Jacques Genin's shop is shockingly large and empty, considering that this is Paris where space is as expensive as it is sought after. So to see a place so big without being crammed to the ceilings with stuff is a bit out of place in this city. But the shop is undeniably beautiful. The little salon is in one corner and it's nice to sit there and sip your chocolat chaud (which was some of the best I've had).
This was the first time I actually realized how insanely expensive this place is. And it's no wonder with all the dancing room they have. Since I've only bought eclairs and chocolats there, I haven't really had to feel the pain in my wallet of purchasing anything else. But all the same, we ordered a chocolat chaud for each of us (though there is plenty for two per order) and three desserts to share.
Thank God for Camila because she requested we order the honey caramel and walnut tarte and she said so in such a way that it was less a request and more a demand. We then went with a caramel eclair, because I knew they were the best in town, and a millefeuille.
Though all the desserts were mind-blowingly perfect and delicious, the little walnut tart was by far the best. It practically knocked our socks off and is something I would be more than happy to kill for just so I could eat one every day. So we can all thank Camila for the inspiration of this week. I just had to write about this little tarte and so decided that other non-fruit tartes also needed some discovering.
Sadly, I wore some shoes that were a bit too high and drank a bit too much a few days ago and ended up tripping on these damn cobbled streets they have inconveniently strewn about the city. As such, one of my ankles is about five sizes too big and hurts like mad. So I only made it to two stores other than Jacques Genin. But three is a nice, neat little number, and I hope you don't blame me too much.
Jacques Genin: Tarte au Caramel-Miel et Noix (winner!!!)
Oh what I would give to have as much talent in my little finger as Monsieur has in his whole being. To be gifted with such an ability seems hardly fair. But at least we commoners have the luck of indulging in such masterpieces as this tiny, humble tart.
The few times I've been to Jacques Genin's I've seen this little guy peeking up at me from the counter behind the display case. I don't know why there is never one actually in the case, since it's one of the best things I have ever had in my life. No joke. I'm talking top ten here.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about this tarte, aside from it's completely perfect flavor and ability to conjure up tears in my eyes, is how sweet and demure it is. There is no flashy gold leaf. No gigantic mound of caramel or a large whole walnut dipped in platinum on top just to grab your attention. Nothing about this tarte says, "Eat me! I'm decadent and incredible!" except for the shiny caramel and beautiful walnuts glistening at you from underneath.
The tarte shell is perhaps one of the best I've had in my life. It has it's own rich caramel flavor that walks around your mouth and set's up shop. It lingers beautifully and has such a warm and nutty flavor to it that I would be happy just eating piece after piece of the tarte shell alone. But really, when there is the option of eating it filled with such deliciousness as Jacques Genin's perfect caramel and this rare and beautiful walnuts, why settle for anything less?
The caramel is beyond heavenly as it oozes just ever so slightly so that it lures you towards it but without spilling messily from its tarte encasement. The flavor is strong with caramel but not too dark nor to sweet. It compliments the walnuts beautifully, which have such a clean and pure nutty flavor to them. So many times walnuts can taste a bit dirty and plain, but apparently these walnuts are from some secret ninja forest where Jacques Genin orders them especially for these tarts. It may sound a little neurotic but why mess up his perfect creations of caramel and tarte shell with your everyday, run of the mill walnut?
For those of you who like Pecan Pie, this tarte could possibly kill you. It goes beyond almost anything I've ever tasted and makes me weep because I get to enjoy it, because it's so beautiful, and because I know I will never be this talented.
No matter the expense, I plan on returning to Jacques Genin and having something knew until I've tried ever dessert in the shop. There aren't that many, so it really shouldn't take too much time at all. Plus with the upcoming arrivals of my sisters, nephews, and the wonderful men lucky enough to marry into my family, I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities!
Arnaud Delmontel: Tarte Chocolat
This was my first time to Arnaud Delmontel and I was more than happy to walk through the adorable little neighborhood that it's in. Right at the Pigalle metro you get to go from strip clubs, sex shops, and Moulin Rouge to sweet little cobbled streets filled with trees, flower shops, and cute clothing stores. It feels like an old Parisian neighborhood and Arnaud Delmontek fits right in. It sits on a corner and has a charming pink store front. You can see all the goodies from the window and it certainly welcomes you inside.
However, I hate this set-up which so many shops have. You can see all the pastries so well from the outside display, but once inside you feel like you're towering over them. It makes me feel as if I've just walked in on someone going to the bathroom, uncomfortable and awkward. However, this was only the beginning of the problems I found with the shop. Though it was adorable and welcoming from the outside, the inside was quite the contrast. The girls in their pink outfits were disheveled and looked even less happy than your average counter person. The desserts, while obviously beautiful at some point, also looked messy, as if they had been moved from one place to the next without much thought or care. There were also samples of macaron and some other jam bar thingy near the cash register, and while I love free samples (they're free, after all) the way these were presented was neither appetizing nor doing the shop any favors since the uneven way they were cut coupled with the massive amounts of crumbs they sat on added even more of a scruffy effect to the shop.
But a good dessert can help me forgive any other sin. However the tarte chocolat that I purchased did not carry enough weight for me to forget such things. It was pretty enough, certainly one of the more put together desserts in the case.
The chocolate was nice enough but there was nothing particularly special about it. This is Paris, and the Parisians are the first to tell you how wonderful they are at everything, especially the food. With such expectations I would imagine getting some of the best chocolate tarts I've ever had, but this certainly was not one of them. There was no imagination, no personal flourish of Arnaud Delmontel. It was your average chocolate tart.
While the chocolate was nice but nothing to make your knees buckle either, the tarte shell was quite disappointing. After eating so many tartes here in Paris, and being flabbergasted by the incredibleness that Jacques Genin, Pierre Herme, and Ble Sucre presents in their tarte shells alone, the bar has been set pretty high. And sadly, Arnaud Delmontel just could not compete. It disappeared in the chocolate and wasn't flakey or crumbly enough. Practically flavorless, it added nothing to the chocolate filling and resulted in the dessert being flat overall.
Arnaud Larher: Tarte Vegas (honorable mention)
I don't exactly know why this tarte is named after sin city. It is sinfully delicious but it has more glamour and purity than Vegas. It also isn't exactly fruit-free, but the fruit is not the main element either, so I thought that it would qualify.
Arnaud Larher is in another wonderful little spot of Paris. It's on the hill of Montmarte and is so petite and sweet I am going to make a point of looking up nice restaurants and cafes in the area so that I can return on a regular basis. And considering that I enjoyed Arnaud Larher's shop and tarte, I'm sure I'll return for another mission at some point.
Arnaud Larher had the same horrible case set up as Arnaud Delmontel, but because the rest of the shop was clean and precise, I could look past such things. And obviously some people enjoy it since so many shops have it so perhaps it's my own personal quirk of disapproval.
The Tarte Vegas has a small layer of cassis coulis, creme d'amande, and vanilla mousse, topped with a cassis macaron. It's sweet looking, but I wasn't exactly thrilled to buy it. Something about pure vanilla desserts just don't excite me too much. But it was the only tarte they had that wasn't purely fruit based.
I took it home and cut into it, happy to see how light and fluffy the vanilla mousse was with innocent little dots of vanilla bean dappling its cloud like appearance. I was also happy to see that the cassis was only a small, petite, minute little layer of cassis so that it would fit in perfectly in with the other two tartes in this grouping.
Happy with the appearance, I was even happier upon tasting it. The vanilla mousse was a light and delicate as it looked and reminded me of a top of the notch vanilla ice cream since it melted almost as beautifully. The flavor was a nice strong vanilla flavor but not assaulting either and I was thankful for the tiny hint of cassis which cut through the sweetness and gave a much needed tartness to the tart.
Though the tart shell didn't make me shake and quiver in excitement, envy, and indulgence like Jacques Genin's, it wasn't the let down that Arnaud Delmontel was either. It had a sweet buttery flavor that complimented the vanilla nicely. The consistency was adequate being strong enough that it held together but was also easy to bite into and crumbled in your mouth.
I will certainly have to look further for a good tarte chocolat, though I already have some idea of where I may be able to scrounge one up (eh heh, Jacques Genin...), but as such I found this mission quite fun and fulfilling. I absolutely love tarts and find them much lighter and more satisfying than other desserts. Plus they are they're own entity made just for you! And when they are in some of the best shells I've had the pleasure of eating, I am practically putty on the ground.