For me, being a pastry chef means the possibility of awing clients with an outstanding last course of their meal as well as the chance to tell a story through high-quality ingredients on a plate.
More often, it simply means two things:
• friends and family asking for recipes that work 100-percent of the time.
• people getting in touch for advice on places to taste the best macaron, croissant, etcetera in Paris.
To tell you frankly, I am sometimes at a loss when it comes to recommendations. I feel that desserts in Paris are like the city itself – evolving every season, changing according to clients’ preferences and tastes, with chefs leaving and coming, altering menus and recipes.
Thus, it is challenging at times to recommend THE place for a sweet tooth apart from the obvious tourist attractions one may find in guidebooks and online.
Twenty-twenty started with major difficulties transport-wise – the city public transportation system continued being on strike after a long tedious December haul of barely any metro and train service.
Such grim disposition impacted the lives of many, including mine. Instead of popping over to a museum or gallery for an exposition, attending a tea tasting or seeing friends, a night out has become more of a rarity.
Nonetheless, during the winter season I have managed to tick off my “to go list” a few brand-new and age-old establishments to visit for hot chocolate, an iconic beverage, essential for truly Parisian winter experience.
The dessert menu created by the famous pastry chef and chocolatier, J.-P. Hévin, rare tea appellations, gorgeous hot chocolate and welcoming staff make the Café Pavane (a few steps away from Jardin de Luxembourg) a truly must-visit spot. More importantly, even though this cosy café is well placed in the 6th arrondissement, it is not yet frequented by tourists and thus gives you a splendid opportunity to live the Parisian vibe and mingle with the locals.
Here, chocolate is king with more than 10 desserts concocted by Jean-Paul Hévin. However, one of the best-sellers on the menu is not a chocolate one, but a light cheesecake, called Mazaltov, inspired by a Russian cottage cheese pastry.
It is a real treat for those on a diet or simply looking for something on the lighter side in contrast to the chocolate delicacies. A pleasant bonus for the tea amateurs is an extensive tea selection and, last but not least, [to die for], the hot chocolate! One of the secrets of its robust and full-bodied taste is the fact that once brewed, a part of the hot chocolate is kept cold in the refrigerator up to 12 hours to make the cacao aromatic notes maturate and develop.
A place to try out should you find yourself in the area!
Address: 22 Rue de Vaugirard,
Passionate about high-quality chocolate, young couple – Sandra Mielenhausen and Nicolas Rozier-Chabert – quit their jobs in marketing and communications to open Plaq, a small chocolate factory in the heart of Paris, not far from L’Opéra and Les Halles. Here, the menu is comprised of the classics – brownies, chocolate tarts and bars as well as funkier options, for example, chocolate bars with sheep milk which gives them a slightly tangy twist.
An obvious disadvantage is the pricing, with bars of 60 grams ranging from 9 euros to 12 euros, which can partially be explained by the attractive minimalist packaging and the quality of the ingredients.
The chocolate production is based on the bean-to-bar method, which entails beans being bought directly from cacao farmers, then transported and treated on the chocolate factory site. This give the chocolatier greater potential in terms of developing particular flavour combinations or flavour profiles.
Concerning hot chocolate, two options are available – a vegan one based on water (rather filling on its’ own, a version where the chocolate has the opportunity to flourish fully) and the more common, milk and cream one (something I would recommend for those who like a more subtle and moderate cacao taste on their palate).
Yet another address to put on the “must go list” before it gets too popular to lose its’ charm and secretness.
Address: 4 Rue du Nil
Whether you are embarking on your first discovery of Paris or are a long-time resident of the French capital and on a quest for something irresistibly Parisian, this is the place to go!
Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots may equally be among your go-to spots for some of that romantic historical flare. La Fontaine boasts the same quality service and top-notch drinks, but it’s less known to tourists. Paris is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourists’ destinations year-round, and sometimes it takes time to find less-known and high-quality spots to simply enjoy the rhythm of the city without haste.
The café, located in the 10th arrondissement, is celebrated for its Saturday jazz sessions and Sunday brunches, hot chocolate and coffee roasted directly in the café. One description that comes to mind when I think of La Fontaine is “staple” – the coffee is properly brewed and the chocolate is just as it should be – thick, creamy and lush, with cream and sugar served on the side for extra indulgence.
Like many Parisian buildings made for – and created by – aesthetics, La Fontaine if an example of great classical interior design from the 1920s, when the café was originally founded – huge mirrors, classy blue and black tiles and a mesmerising ceiling, carefully restored a few years ago.
Address: 31-33 Rue Juliette Dodu
So, there you go … enough suggestions to get you through a cool, rainy spring.
About the author:
Elena Kalmykova is a pastry chef, gastronomic guide, arts lover and passionate traveller living in Paris. She’s originally from Moscow, Russia. It was her love for pastry that led Elena to study and then work in a Parisian pastry shop, a 3-star Michelin restaurant and now in a 5-star hotel.
She loves to discover new technologies as well as the latest trends in food, great spots to eat or drink and share her knowledge.
You can follow her on Instagram at elena_kalmykova.