Okay, enough fooling around. Let me in.
I have terrible follow-through. I'll plan on making something for dinner, but that something often ends up being an entirely different thing. Today I set out on an errand, and ended up going into Pierre Hermé's new shop near Omotesando Station and taking a lot of pictures instead.
I was walking, walking, walking. Walking to my destination. And then I was stopping. And gawking. I was gawking and exchanging exclamations of delight with another lady, both of us visually suctioned to the glass wall that was the only thing standing between us and this display case:
The famed Ispahan macarons - I couldn't get any closer than this without smudging the glass and ruining the pretty view, but here's a slightly closer look.
Very quickly, for anyone who--gasp--doesn't know about Hermé's popular creation, Ispahan is a city in Iran, but it's also the name of this rose, and I am assuming it was the latter that Hermé had in his mind when he came up with the Ispahan: Flamingo pink macarons sandwiching rose-infused cream, fresh lychees, and raspberries; a red rose petal set on top; and of course the crowning touch, a glistening glucose dew drop beading on the petal. (Take a look at this lovely picture--oh, god, it's so pretty I could cry--taken by chika of She Who Eats.) The sensual pairing of lychees and roses has met with such approval, it would seem, that Ispahan is trying out new shapes and forms, in a bid to tantalize the public anew. In the store today, I spotted:
Confiture Ispahan (translation: 2200-yen jam)
Some Kinda Layered, Mousse-y Ispahan (sorry, I forgot to look at the name)
Old Pierre and his confectionaries have been pretty well documented, by both the adoring media and bloggers alike, so I won't blather on further about either. I've noticed though that although everyone's always taking close-up shots of the edibles (an urge I, too, was obviously unable to control), little is revealed of the Hermé shops themselves, the jewel boxes that nestle all those sugary baubles.
We-hell, I couldn't let that continue.
But first, another display. Closer. And closer. Having just looked at some other Japanese blogs and their photos, I realize the shop assistants are artfully rearranging the pattern of cakes to match the ever-reducing quanitities. I actually visited later in the afternoon, when stock was low, and I now realize how nice it was not to see the usual forlorn white spaces left behind by purchased pastries. It's smart, too, since the remaining goods don't have that "end-of-the-day" taint to them.
Um, yeah, back to the interior of the shop.
Would you look at that shameless gawker? Oh! Look at the display cases!
The store is newly opened and feels a touch bare, but I do like--whether it is intentional or not--the neat, minimalistic way they've laid out everything. I hate to see desserts crowded together. They always look sloppy and just plain de trop. In the Aoyama store I visited today, your eyes travel leisurely, from one case to the next, and the details of each item then receive your undivided attention.
What I didn't like was the avocado yellow used in the store--the lighting is understandably focused on the products, but this leaves the wall and door looking a little sickly--nor the rather old-fashioned white marble floor. Also, the staff uniform could have been a little more...something (I think it was white shirt and black pants).
So what about tastes? Honestly? I wasn't tempted to actually buy anything (maybe the tricolor Confiture Ispahan did catch my eye, up until my eye drifted down to the price tag). This is an aspect of my self that utterly bewilders my husband: the pleasure I derive from simply looking at food, including its packaging and display. Sometimes I just gaze and think happily, "Mmmm, yummy." But in the case of elaborate cakes painstakingly crafted by highly acclaimed pastry chefs, they always look a bit too sweet, with their lofty layers of mousse and sugary glazes.
And so I gawked, I hustled into the store, gawked some more, snapped a whole bunch of pictures. And left, empty handed. I'm getting so used to doing this "looking and not buying (or eating)" crap that I didn't feel the least bit sheepish as I strolled out the unfortunately avocado yellow door.
Okay, okay, although I didn't actually think about buying it, I am a big-time sucker for macarons, and I would not ever say no to a Macaron Thé Vert Matcha. These babies are not your regular, ping pong ball sized macarons either, which I suppose is why they cost 420 yen: for those few extended seconds of macaron pleasure.
Update: Apologies for missing out some important details. First of all, there is a second floor, a "bar," but one where you stagger after a rough day at work to slug back a Hermé chocolate or two--so much healthier. I approve.
Second, according to The Japan Times, in this short article, Hermé's intended concept for the first floor was a "luxury convenience store." Did he succeed? Well, aside from the cakes within the glass cases, the other products--pound cakes, jelly candies, cookies, and jams--felt were very accessible and touchable on their individual glass-bottomed tables. There was even a stack of little silver baskets at your disposal, and I spotted what looked to be a self-service cooler...soon to be stocked with ice cream, perhaps, for that 4000-yen midnight craving? Eh, honey, what time is Hermé opened till?
- Tempted to try making your own macarons? They are good stuff. There's a recipe at the bottom of the article that is (supposedly) for "Herme's Chocolate Macaroons with Chocolate Filling."
- Three recipes from the book Desserts by Pierre Hermé -- Autumn Meringue Cake, Chocolate Temptation, Lemon Loaf Cake.
- Another three recipes, this time from Hermé's book Chocolate Desserts -- Suzy's Cake, Simple Chocolate Mousse, Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet.
- Descriptions of an assortment of Hermé cakes and pastries, accompanied by gorgeous photographs.
- An eGullet member reports on a trip to Hermé's Paris patisserie and the things that were eaten, photos included.
- Visit the blog of a Hermé insider! In addition to having a scarily incredible resume, this chef used to work at the Hermé patisserie in Paris.