Today before lunch, Francoise and I went to the boulangerie to get bread as Francoise does daily. While we were waiting, Francoise asked me if we should surprise the baby girl with a French patisserie, since they were right in the display case, all of them, little works of art, each one saying “pick me! pick me!” Of course I said yes, the baby girl was going to be so excited, well only if I picked the right one. I saw my favorite, the eclair au chocolate, but this one was for her. As my eyes were going down the case; all of them were small individual pieces, there were shiny strawberry tarts, religeuses in both coffee and chocolate creams, it is a creation of two cream puffs one on top of the other, dressed up in a pastry cream made to look like a personage, there were apple tarts, baba au rhum, napoleons and right there was the tarte au caramel beurre sale with a chocolate crumb pastry crust. I pointed it out to Francoise and she said, that was her favorite. That settled it then, we asked for three tartes au caramel beurre sales and a chocolate eclair, a childhood favorite of mine. Actually, a chocolate eclair is a type of litmus test for a patissier, you have to be an excellent pastry chef to be able to make an excellent eclair au chocolate. It is in the simplest pastry that we see the majesty of talent and skill.
Francoise made us the lightest and healthiest of lunches, steamed salmon, steamed rice and steamed spinach. It was delicious but my mind was on chocolate. Francoise wasn’t exaggerating when she said that the tarte was exquisite, the crunchy chocolate tart crust eaten with the silky smooth caramel lingered in your mouth right on contact with your taste buds, it was beautiful. However after the complex pairings of texture and flavors with the tarte, the chocolate eclair was a little lost in the crowd. Pas grave, I simply have to wait for another occasion to taste one, on its own, all alone so that I can focus.