The last Paris food post

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to La Grand Épicerie (thanks for the tip, Divasoria!) an authentic crêpe or a ridiculously sinful dessert. So, I tackle all three in my last Paris food post *sigh!*

Really, anyone who loves food should visit La Grand Épicerie, even if just to look. Because it the place is a shrine to all things delicious. It’s a place to buy food, sure, but a mere supermarket it is not. Aisle upon aisle of the best of the world’s food, glass cases filled with all types of cured meats you can imagine (I counted 4 or 5 types of jamon iberico alone), a prepared foods section that will give you decision fatigue, a boulangerie and an aisle devoted only to salt. Yes. To salt. That’s how serious they are about their food. And that’s why I love it there. (I wish I had more pictures, but this and my previous pastry display case shot were the only shots I dared to take, since photos are technically not allowed.)

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Regular salt, pink salt, Spanish sea salt, Greek sea salt, French sea salt...

My mom and I were just supposed to make a quick stop to grab lunch while waiting for Chapelle Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse next door to reopen for the afternoon. I wandered around the store aimlessly ogling at the food so long that my mom had to give me THE look for me to remember that I was there to BUY food, not to just look at it. So we bought a baguette, some lomo iberico, some macarons (duh) and this salad:

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We had to eat on the sidewalk (we had to ditch my original plan to go to a nearby park because of the rain), but this was still one of my favorite meals in Paris. Seriously. Simple but really, really delicious. The lomo in particular, was very good, I wanted to smuggle it back into Manila.

Another must-eat in Paris would be, of course, crêpes. And Crêperie Bretonne, along with Crêpes du Josselin were highly recommended. We ended up in the former because the main Josselin was closed.

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Crêperie Bretonne. So cute, no?

I had a mushroom, ham, cheese and egg crêpe which was OK, but quite frankly nothing to write home about. I suppose the authentic buckwheat crêpe takes some getting used to. I preferred my mom’s crêpe of ham, cheese and tomatoes because I think the flavor of the tomatoes balances out the earthiness of the buckwheat.

What IS worth writing about, though, is this:

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Surprise, surprise, it has caramel.

Dessert was a crêpe with caramel and salted butter with an added scoop of vanilla ice cream (obviously my motto during this trip was “go big or go home”). I know it doesn’t look like much, since the caramel looks like it was carelessly drizzled on the crêpe, and it was. The waiter who was preparing it actually drizzled some caramel on his coworker’s shoes (such a waste of perfectly delicious caramel). But don’t let the mess fool you. It was delicious.

The crêpe, as you can see from the outline of the plate underneath it, is super thin. The result of this is that the edges get a little toasted and crispy, while the middle still stays soft and delicate. And while my waistline will not thank me for it, it was the right move to order the ice cream with it, since with it you get that wonderful warm-and-cold contrast with the freshly cooked crêpe. Also, even in all its salted glory, the syrupy caramel with just the crêpe would’ve been just too much, so the vanilla ice cream provides that balance. And I’m telling the truth here, not just trying to justify that scoop of ice cream. Hehe.

And finally, the other standout dessert from my trip (outside of chocolates and macarons, of course) is this:

The Ladurée Le Saint-Honoré Classique

Basically, it’s a mini-tower of mini-cream puffs on a caramelized-sugar-topped flaked pastry base, finished off with whipped cream.  No further explanation needed, really. How can that not be good?

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And so it ends. I’ve written the about all the food I’ve had that was worth writing about. And now I’m left a little sad and a little hungry, too (naturally). But more than anything, I’m even more determined to go back to Paris and try more of what the city has to offer, as I’ve barely scratched the surface. Plus, I still haven’t even had these. So yeah, I’m definitely coming back. Waistline be damned.

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My trip in Instagram/iPhone

I think I’ve been converted. I used to own a Blackberry but switched to an iPhone when I lost my Bold. And I’m loving it.

One of the biggest surprises about the iPhone was its camera. I used it during my trip when my camera battery conked out or when I left my memory card in my laptop (stupid, I know). It’s pretty good, no, considering it’s a phone camera? And one of the photos that convinced me that it was a good camera was this:

From the garden at the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux, France (where St. Therese’s remains lay): the Million Flower (that’s what I was told it was called), uh, flower. It was one of those days (yes, it happened more than once) when I left my memory card in my computer. But the flowers in the garden were so pretty, I had to take photos. And these flowers and this photo are my favorite of the lot. I was really surprised how the iPhone camera captured the detail: the veins on the leaves, the teeny-tiny blossoms and the even tinier specks on the bigger flowers. The photo’s so good, it doesn’t look like it was taken from real life.

And here’s another photo of other flowers in the same garden. I love the contrast of the bright yellow against the deep fuchsia:

And although I know some real artists and photography enthusiasts scoff at the app Instagram, I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s real easy to use and is a great help for those of us who want to tinker with the look and feel of our photos but don’t have the time/money/skill/patience to take photos on film or edit digital ones themselves.

And here are some of my favorite Instagram photos from my trip:

The macaron display case at the la Grande Épicerie. I had to take this stolen shot with my iPhone because photos aren’t allowed inside the store.

And the same is true with this shot:

Another stolen shot of another pastry case, this time, Ladurée at Rue Royale.

I didn’t just take prohibited photos of sugary things, of course. I also took photos of the touristy stuff from my iPhone, including one of my favorite photos from my trip:

And proof that throwing a coin into it works:

I threw a 5-peso coin into the Trevi Fountain the first time I was in Rome. And ta-da! I got to go back. But I forgot to throw another one in this time around. Oooops.

Obviously I had fun with my iPhone and tinkering with Instagram during my trip. Instagram, I think, is great way to sort of have a different version a memory of a moment or place , to give a photo a feel that an un-Instagrammed photo can’t capture.

And besides, when the photos are as yummy-looking as this one, don’t you want as many versions of it as possible?

PS: You can follow me on Instagram: tightsarntpants.

PPS: You can see more of the photos from my trip by clicking on the link to my Flickr account, which could be found on the right sidebar.

The Ultimate Macaron Taste-off, Pt 3

I’ve saved the best for last. It’s my favorite flavor of them all: caramel. Not just any caramel, though, but Caramel au beurre salé. Caramel with salted butter. The contrast of salty and sweet… gaaaaaaaaaah… I don’t even know how to describe it and do it justice. But it is seriously one of the best flavor combinations in the world.

But which among the Parisian patisseries makes the caramel macaron I’m willing to travel across Paris for? Scratch that, a macaron I’m willing to travel across the WORLD for. Who made the macaron I took home from Paris to Manila, whose filling I unashamedly licked off the box? Not directly of course, I used my finger.

From top to bottom: La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée, La Maison du Chocolat and Pierre Hermé

Is this what heaven is made of? I sure hope so.

Well, not La Grande Épicerie’s. Their caramel macaron was the most disappointing of the lot. The filling was thin and runny, the flavor of which was overpowered by the cookie, which was just too sweet.

No such problems with Ladurée’s macaron, though. The opposite of thin and runny, their filling was the closest to traditional caramel: gooey, thick and sticky. I mean, look at the photo. And it tastes the closest to traditional caramel, too. Sweet and almost syrupy, but not overly so, as the French abhor anything that is saccharine-sweet. The sweet is balanced out by a hint of saltiness, but for me, not enough of it. I need more of that contrast, a heavier hand with the salt for this particular macaron to take me to gastronomic heaven. So while this macaron is a VERY good caramel macaron, it’s just not a good enough caramel AND salted butter macaron. Especially when compared to the last two on the list: Pierre Hermé and La Maison du Chocolat.

I know I said that caramel and salted butter is one of the best flavor combinations in the world. Well, La Maison du Chocolat, the same people behind my beloved Rigoletto chocolate, thought they could make it even more drool-worthy by adding another layer of flavor: bitter chocolate. And they were right. So, so, so, soooooooo right.  And unlike their vanilla-chocolate macaron, where the chocolate took the limelight from vanilla, the caramel and salted butter is still the star of the show in the Rigoletto macaron. Apart from the color of the filling, I wouldn’t have immediately guessed that it was chocolate that gave the filling that subtle hint of bitterness. If I didn’t know, I would’ve thought that they took the caramel to almost burning point, but the quality of the bitterness was different. Deep and smooth, not sharp and jarring. Bitter, sweet, and salty all complementing each other. *droooooooool* Chocolate DOES make everything better.

But as much as I would like to go on and on an on about La Maison du Chocolat (I kinda did already), there’s still one more macaron left standing: Pierre Hermé’s Infinement Caramel. And Mr. Hermé  doesn’t need the help of chocolate to make a fantastic  caramel au beurre salé macaron. With the texture of whipped butter, the filling of this macaron is absolute perfection. There’s not one thing about it I would think to change. The sweetness is just right, the saltiness is right on the money and there’s a slight creaminess to it all that I think comes from the butter. And, as with most of PH’s macarons, the filling is laid on THICK (I mean, look at that bottom macaron!), a fact that we should all be thankful for everyday.

And so who wins it? Who makes the ultimate  macaron? It was tough to choose, I even ate extra macarons to come to the decision, but in the end, I couldn’t. Pierre Hermé and La Maison du Chocolat tie for the best caramel au beurre salé in Paris.

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And so it ends, my very serious, very scientific search for the best macarons in Paris. But there will always be more patisseries and chocolatiers who will make more and more of these delicious little buttons for me to try and compare with the others. Hopefully, I’ll make it back to Paris to try them all (well, not all…).

But if I don’t,  Pierre Hermé, La Maison du Chocolat and Ladurée are only just a short flight away in Tokyo.

The Ultimate Macaron Taste-off, Pt. 1

And, finally, I’ve been able to do it. After battling with a cold (and an impaired sense of taste) during the first few days and getting in some preliminary taste tests (it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it), it’s done. I’ve found the best macarons in Paris.

Well, ok. I need to qualify this a little bit. As much as I would’ve loved to try every single macaron in the city and compare them all with each other, that’s obviously impossible. Every single patisserie worth mentioning, even your friendly neighborhood one, even McCafe for crying out loud, offers macarons. I’d have to spend a year in Paris, hundreds of Euros and thousands on dental care if I wanted to do that. So I’ve narrowed the sources down to four places: Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, La Grande Épicerie and La Maison du Chocolat. The last one wasn’t supposed to be in my original plan, but after sampling their macarons earlier this week, I realized it would be a travesty to not to give its caramel one a chance, hence the inclusion.

Also, I didn’t buy and try every single flavor each place offered. To be able to compare them to one another, of course I had to pick the same flavors across the stores, so my choices skewed towards the staples: Pistachio, chocolate, etc. I also have ruled out certain flavors I didn’t like (PH’s Vanilla and Olive Oil) or knew didn’t stand a chance (La Maison’s chocolate) or wasn’t adventurous enough to try (anything flower-based, licorice, etc.).

I bought them all the same day, all within about an hour of each other, so no one had a freshness advantage over the other. As you can see, I took all this very seriously. As I should, because we’re talking about roll-your-eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head-delicious here, people.

And so, here goes. Part one of my search for the best macarons in Paris, where I tackle the flavors Pistachio, Lemon and Coffee.

Pistachio: from L-R: Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, La Grande Épicerie


Right off the bat, I found Pierre Hermé’s too sweet. Too much vanilla, I think. If I tasted it with my eyes closed, not knowing what it was, I probably wouldn’t guess pistachio right away.

So just like that, it’s down to Ladurée and LGE (that name is just too long). Ladurée’s macaron filling was light and fluffy and had the most aromatic, essence-of-Pistachio (sorry, I can’t find a better way of describing it) flavor among the three. LGE’s, on the other hand, has a milder flavor, but is still very much Pistachio. Its filling is a little on the oily side though, which is never a good thing. Overall, though, I found the aftertaste of Ladurée’s a tiny bit too… pistacho-ey. I know that that’s probably the wrong thing to complain about, but it was just a smidgen too much for me. And so the winner of the Pistachio round is La Grande Épicerie.

Lemon: from L-R: Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, La Grande Épicerie (although their macaron is officially Kalamansi and Tahitian Vanilla)

Knowing Pierre Hermé’s penchant for strong, bold flavors, his Citron macaron comes as a disappointment. It’s relatively weak, compared to the hard-core lemony-ness of Ladurée and LGE’s. I honestly expected more from Mr. Hermé. But enough about the disappointing ones, let’s get on to the two remaining contenders, shall we? LGE’s combination of our very own Kalamansi (actually, I didn’t ask if it was the same kind, but I’m assuming it is) and vanilla was surprisingly good. The vanilla doesn’t overwhelm the citrus flavor at all, the Kalamansi is still center stage with this one. I guess the vanilla was added in there to balance out the bitterness that Kalamansi can have sometimes. But for sheer concentration of tart, lemon-y goodness, I’d have to give it to Ladurée. Their lemon macaron is just that. Lemon. No frills, just pure and straightforward (almost over-the-top, even) LEMOOOON. And you can’t really ask for more than that in a lemon macaron.

Coffee: from top to bottom: La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée, Pierre Hermé

I’m a wuss when it comes to the flavor of actual coffee for drinking, but when it comes to coffee- flavored food (ice cream, cake, candy, etc.) the stronger, the better. And that is why this particular flavor was an easy one to decide on for me. I just had to pick what was the strongest-tasting of them all: Pierre Hermé. The other two, particularly Ladurée, might as well have been made from instant coffee compared to PH’s.

And so at the end of part one of my taste-off, La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé all win one flavor each. But lemon, pistachio and coffee are not the macaron flavors that will make or break a patisserie. In my opinion, the measure of how good a macaron-maker a bakery is are its vanilla, chocolate and caramel macarons, all of which I’ll tackle in part two of my taste-off.

In the meantime, whose other macarons should I have included in my very scientific and serious study? Let me know in the comments!