Category: Carl Marletti
You know I was excited to return to Carl Marletti’s shop, after my 8 month hiatus. Always delighted by the pastries there, I knew I’d find something new and fun. As soon as I walked in, shop manager, Jean-Michel, gave me “the look” (more on that in a second), a big smile and a welcoming ”Ca va?!” A minute later, Monsieur Marletti spotted me from back in the kitchen. His face lit up, and he gave me a big wave. Tied up with a half-dozen people surrounding him, he was too busy to pop out, but I was psyched that he was happy to see yours truly.
So what is “the look” I referred to? Well, I’ve been getting it at all the shops I used to frequent. I walk in, usually start interacting with someone who hadn’t been working in the shop last year, and then one of regular staff pops out from the back or turns their attention from another customer, sees me, and then they grow a huge grin, thrilled to see the crazy American pastry addict is back in the house. At Ladurée, I literally got a full-on double-take. After a moment of her stunned silence, I was like “Vous me souvenez?” and she was like, “Ouais! Bien sur! Comment ca va?!” It feels good to be loved – even if only for over-the-top patronage of the city’s patisseries. But enough about all that . . . we have pastries to discuss – namely Marletti’s Mont Blanc, one of the most interesting reinterpretations of this beloved classic.
I can still taste it – vividly remembering all the bits and pieces. Before that first bite though, I was a little confused. Where were all the crazy squiggles of crème de marron? Why does this look sophisticated –rather than completely unappealing, as it does everywhere else? Having implicit trust for Monsieur Marletti’s pastry genius, rather than letting my confusion cascade into aprehension, I slid my fork down through its rhomboidal goodness, lifted it to my lips, and took a few moments to savor. Then I was like, “What?! This is not good. This is great!”
Despite having turned the crème de marron into a mousse, it was still bursting with chestnut deliciousness – yet with a much smoother quality than it could have ever attained in crème form. The Madagascar vanilla tones in the crème legere echoed back and forth off of the waves of marron, as if to say, “Bask in my creamy African delight!” And the nutty noissette biscuit underlying it all had an absolutely superb texture and subtlety to its flavors that beautifully complemented the constituents that rested atop it. But perhaps what took it to the “next level” were the wee pieces of candied chestnut woven into the biscuit. Between their texture of the profundity of their flavor, I was left a’quickle.
On my next visit to Angelina, home of perhaps the most famous Mont Blanc in Paris, I might just have to bring a Marletti Mont Blanc with me. Should the Angelina classic fall short of my Marletti-based expectations, I will request the manager at my table and then force him/her to sample its majesty.
I just wish I hadn’t eaten so many of Monsieur Marletti’s pastries last year though. There are only a few pieces in his case that I have not had the good fortune to enjoy, so it might be a few months before I trot out a new one for you. Tragic, I know, but hopefully it gives you something to look forward to.
So, yes, do grab a Carl Marletti Mont Blanc. It might be wise to experience a few of the conventional type before you venture into this reinterpretation. It’s only by having that context that you’ll later feel justified in walking up to him and saying, “Sir, you are a wizard . . . a wizard of chestnuts.”
If I ever write a book about my pastry adventures, the above is the current frontrunner for the tome’s cover. Why? It might just be the greatest all-around pastry in Paris’ patisseries. By that I mean that not only is it a delight of flavors and textures (the only criteria I used in my Top 17 Best Pastries ranking), but it’s also aesthetically dazzling. I mean . . . it looks like you imagine fine French pastry should look. Granted, there are many plated pastries in the city’s great restaurants that would blow your mind, but in the world of pastry shop patisseries, this little lady does more to capture the storybook fantasy than perhaps any other.
It’s a shame more people don’t get exposed to Monsieur Marletti’s work. Since his shop is at the end of Rue Mouffetard, it’s about as far as any tourist is likely to venture into the lower 5th arrondissement of Paris. Perhaps that keeps his work a bit more authentic than that of more centrally-located patisseries, which are forced to pander a bit to tourists’ tastes. And maybe he just likes being tucked-away in a quieter neighborhood, where fellow shopkeepers are his friends – like his florist, the namesake of this ode to violets, Lily Valley.
Always a stickler for details, Monsieur Marletti has woven that violet essence through almost every bit of this pastry: the crème patissiere, the crème Chantilly, the sugar garnish, the fondant. If it’s violet-toned, then that’s also how it tastes. Most shops would just dye everything to keep with the theme, leaving all but the crème patissiere flavorless. Monsieur Marletti has far too much integrity and love for his craft to ******** us that way.
Every little morsel of this work is a delight. My notes says that the choux puffs are, “just popping with violet goodness.” They virtually explode in your mouth, unleashing their elegantly floral crème interiors, while the choux itself tenderly succumbs to each bite. The feuille base – sweet, crumbly, and characteristically complex – supports that quartet of caramel-anchored puffs and the heart of crème Chantilly nestled within them . . . one that spirals its way up to lend support to that deep-violet sugar crown. Enjoy it as the appetizer, the last bite, or ensemble with the rest, it’s a sublimely elegant touch to this incredibly refined work of pastry art.
Though I never saw it at his shop, I can only hope Monsieur Marletti spins this off into other flavors: rose, fleur d’oranger, framboise, etc. I suppose a vanilla version might be the most apropos, given that this is the master’s take on the classic Saint-Honoré. But, hey, I’d buy any and all of them. Anything even half as fantastic as this Lily Valley would still be an incredible experience.
The next pastry I feature here on the site will be something from my latest adventures in Paris, as the Lily Valley closes out the last of the patisseries from my 2010 photo sessions. Starting next Friday, after a week-long entry hiatus – for me to get settled back into Paris, you’re going to be privy to the latest work from the newest shops. Get ready to see what’s in store at Café Pouchkine, Un Dimanche a Paris, ACIDE and more. Also expect plenty of new entries from many of the greats I’ve covered here in the last year: La Patisserie des Reves, Sadaharu Aoki, Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Pain de Sucre, Hugo & Victor and of course Carl Marletti. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
So, yes, absolutely grab a Lily Valley. If you live in Paris, just stroll on down to Rue Censier next time you’re south of the Pantheon. And, if you’re just visiting, since you’re bound to visit Rue Mouffetard anyway (and you should), take a few steps beyond the fountain at the end of it, and saunter into Monsieur Marletti’s shop. There’s a Lily Valley waiting to be loved . . . and gluttonously devoured.
After you take around 14,000 photos of Parisian pastries and pastry shops in the span of 3 months, you develop certain aesthetic sensibilities. The cloying work of Arnaud Larher or crude efforts of Gerard Mulot make you want to scream . . . just a little. How can I be enthusiastic about pastries that look like they were assembled by and for clowns? There were so many times I passed by shop windows and just said, out loud, “That’s ridiculous.” Just give me something neat like an Aoki, elegant like an H&V, or truly inventive in its style like La Patisserie des Reves.
Among all my favorite no ******** patissiers, Carl Marletti is the standout. I ate every pastry he sold, and not once was there a pointless anything – in or on his work. There was some silver leaf and a few dragees, of course, but those were simply subtle pieces of flare. All other garnishes, no matter how small, were flavored. Every nut, every piece of fruit, every piping of crème had a purpose. And, as you can see in these photos, the man certainly knew how to take the core elements of the flavor palate he’d chosen and bring them to life aesthically. His Tarte aux Peches looks fantastic, in the literal sense.
Were I to rank pastries on beauty alone, this would be a Top 5 contender. With little added effort, I think you could easily plate this tarte in an upscale restaurant. That’s how beautiful it is. The earthy tarte shell, toasted nuts, sweet frangipane and peaches make it a delight to eat, as well. Taking it over the top is the quenelle of mascarpone. Just as Monsieur Marletti’s mascarpone made his Belle Helene come to life, it’s no less magical here. Yum.
I’ve now begun to reach a point where I want to start taking cues from great works like this and applying it to my own baking endeavors (which, btw, are more oriented toward breads and gastronomic obscura – gaufres liégeoises, anyone?). But I’m 34 days away from a 6 month pastry binge in France, so my ability to obsess over my own work is to be non-existent for quite a while. Even though I’m flooded with inspiration, I’m sure to learn much more in the months ahead.
Anyway, back to Marletti’s Tarte aux Peches. I want to live in the little valley above – flanked by two hills of peach and bounded with a looming mountain of sublime mascarpone. I could eat ten of these right now . . .
So, yes, do grab a Tarte aux Peches. It’s just one of the great works from Carl Marletti. You’ll want to stay tuned for the next piece I trot out from him – his Lily Valley. You might just **** your pants a little when you see all the shots; it’s awesome.
I became a Carl Marletti fan very quickly during my last stay in Paris. After stopping by his shop at least a couple times a week for a month or so, I walked in one morning and said, “Hey, Monsieur Marletti. If I promise not to touch anything, would it be cool if I came behind the counter and just had a closer look?” His response? “Yes, of course! Jean-Michel and I know you love the pastries. Let me show you around.” So we discussed the various creations, his invention of the cinq-cent feuilles, musings on choux, crème and more. But then I had an idea. Perhaps it was the brash American in me, but I just looked at him and went, “Do you think maybe you have some time to actually make one just for me?” He grew instantly pensive, as you can see in the photo below. “Definitely, but let me think about what to show you,” he nearly whispered into his hand. Then it struck him, and he asked if he could have just a few minutes to prepare. Off he went to the kitchen, while I ambled about the shop. I was about to witness, firsthand, the creation of his Marie Antoinette.
Now, this was the first time a famous patissier ever let me do in-shop photos, not to mention in-kitchen photos. I was more than a little nervous, but thrilled at the opportunity. Carl Marletti, former Chef Patissier at The Intercontinental, who’d literally cooked for countless celebrities and monarchs, was going to let me behind the scenes. Even though I later got invites from many of the other shops, including Hugo & Victor (as featured here last week), this first shoot conjures some of my most cherished Parisian memories . . .
Monsieur Marletti actually had prepped to show me two pastries – hence the Rice Krispie and Pop Rocks bases set out for his Censier . . .
But I don’t want to completely blow your mind by showing both today. ‘Tis only the pink lady we’ll focus on for now . . .
Monsieur Marletti’s first order of business was to lay down a delicious gob of sugary-sweet raspberry confit into the bottom macaron shell.
I would be happy just eating this . . .
Ever the pro, Monsieur Marletti ambidextrously arranged a ring of raspberries . . .
God bless a camera that could take 4.5 shots a second (even better – my new one can do 6), so I was able to capture the full motion of him putting that scrumtrulescent dollop of rose crème in place . . .
Sublime! . . .
I asked Monsieur Marletti to wait a moment, before putting the crowning macaron half atop it all. “Monsieur, I just want to get a close look at how you perform the finishing touch. Let me adjust the camera angle here slightly,” I said. “Oui, oui. Bien sûr,” he replied. I then gave him the go ahead . . . and reached around to rip a raspberry off of his masterpiece before he could finish it. As you can see, he thought it was funny that I was such an impatient and gluttonous *******. I’m just glad he didn’t punch me.
And then it was done, complete with candied violets and silver leaf atop it all. And, yes, it tastes amazing. After all, it is #6 on my Top 17 Best Pastries in Paris list – and far better than the Ispahan from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. For real – it’s better.
I have two more Marletti pieces to show you, before I return to Paris. Coming up on the 28th is his stunning Tarte aux Peches, and his Lily Valley will be featured on April 1st as the final pastry from the 2010 photos. That’s also the day I return to Paris, and from then on it’s going to be all-new material on the site – with near-daily posts of 5-6 every week!
As many of you saw on the Paris Patisseries Facebook Page yesterday, the Censier here is one that Carl Marletti himself crafted for us in his kitchen. He was actually the first great Parisian pastry chef that I ever approached to do a special photo shoot. We’d loosely coordinated the whole thing by email, while I was vacationing in Rome. As soon as I got back to Paris, I headed down to his shop not knowing exactly what would unfold once we got going. Now, my command of French is great for getting along well in day-to-day Parisian life, but explaining and then directing an hour-long shoot entirely en français meant I needed to play at another level. Imagine how nervous I was . . . in awe of his pastry majesty and knowing there would just be some things I couldn’t articulate. Thanks to Monsieur Marletti being extremely cool and me surprising myself a little with sentences I didn’t know I could put together, it all worked out very well. I captured him creating his amazing Marie Antoinette, which I’ll debut the full in-kitchen shoot of this winter, and of course the Censier…
Before Monsieur Marletti got going on our little treat here, he paused and, all in French, started to detail what’s in it and the steps he’d be taking in its preparation. I was listening intently, still a bit nervous to be there alone with the master, when he suddenly says [transposed into English with a thick accent, cause it’s 10x as hilarious that way], “En zeee bayz eez mayd uv zee Ruhyz Kreezpeez meex’d weez dee pawpeeeng cun’deees.” I basically laughed in his face. Did he seriously just tell me this thing was made of Rice Krispies and Pop Rocks?! So I said to him, “Do you literally mean Rice Krispies?” to which he flatly replied, “Yes . . . en zee pawpeeeng cun’deeez.” And that was that. Snap, Crackle and Pop were apparently living large here in Paris with Pop Rocks. I’d love to see Kellogg’s put the recipe for this one on a side of their cereal boxes!
You’re probably wondering how it tasted. Well . . . pretty awesome. There is a caveat though. The Censier in the photos here was snagged a few weeks after our in-kitchen shoot; the original little guy got gluttonously devoured. It’s the one shown here that I have some reservations about, as the chocolate was just not handled properly – likely by one of his sous-chefs ******* up the batch; the effect was a chocolatey, though very grainy disappointment. But any other time I’d had the Censier, the quenelle of Tainori chocolate was exceptionally smooth. The praline garnish was crunchy, nutty and sugary-sweet. The base, too, was texturally excellent, crisp, not too sugary and perfectly balanced in volume with the chocolate. I mean . . . perfectly. It would have been easy to under or overdo it, but Monsieur Marletti hit the nail on the head. And the best part is that the fat in the chocolate seems to coat many of the individual Pop Rocks momentarily . . . just long enough for you to chew and swallow before experiencing the onslaught of pops.
It’s that time-delay that I love. The only other piece I’ve enjoyed it with is Hugo & Victor’s Hugo Chocolat, which has a kick of lime that goes off like a time bomb. I refer to these pieces as “4-dimensional”, because there truly is that temporal element to the experience. It’s more than just a delicious range of flavors and pleasing textures, it’s a piece of culinary artwork that unfolds and develops even after the last bite. Work like this plays no small part in my belief that Carl Marletti and Hugues Pouget are the greats. (But, believe me, Philippe Conticini, Angelo Musa, and Sadaharu Aoki are very much pastry royalty, too.)
I only wish more Parisian patissiers were so creative. Sassy designs and wacky flavor combinations can certainly grab attention, but a piece that’s truly inventive stays glued in your memory . . .
So, yes, definitely check out the Censier. It’s actually named after the street on which Monsieur Marletti’s patisserie sits: Rue Censier, which rests right at the end of the famous Rue Mouffetard. And, of course, while you’re there, make sure to pick up a few other treats from his shop. It’s almost impossible to grab something you won’t love.