Paris

Chocolate, Apricot, and Ginger Loaf Cake

Cake au Chocolat, Abricots et Gingembre

On Sunday afternoon, we had a few friends over for the goûter. In attendance were : Marie-Laure and Ludo, with whom we had had brunch earlier in the day ; my friend Sophie, who used to work at my company ; Stéphane and Caro, who are friends from college ; and our neighbors Stéphan and Patricia. To feed this crowd, I wanted to make something chocolate. I know, I know, I surprise myself too, sometimes.

When Pierre Hermé‘s Chocolate Desserts cookbook came out, one of the magazines I read had an article that published four of them : they don’t quote the book word for word, they just give the recipe essentials, which still makes the book worth buying, as Pierre Hermé always gives very detailed instructions. All those recipes looked great, but you have to make choices in life, as hard as they may be. So I set out to make the apricot and ginger chocolate cake.

Language note : in French, the word “cake” (which is pronounced more or less like “kek“) means not just any cake – that would be “gâteau” – but a cake that’s baked in a loaf pan.

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Le Troyon

Update, spring 2004 : Le Troyon is now closed, but the same team now runs Caïus at 6 rue d’Armaillé in the 17th (01 42 27 19 20).

[Very surprisingly, Le Troyon does not give out little address cards like most restaurants do, so I don’t have a picture for this entry!]

Last Monday, my parents invited Maxence and I to dinner at Le Troyon, Maxence’s favorite restaurant in Paris. This was our fourth time eating there, we had raved about it to my parents, and they were eager to try it. The setting is elegant but intimate, and the service is professional yet friendly. They have a three-course menu that runs at 33 euros and changes every day but for some signature items.

As is the style in a lot of Parisian restaurants, the menu is hand-written in chalk on blackboards, that the waiters carry to each table for diners to read, propping it up on your table, or balancing it on a chair or a shelf close to you. I like the dynamic of that, because people squint, they turn their necks, they comment on the spelling, wonder about a word that they can’t quite make out, and is it “cul” or “col“, and they’re all looking in the same direction, instead of being isolated behind their own menu.

When you are ready to make your choice (or not, as is more often the case), the waiter will stand next to the board and answer questions, decipher the handwriting, describe dishes, give advice, discuss the choice of products. I love that part because that’s when I get to enquire about what this or that is served with, and how is it prepared, and do you recommend it, and will I like it, and does the chef like it, and where do you buy the bread, and what’s a good wine pairing, and how’s the business going, and can I work here? Until I feel everybody’s getting impatient and I just shut up already.

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Le Salon Du Chocolat

Le Salon Du Chocolat

A Chocolate Trade Show – has anybody ever heard of a better concept? The Paris one takes place every year in late October, when the weather gets a little chilly and Christmas is getting near and people need to warm their hearts and stock up on chocolate goodness. Passionate as we are about our chocolate, Marie-Laure and I just had to attend, and we decided to go to the late opening on Friday.

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G. Detou: The Magic Baker’s Store

Last weekend, while I was in the 1st arrondissement buying kitchenware, I remembered my grandmother telling me about a professional baking supplies store she used to go to when she still had four sons to feed at home.

The store is called G. Detou, which happens to be a pun: “G. Detou” is pronounced like “J’ai de tout“, which means “I have a bit of everything”.

I couldn’t remember where the shop was so I looked up the address, and I was amazed when I finally located it, right in the middle of rue Tiquetonne, which I’d walked up and down countless times without ever noticing this jewel was there. I really don’t have an explanation other than that there is magic at work here — you know, this little nook of a place that thou shalt see only if thy heart is pure and thy desire to buy baking supplies in bulk is earnest.

G. Detou

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E. Dehillerin

E. Dehillerin* is a renowned cooking utensils outlet located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It’s a totally no-frills store that has stayed pretty much the same since it was first opened in 1820, though I imagine they didn’t sell silicone baking mats then.

It’s open to individuals, but is mainly targeted at professionals. As a consequence, all prices are listed before tax (H.T., meaning “Hors taxes”), contrary to what is customary in regular French stores.

The sales people are helpful and knowledgeable, but they are definitely not the patient, shoulder-rubbing type.

When you step inside the store, the first thing that may strike you is how narrow the aisles are lined floor to ceiling with metal containers and coarse wooden shelves, the products stacked with no particular merchandizing effort. There is very little space to move around, and you keep having to make way for bustling sales reps checking the reference for sharpening stones, and for customers who are trying to get a closer look at the giant soup ladles right next to the stainless steel mandoline slicers you yourself are inspecting.

The sales people are helpful and knowledgeable, but they are definitely not the patient, shoulder-rubbing type. They’ll tell you which type of bakeware is the sturdiest, but they won’t hold your hand and nod along while you debate which size gratin dish you really need — if you’re looking for the French Williams-Sonoma, this is not it.

Beyond the sheer fun of trying to hold your ground in this beehive, wearing your freshest and most charming smile, the reward is this : top-quality, professional-grade gear at affordable prices, and good, no-nonsense advice. I love this store.

E. Dehillerin

On my recent visits, here’s what I got :

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