J’ai les goûts les plus simples du monde, je me contente du meilleur
I have the simplest taste in the world, I am satisfied with the best
He was so close to the truth, so close to the secret way to live life – at least in Paris, that is, when in search of the ultimate in pastry glory and the taste to make your mouth water a thousand lifetimes.
My gastronomic tour of Paris Patisseries began my very first day in Paris as I took that initial glorious bight into a warm, flaky buttery croissant from a local boulangerie.
It was that captivating bite which sent me on a rollercoaster like journey through dessert brilliance and boredom, satisfaction and disappointment.
Corner family run patisseries and world famous institutions, I have been to them all, and tasted both their gourmet glory and their frustrating fiascos.
Sometimes the random cravings lead to the best possible rewards – unforgettable pastries to make even the sceptical cry from pure sugary bliss.
More often though, rather than random brilliance, our journey took the form of planned outings with clear goals, touring the city sometimes visiting up to three patisseries in just one afternoon.
All the walking from arrondissement to arrondissement across all of Paris you would hope that we began working off the tip of the mountain of calories we were ingesting, and not too infrequently the mention of prophylactic Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering agent, was rightfully brought up by those of us with concerns for our health.
Everything in moderation should be enjoyed, as my incredible grandmother would have said, and although we tried to listen to her trusted advice we may have passed the point of excess more than a handful of times.
My partners in these rapturous crimes of gluttony, most often other pastry and cuisine students, but on the rare occasion it would be family or friends visiting from overseas.
Joined by these fellow intrepid travellers, together we discovered and tested our might against these strongholds of French Pastry gold.
Name it, we have ventured into the famed tourist traps and also the local hidden treasure troves, and so I am here to be your guide to my Grand Tour de Goût.
And so, welcome to the new age of Le Cooking Bible, moving on from my education to a new focus – hunting and gathering. The pleasurable spotlight of efforts, gastronomic research and development, all for the purpose of growing and learning even more, so that eventually I can make even my wildest pastry dreams a reality.
By now I have completed 8 months of work and study in the field of French Pastry, graduating from both Le Cordon Bleu and Ecole Ritz Escoffier as well as completing my internship in the Pastry kitchens of the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
Now visiting patisseries has taken on a completely new dimension. I have training and knowledge from school and insight and experience from the pastry kitchen.
I’m developing a new way of thinking and appreciating the business, products and service of the patisserie industry.
I can already tell you in good conscience what is in store for me – months of gorging myself and encouraging others, just one more cake, another viennoiserie, all in the name of research. I couldn’t help myself, my time was limited, and in this city of gold, I too must make sacrifices for the greater good.
So take care as I share some of my greatest finds, take heed, catch your breath and just imagine the possibilities.
Welcome to the Gastronomic Milestones of Le Grand Tour de Goût!
In the far far away land of dreary old England, an expeditious and intrepid art and design major left her high powered job to pursue her passion for pastry in Paris.
Like me she attended the famed bastion of Le Cordon Bleu Paris only she has managed to fashion her way into a very bright and promising future.
A mere four years after completing Pastry school she is capturing hearts and minds, as well as businesses, across the world with her creativity and design instincts paired perfectly with her sense of taste and cooking skills.
Describing herself as a Food Creative she is that and so much more.
But as I find myself walking towards her tiny apartment for lunch one Wednesday afternoon after months of trying to secure a booking in her unique lunchtime locale I am simply excited and it didn’t take long for my expectations to be exceeded.
Rachel Khoo Rocks – some people just have the great ideas, the skills to pull them off, and the personality that sets them far apart from the rest.
Rachel has all that and more … Guts -and not just in regards to bravery but the inner sense that guides her and makes things work.
I was so lucky to secure a spot at her tiny apartment come invite only restaurant, sharing with another lucky someone a table for three with Rachel Khoo herself – who had lovingly prepared a three course meal for us. Working on her new cookbook she was in need of test subjects and I will always willingly volunteer.
It is a brilliant venture to obtain live and practical feedback, meet new people and make people exceedingly happy whilst drumming up huge amount of buzz and word of mouth – the best type of advertising.
First off, a moreish Autumn Salad with lardon, figs, fresh chestnuts, walnuts and beetroot to tempt even the saddest tastebuds into a celebration.
Second on the line freshly oven roasted Coq au Vin with roasted vegetables and beans to make your heart smile.
Sitting at the small table in her lounge/bedroom/office the day seemed to speed by as we enjoyed mouthfuls of delicious food and the most fascinating conversations not only about food but all the world has to offer.
And finally a long pepper crème brulee with raspberries the perfect way to end an amazing meal.
This city seems to attract these unique individuals here to live the life in this fabled city. Watching her at work in the kitchen was such a pleasure. Using all fresh organic produce, together with a technical eye, the flavours were perfect.
But like everything, even good things must come to an end, and the busy Rachel had literally a mountain of tasks to get done before yet another project in her busy schedule and I hope it stays that way as a measure of her ever evolving success.
I personally can’t wait till one day I receive a special present in the mail post-marked PARIS – a signed copy of her latest cookbook!
Rachel Khoo’s Links:
The Little Paris Kitchen
Her Consulting and Food Styling Business
Let the name say it all – SMOKING HOT DUCK!
Here is a little sneak peak at what I made for myself for dinner last night – one of the best things I have ever eaten and I made it in a tiny terrifying excuse for a kitchen!! (No offense intended to the feelings of my eighty centimetre wide kitchen nook slash cupboard slash sink slash no oven slash old electric hotplate)
Smoked Duck Breast Salad served on Crisp Breads
(Mesculun and Rocket salad with golden shallots, granny smith apple, sour cherries, and roasted hazelnuts served with a luscious sour cherry vinaigrette)
There is no doubt that I have a deep seated weakness for duck, I too often order it if it is on a restaurant’s menu, and when I think of my favourite meals it is often involving the juicy flavourful duck meat and crisp skin.
Whether it be Chinese style Peking Duck, or a Whole Roast Duck, or French Duck á L’Orange or modern interpretations there can be nothing better – well since my experience at Laduree I have a new style to add to my insatiable appetite for duck – thinly sliced Smoked Duck Breast.
I have since had grand plans of buying the equipment required to properly smoke your own meats and fishes at home, but this will have to wait for now, and so I went to my local distributor of duck products – yes in Paris there are shops entirely devoted to the glory of duck related gourmet food products – only in France!
I walked past the rows of every type of foie gras imaginable, and headed straight for the fridge where I was faced by not one but three different types of sliced duck breast and found my holy grail of a sealed packet of artisanal smoked duck breast and so the beginning of a long night of cooking and taste testing began.
I didn’t stop at one dish, no, how could I, I thought of how it could be presented at a more casual gastro pub or café, and also came up with ways to make it into cool canapés.
The funniest thing was that I recorded my findings as if it was a scientific experiment – jotting down notes of each preparation and step. (these are unadulterated except the last comment)
Fine brunoise two shallots, and one large granny smith tart crunchy apple, fine dice of cerise griotte (morello cherries).
EVOO, syrup de griotte, butter, reduce. Add vinegar and lemon juice.
Use dirty pan to warm thru some cherries.
Use dirty pan plus extra oil and butter to cook mix then add a further half apple of brunoise granny smith, use other half for julienned skin on match sticks.
Roasted hazelnuts, halved, some crushed others whole for garnish, mix.
Mixed mesculun lettuce and rocket plus chervil
Mix cooled cherry, apple, shallot mix with salad leaves and the hazelnuts then add extra vinaigrette
Crisp breads made from great bread dried out then fried in olive oil and butter.
Smoked duck taken out of the packet (FOR NOW THAT IS UNTIL MY GRAND SCHEME BECOMES A REALITY AND I WILL HAVE MY OWN SMOKED DUCK!)
I don’t quite know how to describe the tastes and textures and could never really do it justice, so I will leave it to your imaginations, let us just say that I inadvertently ate everything, yes everything, enough for about 3 people to comfortably share. I also know there is a lot more work that needs to go into this dish if it were to ever make it onto any menu or be served at any dinner party but there is definite potential in this space!
There once was a tale of two sisters and a brother who each owned a restaurant in Paris. They fought and they fought until their businesses were highly successful with multiple locations throughout Paris and the world. All their successes hinged on a secret sauce and a very simple concept.
No real menu, no choice at all – you would think it was doomed to fail, how could a restaurant that provides no choice to a paying customer really be successful – well you would be incredibly wrong to discount these siblings – they absolutely rake in the profits!
L’Entrecôte is the contre-filet cut of sirloin, a cut I was completely unfamiliar with in Australia, given like everything else in France they do things slightly differently and have unique trade-marked uninfringeable names for the way that only they can produce them. Besides it’s particular naming rights, we know it better as the basis of the classical bistro meal of steak-frites which is quite literally butchered by most cafés in Paris.
I have tried desperately to keep up my red-meet intake in Paris and yet at almost every turn it has been trying very hard to disappoint me.
The meat here is nothing compared to a juicy melt in your mouth huge cut of grass fed beef from Argentina, or a wagyu beef cheek from Japan that has been massaged on a daily basis and fed beer, or a perfectly aged piece of Australian Beef fillet. More often than not it is tough, chewy, full of gristle and overly rare for even those of us that like their meat rare.
Yet there are a few hidden gems, these one’s being overtly famous and well known, which try their best to provide a real piece of meat to the cheers of the public.
Getting back to the siblings, who have each tried to stand out on their own two feet and create enviable empires, well they have done themselves very proud, been extremely successful along the way, but I can assure you they have not strayed far from their father’s footsteps. In fact, until I found out the true history of their family and the businesses I was entirely confused as to why their menus looked as if they came out of the same printer.
The formula is strict, FIRST, WAIT IN LINE FOR A VERY LONG TIME, this place is popular people and with a no-reservations policy you will usually have to wait half-an-hour to an hour on the pavement outside, but do not fear this place is a factory and moves through the tables at a rapid rate as the cash register rings in the profits.
SECOND, the waitress, always female, wearing a black uniform with a white apron, with or without a smile and friendly face, this is optional of course, will come and take your order – Bleu, Saignant, À point, Cuit, Bien Cuit. Just remember in case you don’t want your steak to have questionable origins and treatment do not at all costs order bien cuit, or well cooked, it is cardboard. In France rare, medium-rare and medium have no common meaning to what you are used to in countries other than France. Remember Bleu or blue, is quite literally blue, and cool in the centre, uncooked except for a seared crust; Saignant is what we would consider quite rare, À point is slightly more cooked than medium-rare, and the rest shall go unmentioned for they are an unmentionable curse in the kitchen. She will scrawl your order on the white paper which covers your table.
THIRD, after expediently taking your simplified food and drink orders she will masterfully bring plates of a moreish lettuce and walnut salad with a spicy Dijon vinaigrette served with baguette, and from experience I can tell you that inevitably you cannot control your bread intake as you salivate waiting for the meat.
FOURTH, your metal tray passes the table carrying the salacious secret sauce, and the meat, and the other tray literally piled high with gloriously crispy French fries, or pomme frites. It is served onto your plates with silver service spoon and fork just like the good-old-days and placed into reaching distance of your already raised cutlery.
FIFTH, you eat your steak served with that perfect, luscious, rich sauce and mounds of the most unimaginably perfect crisp potatoes and when you feel like you just cannot go on any longer, yet crave even more, both your worst nightmare and your unrequited fantasies, do in fact come true as an entire second helping is heaped in front of your greedy mouth and eyes.
SIXTH, sadly your now completely empty and wiped clean plate, yes you not so surreptitiously soaked up the last skerrick of sauce with the left over bread, is removed from the table by your waitress as you ponder if there is any room left in your engorged stomach for dessert.
SEVENTH, your dessert, if you were game enough to order one, arrives and sadly usually disappoints after your sublime meal but you finish it off anyway.
EIGHTH, you pay the bill, which although not unreasonable given the servings, you would have had no idea up until then just how much your meal would cost. Although, most of us would have eaten there way to many times not to have a vague recollection of the last bill.
NINTH, you walk away from this institution completely satisfied and having a heated discussion about which one of the competing outlets has the best pomme frites or the juiciest steak, or most importantly the most authentic sauce.
TENTH, this is of course optional, for us cuisine aficionados, otherwise known as food nerds/snobs, argue into the night about how exactly you imagine they make that miraculous sauce!
There are many theories and much conjecture behind this institutional sauce – after way too many dinners at a few incarnations of the L’Entrecôte restaurants, with a variety of friends and family, we have together come up with a pretty good idea – chicken livers, fresh thyme, cream, butter, Dijon mustard, butter and salt and pepper.
On a Sunday night when you just can’t decide where to go for dinner and you’re really hungry, you’ll know where to find me, and a large proportion of Parisian’s.
Le Relais de Venise – Porte-Maillot
271 Boulevard Pereire, Porte-Maillot
+33 1 45 74 27 97
Le Relais de L’Entrecôte – Saint Germain
20, rue Saint-Benoît
+33 1 45 49 16 00
4 Cours 30 Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux, France
+33 5 56 81 76 10
On one of those seldom days when it was actually warm, in Paris, in so called Summer, I came home exhausted from a full day in the kitchens, and having purchased one of the amazing roasted chickens from the local butcher, Boucherie Becquerel, I managed to scrape together a quick and healthy dinner.
I use this saying lightly, because as you all well know, I never really scrape things together. I do often cook quickly and simply, but always with thought into balancing the textures and flavours of the dish and tailoring it to what I feel like and to best suit the purpose of the final dish.
This dish was created to satisfy my hunger and inspire my tastebuds.
And it did all that and more – and was a complete fluke, well not really.
It was all instigated by my hoarding of spices from around the world, and a definite favourite was in dire need of usage – Ras Al Hanout, meaning “Top of the Shop” is the foundation of my favourite tagines, pastillas and cous-cous dishes from Morocco. Sometimes blending up to 50 rare spices in secret variations, it is highly aromatic, warm, spicy and sweet tones meld perfectly with the incredible cuisine of morocco.
And so I was able to take full advantage of these savoury, sweet and spicy notes of the Ras al Hanout to instantly lift my salad to incredible heights. Combining shredded roasted chicken with sweet crunchy apple, the nuttiness of toasted pinenuts, the sweetness of shallots and baby spinach, lamb’s lettuce and the pepperiness rocket made the greatest mix and fulfilled every requirement and desire.
The dressing was so simple and just ideal – lemon juice, olive oil and ras al hanout.
Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad with Apple and Ras Al Hanout
113 rue St. Antoine, 75004, Paris
Lille too, like all French cities, is populated by incredible Patisseries, and two especially famous ones have been touted to me by my family who are literally obsessed with their products.
A certain establishment that makes just 1 famous cake in three outstanding flavours, has been expressly hyped by my cousin who is intent on me recreating this specific cake and opening up a similar business based entirely on these cakes in Australia.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred began fifteen years ago in Lille and has since spread its wings to Paris as always with huge devotion from their loyal public. Their concept is simple crispy light meringue covered in tonnes of light cream and sprinkled with shavings of chocolate, flavoured with coffee, or spiced with crushed speculoos.
And so I was introduced to their three flavours over multiple occasions, firstly the original Le Merveilleux, the marvellous, a chocolate marvel, secondly L’Incroyable, the incredible, crunchy with spiced cinnamon and brown sugar speculoos and finally L’Impensable, the unthinkable, a coffee creation. I didn’t quite grasp the pinnacle and the magnetism that these three cakes hold over people, but they were incredibly tasty and texturally interesting.
Meert began creating pastries for the Flemish nobility in Lille in 1761, and since then has become one of the oldest and most celebrated French-Belgian pastry shops so much so that it was even named the official supplier to the kings of Belgium.
Meert’s fame has come at a cost, very high prices, but for many its unique version of the gaufre, a delicate waffle filled with a creamy vanilla centre has the ability to entice even the greatest sceptics. Have no doubt though, that it’s other pastries including a pistachio palmier and a sublime pain aux raisin are hard to beat. Their confiserie, patisserie and salon de thé protected behind an old style glass masterpiece are a haven filled with delicate sweets and there is always a line to follow into this must see establishment.
Finally making its way to Paris, there is now an even greater chance that you too can try their delicacies.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred – Lille
67, rue de la Monnaie, Lille
+33 3 20 51 99 59
Meert – Lille
27 rue Esquermoise, Lille
SALON DE THÉ, PÂTISSERIE–CONFISERIE
+33 3 20 57 07 44
Aux Merveilleux de Fred – Paris
29 rue de l’Annonciation, 75016
+33 1 45 20 13 82
129 bis, rue Saint-Charles, 75015
+33 1 45 79 72 47
Meert – Paris
16 rue Elzévir, 75003, Paris
+33 1 49 96 56 94
Our experiences at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon were like a hazy dream – quite literally we were living in a euphoric fantasy.
Fanciful would be an understatement and would suggest an element of the irrational was involved in our experiences.
I wouldn’t put it past me given it is said sometimes I exaggerate, but I had corroborating witnesses, two food obsessed friends from Melbourne who were currently on a gastronomic tour of Europe.
And so after managing the impossible and securing us a reservation at the number 14 restaurant in the world… we finally sat down at this beautiful restaurant on a lazy Saturday afternoon for our highly anticipated meal.
Envisage, if you will, a slick modern bar surrounding an open kitchen where much of the magic happens. Only 40 people per service are able to sit stunned and truly satisfied.
Joël Robuchon is a master chef, a worldwide phenomenon with establishments all over the globe delivering fantastic food, innovation and quality, and consummate service.
We not so secretively peered over our shoulders at the plates of the adjoining couple who seemed to be receiving some particular attention from the chef himself and we were not only definitely interested in the dessert served but even more so excited by our meal to come.
We were reading through the a la carte menu and either fortunately or unfortunately, the former of course more outstanding and fun, we decided as a trio to order the not so inexpensive degustation menu at 160 euros.
I left the wine ordering to a master with a great palate and so we were presented with a gorgeous bottle of white wine from the appelation d’origine controlee, a premier cru from Burgundy.
L’Amuse Bouche: To begin this rollercoaster ride of pleasure and taste we were served an amuse-bouche of fresh crab with a shellish gelee and a cauliflower cream.
Le Premier Assiette: Lobster carpaccio with fine aromatic herbs and oils, subtle, soft, flavours of tomato and nicoise olives and poppy seeds, the raw lobster was
La Soupe: a Fava bean and green pea veloute served with a perfect dollop of fresh crème fraiche – it was smooth, light and creamy, full of flavour and every mouthful a pleasure.
Le Deuxième Assiette: perfectly seared foie gras with warm black cherries, hibiscus sauce and fresh almonds and tart granny smith apple – honestly, the BEST foie gras I have ever ever conceived let alone eaten.
Les Oeuf: a perfectly cooked organic yolk just set, hidden below a foam of light cream with rich earthy sautéed girolles, paired with a peppery herb sauce and a sprinkling of an intense spice powder.
By this stage I was quickly running out of superlatives, both in French and English, and I was overcome with simple facial expressions and sounds of absolutely joy between mouthfuls.
Working my magic with the amazing waitress, we managed to switch one of the courses, the Turbot, for another fish course, something which appealed to us all…
Le Poisson: langoustine ravioli in an almost invisible layer of egg pasta with a creamy truffle sauce and stewed green cabbage.
It was after the ravioli that our individual taste journeys finally diverged as we each indepentently chose a different main course.
Le Plat Principal – Le Viande:
The first option, L’Angneau – the milk-fed lamb
racks glazed with shallots and thyme.
The second choice, Le Veau – the glazed veal roasted to obtain a caramelised finish with potato and spring onion salad, chanterelles and jus.
The final choice, my personal pleasure to consume, La Caille – Quail, expertly deboned and stuffed with a farce of foie gras, caramelised supremely, and served with a potato puree and black truffles.
And to accompany our meats we each had a small dish of the signature mashed potato of Joël Robuchon, 50:50 butter to potato, not surprisingly we each had only a small spoonful as we were already reaching capacity and still had dessert to follow.
Unparalleled though were our final courses – the desserts…
Le Premier Dessert: La Fraise – strawberries marinated in olive oil and vanilla, above an acidulous soft biscuit, paired with the refreshingly floral jasmine and fleur d’orange sorbet pierced by a shard of sugar.
Le Deuxième Dessert: Le Café – coffee sabayon, a tart lemon greek yoghurt, and a strong coffee ice-cream crowned by a fine coffee sugar tuille
Now here comes the ultimate surprise and victory, feeling high on the absolute gratification of a blissful meal, and knowing that when it comes to dessert there is always just a little more room, I made a special request – nothing ventured, nothing gained we always make the most of a situation – could we please have one more dessert…
… MORE, MORE – another dessert, there was no hesitation, no wavering, they had experienced this request before, undoubtedly – and so the chef was asked on our behalf by our incredible waitress to prepare one more plate, to share, of the chocolate creation we had first seen on entering this palace of food.
Only, later, as the doors to the pastry kitchen opened, we were faced with not one but three plates. It seems that my appreciation and praise had indeed been passed onto the pastry chef, as had the fact that I was a pastry graduating student, and feeling extremely generous he had sent us not just one dessert each, but three tasting plates and so we were caught by total surprise and had three more courses to go in our marathon meal.
Le Surprise Assiette de Dessert:
Le Chocolat Tendance: a verrine of four layers and textures of chocolate
Le Tarte aux Chocolat: a yielding rich chocolate and macadamia nut tart
- La Fraise de Bois: strawberries macerated in vanilla with balsamic and port with basil sorbet, wild strawberries, a meringue and a halo of white chocolate
Les Boisson Chaudes: coffee and teas were accompanied by fresh madeleine aux citron and caramel aux buerre salé
Just look at the smug satisfied faces of the three Australian gentlemen … L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon has three big fans!
Lets just emphasise the gravity of this sorbet – the jasmine and basil sorbets were perfection, heavenly, light, fresh, with a balanced intensity of natural flavour, they were an absolute triumph and highlight of the meal – so much so that my compatriots requested that I work at L’Atelier to try and learn the secret to their brilliance.
Envisage if you will our meal, visualise the plating, delight in their smell, pleasure in their textures, marvel in their taste – it is not a hallucination if you come to Paris and eat there for yourselves – only there is one requirement invite me to join you or at least take photos for me!
Joël Robuchon and his organisation are aspirational, and it is my ambition to one day achieve even one hundredth of their breadth of brilliance!
THANK YOU to everyone at L’Aterlier de Joël Robuchon – St Germain, especially our South Korean French Waitress Dami and the chefs behind the closed doors the incredible pastry team!
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – St Germain
5 rue de Montalembert
Paris, 75007, France