November 25, 2014 Paris France Europe

My Favorite Eclairs and Choux in Paris for 2014

In Paris, the talk of the town is the CHOUX PASTRY. The origins of the choux pastry—traditionally filled with pastry cream, custard, or whipped cream and topped with fondant icing —are hazy, but can be traced to France around the turn of the 19th century. In the hands of the city’s top pâtissiers, however, the classic dessert has been reimagined. There are Choux a la Creme, sweet and savory, sweet éclairs and savory éclairs; mini or  supersized ones; open face or sandwich-like pastries filled with salmon and foie gras. 

A few months ago, I discovered a pastry chef that has changed the way we view an éclair today. Christophe Adam, a now famous pastry chef has transformed and modernized the classic French éclair into a dessert that is colorful, fresh and appealing. His éclairs are stunning to look at and interesting to taste. Basically, he has modernized the famous french éclair and has made it trendy and fashionable.

Last year was the éclair trend, which I believe is followed by the choux a la creme this year. I think I've been to the major éclair shops and now was the turn of the choux. Popelini is the reference: A chou uses the same dough as an eclair and is usually filled with the same cream. It's different in texture, since its size makes it crunchier.

Taking over the entrance of Paris' new shopping mall, Beaugrenelle, La Patisserie de Rèves is a unique, fun, creative, futuristic, modern and fanciful pastry shop you will definitely not miss. Enter the lab of Philippe Conticini and get ready to enjoy a new dimension where a whole new meaning is given to how we buy and enjoy pastries. In here, nothing is usual. There are no typical fridges, no big displays and no employees. In the middle of the shop are two round tables on which cakes are displayed for the pleasure of your eyes. Each piece is placed on a refrigerated slate, protected by a glass cup. You'll ask yourself if you're in a museum or a pastry store.

Chocolate Eclair: A tasty premium eclair filled with rich chocolate cream and embraced with a thin chocolate wrapping. Every bite combines the crunchiness of the chocolate, the sponginess of the dough and the letting of the inner filling. Yum! This place deserves its dream name

The Coffee Eclair: Different from any other, this eclair is a must try. A pastry dough covered with crumble, filled with strong coffee pastry cream (MOKA SIDAMO CLAIRE) and wrapped with a chocolate paper. The coffee and chocolate contrast is exquisite.

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Looking for tasty discoveries, I recently came across L'Eclair de Genie in Paris and of course I had to pass by this favorite spot again during my latest trip to Paris with my wife and some friends. I wanted them to enjoy the sweet passions including Eclairs, Baba au Rhum, Mille Feuilles, Macarons and many others.

Many of us have somehow forgotten about delicious eclairs when adorable macarons and elaborate American cupcakes took the Paris by storm in the past couple of years. Thanks to inventive pastry chefs, two new Parisian pastry shops, L’Eclair de Genie and L’Atelier de l’Eclair, have put the éclair back on the dessert tray. L’Eclair de Génie was born out of the imagination of the very talented pastry chef Christophe Adam. He previously worked for over 10 years at Fauchon, a big name in French gourmet food known for its éclairs. After discovering L'Eclair de Genie in Passy Plaza, the shopping mall of the 16th district, I decided to go search for Christophe Adam's original location on 14 rue Pavee. We reached late, thirty minutes before closing, so the displayed choices were not as varied as I expected. Nevertheless , I decided to enjoy four new flavors which can help summarize the place's innovative wonders.

ROUGE FRAMBOISE: (Crème framboise, chocolat grand cru et chocolat au lait). I think that’s one of the most beautiful and most interesting éclairs around. A pronounced Ferrari red color that makes you want to order it first. A juicy raspberry flavor bursts onto your tongue while the chocolate filling takes over to smooths out the acidity of the frosting. This great mix of chocolate and raspberry is superb.

MARRON CLÉMENTINE: (Ganache montée aux marrons, purée de clémentines, clémentines confutes). What a marvelous piece of heavenly creation. A fresh eclair covered with a clementine mousse while the inside has a subtle and enjoyable crunchiness of the chestnut puree. As you think that the experience is done, the clementine confit will explode under your teeth to add the needed passion and finesse. Doesn't the picture express it all?

Chocolat Grand Cru: A rich creamy chocolate from Madagascar covered with a 64% dark cacao frosting. Dark and rich in premium flavors it is! A real dark chocolate that's not bitter but soft on the palate, covered with dark biscuits balls on top adding a fine crunch to every bite. That's what I call culinary extravaganza.

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My journey to the French capital was a short one this time. But there was no way I was going to leave the city without finding yet another tasty discovery. My trip ended with style at L'Atelier de L'Eclair. This simple yet luxurious pastry shop in the heart of the 2nd district is surely a place I am happy not to have missed. 

I ordered one salmon eclair and another tuna one, followed by dark chocolate, salted caramel eclairs and Mont Blanc. The savory eclairs are bigger in size then the sweets ones. Although using the same dough, the sweet eclairs are covered with a crunchy sweet layer they call the croustillant; Yummy. That's the slight difference between a salted eclair and a normal sandwich. As you bite into the eclair a million flavors burst into your mouth, while each and every ingredient that makes up this eclair is felt. A subtle taste of sweetness is enjoyed in the background leaving an aftertaste that will make you smile. The best part was licking off the sugar bits off my lips.

The tuna eclair is delicious; a tuna purée spread in the lower pastry dough and covered with thin sliced tomatoes, three mozzarella balls and rocket leaves. Bravo!

The salmon one is even more unique. It is generously filled with salmon, cream cheese and covered with thin slices of cucumbers laid on a pain de mie. A perfect taste.  Subtle taste of sweetness, non-oily salmon combined with the crunchy feeling of the cucumbers. Yum...

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This bakery — named for the Italian cook who supposedly invented pâte à choux — sells only cream puffs. Tiny, adorable cream puffs.  Located on Rue des Martyrs in the 9th District, Popelini is a pastry shop you should not miss on your next visit to Paris. Simple and refined, they have one single item displayed in a long fridge behind the glass facade, which says "Chou a la Creme". Polpelini uses thin dough, slightly chewy and well baked on the sides and covers it with a craquelin (a crunchy layer of pate sable posed on top and with a crunchy consistency), which is a crunchy layer of sugar, making it special and different from a profiterole.

The dark chocolate is really nice and intense in flavor. Bite into it to start feeling the aromas one after the other. Passing through the dough reveals a condensed and generous filling of chocolate that's firm and offers an intense chocolate flavor that's so enjoyable. Milk chocolate is also very good. An equilibrated taste that's enjoyable and not sweet. Usually milky chocolates are too sweet, but this one is good. Coffee: An intense aromatic journey around Latin America as the coffee touches your taste buds. That's a very good one indeed... Maybe one of my favorites. Pistachio:The pistachio filling is different, more watery, green in color and tasting exactly as you'd expect; pistachio, without any unpleasant sweetness. Praline: My least favorite and too sweet for my taste. It's also too watery so pay attention to spilling. Salted caramel: The best by far for sure. Caramel, sugar, chewiness and to end the experience in style, a rich salty flavor that caresses your lips and stays around for some time. I'd come back for it.

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Reach a black shop, small and cozy where a fridge displays a selection of choux. The first impression is superb, the place and the pastries are so nice to look at. Colorful and small in size, decorated with a circle of sugar, they shout for you to devour them.   We were handed a box of six that include a paper displaying each choux and its flavor. €9 for a box of 6. 

An adequate size, smaller than that at Popelini, and better looking, but I can't say the same for the taste. It starts with the sugar circle topping all the pieces, a thick piece of sugar that adds an unpleasant sweetness to all bites. The craquelin (the sugar layer on top of the dough) is better than Popelini, crunchier and sweeter. Loved it! As for the filling, too watery and lacking body and consistency. The chocolate is too intense, the coffee is not strong enough and all the other flavors are too sweet to enjoy their real flavors.

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What’s amazing about this place is its simplicity, its calm ambiance, simple decor and, most importantly, its enjoyable location in one of Paris calmest roundabouts.   The experience starts with the name that says it all, a simple logo of inspired class, a unpretentious shop and a menu that's just straight to the point; four choices only, prepared a la minute.   Stand in line and choose to take away or sit on one of the three square tables serving the choux and hot drinks. Two employees, smiles on their faces, make sure to make your experience a good one. Service is quick, freshness is guaranteed and the presentation is mouthwatering.

All the choux are filled and served upside down, the craquelin at the bottom and a small part of the filling showing like a flower. Grab it and put it as is in your mouth prepared to be amazed. The choux at "La Maison du Chou" are really exceptional. It starts by the dough which is not covered with a sugar frosting so you enjoy its soft chewiness while the inner filling adds the needed flavors to the mix. This filling is creamy, smooth, lightly sweet and full of taste. Loved the perfection of the "Nature", the bitterness and strength of the "coffee" and the acidity and aftertaste of the "chocolat" while the praline's sweetness marks the end note in style.

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See you in 2015 for more discoveries and another list of something oustanding capturing our taste buds...




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been there? what was your impression? (9/10)

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