Monday, December 19, 2016

Pastries from Ladurée, Paris

Paris is a land of many famous pâtisseries, but even amongst the slew, Ladurée is one of the more famous.  They have been around since the 1860s, have many locations at this point, and are famed for their macarons in particular.

The macarons have an interesting history, added to the bakery lineup in the 1930s, when they also added a tearoom adjacent to the bakery since ladies weren't allowed in cafes (!).  But Ladurée stayed a single bakery until far more recently, when they were bought by the same parent company as the monolith Paul (which I've reviewed before), and soon added a few other Paris locations in the 1990s, and then, eventually, global expansion in the 2000s.

One night, I wanted a sweet treat, so I stopped by the Ladurée location that just happened to be located between my office and hotel (I didn't plan this, I swear!).  I didn't have good selections that night, and wound up dissatisfied, so, I also visited a second time in the morning.  That visit was even worse.  Granted, I never tried the macarons (because, meh, boring), but Ladurée wasn't worth any accolades in my book.

The Store

Storefront, inside Printemps.
The location I visited isn't the original.  It is located inside the fancy Printemps women's department store, which I walked by every day on my way to my hotel from the office.

Goodies are available to take away, or they have a small seating area on the side.
As I said, Ladurée is famous for macarons, and the first display case you encounter is filled with their signature item, in a variety of colors and flavors.
Sweet Treats.
The first day of our trip, Ojan and I swung through to scope it out.  We visited in the early afternoon, and they pastry case was loaded up.  I had my eyes on a few things, including the St. Honoré  (available in a slew of varieties), or perhaps the mille-fuielle, as I planned to sample many of these in Paris (like the one I tried at Pierre Hermé.
Little Gift Sweets.
They also have a section with little packaged cookies, meringues, and of course, the new hotness, flavored marshmallows.

But on the visit where I planned to get something, I was devastated when I walked in.  They had, exactly 3 desserts left!  Note to self: do not stop by a pâtisserie at 7pm!

Still, I wanted something.  So, I eyed my options.  There was one little tart thing available in cherry or pineapple.  Or a double decker choux pastry with cherry.  The person taking my order said that one had more cream filling, and clearly, cream wins, so I went for it.  Still, I wasn't excited.

The Goods

Just like at Pierre Hermé, the packaging was a bit frilly and extensive, although at least this was a box with structural integrity.

So what was it that I wound up with?  A cherry version of the Religieuse, another treat that Ladurée makes in several varieties, but only the cherry one was left at that time.
Religieuse Griotte Amande. 5.75€.
"Choux pastry, blancmange cream, sour cherry compote, sour cherries."

Once I got home, I read the description.  Uh, sour cherry?  The person taking my order said "cherry".  I probably wouldn't have gotten this if I knew it was sour cherry.  Still, I persevered.  Choux pastry, and cream filling, can be great.

The treat was two layers, both the same, just one smaller than the other.  Choux pastry, stuffed with sour cherry compote, glazed and decorated.

The 5.75€ price I guess was fine?  I don't really know the going rate for pastries like this.
I dug in with the provided adorable little spoon.  Um.  Where was the cream?

If this one had more cream than the other item offered, then I really don't understand what was in the other one.

The choux pastry was totally unremarkable.

The glaze was very sweet, white chocolate perhaps?

The filling was in several layers, mostly a sour cherry compote.   It was ... sour cherry.  There were also some stewed sour cherries.  And a thin layer of almond paste against the bottom pastry.  And yes, a very, very thin layer of cream on top.

The top ball had more cream in it, but neither layer was what I'd call a cream filled treat.  Sour cherry, yes.  Cream, no.

So, I didn't like this.  I felt a bit mislead, as the merchant said this was filled with cream and that it was cherry.  But even so, this is just not ever something I'd pick, given more options.  I just didn't have options.

The only thing I really liked was the sweet glaze, just because it was sweet.
Croissant aux Noix, Mini. 1.15€.
"Ladurée Croissant filled with almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts."

Another morning, I really wanted a fancy pastry for  breakfast, but I was also feeling lazy, and didn't want to venture far.  So I opted to swing back by Ladurée to check out their selection of viennoiserie.  Unlike the macaroons and cakes, these items were all hidden from sight, not in a grand display case, but a menu was available.  I had no way to see what items looked like.

The menu sounded decent, including raisin rolls, croissants, and kouign amann.  I knew that people really do like the Ladurée croissant filled with chocolate and nuts, and even though I arrived exactly 5 minutes after opening, he told me they had already sold out of the two that they had.  Really?  Two per day?  Interesting.  I guess that helps create hype ...

So I settled for the "Croissant aux Noix", the nut croissant.  I saw it was available in a large or small size, so opted for small, since I wasn't actually thrilled with the choices before me.

I'll be blunt.  This was one of the worst croissants I had in Paris.  Perhaps on par with the ones from my hotel?  My office had better.  Every random place I stumbled into had better.

The croissant itself was ... spongy?  It wasn't flaky, it wasn't buttery, it just wasn't good.  Just like the pastry I had earlier, literally, the only aspect I liked was the glaze on top.

Inside was a bit of a ground/chopped nut filling, sweetened, and tasty.  But when surrounded by such awful pastry, it didn't matter.

I honestly wondered if these were day olds.  That would explain also how he had sold out of the chocolate nut croissants only 5 minutes after opening?

I was glad I got a mini.  I guess the 1.15€ price was ok, but some of the less fancy places all had full size treats for this price, and minis for < 1€, so I wasn't impressed with the low price either.
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