Birthday treats in Paris (Pierre Hermé and Sadaharu Aoki)

It's official. I've turned 22 in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I've spent the day exactly as I would have liked- walking around Paris, enjoying some incredible pastries, and surreptitiously photographing the dogs of strangers. #aspergianthug #clickthelink It's been a fantastic day so far, and the best is yet to come. For now, I'll give you a glimpse of what I've been eating today. True fact: I haven't eaten a single pastry since I arrived. I wanted this to be my glorious coming-out party, and rather than scoff down sweets at an average boulangerie, I was saving myself for the big guns.

I started out the morning by hitting up two of the patisseries on my bucket list, Sadaharu Aoki and Pierre Hermé. I'd been to Hermé before, but never with a disposable income and a lack of parental guidance. Needless to say, I highly recommend surging into the vast selection of Pierre Hermé with completely unbridled lust. It's varied, meticulous, and delicious.
I restrained myself and left with a macaron and one of their seasonal pastries, the Ivoire, although items from their Infinitivement Citron line tempted me with their sunny colors. I ultimately chose this pastry for its slightly bizarre ingredients- its mascarpone and balsamic vinegar with candied fruits kept me from splurging on the $160 tomato and olive buttercream cake.

While a textural  and visual masterpiece with the perfect balance of crunch and fluffy cream to soften the sharper edges, I thought the flavor execution could have been dialed up to 11, so to speak. The acidity of the lemon in the mascarpone and vinegar was present, but overshadowed by the thick circles of white chocolate and caramelized mille-feuille pastry. I would have liked to see a sharper salinity to counteract the sweetness of the candy and fruit compote. 

And of course, I had to get a macaron. The Bonaparte boutique had plenty of flavors, but ultimately, one of their seasonal cookies won me over. The Jardin Sauvage, with dark chocolate and lime zest, had a razor-sharp balance that I'd desired in the Ivoire. Salty, sweet, and sour, it was like eating a piece of tamarind candy and fine dark chocolate.
I ate these in le Jardin du Luxembourg, just as the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds.

At Aoki, I bought two pastries that I knew would pair impeccably with the birthday tea I splurged on yesterday, some fine Lapsang Souchong. Its smoky, meaty flavors really enhanced the first pastry, Aoki's acclaimed salted caramel tart.

This is everything that I want my caramel to be. It's aggressively salty, sweet, smoky, and viscous, suspended somewhere between liquid, solid, and utter goo. It held up remarkably to the 45 minute schlep and crowded, hot Metro ride home, and its thick biscuit base and chocolate piping encapsulated the caramel with no leakage. That's what I call fine construction. When I bit into it, all hell broke loose. Needless to say, there's no way I can eat a normal Twix or Snickers bar again. This is pastry gone wild. Don't let its compact size deceive you- one is very filling and even a little overwhelming.
And finally, I knew I needed something to jam a candle in as an obligatory Happy Birthday prop.That something was making me salivate since I read about it in Yelp reviews of Aoki- the black sesame éclair. This was my favorite of today's bounty, and I felt as if I could eat at least three of them. It's literally perfect- it's well-balanced and skimps in no part of its composition. Often, with these whacky flavors, you're sacrificing quality for shock value. Not here. The choux dough is as expertly baked as any Genin or Stohrer example, and the pastry cream is smooth and creamy, coating every tastebud as the nutty, intense flavor of black sesame and black sugar sets in. I could see myself getting at least one of these a week. These will definitely haunt my dreams long after I leave Paris, and are an easy reason (one of many!) to come back often.

It was a wonderful birthday, and there's plenty more to come. Thanks for joining me!

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