Today, I'm craving chocolat - for many reasons, including the weather, the day of the week, and the cranky toddler I'm pushing along the narrow streets between the 15eme and the 7eme - and lucky me, our walk home takes us right by Le Boulanger des Invalides.
My first meal as a Parisian-to-be was actually here at Le Boulanger - Jeff and I stopped here with our realtor during our whirlwind one-day apartment search 16 months ago - and I was delighted to re-discover this gem with my friend Catherine as we wheeled our filles through the rain one day in search of sustenance. It's perched right on one of the grand boulevards stretching out from Les Invalides, the military-memorial complex that includes the Army Museum, Napoleon's tomb, and a grand hospital and chapel completed in 1708 for France's veterans. The chapel's dazzling golden dome (one of Josie's favorite sights in Paris) is a lovely view, particularly when enjoying a delicious baguette sandwich and coffee - or, yes, a pastry - at Le Boulanger des Invalides. It's really just a lovely and friendly place that I suggest to anyone visiting or strolling through the 7th.
Unfortunately, due to the presence of aforementioned cranky toddler, today is not a day to sit and sip and stare (it's bloody freezing out today anyway), so we huddle in the warm queue and drool at the offerings d'emporter. Torn between a coffee eclair and a blueberry tarte, I toss both aside when I spot what appears to be a large glob of melted chocolate. "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" I inquire breathlessly of the clerk. "Tarte au chocolat-marron," she replies. The mention of chestnuts give me slight pause, still the promise of chocolate reels me in.
OK, so it is not quite what I thought. As I bite in (too hard to cut with a fork), it actually has a cake-y bottom, with the chocolate perched on top like a kind of icing. It's like a very upscale chocolate-frosted donut (Dunkin, not Krispy). The cake is really delightful, an extra-firm pound cake kind of flavor, and the thick, fudgy chocolate (tres noir, of course) balances nicely with the cake. Aha, and there's the marron - it's a big dollop of chestnut cream that was clearly piped on first and then the chocolate dripped over top. Now I see what all the fuss over chestnut cream is about. It's lovely - particularly nestled between dark chocolate and pound cake.
I love visiting Le Boulanger because it's like running into an old friend - and gives me such warm, already bittersweet-nostalgic memories of that first trip, that first stepping stone in building our life here in Paris. With friends like these, you can understand why we're so heartbroken to leave! Not only would I recommend visiting Le Boulanger, I'd recommend ordering a Chocolat-Marron with your Café crème. Un bon nouveau ami.