Last time I was in Paris I was 21 years old so my objectives were quite...primitive. Eat, drink, meet people, etc. This trip, my goals were a bit more advanced yet followed a similar theme. This trip I wanted to pimp out my entire stay, French style. Quiche, croissant, champagne, and pastries. Lots and lots of glorious pastries.
Typically sweets are not my thing. It may be PTSD from the white powdered donuts I would devour by the bagful as a kid. Nowadays my palate has shifted towards enjoying more savory delights such as, charred meat, spicy condiments, and vinegar. So, why would someone like myself spend time on a trip walking down unknown streets in Paris in search of sugary treats? Well, when the best pastry chef in New Orleans, and one of the best in the country, gives you a personal list of places she researched for her new restaurant you heed that advice. You follow the experts. And the experts all have their own heroes.
Kelly Fields had me jealous all winter long as I followed her journey in Laris via social media. She was on a true research journey through 3, 4, 5th emes. So here it is, my list of tasting Paris through the mind of a chef on a mission. Her favorite shops are listed with an asterisk.
Starting from the Eiffel Tower (don't shake your head as if you are above this tourist attraction, even the French are patriotic about it) you can move in a counter clockwise fashion to end up in the same place, or venture from the Left Bank into the Right and finish with a sunset at the Louvre.
**Gerard Moulet: go to the counter, place your order and take your ticket, pay at an opposite counter and then go retrieve your packaged treats from the first counter. The shop is beautiful and has quick service despite this system. I grabbed an eclair and citron tarte due to reviews and comparison to another pastry stop. I could not find better ones in the city. The pâté choux forming the eclair was delicious, fluffy yet firm and the chocolate did not leave you wanting as I find most most non-American chocolate can do on account of less sugar. The lemon tart had an incredibly buttery and sweet crust while the filling and glacé had no undesirable aftertaste, but actually was light and crisp. It is close to the Jardin du Luxembourg so I suggest going to eat there. You will have an amazing view of French gardens and the Eiffel Tower. Try and grab one of the chairs that lean back for an excellent nap afterwards.
After meandering away from Luxembourg, past Saint Suplice, you will find yourself in the 5th eme with quite fashionable goods. Here you can stop by **Lauderee for an afternoon pick me up of macaroon sucre. There is no need to sit in the restaurant. The army of macaroon workers diligently serve guests. I grabbed some and walked to the Pont du Carrousel bridge. With the first bite, I was sold. A tender and fluffy shell crushed beneath my teeth to reveal a quarter inch of truly delicious filling. The framboise was almost too hard for me to swallow, only because I despise red fruit, and could feel the seeds in the filling. My favorites were café, pistachio, and chocolate, in that order. My co-researcher swears by the salted caramel, but I will never be on that team.
After so many sweets and buttery food, it was time for some spice. That is deceptively hard in Paris. La's Du Fellafel was there to fix my craving. It is touted as the best falafel place in Paris, and it is a monster. When I first went, I forgot to check the hours and it turns out Saturday is the only day they are closed. The fact that they can afford to be closed on a prime weekend day speaks volumes about their success. The line for the stand opposite LDF was almost half a block long due to their closing, and as Acme Oyster House jokes ran through my head, I decided to come back the next day. DO NOT go in between 12-2:30. Even at other times you should still expect to wait. Watching the pita maker work is magical. He flips and dishes out sandwiches in about 20 seconds. Just go for the "traditional, spicy, with everything". Then grab a fork, post up somewhere on the street, and attack the most delicious falafel pita in Paris.
**Travel tip: It seems Europe has made it deceptively hard to gain access to public drinking water. If you aren't mindful, you will over pay for small bottles of water at every stand. I suggest you pack a reusable bottle and fill up whenever possible.
Lastly, **Las Patisserie du Reves has many locations, but I went to the one near the Hotel D'ville. You can leave La's Du Fellafel, walk for a bit and see the Notre Dame, and then pop into Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville or BHV, the department store. Here, on the third floor tucked into a corner, is LPDR. The view is stunning from the tiny shop, but it will cost extra to sit down. I got a chocolate eclair wrapped in dark chocolate and a rhubarb tart. Our eclair was an 8 out of 10 even being wrapped in copious amounts of chocolate. The tart had a delicious, sweet, and tangy crust. The filling was still sufficient, but not mind blowing. However, as with pizza, it's all about the crust. Grab these treats and head over the to east side of the Louvre and start walking. You will see gorgeous sunsets and end with an exquisite view of des Champs-Elysees at night.
Finally, around 8:30 or 9 try to squeeze into L'avant Comptoir. This was on Kelly's list but it's also on everyone's list. I was escorted there without even knowing what it was and it is still my favorite restaurant in the city. You have to fight to get counter space but it is definitely worth it. The menu is posted on the ceiling and I would try ordering in French. Otherwise, you can take the route a portly Chinese tourist did and take pictures of what you want and show them to the bartender. You will be outcasted.
If you are in the mood to crush through some delicious food then this is your guide. You have some choices. You can delicately consume treats from each location in a leisurely, French style. Alternately, if you are pressed for time, and want to mimic the Layover, just follow these highlights so you can more efficiently shove only the best macaroons of Paris in your face.