Category: Un Dimanche à Paris
Even among the greatest Parisian pastries, only a few dozen can be classed as exceptional. Fewer still have earned the label of perfection. But the rarest of all are perhaps the two contemporary works that have recently shaped the arc of pastry history in the way that the Saint-Honoré, the macaron, and the opéra once did. Those past classics were all once made by one man or one team, until their magnificence carried them into the hearts, minds and vitrines of chefs all across Paris and beyond. Indisputably, Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan is one of the two modern classics guaranteed to grace pastry cases for hundreds of years to come; in just a decade it’s spread well beyond Monsieur Hermé’s boutiques and has become instantly recognizable, far and wide. And the other modern classic? That’s simple. On June 19th, 2012, the above paradigm-shifting act of unbridled magnificence debuted in the case of Un Dimanche à Paris. Never before in the 1800-year history of The City of Light had peanut butter, caramel and chocolate united into a single act of pastry deliciousness. BEHOLD LE PÉCHÉ D’ADAM!
Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, Adam, isn’t this exactly the pastry you’ve been badgering pastry chefs to make for the last three years? And, given that Un Dimanche finally caved and also named it after you, doesn’t that maybe skew your opinion of how significant it is?” Well, um, I guess the easy answers would be yes and yes. But, honestly, my official answer is, “Yes and kinda but not really.” Let me explain . . .
You must understand that, generally speaking, the French don’t “believe in” peanuts. While hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios have an unquestioned place in every single French pastry shop, good luck finding a peanut in one. They get no respect. In fact, ask your average French person their opinion on peanuts, and their most likely response will be along the lines of, “You mean those things at the bar? Yeah, I guess they’re good with beer.” Ask another French person for their feelings on peanut butter, and a totally normal reply will be, “I’ve never had it.” So in introducing a peanut-based pastry to Paris, we are truly changing the game. Parisians are about to experience what dirty Americans like me have long known – peanut butter, chocolate and caramel are as indispensable to life as water or air.
While Le Péché d’Adam has only been out for two weeks now, its sales are brisk. It usually sells-out before day’s end, and I’ve been told it’s already the third most popular pastry in the case. Lest you think I and other Americans are the ones snapping it up . . . au contraire. The most enthusiastic buyers are the French themselves. They love it! It’s been an instant hit with them.
The irony is that I worked with Un Dimanche à Paris’ new chef pâtissier, Kléber Marguerie, to craft Le Péché d’Adam for American sensibilities. After extensive discussions on how it should be composed, Kléber unveiled the prototype to me in early June. My opinion? Delicious, but the design was far too refined – too French. So I forced him to start over and spent the next week bringing in candies and pastries from other shops to serve as reference points for how to make this piece more disgustingly American. There was to be no subtlety. I wanted the ingredients obvious and gooey. And the design? I wanted it fat and adorned with sparkles. When Kléber presented the final piece to me, all I could say was, “Mission accomplished!”
The pastry is loaded with peanuts and then some! For those fans of all things crunchy, there’s plenty to love here. The crème of the piece, too, is a sublime overload of peanut flavor, accented perfectly by alternating layers of sticky-sweet salted butter caramel and peanut Dacquoise. Then, at the very base of the piece, wrapped in all that caramel and nutty cakey goodness, is a mound of 63% Madagascar dark chocolate. It’s basically like a Snickers bar on steroids and made with infinitely more superior ingredients than any candy bar could hope for. Le Péché d’Adam is quite simply . . . a revolution in Parisian gastronomy and a revelation for the senses!
Can’t you just taste the caramel and peanuts here…
And just get a load of all that chocolate, peanut crème, caramel and all those nutty nibblins! Can a life be truly well-lived without first having one of these? No, it cannot.
So, yes, you absolutely must run to Un Dimanche à Paris immediately and purchase one or more of these. Consume it with lusty gluttonous impatience, then run back to the store and buy another. For all my French readers who’ve never before enjoyed the magic of peanuts, caramel and chocolate together, it’s going to change your life. And for all those familiar with the combination, this is still sure to redefine the heights of ecstasy you know that combo can deliver. Why are you even still reading this? Feast . . .
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)
Do I know more about chocolate than I’ll likely ever know about coffee? Yes. Does that keep me from drinking the equivalent of 10-15 espressos a day? No. After all, I’m only hooked on Coutume Café like crack. It’s there that the ever-talented Kevin and Talor (the newest barista extraordinaire) turn me on to dazzling blends, drips, pulls and methods of enjoying their expertly roasted beans. The latest and greatest is of course Talor’s ice-presso (hot espresso served in a frozen cup). So it should be no surprise that I’m always looking for the next dose in one form or another – if not for the splendors of flavor, then at least to stave off a crash or caffeine withdrawal symptoms. There is no such thing as enough.
Since I can’t be at Coutume 24/7, my coffee lust winds up getting sated by the occasional café-imbued pastry. Most just serve as some clumsy approximation of coffee’s delights, as I’ve come to find 90%+ are woefully lacking in the appropriate nuances and quality to be called anything but . . . crude. But there I was at Un Dimanche à Paris a couple weekends back, when I spotted a new addition to their lineup, the Éclair au Café. Could it satisfy me? Would it perhaps even delight me? Well…
Yes and yes. While the main vehicle for the piece is the éclair-standard pâte à chou, it’s been lovingly coated in Un Dimanche à Paris’ trademark cacao nib croustillant. It adds just the perfect touch of sweetness and crumble. Some sweetness and snap is then furnished by a whisperingly thin wafer of 40% milk chocolate. Do I usually hate tempered chocolate on pastries? Yes, but it works here. For not only is it slight enough to bite through without mess, but since the éclair is “open faced” – with a chunnel of crème resting right below the chocolate – that little wafer shields the crème from the elements. God knows I hate when my crème goes knockin’ about with crusty, mingin’ edges. And it’s that crème that is the highlight, my friends. Based in Mascarpone, it’s a sublime blend of milk chocolate with Mexican and Ecuadorian coffees. Fairly sweet and with just a waft of maple’esque tones, it might well be the finest coffee crème in all of Paris.
Of course chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly didn’t believe me when I told him how much I loved the éclair. Last weekend, when I went it to fact-check the ingredients with him for a few pastries I’d shot, he asked what I thought of the éclair. I quickly responsed that it was, in fact, the finest coffee éclair I have ever had. He laughed, but I assured him it was true.
Mmm, it’s a stretch mark of tastiness…
Is the éclair perhaps a little more squished down than it should be? Yes, we can say that … since I know someone would leave a ****** comment to that effect anyway. But it didn’t affect the deliciosity at all.
So, yes, the Éclair au Café from Un Dimanche à Paris is a must-get. But be forewarned that it is only available on the weekends, much like their oh-too-delicious millefeuille. Should you show up another day, you can always content yourself with a Chou Pistache, some hot chocolate, coquelicot macarons, or a candied clementine. And if you’re extra adventurous, you can just enjoy all of those in one sitting, cause that’s exactly the type of thing I would do.
The lives of too many Parisian pastry chefs, chocolatiers and confiseurs are, in many respects, very insulated from one another. From about the age of 15 onward, many have either woken up before dawn to get to their employer’s shop or, conversely, built their lives around servicing the odd hours of a restaurant. Not only is it hard for them to get to other shops and restaurants, during their normal hours of business, but – working on what are often meager wages – it’s challenging to afford the creations of other chefs. Assuming a pâtissier does hit the big time in his late 20s or 30s, he’s often so occupied managing his business that keeping apprised of other shops’ work is an impossibility. That’s not to say these men and women don’t have decades of experience with fantastic instructors and mentors or that their colleagues don’t turn them on to others’ work; it’s just to say that there usually isn’t as much fluidity and sharing in the biz as people might think.
There are many times chefs and owners have asked me what “Monsieur …..” has been working on, if their newest pastry has anything comparable (whether in terms of design or flavors) in the city, or what I think of their pricing relative to the other shops. Then are even occasions where I casually make reference to another pastry, chocolate or confection and see a look of contempt or jealousy flash across someone’s face, feeling as though so-and-so stole their idea or is scandalously working with a flavor out of season or at the expense of others who can’t find a supplier. But of course my favorite is when I share pieces between shops and help inspire something. Such was the case when I brought some coquelicot (poppy flower) marshmallows from Le Bonbon au Palais to share with chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly and the team at Un Dimanche à Paris. Now, Le Bonbon au Palais imports their marshmallows, so it wasn’t the formative moments of thievery when Quentin remarked, upon his first bite, that he’d love to do something with the coquelicot flavor, if only he could find a top-notch extract. Within days, he had, and two weeks later the Macaron Coquelicot was born!
Given that I bestowed these macarons with the #19 spot on my Top 38 Best Pastries list, I want to give you one of my usual hyperbolic descriptions. I just don’t know how. Poppy flower is not a flavor most people have any context for. To describe it would be like trying to explain the majesty of a sunrise to someone who’s been blind from birth – or attempting to bring life to the spry charms of Bach’s Partita for Violin No. 3 to a person who’s never heard a single sound. Really, the best I can do for you is to say that artificial coquelicot taste a lot like Hawaiian Punch, while real coquelicot, as is used here in the macaron, tastes something like . . . the essential nature of existence itself.
Biting into these little guys, it’s true that you’ll feel the collapse of a slightly hollow shell. But as the delicate flecks of French meringue crumble onto your tongue, they unveil an airy sweetness. Within milliseconds, the coquelicot-imbued crème spirits you away to an achingly lush Moroccan poppy field. Hundreds of metres in the distance, you can see the workers beginning their harvest, but for now its just you, adrift in a crimson sea and that thickly perfumed air. Snap back to Paris. All the coquelicot macarons you’d purchased are gone. What you thought had been a single bite was actually several minutes of what can only be described as your animalian binge on a half-dozen of the greatest macarons ever conceived.
Lest you think I’m pumping these just because I inspired them, fret not. If anything, I’ve unnecessarily penalized them in my Top 38 rankings, feeling as though the #14 spot I might have otherwise given wasn’t merited.
I just wish coquelicot extract was something we could get in the United States. But, despite many a search on the interwebs, I haven’t been able to turn up anything. It’s an injustice.
So, yes, absolutely buy as many of these macarons as you can. They’ve earned my top reco of purchasing an entire dozen of them alone. I went months buying these every single day for good reason. They are truly one of the greatest macarons in the history of time. I hope you one day get the chance to delight in their myriad splendors.
SUPER SPECIAL: Next Monday and Wednesday are Parts I & II of my mini series on Un Dimanche à Paris. We’re going inside the kitchen to see the team at work + getting a very rare glimpse of Quentin Bailly, the newly minted captain of France’s 2013 Pastry World Cup team, as he single-handedly plates desserts for an entire restaurant’s nighttime service. It’s all going to blow your mind.
My friend Julie asked me the other day what my first stop would be once I got back to Paris. My reply was of course that I would head straight to Un Dimanche à Paris for a candied clementine and some hot chocolate. I’ll probably be “forced” to indulge in a pastry or five there, as well. With chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly recently being named the captain of France’s World Cup pastry team, my guess is that the case of goodies is going to be in even higher gear than ever. I’ll be helpless to resist.
After my visit to Un Dimanche, I’ll deinfitely have to run to Le Bonbon au Palais to pick up the two dozen coquelicot marshmallows I plan to pre-order (not kidding), as well as some salted butter pralines and various other bags of candies/confections I’ve come to know and love. Then I’m going to walk back to Un Dimanche for another quick hot chocolate and some pastries to eat later that evening. After months of starving myself here in the States, moderation is going to be out the window. And one of the pastries I’m sure to pick up is the subject of today’s review, the Tartlette Framboise-Estragon.
Lest you think “estragon” is the French word for “estrogen” (and who could blame you?), it’s actually their term for tarragon. Why infuse tarragon in a white chocolate ganache, then pair that with raspberry confit and a sweet pâte sablée croustillante? Because it’s delicious. Sure, tarragon is almost always a savory flavoring, but in the ganache it adds a sweet anise-like quality that can’t help but be loved.
Take a bite, and the pâte sablée crumbles less like a cookie and more like a delicate sandcastle of tastiness. Savor that sensation in the fleeting moments before the ganache slips unctuously across your tongue – unleashing its light tarragon perfume – and the sweet tang of the raspberry confit springs to life. Not only is the raspberry a flavor explosion in itself, but it seems to amplify and highlight the magic of the sablée and ganache, bringing it all together as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Before you can even ask the tartelette how it got so tasty, the last remaining bites of it softly whisper, “Shhh…we know. We know. Just devour us.”
This tartelette is one of the main reasons why I love Un Dimanche as much as I do. The form is fun, a little more complicated than your average raspberry tarte(lette), and a little off-beat – without being weird or awkward. The use of tarragon infused white chocolate is not only inventive, but it totally works on the palate. And the sablée kicks in the third part of the trifecta of excellence – unconventionally sweet and with a marvelous texture. I guess there’s a reason Quentin was named captain of the World Cup team.
Don’t you just want to lick the raspberry confit right off the screen?! It’s silly how awesome it and the whole tartelette is.
So, yes, absolutely grab a Tartelette Framboise-Estragon from Un Dimanche. And make sure to snag a bunch of macarons, a candied clementine, a few pastries for the road and some hot chocolate. You might have to budget two or three visits just to fit it all in. But since it’s right across the Odéon metro, it’s a convenient place to stop at almost any time of day for a sweet fix.
Underappreciated. Too many of the finest Parisian pastries are underappreciated. When Pierre Hermé first released the Ispahan, barely anyone cared to buy it. Instead of removing it from the vitrine, he kept it in for years, until it caught on and became one of his most popular pastries. That’s, unfortunately, not a luxury most shops have. So among my many aims with the site here is accelerating that process for certain chefs and their work – hoping that, if I get the word out, it can keep one of the treasures on display. After all, a casual shopper in any one of the grandes pâtisseries won’t have any context for how amazing Pouchkine’s Napoléon or Aoki’s Éclair Sésame Noir are. When too many other options in the cases have been dolled-up like supermodels of crème and gâteaux, the most humble works go unnoticed and, as I said, terminally underappreciated.
When it comes to Un Dimanche à Paris’ Macaron Réglisse, I never got the opportunity to write about it before the decision was made to take it out of rotation. It just didn’t sell enough for Un Dimanche to justify making them. But we’re going to remedy that today. These macarons, #13 on my list of The 38 Best Pastries in Paris, need to come back now … and forever. So let me first describe to you exactly how amazing they are, then detail the steps both we and they need to take to restore them to their rightful place in the canon of contemporary Parisian pastry.
Even as you approach for your first bite, the delicate aroma of réglisse mingles with soft notes of Caribbean molasses. Your lips embrace both halves of the shell and instinctively read their coarse sugar granules – like a sweet braille – as saying “sinfully delicious”. Then, as you cleave through the tender French meringue and allow your tongue to carry away a morsel from the body of the macaron, those granules of sugar instantly begin to dissolve and light up your taste buds. Electric. It’s only another second before this already magical experience transforms into something verging on religious perfection. The grain – the unapologetic grit – of the firm crème within the macarons is unlike anything you’ve experienced. It rakes seductively against your tongue, exploding with deep, dense, primal tones. Réglisse has rarely, if ever, known a more beautiful expression.
With every bite, you drift into a more languid delirium. These aren’t just macarons; they’re an intoxicant. As perfect on a sun-filled afternoon as on a dreary, rainy morning, enjoying these is among the requirements for a life truly well-lived.
Let me preface the following by saying I adore Un Dimanche à Paris. Quentin Bailly is a tremendously gifted chef pâtissier. Pierre Cluizel is a national treasure of France and a genius of chocolate. And Perrine de Longevialle is the greatest director in all of Paris’ patisseries, putting everyone else to shame. So take the following comments as a high complement. I care enough to be completely blunt . . .
The color of these is just not working. Yes, it’s reminiscent of the color of réglisse, and it made for a better diversity of colors in the case, but it’s a dull hue that wasn’t inspiring people to buy these macs. Everyone hates the black color Ladurée and Pierre Hermé use for their réglisse, too, so it’s a general problem where réglisse is concerned.
What about having a two-color approach? The top shell could be pink, and the bottom shell could be purple. The crème on the interior would be white. That would be beautiful and make it a true standout. Alternately, and perhaps even more likely to help, pick another appealing color or combination and accent it liberally with lustre dust, as Cafe Pouchkine does with many of their pieces – example: Café Pouchkine’s Caramel-Chocolat Macaron. Of course, no matter what, keep the same raw sugar granules on the shell, as those are part of the magic of these macarons.
Réglisse is also just not the most popular flavor to begin with, so can we sex-up the name? What about “Pure Réglisse” or “Réglisse à l’Ancienne” as the French name and “Traditional French Licorice” as the English translation on the tag? Tourists love nothing more than “authentic”, “traditional” and “ancient” things, especially when it comes to France and Paris. That approach alone could make any macaron flavor the hot seller.
As for you, my dear readers, I need you to do me a favor – but one that benefits not only me, but you and all of humanity. When you visit Un Dimanche à Paris, please please please ask if they have the Macaron Réglisse. If your French is not the best and it feels funny to say “réglisse”, just request the “black licorice macarons”. If you truly love réglisse and would be willing to buy a full box of them, express your sadness that you cannot do so. Should you happen to know anyone heading to Paris soon – someone who loves black licorice – pass this page along to them and encourage them to swing by Un Dimanche and badger the staff for a Macaron Réglisse.
And, if by chance Un Dimanche brings these back soon, make sure to buy at least one – if not a dozen – of them. Yes, they have quite a few amazing macarons there, but aside from the equally amazing coquelicot, it’s this réglisse that will truly blow your mind.
So, yes, absolutely snag the Macaron Réglisse … once they come back. Until they return, request them every single time you visit the shop. Even if you don’t like réglisse, these are one of the few confections that could change your mind. And if you already enjoy the flavor, I’m 99% certain these will thoroughly wow you. They are transcendent.