I am always amazed when I stumble upon remnants of Paris before the Revolution. My heart skips a little when I see the cross-hatched architecture in St. Paul, the flying buttresses on cathedrals across the city, and one particular pastry shop on rue Montorgueil.
I’ve written about rue Montorgueil before—it’s also the home of G. Detou, where somehow I convinced myself the other day that I didn’t need to buy a two-pound bag of chocolate. (Moments like those are much easier when your kitchen is the same size as an American pantry and is already exploding with pots and pans and pounds of turmeric you had to have in India a year ago.)
Though I love wandering around rue Montorgueil just for the fun of it, this particular trip had a very clear purpose: to get a pastry from Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris. My friend Molly, who lives in the quartier and went to Le Cordon Bleu pastry school (thus making her an expert, of course) was to be my guide—pointing out her favorite pastries and choux creations (and trying to help me get a picture in front of the shop, only to be thwarted by passersby).
The shop lies just off the well-worn cobblestone, and postcards depicting the shop’s centuries of fame huddle outside the window, with photos of the chef meeting the queen and illustrations of the store front available for purchase. Inside, it’s like entering a less-crowded, much sweeter Château de Versailles, with varied shades of blue tile surrounding the gold-scripted Stohrer at the entrance. Nicolas Stohrer was once the pâtissier for the wife of King Louis XV, and his shop is just as gilded as you may imagine (or expect) it to be.
It’s worth noting that Stohrer, while famed for being the oldest (still-standing) pastry shop in Paris, is also where the baba rhum was born—it’s a rum-soaked sponge cake that in the wrong hands can taste too much like a college dive bar than the delicately flavored sweet it’s meant to be. They have plain babas, babas with whipped cream, and babas with pastry cream. Just saying the name of it is fun, no?
I, however, had my eye on something more chocolate-filled, Le Criollo. It’s so chocolatey, in fact, that Stohrer itself claims that it’s, “Le gâteau des grands amateur de chocolat” — the cake for serious chocolate lovers. Yes, hi! That’s me.
I carefully carried my little white Stohrer box down the cobblestone street as Molly and I participated in the age-old activity of faire du lèche-vitrine (window shopping, but literally “window-licking”; I’m convinced the term was coined specifically for those who linger outside pastry shops as we were), knowing that something sweet and chocolatey was in our very near future. ♦