Before this post becomes too outdated, I wanted to share a unique little yuletide trinket I found here in France, that roused both nostalgia for my upbringing in the States and appreciation for the French in my life. Read More →
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Paris Cupcake Wars: Sugar Daze
The moment has finally arrived. The moment when I review the cupcake shop to end all cupcake shops in Paris. The one everyone told me about, from a comment on of of my earlier cupcake posts, here, to an article written by MammaExpat over at HJ Underway, here, to recommendations I received via twitter: Sugar Daze was the must-try bakery on my list. Now it’s time to reveal whether or not the shop is worth all the buzz…
At first glance: The first few times I walked past Sugar Daze I actually didn’t notice it. It was only when I was on a mission to find the shop that I realized I had walked down that same street several times, since my doctor was located around the corner. “How could I have missed a cupcake shop?” I had asked myself as Frog Prince and I turned onto the familiar street. It even has a colorful awning and a lovely glass window displaying some delectable treats that looked more than tempting.
At second glance: Once I finally stepped inside, the overly-commercial decor of the other shops I’ve visited yielded to a simple, relatively white-walled setting… which didn’t hold my attention for more than two seconds in light of the cupcakes on display.
At first bite: As with Daisy Miller’s, I knew before taking a bite what the experience would be like. Except in this case, I was expecting, and experienced, opposite results. I went immediately for I Love Rock N’ Roll, with it’s hand-crafted sugar guitar sitting atop the perfect amount of frosting. The frosting was sublime, and the cake was perfectly moist and well-flavored (which says a lot since they had been refrigerated after buying them the day before). At Sugar Daze, Cat makes full-sized cupcakes (not those little mini ones the Parisians try to pass off as cupcakes), so we each selected a different cupcake, cut it in quarters, and shared. I can say that the second, third and fourth bites were also exquisite.
Overall: Again, I don’t pay much attention to pricing, but I can say that Sugar Daze has the best-tasting cupcakes so far (and perhaps in all of Paris), and they offer full-sized cupcakes, so the price is probably higher per cupcake but not by weight, and for good reason. Not only is the size and taste enough to make these cupcakes worth the money, but the time spent on making each one look uniquely perfect is a rare thing in the cupcake world, rendering each one worth its weight in gold. Oh, and did I mention how fresh they were? Yeah, the list keeps going…
It’s almost like I don’t even need to say this last part, but for the sake of consistency: DEFINITELY GO to Sugar Daze if you’re in Paris and craving a cupcake. You won’t be disappointed! 🙂
Paris Cupcake Wars: Daisy Miller American Bakery & Restaurant
I bet you thought I had taken a break from my mission to discover cupcakes in Paris, hmm? Well you’re wrong–I haven’t!
Frog Prince’s big sis clued me in to a potentially dangerous thing: a cupcake shop in my neighborhood. This sounded like trouble, and I needed to investigate. Enter: Daisy Miller American Bakery & Restaurant.
At First Glance: Technically the first glance I had of this place was the website, and I liked what I saw. They have some really great photos of some delicious-looking cupcakes, and I felt both excited and worried about the prospect of having such yummy desserts nearby.
At Second Glance: The shop seemed pretty bare, which I tried to overlook considering that they are newly installed into their little corner of the 12th arrondissement. But as soon as I took a look at their cupcake shelf, my heart dropped and I knew that my initial reaction of disdain for the wannabe-American bakery was an accurate one. We actually called before coming, since it was August and so many shops close for summer holiday, and we wanted to make sure they were open. They told us that they were, in fact, open for business, but asked us to delay our visit by just a bit so they could put out more fresh cupcakes. We obliged, but when we got there, I’d say their selection was extremely limited, and looking far from fresh.
At first bite: I didn’t need to take a bite, actually, to know that these cupcakes wouldn’t measure up to the previous two shops I’ve visited. Each cake looked exactly the same (no differentiation in flavor), and the frosting looked like whipped cream mixed with flavoring and/or food coloring, topped with cheap candy. Nevertheless, the first bite confirmed–these were not what an American would consider a cupcake.
Overall: I can honestly say that we felt bad serving these cupcakes to our dinner guests that night. Fortunately they were up for the experiment, and didn’t hold it against us, but this isn’t a bakery that I plan to return to anytime soon. Obviously, my verdict for this one is DON’T GO to Dasiy Miller.
As a side note, I was particularly put-off by two other things: First–the name indicates that this bakery is aiming to resemble something American, either in look, feel, or food offering. Not only were the cupcakes not at all up to American cupcake standards, but the decor in the shop centered around imagery from… London. Second–the one American thing they did have on their menu that looked appealing was beer. I was especially excited to see Sam Adams Boston Lager on the menu (for obvious reasons), and we tried to order one… at which point we were notified that, uh, they were out (or do they even carry them??). But we could have Heineken! No thanks, Daisy Miller. And maybe you should revisit the American theme you have going on…
Image credit: http://www.daisymiller-cupcakes.com/
Paris Cupcake Wars: Berko’s Bakery
For the latest installment of my cleverly devised scheme to allow me to binge on cupcakes while in Paris, I bring you the full report of my experience with Berko’s Bakery.
The setting: We had plans to host some of of the Prince’s Royal Family for dinner, and we thought it would be a great idea to introduce some other Froggies to cupcakes and to get their valuable feedback. So on the day of our dinner I ventured over to the Berko’s location in the 18th arrondissement, just a short walk from the Moulin Rouge, to sample their wares.
At first glance: Both the website and the storefront were promising. The website lists a huge variety of both cupcakes and frostings, sorted by type (buttercream, cream cheese, mascarpone, mousse and ganache), which sufficiently wet my appetite. Once inside, their selection of cupcakes vastly outnumbered that at Scarlett’s Bakery, and I was eager to make my selection. The shop was very nicely decorated, evoking a feeling of vintage-esque Parisian sweetness. They also offer wedding cakes (among other things), which is typically a good indicator of a bakery that knows how to make a cupcake!
At second glance: Although the selection was large, I was double-disappointed with it! Not only were they not carrying the classic flavors I seem to be always hunting for, but the selection of buttercream cupcakes was so much smaller than any other type, and buttercream is my favorite. The cupcakes here are also minis, and the box they offer is designed well and holds your goodies in place like a trusty sports bra.
At first bite: The disappointment continued. The frosting was moderately tasty, but the cupcakes themselves were average. At Scarlett’s, you get cupcakes that are either the same or a corresponding flavor as the frosting, giving you a really flavorful experience for each bite. With Berko’s, you’re typically getting a plain cake with fancy frosting (if you can call it that). In some cases, the cupcakes had some sort of filling inside that, while yummy, doesn’t exactly make up for the lack of attention paid to the cake itself. Our guests reflected my sentiments by saying that the cakes were a bit dry and plain, and Frog Prince has asked me not to go back.
Overall: Their prices are higher than Scarlett’s for a lower quality product. The best thing about Berko’s is the box, and that’s obviously not enough to make it worth your time or money. My recommendation is to save yourself the hassle, and DON’T GO to Berko’s.
Paris Cupcake Wars: Scarlett’s Bakery
Recently, I decided to explore the Parisian world of cupcakes. As a first step, I spent some time browsing the web to see what our old friend Google had to say in terms of where to start. I got the standard map listing of places with the word “cupcake” in the name, and then another outdated website or two pointing me the direction of a few bakeries.
Last weekend, the Frog Prince and I had plans to go out for lunch at a restaurant we really dig in a neighborhood not too far from ours (posts about this place will follow, at some point, too. There is no shortage of good food in Paris, but the trifecta of good food, great service/ambiance and good pricing can be quite the rarity). Fortunately, one of the bakeries whose name came up in my search was located conveniently in between our place and the restaurant.
To start what I hope to be a long and delicious journey, I took the liberty of stopping in at a bakery that is touted for its cupcakes (and it’s tea) in the 11th arrondissement: Scarlett’s Bakery. Here’s my rundown of what Scarlett brings to, and puts on, the table:
At first glance – I was excited by the cute, clean shop. I didn’t take any pictures of the inside because it was small, we were the only ones there (when we arrived), and I didn’t want to be rude. But the décor of the bakery is colorful, warm, welcoming, and a little quirkier than most of the neutral-colored, traditional bakeries I find myself in in Paris.
At second glance – I was a bit disappointed. Scarlett seems to focus her cupcake energy on minis, which–although they are delicious and turned out to be the perfect size for splitting and sharing–wasn’t what I was looking for, or expecting. Additionally, although the flavors she had were amazing (wait for it), and typical of those you can find among French desserts (pistachio, tiramisu, etc.), some of the classic cupcake flavors were missing: namely chocolate, vanilla and red velvet.
At first bite – The first cupcake I went for first was cookies and cream, being that it was the closest I could get to the classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, which also happens to be my favorite. The cupcake was sublime. The texture of the cake was not too dense but full of flavor, and the frosting was smooth and creamy. Frog Prince went for tiramisu and told me that “it was amazing,” and a friend went for pistache and was also impressed. Other flavors in our batch included pistache fraise (pistachio cake with strawberry cream), spéculoos (a French cookie of sorts) and caramel au beurre salé (caramel with salted butter). All were top-notch.
Overall – the shop is sweet, the selection was a bit limited, but the desserts themselves are to die for. I can’t comment on pricing just yet, as I need to try other bakeries to get a feel for the value in this category, but her minis ring up at 1.80 € a piece, with deals if you buy larger quantities.
Keeping my recommendations to a basic “GO” or “DON’T GO” level, I can give the green light to definitely GO to Scarlett’s Bakery!
An Update and a Confession
I have been lazy. And this isn’t even the confessional part of this post. I probably shouldn’t reveal this little secret, but the truth is that most of the posts I publish have usually been written days, and sometimes even weeks, before they reach your eyes. I’m sure this isn’t unusual, but the point is that when I published all of my pre-drafted posts, I didn’t write any new ones. So the last month has been a rather boring one here at Perpetual Passenger, and I intend to change that. 🙂
First, I’ll start with an update on things that have transpired that I’ve yet to write about (but will do so in more depth in the very near future):
- I went to Tokyo! Whoohoo! I have my little city review and a bunch of pictures to share with you.
- I’m taking French lessons again! This makes for great inspiration for the quirky little language differences that I’m discovering, most of which will give you a good laugh.
- I had a birthday! This is kind of old news, but actually the inch closer that I have moved toward 30 continually generates some new thoughts (read: crazy thoughts) that might be mildly entertaining to some of you.
- I got a haircut! Yeah, very mundane. But the cut is pseudo-drastic, and most of my friends and family haven’t even seen it yet. Plus, switching up my style from time to time can be refreshing, and it has a way of motivating me.
- I went to a concert! Love her or hate her, Florence and her Machine kick ass live.
Apart from this stuff, I’ve also decided that, although I am an American in Paris–which seems to be a fairly common situation that people have either lived and want to remember, are living right now and can relate to, or have never lived but fantasize about–which gives me lots of Paris-focused things about which to write, this blog started as a travel blog. I plan to keep writing about my life in France and all of the craziness that comes along with it, but also to try and remember the roots of this thing and include more about the places I go. I went to Prague for the first time and all you got were pictures! Sheesh. I should fire myself and hire a new writer. 🙂
And now for the confession.
I make no effort to hide that there are certain things from the US that I miss, but some of the things I miss are more embarrassing than others. Today I have been hit by the addictive force that is Mac and Cheese. I haven’t had it, or anything like it, in close to 10 months now, and a craving has come over me like a tidal wave. Don’t get me wrong–I didn’t eat a that much mac and cheese when I was in the States. But there are some things that you want simply because you can’t have them. I guess that’s how mac and cheese has re-entered my life. I preferred Annie’s Organic Shells and Cheddar, with a little tuna and some peas (Yum! More like a casserole than a dish of pasta covered in processed dairy…) and I think I’m going to crack, and… yes… maybe…
GO TO THE AMERICAN GROCERY STORE IN PARIS AND BUY SOME!
Oh gosh that was painful. I’ve already written about missing mac and cheese, and how most French people I know feel about it, here. But you should know, dear reader, that I am braving nothing less than ostracism by consuming such a dish here in Paris. You should have seen Frog Prince’s face when I told him this morning that I wanted some mac and cheese! It was like I had told him I wanted to eat a bowl of earth worms. But maybe I can convince him to make some from scratch at home (I know you’re reading this, B. Come on! Home made mac and cheese is awesome and you’re the best chef I know!!! 🙂 ). In any case, I need to get some soon or I might just lose my mind.
So there you have it… a glimpse of the posts that are to come, and a juicy confession to snicker about. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Home is Where the Food is
While living in France I have definitely enjoyed trying new foods and exploring the Parisian culture through its cuisine. And although I certainly am not at a point where I think any one region’s food is better than another’s on the whole, there is definitely an element of comfort surrounding some of the favorite foods I grew up with.
As such, during my stay in the US, I made sure to try and get my hands on the foods I’ve been missing most. Being a New England native, there’s definitely a theme to the foods I’ve been seeking. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the must-eat foods for those visiting the Northeast:
- Fried Haddock sandwich (with cheese) from River House on Bow Street
- Seafood chowder, also from River House
- Japanese Wrap (accompanied by a soy shake) from The Juicery on Hanover Street
- Anything on the menu at Shio on Lafayette street (near Big Lots), especially the miso soup 😉
- Tuna Melt (substitute cheddar for Swiss and hold the tomato) from The Works Bakery Cafe on Congress Street
- Malai Kofta (preceded by the vegetarian platter as an appetizer) from Kashmir Indian Restaurant on Newbury Street
- Tuna Burger from Cafeteria Boston, also on Newbury Street
- Crab Cakes from Ned Devines in Faneuil Hall (surprising, but so good!)
- A large, original frozen yogurt with strawberries and chocolate chips (though toppings may vary) from Pinkberry, again on Newbury Street
- Clam Chowder from Union Oyster House on Union Street (but be warned: you will have the slowest service at this place, regardless of whether it’s dead or packed!)
- Lobster Quesadillas from Game On! Boston (another surprise, but these quesadillas could hold their own at any tex-mex establishment!)