Paris in Pink and Orange ~ Shopping in Paris Monday, May 13 2013 

Paris is one of those towns that wears its fashion heart on its sleeve. A good sit in a central Paris café or a nice stroll by a few tony shop windows will show you the hot new trends in a red-hot minute. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and take some mental notes….and then put your shopping list together.

As I buzzed around Paris this spring, I noticed that pink and orange are très tendance (all the rage). From hats and scarves to clothes and shoes, pink and orange are the must-have colors for summer. I snapped a bunch of photos as I walked down the Left Bank’s rue de Grenelle recently. I must say the bright couleurs were a welcome relief to everyone after the gray skies of winter.

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This French hat and scarf combo was a dream. Not sure I’d wear the hat myself, but the pink silk chiffon scarf looked so French and feminine. It was almost like cotton candy for the neck. And I think the Parisian salesperson who put together the display should win a scarf-tying award.

The same boutique was awash in pink clothes too. Lace and fringe on the same dress - who said the French don’t go over the top? But it totally works in Paris.

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Just a few steps away from the pink shop windows, it was orange central. The chic Chacok boutique was awash in the fashionable color. One of the great things about French separates is that you can dress them up or down – French women let their mood be their guide.

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This look was notable not so much for the outfit as for the mannequin’s pose. Chest held high and hips thrust out – it was a French woman in mannequin form. In all honesty, I have yet to see a non-French woman able to swish down the street like a female from France. It must be in their genes.

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Nearby, another boutique featured orange too – it was the sleeved or sleeveless look in a terrific textured fabric.

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If these photos have whet your appetite for French fashion, you might be wondering where are the best places to shop in Paris? Here is a short guide to finding the most stylish fashions the city has to offer:

Department Stores – When you have limited time in Paris, department stores are the way to see – or buy – a lot in a hurry. You have everything from high fashion to everyday wear to purses to scarves to jewelry all in one place. Galeries Lafayette and Printemps on the Boulevard Haussmann on the Right Bank offer multiple floors worth hours of shopping entertainment. On the Left Bank, Le Bon Marché is a small-ish, chic department store near the Sèvres-Babylone metro stop. Not to be forgotten is BHV, or the Bazaar de l’Hôtel de Ville, the department store near Paris’s town hall east of the Louvre. Most well known to Parisians for its hardware department, BHV is making an effort to become more hip. I recently took a spin through the clothing departments and saw some fun fashions and current casual designers there.

Shopping Areas on the Right Bank – For an array of French designer and upscale boutiques, you’ll want to head to the St. Honoré neighborhood. So St. Honoré is a street that has two parts. When you stand at the intersection of Rue Royale and St. Honoré, you’ll have the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré going off towards the west and the Rue St. Honoré to the east. The Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré is home to the likes of Chanel, Lanvin and of course, the flagship Hermès store. (Note on pronouncing the famous scarf and leathergoods maker Hermès: It sounds like ‘air-mess’ with a French accent!) The Rue St. Honoré includes a large Longchamp boutique, Goyard, Colette and a variety of other interesting shops.

For le top du top of French fashion, Paris’s ‘Golden Triangle’ is where the finest haute couture houses are located. Le Triangle d’or is the area around the Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V and Avneue François Ier. You’ll find Givenchy, Dior, Nina Ricci, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Pucci, and more. Even if the stratospheric prices are not in your budget, the elegant shop windows are worth a look.

Shopping Areas on the Left Bank – There are many wonderful boutiques located around the other ‘shopping triangle’ of Paris, this one on the Left Bank. You’ll want to wander in and around the triangle formed by the Boulevard St. Germain, Boulevard Raspail and the Rue de Sèvres/Rue de Rennes. Small not-to-miss streets include the rue de Grenelle, rue des Saints-Pères, rue du Dragon, rue du Bac, rue Bonaparte and the rue du Cherche-Midi. One of my favorite stops in the neighborhood is the Italian shoemaker Lario at 56, rue du Four. In fact, there are about 10 or 12 great shoe shops located within one to two blocks of Lario. If you need to get a ‘red soles’ fix at Christian Louboutin, he’s got a boutique here in the rue de Grenelle. Though the last time I passed by, it was a Saturday afternoon and the Louboutin store was so mobbed that there was a line outside to get in. The salespeople would only let new customers in when those who finished shopping went out. Go figure!

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Of course, there are many other places to shop in Paris although I find that the ones mentioned above give you the most to look at in concentrated central areas of the city. You’ll want to make a note that most Paris shops are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 7pm. Major sales in France take place twice a year starting in late January and early July and lasting for two to three weeks. And ‘boutique’ in French is pronounced boo-teek!

Paris Pastry Obsessions Saturday, May 4 2013 

Pastry shops in Paris have always been a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. But there are some important differences between the pastry shops of then and the pastry shops of now. In the past, you walked in and saw all those rows of classic French desserts standing at perfect attention. Typically, the same pâtisseries appeared at shop after shop – éclairs, millefeuilles, opéras, palmiers, tartes au citron, tartes aux fraises, financiers, macarons. What varied was the quality of flavors and ingredients. In some ways, it was reassuring to know that a Paris pastry shop was a Paris pastry shop was a Paris pastry shop. But somewhere in the last several years, pastry shops in Paris changed – they became a hotbed of hipness.

Take French almond macarons for example. Once upon a time, they were just great little almond cookies. And yes, in Paris, you knew that Ladurée was one of the best sources for them – especially for favorite flavors like chocolate or coffee. But the macaron craze hit, and Paris (and then the rest of the world) became obsessed with the sugary treat. Various pastry shops began competing to create the hippest, most chic macarons on the planet. Now you find exotic flavors like passion fruit-basil, mango-coriander and even grapefruit-wasabi. I kid you not.

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The almond macaron case at Gérard Mulot in the 6th arrondissement – the coconut macaron is to die for!

Human and media attention spans being what they are, it was only a matter of time before hip pastry designers moved on from macarons and set their sights on other trend-worthy sweets. The millefeuille, or Napoleon, has been getting the spotlight of late. Similarly, the Paris-Brest has emerged from pastry-case oblivion to become a darling of French pastry chefs.

If you’re not familiar, the Paris-Brest is a circle of choux pastry filled with praline flavored cream made to look like a bicycle wheel. It supposedly was created in 1891 to commemorate the first Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race, a 1200-kilometer competition that goes from Paris to Brest in Brittany and back again. I have never thought much about that particular pâtisserie but recently, I found myself conducting an informal taste-test at Paris restaurants and pastry shops.

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After a dinner one night at the Bistrot Paul Bert in the Marais, I chose the homemade Paris-Brest for dessert. It was énorme – I couldn’t quite finish the whole thing. But the praline cream was so good, I gave it my best effort. Then I hit several pastry shops and found myself really starting to take notice of this French treat.

Which brings me to the Paris-Brest at La Pâtisserie des Rêves (LPDR). For ages, I avoided going into this over-the-top hip pastry boutique in the rue du Bac. The futuristic decor – think French pastry shop meets the Jetsons – had totally put me off. But ever since the French newspaper Le Figaro had voted LPDR’s Paris-Brest as the best in Paris in 2010, I knew I’d have to try it.

So I walked into the LPDR pastry shop on a recent afternoon trying to appreciate the high glass domes over the featured pastries – there were no traditional pastry cases here. I made straight for the Paris-Brest and asked the mod young man for an individual one (you can also order a large version to serve several people). Wearing an earphone and a mike, he quickly passed the order along to an unseen colleague in the back who packed my Paris-Brest into one of LPDR’s signature melon-pink pyramid boxes – like a darling paper purse, I thought – and brought it out to the front. At over 5 euros, it’s not une bonne affaire (a bargain) but I was determined to see what the hype was all about.

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After getting it home, I tasted several bites and immediately conceded that this Paris-Brest was in every way DIVINE. The choux pastry and praline cream were absolutely perfect. And the creative touches by LPDR’s pastry chef Philippe Conticini showed real genius in the reinvention of this classic: the circular choux pastry breaks off into round cream-puff-type bites making it super easy to eat. In addition, the praline cream includes a touch of chocolate for flavor and richness. Finally, the praline cream in each ‘round’ also has a bit of a liquid praline center for a surprise taste and texture.

As a follow up, I did a bit of research on what the French would drink with a dessert like this one. Several wine experts recommended a glass of Sauternes with it. Of course, the heavenly French dessert wine with the divine Paris-Brest.

Next time you’re in Paris, be sure and stop by one of LPDR’s two boutiques to taste this fabulous French pastry concoction. They’re open every day but Mondays. And the shop in the 16th arrondissement includes a salon de thé so you can enjoy your sweet snacks on site. Meanwhile, I’ll be scanning the horizon for the next Paris pastries to become the hip new thing!

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La Pâtisserie des Rêves BAC
93, rue du Bac,  75007 PARIS 
Ouvert du mardi au samedi de 9h à 20h
Et le dimanche de 9h à 16h
 
La Pâtisserie des Rêves LONGCHAMP
111, rue de Longchamp,  75016 PARIS 
Ouvert du mardi au vendredi de 10h à 20h
Et le samedi & dimanche de 9h à 20h
Salon de thé ouvert de 14h à 19h