Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paris Chocolate and Pastry Tour = Delightful Discoveries!

4 lbs Artisan loaves of bread at Poilaine
If you're looking for something different than the usual tour of tourist attractions around Paris, I highly recommend doing a chocolate and pastry tour. We booked ours through Viator and went last fall (2010) with some friends of ours from Vancouver who were also in Paris at the time as we were.

So much bread!
The tour itself was 3 hours of culinary delight with an affable tour guide, consisting of a group of sociable strangers visiting little gems that a group of tourists would otherwise never know about. Although it might appear expensive at roughly $126 Canadian dollars per person, it was worth it! The tour is very small, consisting of 8 people maximum. Due to our guides close relationship with stores, we were offered in some cases, 2 or 3 rounds of chocolates to taste, with each round consisting of no less than 4-6 chocolates each. By the end of the tour, we were full just from eating chocolates and actually turned down additional chocolates to taste!

Our first stop was La Maison du Chocolat, who has locations all around Paris (including in the Louvre), London and worldwide. This little store on rue de Sevres by the department store, Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche, sells a plethora of chocolate creations. They have decadent filled chocolates, chocolate sauce, macarons, cakes, tarts, hot chocolate and the best chocolate eclair you have ever tasted!

Pierre Herme = Macaron Heaven!
Although we tasted the little morsels of chocolate truffles and filled chocolates, the real star of the show here is really the chocolate eclair. These do not even remotely resemble the eclairs found in North America. They are instead delicate little morsels, easily consumed in 3 bites. Although it comes with a hefty price tag of 4,50 Euros (or 4 British Pounds), it is well worth shelling out for. They ask if you'd like to eat it now or later. If you can resist from inhaling it, they put it in a dainty box and wrap it with a ribbon so you can gift to someone, although it's best enjoyed the same day. If you choose eat it now, they give it to you on a brown and gold colored tray, along with a napkin, fully expecting you to consume it before leaving the store, so don't be shy! Their hot chocolate is also a treat at 4 Euros, so dark and rich, it's served in a demitasse sized cup and should be savored. Least to say, my 2 weeks in Paris consisted of many runs to La Maison du Chocolat in the Louvre as well as during my 1 week in London once I found their location there!

Pierre Marcolini
Our next stop was Poilaine, one of the oldest boulangerie's in Paris, and the only true bakery as they ardently refuse to make baguettes. Located on rue du Cherche Midi, a small unassuming street past a very strange statue on rue de Sevres, it has line ups out the door! Opened in 1932, they remain at their original location, but have grown to include 2 additional Paris locations and 1 London location (which required some convincing since wood fire ovens were banned in London after the Great Fire of London in 1666). They bake all their bread in wood fire ovens offsite. The fires in the ovens are never put out and run 24 hours per day, 7 days a week in order to keep all ovens at the perfect temperature. Those who bake for Poilaine must train for years elsewhere before they are even allowed to become apprentices at this boulangerie. Despite facing diversity, this little boulangerie has overcome all obstacles in order to remain a success.

Chocolate bee hive at Patrick Roger
The breads here are real works of art and are often gigantic in size - really, I'm talking almost 5 lbs a loaf! We tried several items here including a buttery, flaky croissant, a warm and gooey pain au chocolat, a crusty yet soft on the inside bread and punitions. If you think punitions sounds like "punishment", you would be correct. Although they are really just a punishment on your waistline as you devour more of these buttery and rich cookies. Least to say, we brought 5 boxes of punitions home with us. They even have whimsical items such as bread cookies shaped into utensils such as forks and spoons.

Our next stop was life altering! To the point that I don't remember much detail of the places we visited after this stop. The macaron, a pastry that is just becoming popular in North America. An item with which I am now completely and utterly obsessed with. Most tourists to Paris have only heard of the macaron being associated with Laduree, an extremely famous cake and pastry store in Paris and now worldwide. The macaron consists of 2 very delicate almond and egg white biscuits, sandwiching some sort of filling. However, the pastry chef at the time who created the modern day macaron that has made Laduree so famous is Pierre Herme, who has since left to start up his own macaron store.

Chocolate bee at Patrick Roger
Once you've tasted Pierre Herme macarons, Laduree ones cannot compare. Firstly, Laduree, who has locations worldwide, has in the last few years found a way to mass produce these creations according to our tour guide. The guides perspective is that this has decreased the quality of their macaron. From my experience with Laduree, they are much more dry and less flavorful than the Pierre Herme ones. Macarons made by Pierre Herme are still created by hand. Although he has locations in London, the stock for those stores are shipped across the chunnel via train on a daily basis to ensure freshness.

With innovative flavours such as Mogador (passion fruit and chocolate) and Olive Oil and Vanilla, it's no wonder that there are line ups out the door of Pierre Herme. Some of our favorite flavours included Infiniment Chocolat, Creme Brulee, Mogadar, Olive Oil and Vanilla, and Infiniment Caramel. For a list of flavours, check out their UK brochure. Once this discovery was made, many trips by ourselves and our friends were made here prior to our departure to London. Imagine our excitement when we found out a new Pierre Herme boutique was just opened in London! We visited it every other day, then purchased an extremely large box prior to our departure from Europe. If you manage to resist the urge to devour all the macarons at once, don't leave them too long as they do go stale. Also, if traveling with them they will get crushed if not treated as precious cargo.

Next we hit Pierre Marcolini, a cholatier from Brussels who only does pure origin chocolates. Although he also does luxary chocolates of the filled variety, it is his tablets and bars of chocolate that shine here. These consists of tablets of single origin chocolates, or trays containing a square of a variety of single origin chocolates. We relished the taste of these chocolates and bought plenty as gifts for friends (as well as a few for ourselves).

We also visited Weiss, whose product unfortunately, was incredibly unmemorable.

Lastly, Patrick Roger, a well known chocolate artist whose store front attracts every passerby! His store front window constantly changes, displaying his latest creation. The flavor of the moment was honey, with a massive chocolate sculpture shaped into a bee hive, complete with bees featured in the window! The elegant bars of chocolate were displayed on store shelves like Tiffany boxes. His filled chocolates creations consist of many unique but delightfully surprising flavors such as honey chocolate, basil chocolate and a lime chocolate. With a constantly changing line up of chocolates and window displays, one could never get bored visiting this store.

I highly recommend this tour for those with a few days in Paris set aside for non touristy stuff, as well as those who have been before. As well as chocolate and macaron fanatics, this tour is not to be missed and flies by in a wink of an eye!

Sorry for the lack of photos, but many stores do not allow you to take photos within the store itself. More photos on Photobucket.

Chocolate and Pastry Tour
Length: 3 hours
When: Daily at 2pm, Saturdays at 1pm, no tours on Sunday
Cost: Approximately $126/person (includes all tastings)


  1. worth the money spent. I need to go!

  2. I'd happily take you along next year. =p

  3. I'm so glad to have stumbled across your blog as I was trying to find out the stores visited on this tour! (I'm taking several tours and am afraid of overlaps) Would you happen to have the name of the tour operator? I would like to ask if they are still going to the same stores. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Oddtree, the operator information I have is "Meeting the French" (+33 42 51 19 80.)


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