Monday, November 30, 2009

November Tour: Rue Montorgueil’s Embarrassment of Rich-Riches

I don’t mean to boast, but I chose my neighborhood well. At the one end of rue Montorgueil, you have Deliziefollie. At the other, Eric Kayser. And in between, it’s a sheer embarrassment of riches.

Let’s start with Deliziefollie (7 rue Montorgueil), the Italian gelateria. They have dozens of decadent flavors to ogle, from the savory (hazelnut) to the spicy (cinnamon); from fruity (mango) to boozy (rum raisin) to just plain sweet (strawberries and cream). And if a frozen dessert on an autumn day doesn’t cut it, you can get a piping hot Nutella crepe from their stand out front.

Just a couple doors up, Charles Chocolatier (15 rue Montorgueil) is a heavenly oasis of artisinal treats. The long-standing chocolate shop (since 1910) offers lovely dark chocolate bonbons and tablettes, plus killer hot cocoa.

Does Stohrer (51 rue Montorgueil) have the best chocolate éclair in the city? Despite the obscene number of times I’ve been in this gorgeous little patisserie—a historic gem, founded in 1730 by King Louis XV’s pastry chef, Nicolas Stohrer—I still haven’t tried one. Although Stohrer has received city’s best honors from Le Figaro, I can’t seem to get beyond the puits d’amour, tartelette aux figues or Neptune cake, which is like a giant Rocher chocolate.

I know Paul (63 rue Montorgueil) is a chain, and I can be a world-class snob when it comes to chains. But besides their heavenly baguettes, Paul makes a perfect pit-stop for pain au chocolat, tartes aux citrons and those pepito loafs that are chock full of chocolate chips and sweet pastry cream.

My love for dried pineapple is no secret. Nor should it be a surprise that A la Mere de Famille (82 rue Montorgueil) is my supplier. Beyond their luscious bins of dried fruit is a cute little store filled with caramels, marzipan, lollis, marshmallows and chocolates.

My incredibly rich mocha birthday cake this year came from Maison Collett (100 rue Montorgueil) so I have a soft spot for this patisserie.

Despite having all these delicious options, I will often walk by them to get to Eric Kayser. Another master breadmaker, Kayser also knows his sweets. With goodies like the chocolaty Opera cake, beautiful raspberry pistachio cake, and strawberry bressane—a round, flat pastry topped with cream, sugar and berries, from the Bresse area of the Rhône-Alpes—wouldn’t you?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nante's candy bins

Not only did I try the caramel kouignette from Larnicol in Nantes, but I went back twice to load up on the chocolate bonbons by the kilo.

How could I not, with such a bright and tempting selection?

Dried pears dipped in milk chocolate? Praliné, inside dark chocolate, inside a crispy candy shell?

Technicolor macarons in flavors of the rainbow?

It's no wonder that I went straight into one of my mini sugar detox programs after my weekend getaway.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The great Breton kouign amann

There are two desserts that I’m sort of obsessed with, though I rarely eat them: upside down cake and bread pudding.

I like them both for different reasons. But I guess what they share in common is that heaviness and density that means your belly is going to be nice and bloated, along with a gooey stickiness that I find absolutely irresistible.

So it’s been with excitement and envy that I’ve been stumbling upon great reading and recipes for all things sticky and sweet lately.

First, there were the posts by Dorie Greenspan and David Leibovitz (can I please have their lives??) about kouign amann. No, this pastry/cake (depending how you want to look at it) is neither upside down nor a pudding. But it has same gooeyness that covers your tongue and sticks to your teeth and the same heft that feels like a happy bullet in your gut. All kouign amann is is pastry dough, baked with copious amounts of butter and sugar so that the butter and sugar do their chemical magic and caramelize and congeal and make it sweet and sticky.

I tried my first kouign amann in Nantes last month (the pastry originates in Brittany). Actually, it was a mini version called a kouignette. This candy store where I got it had all kinds of flavors from chocolate to apple, coconut to caramel. As I had anticipated and hoped, it was sugary, sweet and sticky. But sadly, it lacked the omigod factor.

What I’m looking for is something like Molly Killeen’s St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake that Melissa Clark wrote about last week. “A treacly mix of corn syrup, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla”?? Yes, please! Or this week’s Minimalist ode to a maple pear upside down cake: “Then pour this syrup over the cake, making it tender, sweet and gooey.” It’s almost enough to make you forsake the macarons and pains aux raisins. Almost. But not quite.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Prelude to a birthday cake

Rich mocha cake from rue Montorgueil’s Masion Colett. Potent and fudgy, but oh-so refined, just a little sliver was all that was necessary to sate my wicked sweet tooth.

100, rue Montorgueil