Weekend Eats: Lenôtre, Un Dimanche à Paris, Hugo & Victor
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Okay, I confess, I didn’t eat all these pastries over one weekend, or by myself either. But we did just have a long weekend and a holiday on Tuesday (La Toussaint, All Saints’ Day) so we took advantage of it to continue our pastry research. It all started last Wednesday when we headed over to a friend’s apartment for a casual dinner and birthday celebration. Obviously, that required eating some cake.

This time, we bought some pastries from Lenôtre, which turned out to be surprisingly good. I say this only because the store always seems to be quiet. I’m not surprised if they make most of their business elsewhere since Lenôtre is one of France’s largest culinary empires. Founder, Gaston Lenôtre, invented many classics like the opera cake and trained some of today’s most famous Chefs, such as Pierre Hermé.

From the left, Tarte Marron Myrtille, Concerto, and Vénus Vanille Intense et Myrtille. The tart had an almond cream filling, a blueberry compote, and chestnut cream on top. The Concerto was a chocolate cake made of a shortcrust base, chocolate ganache, chocolate mousse, and chocolate sponge cake. The Vénus was made of sponge cake layers, black current and blueberry compote, vanilla cream, and fresh blueberries.

On the weekend, we went over to another friend’s apartment for dinner (dining-in is how we justify buying €6 pastries) and shared pastries from Un Dimanche à Paris. It’s owned by Pierre Cluizel, son of the French chocolatier Michel Cluizel.  Un Dimanche à Paris not only sells chocolates and pastries, but it’s also a tea salon, restaurant, and they hold lessons in their kitchen upstairs.

While in the shop, I bought a few chocolates to try and they were good, but not amazing. The flavours of the ganache fillings were subtle and the texture was not as smooth as some others I’ve had. As for their pastries, they were alright. I feel that the pastries’ full potential was compromised by the lack of freshness.

This was the tartelette praliné (I think), mini cream puffs filled with praliné cream on top of a chocolate-filled tart.

Choux Pistache aux Fruits Rouges, a cream puff with a pistachio cream and cherry compote in the centre. I really liked the pistachio cream but the cream puff shell was just not fresh, almost soggy, and my friend commented that the flavours of the pistachio and cherry didn't really compliment each other.

I don't remember the name of this chocolate cake but it was our least favourite. The chocolate spong cake layers were drenched in a bland syrup.

Thanks to my friends, they noted a mistake here in my previous description. I had identified this as a lemon tart which is incorrect, sorry! This was actually a salted caramel tart. I won't comment on the filling inside the tart as I don't remember, obviously. But, I did find the exterior of the tart shell a tiny bit moist, maybe due to lack of freshness again here.

All of this was followed by pastries from Hugo & Victor yesterday evening, after dinner at a friend’s apartment. But before we continue on with more sweets, here’s a peak at what we made in catering class this week.

Earlier in class we made a savoury quiche with leeks and bacon, and an upside down tart with puff pastry, ham, and scalloped potatoes.

Now back to the desserts. The pastries from Hugo & Victor were really stunning, modern, and creative. However, when it comes to taste, I felt a bit let down.

Hugo Verveine (lemon verbena), a slightly tangy mousse infused with the essence of verbena, hiding thin layer of lemon jelly in the centre, all on top of a plain dacquoise. I found the texture of the mousse too dry and I wasn't a big fan of the verbena, but that is just personal preference.

Hugo Vanille, a vanilla mousse dome. I believe there was a creamier vanilla mousse inside and a bit of spong cake but I can't remember exactly. I do know that I found the mousse a bit dry again. I think the best way to describe it would be that their mousses all have a texture similar to chinese bakery mousse cakes. It's made with more gelatin which I find takes away the creaminess that is characteristic of a true mousse. But, with more gelatin, it allows you to create a pastry that will hold its shape better.

Hugo caramel, milk chocolate dome filled with caramel mousse and nuts, on top of a biscuit.

It was really fun to crack open the milk chocolate dome to discover a treasure trove of delicious caramel mousses and nuts.

Finally, for some fun in the spirit of Halloween, we made (or just my friend while we watched Bridesmaids) and decorated some cookies!

Halloween cookies made from a cookie-making kit my friend received in her care package!

Well? Let me know what you think. Write me a comment below!