Pastries are one of the best parts of visiting Paris. If you’ve never had French pastries fresh from a patisserie, you have no idea what you’re missing. Although some of the best patisseries in Paris will now ship their goodies, nothing can compare with going into one of these beautiful shops and selecting the perfect sweet yourself.
Our favorite Parisian pastry is the macaron. Nothing like coconut macaroons, macarons are sandwich cookies made with almond-flour meringue. The version eaten today was invented by Laduree, who introduces one new flavor each year.
With a light, outer shell that gives way to a smooth, chewy center, macarons are indescribably delicious. Another treat made with almond flour is the financier. Technically not a pastry, a financier is a teacake, similar to madeleines, which come from Lorraine.
Where to find the best pastries.
In business since 1802, today Dalloyau employs 100 pastry chefs in 31 shops. The specialty here is the eponymous Dalloyau, a light, praline cake filled with almond meringue. With layers of almond biscuit, butter cream, chocolate, and coffee, the Opera is another must-try selection. Dalloyau also has tea rooms where you can have lunch or afternoon tea.
Pierre Herme wrote the book on macarons. Literally. A fourth-generation Alsatian baker, he apprenticed with Gaston Lenotre at 14, went on to work at Fauchon, and opened his own shop in 1998 in Tokyo. Each year, he introduces a new collection with exotic flavors like olive oil, litchi-rose, jasmine, and passion fruit and chocolate. Try caramel and fleur de sel. In addition to macarons, Pierre Herme creates chocolate confections — including incredible truffles — cakes, nougats, and cookies.
Gerard Mulot is best known for his shop on rue de Seine in Saint-Germain, but he also has a shop in the Marais, a block from the Places des Vosges. The macarons are wonderful, but so are the raspberry tarts, caramel mousse, small cakes, and chocolate fondant. The chocolates are divine, as are the croissants and brioches, both of which come in a variety of flavors. Stop in at lunch for a croque monsieur, salmon torte, quiche Lorraine, or sandwich on one of their delicious baguettes.
If you’re in the 7th arrondissement in the morning, Jean Millet is a great place to pick up breakfast. He makes the best pain au chocolat in Paris — flaky, and buttery, with an intense chocolate center. If chocolate doesn’t strike your fancy, try crepe Suzette, palmiers, beignets (like in New Orleans, only better), or cannelle. Get some financiers or madeleines for later.
Opened in 1862, Laduree is famous for their macarons. For fall 2009, the flavor was Fig and Date. But we’re partial to blackcurrent violet. Who can resist pastries like almond sponge cake with pistachio cream, raspberries and caramelized meringue or caramelized puff pastry, praline cream, almond pralines, and crispy hazelnuts? In the tea room, you can order anything from a smoked salmon éclair to a spider crab floating island or roasted saddle of lamb. Laduree Le Bar on the Champs-Elysees serves a more ambitious menu and designer cocktails.
Place de la Madeleine is a must-visit for food lovers. Some of the most exclusive food purveyors in France are on the square or within a block or two. The most famous of these is Fauchon, which is not just a patisserie but actually three stores in one — a patisserie, a deli, and a grocery selling delicacies from all over the world. If you want foie gras with citrus fruits or truffle juice, this is the place. There’s also a tea room and restaurant. They’re famous for their melt-in-your-mouth madeleines.
Opened in 1730 by the pastry chef to Louis XV, Stohrer is the oldest continually operating patisserie in Paris. They’re best known for inventing Baba au Rhum, a brioche that’s soaked with rum syrup. But the Ali Baba with a rum-raisin, cream filling goes the plain Baba one better. The lovely 19th-century murals on the ceilings and wall panels were painted by Paul Baudry who decorated the Grand Foyer of the Opera Garnier. Figaro newspaper recently rated Stohrer’s eclair as the best in Paris.
2) Pierre Herme
3) Gerard Mulot
4) Jean Millet