Monday, June 28, 2010

Le Cordon Bleu Orientation + Macarons

I started my day running down the streets of Paris as if my life depended on it.

Instead of waking up early and leisurely making my way to the school - maybe stopping for a croissant au beurre on the way - I found myself starring in disbelief at a watch that clearly showed I should have been at the school half an hour ago. Lateness is punishable by expulsion from Le Cordon Bleu (you get kicked out if you are late more than five times), and I was certainly not off to a good start.

Thankfully, I was not immediately expelled. Instead I joined the rest of my classmates in a lecture room as the administrators covered school rules and schedules. The intensive program turned out be indeed quite intensive, with 6-9 hours days being the norm (I only have 3 hours of class on Saturdays, thank god). Sitting in the lecture hall with everyone else, I felt like I was in some sort of anti-Caltech/Microsoft universe. Out of 52 students, there were only a handful of men...the rest of the crowd consisted of attractive, slim women. I wonder why there aren't more men in the program?

The downside to having a majority of women in the class is that locker space becomes an issue. In fact, they positively ran out of locker space and I had to haul all my equipment and uniforms back to the apartment. And let me tell you, a solid set of Wüsthof knives gets pretty heavy after a while...

The uniforms turned out to be, well, obviously tailored for men. On the plus side, there's plenty of room for butter fat accumulation : ) The logo on the jacket is pretty awesome though.

In the afternoon, I indulged in some luxury foodie shopping at La Grande Epicerie and Lafayette Gourmet. I love the large European food halls associated with department stores. Sure, it's not as authentic as going to boutique shops, but when it's 30 Celsius outside it's nice to stay in. Moving onto the loot...

Feeling very, very French, I picked up some Mariage Frères tea and Christine Ferber jam from La Grande Epicerie.

Actually, it wasn't just jam. It was Maltese orange with 64% chocolate. It tastes like Nutella, if you take out the hazelnut and replace it with orange instead. Next time I need to seek out more adventurous flavors like strawberry with lemon grass or green tomatoe and orange with baking spices.

The downside to La Grande Epicerie is that they only have the in-house bakery. I really like Layette Gourmet because they have stalls from Eric Kayser, Dalloyau, and Sadaharu Aoki.

Instead of a baguette, I decided to go with a pavé de campagne from Eric Kayser. Pain de campagne is my favorite bread from the local Seattle bakery Le Panier because it's usually more flavorful and chewier than a baguette. Eric Kayser did quite nicely.

I picked up macarons from Dalloyau and Sadaharu Aoki from a pure research perspective. Like any self-respecting home baker with a scientific bent, I've been obsessing over macarons for some time. Sadaharu Aoki is my favorite source of macarons in Paris (along with Pierre Hermé, of course), and I haven't tried macarons from Dalloyau before.

From the top, going clockwise, chocolate, genmaicha (toasted rice tea), and hojicha (roasted tea). 

Left to right: caramel passion, cognac. 

I'll save the technical discussions for later, but I can say that the textures of the these macarons are much more fluffy and tender than anything I've had in Seattle (I'm looking at you, Bakery Nouveau). In addition, the shells are barely sweet, unlike the sugar-laden disks I've encountered in the states (I plead guilty to it myself). Enough to say, my faith in macarons was re-affirmed. It really is possible to make a good macaron!

Much experimentation will follow once I go back to the states. 



  1. Awesome! You look fabulous in your new uniform! Keep an eye on your tools and label them with tape or engrave if you can, they have legs and will walk off without you knowing.
    Those macarons looks so good, I can't wait till you get back to the states so you can teach me how to make them. If you are wondering where the men are, they are probably in the Culinary program chopping onions and making sauces...just like in the movie "Julie and Julia"... Have fun!
    Take care! Jo Ann

  2. Nice report--glad you didn't get kicked out on your first day. What a feeling to oversleep!