Thursday, November 17, 2005

If Dessert Looks this Good - Should We Really Be Eating It?

The Height of Edible Fashion!

photograph picture of Pierre Herme's patisserie on the cover of Eux magazine

Fêted by the world's fooderati and darling of the Parisian Pâtisserie Circuit, Pierre Hermé is a man who clearly epitomizes good taste. A trip to one of his stylish French or Japanese boutiques will illustrate the ease with which he satisfies the visual senses as much as the palate.

photograph picture inside of Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Paris

Expect minimalist chic in Hermé's stores: Clean lines and symmetry, a clinical backdrop splashed with harmonious hues. It is a cosmetic-counter approach to selling the sweetest of treats. Here you will find some of the most good-looking desserts in the world at equally handsome prices.

photograph picture inside of Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Paris

Hermé's catwalk of cakedom is first piled high with macarons, a small selection of whom have been lavished, as if by makeup artistes, with glittering powders that sparkle with an irresistable shimmer.

Moving further along the runway, Hermé's current collection of desserts a la mode include an array of individuel little cakes that dance before my eyes like exquisitely dressed debutantes on their way to the grandest of balls.

The first pastry to catch my attention is wearing flouncy, pale gown. I imagine being the one to bite through its virginal surface before greedily devouring it, right down to its core. Or perhaps I might flirt with the more bohemian contingent amongst this fine display. They are resplendent with earthy autumnal hues and luscious red fruits that threaten to stain the lips blush, perhaps before a wild, passionate kiss?

But then, the sexiest dark-chocolate models smoulder with a deep, alluring, sensuous intensity, how can I resist? Or how could I fail to notice the shyer delectables coyly wrapped up in vivid, slightly transparent coverings, that draw my attention, only to offer a modest, fleeting glimpse of the deliciousness that might lie within.

photograph picture inside of Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Parisphotograph picture inside of Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Paris

I am like a magpie, seduced by all the shininess. I want the ones that look the prettiest to be mine, regardless of what might be inside them. I want to take them home with me and savour them for ever like trinkets in a jewellery box. I don't want to hear when the Pierre Hermé staff tell me that they have to be eaten today. I want them to become part of my eternal, personal treasure trove.

But as fashion is fickle, good cakes soon become crumbs. This display is for eating, not coveting. There is no doubt that Pierre Hermé's pastries are for people with good taste but, most importantly, do they taste good too?

photograph picture of macarons from Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Paris

If you are lucky enough to be presented with a plateful of Pierre Hermé's macarons to sample you will first need to push aside any traditional or cultural preconceptions you have about the colours that represent the flavours you will bite into.

Vivid red pink is a strongly-scented Rose, not the framboise you might prefer. It is floral, sweet and incredibly girly. I happen to a bit of a sucker for anything rosey, but those of you who prefer their flowers in a vase should probably give this one a miss.

Bright green represents an interesting combination of Huile d'Olive et Vanille (olive oil and vanilla), not pistachio as you might expect. The boyish counterpart to his pink sister, Rose, this macaron is certainly much less sweet.

Marron et The Vert Matcha looks like chocolate but is, in fact, chestnut with a dense, unusual, almost savoury, green tea matcha at its core.

The most beautiful macaron of all is the Truffe Blanche et Noisette, undoubtedly the star of the collection, like a beautiful bride, dressed in delicate white and brushed with flecks of fine silver. So powerful and lingering is the presence of the curious creme of white truffle that sandwiches together the two halves of this noisette macaron, you might well decide that this strong marriage of flavours, like any serious wedding, should only be a once in a lifetime experience.

I am somewhat of a food adventurer who delights in trying new and innovative combinations of flavours. The experience of tasting the quirky Pierre Hermé Macaron collection was intriguing, but it was the more traditional examples that really made me gasp with pleasure. The simple but delectable Caramel a la Fleur de Sel was only bettered by it's grander SuperModel sister, the Macaron Plénitude, a melange of the same caramel and fleur de sel but with the addition of chocolate biscuit and ganache.

photograph picture of delectable cakes from Pierre Herme's Vaugirard Store in Paris

After the cute, uniform, little macaron biscuits, come those far more fancy models, the cakes. Who could resist a large chocolate lollipop with a name like Mister H Mogador's Passion? How whimisical. What fun. A childish treat strictly for grown-ups: because which youngster would spend 6,30 of their hard-saved-for Euros on one cake? Pierre Hermé isn't afraid to go against the grain and famously uses milk chocolate, where others might not, in several of his desserts. I respect his choice but because of the sharp lemon and piquant passion fruit fillings in this choca-lolly, I would have preferred dark. Surprise Yu had the opposite effect. This simple, orange-cellophane-wrapped dome with a light creamy and piquant Yuzu fruit filling was a heavenly little cloud puff of crumbly, mouthwatering, light-as-a-feather meringue.

If I had only been able to pick one of Pierre Hermé's delectable-looking confections, then I would undoubtedly have chosen the gorgeous-looking pear-shaped Instant Indivduel, Gelée de Thé Earl Grey pointes blanche, ganache au thé, mousse et biscuit au chocolate. The earl grey tea was subtle, it was dense and chocolatey but it didn't wow me like the Dune Individuel. Described as biscuit dacquoise pistache, crème légère à la pistache and praline feuillete au mais grille, the pale exterior of this little meringue-crowned bombe hides a jaunty green centre that is light, creamy and texturally accented by crunchy, caramelized little nibbles of corn nuts. Fred selected a Plénitude Individuel, which like its macaron namesake contained macaron chocolat, éclats de chocolat à la fleur de sel, mousse chocolat, caramel croquant. Although he didn't actually get to sample it in the end, I can attest that it was satisfying enough to please the most discerning of dark chocolat lovers. I can also attest that anyone with a sweet tooth and an appreciation of the potential for beauty in food, should swing by one of Pierre Hermé's boutiques, the next time they are in Paris or Japan.

Pierre Hermé: 185 Rue Vaugirard, 75015, Paris, France.

PS. This post was produced in collaboration with Design Public for their Delicious Design event featuring the subject, the aesthetics of food.

Archive Alert! On this date in 2004 I was lucky enough to be a guest at a delicious French Laundry Meal without even having to travel to Napa.

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If Dessert Looks this Good - Should We Really Be Eating It?


  • At 17/11/05 10:13, Blogger Nic said…

    Wonderful account, Sam. I certainly hope that I will have the opportunity to try them for myself, though I know that I could never resist anything with caramel and fleur de sel.

  • At 17/11/05 11:07, Blogger Ced said…

    welcome back to SF! Too bad you could not bring back this store with you.

  • At 17/11/05 12:47, Blogger Liz said…

    Oh no - that's it. I'm going to Paris before my birthday if it kills me.

    How do you think these compare to the macarons at Laduree?

  • At 17/11/05 13:20, Blogger Ziz said…

    Hey Sam!!
    I was just following up on an email I sent you a few days ago about a new web site that will be starting up. Just wondering if you had a chance to read it... Please give me a holler at if you didn't receive it. Thanks! :)


  • At 17/11/05 13:25, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam this looks wonderful next time you come home you will have to do Paris first so we can all share in the delights.

  • At 17/11/05 16:44, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Mum's right! Shame on selfish Sam!

  • At 17/11/05 17:22, Blogger Greg said…

    They are so beautiful they look unreal.

  • At 17/11/05 17:43, Blogger Delphine said…

    Herme puts Laduree out of fashion! Well I think that the chocolate macaron is as good as the Laduree one, BEFORE Laduree opens so much shops that it's like a factory now... Herme has much more delicate ideas and wonderful inventions...I'm not a sweet tooth but I love Pierre Herme!

    My mouth is watering, Im happy you liked the experience...But I'm a little bit jealous too!

  • At 18/11/05 05:35, Blogger Monkey Gland said…

    Cue the sound of dribble running off mychin....aaaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhh

  • At 18/11/05 09:46, Blogger tara said…

    Oh my, everyone has been talking about macarons lately ... and with such appetizing photos, my jealousy abounds! Thanks so much for the vivid telling and tasting. Welcome home.

  • At 18/11/05 13:42, Blogger Rose said…

    oh those dark chocolates! They look incredible and I'm sure they tasted even better.

  • At 19/11/05 12:46, Blogger AnnaW said…

    Wow, Sam this was truly a mouth-watering account. I can ALMOST taste the cakes for myself, although I think a trip to Paris is now an essential must-do for the New Year so that I can ACTUALLY taste them!

  • At 20/11/05 11:19, Blogger Sam said…

    Nic - yes - that comnbination has become a favourite of mine recently, for sure.

    Ced - I am not sure SF is fashionable enough for Monsieur PH.

    Squeezeweasel - I prefer PH macarons to Laduree - but when i was at laduree they only had limited favours and I ended up with chocolate which is a bit boring. I really like the caramel fleur de sel combo which i gguess laduree dont offer.

    Alicat - one & dusted, as you know!

    Mum - maybe you and dad should go to Paris!

    CC - hey I took her a jumbo box of Junior mints, what more could a mum want?

    Greg - they do look almost too good to eat!

    Del - unfortunately for you I dont think they have PH in Taihiti

    MG - lick it up now. When are you going to Paris??

    Tara - thank you - it was fun visiting the famous shop at long last.

    Rose - they aren't chocolates - they are small cake sized. Oh yes!

    Anna - maybe they will have a new collection by the time the new year comes??


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