As I prepare for my upcoming trip to Paris, I decide to look back on a previous visit a couple of summers back. As I recall, that June was unseasonably cool. But it was, after all, Paris, with its charm, beauty and food … a freshly-baked baguette, wonderfully rich and creamy cheese accompanied by a glass of Bordeaux. Yes, yes, I know French food is much more than that, but the thought of sitting in a café all day watching the Paris world pass by with only my drink order changing from café crème to a vin rouge is something to be savored.
But on that particular trip, my good friend, Mark, had suggested I check out the top pâtisseries in Paris. And so, I decided I was up for the challenge.
On one of the warmer days, I set out with my traveling companions, Thom and Eric (who I’m sharing a flat with during my upcoming stay), to begin the adventure. We were staying in a charming hotel near the Tour Eiffel, so we decided to go to the pâtisserie furthest away and work our way back. We took the metro, conveniently located a few steps from our hotel to the Métro République. We followed our Paris map a couple of short blocks south of the Pl. de la République off of the busy Bd du Temple to Jacques Genin.
For years, Jacques Genin, self-taught pastry chef, sold his chocolates and caramels to high-end Paris restaurants and hotels, but opened his own space in the hip northern edge of the Marais in 2008. And thus, his delicious goods were made available directly to the public.
His beautiful establishment is warm and welcoming, a combination chocolaterie, pâtisserie and tea salon, with its beautifully designed white walls, extraordinarily lovely orchids well placed by the entrance, and its pristine hard wood floors begging us to take the few steps down into the heart of the shop. Awaiting us were deliciously appealing pastries and glass cases filled with delicate freshly made chocolates.
Standing behind the glass cases, Arthur Dieupart motioned us over and gave us our first taste of the best chocolates in my memory. Smooth and creamy ganaches, we purchased several of the small lovely boxes, each holding nine squares of the most interesting flavors with herbs and spices (jasmine, ginger, mint, tea) and others equally interesting (grapefruit, rose). Even the more typical kind was not of a typical taste.
But, we did come for the pastries!
Jacques Genin’s delightfully inviting tea room is located on the other side of the circular stairs that lead to the loft kitchen where all the pastries, chocolates, jellys and caramels are made fresh each day … and throughout the day to replenish what has been sold. We decided on the Saint-Honoré, a surprise from the typical that featured a delectable, flaky pastry topped with vanilla whipped cream alongside three cream puffs of chocolate, caramel and vanilla. It was a perfect selection with the café crème (oh, and more chocolates).
jacque genin, fondeur en chocolat – paris
133, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 77 29 01
[An update on Jacque Genin: He is no longer making individual pastries. You can still visit his salon for a made-to-order millefeuille or a pastry of the day but he is no longer making individual-sized pastries to go. His chocolates, caramels and pâtes de fruits are thankfully still available.]
Pulling ourselves away from the inviting ambience, friendly staff and delicious smells, we left to walk to the next shop on our list, Pâtisserie Pain de Sucre.
Located on rue Rambuteau, also in the Marais, just three blocks northeast of the Centre Pompidou, this shop is owned by Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray. These two met each other at Pierre Gagnaire’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant … in the pastry kitchen, of course. They opened Pain de Sucre together and work as a team, creating wonderfully fabulous confections.
The bright, well-appointed space is just what you’d imagine when thinking pâtisserie. When we entered the shop, the first things we noticed were the cases filled with inviting pastries and macaroons. Looking up, you’ll see the ornate and amazingly fairy-tale ceiling perfectly suited to the space. The shop was busy with customers unable to make decisions because everything is so well presented and so inviting, concoctions so well appointed they looked like artwork. Even the marshmallows were tempting!
We decided on their tarte au citron, which is apparently pretty famous. We left the pâtisserie and strolled to a café for an afternoon espresso. The tart was all we anticipated, delightfully creamy with a hint of lime. Definitely a winner!
Pain du Sucre
14 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris
Tél +33(0)1 45 74 68 92
From there, we moved on toward our final stop of the day, La Pâtisserie des Rêves located in the posh 7th arr and created by chefs Angelo Musa—a winner of the Pastry World Cup and a Meilleur Ouvrier de France—and Philippe Conticini, partnering with hotelier Thierry Teyssier. (They have another shop in the 16th arrondissement, 10-minutes from the Palais de Chaillot, which includes a salon de thé and an atelier des choux.)
We stepped into a small space crowded with late afternoon shoppers clearly picking up pastries for after dinner pleasures. Everything in the shop was artfully designed, from the color-coordinated walls, fixtures and packaging, to the interesting glass domes under which contained deliciously appealing delicacies.
If you are looking for only one treat, the word in this “Pastry Shop of Dreams” is the Paris-Brest, for which it has won raves, and rightly so. The original Paris-Brest was created in 1891 to commemorate the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race and was popular with riders because of its energy-rich calorie content and its circular shape, which was easy to eat on the ride.
True to their creativity, Phillipe Conticini’s Paris-Brest is different than most, with six small puffs of pastry (choux) nestled together in a circle, each containing rich chocolate-praline. The addition of the chocolate adds a wonderful flavor to the smooth crème and goes way beyond the typical. Definitely one to try!
La Pâtisserie des Rêves par Philippe Conticini
93, rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
telephone: +33 (0)1 42 84 00 82
And so, with a sugar over-load and a desire for some substantive food, we walked back to our “neighborhood” and stopped at a corner bistro that offered us our customary glass of Bordeaux and the special of the evening, a fresh fish in … wait for it … puff pastry!
We woke up the next morning, our last day in Paris, and decided we couldn’t go home without at least a dozen more boxes of chocolates from Jacque Genin. We made our way over to the shop, which, on this day, was teaming with customers. By the end of it, we (and all the others) had nearly wiped them out. We met Jacques, a most sincere, warm and charming host, and had another pastry and café crème. This time, the lime … divine!!
On a recent visit to Seattle, to my surprise, a colleague, Lisa, said she had a recommendation for me. She said she knew of the best chocolates in Paris and would send me the information. I said, “Let me guess … Jacque Genin.” She had never been there, but was the lucky recipient of several boxes over the past few years.