If Laduree is the grand dame of the Parisian pastry scene, then Pierre Hermé would be the new bad boy on the block, the Marc Jacobs to Laduree’s Coco Chanel. Where Laduree’s tea salons have a rich, old-world feel, Pierre Hermé’s Rue de Vaugirard store has an almost hospital-feel to it, with immaculate, gleaming white surfaces. At PH, there’s a self-service Bread Talk-type section, while at Laduree even the pastry boxes are behind glass. Pierre Hermé’s approach to pastries could not be more different, but, boy, that doesn’t make the treats any less delicious.
The famous Mogador, with the chocolate and passion fruit filling, is the standout I would buy by the dozen. Because I generally don’t care for passion fruit, I was skeptical when I read all the blogs saying this was the best flavor. But one bite into its spotted bright yellow cookie and I was a convert. I’m definitely buying more than one (Four? Six? A dozen?) on my next visit.
Despite the gorgeous Mogador, however, I have to say that I am a Laduree girl. I guess my palate is not sophisticated enough to appreciate olive oil and an actual olive in the middle of my vanilla macaron.
So if I prefer Laduree, then why the heck am I even writing about Pierre Hermé? Because Monsieur Hermé is not just about the macarons. If having a vegetable (or is an olive a fruit?) inside your dessert is not your thing, PH thankfully offers other veggie-free alternatives.
One such alternative is the Tarte Ifiniment Vanille. Loosely translated: Infinitely Vanilla Tart. And when the French say “infinitely”, they sure mean it. You can actually see the teeny-tiny vanilla pod seeds in the filling. I’ve never seen this high a concentration of the seeds, Häagen-Dazs should be ashamed of what they call “vanilla” ice cream.
The tart filling is pure vanilla goodness without being too sweet or ice cream-y. I’m not a vanilla fan, but I liked this. As I’m a sucker for coffee and anything lemon-y, I can only dream of what the Tarte Infiniment Café and the Tarte Citron Au Citron will be like. Infinitely Coffee and Lemon and Lemon, so full of citrusy goodness that they had to say “Lemon” again. Mmmmmmm…
Oh, and so the regrets begin.
But while I am hitting myself on the head for not buying the other two tarts (my hips and waistline are thanking me, though), nothing, and I mean NOTHING can compare to my heartache for not getting to Rue de Vaugirard the first thing in the morning (dutiful daughter that I was, I was running around the city looking for a cellar to buy wine for my dad. Not an easy feat on a Sunday in Paris).
You see, my holy grail of all Parisian desserts is this: the Pain Au Chocolat et Gianduja (cue angels singing). I’ve never met a Pain Au Chocolat I didn’t like, and Pierre Hermé’s, according to all my pastry research, is one of the best, if not THE best in Paris. And that’s saying A LOT in the capital of this croissant-crazy country. These pockets of buttery, layered goodness are so good, the store runs out of them within the first two hours of opening. I was at the store in the afternoon, and when I asked if there were any more, the vendeuse answered me nicely, but I kind of get that in her head, she was probably thinking “Are you kidding?”
No I wasn’t. What I was was heartbroken.
So, this is why I am going back. Paris may be the most beautiful and romantic city in the world, but it is the perfect combination of flour, butter and chocolate into a perfect little pocket of flaky heaven that is going to bring me back.
And I’ll be there, 10 in the morning, opening time.
Pain Au Chocolat et Gianduja photo from pierreherme.com