I'm endlessly kicking myself for not stockpiling the mango-passion-fruit caramels, which many say are life-changing. And I would be remiss not to mention Genin's elegant individual pastries, like the long, skinny glazed chocolate eclair and the tallest Paris-Brest (a pastry ring filled with praline cream) I've ever seen. But, as predicted from a self-proclaimed "chocolate rebel" (according to The Washington Post), his chocolates defy all expectations. All have the exact same dimensions, so the focus is on the flavors—like Citron Vert (milk chocolate with lime and hazelnut) or Basilic (dark chocolate infused with fresh basil)—and each is differentiated only by the colored cocoa-butter motif on top. The shop attendants skillfully arrange the couverture candies in mosaic-like patterns inside slim metal jewel cases, which make for a very chic gift for you, or maybe someone else … maybe.
Patisserie Pain de Sucre
At 14 rue Rambuteau in the Marais, Patisserie Pain de Sucre brings new meaning to the French phrase for window-shopping: faire du leche-vitrine, which translates to "window licking." Here, upon first sight of the shop's large glass jars stuffed with pillow-like marshmallows and unusually flourished tarts, any sucrose addict will literally want to lick the window. But trust me; you'd be better off waiting until you get inside.
Since 2004, the creative chef duo of Didier Mathray and Nathalie Robert has upgraded traditional desserts with new flavor combinations, unexpected presentations, and eye-popping colors and textures, all with a touch of whimsy. Even adults will feel like kids in a candy store as they sample grown-up pralines (infused with coffee and rose), chocolate-covered guimauve on sticks, and delicate macarons. For actual kids, la chenille, made up of balls of chocolate cake, ganache, and pistachios in the shape of a caterpillar, will surely delight.
Forever seeking new inspiration as a student, I was drawn to the more eccentric sweets with unique flavors and distinctive garnishes. Imagine shortbread with rhubarb-raspberry puree, almond-orange-blossom cream, and a sprig of rosemary. Or the Maltaise, one of les desserts en verres (desserts in glasses), layered with biscuit, blood-orange-grapefruit confit, and Sichuan-pepper mousse accented with caramelized fruit or a lollipop. My prize du jour? The Baobab, a pudgy, vanilla-syrup-soaked baba staked with a rum-filled pipette (you control the alcohol dose). Gimmicky, maybe, but it was perhaps the most delicious thing I ate on this trip to Paris—I'd almost go as far as to say that it was worth licking a window for.
Du Pain et Des Idees
While I visited mostly patisseries, I thought that including at least one boulangerie in my sweet escapade through Paris would be a good idea. And what better place to go than Du Pain et Des Idees, an organic bakery with a name that translates into "bread and ideas"?