Pierre Herme launched the Autumn/Winter Collection of his 2005 Desires line this past Thursday. In an unprecedented move since he started the revolutionary cake-/cat-walk in 1999, PH previewed his coveted sweets to the worldwide press not in Paris but Tokyo the preceding Monday.
On opening day, Clotilde and I diligently tasted four of the latest creations: the Dune, an Emotion Mahogany, the Instant, and a Plenitude macaron. On Saturday I went back with friends Liz and Leah and we had one other new item: the Emotion Orientale. Lest you fear we were deprived, we also had the classic Ispahan, Plenitude, a macaron with milk chocolate and passionfruit - which Leah declares as "the perfect fruit", the olive oil and vanilla macaron, and Jeffrey Steingarten's favourite white truffle and hazelnut macaron - just back in season.
Both days we set up our precision mobile pastry-tasting unit at the sidewalk tables of Cafe de la Mairie - the legendary low-key Left Bank literary cafe - which you may also remember as an Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations location. A drink buys you a prime patch of Paris real-estate for as long as you like.
Below is a snapshot tour of the new pieces available last week in the flagship boutique on rue Bonaparte - handily flagged with the season's signature blue. As always you can click on each photo to enlarge.
Above is the Surprise Yu. The official description says it's "crisp meringue, stewed and raw apples with yuzu, mousseline cream with yuzu."
And the official Pierre Herme tasting notes say it's "a cake like bonbon that contrasts tartness and sweetness. The acid taste of the apples is reinforced by yuzu juice with bitter mandarin orange and lime. The slightly buttery taste of the cream competes elegantly with the crispy texture of the meringue."
Following, I'll list each new item by name, the official description, PH's tasting notes, and my own notes as applicable.
Millefeuille Caramel: caramelised puff pastry, marscapone cream with caramel
PH: "A pastry chef's dream?...An exercise in provocation?...the crunchy quality of the puff pastry and the creaminess of the caramel cream unite in this outrageously delectable caramel treat."
Emotion Orientale: creme brulee with gingerbread, tender fruits and dates simmered in tea, lemon gelee
PH: "A colorful palette of tastes: dried or candied fruits, oranges, apricots, dates simmered in tea awakened by a touch of lemon gelee, followed by the final spicy note of creme brulee to prolong the pleasure of the taste experience."
LC: The top cover looks like foam but it's actually a thin, crispy wafer. Nice trick of the eye.. Spoon down deep and come up with tart, clean wobbly gelee - beautiful contrast to the warm tones and textures beneath. I loved that Leah loved this - because she adamantly said she's "not a pastry person"! Another convert...;)
Emotion Mahogany: stewed litchis, stewed mangoes, coconut dacquoise biscuit, marscapone cream with caramel
PH: "Exotic yet reassuring, this dessert composed of very distinctive flavors features caramel as a minor theme while giving free rein to fruit notes dominated by mango and litchi."
LC: Very reassuring with deep caramel flavour in soft marscapone. But sorry - I beg to differ - caramel is the major not minor player here. Enjoyable but the dacquoise and even fruit flavours not distinguishable, And those marshmallows - perfect consistency and coated in coconut powder for even more textural interest - fun but not cohesive - they keep tumbling off. How are you supposed to get your spoon through those roadblocks? Nice but is it the dessert that was intended?
Dune: pistachio dacquoise biscuit, light pistachio cream, praline with roasted corn kernels
PH: "A great cake with the powerful aromas of dried fruit and roasted, torrified corn. The spotlight is on bitter almond, pistachio, praline and corn. A cake that generates sensations, at once moist, tender and crisp."
LC: The one I wanted to try the most. Corn might sound off-putting but from its taste it could be one of the most successful for Americans. The corn comes in the form of crispy bits of puffed caramelised corn - Corn Pops crossed with Sugar Smacks! With its stark appearance and minimalist meringue shards, it's like a sophisticated adult with a secret inner child. I want this one again soon.
Tarte Mogador: shortcrust pastry, milk chocolate and passionfruit ganache, roasted pineapple, flourless chocolate biscuit
PH: "An elegant, sophisticated tart with complex, acidulated fruit tastes. While chocolate predominates, a concentrated pineapple note is heightened by a veil of spices, while the passion fruit is softened by the smooth fullness of the caramel."
Instant: Earl Grey tea gelee, ganache flavoured with tea, chocolate mousse and tender chocolate biscuit
PH: "The powerful dark chocolate ganache is 'refreshed' with Earl Grey tea (steeped when cold to prevent tannins from forming) and its gelee an acidulated note. The intense, fleeting notes of a pleasure that is all lightness."
LC: Second most desired Desire item. Looks so aggressively modern but the flavours are so mild and texture too familiar. The gelee's on the top interior layer and just gets lost under the chocolate shell. I told Clotilde that it was like getting into a Ferrari and discovering that it drives like a Volvo - sedan. Good, reliable but tricked me with that flashy look. I do really want to know how it's constructed though...
Macaron Plenitude: chocolate macaron biscuit, chocolate ganache, caramel and chocolate chips with fleur de sel
PH: "Heads or tails...Is it chocolate with caramel or caramel with chocolate? A macaron for contrast and simplicity."
LC: I'm so utterly disappointed. The Plenitude - which debuted with 2003's Kawaii line - is my very favourite PH item. It's dense, rich, chocolatey, creamy, and crispy - with those beautiful dark chocolate shards - offset by the single piece of white chocolate. This had none of that restrained complex elegance. It's again, quite good as it is but if you're calling it a Plenitude, I don't get it. Perhaps if the ganache were thicker and more elastic?
Also released but unavailable opening day:
Mr. H Mogador: lemon biscuit, passionfruit gelee, milk chocolate ganache and passionfruit
PH: "This taste experience starts when you bite into the milk chocolate shell, with its sweet flavors and brittle texture. Next comes the soft texture and fruity acidity of the passionfruit gelee inside the cake. The contrast between flavors and textures makes this Mr. H not only delicious but fun to eat."
Cake Sarah: green tea biscuit, candied chestnuts, passionfruit gelee
PH: "The biscuit flavoured with green tea contributes a dominant bitter note balanced by the sweetness of the candied chestnut. The powerful acidity of the passion fruit gelee is projected on to a background of chlorophyll notes."
Truffes Nature (Plain Truffles): bitter chocolate ganache coated with cocoa
PH: "A powerful dark chocolate aroma enhanced by the bitterness of cacoa powder. A truffle made for true connoisseurs."
Truffes au Praline (Pralineed Truffles): praline ganache coated with cocoa
PH: "A dark chocolate full of character with, inside, tender praline ganache."
Garance: candied fig paste, chocolate raspberry ganache with cinnamon, coated with dark chocolate
PH: "When the fig's tenderness and texture blend with the snap of acidity contributed by the raspberry, the intensity of the dark chocolate reaches its peak."
Glace Plenitude (Plenitide Ice Cream): chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips with pure unrefined salt, caramel ice cream made with lightly salted butter and caramel bits.
PH: "An ice cream with the powerful flavors of chocolate with caramel...or perhaps we should say caramel with chocolate?"
For release early October: Truffes au Chocolat au Lait et The Vert Matcha (Milk Chocolate and Matcha Green Tea Truffles)
For release December 10th: Wild Rose & Chestnut Macaron, Buche Dune, Buche Azur, Buche Sarah, Buche Ispahan, Buche Plenitude, Buche Envie. PH is already accepting orders for all of the buches.
Pro PCs, you can learn how to make your own through Pierre Herme's professional classes at the Ferrandi school in Paris. There are still places available for the this year's "Noel et Fetes de fin d'Annee" (October 3-5) "Macarons, Fours Secs et Gateaux de Voyage" (October 6-7), and November's "Best Of" (November 16-18).
Even more new items are coming for the New Year - but for those you'll have to wait. What's desire without a tease?
72 rue Bonaparte
01 43 54 47 77
185 rue Vaugirard
01 47 83 89 96
(Both Paris locations open Tuesday to Sunday 10AM to 7PM, Saturday to 7:30PM)
The New Otani
4-1 Kioi-Cho, Chitoda-Ku
319 Ikspiari 1-4 Maihama
La Porte Aoyama
5-51-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku
Atelier de Formation a la Haute Patisserie Pierre Herme
28 rue de l'Abbe Gregoire
Contact: Karine Rousseau
01 49 54 28 96