Tag Archives: patisserie

paris pâtisserie: chez bogato

14 Oct

chez bogato

After corridors of bones, a whimsical coloured café.

Chez Bogato is just around the corner from the Catacombs of Paris – hence the grotesque ‘Tarte Denfert’ above. Long twisting tunnels from an ancient quarry became an ossuary when the city pushed its limits; whole cemeteries of bones were uprooted and moved, eventually stacked into neat rows of femurs. I had read ‘Pure,’ a fictional account of the exhumation of Les Innocents – and was intrigued to see the real thing. Underground it was damp and oppressive. At one point my friend and I were alone, peering into a locked grate.

What’s that? she said.

Didn’t you learn anything from horror movies?! I replied.

Something shifted in the darkness, made a large thump. We jumped, squeaked and hurried on. There were displays of geological interest, fossils as well as bones and poems about death in Latin and French. After a while the walls of bones adorned with skulls in heart-shapes or crosses lost their morbid fascination and became simply sad. It was a relief to escape into bright sunlight – in a back street fully two metro stops from where we began.

We found refuge in the polar opposite – the display of colour and life and parties that is Chez Bogato. It is a baker’s paradise: full of edible glitter, dinosaur-shaped cake moulds and alphabet letter stamps. Everything you need for a children’s party, sweets hats, presents. They even do fantastical cakes on order – a diplodocus, a fairy castle –  a rarity in Paris which tends to stick to round fraisiers and square chocolate mousses on special occasions.

The tarts we tried were excellent. Beneath the marzipan skull, the ganache was smooth and bitter, almost melting. The pastry and nougatine had sesame seeds in them, a nice touch. The ‘Domino’ was a chocolate and walnut brownie, with a white chocolate mousse flecked with real vanilla seeds. All with an excellent cup of Kusmi tea at the coloured table. Otherwise they had a dessert that mimicked a tiny burger, a large flower macaron and various other ludic touches that are very original amid the mostly traditional patisseries in Paris. Full of imagination, and inspiration for the home baker. Pastry classes available for children and adults.

Chez Bogato – 7 rue Liancourt 75014, metro Denfert-Rochereau – closed Sun/Mon

Catacombs – 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – open 10am-4pm

NB. There is normally an enormous queue of two hours or more at the Catacombs. It is worth arriving at 9am with a cup of coffee and a book to be the first ones in. It can be quite damp, so wear sensible shoes too.

penultimate

20 Jul

001

 

The extractor fan shakes the bottles of rum, kirsch, cognac in the cupboard nearby, creating a steady clink. The slabs of puff pastry are clammy, not their usual paper-smooth. One extra distraction and it bunches and sticks itself into artistic rumples.

On a roundabout way home, near the golden dome of Les Invalides, I can’t help noticing how empty the avenue seems: one lady in shades of beige to match the dusty air, one thirty-something sedately rolling by, feet firmly placed on a wide skateboard, head balding slightly behind his sunglasses. Two teenagers shrieking over an iphone.

The moment we finally get our long-awaited summer – the moment I wish I could stay here, stay still, to go to outdoor cinema, to lounge in the sandpit at Paris Plage on my canal, the canal de l’Ourcq – everyone begins to leave Paris.

002

At work, I have to tidy the walk-in before the shop closes for a month. At Christmas, the fridge was so full you couldn’t walk in, only lean over to reach a tub of mirror icing. Now there is just a crate of tomatoes, some cream, some 5-litre bottles of pasteurised eggs and a box of real ones, for brioche.

Around 11am, someone has to start to think about lunch. Whoever is hungriest. Muttering wistfully about Toyko ramen, they open the door of the small staff fridge and sigh at the leftovers. I love the sticky-sweet honey and soy marinades they use to eke out scraps of chicken or pork, served with sticky rice. I have to restrain my hands when they make spaghetti – there’s no cream in carbonara! the sauce does not sit prettily on a swirl of dry pasta – but the meal is always proffered with imagination and warmth. Today it is entirely to my taste. I put off the puff pastry to chop ten large tomatoes, as a finely diced shallot, the last one, waits in a puddle of basalmic vinegar.

Tomatoes. Bread. There is always extra bread, crackly baguettes that scratch the roof of your mouth. A baguette and a half: torn up roughly it is perfect for panzanella, with enough oomph to soak up all the saved tomato juices, the inordinately generous glug of olive oil, and the balsamic. It needs to sit for an hour or so to really meld – the tomatoes get their corners knocked off, the bread softened and full of flavour. So I add half a cucumber, some stolen chives from the person making asparagus quiche (basil would be better) and some plain black olives. More salt and more oil than you might think is wise, a good mix with bare hands and it can sit in the corner, while some eggs turn hardboiled and I finally face the puff pastry.

003

The flour has started to irritate my skin – now when I fling it with abandon my forearms go pink and scratchy. Tomorrow is my last day, before the holidays yes, but also of my contract. I am done: I can sleep until the sun pushes me out of bed and straight into the hammock in the garden, I can use my energy to run far and hard in the cool evenings, not worrying about aching legs. I can stop eating leftover cake for supper and think about real meals.

When we sit down to eat around the marble counter – a heap of tomato rubble, the now soggy panzanella, two eggs and a slice of prosciutto each – I am reminded of the south of France, our perpetual summer holidays. The tomatoes are infinitely better there, full of sunny flavour. There, there is my happy place: the green lake where I swim out to the buoy and bob for hours –  where I have been bobbing now over months of dull afternoons, waiting for this moment. But these more pallid, robust tomatoes will do, and with my colleagues laughter, confusion, translation into French, English, Japanese, even a phrase in Cantonese, it feels pretty happy as it is. The baker boy loves rolling out the loaves, doesn’t really like eating bread, would much prefer rice, but he nods approval at the panzanella, pours me half of a Belgian peach beer brought back from his travels.

004

Not yet ready to leave my weird corner of Japan in Paris, not ready to think about what I have learned and what I am still missing after nearly two years. I know that my check trousers are a little more snug than they were, but they still button up. My clogs are worn through at the crease, and there is an odd boat-shaped burn on my right arm currently knitting itself into scar tissue.

Tomorrow is my last day, and I am so ready for my summer projects: cartwheels and swimming pools, cooking for pleasure (a whipped cream layer cake has been hovering for more than month now), actually writing  things again, dinner around the table with my small family. I am done with the early mornings, for now, but I don’t want to leave these lunches with my work crowd. But it is 1.30pm, the beer is gone and the oven is on again for the peach tarts in puff pastry. The flour must be swept up, the counter wiped down and the lights turned off. I can go home.

pecheresse beer

paris pâtisseries: l’éclair de génie

6 Feb

les eclairs de genie

The cupcake is dead, long live the cupcake. Everyone is looking for the next trend, that one simple item that can be customised in a million ways and sold for a fortune.

The man behind L’Éclair de Génie  may indeed be a genius. After the multi-coloured macarons, the American cupcakes, on the heels of Popelini’s range of cute choux puffs, comes the éclair in infinite flavours. Christophe Adam knows what he is doing – not least because he made the éclair into a luxury item at Fauchon back in 2003 – because he now has a designer boutique in the Marais, that sells only éclairs and truffles. Even at 4.50-5€ each, it is apparently doing so well after only six weeks he plans to open another shop straightaway.

I had to see what all the fuss was about – and to see, more importantly if his éclairs could beat the neighbouring pasteis de nata. Those custard tarts are my favourite example of one quality product, made fresh and perfect every day.

The boutique is egg-yellow and white, with elegant vendeuses wearing sleek black gloves. The line of éclairs stretches almost the length of the shop, a rainbow selection adorned with rose petals, striped icing and the Christophe Adam classic: arty transfers that make the pastry into a Louvre-worthy painting. I paid €14 (somewhat begrudgingly) for three small eclairs and carried the box home as if it contained delicate jewels.

The choux pastry seemed just right – not too tough nor too flimsy. The cream inside was liquid silk. Pistachio and orange was more subtle than I expected, the crème de pistache the palest green with just a touch of bitter orange. The Madagascan vanilla covered with a rubble of toasted pecans was a nice contrast of textures – with enough real vanilla seeds to pop between your teeth if you listened carefully. While the lemon and yuzu was rich and lovely, the extra-bitter twist that should have been the yuzu flavour – another ingredient à la mode at the moment – was a little lost. But that is the only criticism I can find; they were excellent eclairs. Well, that and the cost. Half the size of a boulangerie éclair, and twice the price. But they are special enough to rival even my beloved custard tarts. L’Éclair de Génie is inspired.

l'eclair de genie box

~~~

L’Éclair de Génie – 14 rue Pavée, 75004 Paris, métro St Paul – closed Mondays

*The name means ‘a flash of inspiration.’

%d bloggers like this: