Monday, January 09, 2017

Treats from Pâtisserie des Rêves, Paris

Pâtisserie des Rêves is one of those pâtisseries that those who haven't visited Paris just cannot fathom.  At least, I couldn't.  Even though I had seen plenty of photos, even though I did my research, I still was blown away by the presentation, and the elaborate nature of, all the goodies.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Pâtisserie des Rêves had, at the time of my visit, 6 locations in Paris.  They now have only 5 (the shop I visited has since closed), but they also have locations in Milan, Tokyo, and Abu Dhabi (and opened and closed one in London).  Of course, they started as a single shop, in 2009.

Everything looked incredible, and the displays are something that dreams are made of.

The Setting

I visited the (now closed) location inside the BHV Marais shopping center.  It took me a while to find, winding through a maze of a department store before I finally was able to discover it.  I had some fear that I was in the wrong place, it was that difficult to find.
As is customary in Paris, a menu card was outside the entrance, on the wall.  It was entirely in French, and listed the desserts and pastries, hot and cold drinks, plus the savory selections (a handful of sandwiches and salads).  This is the only location that had savory options.
From the entrance, a bright, white space awaited, with a circular counter in the center of the room, surrounding an open kitchen.
Treats on Display.
Each dessert item was on display under a lit glass dome.  These domes were set on top of the beautiful marble counter.
I'm not entirely sure what the kitchen area was used for, as it didn't look big enough to really be where they produce the pastries.  Perhaps this is used for the light savory food menu?
In the back was a barista area, off on the side.

The staff were incredibly friendly.  The barista saw me taking photos, and even posed (although my camera lagged too much to capture it).  I really appreciated that they didn't treat me as if I were being annoying!

They were also perfectly happy to speak English with me, although all signage was in French.  I was clearly off the beaten tourist path slightly, as most places had English signs, or at least printouts available.

The Lineup

The main pastry attractions span from completely innovative to elaborate updates on French pastry classics, like an eclair, that rather being coated in chocolate, actually surrounded by a chocolate shell, or a kouign amann that comes in the form of a stick.  They also produce beautiful, and only slightly modern versions of what they dub Childhood Pastries, described as "French pastry classics, revisited", like a famed paris-brest, saint-honorê, lemon meringue tart, rhum baba, tarte tatin, millefeuille ... yup, all the basics.  And for those who want truly basic, there is a line of cookies, brownies, and standard croissants.  These items are all in displays in the center of the room, available to eat there or bring home.

The sides of the room hold packaged treats to take home, gourmandises, from which I also selected some items.
Bavarois Fromage Blanc Verveine Citron (L). Tarte Citron, Tarte Rhubarbe (R).
Each dome held several items.

Here, the one of the left offered up the bavarois fromage blanc verveine citron in either a full size or individual, and under the right done was a large tarte citron and an individual tarte rhubarbe.

As am not a fan of citrus desserts, nor rhubarb, I easily moved on, after admiring them of course.
Paris-Brest, Saint Honorê, Tarte Abricot.
Next came a trio of individual French classics, any of which I could easily have picked.  Even though fairly basic in French patisserie terms, the paris-brest and saint honorê get many, many rave reviews.

Prices are given for eating in or taking away, with takeaway prices 2-3€ less.
Fruitter Fruites Rouges, Tarte Framboise (2 sizes).
Next we moved into some red fruits, with a Fruitter Fruites Rouges and Tarte Framboise, again offered in two portion sizes.
Gran Cru Vanille. Chou: Vanille Citron, Chocolat Praline, Pistache.
Next came their signature cream puffs, in an assortment of flavors.  These also get a number of rave reviews, as they have a completely non-traditional crunchy streusel top.

Above that was the Gran Cru Vanille, the item I ended up ordering.
Eclair au Chocolat, Charlotte Vanille Fruits Rouges.
Next came another red fruit item, and, the aforementioned eclair actually wrapped in a chocolate shell.
Calisson (2 sizes), Millefeuille.
The final dome contained layered creations, including their famed millefeuille and another cake that was available in two sizes.
Madeleine, Madeleine Chocolat, Cookie, Kouign Amman.
The other side of the counter is where the baked goods lived, in more standard display racks.  This selection looked more picked over, which makes sense, as it was evening, and these are mostly morning items.

Here we had two types of madeleines (regular and chocolate), a few chocolate chip cookies, a single flan tart, and, the kouign amann sticks.  This was certainly the most unique form of kouign amann I've ever seen, a flaky, twirled stick.  I was so tempted to get it given my love of kouign amann, but to be honest, it didn't look to have the crispy caramelized exterior I love in a kouign amann.
Financier, Croissant, Pain au Chocolat (2 sizes), Chausson aux pommes.
The final baked goods section had croissants (regular, chocolate, mini chocolate), apple turnovers, and assorted financiers, again, picked over, normally morning items.
Packaged Treats.
The sides of the shop are lined with pink packages containing all sorts of goodies to take home, gourmandises.  Here we had all sorts of chocolate covered items, candied nuts, biscuits, candies, dragêes, pâte de fruits, and more.
Chocolates, Spreads.
Next came their line of chocolate bars and assorted spreads (fruit and nut based).

Guimauves (Marshmallows).
And last, fancy marshmallows.  Remember when I predicted, years ago, that marshmallows would be the next big thing?  I still think it!


I'm including a section here on packaging, only because it became novel to me to compare how all the fancy pâtisseries did this differently.  Some totally impractical, some functional, some minimalistic.  Given the elaborate display cases inside this shop, you can probably guess which direction Pâtisserie des Rêves favors.
Bag and Box.
Pâtisserie des Rêves was more on the practical side, while still being quite nice.  The bag was a quality bag with handles, the box sturdy.  It stayed together on its own, but was sealed with a label too.  So much better than the box with no structural integrity from Pierre Hermé!

In the box bottom, a thick cardboard tray was placed, to keep the box even more strongly put together.  Points for Pâtisserie des Rêves on their packaging!


So, anyway, what, of all this great stuff, did I get?

Let's just say, I was faced with a pretty serious case of indecision.  I walked around drooling at the items under the domes.  I finally made a decision, and ordered the seasonal raspberry Tarte Framboise, but, the person who took my order told me that was good, but, his favorite was the Grand Cru Vanille.  If someone was going to, unsolicited, tell me that something else was better, what choice did I have?  I took his advice, and changed my order.

Grand Cru Vanille. 6.80€.
I obviously couldn't want to get back to the hotel to dig in, so I stopped at a fountain nearby to explore my treats.  Only then did I realize that no cutlery was provided in the bag.  Doh!  Other places always included that.

However, there were two pink plastic ... things.  I'm not sure what they were for really.  Decoration? They didn't hold up anything.  They were like little spears with cakes on top?  But, they sorta worked to slice off a bite.  I took a few token bites, then rushed back to hotel, where I knew silverware awaited.
Grand Cru Vanille: Inside!
"For the pleasure of real aficionados, Philippe Conticini has applied his talents especially to the flavour of the vanilla bean: subtly crunchy Nduja vanilla; vanilla sponge; creamy black vanilla filling; white chocolate and vanilla mousse – for a taste sensation as sweet and intense as a warm hug."

I'll be honest, when I took my first bites, I was pretty disappointed.  I didn't really like it.  But my first bites were all the outer mousse.  It got better as I dug in and uncovered the center.

There were four distinct components.

Starting from the bottom was what I guess is the "subtly crunchy Nduja vanilla".  It was a crunchy layer, with tiny bits of what I think were almonds perhaps, although maybe it was the Nduja vanilla itself?  A nutty taste for sure, awesome texture, and, a bit salty, which I really appreciated with the sweet.

Above that was the vanilla sponge, just a thin layer of vanilla cake.  It wasn't really what I think of as cake at all though really ... it was moist and I almost didn't realize that the bottom two layers were different, but it didn't have any crunchy bits in it, so it was certainly different.  Another texture to play with.

Above that was the "creamy black vanilla filling".  What was it?  I honestly don't know, but it was black and creamy, and well, tasted like vanilla?  Strongly of vanilla, in a nice way.

And finally, the "white chocolate and vanilla mousse", which was the dominant component, as it was not only the thickest layer, but it encompassed the entire thing as well.  It was light and fluffy.  Flecks of vanilla were quite visible.  It wasn't too sweet, which I did somewhat worry about.  I didn't want sweet overload.  But the flavor was ... odd.  It grew on me, particularly when combined with the other flavors, but it still wasn't something I liked.

Overall, this was a lovely celebration of vanilla.  Balanced and not too sweet.  The mousse was perfectly fluffy, and I liked the contrasting texture of the crunchy base.  I easily finished it, begrudgingly saving a single bite for Ojan.  But I wouldn't get it again.

The  6.80€ takeaway price was very reasonable for a high end creation like this.


I couldn't really leave this amazing place with just a single item, could I?  But I didn't want more to eat right then (or, even later that night).  Thus, I also grabbed a few items from the "gourmandises" area, aka, items that I could bring back to the hotel, or possibly even back home, and consume later ...
Guimave Surprise: Vanille/Caramel. 9€.
"Chocolate-coated marshmallows with a surprise filling."

These "Marshmallow Surprises" were available in three varieties: praline chocolate, praline lemon coconut, and caramel vanilla.  I'm really not sure why I opted for caramel vanilla, as praline chocolate sounds far more appealing to me as I write this up ...

Anyway, what was it?  A thin chocolate shell, with a fluffy marshmallow inside, with a well in the center stuffed with liquid caramel.

Sounded great, but for some reason neither Ojan nor I liked them.  It is really hard to say why, as all the ingredients are things we like.  Chocolate, caramel, marshmallows ... the chocolate was good quality, the caramel nicely gooey.  The marshmallow was a bit of a strange texture, sorta crunchy yet soft.  But still, I'm not sure why we both disliked them so much, and opted to give them away to friends instead.

The 9€ price was high, for a container with I think 5 of these in it total, but, well, it was a fancy shop, so this isn't totally surprising?
Guimauves Gout Guimauve, 2 pack. 1.85€
"Classic, delicately-flavoured marshmallows."

I also grabbed a little 2-pack of marshmallows, mostly out of curiosity.  Years ago I claimed that marshmallows were going to be a thing, the new cupcake, and while they haven't had quite reached the level of cupcakes, they still show up everywhere, including in Paris.

Available in a wide range of flavors: vanilla, coconut, orange blossom, "marshmallow", and baby cologne.  I went for "marshmallow" flavor, because that sounded somewhat ridiculous to me.  A marshmallow flavored marshmallow?  Uh, sure?

The marshmallow was a perfect texture and consistency, super fluffy and light.  But I didn't like the flavor at all.  It seemed kinda floral.  I hope I didn't accidentally grab the "baby cologne" flavor?

Anyway, texture great, flavor bad, so not a winner for me either.
Praline Rose. 14€.
Before this trip to Paris, I guess I had no idea what pralines really were.  I mean, I thought I did, it was a term I was familiar with, always invoking thoughts of some kind of candied nuts.

I've had plenty of chocolate with praline, like chocolate coated in praline bits from Godiva, and bars filled with bits of praline by Galler, Cailler, and Chocolat Moderne, and Vosges.  I've had my share of praline flavored ice creams, like Praline and Cream ice cream from Häagen-Dazs and Baskin-Robbins, ice cream with almond praline clusters from Ben & Jerry's, a ice cream Drumstick topped with praline peanuts from Nestle, pecan praline froyo from Yogurtland, and even a Praline & Cream McFlurry from McDonald's.  I've had other praline desserts, like spiced pecan praline cookies at Back Yard Kitchen, and the praline cream inside paris-brest in Tokyo.  And, apparently, a lot of foie gras and praline dishes, like the ridiculously good foie gras ice cream bar with praline mousse at Alexander's,  the foie gras mousse topped with pistachio praline at Lafitte, and a chocolate and foie gras mousse cake with praline sponge cake (and bacon ice cream) at La Folie.

Like I said, I thought I knew praline.  And then I went to Paris.  And discovered pink pralines, which apparently come from Lyon.  Nuts, usually almonds and/hazelnuts, coated in a pink candy shell.

I discovered them in the best place, inside the magical brioche Praluline from Pralus,  I wished I had known to grab a box of the pralines at Pralus, and regretted it as soon as I left.  So when I saw a box of pralines at Pâtisserie des Rêves, I snatched it up.  I knew I'd devour them on the spot, so I hid them in my bag, determined to not break into it until I got home.  And ... I succeeded, which made for a wonderful treat once I was back in San Francisco.
Praline Rose: Close Up.
My tube of pralines had two shapes of nuts, some nearly round, others oblong.  I think the mix was almonds and hazelnuts, but it was hard to know exactly what the nuts were, given the thick coating.

The coating was vibrant pink sugar.  It was crazy thick and sweet.  And delicious.

These were downright addicting, impressive given how sweet they were.  I devoured half the tube in about 3 seconds.  Oops.

I think pralines are normally used inside baked goods, crushed up and cracked, but, for a very sweet treat, I think they were perfect as they were.  I'd certainly get these again, even though 14€ for a snack that lasted me only a few minutes is a bit steep.  And next time, I'd get them at Pralus too!
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