‘Atelier’ – Simply the Best!

Boulangerie Patisserie Shop arr One of the many things I love about Paris is the fact that you can find traces of the old world in modern times. To this very day, the Île-de Paris maintains cultural integrity by offering clients an extensive selection of singularly-themed specialty food shops. Whatever your guilty pleasure – cheese, chocolate, bread, pastry, pâté or wine – brace yourself when entering stores that purely dedicate their products and services to artisan standard merchandise. Truly a gourmand’s paradise!Parisian Chocolate Shop arr

A chocolate connoisseur, of sorts – knowledgeable in tasting – this indulgence never disappoints. As such, the sight of any premise devoting every square inch to display high-grade cocoa-inspired handmade creations is thrilling. Parisian Chocolate Bins arrSuffice it to say, I knew I was in for a treat upon sighting the term ‘chocolat’ – translation not required. Scene it: bins of chocolate, ranging in shape, textures and ingredients, ribbons and fancy packaging – ‘ooh, la, la,’ is right– I couldn’t wait! Having watched Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, of course, I understood perfectly the purpose of incorporating a line of stringed dehydrated capsicums in a chocolate boutique. In the presence of red hot chili peppers – ‘pas’ the band – good chocolatiers know how to spice things up, by delivering variety. Anything but an odd pairing, sweet heat is bound to tantalize anyone’s taste buds.

Parisian Chocolates arrLeaving “trick or treating” days behind, I have, too, left any desire for candy bars. Complex flavour compounds cited in dark chocolate – where cocoa surpasses sugar – is much preferred, and where better to expect refined chocolate in all its splendour than at ‘l’Atelier du Chocolat.’ Why come here, for chocolate? In French, ‘atelier’ signifies a workshop where designer quality products are made by field experts. Being witness to shelves of cocoa products, superior in quality and unique in flavour combinations, it was only a matter of time before receiving my own pièce de résistance – a pistachio encrusted chocolate cluster.

Paris Desserts arr“Pourquoi pas,” I’d say, when it comes to sampling masterly produced chocolate. After all, high-end ‘chocolat’ is bon appétit-pleasing! Parisian ateliers abound, there’s more to discover. Catering to various palettes, I spotted workshops dedicating time, precision and skill in generating all kinds of edible goods. Among the terrine shops, most-loved boulangeries (bread stores), and farmer’s fresh cheese vendors, I had to convenient a ‘pâtisserie’ (pastry shop).

Parisian Patisserie arrHandcrafted and soft on the eyes, the glistening sheen on the sighted luxurious cakelettes and tarts was enough to lure me in one particular bakery. I can only imagine the arduous process involved in the manufacturing and assembly of these pastries. If anything, the overall detail evident in the final presentation is revealing of the level of talent, and attention put forth in making these desserts. To me, food succeeds when it’s a complete package; it looks attractive, smells appealing, and tastes just as enticing. Always exceeding expectations, ‘ateliers’ are leading artisan shops that consistently exhibit the finest chef d’oeuvres – food art!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

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“Vive le macaron!”

Food-spotting? We’ve all heard of trend-spotting – when you see every other person dressed in identical outfits. The same can be told about societal eating patterns. Don’t believe me? It does exist! In Paris, and other regions in France, I identified the next North American edible craze when I saw the very same “it” dessert being sold everywhere. From the Charles de Gaulle Airport to innumerable pastry shops, there were no coincidences in seeing flocks of people, lined-up in queue, patiently waiting to get their hands on bite-size discs – ‘le macaron.’Macarons Topiary 2012 arr

These meringue cookies carry a ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor, making them all-the-more appealing. Attractively displayed in topiaries and neatly packaged into tissue-lined boxes, just holding these chic treats makes you feel more cultured, and even – do I dare say – French. In fact, if Chanel were ever to release ‘haute biscuits,’ these macarons would live up to standard –grand in both quality and sophistication.

Macarons Topiary arrLadurée, the leading producer of macarons, has been making these cookies for more than 150 years. Their boutiques offer clients these sweet, yet light, indulgences that vary in flavour profile and hue. Pale green macarons, for instance, are synonymous with pistachios; grouping colour and flavour is just one contributing factor that allures consumers into easily picking their desired macaron. Mix and match your macarons or stick to your favourite(s) – chocolate, lavender, vanilla, raspberry, and lemon among others. The possibilities are endless! With the exception of unique flavours and added food colouring, these crispy meringue cookies are practically stiffened egg whites, beaten with sugar and ground almonds.

Macarons Display Case arrMeringue recipes are not original, in concept, as they have been seen and done before –think pavlova. Still, popularity in favour of the marcaron continues to spread continentally. Pretty irresistible, these round temptations transcend from a level of ordinary to ‘extraordinaire.’ And it’s no wonder! The meringue itself has a chewy interior – good just as is – but, it gets better as two cookies are sandwiched between ganache, buttercream or fruit filling. Mess-free and jam-packed with flavour, literally, macarons are convenient to eat.

Ever indulged in these cookies? Guilty! I simply had to inquire what the fuss was all about, and content for having tasted this ‘trend.’ After all this sweet talk, you may decide to do the same. Steadfast to years of tradition and history, the simplest joy has come out of simple ingredients. As in the case of this French meringue, ‘le macaron’ is ‘très bon!’

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

L’air du café…

Cafe Cropped arrCoffee is a must! Morning or afternoon, I enjoy cozying up to a ceramic mug filled with this hot liquid gold. Arguably closer to bronze, in colour, tone is irrelevant. As long as it smells good, and is strong enough to wake me up and keep me going through the day, I love coffee; my preferred afternoon pick-me-up.

Bistro Chairs cropped arrLanding in Paris, a.k.a. bistro central, how could I passé on the café? To do so would be unthinkable, for me, and perhaps to coffee-lovers everywhere. For the love of coffee, my ‘joie de vivre,’ I retreated to one of the many cafés in the city of lights.

Already familiar with Turkish-style coffee, I would liken Parisian coffee to be just as strong. Its consistency is by no means watered-down like cafe Americano, which I am often exposed to back home. I usually only take milk in my coffee, but even I found my Parisian café-drinking experience more pleasurable with the addition of sugar. However you like it, I would describe French coffee as bold, robust and authentic in flavour. To my understanding, French café is coffee made the right way – the real deal.

When in Paris, you’ll note a distinguishable scent looming in the air – it’s the smell of coffee. If you crave it, lookout for a set of neatly arranged chairs in any arrondissement (district), and you’ll be sure to find a well-dressed waiter to serve you a cup of joy. Having tasted French café in a Parisian bistro and the McDonald’s along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, I can honestly rate both drinks as very good. The main distinction, then, lies in the manner of service and the atmosphere. Wherever you decide to take your Parisian coffee break, remember two things: first, rejoice in knowing cafés are within arms-reach; and, second, the city of love is not entirely ‘in love’ with drive-thrus – no Timmies here, just so you know!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.