I’ll admit it. I’ve been to Fauchon a few times this week. It’s nice to get out and see a different part of the city, and the 8th is a far cry from the 19th. Fauchon is situated on the gourmet food end of the Place de la Madeleine, the other end mostly being occupied by major fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and Ralph Lauren. Ladurée is positioned among these heavy hitters and has a line out the door (I assume mostly tourists). I for one, when I cannot hold out any longer and must try some of those famous cream puffs, will be shopping at the Ladurée inside the Printemps department store – fewer tourists and more affordable shopping – everyone wins! But back to Fauchon, situated near Hédiard and La Maison de la Truffe. They sell all kinds of gourmet products, from jam and coffee to caviar and foie gras, not to mention their extensive wine selection. But the real draw for me is, of course, the pastry.
These are some of the full-size desserts gracing the display window. I love the golden chocolate shards on the chocolate cake – so elegant! And that lemon tart is so streamlined and modern! Anyway, one of the things Fauchon is most famous for is the éclair. I have never seen less than five different types in their retail case, and this week was no different.
I don’t know how well you can see from this picture, but the second row from the left is labeled “Eclair Smoking.” There is no explanation as to what goes into an “éclair smoking,” but it sure doesn’t sound appetizing. And at 8 euro a pop, I may leave that one a mystery for now.
One of my visits happened to coincide with lunchtime, so I thought I’d check out Fauchon’s variety of salads and sandwiches, packaged to eat there or to go. I chose a lentil and sausage salad to go (if I’m going to have a salad for lunch, it had better be hearty, you know?) and stopped by the newly inaugurated (in 2007) boulangerie department for a baguette. Naturally, I had to tear into it on the Métro ride home, and discovered some of the best bread I’ve had in Paris, a town where good bread is ubiquitous to the point of being cliché.
Dorée to perfection, with a crisp crust and chewy (in the best way) open crumb. Fantastic. It was hard not to devour the whole thing with butter, but I didn’t want to spoil my lunch.
Which thoughtfully included a little roll – these French and their bread! Lentil salad is quickly becoming one of my favorite dishes. The earthiness and caviar-like texture of the lentils, the richness of the charcuterie (be it lardons, sausage, or some other delicious pork product), the freshness of the onions and parsley (and in this case apples and pears as well), and the creaminess of the vinaigrette combine to form something greater than the sum of its parts. Restaurants often serve it warm, mixed tableside, which is a real treat. Fauchon’s lentil salad did not disappoint, and the whole wheat roll was a nice complement with its slight sweetness. However, I was almost as enamored with the size of the roll as with the flavor. Check it out:
Such a perfectly formed little bread, and so tiny!
And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for…
I ended up buying two éclairs (caramel and chocolate) and a Megève. The Megève, a dome of chocolate mousse with a vanilla meringue center, followed our duck dinner the other night.
Yes, that’s a dusting of gold powder. And no, the little Fauchon square is not edible. It’s cardboard. But underneath that chocolate shell was a pretty good dessert. The chocolate mousse was dense and creamy and somehow the meringue center stayed crispy. How do they do that? Good, but I think I may have preferred Couderc’s Guanaja to this. I haven’t tried Couderc’s éclairs yet, so I can’t make a comparison, but I think it’s safe to say that Fauchon’s deserve their reputation.
So straight and clean! Again, how do they do that? The glaze on top surprised me by not being fondant, especially in the case of the caramel éclair. It actually tasted like straight up caramel sauce and had a smooth texture that I don’t tend to associate with fondant. Inside was a lightly flavored caramel cream. Overall, the caramel éclair is the sort of thing I would declare too sweet but then go on to gulp down the whole thing with ease. The chocolate, on the other hand, had a filling of bittersweet chocolate pot de crème which was great. Firm but smooth, and definitely not too sweet. The glaze – well, let’s just put it this way: if that’s not Brillance Noire, I’ll eat my hat. But those little golden nuggets gave me a surprise: they’re pop rocks!
And now I have to go back to Couderc’s for éclairs. Life is so hard sometimes.