I spent the day criss-crossing the city - scouting locations for Tony - or rather Anthony Bourdain's Top Secret Paris Project. Along the way I just had to stop into Pierre Herme - his new buches de Noel just hit the stores yesterday - buches de Noel just being the French name for those familiar Christmas log cakes. He has six out this season - but only four were in the store. They expect to get the other two maybe today - but they didn't know yet.
The four I saw were the Buche Envie - dacquoise - a crispy-crusted meringue; with crushed, grilled almonds, a compote of cassis - those pleasantly slightly bitter round red berries; vanilla cream delicately perfumed with violet - that's purple prose translated from the catalogue; decorated with "fruit rouges" - literally red fruit - which is a common general term used for strawberries, raspberries, cassis, etc.; and he had some candied violets sprinkled across too.
He also has a Buche Ispahan - based on one of his most famous pastries - the Ispahan. It's a fancy cookie sandwich - two big pink rose-flavoured macarons - macarons are big round delicate cookies that have the texture of a very good underdone brownie; those sandwich a ring of raspberries around edge; with a hidden heart of rose cream - studded with morsels of the lychees - the French love lychee and love pairing it with rose; and it's decorated with a single perfect red rose petal - with a faux dew drop - made with a dot of clear glucose. The Ispahan buche has all of the above elements - but in the shape of a buche/log. Pierre Herme will also have an Ispahan galette des roi for the first time too this season - available starting January 2nd. I'll explain more on the whole galettes des rois deal later - just know that it's a pastry had the first Sunday in January - puff pastry usually filled with almond cream AND a hidden prize - my kind of food.
They also had the Buche Plenitude - based on one of my favourites of his works - because it's so beautifully chocolate. Dark chocolate macaron; crushed fleur de sel chocolate - fleur de sel being the most prized type of French salt for its delicate crystals; bitter chocolate mousse; chocolate ganache - think thick chocolate frosting; and crisp caramel bits. I thought this one was the most stunning - of the four so far - decorated like the Plenitude - with irregular, wafer-thin shards of dark chocolate - with the occasional puncuation of a white chocolate shard. When he first released the Plenitude - in Winter 2002 - I happened to be walking through the Champ de Mars - the big park in front of the Eiffel Tower - and noticed a frozen over pond - that had just started to crackle - and I thought this must have been his inspiration. It really captures that pristine random natural beauty.
The last one in today - the Buche Aztec. It's a muesli butter crust; with a gelee of oranges and balsamic vinegar; flourless chocolate cake; and chocolate mousse studded with crushed fleur de sel chocolate. Don't get all freaked out by the balsamic vinegar - it's very reduced and adds a subtle but complex sweet-tart note.
All of the buches are available in 3/4 person size - for 30 euros; and 6/8 for 52E.
Before I left I got one of each of his infamous small macarons - 10 total for about 13 euros - they're 68E/kilo - a bit of a heart-attack but really a small price to pay for pure pleasure.
Afterwards, I trekked down to old Chinatown - in the 13th - which by the way they curiously call Chinatown and not Ville de Chine or something else French. At Tang Freres - the biggest grocery store down there - the Cantonese-speaking cashier asked me about my Pierre Herme shopping bag. They are some of the most beautiful shopping bags in the world - thick paper patterned with teardrop cutouts and heavy corded handles. She'd never heard of the place.
On my way home to the 7th - I had people gawking at my Tang Freres shopping bags - bright yellow plastic emblazoned with red Chinese characters. And geez - I only had two. I hear from so many French friends how they've heard of the place = but never venture down there - and I guess this was further proof.
I promise to post pics ASAP.
72, rue Bonaparte
01 43 54 47 77
185, rue Vaugirard
01 47 83 89 96
48, ave Ivry
01 45 70 80 00