virtually every single thing on the menu features chocolate in one form or another. Seriously.
Ordering salmon, rabbit or some foie gras? Oh, it’s coming with chocolate. Granted, most of the savory dishes on the menu will feature chocolate as nibs or some unsweetened form, but it’s still chocolate. That’s really the whole idea behind Un Dimanche à Paris. Started by chocolate heir Pierre Cluizel in 2010, he was determinded to showcase cacao in all its glory. And he has handily succeeded.
Remember those cones Quentin was working on earlier? Here he is putting on the finishing gold touches…
Lovely, aren’t there?
Winner of the Trophée Pascal Caffet, former right-hand man to Philippe Rigollot (MOF and Champion du Monde) at the three star Sophie Pic, and protégé of yet more acclaimed French culinary figures, Quentin isn’t “just” a chef pâtissier. He’s one of THE chef pâtissiers in France today. In fact, he was recently named as captain of the 2013 World Cup pastry team from France. It doesn’t get much cooler.
He was also only 27 at the time of these photos. So we can rest assured there are decades more sweet brilliance to issue forth from his mind . . . assuming he doesn’t have another scooter mishap.
I hope you enjoyed this “in the kitchen” series at Un Dimanche à Paris. Special thanks to Thomas, Maxime, and Quentin for letting me totally invade their space. Should you feel compelled to enjoy their goodies firsthand, information on Un Dimanche à Paris is below. And of course I’d recommend you do check them out immediately, if only to experience their coquelicot macarons, candied clementines, hot chocolate, Choux Pistache, and dozens of other treats. But you’d better hurry, there’s only another 20 days before I’ll be back in Paris and inhaling it all!
Un Dimanche à Paris
4-6-8, Cour du Commerce Saint-André (map)
Phone: +33 (0)156811818
Boutique Hours: 11AM-8PM from Tuesday to Saturday and 11AM-7PM on Sunday (Closed Mondays)
Follow: Un Dimanche a Paris on Facebook
To my knowledge, Un Dimanche à Paris is the only pâtisserie in Paris where you can actually watch the pastries being made, inches in front of you. Just off to the left of the boutique is the glass-walled kitchen in which chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly, his trusted sidekicks Thomas and Maxime, and their assistants toil away at assorted gâteaux, crèmes, guimauves and more. Of course, as perhaps the finest patron of their work, they’re cool with letting me get even closer . . . allowing me to practically jam my lens straight into the sweets. Literally, look at the top shot. Could I possibly be any closer to that glistening pool of ooey gooey ganache? No.
We’ll come back around to Thomas’s work with liquid chocolate in just a bit, but for now let’s check out what he’s doing with chocolate in baked form. Below, you can see him checking on the interior of an ingot (yes, ingot) of brownie. Or, wait, I guess I should use the French term . . . le brownie Honestly, I could never tell if their elongated brownie format was just their playful take on the American invention or if it’s like that time Quentin told me he and his mentor once had a big hit with a dessert made primarily of thin slices of strawberries in maple syrup. My guess is that it was more the latter – unintentionally quirky, but certainly no less tasty.
Looking at the below, I can tell why my friend Julie is a little in love with Thomas. What young lady wouldn’t want a nice French guy to bake her brownies every day? But since Julie hasn’t snapped him up yet, I believe Thomas is still single, ladies. He’s admittedly a bit shy, but the shop’s director, Perrine, has told me on several occasions that he, “has the body of a gymnast.” So I highly recommend that, should you see him in the kitchen, you tap on the glass and say hi. It’s sure to embarrass him incredibly, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?!
As for me, I’m still waiting for them to get a pretty patissière for whom I can pine away. I’ll then win her over and bring her back to the States, where she’ll start a successful pastry shop and keep me morbidly obese with authentic French sweets. Fingers crossed.
Ah, and what do we have here? Are these the cookies, les cookies, or les sablées? Un Dimanche has a bit of a fluidity with their naming, given the number of English speaking tourists they receive every day; it could be any one of those three. And, more significantly, since the kitchen prepares work for both the boutique AND the restaurant, I actually have no idea what these little guys are being prepared for, much less what they’re calling them.
Here comes Maxime with even more pastries I’ve never seen in the boutique. Since I shot these particular photos in the late afternoon, all the shop pastries had long since been prepared. Virtually everything the team was working here was for the dinner service. The guys prep as much as they can, then Qunetin rolls in around 4 or so to help them finish-up and to prep some of the fancy chocolate work that will be plated in the evening. After all, Un Dimanche just received a 3 fourchette rating in the Michelin guide, so there’s much swankiness for the guys to maintain.
Moving right from brownies to éclairs, Thomas started prepping his neon green pastry bag with healthy globs of pâte à chou, while Maxime carefully measured and cut out their to-be-applied croustillant topping.
Thomas is lightning fast with his piping…
And he does it all with perfect form. Look at the position of those feet.
It’s more like pâte à yum . . .
Getting back to where we started this entry, here we have Thomas’s assistant pouring out the ganache. I believe the kid had only just started working at Un Dimanche within the last couple weeks before I did the shoot, so Thomas was not shy about bossing him around. “Faster!” …. “No, pour slower!” … “Not that slow. Faster!” The poor kid. I’m exaggerating though; Thomas actually handled it very nicely. He’s a much kinder mentor than some other chefs I’ve seen. Oh, the stories I could tell [and never will].
The below might be one of my favorite photos ever. That expression of Maxime’s face is priceless – a smug, self-satisfaction that says, “**** yeah. That was a sweet cut there. I am a master of the blade and all it touches!”
Can you imagine working this close with your colleagues? What’s wild is that they’re actually in fairly spacious conditions + have a really nice view of both the shop and the concourse outside. I’m not sure if they’d really want to handle all that work alone either. The only guy there who does actually like to go solo is Quentin, who arrived just as the guys were finishing up their gâteau trimming here…
Quentin checked in with the team for a minute and then had me follow him upstairs. It was chocolate time! But since I can’t do a 20 or 30 photo entry today, and because I want to build some suspense, I’ll just have to tease you with the photo below. What could Quentin be working on? . . .
I’ll guess you’ll just have the come back on Wednesday, when I’ll let you in on Quentin’s chocolate exploits. And then we’re skipping ahead a few hours to see him in full form at the height of dinner service – plating all the restaurant’s pastries in a fevered whirlwind of decadent sweets and gold leaf. I’m pretty confident it’s going to dazzle you into immediately making a reservation at Un Dimanche.