Even after six years in Paris, I still find myself overwhelmed by the heaps of flaky pastries and dainty, multi-layer desserts that line bakery windows. These local joints on each block reel in passersby with the potent scent of butter and chocolate and the abiding hope of scoring a straight-from-the-oven baguette 'tradition', making it difficult to discern at first glance the mediocre shops from the stellar ones worth the visit.
As varied and enticing as the local pastry shops are, so too are the internationally celebrated hautes pâtisseries (but not all of them are created equal!). There's fiery debate over which shop has the best macarons - Ladurée or Pierre Hermé - but I think the sample must be made far larger. Café Pouchkine has been a sweets destination in Russia since 1999 with a particular focus on merging local and French influences. In Paris, the shop is situated on the ground floor of the Printemps department store, ornate in its design and decor which were influenced by 18th century Russian royalty. From the moment they set up shop in Paris, they were apt to compete among the French greats.
Tweaks to French classics, including the use of some Russian ingredients, is stock in trade here and the result is a positively heady mix of sights and flavors. For serious French macaron fans, don't miss Pouchkine's divine interpretation.
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Dessert Therapy at Printemps
Personally, I think Printemps is one of the most pretentious department stores I've ever visited. But a visit to this high end store is well worth it for the pain au chocolat and other pastries that you can find at Café Pouchkine. Although excellent patisseries come a dime a dozen in Paris, if you so happen to be in the 9th, head on over to Printemps to check out the latest $10k designer purses. And when that gets old, go rejuvenate with some dessert therapy at Café Pouchkine!