One word, thousands upon thousands of calories: dessert.
I’ve seen most of what needs to be seen in Paris and while everything was beautiful, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to see them again (with the exception of Versailles, but that deserves a post of its own). But the same cannot be said about the wondrous, sweet, buttery bounty offered by the City of Lights and the bastions of pastry and dessert perfection: Laduree, Pierre Hermé and Berthillion.
It’s been said that fifteen thousand of Laduree’s macarons are sold every day. Judging from the number of people walking the streets of Paris with those elegant celadon paper bags, I would say that figure sounds just about right. And, yes, while the main draw would of course be the sweets, the sinful confections are by no means the only reasons to make the pilgrimage to their stores on Champs Elysees, Rue Royale and Rue Bonaparte.
The stores are just pretty from the outside, with the gold and celadon arcs and display windows with piles and pyramids of macarons.
Inside, a sort of hush falls on you (parang bawal mag-ingay) and the beautifully-lit pastry counter draws your attention and holds on to it, until you need to make the agonizing decision between a milk or bitter chocolate macaron.And of course, the place smelling of fresh-baked goodness doesn’t hurt as well.
But enough boring talk about display cases and smells. Let’s move on to the pièce de résistance, shall we? While I don’t really buy into hype (Nicholas Sparks, Twilight, K-Pop), I am happy to report that Laduree’s macarons deserve every single bit of sugar-addled praise they get.
First of all, look at them. How pretty are they? They come in the loveliest pastel colors, the brightest of yellows and the deepest browns and almost-blacks. And, as if they don’t look good enough on their own, you could choose to get them in the prettiest of boxes. And I mean PRETTY. Mine was pink with silver embossed trim, but it was almost as hard to choose a box as it was to choose flavors (check out the boxes here). The macarons, cradled in the tissue paper in the pink Napoléon box look almost too good to eat. Almost.
The texture of the cookies is the perfect balance between chewy, crispy and soft. It’s sturdy enough that it doesn’t collapse when you sink your teeth into it but it’s delicate, too, in that you have handle them with that little bit of care. And the fillings, oh, the fillings. While all of them were great, the standouts for me would be the Lemon, the Raspberry and the Bitter Chocolate. Why I only bought six to try is beyond me. Hence, the need to come back to discover the pleasures of Caramel with Salted Butter (aka: my biggest Laduree regret), Praline, Red Fruits, Chestnuts, Amande, Orange Blossom and all the other brightly colored rounds of heaven.
But a girl can’t just live on macarons, no? And fortunately, Laduree offers a girl other delicious options: Tarts, Eclairs, Croissants, Religieuses, St. Honoré cakes, L’Isaphans, Millefeuilles, each confection probably more fattening (and difficult to pronounce) than the last.
And, as with the macarons, all the pastries are a sight to behold. All of them perfectly glazed, iced and adorned. And the wonderful part is, in contrast to the rigid beauty of a fondant cake, despite all their decoration all Laduree’s (and perhaps all French) pastries look like they’re begging to be bought and enjoyed. And who am I to deny them their request?
I shall be back, my dears, and I shall have you all.
Next post: Laduree’s rival and Blair Waldorf’s favorite Pierre Hermé
Photo credits: Laduree exterior and interior pics from isabelsbayani.tumblr.com (thanks, Tin!); pastry display picture from paulamaack.com