Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paris (France): Laduree

Warning: This is going to be a lengthy entry so for those who are only curious about Laduree, please pull your mouse to the right scroller and drag it down until you see the picture of the celadon green Ladurée pastry shop at Champs-Élysées.

Having visited Prague, Budapest and quieter cities / towns such as Bruges, Burano, etc., I can’t help but to describe Rome and Paris to be touristy. Most of the attractions are filled with people and I agreed with the guides that these are the most visited cities in Europe. However, having said that it was only when I came back sorting my photos that I appreciate the beauty of these two cities.

Eiffel Tower

Just when I thought the crowd at the Vatican was bad, Paris was flooded with people as our stay coincide with a long weekend in Europe, so the Seine river cruise, the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, were extremely packed with people.

Versailles Garden

Anyway, the word “Habsburg” would be the highest frequency word to be heard throughout the entire trip for they ruled the "Austrian Empire" from 1804 to 1867 and "Austria-Hungary" from 1867 to 1918; and it is amazing how the attractions of Paris get associated with the Schonbrunn Palace and the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. There were two marriages involving the Habsburg and the French and it all started with Maria Theresa (female ruler of the Habsburg) who believed in making love, not war.

Schonbrunn Palace
Picture is obtained from a CD, Schonbrunn Photo Gallery

To cut long story short, Maria Theresa married her daughter, Marie Antoinette off to Louis XVI and this family was living in the Palace of Versailles until they were brought to the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution. While we have heard about the art museum, Musée du Louvre (perhaps through the novel and movie, The Da Vinci Code), this art museum was a former royal palace, Louvre Palace. Tuileries Palace, on the other hand, was subsequently built for the wife of Henry II of France and when Tuileries Palace was expanded in the 17th century, the southeast corner of the Tuileries get connected to the Louvre Palace.

Louvre Palace

During the invasion of the Tuileries Palace to capture Marie Antoinette and her children, the Swiss Guards were massacred during their attempt to protect them. This brings the lion monument (in Lucerne) into picture for it was constructed to dedicate the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. Hence, the lion was portrayed to have been impaled by a spear and was covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy. Beside the lion lies another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland.

 lion monument

Although Place de la Concorde (in Paris) is known to be the largest square in the French capital, this was the execution ground for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.

Place de la Concorde

Lastly, as Marie Antoinette was part of the Habsburgs, the portraits of Marie Antoinette can be seen in both Schonbrunn Palace (in Vienna) and the Palace of Versailles (in Paris).

Maria Antoinette
Photo is downloaded from Wikipedia

During the later stages of the French Revolution, Napoleon I married Marie Louise, a great niece of Marie Antoinette, and had Napoleon II. However, after the collapse of First French Empire, Marie Louise and Napoleon II were exiled back to Austria. Hence, there is a room in the Schonbrunn Palace that is dedicated to Napoleon II for he was not allowed to have any contact with the outside world and sad to say, the poor chap died at the age of 21 due to tuberculosis at the Schonrbrunn Palace which the Habsburgs felt that it was the best way to end this.

Napoleon Room
Picture is obtained from a CD, Schonbrunn Photo Gallery

Although Napoleon II was first buried in Vienna, Adolf Hitler transferred the remains of Napoléon II back to Paris as a gift and both the father and the son are buried in Les Invalides.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Since we are on the topic of Napoleon I, there is a distinctive arc, called Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel facing the famous glass pyramid of Musée du Louvre. Right on top of this arc, there are four horses sitting on it. This bronze statues of the four horses are also known as the Horses of St Mark's. Napoleon I marched on Venice, ending the 1,100 years of Venetian independence by forcing its surrender in 1797 and he had these horses forcibly removed from St. Mark’s Basilica and carried off to Paris, where they were used in the design of this arc to mark his victory on the Venetian.

Laduree, Champs-Élysées

History-aside, being dessert-lovers, how can we miss out the flagship store of The Macaron Inventor and The Picasso of Pastry?

Laduree Macaron Display

Since there was no metro lines linking Laduree, Champs-Élysées and Pierre Herme (along rue Bonaparte in the Saint Germain des Prés) directly, we have decided to walk from the Eiffel Tower to Laduree, Champs-Élysées (2.2km) and then to Pierre Herme via Boulevard Saint-Germain (4.1km) and the reason why I blah blah so much in this post is that we passed by Les Invalides on our way to Laduree and we spotted more Laduree(s) while we were in the Palace of Versailles and on our way towards Place de la Concorde.

Laduree Crowd

Laduree seems to be the Louis Vuitton of macarons. Upon entering the store, we were surprised by the twin long queues. One for take-away and the other for dine-in. There were so many tourists buying macarons in bulk and I am dead serious about it. Imagine spending more than 200 EUR on macarons. We noticed that was how the Chinese spent while we were queuing for our take-aways.

Laduree Pastry

The restaurant is worth a visit for the different sections of the restaurant and bar were decorated elegantly. However, we were disappointed how close the tables were placed and there was clearly some bias in their service for the Caucasians that came later than us got their orders taken promptly while we waved for their attention for a good 10 minutes.

Laduree Dining

Plaisir Sucré, Strawberry Napoleon and Isaphan were our orders and frankly speaking, we were disappointed, considering how much raves we have heard about the place. It might have been good if we have not set such high expectations and I could easily list the good alternatives we have back home.

Plaisir Sucré

Plaisir Sucré (7.70 EUR, SGD$13.65) was the best pastry we had during our trip (till that point, you will know why when you read my post on Pierre Herme tomorrow) for the smooth and creamy milk chocolate whipped cream but what was disappointing was the thick tempered milk chocolate and that the crispy praline and almond meringue sandwich cake with crushed hazelnuts weren't contrasting. It was good as a chocolate treat but this creation was supposed to have 5 distinctive layers, which was not in this case.

Millefeuille Fraise

Millefeuille Fraise (8 EUR, SGD$14.10), generous servings of strawberries, sweet and ripe; caramelized puff pastries with nice sugary fragrance and vanilla fine mousse of the right consistency and sweetness. With such fabulous combination, what was it that was disappointing. The puff pastries were soggy so imagine having your fork piercing through this slice of creation, yes, everything collapsed or got mashed up. It was good but minimally I expected the puff pastry to retain a certain level of crispness.


Isaphan (8.60 EUR, SGD$15.25) was a sore disappointment all together, the rose macaron shells were hard, lacking the meaty crust and the rose petals cream not being smooth at all. We are not sure if such thoughts came because of the high expectations we had since Paris is known for their pastries and Laduree has been quoted by many to be one of the best. I checked with my colleague who visited Laduree last year and she is no food blogger. She was very frank with me to give me a thumbs up for their macarons but not their cakes.

Now where are the macarons? Well, we wanted to save some room for Pierre Herme so we bought some macarons for take-away and raced towards Pierre Herme which is more than 4km away with less than 2 hours before they closed.

Ladurée Champs Elysées (within walking distance to Arc de Triomphe)
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris
Tel : +33 1 40 75 08 75

Ladurée Versailles (in the courtyard of the Palace of Versailles)
Château de Versailles
78 000 Versailles
Tel : +33 1 30 83 04 02

Ladurée Royale (within walking distance to Place de la Concorde)
16, rue Royale
75008 Paris
Tel : +33 1 42 60 21 79

Ladurée Bonaparte (within walking distance to Pierre Herme)
21 rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
Tel : +33 1 44 07 64 87

Ladurée at Harrods (for this is a must-visit mall in London)
87/135 Brompton Road
London SW1X 7XL
Tel : (0) 203 155 0111
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lucerne (Switzerland): Confiserie Bachmann

Our first encounter with Bachmann was a box of macarons bought by Yuan's parents after their Switzerland holiday and frankly speaking it was just average in our opinion. This time round, having been in Lucerne, we can understand why they bought us a box of macarons.

Bachmann Macarons Display

Bachmann is one place you will not missed for it is almost found everywhere in Lucerne. On our way to Museum of Art early in the morning at 6am, most of the Bachmann outlets which we came across are already opened and the display is filled with sandwiches and bread, with very little cakes available for sale. Hence, Yuan couldn't help but to associate Bachmann with our local BreadTalk.

Bachmann Cakes

It was in the afternoon when we decided to pop by a visit and were welcomed with a delightful selection of cakes. Not knowing what to order and that the names are in German, we asked for recommendations and here they are...


Since Bachmann is very famous for their chocolates, it is obvious why we have chosen Truffesschnite (CHF 3.90 (SGD$5.70) for takeaway and CHF 4.50 (SGD$6.65) for dine-in). Setting aside the dry chocolate sponge, this is akin to eating Toblerone. To a certain extent, we thought it was disappointing as the chocolate did not have a melt-in-your-mouth effect.

Toblerone Mousse

Toblerone Mousse (CHF 3.90 (SGD$5.70) for takeaway and CHF 4.50 (SGD$6.65) for dine-in) is the other recommendation and as the name has suggested, this is the lighter version of Truffesschnite. This light chocolate mousse accompanied with vanilla mousse, in general is creamy, so much so that the amount of chocolate present is negligible.


Schwedentorti (CHF 3.90 (SGD$5.70) for takeaway and CHF 4.50 (SGD$6.65) for dine-in), a strawberry tart turns out to be my favourite for the refreshing pastry cream. Served in a tart shell made of puff pastry, the entire combination is similar to a Strawberry Napoleon. The strawberries are juicy and sweet; and unlike the previous two desserts, the various components are distinctive in its own way.

Bachmann Macarons

Bachmann publicize their macarons greatly and our curiousity leads to taking away two of their macarons. Charged by weight (CHF 2.75 (SGD$4.00) for 4 pieces), these bite-sized macarons are good for its meaty crust and light butter cream but the flavour falls short in intensity, leaving a strong almond fragrance in both the vanilla and pistachio macarons. .

Bachmann Chocolates

Lastly, since Bachmann's chocolates (CHF 2.75 (SGD$4.00) for 3 pieces, charged by weight) are highly recommended by our tour director for they are hand-crafted in some of their bigger stores, we have decided to try their plain, hazelnut and champagne chocolate. Texture is good with it melting slowly in the mouth and not sticking to the teeth with a slight woody aftertaste. Champagne chocolate caught us by surprise for the core of the chocolate is the liquor itself.

In general, the place offers a nice ambience to chill out and given how expensive the stuff are in Switzerland, we won't be surprise if this is a "BreadTalk" for the Swiss as the demand for their sandwiches seems to be alot greater than the cakes and pastries.

Chapel Bridge

Lastly, Lucerne is the most beautiful and scenic city we have came across for the entire trip but the weather was quite drastic during our two nights stay. With the first day, scorching hot at 31°C, the entire afternoon for our second day was freezing cold (16°C) with heavy rain. Lastly, be it rain or shine, who can resist the charm of Chapel bridge?

Confiseur Bachmann AG
Viktoriaplatz - 6002 Luzern
Tel: 041 227 70 70
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

San Gimignano (Italy): Gelateria Di Piazza

San Gimignano is an amazing town in the sense that this town is quite inaccessible and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This used to be a fortress with more than a 100 towers but most of the towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes, or urban renewal and through these years, only fourteen towers of varying height have been preserved.


We were even more amazed by the fact that this small walled medieval hill town actually houses the world famous home-made gelato and are world champions in 2006/07 and 2008/09.


Like Vivoli, the gelato melts fast but has more interesting flavours such as Malaga, Amedei Chocolate, Pink grapefruit with Sparkling Wine, Vinsanto Eggnog, Saffron Cream, etc... Yuan has sticked to Amedei Chocolate, Caramel and Hazelnut while I took Pistachio, Pink grapefruit with Sparkling Wine and Wild Berries.

Gelateria di Piazza 4

The fact that we can remember the flavours more clearly than Vivoli indicates that the flavours were more intense. While Amedei Chocolate is indeed a potent smooth chocolate gelato, Caramel is the favourite for Yuan as the buttery fragrance is strong but yet lacks the burnt sugar effect. On the other hand, popular Pink grapefruit with Sparkling Wine is icy and tangy when compared to the other 5 flavours and hence Pistachio and Wild Berries outshine in both texture and sweetness for my combination.


Setting aside the ice-cream, should one has the chance to visit this place, one should attempt to climb the bell tower of 218 steps for the view offers after the climb is breathtaking. Imagine being at the top of the hill with a miniature bird-eye view of the small town, the background stretches till infinity with the fields and greenery which is so serene.


And like all small towns like Bruges and Burano, one can expect lesser people with ample walking space. With a good gelato place and a nice town to walk around, have we tempted you enough?

Gelateria di Piazza
di Dondoli Sergio
Piazza della Cisterna 4
San Gimignano
Tel: 0577 942244
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Florence (Italy): Vivoli Gelato


Our introduction to Florence started with a bird-eye view overlooking the medieval city with River Arno in the middle. After which, it was an interesting drive-in to the city square as the coaches are not allowed to drive within the city square for the streets are very narrow, in fact about the same width as most tour coaches. However, having said that, our coach still drove into the city square to drop us right in front of Grand Hotel Cavour and interestingly, Grand Hotel Cavour will pay the fine imposed on our coach. Since coaches are not allowed in the city square, one can imagine the astonished look some of the Florentines or tourists were giving us when our tour director came down to move away some of the obstructions and barricades.

Michelangelo Tomb

Anyway, Michelangelo and Galileo are the names commonly mentioned by our Italian guides for the former contributed to the magnificent paintings done in the Sistine Chapel and the famous statue, David while the latter was an amazingly mathematician, physicist and astrologist. A trip to Florence will allow one to hear more of their stories as these two great men are buried in Santa Croce, a church located in the city square of Florence. And one of the things highlighted is that the year which Galileo was born is actually the same year when Michelangelo died so when one genius leaves, another genius is created.


Ok, setting aside the blah blah on our tour, gelato is a must-try when one comes to Florence but surprisingly our local guide told us to avoid gelato that are beautifully presented, the higher the gelato is, the more chemical and preservatives are present in them, making them not as nice. Hence, we were told to drop by Vivoli which is in a quiet corner of Florence, between Piazza Della Signoria where David is and Santa Croce. Anyway, ask the shopkeepers and they will be able to lead you there and when you see many eating ice-cream outside a humble looking shop, you are on the right one.

Vivoli Gelato

As what the local guide has described, the gelato are "ugly" and flat. To order, one pays at the cashier, pick up your receipt and order from the counter.

Vivoli pastries

Apart from ice-cream, cakes and pastries are available which we didn't try.

Vivoli Gelato

2.50 EUR (SGD$4.40) for a cup with 2 flavours. In general, the gelato is light and the sweetness is within acceptable range. Vivoli focus alot on the flavour and hence each of the flavour is distinctive. The gelato melts fast and are generally "thin" for the milk or cream content is low.

Vivoli Jl Gelato
Via Isola Delle Stinche, 7r
50122 firenze/italy
Tel: 005 292334
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rome (Italy): Antico Caffe Greco

Antico Caffe Greco

If you are in Vienna, you shouldn't give the Sacher Cafe a miss.

If you are Venice, Cafe Florian (established in 1720) is not to be missed for being the oldest cafe in Italy. Moreover, to be able to spend a night in St Mark's Square, sitting under the stars listening to the orchestra play, is a magical moment one would not want to miss.

Now, if you are in Rome, Antico Caffe Greco, located right opposite Gucci, is a must-visit for it is perhaps the best known and oldest bar in Rome. Why so? According to our local guide, Merissa, this cafe is opened by a Greek which is also the inventor for espresso.

Fountain of the Barcaccia

Anyway, for those who are curious where this cafe is, it is near the metro station, Spagna but here is a warning, although the tourist maps and website mention that this mode of transport operates till 11:30pm, Line A actually operates till 9pm everyday except Saturdays. Anyway, upon exiting near the station, one will not miss the Trinità dei Monti with the famous Spanish Steps leading towards a square (Piazza di Spagna) with The Fountain of the Barcaccia in the centre. A quick glance will allow one to spot Gucci along the stretch of big names and Antico Caffe Greco is just round the corner.

Piazza Navona

For those who has watched Angels and Demons, Piazza di Spagna is within walking distance to
  • the Pantheon (the mistaken "Earth place"),
  • Piazza Navona where the Fountain of the Four Rivers is ("Water place") and
  • Piazza del Popolo ("People's Square) where one can locate the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo which houses the Chigi Chapel ("Earth" place)

Antico Caffe Greco Interior

Anyway, we concluded this place to have the best coffee for this trip, decent cakes and a unique ordering system. Although the items served are not cheap, there is no one at the door so one is free to enter the cafe and just pick any seats. A waiter will just take the order for your drinks and one will need to proceed to the counter to order the pastries or cakes. An order chit is given to you and this needs to be passed back to the waiters.

Antico Caffe Greco Display

Italy is the only country in Europe with no Starbucks for they believe coffee is to be served plain, with milk or with cream. Hence, we did what the Romans do and ordered a cup of Caffe Espresso (6 EUR, SGD$10.60) and a cup of Iced Cappuccino (8 EUR, SGD$14.10).

Caffe Espresso & Iced Cappuccino

What can I said, this is the first time I have enjoyed a coffee so much with no additional flavorings nor chocolate. The coffee is not at all overpowering nor heaty and the taste of the coffee is just so fragrance, leaving a nice aftertaste after taking every sip.

Chocolate Tart

No fanciful names, ordered a chocolate cake (10 EUR, SGD$17.65), which is made up of a simple sponge, raspberry jam, chocolate cream with peanut bits. Overall, a light taste and we described it to be simple with a bit of old school touch. Yea, we know, the price tag is alittle steep for such a description but trust us, don't miss out on their coffees.

Fruit Tart

Fruit tart (10 EUR, SGD$17.65), is a typical tart with a soft pastry shell and although there is nothing to shout about, it is the same simplicity shared with the chocolate cake that makes us wipe our plates clean. Get the hang of it?

Antico Caffe Greco
Via Condotti 84,
00187 Rome
Tel: 06 6791700
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Burano (Venice): Essi and Copeta?


If there is a place I wish to return for cookies, it will have to be Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon. Most tourists would visit Venice between 10am to 5pm, for the hotels at mainland Italy would be cheaper. To avoid the mad crowd of Venice, our tour director has arranged for a ferry or "water taxi" to explore the Venetian lagoon, bringing us to Murano, the island of the glass blowers and Burano, a colour island traditionally known for lacemaking and fishing,

Lunch @ Burano

We had lunch in one of the restaurants called Trattoria Raspo De Ua (Alloggi Salone Interno, Tel: 730095) for a fabulous meal of Italian cuisine and being a fishing village, one can expect lasagna, risotto, calamari and grilled sole, all made of seafood or are seafood. But what was surprisingly was not the main courses but the "desserts" served.

Essi and Copeta

Pardon me if I get the names wrong but I am merely copying the labels I have gotten from the tags in some of the pastry shops. In addition, google doesn't seems to help me much but I can rest assure you that you will not miss these pastries when you step afoot onto Burano. The "S" Shaped Cookies seems to be traditionally Italian for we not only see it at Burano but also in Florence and San Gimignano. These cookies are meant to be dipped in white wine before consumption and are sold in a box where they bundle a packet of these cookies and a bottle of wine.

Panificio Pasticceria Savina

Apart from these "S" Shaped Cookies, it is the caramelized almonds crisps that makes me so addicted. I am not sure about the name but such cookies seems to be called Copeta in some websites. Anyway, shortly after our meal, we swing by Panificio Pasticceria Savina which is just two shops space away from the restaurant we dine in and a small packet of these almond crisps (about 10 pieces) costs 6 EUR (about SGD$10.60). If you happen to be there, make sure you grab a few packs of these goodies, our regret was not buying enough to feed all our hungry family members.

Traditional Pastry Shop @ Burano

Anyway, apart from these caramelized almonds, there are many traditional pastry shops which sells the "Essi" like the one shown in the picture. We asked the shop owner for his recommendation and gotten ourselves a piece of Cantucci Alle Mandorle (1 EUR, SGD$1.75). Made from ground almond, this cookie has a crisp crust and slight chewy interior, a must-try in our opinion for we couldn't find a similar taste in other parts of Italy.

Panificio Pasticceria Savina
Savina Di Palmisano Luigi
Via B. Galuppi 670
Tel: 041 730060
Burano Venezia
Partita Iva 036 466 702 77

Anyway, if you happen to be in Florence, there is a store that sells similar pastries but pricier and that the biscuits / cookies has a distinctive nutmeg and cinnamon taste.


According to the local guide, Migone is recommended and that Biscotti is an Italian word that translates to “twice-baked.” In the past, wheat flour is strictly used to make bread and the excess bread is sliced and soaked in syrup before baking the second time. Hence, this double-baking gives biscotti its dry and crumbly texture.


Lastly, this shop can gift-wrapped it for you and even packed it nicely into a cardboard box, making it easier to bring it back home.

Via Calzaiuoli, 85/R
50122 Firenze (Italia)
Tel: 055 214004
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