Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Royal Tastes

My high regard for the chocolate éclair.

Springtime in New York. It may not be Paris in April, but with the lilac blossoms and endless twilights, who’s complaining? Besides, we have un peu de Paris on the Upper East Side with Payard pastries.

Though Francois Payard’s lovely Lexington Avenue patisserie features a dining room with top-notch lunch, dinner and high tea menus, the bustling upfront café is more suitable for the quick sugar fix. A half dozen tables are nestled between curved glass display cases of French chocolates and desserts. So stake your territory amongst the European tourists and neighborhood families, and quit counting calories already.

Some pretty confectionary creations that evoke the Right Bank include The Opera, a rectangular three-layer almond cake with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache, and the St. Honore, a vanilla cream puff topped with whipped cream and caramel. But what of the chocolate éclair? You’ll find Payard's is divine (but, of course!)—if you get one before they sell out.

The éclairs are chilled in the display cases, but they’re better at room temperature (an excuse to indulge in another dessert first?). The crispy pastry shell envelops a stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, chocolaty cream center, and is topped with dark chocolate icing. Go against your American tendencies of eating the éclair with your fingers, and use a fork and knife. Otherwise, along with self-respect, you risk losing some of the to-die-for pastry filling in your lap.

1032 Lexington Avenue

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