They called it Nutella butter. It was more like Nutella bologna. But when Ben and I ordered the Stuffed French Toast at the Four Seasons, we were quite sure it was going to be delicious, no matter what the menu read.
At $24 a plate, it's decadent in more ways than one. Some might say, not worth it. But the texture of that Nutella butter-bologna has been haunting me ever since...
Say the word "praluline" (pray-looo-lean) to someone, and they'll think you're doing tongue exercises. Say it to any one of the hundreds of people who buy the beautiful brioche every day, and they will swoon. Much like I have ever since this specialty made by the chocolatier Pralus became the object of my obsession a couple years ago.
It was over 50 years ago that the first soft, buttery pastries chockfull of house-made, rose sugar-coated Valencia almonds and Piedmont hazelnuts were created. It is squishy and crunchy, savory and sweet, a beautiful little bomb of flavors and textures that is irresistible and unique. Each time I visit Paris, I look forward to devouring one. This is a problem as "one" could easily feed four. So I was going to let it slide this past visit, having sampled plenty of breakfast pastries and Parisian cakes. But wouldn't you know: Pralus opened a second boutique in the city, on rue Cler. Just a lovely stroll from the apartment where I was staying.
Needless to say, I needed no further excuse or prompting. I bought myself a six-euro, soul-satisfying treat on my last day. Took home the carefully wrapped present.
Sliced into it.
And sighed at the utter perfection of eating a praluline in Paris.
It is said that Philippe Conticini makes the best Paris-Brest in Paris. Indeed, a visit to La Patisserie des Reves reveals a master has been at work.
But what about Jacques Genin? His Brests are nothing to sneeze at.
It was essential to plunge into this delicious debate. A Paris-Brest is a rare treat. I've had only a handful in my life. Having two in one week was pure hedonism. Conticini's creation is six petite pieces of choux pastry strong together like an exquisite necklace of pearls. Except inside each puff is a thick and rich, decadent crème pralinèe. In other words: heaven.
Jacques Genin takes a little more liberty with his crème pralinèe (for some, bigger is better, n'est-ce pas?) His pastry is a more traditional ring, dusted with hazelnuts.
Everyone has their own preferences and predilections. I would go for either man's brest. Conticini's is compact, refined, densely powerful. Genin's is light and airy, over the top wonderful. Both are wonderful specimens.
I’ve been to the Chocolate Show in
past years. In Paris, it was chocolate heaven. My memory of New York—a good 6-7
years ago—is one of mayhem. Crazy crowds. But my visit today, the first of the
three-day expo, was blissfully jostle-free.So I got to ogle lots of chocolate.
And say hello to Rhonda of Roni-Sue, who has added new flavors to her luscious cocktail collection.
Overall, there were no huge surprises
in the innovation department. There are definitely a lot of caramel options out
there. And boozy truffles. And peanut butter and, of course, bacon are as
popular as ever.
When you go this weekend (it’s Saturday
and Sunday at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street), be sure to bring
coats to donate—the Show has partnered with New York Cares to help support the coat driveto
help Hurricane Sandy victims.
When two fellow Sweet Freaks invite you to meet for a pastry
breakfast at which the talented pastry chef will be present, what do you do?
Needless to say, I was all too thrilled to join Niko and
Kathy recently for a casual breakfast at Cookshop, at which Chef Amanda Cook
talked to us about the development of the restaurant’s breakfast and pastry
services. Since April, they’ve been serving up fresh baked muffins, scones, cakes
and other pastries—including the most divine pain au chocolat I’ve had since Paris.
Much more chocolaty than anything you’d find là-bas, but
with about the same amount of butter (that is, a lot), it was nothing short of heavenly.
And Chef Cook graciously offered to start serving them with Kleenex as I told
her it made me want to weep.
On the American front, she’s just as adept. A butternut
squash chocolate chip muffin?? Genius.
Deliciously moist and spongy, it’s her favorite baked good
with good reason.
And though I too loved it, and the blueberry muffin and Have
a Nice Day muffin...
... I was especially crazy for the cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies that are gritty with sugar and butter
and wonderfully laden with boulders of chocolate. And the peanut butter cookies: also magically moist, both
savory and sugary.
The daily offerings, which come out of the oven right before
the restaurant opens at 7:30 and are served supremely fresh until 11, change
daily. So I think Niko, Kathy and I are going to have to return to sample some