Archive for the 'Paris' Category

Fundraising for Japan – A Success, And Yes, We Have A Winner!

Thanks to your generous donations, The Pleasure Monger’s fundraising event for Japan was a success! We may have fell short of the £2000 target, but we did raise a whopping £1510, which amounts to 76% of our target! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone would donate when I organised this, but a number of you did; the funds that we’ve raised together are so much more than I could ever give on my own. I’m grateful for your support and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The fundraising page that I’ve set up on JustGiving will run till 2016, so please continue to drop a pound or two to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan. I’m sure everyone knows that the people in Japan are still suffering from the aftermath. For people like us who can’t be there to deliver aid, we can help in other ways. Yesterday evening, I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if everyone who stops by this blog could give a pound or spare some change; we could very well raise £20000 in a month! And then we have other bloggers who are trying their best to raise funds (read the updates at the bottom of this post for more details on how you can get involved), bloggers who are way more popular, prolific and well-known than I am, and if every reader of theirs give a pound for every post they read, they could raise so much more. That £1 makes such little difference to us, but for the victims, every penny counts and the success of the fundraiser thus far proves that we can pool our resources together and make a HUGE difference. So please continue to give, within your means, to any of the avenues that are most accessible to you.

Now, let’s realise the promise I made. When I organised the fundraiser, I said that I would pledge a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor so long as he/she donates before 31 March 2011 (GMT2359h). So today, I used the random integer generator on random.org to pick a winner and the gift card goes to…….

SHIRLEY!

I’ll be in touch in the next few minutes with an Amazon email containing the gift card. Congratulations and thank you for your donation!

xx

 

Fundraising for Japan

Dear readers,

In light of the recent events that hit Japan, I have started a fundraising page on JustGiving to raise some money for the disaster relief efforts. My nominated charity is ShelterBox, which is rallying resources to help the people in Japan. Temporary shelters are getting increasingly overcrowded right now, and if you’ve read the news, many have died in the bitter cold. The Japanese authorities are requesting ShelterBox to deliver emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to the north of Japan. Thousands of boxes of such supplies are either in Japan or ready to be mobilised now, and we can help to deliver to the needs of the homeless in Japan. Please, let’s not leave them out in the freezing temperatures, and let’s work to give them a home and some warmth, literally and figuratively.

Anyone can donate, you only need a debit or credit card to do so. I can’t make a difference on my own, so instead of donating the money directly to charity, I am pledging a USD100 Amazon gift card to this fundraising event. I will randomly select the gift card recipient (using http://www.random.org/) from the list of people who donate on my fundraising page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT). By giving a little incentive, I hope that this will boost numbers a little and make the event worthwhile.  The gift card can be used on Amazon.com and I will email it to you before 10 April 2011. I will also announce the winner on this blog.

Please note that whilst I am not allowed to publicise this gift card raffle on my JustGiving page (as I am bound by terms and conditions), anyone who donates on my page, with a valid email address, will be eligible for this raffle. In order for me to contact you, please make sure you make your email address available to me on the JustGiving fundraising page.

Thank you for your help. Please also spread the word around, the success of this fundraising event relies on our collective effort.

Updated: I would also like to bring your attention to other avenues of donation. Some of my food blogger friends have set up an initiative called Bento4Japan, they have very generously put up some bento-related items up for auction on eBay. Please visit this site and start bidding! Or you can visit meemalee’s kitchen to have a look, she has written a nice summary of how you can help the people in Japan. Chika of the very beautiful blog, She Who Eats, is also giving away sakura ingredients to raise funds for Japan.

P/S: The fundraising page will be active till 2016, but only donors who contributed to this page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT) will be considered for the raffle. I am doing this because I am trying to encourage as many people to donate soon as the relief efforts are ongoing and urgently needed – WE HAVE A WINNER!

 

Our Second Visit to Paris

This is way overdue, we were in Paris for the second time in April with my parents and sister, and it’s already mid-July! Other travel and food posts are coming up for Belgium and Southwest England, but first, we go to Paris. Allow me.

Our trip to Paris 2010

So we were staying at Hotel Warwick along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, it was just a teeny bit old-fashioned, but it was clean, spacious, quiet and service was impeccable. Our room came with a king-sized bed which was more comfortable than my bed at home, unfortunately. Staying in a quiet street just off Champs-Élysées was fantastic because we were right smack in the middle of the shopping hotspots, metro stations were aplenty, and Arc de Triomphe was a 3-min walk from the hotel.

Our trip to Paris 2010

We traced the footsteps of Audrey Tautou in Amelie and took my family to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, idled round the surroundings and listened to a harpist play whilst soaking up the sun. There was a carousel and children and dogs were all out to play in the sun, it was a really lovely day to be out. The basilique was beautiful, photography wasn’t allowed inside, so I’m afraid you would have to take my word for it.

Our trip to Paris 2010

Coincidentally, the basilique was our first stop when we visited Paris 5 years ago in 2005, when we first started dating. We took pictures on the steps, albeit on different sides flanking the basilique, we were single and now we’re married! I showed these two pictures to M and asked if he thought we had changed, he said ‘Ask your readers‘. I think that was his way of saying ‘Yes, oh gosh, we looked so….‘. Pardon the image on the right as I used to make my polaroids with Photoshop, captioned them and printed them out for M on our anniversaries, so that image looks incompatible with the format on the left.

Our trip to Paris 2010

After visiting the Basilique, we strolled over to Montmartre, where restaurants encircle an intimate gathering of artists painting, sketching and selling portraits of famous and us ordinary people and landscapes of the City of Lights. We had a terrible lunch here (I can’t emphasise more on the importance of doing food research, but it was difficult to keep to an itinerary when we’re travelling in a larger group), but made up for it with a long walk to Denise Acabo to get my precious Henri Le Roux salted butter caramels!

Our trip to Paris 2010

We took my family to Lafayette for a tea break, and went back to the hotel to rest as they were still jetlagged. Right about 7.30pm, we brought them to Tour Eiffel. I had purchased advanced tickets online and timed it to coincide with sunset (yes I’m anal like that), and still we had to join an insane queue. It was still way better than not having advanced tickets because the average wait for that would have been 3 hours, but I was so worried that we were going to miss the sunset! Thankfully we got up there in time for twilight. Dad has been to Paris, but it was the first visit for Mum and my sister, so I was eager to see their reactions. Turned out it was too darn cold for them, and they hid inside the glass-walled core most of the time!

Our trip to Paris 2010

Our trip to Paris 2010

Our trip to Paris 2010

This time, I was armed with a much better camera, and managed to get some pretty good night shots of the amazing view from Tour Eiffel.

Our trip to Paris 2010

Also managed to get steady pictures of the tower without a tripod, this has absolutely nothing to do with my skills and everything to do with my camera.

Our trip to Paris 2010

Tour Eiffel bursts into brilliant sparkles at certain times in the night, so look out for it!

Our trip to Paris 2010

My family was deadbeat when we were finished with Tour Eiffel, so we had McDonald’s takeaway for dinner back in the hotel rooms (mind you, a dinner like that cost us €40, which is pretty insane for fast food).

Our trip to Paris 2010

We had an early night, and the next day, we treated ourselves to some Jean-Paul Hevin macarons and Paul pastries for breakfast. We bought the macarons from Lafayette the day before, and they were good, but didn’t blow my mind away. They cost almost as much as Pierre Hermé ones and I’d much rather you pay a little extra for the latter. After breakie, we did the touristy thing and headed over to Notre-Dame cathedral, where we fought gales to steal a glimpse of the Crown of Thorns on Good Friday. Then I dragged my poor family and their blistered feet to Pierre Hermé to try the best macarons in the world and of course we stumbled on Pierre Hermé’s big fat secret which aren’t macarons. Very cool.

Our trip to Paris 2010

I didn’t take very many pictures for the remaining two days in our trip. We visited Versailles which was breath-taking as always, and marvelled at Mona Lisa at the Louvre. We shopped and snagged some designer stuff at unbelievable prices. We still had bad meals (some of us ended up having icky kidneys because we can’t read French and the waitress couldn’t speak English) except for some very heart-warming Chinese ones thanks to the kind Vietnamese-Chinese boss from Élysées Bonheur. The food wasn’t cooked to the most authentic standards, but it was decent (much much better than McD in Paris!) and it was so incredibly nice to meet a person who is kind, warm, hospitable and generous on our trip. He treated us to so many extra dishes, and when we got takeouts from him, he even gave us proper non-disposable chopsticks and told us there was no need to bring them back.

So as you can see here, we didn’t have a very exciting, gastronomical trip as I would have preferred, but a number of things made it memorable. Being with my family, taking them to all the places we’ve visited, going on macaron adventures, discovering salted butter caramels, visiting the places that we went to when we started dating five years ago…I thought these made up for blistered feet and everything that wasn’t.

We would still like to return to Paris for the third time, even though we haven’t had much luck with good food in our first two visits. When we do so, we hope for it to be a gastronomical trip, and yes, more shopping please!

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

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Indulge In Posh Nosh at Brasserie Printemps, Paris

We didn’t have many good meals during our recent trip to Paris, but I absolutely loved Brasserie Printemps. Located on the 6th floor of  the Printemps department store on Boulevard Haussmann, I was told that the brasserie offers good views. Unfortunately, there was a queue (we didn’t make reservations) even at lunch, and we settled for whatever seats they could get us. It wasn’t half bad, actually we had pretty good seats, we were right in the middle under the beautiful stained-glass cupola of the brasserie.

The historical stained-glass cupola at Brasserie Printemps

The brasserie was bustling with beautiful French people in their chic luncheon outfits. Some ladies wore pearls, some were toting designer everything, most had manicured fingers. I felt soooo underdressed and really quite badly groomed.

Anyways, D had recommended this place to me and she said she tried the smoked duck breast. Dad ended up having it, while Mum and sis had grilled salmon. I went for the beef carpaccio. M was feeling a little more adventurous, having suffered from a dismal lunch at touristy Montmarte the day before, and went for the beef tartar.

Lunch at Brasserie Printemps

The beef tartar was gorgeous. I kinda winced at the thought of having minced raw beef. I mean thinly sliced raw beef is fine, but minced just spells barbaric and disgustingly mushy. I shut my eyes when I took my first bite, and surprisingly, it was delicious and refreshing, especially with the sharpness of the capers which cut through chunks of meat nicely.

Lunch at Brasserie Printemps

The beef carpaccio won me over too. I’ve always loved beef carpaccio, but omg, this had a poached egg perched atop the slices of beef. Everyone who knows about my obsession with eggs will know that I hate to break the yolk at the beginning of a meal. I like to save it for the last, simply because gooey yolks are the best. But this was calling out to me, the egg wanted to be broken. So I did it, and gosh it made me quiver… It was perfectly poached and it was so exciting to watch the yolk drench everything on the plate. The dish was perfect. Meat check, gooey egg check, rockets (my favourite salad veggie) check, cheese check.

Lunch at Brasserie Printemps

I didn’t have a taste of the smoked duck breast and the salmon, but I thought I’d put up the pictures too, they looked pretty darn good and there were no complaints from my family, if that helps!

Lunch at Brasserie Printemps

Lunch at Brasserie Printemps

We didn’t manage to have dessert, the raw meat filled M and I up, but I caught a mother and teenage daughter (really beautiful people, well-dressed in what looked like Chanel, and svelte) sharing a mac ‘n cheese, and it looked amazing. So were the macarons on their dainty plates. Methinks we will have to go back to Printemps to have a taste if we ever return to Paris for the third time!

Brasserie Printemps is a really good place to have lunch at, the ambience is perfect, casual enough to make you feel relaxed but posh enough to up the glam factor. The prices aren’t exactly cheap, but most food places in Paris aren’t anyway (even McDonald’s…). We spent about €140 for lunch for five people, a little ridiculous for lunch but it was an experience. Besides, the cupola was really, really pretty, plenty of photo opportunities! And, it’s right in a fab luxury department store, with tonnes of gorgeous designer stuff to look at and Ladurée macarons to take away from the little store downstairs too!

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Brasserie Printemps is located at:

Women’s section of Printemps, Floor 6 on 64, bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris – France

*Updated: This post is featured on Photograzing. Check out my Photograzing profile to see my other featured posts!

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Paris Luxe Eats: Pierre Hermé and Our Big Fat Secret

Pierre Hermé's Selection of Pastries

And you thought that I was finished with Pierre Hermé….

In my previous entry, I wrote about….

“The window display at the boutique featured one and only one thing, some kind of a cream cake sandwiched and layered with thin wafers of pastry.

No macarons in sight?! Could there be a creation more delish at Pierre Hermé than its world-famous macarons?”

The answer is between a maybe and a yes.

Presenting the Millefeuille Infiniment Vanille!

Pierre Hermé's Millefeuille Infiniment Vanille

A millefeuille, which means ‘thousand-leaf’, is a French pastry made up of alternating layers of puff pastry and pastry cream. I’ve tried a millefeuille just once prior to having The One at Pierre Hermé, at one of the branches of a French patisserie called Paul in Covent Garden, London. It was cloying and dense, almost like a sweet tart and hardly befitting the ‘thousand-leaf’ description. The minute I entered the Pierre Hermé boutique, I was greeted with blocks and blocks of millefeuille in different flavours such as vanilla, caramel and raspberry. A slice was priced at a hefty €6.20 and I was inclined to spend freely on what I came for, the macarons.

Two things changed my mind. The customers before me were wiping out the millefeuilles like they cost next to nothing. And on closer inspection, the wafer-thin layers of puff pastry looked so crisp, compared to that rock from Paul, that I figured I had to sink my teeth into one!

Just when I made up my mind, the customer before me took the last piece on the counter and I was devastated. I offered a tentative ‘Do you have more of those (badly pronounced) vanilla millefeuilles?‘ when it was my turn, and thank goodness, there were more to be plated out on the counter! I got us a slice of the pastry, half-hoping that it would taste bad so I wouldn’t regret getting just one, and half-hoping that it would blow my socks off.

Back in the hotel room, we started the afternoon tea session with a grand opening of the box that contains the millefeuille, followed by a rather heartbreaking moment when I squashed the pastry with my clumsy slicing to split it into five portions. I quivered with excitement when I heard the knife cut through the top layers of pastry, as everyone watched in eager anticipation.

It tasted as good as it sounded. The caramelised puff pastry was incredibly thin, crispy, light and buttery without being the least bit oily; it was single-handedly the best pastry I have ever had and that I think I will ever have. The Madagascar vanilla mascarpone cream was absolutely divine – creamy, so light with a perfect touch of sweetness. The huge dollops of cream sandwiched between the puff pastry layers did not make us gag (even my mum, who abhors cream was dreaming about it a couple of days later). You know how light the millefeuille is when you can’t pierce through it without squeezing the cream out of the neat layers!

I am still kicking myself for not getting more slices; as it turns out, the Pierre Hermé counter in London only carries macarons and chocolates!!! I’ve crowned this millefeuille as my official birthday cake must-have, and it seems that I have to return to Paris on one of my birthdays to make that happen! Meanwhile, I shall pray really hard for Pierre Hermé to bring it to Selfridges & Co., so I can satisfy my cravings whenever. Even if he doesn’t, I’m happy to hop on the Eurostar back to the city that I don’t really like, just to get one of those.

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Paris Luxe Eats: Pierre Hermé and The Best Macarons In The World

I would go to any length to get me-self some Pierre Hermé goodies, even if it means torturing my poor parents by giving them blistered and aching feet. My allegiance to Pierre Hermé seems to weigh more than filial piety; I think something is very wrong with me, or perhaps in a warp sense, just very right. Before you wag your accusing finger at me, please understand that Pierre Hermé is impossible to resist, and that I felt guilty and made it up by feeding my parents with tonnes of macarons (not equivalent in weight of course because I would be very, very poor), which they thoroughly enjoyed.

The walk to the Saint Germain des Prés area, where the Pierre Hermé boutique is located, began from Notre Dame. We had just attended service and viewed the Crown of Thorns on Good Friday. The queue to get into the cathedral was insanely long and the wait became quite treacherous with almost-gales whipping mercilessly at us as we battled countless umbrella flips. On a few occasions, I swore my umbrella nearly did perfect Venus Flytraps on my head. We were relieved to seek shelter once we got into the cathedral, and all the happier to return to the outdoors, greeted by the warm, comforting sun.

Pierre Hermé Boutique

Rain or shine, it couldn’t have changed what was about to come; my dad was suffering from very painful feet, in silence no less. Having realised that dad wasn’t enjoying a pleasant walk in the sun like M and I were, I suggested for them to hop on the metro back to the hotel, but dad insisted on coming with me for fear that his very grown-up daughter would meet with some disaster. So we trudged ahead. It must have seem like hours before we arrived at the boutique, and M took my poor parents to a café to rest their feet. Out of loyalty (or gluttony….), my sister joined me at the queue.

The window display at the boutique featured one and only one thing, some kind of a cream cake sandwiched and layered with thin wafers of pastry.

No macarons in sight?! Could there be a creation more delish at Pierre Hermé than its world-famous macarons?

Pierre Hermé Gift Box

The queue was moving rather slowly and we were at the doorway a good amout of time later. My heart beat in anticipation. I was that close to pouncing on those macarons that friends have raved sooooo much about.

And then it was my turn. I checked out the pricelist. Crazily expensive. But I had one chance and one chance only, so I told the shop assistant that I wanted the 16-piece gift box, which cost €34. I braced myself for the array of colourful macarons that were screaming to be chosen, and I refused to be pressured by the snaking queue into making a hasty decision. The macarons were too expensive; I was determined to take my time to acquaint myself with every flavour displayed on the counter, and if I didn’t know what the French labels meant, I was going to make sure that the shop assistants explain them well to me in perfect English. This I must get for paying €34.

Pierre Hermé Box of 16 macarons

Rose (rose). Infiniment caramel (salted butter caramel). Chocolat (Venezuala Porcelana dark chocolate). Mogador (passionfruit and milk chocolate). Jasmin (Jasmine). Eden (peach, saffron and apricot). Pistache (pistachio). Huile d’Olive et Vanille (Vanilla and olive oil). Magnifique (strawberry & wasabi). Mosaic (pistachio, griottines & cinnamon).

M is slightly allergic to pistachios, so I asked the shop assistant to load up on the remaining eight flavours, which worked out well to give us two pieces of each flavour, more to go around and less to share!

I cradled my pretty bag of macarons, walked out of the boutique with a silly grin, and as I walked past the growing queue outside, I think I kinda wore a smirk on my face. Ha! I’ve got my macarons and you’re still queuing for yours!

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Jasmin & Rose

We rummaged teabags from the hotel room, and had a little afternoon tea session with so-so tea and glorious macarons. They were out of this world and impossibly delicate.  I have described Ladurée’s macarons to have the most delightful shells with lightly-crisp exteriors and very slightly soft interiors, but Pierre Hermé takes this to another level. How is that possible?! The ganache of every single macaron was ethereal, creamier yet lighter than its Ladurée counterparts. The cream boasted of  perfect marriages of the most unlikely flavours in the subtlest hints.

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Chuao & Infiniment Caramel

The only one that I didn’t like was Eden, but the rest were gorgeous. My favourites were jasmine, salted butter caramel, olive and vanilla, and strawberry and wasabi. Having a Jasmin macaron was akin to perfuming your mouth with cups after cups of fragrant jasmine tea. Needless to say, I will always be a big fan of salted butter caramel. The olive oil and vanilla-flavoured macaron was unthinkably and strangely delicious. I was most pleasantly surprised by strawberry and wasabi. I actually grimaced when the shop assistant explained its contents to me and was very hesitant to taste it but the sweet and tart strawberry jam gave way to the tiniest hint of heat from wasabi and it works perfectly! This was the macaron that convinced me that Pierre Hermé is a true genius.

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Citron & Mosaic

I felt that the money was very well spent and the macarons were worth every penny, however expensive they are. In fact, I loved them so much that I dropped by the Pierre Hermé counter that opened recently at Selfridges & Co. in London (hallelujah!) to buy more macarons (£80 per kg, or available in gift boxes). There were other flavours available that I didn’t try in Paris, such as Chuao (dark chocolate with blackcurrant berries) and Mosaic, and I happily gobbled them up soon as I got home because they were sooooo good.

Pierre Hermé boutiques are also committed to ensuring the highest quality of its pastries, as evident from my encounter at Selfridges. I wanted to get the strawberry and balsamic vinegar ones, but the assistant refused to sell them because ‘ze shells are a beet soft’. He then proceeded to discard two huge trays of that flavour. My heart broke into pieces and I regretted not begging him to let me have them for free!

You must must must try Pierre Hermé macarons. They are hands down, the best macarons you’ll ever have. When you finally get your hands on them, know that people will be sucking up to you just to steal a bite, but don’t you dare share these babies with others. Be incredibly selfish and hide them away from prying, greedy and discerning hands. You have been warned!

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Pierre Hermé macarons are available at:

72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
(this is the first shop he opened, there are a sprinkling of others in Paris but I suggest going to this boutique to say you’ve been there, done that!)

Foodhall, Selfridges & Co., London.

*Updated: This post is featured on Photograzing. Check out my Photograzing profile to see my other featured posts!

Paris Luxe Eats: Henri Le Roux’s Caramel au Beurre Salé (Salted Butter Caramel)

I remember the days when I would stick out my tongue in disgust at the sight of halved Yakult bottles of salt served up with watermelon slices at hawker centres. I could not understand why anyone would sprinkle salt onto fresh slivers of perfectly sweet, thirst-quenching watermelon until….

my first taste of mum’s black glutinous rice sweet soup (known as Bubur Pulut Hitam in Malay or orh bee ber in Hokkien). It wasn’t so much of the black glutinous rice that I was drawn to. It was the wonderful savoury nuance of the coconut milk that sprung a delightful surprise on me. I was puzzled as to how coconut milk could taste so divine and reasoned that no one in their right mind would add salt to achieve a savoury hint, until mummy dearest told me that it was indeed important to add a teeny bit of salt to coconut milk to bring out its flavour. That was the trick I adapted to create my cornflake caramel drops.

Henri Le Roux's caramel au beurre salé available on sale from Denise Acabo

Behold the power of salt.

Keep this in mind while I turn your attention from watermelons and black glutinous rice to caramel au beurre salé, which is sexy French for salted butter caramel. Very different desserts, I know, but we will get there, you’ll see.

Caramel lovers, you know you love its gooey and smooth texture, its sweet and sometimes buttery flavour (if butter is added during its creation) and the general sense of well-being that you get afterwards. I’ve kind of stuck to and sworn by the taste of caramel but thanks to a genius, Henri Le Roux, I will no longer tolerate mere mortals such as caramel, not without precious grains of salt anyway.

Henri Le Roux is a most highly revered confiseur, and he started making caramels in the coastal town of Quiberon in southern Brittany in 1977. There, he created caramel au beurre salé and revolutionised the way chefs were making caramels and the way consumers were tasting them. In 1980, Le Roux won the award for creating the best candy in France (Le Meilleur Bonbon de France) at the Salon International de la Confiserie in Paris. If you know of and love salted butter caramel, it’s all thanks to Monsieur Le Roux.

The addition of salt and the best butter in the world (found in Brittany) to caramel simply lifts its flavour, and pretty much anyone who tastes it to the high heavens. I am most humbled to have had the opportunity to sample these divine candies.

Caramel au beurre salé - nature (salted butter caramel - plain)

I stumbled onto pages and pages of high praises for Henri Le Roux’s caramel au beurre salé during my Parisian food research and a certain quaint candy shop, A l’Etoile d’Or owned by Denise Acabo was mentioned every so often. I decided that I must make the pilgrimage to procure some of these sweets, even if it meant dragging my exhausted family with me.

We were strolling in Montmartre following a visit to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and having been reassured by our hotel concierge that it only takes ten minutes to walk to the candy shop from Montmartre, we consulted our trusty map and strolled downhill. The leisurely pace became a rather strenuous and drawn-out walk when my parents grew tired treading on uneven grounds under the hot sun. We had to walk along Boulevard de Clichy, which had more sex shops and weird sexual gadgets (including a chair with a rotating wheel of fake tongues positioned right about where you would sit….) than you could possibly imagine, which proved to be rather uncomfortable as women solicited men in broad daylight. The uneasiness soon turned into nervous anticipation as we made our way into rue Fontaine, for the little street was lined with rundown shops that would make a much talked-about candy shop look out of place. I feared that I had led my weary family for a futile walk into a hell-hole, until my husband pointed out in part frustration and part triumph, that A l’Etoile d’Or was right ahead of us.

Mango flavoured caramel au beurre salé

I entered the shop, buzzed with excitement as my family stared at me with furrowed brows. They had no idea what the fuss was about. I barely noticed that the shop was stuffed full of chocolates and candy, left, right and center, before a middle-aged woman in pigtails greeted us. I recognised her as Denise Acabo from pictures on the internet and I managed a badly pronounced ‘Parlez vous anglais?’. She clearly had no inkling of English as she pushed a young girl, also in pigtails, to me while muttering ‘……anglais…..’. I told the girl that I wanted to buy salted butter caramel, and she translated to Denise. That triggered an uninterrupted rattling of rapid French and very enthusiastic and animated gesturing to the jars of caramels. Clearly, I had no idea what she was saying, and relied on the girl’s minimal knowledge of English and French words written on the jars for the information I needed. Denise handed me a silver tray to hold the candies, and I filled the tray up with slight hesitation as these caramels were exceedingly expensive at €7.50 per 100 grams. The food monster in me took over in a second and I figured that if I scrimped on this, I would regret for life because this is one of the few places in the world where I could lay my hands on Henri Le Roux’s caramels.

Chocolate salted butter caramel

I picked up mostly nature (plain) caramels, a few of the mango-flavoured and dark chocolate ones, and two gift packs for friends. The bill came up to a hefty €31 for about 25-30 pieces. I quickly left the shop without looking at the other goodies, for fear of igniting a gluttony-driven spree. Guilt of spending so much on such a small amount of candies disappeared soon as I unwrapped one and popped it into my mouth. The caramel was not the least bit cloying and they had the perfect touch of saltiness. It was pleasurably soft and chewy; every bite oozed with buttery goodness without being too rich and I swore I nearly cried tears of salt, butter and caramel. I could hear nothing but silence as my family savoured the caramels. They were too good. As they say, silence is golden.

My stash of salted butter caramels

The mango-flavoured ones didn’t quite sit with me, but the dark chocolate-flavoured ones were amazing. Take a deep whiff when you unravel the wrapper of the chocolate caramel before you sink your teeth in, you won’t regret it. If you have just enough money to spend on one flavour, I would highly recommend the nature ones, they are reputed to be the best caramel au beurre salé in the world and you just have to try them.

If you’re heading to Paris, you can get the caramels at:

A l’Etoile d’Or Denise Acabo

30, rue Fontaine, 75009, Paris (nearest Metro: Blanche)

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Quiberon, these candies and other goodies are sold at the main shop:

Le Roux

18 rue de Port-Maria, 56170 Quiberon

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

Also check out my other food adventures.

I Want To Love Paris

We just returned from our second visit to Paris yesterday night, and…..

We remain unimpressed by the La Ville-Lumière.

Yes, the city is beautiful and very much dazzling, especially at twilight and against the black backdrop of cloudless nights. Tour Eiffel is magnificent; the view from its summit is breathtaking. Champ de Mars charms with its manicured greens and effusive glow. River Seine sparkles at twilight and invites admirers to glide on boat cruises as it meanders through the city of lights. Musée du Louvre is beyond a treasure trove with its multitude of sculptures and paintings; Cupid and Psyche brings the bittersweet longing of lovers to life, and the mysterious Mona Lisa and the sadistic dark paintings depicting death and decapitation still enthrall me five years later. Our choice of temporary abode for this visit, Hotel Warwick Champs-Elysées was a minute’s walk away from Champs-Elysées, the rooms were spacious with king-sized beds and quality pillows, we were given posh toiletries from Gilchrist and Soames, the staff were delightfully helpful, all of which were vast improvement from the shabby, dingy cheap hotel that we stayed in 5 years ago at Château d’Eau.

Tour Eiffel

But there is something that still detaches me, us actually, from the city.

Perhaps it’s the lack of belly-rubbing meals. During our first visit to Paris five years ago, we were poor undergraduate students and survived on €5 cold sandwiches bought from random stalls in the middle of nowhere; I am being cordial when I say that the bread had the uncanny texture of rags. For our recent visit, I did some research on the internet for good casual bistros to satisfy the food monsters in us, but my family members, who fell ill one after the other, were challenged by the long walks and unforgiving weather, so we settled for Chinese takeouts and McDonald’s instead. The good food in Paris still eludes me.

Champ de Mars

Perhaps we hated the weather…..oh the weather. The first time we were in Paris, it was summer but it was too cold and too windy. Nevermind that, because that’s typical English weather. We visited Paris Disneyland less than two years ago, and we experienced four types of weather in one day – hot sun, heavy rain, hail and snow. This time, the weather was fickle; we were whipping out our umbrellas and having them flipped by the strong icy winds every five minutes, so much so that one of our brollies succumbed to multiple fractures and suffered an unfortunate demise in one of the bins at Château de Versailles. That’s not all. The last hours in Paris were insane. We had popped into Adidas along Champs-Elysées for a fun session of core skills test whilst avoiding the scorching sun. When we came out all exhausted from the test, it was still incredibly sunny, and we thought ‘Yay, the weather is finally dry and hot‘. Right about halfway up the tree-lined street, I exclaimed ‘Oh my gosh, not heavy rain again!!’ when I saw huge droplets of water falling from the suddenly overcast skies. And then my husband went ‘What is tha…OUCH!’. Yes, hail, my dears. We struggled to whip out our battered umbrellas and they refused to open to shelter us from the ice attack. It was soooo painful to have huge granules of ice hitting our scalps and faces at incredible speeds. Even our legs, which were covered in denim, hurt. It almost seemed like Paris wanted me to hate it.

River Seine

Oh right, there were queues snaking everywhere too, at Tour Eiffel and Château de Versailles even though we had advanced tickets, at Musée du Louvre where the queues extended to beyond the other square because it is free to enter the museum on the first Sunday of every month, at Notre Dame de Paris because a portion of the Crown of Thorns is on display on Good Friday and on the first Friday of every month. I’ve not seen such faithful queuing since the days that Hello Kitty made its debut at McDonald’s in Singapore. And then there was a queue at Pierre Hermé, obviously because of its famous macaroons.

What about exceedingly expensive everything, mostly snooty attitudes, the trying flights of stairs that we had to climb to get from one metro line to another in the same station (and that is saying something because we do a hell lot of legwork in London), and the trio of teenage girls who purposely squeezed into the same coach with us in the metro just to try and pickpocket my mother?

Musée du Louvre

I want to love Paris, I really do. But maybe I need to save up for a more luxurious vacation and decent meals, pray for good weather, hope to meet less snooty people, stop visiting the popular attractions, and just go for good stuff, you know, like Pierre Hermé’s macaroons and vanilla millefeuille, caramel au beurre salé from Denise Acabo whom I would love to hug a million times, and do more affordable luxury shopping.

For now, I shall sit back and admire the illustrous pictures of Parisian desserts and views taken with my very capable and intuitive Lumix LX3, cultivate an extra belly with the macaroons and caramel au beurre salé, and wait for my slight distaste of the city to ebb before I make my third foray into the streets of Paris. Three time’s the charm, or so they say. And so I hope.

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.


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Read about my food-gasmic adventures in San Sebastian here! Also please come by and check out the prettiest cake I've made over here!
Macarons: Be Inspired
Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies
Rose & Lychee Chiffon Cake
Pan-seared scallops, jamon iberico chip, pomme puree, jamon iberico foam and chestnut
Red Velvet Cake
An English-themed Dessert Table
Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Caramel Cake
Gula Melaka Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons
The Ispahan Cake
The Ispahan
Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache
Lemon Cupcakes with Lime & Ginger Whipped Cream
Portuguese Egg Tarts
Ba Zhang - Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Braised Pork Belly
The Fat Duck
Strawberry and Cream Pancakes
Pandan Souffle Roll with Toasted Coconut Whipped Cream
Red Velvet Cake
Lychee and Emperor's Seven Treasures tea-infused macarons
M's Spanish Paella
M's birthday cake - Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream
Lor Bak Gou - Fried Radish Cake
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Homemade Scones
Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops
Quick and Easy fried rice recipe!
Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons
Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls
Matcha, Milo and Plain Polvorons
Kampar Chicken Biscuits - A popular Malaysian snack
White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
Hustling the Xiao Long Bao in my kitchen
Bailey's & Coffee Macarons

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© Rachel Tan and The Pleasure Monger, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rachel Tan and The Pleasure Monger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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