Purely Paris: A Shop to Go Nuts About
Thu 13 Sep 2012
All photos by Steve Sampson.
If anything, shopping in Paris offers way too many options. But I’ve had few discoveries more delightful than La Pistacherie. This boutique—I should say boutiques, since there are three—is usually described as either a delicatessen or sweetshop. But it’s something more unique: an upscale shop for gourmet fruit and nut lovers.
Don’t let that put you off. As its name suggests, La Pistacherie is full of pistachios. It offers these (plus almost every nut you can name) in an intriguing and ingenious style. But just as important is its amazing mise-en-scène; all three La Pistacherie shops look like apothecaries of the Belle Epoque. Their color scheme of gold, chocolate and pale fern green is part and parcel of a perfect retro interior. Products are displayed in glass jars, on elegant shelves or behind stylish vitrines. The friendly servers are in uniform and the packaging chic.
Most enjoyable of all are the inventive treats, which are priced by the gram (roughly a quarter pound). Here, of course, the pistachio rules. It is available raw, in a selection of mixtures, smoked, covered in chocolate or sugarcoated and wrapped in paper like a candy. Pistachio is also one flavor of the establishment’s mochi: round Japanese ice creams encased by rice-flour pastry. These mochi glaces are a hit with Japanese Parisians, who love the delicate way they are served in the shop. (Each colorful round is cut into four pieces, then presented on a tiny bamboo tray.)
The flavors and colors offered by La Pistacherie are the kind Parisians tend to love. You can sample lemon-coated almonds, almonds married to thyme, pistachios in wasabi, peanuts-plus-chocolate—or raw cashews and macadamias mixed with almonds and pistachios that are either smoked or sugared.
Not to mention a “curated” selection of dried fruits that includes goji, apricots and white mulberries. Don’t be surprised if you hear discussions of crus and terroirs the likes of which might seem more appropriate to a wine cellar. Just relax and learn about the differences between pistachios from Turkey and those from Tunisia.
La Pistacherie on the Place d’Alma.
La Pistacherie isn’t unique and elegant by accident. The three stores, with their perfect placement (Place d’Alma in the 8th, rue Rambuteau in the 4th and rue de Seine in the 6th) plus their stylish decor, are the baby of Raphaël Sakr. Raphaël is the son of Paris antiquarian Charles Sakr, who runs a gallery on quai Voltaire. Sakr Sr. is a famous expert on Italian art and furniture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. His son had the idea for La Pistacherie while he was studying in New York, at Columbia.
La Pistacherie on the rue de Seine.
Because the family’s origins are Lebanese, the shop’s luxury treatment of these fruits and nuts makes sense. (One French critic described Sakr’s boutiques as “a poetic return to his roots.”) But La Pistacherie has such a Parisian flair that few locals can resist a sample. After all, a small selection in its charmingly slim sack makes a novel gift for any host at a dinner party. An exotic mélange is equally perfect when you serve it with champagne at an apéro. Also: because you can buy a small quantity, this makes it easy to celebrate in your own hotel room.
For the visitor exhausted by shopping in Paris, a small sample (or a mochi!) will provide a welcome pick-me-up. All three shops are perfectly sited for this. So, one way or another, there’s no excuse for missing out.
The sleek, lightweight sacks and glassine bags at La Pistacherie make their offerings wonderful gifts from Paris. They’re just exotic enough to make them something truly special. Plus they really are the best nuts I’ve tasted.
Try a mochi in pistachio or mango; or try the Mélange Gourmandise (pine nuts, dried pomegranate, white figs). Also, don’t be afraid to ask for samples.
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