Pastries at Pâtisserie Vandermeersch in Paris
My most important mission while in Paris? Find the best baked good. This all-consuming mission has led me to pâtisserie after pâtisserie after pâtisserie. I’ve read articles, sifted through travel books, and asked the locals. Then I stumbled across a blog post by the famous pastry chef and reliable source, David Lebovitz, in which he claims that the Vandermeersch kouglof is not only one of the best baked goods in Paris but, “one of the all-time best things I’ve ever eaten, anywhere.” Well then. Having some sense, I hopped on the subway, tuned into my longest Christmas carol playlist, and ventured across Paris to the Pâtisserie Vandermeersch to put David Lebovitz and this kouglof to the test.
The bakery was buzzing with Saturday morning excitement. Strapping young lads hopped off their vespas to buy the day’s baguettes, inquisitive old men peered through the brightly lit shop window, and the salesladies within twirled about wrapping up little packages of pastries and counting change. I stepped into the shop and my eyes quickly alit on a happy pile of kouglofs in the far corner of the case. I chirped out, “Deux kouglofs, s’il vous plaît!” (never order just one pastry), and the nearest saleslady quickly slipped two of the pastries into a brown parchment bag, which she spun closed in typical Parisian fashion.
A view of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
A believer in suspense, I tucked the package safely in my purse and hiked over to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a lovely garden sculpted from an old quarry. The whimsical park is situated steeply on what can only be called a mountain, for by the time I reached the top I was entirely out of breath, certainly due to the added weight of the two pastries in my bag. Solving that problem, I settled myself on a bench with a lovely view and took my first bite of this famous kouglof. It was delicious. It was cakey, yet flakey. Sweet, but not too sweet. Delicate and moist, but with a nice crunch from the sugar coated exterior. Flavored with orange and raisins, yet not overtly so. It was simple, yet positively extravagant.
The best baked good in Paris: kouglof from Pâtisserie Vandermeersch
By the time I finished, I was covered in sugar and a nearby crow was eyeing me unnervingly. So, comforted by the fact that I had another pastry in my bag, (never order just one pastry) I ventured to my last stop of the day, Galeries Lafayette, to see this year’s Christmas display. I squirmed my way through the sea of last minute Christmas shoppers and was rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of the beautiful center gallery, which was bringing smiles to the faces of both children and adults alike.
To conclude, what have we learned? Never buy just one pastry! You never know if you’re about to buy the best baked good in Paris. David Lebovitz, I concur.
Galeries Lafayette at Christmas