Pierre Hermé Christmas Cakes
Sun 29 Nov 2009
This little piggy . . .
Oink, oink. I am something of a glutton for French pastry, particularly anything with chocolate. Or fruit. A rich cream filling can be lovely, too. So it is no surprise that I actually clapped my hands in glee when I was invited to the Pierre Hermé press conference for a taste of his holiday treats.
Who is Pierre Hermé? Only the king of pastry decadence. His chocolate-colored shop at 72, rue Bonaparte in the 6th Arrondissement is like a jewelry store, with sales clerks who wear white gloves and serve precious desserts from behind a waist-high counter. There is almost always a line outside the shop, but clients are patient, knowing that it is worth the wait. For those in a hurry, he has two other shops in Paris and seven in Tokyo.
The conference was at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (an interesting place in its own right), where Belgian designer Martin Margiela collaborated on a private event suite with Elle Decor. The room is a black-and-white version of country chic with photocopy wallpaper and a complete absence of color. Except for the cakes. They were perfectly displayed on a buffet along the wall. The most beautiful was the Flocon Ispahan, a pink-iced “snowflake” of meringue and cream flavored with rose, raspberry and lychee.
The traditional French Christmas cake is the Bûche de Noël, a.k.a. the Yule log. Hermé has seven of them this year, each a trademark recipe. There are also macaroons—no, not those gooey coconut things we have in the states, but yummy crunchy egg-white cookies with scrumptious fillings. (Pierre is only the best macaroon maker in all of Paris.) Plus, I saw Epiphany cakes (also called Galettes des Rois), so as a responsible reporter, I had no choice but to try a few to see if everything tasted as good as it looked.
We were escorted from the Martin Margiela suite onto a breathtaking terrace with a small swimming pool and an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. I do not think I was the only one wishing we had unlimited access to the pool. The cakes were served with our choice of tea or champagne. I opted for the champagne, which seemed the only reasonable option despite the early hour.
The highlight at our table was the 2000 Feuille Bûche. This is Hermé’s caramel-infused, pralined version of a napoleon, and it is amazingly satisfying for your sweet tooth. I particularly liked the Fortunella macaroon for the note of acidity in its kumquat filling. And then there was the New Year’s Eve “Emotion” concoction playing with risotto and black truffle—it was very strange on the palate. Very strange and curiously appealing. I have no doubt that I’ll be back for more.
Pierre Hermé Locations
72, rue Bonaparte, in the 6th.
185, rue Vaugirard, also in the 6th (less crowded).
4, rue Cambon, in the 1st (the newest of the stores).