Valentine’s Day in Paris

As he’s done so deliciously before, mon patissier preferé (my favorite pastry chef), Pierre Hermé, played theme and variation on his Ispahan. Ispahan, named for the ancient city of Persia that was famed for its roses, started out as rose macaroons sandwiching a rose cream, litchis and raspberries, and has since blossomed into about a dozen treats from jam to tea cake. For Valentine’s Day, Pierre offered heart-shaped Ispahans in every size as well as in a twofer: two small side-by-side Ispahan hearts.  He packed his elegant chocolates in a whimsical box, one that, while great for Valentine’s Day, would be just as right for any other day, like, for instance, maybe, hint, tomorrow.


Up the street on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, the chocolatier Patrick Roger crafted such perfect chocolate hearts that if you stared at them long enough you had the impression they’d begun to beat (probably the dizzying effect of being in such close quarters with so much chocolate).  I knew myself well enough to know that if I had one of those hearts, I’d put it on my desk, leave it there as an object d’art, then, when it turned gray and motley, I’d berate myself for wasting such a treasure, so I saved myself the angst and bought a bag of his Allégories, clusters of toasted, caramelized almond slivers coated in fabulous dark, dark, dark chocolate.


After lunch at Le Comptoir, I crossed the street, pressed my nose against the window of Pascal Mutel’s flower shop and giggled: Mutel’s sophisticated floral arrangements were sharing the stage with shiny, super-large jelly apples. The candies made for a bold design and an equally bold Valentine’s Day message since, in French, these treats are called Pommes d’Amour. The only reason I can think of that the French would call these sticky candies Love Apples is because the French are French. And thank heavens for that.