I have found the holy grail of pastry at Pouchkine
I know that what's considered the"best" is such a personal thing so I totally own that this is personal but I simply cannot imagine that anyone who is a connoisseur of fine pastries wouldn't agree that Cafe Pouchkine really has something beyond amazing. Not only are the pastries gorgeous to look at, the one's I've tried are sublime in taste and texture as well. I can say, without reservation, that the "Napoleon" is the single most delicious sweet I have ever eaten anywhere, including from my own kitchen, which is saying a lot.
I first tried it in the late afternoon on a very busy Friday of the holiday weekend. Cafe Pouchkine is located in a corner of Printemps so it was quite the madhouse but we did manage to snag a couple of seats at the elegant coffee bar. The pastries were amazing to look at and it was so difficult to choose but I went for the Napolean, a tower of filo type pastry encasing a rich intensely vanilla cream. OH MY! Even after sitting in the case since morning (I assume) the outside was shatteringly crisp, the inside was rich and creamy and intensely vanilla, not very sweet but just sweet enough. 1 perfectly ripe raspberry, blackberry and tiny strawberry on top added just the correct amount of fruit flavor. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My husband had a "Mosquito" an intensely pistachio moist concoction that was also delicious but I was past caring as I devoured my Napoleon.
This morning we returned to Cafe Pouchkine and I had another Napoleon. If possible, it was even better. The pastry was even crispier, especially on he bottom and I was back in pastry heaven. This time, being morning, hubby opted for the vanilla croissant. Unbelievable. The most delicious croissant ever, anywhere.
We leave Paris the day after tomorrow but I'm planning to return to Pouchkine tomorrow. I know I should try something else but I'm not sure I can resist yet one more Napoleon. This truly is the holy grail of pastry for me and once discovered, how can I resist? I'll be dreaming of this longingly once I return home.
Good to know. That was the style of mille-feuille that Christophe Chabanel used to make at his restaurant La Dinee, deep in the 15th. Sadly, after he started a family, he sold and moved somewhere like South Africa. But while he was there, the mille-feuille vanille was our order: light as air and not awfully sweet, something you could actually eat as dessert after a serveral course dinner, not like the ones made with heavier pastry and a more custard-like filling.
Thanks for a new sighting.
Just to clarify, the Napolean at Cafe Pouchkine is not a millefeuille. He does make an amazing millefeuille as well which my husband had when we returned a second time so I could have that Napolean again. ( and then we went back a third time and I had to have it again!) The Napolean is croissant dough layered with intensely vanilla cream, encased in crispy phyllo-like dough. The Millefeuille is layers of crisp, buttery, beautifully browned feuilletage with a vanilla pastry cream between (not the same cream as in the Napolean) and the top layer of the millefeulle is caramelized, almost like toffee. The whole thing is barely sweet and totally delicious but I still preferred the Napolean.
I just tried the pastry at Brasserie Pushkine in NYC. Emmanuel Ryon of Cafe Pouchkine is the executive pastry chef here and I was so excited to find his pastry in the US. Sadly, they don't make the Napolean here but they do have the millefeuille and many other gorgeous pastries. It's hard to really compare, especially since I was there in the late afternoon and the pastries had been in the case all day so were not as crisp as they they would have been in the morning (when I always went to Pouchkine in Paris) but they were still darn delicious and better than most French pastries I've found anywhere in the States.
But I'm still dreaming of that Napolean and now I know I'll have to get back to Paris to have it again. Sigh.