Category: Café Pouchkine
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The work of Café Pouchkine’s chef pâtissier, Emmanuel Ryon, is too good. Looking into the Pouchkine pastry case is to realize most other shops are not trying ½ as hard as they could be to render beauty in cake and crème. Tasting the pieces is to understand too many other chefs lack true talent. Is that hyperbole? No. There’s a reason I’ve posted little since last May. The combined excellence of Jacques Genin and Emmanuel Ryon just left me disenchanted with much of what was happening in the rest of the Parisian pastry scene. There’s stellar work in other shops, for sure, but there wasn’t enough to sustain my enthusiasm.
Much of my computer’s hard drive is made up of Jacques Genin and Café Pouchkine pastries I plan to trot out for you, one day. There’s a certain compulsion to show you nothing but them, but magical works from Des Gateaux et du Pain, Un Dimanche à Paris, La Patisserie des Reves, and Pierre Hermé deserve to be peppered-in as well. Today had to be a Pouchkine day though, because it’s not just about sharing the pastry as much as it is a teaser for what I’m putting up next Wednesday, when we go inside the kitchen with World Champion, French Champion, and Meilleur Ouvrier de France – the legend himself, Emmanuel Ryon.
Before you even bite in – just staring at the pastry – your senses delight in waves and wafts of unadulterated excellence. You get your money’s worth just from the aesthetics alone; the fact that you can also eat it borders on being too good to be true. So you carefully pluck away one of the meringue lobes and breathe in its deliciously pronounced berry tones, just before jamming a knife down through the crème, gateau and layer of cassis, which you then slather about the meringue. Ready for the first bite? It is transcendent. The meringue cracks, as the intensely thick Tahitian vanilla crème insinuates itself across your palate. You sense a soft cakeyness, a fraction of a second before a sensorial crush of berry and cassis sweeps through your mind and soul. You are psychically one with the Divinity that is Emmanuel Ryon’s Pavlova. So much flavor. So much texture. It is the definition of magnificence.
The first few times I had the piece, I ate the meringue by iself and then dug into the crème, cake and cassis. But that was poor form on my part. It was in meeting Emmanuel Ryon that I learned the proper technique, described above. And it’s next week that I’ll be sharing photos from that pastry session with you, my friends. Excited?! You’d better be.
This is literally so tasty that it’s illegal in some countries . . .
So, yes, run to Café Pouchkine and grab at least two of these. If not – and you only purchase one – I can guarantee you’re going to be walking back to Pouchkine within minutes of licking the crème from your doigts. Make sure to also pick up a dozen macarons, a vanilla croissant, and a bunch of other pastries while you’re there, too. There’s no sense in not enjoying at least half of the entire Café Pouchkine pastry case.
A few months back, I reached out to Café Pouchkine to see if I could arrange a photo shoot of their boutique and, more awesomely, a special session with their chef pâtissier – his majesty Emmanuel Ryon. The Pouchkine team has long been keen on sharing my reviews of their work – both on their Facebook page and “the twitters” – so I was hopeful the fine folks there would be totally agreeable to setting up said sessions. They were quick to get back to me and say a boutique shoot would be a snap to arrange but . . . a session with Monsieur Ryon likely wouldn’t be possible. No, it wasn’t because I’d offended the master; it was simply that he was so busy managing the development of their newest pastries – and making sure all was in order in Moscow, Paris and with their latest New York efforts – that he wasn’t sure he would have enough time until later in the year. All that changed the week before last, when their awesome team got back to me and said Monsieur Ryon had an unexpected opening and would have enough time not only to prepare a few pastries for me but to sit down and talk. I wound up getting part of the afternoon with The Great One this past Thursday, which is why I was so rushed in putting together the Friday entry. I’m sure you’re wondering . . . was he as cool as I imagined? No. He was at least 11 times cooler, and you’re going to love the photos . . . when I finally decide to share them with you 😉
For now, you’re going to have to content yourself with enjoying one of the tasty pastries from Café Pouchkine’s case. While Monsieur Ryon said he pretty much loves all his pastries equally, pressing him to name a few personal favorites got him to confess a soft spot for his Chouqette Botchka. And if he loves it, then maybe you will, too. So shall we dig in?
Unlike your average vanilla crème-engorged chou puff, this little one has a shiny sugar coat with a studly studding of sugar nibs – all dusted in yet more sugar! Yet this hat trick of sweetness is actually much more subtly sucrée than you’d imagine. And it serves as a perfect complement to one of the finer pâte a chou preparations I’ve come across in quite some time. I’m not sure if I got lucky and had one that got a little extra special cook time, or if it’s the standard preparation, but there was this awesomely warm and complex character than shone through. Yum. Then at the heart of our friend here was a decidedly light vanilla crème. I was expecting something much more dense, but was pleasantly surprised at how delicate it was. And while the density of the crème was restrained, the full force of the vanilla Gods was in effect. It took me but one bite to go, “Madagascar!” I quickly whipped out the Café Pouchkine menu I always keep on-hand to confirm my suspicions, and immediately saw that indeed it was a work of pure Bourbon (Madagascar) vanilla – an unmistakable taste sensation.
Looking at the shot below, you can just about taste it, can’t you?! Don’t lick the screen.
So, yes, particularly if you’re a Madagascan vanilla lover, this makes an excellent purchase. I’ll personally be buying it again, if only to taste the chou. I might also pick up some other goodies like their Pavlova Cassis, macaron coeur lait d’amande, and vanilla croissant – the three treats that happen to be my current favorites. Then I’ll find myself halfway back to my apartment wondering why I didn’t buy another dozen of their fine pastries. Why must Café Pouchkine have so many amazing pieces? The temptation of it all!
Since arriving back in Paris on Wednesday, I’ve been overindulging in everything: pastries, croissants, hot chocolate, marshmallows, poppy syrup, caramels, macarons, fine coffee and more. Starving myself nearly 40 pounds thinner than I was at the end of September has paid off in spades, my friends! There is nothing sweeter than looking at a closet full of pants – absolutely none of which currently fit – and knowing that my only aim in life is to shamelessly grow back into all three waist sizes they represent. Morgan Spurlock was but an amateur. This is ‘Super Size Me’ done properly.
Before inhaling any of the new pastries I’ve been coming across, I’m of course photographing them for future entries here. But I’ve only just begun that process for 2012, so it will actually be Monday that kicks off the latest and the greatest of 2012. Today is “merely” the last of the 2011 photo sessions. Though, knowing I had to end that series with a bang, I saved one of the best for last. So let’s dig into the Feijoa by Café Pouchkine.
If you’re thinking, “This looks like the most sophisticated Jell-O based creation I have ever seen.” . . . well, that’s one way to look at it. It’s actually much more swank than that. Working from the inside out, we have an inner channel of Feijoa – aka pinapple guava – which more of less tastes like a pleasantly funky mélange of both pineapple and guava. Surrounding that is the darker red strawberry-hibiscus gelée layer. Less sweet and more subtle than you might imagine, it’s a taste delight. And then all that rides atop what seems to be a purer strawberry gelée and a very tender base that came off as being delicately anise-flavored.
Their combined forces are a sensation not to be missed – but perhaps a little more subdued than would tickle the fancy of most folks. Personally, I enjoyed the nuances quite a bit, but you might want to opt to another piece in their case if you want a full blast of sugar and/or a tastebud assault. That said, the little wafer above (which looks to me like it has a face on it – or maybe I’m insane), will pleasantly sully your tongue with both a sugar and a flavor overload.
The gold above is beautiful, but it’s gotten me to thinking that more shops should start using white gold (Palladium), too. I mean, sure, plenty of places use silver leaf to adorn their pastries, but wouldn’t it be awesome to instead have a pastry finished in white gold?
Much like the mystery of how Fig Newtons get their cake-wrapped fig center, will the world ever know how the feijoa here in encased in gelatin? No, I think not.
So, yes, if you enjoy sophisticated, lightly sweetened pastries and are looking for a unique treat, I’d give the Feijoa an enthusiastic thumbs up. While I didn’t put it on my Top 38 list last year, it’s definitely a contender in early 2013, when I do an even more expansive countdown of Paris’ finest pastries. And, knowing how much I love chef Ryon’s work, I’m 99.9% sure it won’t be the only addition from Café Pouchkine.
If I could criticize Café Pouchkine for one thing, it would be that they make it way too easy to feel disappointed in the other shops. There’s no way to visually take in something like the Tutti Frutti here and not feel like everyone else is cutting corners. Scratch that. It’s in seeing this that you know the others are taking shortcuts. Emmanuel Ryon and his team simply push the aesthetic boundaries of pastries with such relentless aplomb that, if he didn’t already hold the triad of World Champion, MOF and French Champion titles, he should be given honorary versions of each.
I’m so dazzled by Café Pouchkine and the amazing chef Ryon that I’ve been trying to coordinate an in-kitchen session with the master, to add to my past séances photo with Jacques Genin, Hugues Pouget, Philippe Rigollot and other gods/goddesses of pastry. Sadly, he’s working at the newly-opened Brasserie Pouchkine in New York and likely won’t be back in Paris until the fall. I’m hoping our schedules might align come October so that I can unload a 32GB camera card catching him in action . . . and force him to do a pistachio crème blood transfusion on me. Until then, I’m going to merely eat his finest wares from the Paris boutique, including the subject of today’s review – the Tutti Frutti.
Even though there are technically hundreds of “commonly” used fruits in the world, this little guy’s studding of kiwi, mango, strawberry, pear, melon, blueberry, blackberry, and dragon fruit goes pretty far in living up to its name (Tutti Frutti = Italian for ‘all fruits’). The variety is fantastic, and their exquisite ripeness is the veritable cherry on top . . . despite the ironic absence of an actual cherry.
The gelée mound beneath the fruit seems to be a hybrid of pear and orange, though to be honest, the cornucopia of fruit flavors riding atop it makes it a bit challenging to tease out the exact notes. One thing is clear – that gelée is blissfully tender and contains within it a succulently sweet strawberry coulis. Even with a mouthful of all the bits and pieces, strawberry is the deliciously overriding note. Last but not least is the obscenely tasty almond Genoise that forms the base of this fruit fantasia. Very pound-cakey and rich – but not too much so – it makes for a splendid contrast to the gooier elements resting above. The net effect of it all? Unadulterated yum.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “Hey, how do they make all those pieces of fruit stay in place? Shouldn’t they just roll right off?” Good question. But there’s a simple answer. Before any fruit piece is applied, the chef dips just a square millimeter of it in the strawberry coulis, then leans in and whispers, “You can have the rest, if you chew through the gelée.” Placing it against the gelée, the fruit instantly grabs on in hopes of making it through for another taste of the coulis heart of the pastry. But, minus teeth, it never makes any progress, though stays perfectly affixed through force of will. It’s a genius technique only Monsieur Ryon could have dreamt up. Either that, or there’s a denser/purer layer of gelatin over the main dome that actually cements the fruit in place, but I mean, really, how could that possibly work?
And wait until you see the Pouchkine pastry I whip out for you next Friday! Beautiful as the Tutti Frutti here is, the Feijoa might be the loveliest of all Pouchkine’s work.
So, yes, absolutely get yourself a Tutti Frutti. Not only is it amazing, but it’s one of the few pastries in Paris to use 100% pure chunks of real dragon in the dragon fruit. Andalusian – it’s the best. Also make sure to pick up any/all of the following: almond croissant, macaron fraise coeur-pistache, macaron pur morse, Napoléon, Or Noir, Moskito. Then feast!
SUPER SPECIAL: Monday is my ‘Farewell to America’/’Bonjour, Paris!’ entry, as I’m headed back to The City of
Light Pastries on Tuesday. So ready yourself for a 20 photo extravaganza of some of my favorite Parisian shots. I cannot wait to be back in the country where I should have been born.
I have an admitted soft spot for pistachios. Not that I don’t love almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, pecans and beyond, but there really is nothing quite like the lusty charms of the pistachio. Lucky for me, it’s second only to hazelnuts in France’s pantheon of pâtisserie nutdom. So while hazelnuts might make their way into 20% (my guesstimate) of every pastry in Paris, pistachios manage to push a 10% representation. And even though virtually all shops handle their pistachios admirably, there are a few that excel with all-things-pistache. Café Pouchkine might well be the greatest among them.
When a shop reigns supreme with certain flavors and pieces, it’s very difficult to avoid purchasing them over-and-over again. Pouchkine was right up there with such favorites as Jacques Genin and Hugo & Victor in seducing me with the same goodies, day after day. They have the greatest croissant in the city, hands down; their croissant vanille is not to be trifled with. Their Napoléon? Sublime. Their Tutti Frutti? Tutti tempting. And then there were the Macarons Fraise Coeur Pistache, which I bought essentially every time I stopped by. But the one piece that beckoned me perhaps more than any other was the subject of today’s review – the Moskito.
Probably the most notable facet of the Moskito is that it’s composed of alternating layers of amazingness. The outermost is a moist pistachio biscuit that I wish they made an entire cake of; it’s obscenely tasty. The next ring is a gooey, sweet and insanely nutty mélange of almond and pistachio pastes. As I once said, combined with the biscuit, it’s an explosion of nuttiness . . . a veritable nut-based industrial disaster of the best kind. And topping it all off is a sticky, creamy, Bourbon-vanilly crème ontueuse that romps about your palate with an insouciant sluttiness. Yeah, you read that right. Insouciant sluttiness … sassy and brassy, yet still so classy. But anyway … if you love pistachios, gooey things and sugar, there might well be nothing comparable to the delights of the Moskito.
The little meringue buds that encircle the piece add a cute touch to the overall experience. While fairly physically insubstantial, their light crunch does quite a bit to highlight just how smooth the rest of the Moskito is. Of course I usually just pick them off and eat them alone before I dig into the remainder of the pastry.
Would I like if all the meringue buds were exactly the same size? Yes. But it’s my only minor criticism of the piece.
Would I like to change anything about the layers you see above and below? Absolutely not. They are not only in perfect proportion to one another, but are in themselves individually perfect.
So, yes, obviously go buy a Moskito at Café Pouchkine right now. It’s on the sweet side, so keep that in mind. But it’s also on the impossibly delicious side, so there’s a lot to love. Make sure to also pick up at least another dozen pastries and macarons while you’re there . . . and of course snag one of those vanilla croissants, which will forever change your life and make you wonder how most other shops are legally allowed to refer to their “croissants” as such, instead of “déceptions” (disappointments).