The Ladurée name is world-famous for a delectable range of macarons. Habitually referred to as the Mecca of the Macaron by pastry lovers, Ladurée anually draws pilgrims the world over, the proof of which lies in the often-full interior of its Champs-Élysées tea-room. Despite playing competitor to Pierre Hermé, the Ladurée name remains strongly-cited the best macaron makers of Paris. Once the executive chef of Ladurée about whom much well-deserved ado has been made, Pierre Hermé nonetheless gathers a loyal following of ardent foodies with his Isaphan – a masterpiece of a dessert formed of pale pink macaron shells flavoured with rose-petal cream, lychee and fresh raspberries. Yet, it is said that macaron purists need look no further than Ladurée, where time-honed tradition is faithfully upheld. Made fresh each morning in the heart of le laboratoire, the charm of Ladurée macarons lie also in the beauty of packaging, with art nouveau etchings and enchanting pastels inspired by France’s tragic queen, Marie Antoinette. So striking is Ladurée’s homage to the misunderstood royal, so perfectly suited to her dainty presence, that they were commissioned to produce the pastries for Sofia Coppola’s 2006 feature film, Marie Antoinette.
Since the year of its founding in 1903, Angelina has been the source of much joy amongst the decadent, dessert-loving set. Set in a plush and regal interior of gold lights and rich-dyed fabrics, the grand teahouse is more often than not packed with tourists and locals alike. Mixed reviews from amongst their clientele do little to temper the majority vote of confidence, however; Angelina’s has remained a fabled name, to be revered alongside other salons de thé of equal magnificence. Prominently featured in the Angelina menu, and among numerous diners’ reviews to be found in cyberspace are a duo of bestsellers: a decadent, generously portioned Mont Blanc and a signature hot chocolate – Chocolat Africain. While many have cited these delights as overly sweet for the common palate, others have been known to sing their praises, equating them to little decadent tastes of heaven. The elegant French salon has certainly garnered an audience from leaders of men – from fashion designer Coco Chanel to writer Marcel Proust, and even King George V of Britain.
Le Grenier à Pain
With over thirty outlets spread throughout Paris and the other provinces of France, Le Grenier à Pain embodies nothing less than the joy of baking. Founded by Michel Galloyer who brought Paris the highly-acclaimed Le Trianon patisserie and chocolatier, Le Grenier à Pain is fuelled by core values for good living. Monsieur Galloyer’s words are as such: humility, passion, patience, transmission, and work – in essence, to be humble despite one’s achievements, applying both passion and patience while working hard, and to be generous with one’s knowledge, teaching others as one has been taught. These values transcend deeper into the works produced of this chain of bakeries, the fruit of which is consistently a pleasure to encounter. Warmth exudes from the heart of Le Grenier à Pain’s many outlets, cloaked beneath traditional and rustic interiors of browns and reds, wood and brick. Such a set up appears to invite, seeking only to nourish the body and spirit with good, hearty bread. The traditional aspect of Le Grenier à Pain’s wide variety of breads certainly wins over – if anything, Paris has branded their baguettes as those of the highest quality. Chef Djibril Bodian of the Abbesses branch, having taken first place for the 2010 Meilleur Baguette de Paris certainly showcases this point. In winning, Chef Bodian had also won the honour of supplying the Palais de l’Élysée – official residence of the French prime minister with baguettes for the year, where surely no less than two in office have sampled, and delighted, at his works of art.
Even in the expansive gallery of Lafayette Gourmet, the corner taken with Sadaharu Aoki is easily distinguishable through the crowd of gourmet-seekers. One might take note of the colours – all the colours that punctuate an otherwise minimalist display of cakes, macarons, chocolates and various other pastries. It is a rainbow-hued array that greets the senses and pleasures the visual palate. Beneath crystal- clear glass displays, rows and rows of sweet delights are meticulously labelled with names and descriptions, prompting a desire to sample. The treats are sumptuously rendered in flavours that speak of imagination and creativity; macha, cassis, sesame. Each individual pastry is an amalgamation of perfectly-balanced textures and tastes; an exploration into what must surely be unknown, yet familiar enough to warrant instant recognition. First established in the year 2001 by the Machida Cooking School graduate, Chef Sadaharu Aoki, the like-named patisserie has long since risen to international superstardom with strongholds in both Tokyo and Taipei. Sadaharu Aoki also serves desserts for the All Nippon Airways, though these are reserved exclusively for first-class passengers. Fame does little to deter from improvement, however; the accomplished, yet humble chef believes firmly in constant improvement, ever driven to create simple things that are nonetheless absolutely delicious.
Le Cordon Bleu
An institution of cuisine, yet so much more than just a culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu bears humble origins not unlike that of the Malaysian Nourishment. Risen from the ashes of what was once a French culinary magazine, La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu, the Blue Ribbon academy has since then birthed a brigade of masters in the kitchen. A cooking demonstration was held on the 14th of January, 1896; the first of its kind, the demonstration marked the launch of the petite Parisian cooking school. Adoring cooks and determined chefs would soon flock to the academy, all of whom shared a single great passion for excellence in French cuisine. Notable names amongst Le Cordon Bleu’s alumni include the prolific television chefs Julia Child and Giada de Laurentiis, as well as actor David Burtka and Survivor host Jeff Probst. With numerous bakeries and coffee houses bearing the Blue Ribbon trademark, Le Cordon Bleu has successfully placed one foot in the industry while simultaneously training the future torchbearers of world-class French cuisine. Visitors are warmly welcomed into the hallowed halls of the Parisian academy on Rue Léon Delhomme, where it easily becomes obvious that the masters of the school do in fact, practice what they preach – perfection in executing the French method.