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If a stroll by some of Paris’s finest pâtisseries and chocolate shops, followed by a Madeline-esque, sweets-only picnic with the Eiffel Tower in the background, sounds like your idea of an afternoon well spent, then head straight to the elegant Rue Du Bac.
The Plan: We’re going on a cake walk, straight through the glamorous heart of the old school 7th arrondissement, steeped in Belle Epoch spirit, stuffed with gorgeous museums set in formal gardens (coucou, Musee Rodin). On the way, we’ll be collecting a grand assortment of the finest pastries, cakes, and chocolates that the City of Light has to offer. Then, we’re going to sit on a specific park bench and enjoy them.
Getting There: The nearest metro stop is Musee D'Orsay, from where you walk for 5 minutes along the river to the start of Rue Du Bac. (The Ru Du Bac subway is halfway along the street; if you start there, you'll miss a chunk of the walk. Don't do that.) Ru Du Bac is across the Seine from a handful of major tourist destinations (The Louvre, Musee de L'Orangerie, the Tuileries Garden). Cross the river, walk happily along the bookstall–lined Left Bank, and know that you've done a tourist-y thing, duty accomplished. There's a whole lot of very special chocolate in your future.
The Prep: Wear walkable shoes. Come hungry; pace yourself. Bring a bottle of water. Let’s do this!
Though the entrance to La Cacaotier is technically on Rue De Verneille, you’ll absolutely see it from Rue Du Bac. Hubert Masse is a multi-award-winning chocolatier who rocketed to fame after winning the Grand Prix de Chocolate in 2008. No surprise, this is serious chocolate, focusing for the most part on traditional ganaches and pralines. Try the Burgundy, a praline filled with nougat and Piedmont hazelnuts, and prepare to be amazed at how simple ingredients can be transformed through precise attention. 44 Rue de Verneuile; lecacaotier.com.
There’s lots to love about Jacques Genin, named for its creator, the self-taught cookbook writer, and acknowledged specialist in caramel and chocolate. The counter is a glamorous mosaic of chocolate tones, from reddish cocoa powder to terracotta cinnamon, sparkling sea salt, flecks of gold leaf, swirls of cream and ebony.
Chocolate aside, though, you’ll find Parisians standing in line for the pâte de fruits. These are cubes of semi-translucent jelly that look like something you’d never choose to eat, right until you eat them and can’t believe how much more like raspberry, mango and blackberry they taste than the actual fruits do. And not only fruit; adventurous eaters should check out the cucumber, pepper, and turnip varieties. 27 Rue de Varenne; jacquesgenin.fr.
I have prepared a diagram to best describe my feelings for the end of this special @salonduchocolat special, ok it's not my diagram it's the most amazing Emoji bonbons with almond nuts praliné from @chocolatchapon i got at the salon du chocolate, till the next salon 😩😂😍😋😞 shoes by @vans 🍫stick around tomorrow for a chance to try some of this weeks chocolates!🍫
Patrice Chapon is one of a select (though growing) number of chocolatiers in Paris who specializes in bean-to-bar. The shop is romantic and whimsical, with surrealistic sleeves around chocolate bars, vibrant truffles, and highly decorated bonbons, but we’re really here for the chocolate mousse bar. Here, you can (sample and) choose from mousses made from single origin chocolate from Madagascar, Ecuador, Venezuela, or Peru, and watch as the dense creamy cloud is scooped out of giant china into a white paper cone for your immediate eating pleasure. 69 Rue du Bac; chocolat-chapon.com.
Des Gâteaux et du Pain
The clue is in the name, des Gâteaux and also du Pain. Literally. Half of the shop is dedicated to each. The loaves created by baker David Granger attract shoppers from all over the city, and you will not regret picking up a buttery croissant to snack on, or to save for breakfast the next day. But for pâtisserie-picnic purposes, pay special attention to pâtissière Claire Damon (one of Paris’ few female practitioners)’s side of the store. She’s famous for The Lipstick, a glossy domed cake featuring almonds, cream, and the finest seasonal fruit, as well as for her ability to highlight the very best of what each season has to offer in colorful cakes, mousses, and tarts. The berry tart, packed with artfully arranged teeny tiny wild strawberries is sublime. Pick up something truly special to add to the feast. 89 Rue du Bac; vdesgateauxetdupain.com.
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La Pâtisserie des Rêves
You’ll spot La Pâtisserie des Rêves immediately for its stand-out design, all pink and white and modern, with floating glass cloches covering pastries on plinths. Founded in 2009, it helped put Rue du Bac firmly on the map as a destination for some of the most advanced pâtisseries in the city. Chef Philippe Conticini (along with Angelo Musa, a world pastry champion), offers original creations alongside classics, characterized by their sense of precision and clean flavors. Don’t miss the Paris Brest, a choux pastry ring filled with praline cream, invented by Louis Durand in 1910 in honor of the eponymous annual bike race. The version at La Pâtisserie des Rêves, with pools of molten praline, regularly tops Best-of-Paris lists. Bonus, it’s placed inside the chicest of all cake boxes: a pink pyramid with a rope handle at the top, that makes you want to twirl down the street gently swinging it with joie de vivre. And why not? 93 Rue du Bac; lapatisseriedesreves.com.
At this second, smaller outpost of the famed hot chocolate salon, the focus is firmly on treats. The classic order is the Mont Blanc, apparently Audrey “Paris is always a good idea” Hepburn’s favorite. It looks like a dome of vermicelli, but is actually made from chestnut puree, cream, and meringue. Linger a while in this modern version of a Belle Epoch interior, all gilt mirrors and mosaic tiles. Browse the Platonic-ideal boxes of caramels, round, pink and gold. Drink in the romance—and also a cup of L’Africain hot chocolate with whipped cream, if you think you’re up to the challenge. The chocolate is made with a blend of cocoa from Niger, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, specially created for the cafe in 1903, and is reputed to have been a favorite of Coco Chanel. 108 Rue du Bac; angelina-paris.fr.
Square des Missions Etrangers
It’s time to picnic! Head into the park via a gate on Rue Commaille, and discover a shady garden designed for strolling, sitting, and seeing the world go by. The people-watching here is perfect: children playing on the playground, chic moms sipping coffees, actual nuns walking arm in arm around the sandy path. All this under the watchful gaze of the marble bust of Chateaubriand, a former resident of the area near the square, who apparently found time between being a diplomat and politician to found Romanticism in France, write a posthumously published autobiography (“Memoirs from Beyond The Grave”), and have a steak named after him. Find a perch on a wooden bench in the dappled shade, attack your array of beautiful boxes and feast away. 105 Rue du Bac.
And since we’re right next door …
La Grande Epicerie de Paris
While in Paris, some choose galleries, and others choose food shops. Just a short walk down Rue de Sèvres will bring you to one of the very best ones, Le Grand Epicerie. Originally created as a department store with an exceptional food department back in 1852, several owners and redesigns later, it’s now the ultimate gourmet shopping emporium.
This is the ideal place to stock up on food-related gifts and treats: silver tubes of caramel, tubs of chocolate hazelnut paste, tins of puree de marrons, bars of chocolate, jars of preserves and traditional fruit confiture, bags of teeny tiny meringues, bottles of artisanal vinegars and local mustards. Though customs may not let you bring it across borders, I have to give a shout-out to butter—real, French butter, sprinkled with giant crystals of sea salt. There’s a whole section dedicated to it, right next to a run of astonishing cheese counters. It's not to be missed. 38 Rue de Sèvres; lagrandeepicerie.com.
Hero Image courtesy of La Patisserie des Reves. For more on France and French food, check out our France Week special.