If there ever was a harbinger of how much sugar I was going to inhale in Paris, consider that as soon as I got off the plane, Fabien greeted me with not one, not two, but THREE croissants from which to take my pick (Real talk: I ate some of each one).
Paris is jam-packed with pâtisseries on pâtisseries – that’s why the entire city constantly smells like food. It was such a real struggle to remain hungry as much as possible so I could devour everything in sight. But with a list of 50 – yes 50 – recommendations, I hopped on my Vélib and set off off to conquer every pastry I could.
Of course, my pastry quest proved more challenging than I initially imagined. While I was unable to visit everything on my list, I have a few favorites below:
Angelina and Ladurée: These are staples of any Paris trip. Angelina is home to the city’s best hot chocolate, and by hot chocolate, I mean thick, heavy drinking chocolate that warms up your soul as you gingerly sip through a glass. Located right next to the Tuileries gardens, there is usually line, but wait it out. The dining room is old school, with large chandeliers and immaculately dressed servers recommending the latest specials. There is a savory menu, but the desserts are where it’s at, and where I spent my lunch.
Ladurée is a monstrosity of a store on the touristy Champs Élysées. I’m not actually a big macaron fan, but the kitschy gift wrapping and layout is worth a visit. My favorite thing to eat was the canelé – a small dessert shaped in a striated mold (pictured above). The outside is thick and caramelized, almost burnt, giving way to a delicate, soft custard center. Canelés became my MO throughout the rest of the trip, even prompting me to buy some copper molds to try my hand at them back in the States.
Sadaharu Aoki: These are a few outposts of this Japanese-stype pâtisserie and all are good. Growing up with a lot of Asian influence, I’ve always had an affinity for Asian flavors in pastries, from green tea to red bean. This place has all of those flavors and more, matched by lovely bakers who are happy to guide you through the menu if needed.
Du Pain et Des Idées: THIS PLACE. I don’t even know how to begin. All I can say is that I walked in on a foggy Thursday morning, spotted the Holy Grail of croissants, bought another croissant for good measure, and was enlightened. L’Escargot Chocolate Pistache – a swirled crunchy-chewy gem lined with pistachio paste and dotted with dark chocolate pieces. This was the best croissant I have ever eaten in my life. In. My. Life.
There is a French word that I’ve fallen in love with and which describes my trip perfectly – flâneur. It signifies a goalless pursuit of a place in order to grasp its nuances and quirks. An article in the New York Times likens it to “botanizing on the asphalt.”
Without an understanding of the French language, I lived instead to observe in its purest form – without intent, only to learn. I surrendered to the moment, not only because it is Paris, but because it is Paris as I chose to see it. From the cobblestone streets to the wafting aromas of bread to the cheese to the Metro – everything fit into place. When I was there, I felt like the corner piece of the city’s puzzle – creeping in from the edge but helping to tie everything together.
Til next time.
Boulangerie Julien (75 Rue Saint Honoré, 4th arr.)
Order: The almond croissant (pictured above)
Erik Kayser (18 Rue du Bac, 6th arr.)
Order: Any of the financiers
Odette (77 Rue Galande, Notre Dame)
Order: This place only has choux pastries, so get an assortment of the mini ones and walk around
Angelina (226 Rue Rivoli, Tuileries)
Order: The hot drinking chocolate and any of the signature desserts. In the fall, they are big on chestnut. Buy a bottle of chocolate to take home with you! They also have great gift boxes of chocolate
Ladurée (75 Avenue des Champs Élysées)
Order: An assortment of macarons, a canelé, and some goodies to bring home as gifts
Du Pain des et Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic, 10th arr.)
Order: The best croissant ever – l’escargot pistache chocolat
Sadaharu Aoki (35 Rue de Vaugirard, 6th arr., multiple locations)
Order: Their green tea and red bean cake and the yuzu tart. Sit leisurely to enjoy them
Le Moulins Á Pains (17 Rue du 8 Mai, 10th arr.)
Order: The kouign aman