Tuesday, February 3, 2009

À la Mère de Famille

À la Mère de Famille

Around this time last year I visited Paris for the first time, with a long list of sweet sights to see and a short stack of euros. Luckily a lovely woman I had met at a party months earlier agreed to let me crash on the floor of her genuine student garret. It was nearly midnight by the time I got off the Eurostar, trundled to her place from the Gare du Nord and made my way up eight flights of funhouse spiral stairs; I was cold, tired, turned around, and starting to question why I had come. Then Maria mentioned that the oldest confiserie in France was just across the intersection--8 floors down and not a half a block away. I had a hard time getting to sleep but no trouble at all getting up the next morning.

Founded in 1761, À la Mère de Famille specializes in supplying old-school sweets that are not readily found elsewhere. Their chocolates and a number of other fresh items are made in-house; other cakes and candies are sourced from small suppliers all over France. The shop feels something like a museum of sweets, with treasures displayed in glass jars or polished wood cases and lit by gleaming chandeliers, and transactions taking place at a sort of ticket booth near the back (below right).

Easter came early last year, so I got to see the familiar eggs and bunnies, plus chocolate sardines and bells, sugar-coated almonds (below right), and real brown eggshells filled with chocolate truffle and sealed with a chocolate disc (below left).

There were also bags of fresh marshmallows (guimauve, below left), and hard and soft candies from around the country including tins of anise pastilles and sparkling squares of pate de fruit. The glass-topped cases just inside the door held rows and layers of marzipan bars and Calissons d'Aix, diamond-shaped confections of mixed almond paste and candied fruit from Aix-en-Provence in southern France (below right). Each smooth slab of paste is enameled with a thick coat of brightly-colored royal icing in flavors such as nature, currant, raspberry, strawberry, orange, pistachio, hazelnut, and coffee--oddly reminiscent of display tiles in a bath showroom.

ALMDF has several branches; I visited the shop nearest the Cadet Metro station. Their website promises to be up and running very soon.

À la Mère de Famille
35, rue du Faubourg Montmartre
Paris 75009
tel. 01 47 70 83 69

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