Pierre Herme – Paris
One of the things I knew my husband and I would enjoy when we were in Europe was chocolate. I love chocolate and Europe is known for their decadent and gourmet chocolate. A few months before our trip, my husband had seen an article online listing the top 10 chocolate shops in the world, so naturally he forwarded it to me. I realized that many of these shops on the top 10 were in the vicinity of where we were going to be on our trip, so I began to plot out how I could visit as many of them as possible. The first of these chocolate shops we popped into was on the first afternoon after our arrival from London to Paris via the Eurostar. It just so happened that this particular shop was only a few blocks from our hotel, so I dragged my husband to check it out.
Pierre Herme is comes from a long line of a Alsatian pastry makers and bakers. He’d always known since he was a child he wanted to join the world of confections, and at the age of 14 he found himself an apprentice to Gaston Lenotre. Many years later, Pierre Herme has made a name for himself by revolutionizing the chocolate world and inventing and reinventing new flavor profiles. Vogue magazine one referred to Herme as the “Picasso of pastry.” Herme’s artistry and skills as a master chocolatier shine brightly when you step inside any of his Pierre Herme Paris shops which can be found throughout Paris, Asia and the Middle East.
When we walked into the store we couldn’t even decide what we wanted to look at first. In my mind, I thought we were going in there and buy some macarons. Boy, was I wrong. They had so much more to offer. The first thing that we saw was their display of chocolate bon bons. Seeing this kind of display, we knew we were going to have to try some of them, they looked too good to pass up. Not knowing the protocol, one of the store clerks came over and described to us how things work at Pierre Herme. Chocolate bon bons come in two categories, there is the regular chocolate bon bons that come in multiple flavor profiles and then there are a select few that are higher end and cost a bit more. We were looking to put together a small box where we could choose some flavors and take them away to sample on our own. Essentially, the chocolate was sold by the weight in grams, and only a certain number of bon bon pieces fit into each box to reach the weight limit.
There were so many different types of bon bons to choose from, so we tried a single piece of many different types of chocolate. There was the Infiniment Vanille which is chocolate and vanilla ganache (using chocolates from Tahiti, Mexico and Madagascar), enrobed in dark chocolate. This was decadent and luxurious. Another bon bon we chose was the Ispahan which is chocolate and raspberry ganache, rose and litchi fruit paste, enrobed in dark chocolate. My husband had this piece of chocolate and enjoyed it immensely. We both agreed that Pierre Herme’s chocolate was absolutely rich and smooth and delicious. Mathilda was another bon bon selection we made with almond praline with lemon zest and crisp wafer, enrobed in milk chocolate with roasted almond.
It seemed that we couldn’t make a bad selection. Everything we tried was delicious and probably beyond any chocolate that we’d ever had before. It was amazing how fantastic a small chocolate bon bon could be. There was the Infiniment Praline Noisette made with crunchy,melt-in-your-mouth hazelnut praline, enrobed in dark chocolate. I’m not the biggest fan of hazelnut, but this one was so silky smooth and as the description says, it was melt-in-your-mouth consistency.
Once you’ve created the box to the size and weight allowable, then it gets boxed up and tied with a ribbon all pretty. Good enough to bring home as a gift for a friend or relative. However, so good that we decided to eat this one ourselves as we couldn’t help ourselves from trying the chocolate bon bons.
On top of the regular chocolate bon bons, we wanted to try some of the higher end bon bons too just to see what they were like. You don’t need to buy a box of bon bons at Pierre Herme, you are welcome to just purchase the chocolates in pieces and the will bag it up for you. My husband decided that he wanted three of the Mogador’s. This was a recommendation of the sales clerk who was helping us. The Mogador is passion fruit and milk chocolate ganache, macaron bisquit, tender almond paste, and all enrobed in milk chocolate. It was absolutely fantastic. This was single-handedly the best single piece of chocolate that my husband and I had ever tried. The passion fruit flavor combined with the sweet milk chocolate was such a perfect combination. It was flavorful and tangy and sweet all at the same time. We loved these Mogador’s so much that before we left Paris we had to go back and buy some more.
But Pierre Herme doesn’t just sell chocolate bon bons, they have a whole line of flavored tea lives, jams and jelly and they recently started selling Pierre Herme ice cream. We didn’t get a chance to try the ice cream, but I’d imagine it was fantastic. If their chocolate is any indication of how good the rest of their products are, then they can’t be beat.
On top of the bon bons, we also went home with some French macarons. After all, this is what I originally came to Pierre Herme for. There macaron displays were so gorgeous and colorful it was almost too pretty to eat. They offered 12 different flavors of macarons and much like their chocolate bon bons, you could buy just a single macaron or a couple of pieces, or you could put together a package of them. We wanted to try all 12 of them, so we asked our sales clerk to package together one of each flavor for us in a box.
Macaron flavors included Veloute Infiniment Banane which was made with yogurt and banana. You know I couldn’t pass that one up, and it definitely was delicious. It had such a subtle and light banana flavor which was perfect because it didn’t overpower the macaron cookie. There was the Velouute Infiniment Citron with yogurt and lemon. My husband liked the tart flavor of the lemon in this particular macaron. There was Veloute Infiniment Pamplemousse with yogurt and grapefruit which definitely had a muted slightly bitter, slightly sweet grapefruit flavor that was unique and different.
How about Jardin du Soleil which was made with olive oil and lemon jam? That was so smooth and creamy. It had the tart pungent flavor of lemon, but a creamy underlaying which was nice and velvety smooth from the olive oil. There was also Infiniment Rose with rose and rose petal which my husband said wasn’t too sweet, but definitely had a floral accent to the flavor profile. Infiniment Caramel which had salted-butter caramel as the macaron cooking filling was quite popular. It definitely had the salted flavor, but just hints of it rather than being overpowered by the salt. The caramel was so creamy and rich, it was delicious.
I enjoyed the Infiniment Chocolat with pure origin Venezuelan dark chocolate. The rich, deep flavor of the dark chocolate really came through, making this an inviting chocolate macaron that wasn’t very sweet at all. There was a Mogador macaron, and considering how much we loved the regular Mogador bon bon, we knew that we would love the Mogador macaron. The thin layer of passion fruit mixed with the milk chocolate filling was absolutely amazing. I’d never tasted a macaron so wonderful and full of flavor. Infiniment Pistache made with pistachios also seemed to be a favorite. It was smooth in texture and creamy and nutty in flavor. Crème Brulee was one that I was excited to try with vanilla and caramel bits. The sweetness of the crème brulee and the sugar really shined in this macaron.
We took our very own box of 12 macarons packaged up very nicely in a beautiful box. As we had a refrigerator in our room at the hotel, we were able to actually store the macarons for a few days. On the day we bought the box we each sampled a few macarons and the taste of the fresh macarons was heavenly. The cookies were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and the flavors of the fillings were phenomenal. But, I must say, even a few days later and having been in the refrigerator, the macarons were still just as amazingly delicious. The cookies were even crunchier, but yet the inside still remained chewy and soft. My husband remarked at the time that there were a couple of places in the States where we’d had macarons and he thought they were good, but after having tasted Pierre Herme’s maracrons, nothing in the States could compare.
Pierre Herme blew away all expectations we had for what French chocolate was all about. We absolutely loved every single chocolate bon bon we tried and every single macaron we sampled. We were so impressed by the quality and taste of the chocolate and the macarons that we stopped by this same store again before we left Paris to buy some more chocolates for ourselves and to buy some to bring home as gifts. I never would have visited Pierre Herme if not for reading the article my husband sent me that called Pierre Herme’s chocolates one of the world’s 10 best. My husband and I understand now that there really is a noticeable difference between a chocolatier such as Pierre Herme vs. any standard chocolate you can enjoy. I would certainly go out of my way in the future just to get my hands on some Pierre Herme chocolate, especially the Mogadors. These chocolates really are that good. In the words of Pierre Herme, “I want my chocolate to come alive. It is part of my life. Every day, the flame of epicurean desire burns within me. With pleasure as my only guide, I trim, build and navigate. Harvest after harvest, I pursue my quest for cocoa beans of the finest quality… I enjoy the taste of praline when it reveals subtle pistachio or almond flavours. I like the idea of sharing my world in which the cocoa bean is king. I like thinking that there are many sequels still to be written…”