21 September 2005

Pierre Herme Desires - 2005 Autumn/Winter Collection

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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.

Enjoy.

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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."

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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...;)

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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?

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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.

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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."

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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...

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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?

Pierre Herme
72 rue Bonaparte
Paris 6th
01 43 54 47 77

185 rue Vaugirard
Paris 15th
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
Tokyo
03-3221-7252

319 Ikspiari 1-4 Maihama
Uraysu-shi, Chiba-Ken

La Porte Aoyama
1F-2F
5-51-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku
Tokyo
03-5485-7766

Atelier de Formation a la Haute Patisserie Pierre Herme
Ecole Ferrandi
28 rue de l'Abbe Gregoire
Paris 6th
Contact: Karine Rousseau
01 49 54 28 96
krousseau@ccip.fr

Previous Pierre Herme posts:
Pierre Herme & Hot Live Girls
Pierre Herme Classics
Pierre Herme Buches de Noel 2004 - the Photos
Pierre Herme Buches de Noel 2004 - and East Does Not Meet West

10 August 2005

Pierre Herme & Hot Live Girls

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Paris-based French pastry chef Pierre Herme revolutionized the industry by creating defiantly modern signature seasonal sweets - and presenting them at edible fashion shows.

This year he previewed his work to the press not in the context of couture clothing - but quite the opposite. This line - dubbed Desirs - Desires - was unveiled at Crazy Horse - the club internationally renowned for the Art of the Nude.

That's right - I said nude.

I tragically did not witness the - er - unveiling. It was shortly after we won our second Michelin star at Les Ambassadeurs at the Crillon and I could not in good conscience tell my chef that I needed to abandon our kitchen to go to a nude club to taste pastries.

I said pastries - not pasties.

But I have had more than my fair share of Pierre Herme creations since then - from the limited edition collection as well as the classics. Pictured above are what might be the two most lasciviously viewed ice cream sandwiches in the food blog world. They first made their debut on chez pim. I believe they are only rivaled by Clement's masterful patisserie riffs. What you see here are mine and Pim's Pierre Herme Miss Gla'Gla's - macaron ice cream sandwiches - moments before they met their destinies. They were had after our wondrous lunch at L'Astrance with Clotilde.

The chef/owner of L'Astrance - Pascal Barbot - is a gastronomic artist, gentleman, and scholar. I've had the great honour and pleasure of accompanying him on his weekly pre-dawn visit to Rungis - just hours after closing the night before. He's also quietly experimenting with a molecular gastronomy scientist I know who works with Herve This.

The desserts were a generous and beautiful procession of sorbets, emulsions, flawless fresh fruit, buttery herbal madeleines, and ethereal custards in egg shells - yes, more egg shells! They were an absolutely perfect finale to a luxurious lunch.

But I have a weakness - I consider it almost a personal failing - in that I have a strong need for chocolate and/or ice cream for dessert. Sorry my pastry chef friends - I'm one of those clients.

Clotilde had to leave us after lunch - but I told Pim I knew just the perfect thing to satisfy our unsatiated dessert needs - but that it'd be a secret. On that unseasonably warm afternoon, we walked purposefully under the Eiffel Tower, through the Champ de Mars, hopped on the number 87 bus - in which we were promptly shushed by a 7th arrondissement matriarch because of our audibly feverish anticipation.

Pim - while she'd never been on a Paris bus - knows the city's culinary hot-spots well-enough that she sensed our destination before we disembarked - Pierre Herme on rue Bonaparte. And there - waiting within - was our journey's prize - Miss Gla'Gla.

The legendary line moved quickly - I chose the chocolate and Pim selected the Ispahan. We slipped out, crossed the street, and wordlessly - profanely - devoured our treasures on the steps of St. Sulpice.

The chocolate was richly aromatic - macarons delicately crisp yet firm - embracing ice cream deep in flavour, studded with crunchy cacao nibs, and enlivened with a suggestion of a turn of pepper and the fleeting finish of fleur de sel.

Pim and I swapped briefly - her Ispahan revealing a whole other world of sensations in an exhilarating rush - the rose fragrance intoxicating, the raspberry sorbet electrifying, and the lychee sorbet elusively seductive.

Pierre Herme currently has no website. He has two boutiques in Paris currently closed for summer vacation. They re-open on August 24th - at 10AM. Miss Gla'Gla's will be available until sometime in mid-September - depending on weather and availability. Ice cream by the liter is sold year-round - flavours vary according to availability - at 24E per liter. A Pierre Herme isothermic bag - resembling his coveted teardrop-perforated shopping bags - is available for 8E - it holds two precious liters.

Miss Gla'Gla Spring/Summer 2005 Collection
- Montebello: pistachio ice cream, strawberry sorbet, macaron sandwich
- Eden: peach sorbet, saffron and apricot ice cream, macaron sandwich

Miss Gla'Gla Classic Collection
- Celeste: passion-fruit ice cream, strawberry sorbet, rhubarb/strawberry compote, macaron sandwich
- Satine: fromage blanc sorbet, orange coulis, passion-fruit sorbet, passion-fruit macaron sandwich
- Ispahan: lychee/rose sorbet, raspberry sorbet, rose macaron sandwich
- Chocolat/Chocolate: single origin Madagascar chocolate sorbet, cacao nib nougatine, fleur de sel and pepper, chocolate macaron sandwich
- Caramel au Beurre Sale/Salted Butter Caramel: salted caramel/caramel crunch ice cream, sable sandwich

All for a mere 5.50E each.

Pierre Herme
72 rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
01 43 54 47 77

185 rue de Vaugirard
75015 Paris
01 47 83 89 96

This is the third in a summer series on ice cream in Paris.

Each post is dedicated to a charity that works in the fight against worldwide hunger. Please donate now to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. Thank you.

27 December 2004

Pierre Herme Classics

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Pierre Herme currently offers 10 flavours in small macarons. The white one on top is his most infamous classic flavour - white truffle with grilled hazelnuts.

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The Ispahan.

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And La Cerise sur le Gateau - the Cherry on the Cake. Hazelnut dacquoise; thin milk chocolate shavings; lightly sweetened whipped cream; milk chocolate ganache; topped with a stemmed, candied cherry on the cake.

Yes, the buches will be gone within the next 24 hours or so - until next year. I hope this provides some consolation - and reassurance.

25 December 2004

Pierre Herme Buches de Noel 2004 - the Photos

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Buche Ispahan: rose-flavoured macarons; raspberries; rose cream with lychee; white chocolate; fresh rose petals, each with a single glucose dew drop.

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Buche Aztec: chocolate macarons; meusli butter crust; orange and balsamic vinegar jelly; flourless chocolate cake; chocolate mousse with fleur de sel.

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Buche Sarah: chestnut macaron pastry; cream of candied chestnuts; matcha green tea cream; passionfruit compote. Candied chestnuts are called marrons glac├ęs in French. They're a holiday delicacy - traditionally individually wrapped in gold foil.

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Buche Plenitude: dark chocolate macaron pastry; fleur de sel chocolate; bitter chocolate mousse; chocolate ganache; crisp caramel bits; garnished with dark chocolate and one single white chocolate shard.

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Buche Envie: dacquoise; crushed, grilled almonds; cassis compote; violet and vanilla flavoured cream; garnised with fruit rouges and candied violets.

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Buche Azur: dark chocolate ganache with lime. I don't have my Pierre Herme catalog with me - so I don't know what the other elements are here. Will add them as soon as I can.

Merry Christmas from me to you.

08 December 2004

Pierre Herme Buches de Noel 2004 - and East Does Not Meet West

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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.

Pierre Herme
72, rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
01 43 54 47 77

185, rue Vaugirard
75015 Paris
01 47 83 89 96

Tang Freres
48, ave Ivry
75013
01 45 70 80 00
www.tang-freres.fr