[Paris, France] – Pierre Herme vs Laduree

15 10 2013

Laduree or Pierre Herme? Truly a question for the ages that I sought to solve whilst visiting Paris. There are multiple branches scattered around town for both iconic names but if you are short on time as I was, I would suggest heading to Rue Bonapart, located in the 6th arrondissement (aka district) of Paris, where both names are present within walking distance.

Inside Laduree

Flavours available at Laduree

Pierre Herme had a much longer queue

Inside Pierre Herme

I conducted a simple taste test with 3 other friends whom I was traveling with to determine who we should crown king but we encountered one problem; the 2 brands didn’t have that many identical flavours! Well, we carried out our taste test anyway with a few more commonly found flavours that both brands carried.

Rose – We voted unanimously for Laduree because it carried a more distinct rose flavor that wasn’t overpowering. We also preferred its crispier shell (which was more brittle and sadly more prone to cracks) compared to the slightly more chewy shell of Pierre Herme (shall refer to it as PH from here on).

Dark Chocolate – We voted unanimously for Laduree. We liked that both PH’s and Laduree’s macaron shells were crisp but preferred the slightly deeper flavour of Laduree’s. Overall, we still thought there was room for improvement for the chocolate fillings and their flavours could have been made more aggressive.

Salted Caramel – 3 votes Laduree, 1 vote PH. I personally preferred Laduree because the caramel flavour was way more intense with a chewy shell in this instance.

While it seems to me that Laduree does better in “common” flavoured macarons, PH stands out with its list of flavours that are seemingly more “creative”. For example, instead of having just a simple Pistachio macaron, PH has one that is also spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and Griottine (Cherries steeped in Kirsch). What emerges is a pistachio macaron that has a hint of what tastes like mocha, overshadowing the “basic” pistachio macaron from Laduree.

Other macaron flavours that we found remarkable were the Coconut from Laduree and the Jasmine from PH.

Macarons are one of the most photogenic desserts, period.

Still, at almost 2 Euros a pop, I would say that macarons are an indulgence I can live without. Give me a 50 cents Euro Magnum anyday (yes Magnums are that cheap in Germany) or KFC.

Laduree

21 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 144076487

Pierre Herme

72 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 143544777

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Antoinette (Mandarin Gallery) – Of Surprises and Letdowns

1 02 2012

Despite being open for business for less than a year, Antoinette has already proven its mettle. Its marketing strategy has worked in its favour, having a classy name and luxurious store layout with a moderated price tag on its food has definitely drawn in the crowd. It does help that the man behind this venture is none other than award-winning ex-Canele pastry chef Chef Pang Kok Keong.

I popped by Antoinette about a week back for a meetup between my clique of Secondary 1-2 friends, as D was flying off to Spain for his exchange program the next week and its been really almost a year since our last gathering. As it was an early Saturday afternoon, no surprise that we had to wait about 45 minutes before we could snag a table, especially since Antoinette functions primarily as a tea lounge rather than restaurant, where customers come in to have their nice little tete a tete sessions over an all day breakfast and dessert. Something interesting we noticed was the severe disproportion of guys to girls ratio here. There were only 2 other guys in the entire filled restaurant! So we might have seemed a little out of place coming as a group of 5 guys (we came from an all-boys secondary school booyah!).

Anyways, with no complaints about the gender distribution of clientele,  we proceeded to order our mains. My personal favourite was the Gnocchi Carbonara ($18.50++), “Parisan Gnocchi sauteed with Caramelized Bacon, White Wine Cream Sauce, served with Poached Egg and Aged Parmesan Cheese”. Gnocchi is typically a small dumpling shaped pasta made with flour and potatoes, but from what I have read online, the ones served here does away with the potatoes but includes gruyere cheese to get that awesome taste and texture. A light pan frying after blanching secures its crisp outer layer and mildly chewy interior. The cream sauce resembles that of Canele’s Carbonara to me, which I find quite delightful because it doesn’t coagulate quickly but still manages to retain its flavourfulness. Something I also like about this carbonara is that the bacon is not the least bit salty to me, so you get to savour the meaty juicy goodness without overwhelming the mild cream base.

If cream is just not your thing, you can try the Gnocchi Forestiere ($18.50++), “Parisan Gnocchi sauteed with onions and an assortment of Field Mushrooms in a Pink Tomato Sauce with Italian Parsley and Aged Parmesan Cheese” instead. The tomato base doesn’t complement the gnocchi as well though and it’s a little too overpowering as well, blocking off the delectable morsels of gnocchi.

The crepes are done decently here, which I find it better than what is available at Canele. There’s 5 savoury crepes to choose from here, of which we tried the Nordic Crepe ($16.50++), made with Smoked Salmon, Capers, Red Onion and Dill Cream Cheese.

It definitely wasn’t my idea to order the Burger Royale ($18++), “Pan Fried Beef Patty on Brioche Bread, Mayonnaise, Home-made Tomato Relish, Lettuce, Red Onions, Mustard, Aged Cheddar Cheese, Chips and Petit Salad with House Dressing”. After all, who orders a burger in a french tea lounge?! That said, this Beef Burger exceeded expectations with a nice juicy and flavourful patty though I would have preferred the usual burger buns to the brioche used.

We had very mixed reviews on the Wild Mushroom Risotto ($24++), “Creamy Arborio Rice simmered with exotic Field Mushrooms & White Wine, garnished with crispy Serrano Ham”. For myself and H, it was probably our least favourite main of the meal, but to my other friends S, D and YQ, it was their favourite. The reasons why it didn’t suit me was because the risotto was rather one-dimensional and too mild in taste for my liking. I’d prefer a cheesier oomph!

We love to pamper ourselves once in a while, and there’s no better way than to have feast on dainty little desserts.

The issue with cakes coated fully in a chocolate mousse is that they are an enigma, you never know what you are going to find as you dig your fork deeper into its core. The signature Antoinette ($9++) is one such cake. Having not researched on Antoinette prior to this meal, I was going in blind on this one. I grazed my fork against the velvety milk chocolate lining the cake for a taste test. Nothing unusual, I thought to myself, the chocolate’s texture is just a little too thin. A deeper prodding of my fork this time, where is that bitter taste coming from? My doubts were confirmed when YQ mentioned it was earl grey. The ball-shaped protrusion is actually raspberry coulis (a thick french sauce made from fruits). I find too many things going on in this cake which leaves me slightly confused. Somehow the mix of sweet chocolate mousse, bitter earl grey and sour raspberry doesn’t work for me.

I’m more a fan of the Strawberry Shortcake ($8++). The sponge is light and the use of strawberries generous. However, still not as good as the orgasmic one from One Caramel.

There have been some mixed reviews about the Macaroons here. I managed to try 5 different types (Antoinette, Chloe, Passionfruit, Pistachio and one more I can’t recall), of which the Antoinette (tastes of white chocolate) is my favourite.

 

Mont Blanc is a common French Dessert made using pureed chestnuts and cream. I’m not sure if its the case of the Mont Blanc ($8.50++) here being too average, or the one at Flor Patisserie by Chef Yamashita being too good. Might be a little of both or the fact that I might seriously be pampered too much.

Overall, I like Antoinette. The gnocchi carbonara is reason enough to come back, not to mention the nice semi-atas vibes you get here. Sadly, I expected more from their desserts which failed to shine through today.

Bon Appetit!

Antoinette

333A Orchard Road, #02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery

Tel: +65 6836 9527





Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge – Royal Feasting without the Princely Sum

9 01 2011

The life of a Tai Tai really rocks. I can just imagine myself waking up at 10am, with no work commitments apart from personal financial investments, having my nails and hair done after a yoga or gym session, then driving down to town for a facial and spa, followed by High Tea with my fellow Tai Tais at Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge, while waiting for Hubby to finish work and bring me out for an extravagant dinner. I just can’t think of any better way to spend the day…

Sadly I’m no tai tai, so I guess I will just have to make do with being that Hubby who slogs at work all day while my tai tai wife squanders away all my hard earned money…

At the risk of sounding gay, I have to confess that I did a basic manicure recently while waiting for some friends as they did theirs. Of course, I didn’t colour my nails, just the basic filing and varnishing and it felt oddly liberating! I totally couldn’t take my eyes off my shiny nails for the whole day (or was it weeks?)! If there are any guys reading this post, don’t be too quick to judge. Seriously, go for a manicure yourself and then come back and chastise me if you feel I’m talking nonsense. There are really some nail care activities that are difficult to accomplish at home such as trimming off the excess skin btw the nails and the flesh. Other than that, I think there’s also the allure of being pampered, even if it’s for the most trivial of activities…


My first encounter with Royal Copenhagen was in Sydney, a shop selling homemade ice cream but apparently there’s no affiliation with the one found here in Singapore. I was astounded to discover that the main branches in Denmark (where Royal Copenhagen originates) are actually porcelain shops integrated with a cafe. So, it’s no surprise that Taka’s Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge utilizes porcelain plates for their dishes and desserts, and customers can even buy these porcelain pieces home should they catch their fancy.

Most of the awards won by Royal Copenhagen comes from Women’s Weekly which isn’t much of a surprise, considering such Tea Lounges are primarily meant for tai tais.

Even on a weekday afternoon, friends K, CJ and myself were almost denied of a seat, though the crowd thinned as it approached evening. Having come from a heavy brunch, we decided to share Her Majesty Tea Set  ($29.90), comprising of 2 Mini-open Face House Sandwich, 2 Pieces of Homemade Scones, 1 Slice of Cake, 1 Slice of Homemade Baked Quiche, and 2 Cups of Tea.

For the Open Face Sandwiches, we got the Prawns topped with Tobiko and Tuna topped with Caviar. Nothing special, it actually kind of reminds me of what you would get in the appetizer dish in an airplane meal.

Although I’m not a Green Tea fan, I hid any misgivings I had and ordered the Green Tea Tiramisu, which K had his eye on since stepping into the shop. It turned out surprisingly better than expected though it still has lots of room for improvement. The Mascarpone was thick and creamy, but the moistness of the cake layers was inconsistent.

If you like pies, you would definitely like the concept of a Quiche. Basically an open face pie, meaning there’s no pastry shell covering the fillings, it’s somewhat like a hybrid pizza pie and it’s French so I guess its kind of sexy.

The Homemade Scones was definitely our favourite dish for the day. Leonardo da Vinci once said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Eaten together with Strawberry Jam which I suspect to be homemade as well, whipped cream and butter, the sophistication lies in Royal Copenhagen’s ability to transform a commonly eaten simple Scone to a remarkable tea time snack. In addition, the jam was so good we asked for seconds at no extra charge!

Instead of having the plain old tea, we requested to change our 2 cups of tea to the Fruit Tea of the Month which was mildly fragrant.

We also order a pot of Flora Tea($8.90). I preferred this to the Fruit Tea because it had a more distinct scent. I would definitely recommend this.

With a strong signal of wireleess@sg being detected by my laptop, I really wouldn’t mind just dropping by after school for some light reading and tea.

Bon Appetit!

ROYAL COPENHAGEN TEA LOUNGE

391 ORCHARD ROAD, #02-391A NGEE ANN CITY TOWER A

TEL: +65 6735 6833





Laurent’s Cafe & Chocolate Bar – An Endorphin Overdose

13 08 2010

Stopping at the threshold of Laurent’s, what first greeted us wasn’t the service staff nor the “Plz wait to be seated” sign, rather it was the wafting aroma of to die for dark chocolate and like sailors to a siren’s song, we were lured into the abyss, the dark abyss of sore throat inducing chocolate paradise. Al fresco is definitely condusive for people watching, especially at night in this part of town where the young at heart wonder about in their hip get-ups and sassy clubbing attires.

After an extremely heavy meal at Sun with Moon, I suggested that my ex-jc classmates try out Laurent’s since none of them had patronised said chocolate bar before and we needed somewhere to sit down and catch up anyways. Chef Laurent continually strives to improve and tweak each and every of his recipes or so they say, but here it is, concrete pictorial evidence! The evolution of the Crispy Chocolate Tart($6.80++) over the past year.

Crispy Chocolate Tart(Before)

I would have scored the “original” Chocolate Tart a 10/10 already so when I saw that there was a new version, I was a little apprehensive. Why would he want to compromise on something that was already perfect(in my eyes)? Fortunately, I felt that the latest version is just as good as it’s predecessor, just some minor modifications to the tart base and shape. The Dark Chocolate is still as heavenly as when I first laid my tastebuds on it.

Crispy Chocolate Tart(After)

I don’t really appreciate souffles. The overly eggy taste and airy and puffy texture of it just turns me off…with the exception of Laurent’s Guanaja Chocolate Souffle($16.50++). It reminds me much of a light chocolate moose, especially when taken with loads of Vanilla Sauce.

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

If I’m not mistaken, the Ice Cream($11/3 scoops) available at Laurent’s is home-made and has only recently(since last Oct) became available on the menu. Though it’s not Laurent’s main selling point, the ice cream here is one of my favourites in Singapore. Call me crazy but I will actually rate Laurent’s Ice Cream higher than that of Island Creamery, Tom’s Palette and Ice Cream Chefs, especially the Green Tea and Chocolate(duh!) which are totally awesome!

Ice Cream

Last but definitely not least, how can we forget about the Valrhona Warm Chocolate Cake($9.80++)? Strangely, I didn’t find it very amazing. Something was missing somewhere, apart from the lack of lava flow. (Random note to self: Pahoehoe means solidified lava. I learnt that from a Mind Cafe Game called Balderdash!)

Valrhona Warm Chocolate Cake

I’m not uploading the picture of the Ice Chocolate because it was quite badly taken and won’t do Laurent’s justice since it’s the best Iced Chocolate I have had!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

LAURENT’S CAFE & CHOCOLATE BAR

80 MOHAMED SULTAN ROAD, #01-11 THE PIER @ ROBERTSON

TEL: +65 6235 9007





Marmalade Pantry – We love our dates hot and sticky

25 05 2010

I’m very Sua Gu ok? I’m ashamed to admit that despite being a self-proclaimed foodie, I have yet to visit PS Cafe nor Marmalade Pantry. Hence, I strongly requested that we have our desserts at Marmalade Pantry @ Ion after our brunch at Spruce. Anyways, Sticky Date Pudding is my favourite dessert and SW did mention that her favourite rendition was from Marmalade Pantry so I had to try it, especially since its a treat from JH.

After all, who among us doesn’t like our dates sticky?

As I mentioned, I didn’t visit the Marmalade Pantry @ Palais Renaissance before but I have heard that the ambience there was much less intrusive. The current one at Ion boasts a great view, you get to enjoy a visual feast of the well-heeled thronging the upper levels of ION but unfortunately they get to see you too and this definitely gets in the way of you enjoying your nosh without interuption.

Have I ever not enjoyed a Sticky Date and Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream($12++)? NO a thousand times NO! Marmalade’s Pantry’s version was warm and moist throughout with just a gentle hint of date. This was JH’s and EE’s virgin try and this made them really sticky, though I’m not sure if it’s because of the orgasm derived from eating the Pudding or simply the sticky Toffee residue on their lips. Either way, we all had soaring endorphin levels straight after. However if memory serves me well, I still think that Chalk Restaurant @ Mount Sophia Old School still serves the best Sticky Date Pudding I have had to date.

The Marmalade Carrot Cake($7.80++) didn’t fare as well, in fact it was so awfully disappointing that 3 of us couldn’t even stomach all of it. The waitress assured us it would be served warmed but it came chilled. The cloyingly thick cream cheese came as a thin layer(JH reckons it should be a very thick layer of thin cream cheese instead and I concur). The cake batter was heavy, bland and dry with a strong floury aftertaste. Heating it up would probably have added some moisture to the batter making it more palatable but that would have probably been a feeble and unsuccessful attempt to lift it out of mediocrity either way.

I feel so much less sua gu now after dining at Marmalade Pantry and having found an awesome Sticky Date Pudding in the process. My next stop for Sticky Date Pudding will probably be Boomerang Bistro & Bar @ Robertson Quay(after reading dotinabox’s recommendations on it)!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

MARMALADE PANTRY(ION BRANCH)

2 ORCHARD TURN, #03-22 ION ORCHARD

TEL: +65 6734 2700








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