Valentine’s Day…for Americans, it is an inundation of red-and-pink drugstore tackiness: conversation hearts that could double as BB gun ammunition, boxes of mystery chocolates that will rip the fillings out of your teeth, and of course, the coveted and revered Valentine’s Day greeting cards. You can see the day coming from two months away.
France, on the other hand, celebrates the holiday much differently. Still consumer-driven, undoubtedly. But also so subtle, so sophisticated, so very…French. Every chocolatier in the city of Paris has a beautiful window display showcasing all of their sophisticated delights. Even the fromageries sell hunks of heart-shaped brie (How cheesy! Ha ha ha).
As Hannah and I spent our Valentine’s Day sans valentines, we decided to venture over to Pierre Hermé, one of the foremost pâtisseries in Paris. Here is Pierre’s Valentine’s window display:
Those hearts, by the way, are made out of macaroons. Sorry, Russell Stover, they got you beat there.
Hannah and I decided to sample three of their pastries: the Carré Blanc, Plénitude and 2000 Feuilles. Oh my goodness, where to begin?
The Carré Blanc, a “tender biscuit with almond slivers, pear and bilberry marmalade, maple syrup mascarpone cream” was lighter, both in texture and flavor, than any pastry I’ve ever had (possibly more so than any pastry in existence). Must have been the bilberries, I don’t know. All I know is that no one flavor overwhelmed any of the others, and each individual element blended to create a delightful little treat. Here she is:
What Valentine’s Day would be complete without a chocolate indulgence? This brings me to the Plénitude, a chocolatey concoction of chocolate goodness. Seriously, though, that’s exactly what it was. It had an outer layer of ganache, topped with “tectonic plates” (Hannah’s term) of chocolate squares. Inside was a lighter (chocolate) mousse, and in the very center, a kind of brownie/fudgey thing. I got a little miffed at Hannah for reducing it to a mere brownie, but it was the closest description we could come up with. This satisfied a whole other set of tastebuds:
Finally, we come to the real star of the show: 2000 Feuilles. Translation: 2000 Sheets, of phyllo dough, that is. After much discussion, we concluded that this was our favorite of the day. This pastry is layer after layer of flavor: carmelized puff pastry, praline cream and a hazelnut center. I’m usually the first to say that if it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert, but here I must respectfully bow to the 2000 Feuilles. The nutty, caramel flavor paired with the flaky crust and smooth cream made it absolutely parfait:
This year’s lesson: I never want to celebrate Valentine’s Day outside of Paris ever again!