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I went to Versailles on a Sunday. The rain was drizzling and the air was cold. Few people had ventured to the castle, much less the gardens. I was standing alone in the deserted park. The place was drenched in melancholy and it dawned on me that my surroundings had rarely reflected my state of mind so closely.

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My first time at Versailles, it was just my father and me. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed by the castle and don’t remember much apart from the Hall of Mirrors. To my impatient 12-year-old self, it was just an endless succession of room after old room. What I do remember vividly however was how enthralled my father looked.

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My father was a living history book. I was impressed by his knowledge and as we went back to Versailles together 10 years later, our visit was made so much livelier by all the anecdotes he told me and my mother. I had grown fond of the place myself –Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette and Stefan Zweig’s biography of the queen probably helped. It was a beautiful day, one where we explored the whole estate and on which I’ve looked back on through photos many times.

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As the years went by, Versailles became a regular meeting place for us between Normandy, where my parents lived, and Paris. We even made a day trip there when I worked in New York City and returned to France for the summer. It was a place where looked forward to seeing each other. We could forget about our daily lives and enjoy each other’s company among the things we loved: beautiful surroundings, art, history and good food. There are memories that make me smile, like the three of us running through the whole crowded castle to make it in time for lunch at Angelina’s before joining a guided tour. And then my mother and I kindly making fun of my father for looking like a kid in a candy store as our guide walked us through the kings’ private rooms.

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The last time I spoke of Versailles to my father, sadness took over for a minute. I thought he was regretting not being able to go there anymore and quickly changed the subject. He passed away from cancer several days later.

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I returned to Versailles with my mother a week after the funeral. It was one of these summer nights with fireworks throughout the gardens. The lit-up castle looked otherworldly and the golden gate stood like an entrance to another world.

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On my last visit to Versailles, I remembered how friends told me my father would always live in my mind and in my heart. As I walked through the exquisite design exhibition he would have loved, I couldn’t help but think of what objects he would have preferred and what jokes we would have told each other. I realized I was lucky to have this beautiful place close to home where I could remember our time together and promised myself to return on his birthday.

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Filed under Paris

Gâteaux Thoumieux: pleasure and chic in patisserie

Gateaux Thoumieux millefeuille fraisier

Dear fellow Sweet Tooth, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a (very) interesting spot to visit in Paris: Gâteaux Thoumieux. The chic patisserie is the new brainchild of Jean-François Piège, chef of the Brasserie Thoumieux and of the 2-Michelin star restaurant Jean-François Piège. Both are located across the street with Hôtel Thoumieux. (The man is also famous in France as a jury member on Top Chef, my TV addiction.) Nestled in the posh 7th arrondissement in a street dominated by the Eiffel Tower, the place has gained a reputation of excellence mixed with creativity among food lovers.

Becs sucrés, vous avez sans aucun doute entendu parler de Gâteaux Thoumieux. La belle pâtisserie est le nouveau projet de Jean-François Piège, chef de la Brasserie Thoumieux et du prestigieux restaurant aux 2 étoiles Michelin Jean-François Piège situés juste en face avec l’Hôtel Thoumieux. (Et nous connaissons bien sûr l’homme en tant que juré sévère – mais juste – de Top Chef.) Au cœur du 7ème arrondissement dans une rue dominée par la Tour Eiffel, le lieu a gagné une réputation d’excellence mêlée à une joyeuse créativité.

Gateaux Thoumieux

The Thoumieux team was kind to invite me to their patisserie after I posted this picture on Instagram on my first visit. I was treated to a sampling of their desserts, allowing me to taste their specialties and novelties.

L’équipe de Thoumieux a eu la gentillesse de m’inviter à une dégustation de gâteaux après ma publication de cette photo sur Instagram. J’ai alors eu le plaisir de découvrir leurs spécialités et nouveautés.

Gateaux Thoumieux Hermitage


Gateaux Thoumieux millefeuille

Le Mille-Feuille

Let me tell you about the French concept of le goûter. Le goûter is the sweet snack French children enjoy when they get home after a long day of school, with the warmth of hot chocolate and fresh baguette to comfort them. As a grown-up, indulging in a patisserie remains a joyful pause in a hectic world. Your senses are engaged in admiring the artfully adorned treat and remembering the pleasure you had as a child in eating cake.

Vous rappelez-vous les goûters de votre enfance ? Après une longue journée à l’école, nous prenions le temps d’une pause gourmande aux sensations réconfortantes : le riche parfum du chocolat chaud, la baguette craquante et les fruits aux notes rafraichissantes et acidulées. Un bonheur simple que je retrouve maintenant avec la pâtisserie en admirant l’esthétique d’un gâteau puis l’association des saveurs et des textures.

Gateaux Thoumieux Chou ChouLa famille Chou-Chou

Gateaux Thoumieux fraises

Le Fraisier and le Sablé breton fraise maras des bois / rhubarbe

Gateaux Thoumieux fraisier

Le Fraisier

Such is the feeling I had when I discovered Gâteaux Thoumieux. Their cakes are delicate pleasures for the eye. Most of them hold a surprise. The praline / hazelnut Chou-Chou is a richly-flavored cream puff filled with another tiny cream puff holding a liquid hazelnut cream. The Fraisier is a lovely strawberry-pistachio cake adorned with a daisy; its candy-like marshmallow brought me back to childhood. (Le Figaro lists it as the the 2nd best fraisier in Paris.) The Sablé breton fraise maras des bois / rhubarbe is a play on textures with a shortbread base, luscious strawberries with rhubarb and a fresh thyme / lemon jelly. The cakes are never overly sugary or overdone: you can really taste the basic ingredients and the cakes are created according to fruit seasonality.

C’est exactement ce sentiment que j’ai éprouvé chez Gâteaux Thoumieux, d’autant plus que leurs pâtisseries recèlent de petites surprises. Le fameux Chou-Chou praliné / noisette est rempli d’un savoureuse crème pralinée au milieu de laquelle trône un autre tout petit chou au cœur coulant noisette. Le Fraisier orné d’une délicate pâquerette est un délice de fraise et de pistache ; sa guimauve m’a ramenée tout droit en enfance. (C’est le 2ème meilleur fraisier de Paris selon Le Figaro.) Le Sablé breton fraise maras des bois / rhubarbe est un jeu de textures entre la base sablée, de succulents morceaux de fraise et rhubarbe et une gelée rafraîchissante au thym et au citron. Les gâteaux ne sont jamais trop sucrés : on sent bien le goût des ingrédients et les créations respectent bien les saisonnalités des fruits.

Gateaux Thoumieux Baba au rhum

Le Baba au rhum

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Le Béatrice

 Gateaux Thoumieux cheesecake

Le Cheesecake

No need to break the bank to enjoy yourself. To give you an idea, the Chou-Chou and Sablé Citron are both at 4€ and the Mille-Feuille (one of the very best in Paris according to L’Express) at 4,90€.

Nul besoin de vous ruiner pour vous faire plaisir. Pour vous donner une idée, le Chou-Chou et le Sablé Citron sont à 4€ chacun et le Mille-Feuille (l’un des meilleurs de Paris selon L’Express) à 4,90€.

Gateaux Thoumieux sablé citron

Le Sablé breton / crème légère citron

Gateaux Thoumieux Toulousain

Le Toulousain

Gâteaux Thoumieux

58 rue Saint-Dominique Paris 7ème arrondissement

Métro La Tour-Maubourg (line 8) or Invalides (lines 8 and 13, RER C)

Open Monday through Sunday. Closed on Tuesdays.

Opening hours: 10am-8pm. On Sundays: 8.30am-5pm.


Filed under Food