Category: Des Gâteaux et du Pain
Much as I’m looking to hunt down new taste sensations here in Paris, there’s a big part of me that loves to re-experience past knockouts. I go to Pierre Hermé every single day and buy a Montebello, which I then save for breakfast in the morning. Paired with a few poppy flower marshmallows and an espresso, there’s no finer way to greet the sunrise . . . or induce diabetes. Then there’s the Chou Pistache from Un Dimanche, the Éclair au Chocolat from Jacques Genin, or the Croissant Vanille from Café Pouchkine. I’ve had them all repeatedly in less than two weeks, when I could really have been branching out more. Oh, well.
Now, my big excitement in getting back to Des Gâteaux et du Pain was to snag their Pomme Tatin. Had someone been tapping into my internal monologue, when I first entered the shop last weekend, it would have come off as a guttural, nearly demonic rumble of “WHERE IS IT?!” As it turned out, it was nowhere. My beloved Pomme Tatin is gone for the season. I almost wanted to walk right back out, but given how much I love many of Madame Damon’s other pieces, I knew I could at least snag another past favorite. Then I spotted the subject of today’s review, the Poire Muscovado. Looking quasi-similar to the Pomme Tatin, I had a good feeling about this new addition to the vitrine. How thoroughly did it amuse me? Well . . .
Completely. The ever-talented Claire Damon has unleashed yet another work of unbridled brilliance upon us. Shielded beneath the lightly sweet and gloriously textured pear gelée that forms the dome of this delicious mound of gooey goodness, rests an equally sweetness-restrained crème. There’s much to love about its oh-so-smooth smoothness and its delicate touch of muscovado sugar. But just as its creamy waves are making their way about your palate, the more texturally complex and molassesy charms of the pear compote insinuate themselves. Ooo. Ahhh. It becomes immediately apparent how woefully underutilized the full range of sugars has been here in Paris . . . until now. Highest praises to Claire Damon for elevating the game. And, as if that all weren’t enough, there’s that delectable layer of pâte d’amande and the perfectly brusque and insouciant character of the not timid pâte sablée that chimes in and says, “Bonjour, mon ami!”
I just love the translucence of the gelée here. You can totally pick out the bands that are the crème and pear. Yum.
Tragically, when I was in the shop yesterday, the little guy here wasn’t in the case. I think I might have arrived a bit too early in the morning. So I had to “settle” for a mango tarte and the unexpected surprise of a new twist on Madame Damon’s Réligieuse Caramel. Expect to see that up here in the months ahead. It was fantastique.
So, yes, the Poire Muscovado gets
two three enthusiastic thumbs up. Is that more thumbs than I have? Yes. But it is that good. I’m excited to eat my way through some of the other new goodies she had in the case. I’m also jazzed to sample many of the breads and viennoiseries. The Bichon Cassis – a bit of a chausson aux pommes but with cassis inside and with a caramelized sugar exterior – might need to be popped in my “Other Goddies” section here, one day. Why must they make so many tasty things? The temptation. The relentless temptation of it all!
For the first two or three months of this visit, I basically refused to take the metro. Even when I’d go to shops far from my apartment – Café Pouchkine, Jacques Genin, and Des Gâteaux et du Pain – I would just walk. It seemed the sensible thing to do, given that the guy who eats 5,000 calories a day could probably use the exercise. But, now, fattened and lazy, I look for any excuse not to hoof it. “Oh, I don’t think the pastries are going to do well getting bumped around while I walk. I should probably take the metro,” I say to myself. This is particularly questionable reasoning where Des Gâteaux is concerned, as the jaunt, while a bit far, is basically a straight and very flat line down the ample sidewalks of Rue de Vaugirard. Oh, well.
With my new metro habit has also come a decision to curtail my pastry intake. I’ve abandoned my policy of a daily “eat until it hurts” gorge and opted for a “sate your every desire – just not until the point of pain” approach. I figure, in doing so, I’ve shaved off at least 500 calories of intake. Visiting Des Gateaux makes that tricky to maintain, since it is home to the Pomme Tatin and J’Adore La Fraise. I guess it’s a good thing those are currently “in retirement” – helping make buying a box-of-8 a little less tempting. Another gem that’s out of rotation is this Saint-Honoré Cassis . . .
Much like the Pistache-Griotte version I reviewed last year, with its silky pistachio crème, there’s much to love here about the lightly violet-perfumed tendrils of Chantilly draping the piece. But the real stars of the show are the tender orbs of choux, jammed with more cassis goodness than you can imagine. Acidic and pungent . . . it’s everything cassis is meant to be. Best of all, combined with the crème Chantilly, delicate puffs, and crispy/buttery sablé base, Claire Damon leverages that cassis interior to full effect in yet another work of textural excellence. The whole symphony of flavors and sensations just romps around your mouth, feeling ever so “exciting and inviting”, if I may steal a line from John Lennon.
I really do need to keep eating more from Des Gateaux, but my problem is that I usually go there too early, and it throws off my rhythm. Were I to buy all my “eating supplies” for the day at 8am, what am I to do with the rest of my waking hours . . . lock myself in my apartment and binge on breads, viennoiseries, and pastries? I mean, sure, that sounds awesome – and it might be how you envision my life – but I also like to mix in ambling around town, seeing friends, and breathing in more than the dank, sugar and crème-tinged air of my apartment. Maybe I’ll find some gross rainy day where I can just dispense with reason and get out of control with some Des Gateaux purchases. We’ll see.
So, yes, the Saint-Honoré Cassis is a fine one to snag. It’s also one of the trademark pieces of Madame Damon – among the not-to-be-missed. And with fall right around the corner, I’m sure the Saint-Honoré is about to take another turn of flavors. Pumpkin with a spice Chantilly would be extremely awesome to see. Just sayin’.
“I think I love you. So what am I so afraid of? I’m afraid that I’m not sure of a love there is no cure for… I think I love you.” For those of you with a sophisticated literary and musical background, you’ll recognize that as David Cassidy’s indomitable 1970 hit, “I Think I Love You”. But why am I getting all artsy on you, today, my dear readers? Because it’s the perfect tune to match the adorably named J’Adore la Fraise (I love strawberry!) from Des Gâteaux et du Pain.
Even though a couple folks on the staff last year at DGedP rubbed me the wrong way, my 2011 experiences have been nothing but polite – even warm. And the pastries? Gems – every one of them. Claire Damon is a wizard. And my adventures into their bread and viennoiserie selection haven’t hurt either. With the finest croissant I’ve yet had in Paris, it would be hard to resists coming back time-and-again for that alone. So, yes, David Cassidy, perhaps there will be no cure for this love. I’m getting hooked, and the object of today’s affection is of course this pink sensation . . .
Strawberry crème, strawberry compote, strawberry mouse, strawberry juice imbibed almond cake, and even actual strawberries unite into a singular force of brilliance here. And the outer layer of white chocolate? We’ll return to that in the next paragraph, because there’s a twist! So let’s dig through the layers nestled within. Strawberries: Yum – the height of ripeness. Strawberry crème: Calm, subdued, smooth and lightly perfumed. Strawberry compote: All the deliciousness of the strawberries atop the piece, now concentrated and with no sugar added [cause they are already perfect]. Strawberry juice imbibied almond cake: Buttery, delicate, substantial yet not dense, expresssive of warm & nutty tones. Overall: An extremely tasty romp through the strawberry patch, with a skip through the almond grove. But now the twist…
The first time I purchased this little lovely, it was wrapped in white chocolate (as you see in the top photo), but when I repurchased it to confirm my tasting notes, it was wrapped in a little blanket of the aforementioned almond cake. Did this make a substantial difference? Yes! First of all – because I don’t like chocolate on the sides of my pastries; it’s awkward to eat. Every chef in the world should stop doing it, cause it’s ******* stupid, and I can guarantee no one likes you when you do it. But, more importantly, the new shawl of gateaux took a very good pastry all the way up to the “A-game” level. The essential flavors did not change, but the proportions of the strawberry and almond shifted notably, along with the textural proportions. Taken “out of the closet”, no longer hidden just at the base of the piece, that almond gateaux is clearly a work of Divinity.
This is also the second piece from Claire Damon, after her literally perfect Pomme Tatin, for which I will bestow her with a Paris Patisseries Textural Excellence Award, for having displayed uncommon brilliance and mastery in textural endeavours. I literally can’t get the experience of the J’Adore la Fraise out of my mind.
So, yes, run over to Des Gateaux et du Pain now and purchase a J’Adore la Fraise. Actually, buy two of them. You get to keep one, and then the other you’ll need to bring over to my apartment, where we’ll share it. And by “share”, I mean I’ll eat, while you watch, before I ask you to run back to the store and fetch me a few more.
Last year, I was so late in “discovering” Des Gateaux et du Pain that I only got to enjoy a handful of their pastries. To most people that might mean 2 or 3, but of course to me that denotes like 10. However, what I wanted was to partake of everything in the pastry case, and with my triumphant return to Paris, I’m finally getting to pick up at DGedP where I left off.
So last weekend, I decided to do the long walk from my apartment on Rue Férou all the way to Des Gateaux on the Boulevard Pasteur. I figured it would be good exercise, since I intended to buy a “quanity” of their work. When I arrived, it was quite hopping for a Sunday morning. So I queued-up with the others, and waited to deliver my demande for a croissant (perhaps the finest I’ve yet had this year, btw), a kugelhopf, and a box of patisseries. The gentleman who waited on me was very polite, and with my order boxed-up, ushered me over to the register, where the chef patissiere, Clarie Damon, liberated me of my euros and gave me a genuine thank you for my oddly large purchase. Among the treats in the box was this Pomme Tatin au Sirop d’Érable.
When I took my first bite of the Pomme Tatin, the sun dimmed. It was that brilliant. And I’m not overstating how delicious it was, as I am wont to do. No, I mean the source of all life on Earth, the sun, halted at least 50% of its thermonuclear activity, merely to pay homage to the magnificence at hand in this Pomme Tatin; a vision-quest commenced (described below). When I finally do my Best Pastries list for 2011, this will unquestionably be a Top 10 entry. It is genius.
Nibble on the toasted pecans that top the piece and experience their earthy, smoky charms – accentuated just perfectly with a lightly pralinated sweetness. Indulge in the short dome of maple crème. It’s smooth, delicious and so exquisitely flavored that you’re transported to Vermont. You’re sitting outside a sugar shack. Snow has lightly dusted the ground. The sky is electric blue. You feel the nip of a cold breeze on your cheeks, just as you take a bite of the apples. They seem to melt in your mouth – sweetened only to the extent nature intended, yet bursting with three times the flavor envisioned by Gaia. You wonder how any pastry could be so phenomenal. You take another bite, and this time you’re privy to the crumb’uttery pâte sucrée aux éclats de noix and the caramel-imbibed biscuit cuillere. You’re not just hallucinating; this is a religious experience.
It then dawns on you that the textures of the Pomme Tatin combine in such a way that to describe them as an act of God would be an understatement. The pate sucree, the maple crème, the pecans, the apples, the biscuit, the caramel – so peerless is their combined effect that there truely is no word for it; I will simply leave a blank space here for the adjective: ___________. If you’re ever lucky enough to have a Pomme Tatin, the textural harmony will simply haunt you, as it does me.
This is the kind of pastry that makes me want to ask the chef, “When you were working on this recipe, did you actually know that it would turn out better than perfect?” The follow-up question would of course be, “What does God sound like when he’s Divinely inspiring you to create something like this?”
To better inform you about the wonders of the Pomme Tatin, I’ve actually create the first ever degustation video here on Paris Patisseries (below). Please, take a minute to savor the Pomme Tatin with me. Hopefully I can occasionally add other videos like this – for the most over-the-top amazing pastries . . .
So, yes, you have no option here. You must purchase a Pomme Tatin au Sirop d’Erable. Claire Damon has created the most beautiful work of textures I’ve ever experienced and a symphony of flavors that I plan to revisit with obsessive frequency in the months ahead. Brilliance!
Although I’ve given Des Gâteaux et du Pain a hard time in the past, I actually do enjoy their pastries quite a bit. I’m also suspicious that they might occasionally read the site here, given a response of “see you very soon” to a recent comment I left on a recent Des Gâteaux Facebook posting. Yikes! So, please Madame Damon and all the wonderful chefs there, when I come in in a few weeks, know that I love you. Also rest assured I will be in disguise, just as a precaution. And, if I’ve offended you in the past, let me atone for my sins with today’s review, which will be quite favorable.
Perhaps what I enjoy most about Claire Damon’s creations is that they’re imaginative without being weird. Something like her Tarte Fraise Fleur d’Oranger is pleasantly offbeat – delicious and original – but far from being like the inane pastries of a certain Arnaud. Other work, like the Tarte Framboise, provides a tasty spin on a beloved classic. There’s a style that isn’t duplicated in any of the other shops; she has a voice that stands out and one that adds something to the Parisian pastry scene. There might be no better example that her Saint Honoré Pistache-Griotte.
My notes give a definitive, “Excellent. Extremely excellent.” The scarf-like draping of pistachio crème Chantilly is sublime. Silky smooth and delightfully perfumed with fully present pistachio tones, I only wish other shops could so deftly handle their Chantilly. And the texture of the choux puffs? Resplendent. Tender, light, perfectly cooked golden orbs of yum jammed with gobs of intoxicatingly gooey and expressive pistachio crème onctueuse. So delicious that I would gladly pay for a ½ kilo pastry bag I could perch at my lips and casually fill myself with. And let’s not forget those intense and beautifully prepared griottes nestled in the heart of the pastry. Divine. The summed effect of all these amazingly palate-tingling bits is nothing short of . . . a joy.
I might say the cherry atop it all was a bit subdued, but I imagine that was intentional, as not to distract from the force of the cherries within. And the pate sablee at the base of the patisserie? Quite pleasant – and a highly appreciated depature from the pate feuillete used in other shops’ Saint-Honores, which tend to get unpleasantly rubbery. Crisis averted here at Des Gâteaux et du Pain.
Now, with my return to Paris fast approaching, I’m wondering how many of Des Gâteaux’s latest treats I’ll get to capture on film. The same goes for the other shops. Splitting my pastry love between old favorites and new shops in 2011, I might only get to highlight 5 or so goodies from each haunt over the coming year. Should I just select the prettiest work from each shop to put up on the site? Or should I eat the 20-30 pastries every shop has, before selecting the ones to be immortalized? Decisions like these are the cross I bear.
So, yes, do snag a Saint-Honoré Griottes Pistache from Des Gâteaux et du Pain. I mean, how could you not want to jam the above into your face? I even hear they have another Saint Honoré that’s mango/caramel/spices. Imagine that! And their cassis-violette version is soon to make its spring debut. Thank God I’ll be back to Paris in a mere 14 days.