Nothing epitomizes France more than the baguette, but I would say the croissant comes in a close second. Croissants can be found in just about any boulangerie, pâtisserie, or café, but the one to go out of your way for (thanks to a tip from friend Flora) in Paris is at Pierre Hermé, one of the city’s top pastry shops—some say the best. The shop I like to stop in at is at 72 rue Bonaparte in the Latin Quarter.
At first glance, you might walk by this pâtisserie mistaking it for a jewelry shop. Once you step past the dark, automatic gliding doors of this sliver of a shop, you indeed enter a rarefied place. The pastries are laid out like jewels along one long case amid dark walls, muted lighting, and hushed tones (no photos are permitted). This is one place where you will want to spend your time ogling some of the most amazing and beautiful pastries and will find yourself wanting to try one of everything. And later, as you swoon over every bite of whatever you choose, you will have fond memories of what you ate for years.
As you snake down the single line along the pastry case toward the end you reach the section with macarons, which Parisians are crazy about. There are the classic flavors like lemon, pistachio, caramel, and chocolate, but the city’s pastry chefs are into concocting all kinds of crazy flavor combinations, and Pierre Hermé is no exception with flavors like strawberry and wasabi, rose and rose petals, and olive oil and vanilla. Whatever your preference, do what other customers are doing, and that is, buy a bunch packaged in a pretty box as a gift (for yourself).
But wait, there’s more. At the far end of the shop across from the macarons is a small selection of viennoiserie that most people miss. This is the type of pastry I covet. At least when I’m making morning breakfast choices in Paris. The flakiness of the pain au chocolate filled with smooth, dark gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut paste) puts this croissant in another galaxy.
For the first time, I tried a brioche-based, orange-flavored bostock with almonds (shown above) and a kouign-amann, a flaky, buttery, caramelized pastry with a berry jam (right). And I loved the sugar-coated kughelopf with raisins (shown above). As I dabbed my lips ever so delicately with my napkin, I noticed that every pastry delivered “Un univers de goûts, de sensations & de plaisirs,” (a universe of tastes, sensations & pleasures) as was printed on the napkin from Pierre Hermé. So French!
72 rue Bonaparte (6th arrondisement)
And other locations throughout Paris