I have had today’s destination on my list since the beginning with a note, “almond, vanilla creme pastry”. I knew the location did not open until 10 so couldn’t do my regular early run. Instead, I met my friend, Demetria, and she took me to the fish monger so I could feel comfortable enough to venture past shrimp and scallops. I can’t say I’m an expert, but I certainly now know a bit more how to ask for fish boned, skinned, and/or filleted so I don’t have to deal with their beady eyes.
By the time we finished up and took a trip to the coop for bergamot lemons, I was on my way. My mapped run was probably about seven miles, round-trip. It is cold and wet today; in fact, it snowed last night! So it was sloppy but because I was starting out later I didn’t have the heavy traffic to contend with.
Today’s destination: Sebastien Gaudard. Sebestien is following in his father’s footsteps who founded Patisserie Gaudard in 1955 creating his signature gateau, le mussipontain. So Sebastien grew up surrounded by pastries and in 1993 was invited to work under Pierre Herme, big-time pastry guy in Paris. Since then, Sebastien has led pastry teams in several locations, creating all sorts of fun concoctions and a following of his own which has led to the opening of his own patisserie. And it’s a beautiful place. The new patisserie has made it a slice of the 19th century, with marble counters, gilt fittings and smoked mirrors. The walls are delicate layette blue and the lights came from a nearby flea market. Says the proud proprietor, “I want a rebirth of the traditional. We make patisseries in the great French tradition.” (A History of Paris Pastry in One Shop, Cynthia Rose)
So when I read several reviews, repeating the virtues of Sebastien’s mussipontain, I knew I had to check it out. It is a blend of meringue, vanilla cream and caramelized almonds and, as I found out today, is named after the area where his father grew up.
I have to say, once inside, I was seriously tempted by the chocolat eclair and variety of croissants and tarts at the front counter. But I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied without the mussipontain and could always come back for the others. Once I made my final decision, I looked up and was greeted by none other than Sebastien himself. What a treat! He told me about the naming of the pastry and made sure I had a napkin and spoon before he turned to assist the next customer that came in the door.
This pastry is not a breakfast treat. It’s a dessert. And it is not one that can be wolfed down with little regard while walking down the street. So I did what any insane person would do: I ran almost four miles home, carrying the pastry box in my hand like I was balancing an egg on a spoon in order to sit down and give this dessert the time and respect it deserved. God forbid that I would just walk. Oh no! It was a run and I must RUN! I did check on the little guy a couple times to make sure he wasn’t being jostled about too much. We were both doing well. Until the Champs-Elysee hit and so did the weather. Through wind, then rain, then sleet, then snow did we run, my little pastry and I, Grand Palais to the right, Tour Eiffel to the left, ’round the Trocadero and into the warmth of home. Ridiculous, yes?
I showered and decided to have lunch before my treat, which was a good idea because it is unbelievably rich. I have eaten about 1/4 and I can’t have another bite. Oh, it’s very good and I can see why people love it. But it’s almost a bit too sweet for my taste. I’ll share it with the others when they all get home because I just can’t finish it.
But I have a great story to tell and that’s what this is all about. And you know how I feel about croissants. I may just have to head back to see how Sebastien’s stack up.
Follow up note: Elizabeth loves this pastry. Shocker.