Category Archives: dello mano travels

Curious Sweets in Beijing

It’s a very humid, grey day in Beijing, China. Temperatures too are at a record-breaking high. Hot, humid conditions, however, do not stop the many hundreds of locals and tourists as they gently stroll the big open promenade in central Beijing. Called Wangfujing Street it’s a beautiful mall with a retail heritage dating back to the Ming Dynasty.  Huge department stores hug both sides of the promenade as do specialty shops offering everything from matcha tea ice cream to global fashion brands.

Central Beijing

Surprising there is no sense of rush here as we join in the long procession with the locals. Space is enjoyed by all. Equally filled with families, young couples, and friends out enjoying time together they wander talking and enjoying skewered meat delicacies from the night market snack street that runs off the main walkway. We’d imagined it to be far busier. With our Dello Mano Brisbane store located at Tattersalls Arcade we’re often in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane and feel no more crowded and in fact quite at home here in Beijing.

Big brand stores 

The hectic Bejing road traffic would also suggest that the crowds through the promenade would be equally chaotic and yet stroll is exactly the pace of this late afternoon pleasure. The calm and gentle pulse of this crowd disrupted intermittently by the timed rhythmic march of sets of four uniformed soldiers who set a straight course through the crowd marching two abreast in a tight display of discipline. A typical sight for most and causes no stress as the strollers just seem to slip out of the way of this uniformed trajectory.  Strolling and shopping along this strip is very peaceful and feels very safe.

Despite a plethora of global brands like Herme and Victoria Secrets, there are still many reminders that one is in Beijing. The splendid workmanship in Chinese traditional architecture global brands and shops that spark curiosity abound.

Beautiful architecture and decoration

Always on the lookout for brownies, cakes, and confectionery of any type, we’re drawn into a store midway along the promenade. The store is called Beijing Wang Fu Jing Food Store beckons with an olde world feel.  Huge red Chinese Characters high above the store entrance are the first attraction though as we peer in through the front door curiosity builds with clearly visible high piles of colourful twisted confectionery wraps everywhere.

Bright colourful packaging abounds

Hugely popular Fruit Jellies

Neatly stacked Fruit Jellies

Stepping in is like passing back in time – at least 20 separate stores most of which sell variations of the same confectionery and each with at least 3 people behind every counter. So unfamiliar to us now, each salesperson is dressed in a stiff starched white uniform complete with white peaked hat – a very conservative style reminiscent of images of the food hall at David Jones or Myers in days gone by. A wonderful display of customer service at every turn.

Highly attentive staff at every counter

The store is alive and fully loaded with customers. Very noticeable is a loud backdrop of Chinese language as customer orders are called followed by vigorous scooping of the little confectionery morsels into bags to meet orders. At every counter is a person either actively recruiting customers by way of loud spruking or alternatively offering samples of what are variations of fruit jellies and high boil candy.

Fascinating to watch is this sweet heaven of mayhem juxtaposed with the quiet wanderings outside on the promenade. I find myself trying to reconcile how all these stores are able to differentiate in the same hall. At first glance, it seemed like it may be one store however it became more apparent that the stores may well be individual shops.

Some premium brands are also carried

Toward the back of the hall, a cabinet full of traditional Chinese pastries is intriguing and interesting. No brownies in sight of course, but this refrigerated cabinet offers a comprehensive range of pastry. Quite different from our style of pastry and so very interesting.

Traditional bakery produce intrigues

The Bakery

Over to the left of the bakery at the rear of the store, a long thin glassed in area appears as another section offering Peking duck for sale. A thin petite woman in a uniform seemingly standing on a box behind the glass calls through the window to customers collecting their orders and then frantically scurrying to pack ducks into colourful bags.

So many choices!

This store and its many confectionery stores within a store is a mystery to us – I wonder how these stores compete or differentiate – no one appears to speak English so we’re left wondering how customers make their choices between the stores.  So many of the offers seemed the same with only a few items that differentiated each store.

The stores are open till 9pm each night. Even when darkness falls, the streets remain busy however very enjoyable and quite relaxed.

If you’ve been to Beijing and have an idea of how this type of store works, we’d love to hear from you.

Paris Est Amour: 3 Must See Chocolate Shops

PATRICK ROGER CHOCOLATIER

Patrick Roger is a chocolate artisan like no other. Patrick Roger is very involved in every step of chocolate making–from acquiring ingredients, developing flavor combinations, tempering the chocolates and sculpting! With a team of less than 15, Patrick Roger comes up with grand creations that are delectable and very detailed.

The clean lines of the Patrick Roger shops really give the chocolates the chance to pop. Don’t let your eyes fool you, those bees and chickens you will see on the shelves aren’t porcelain or glass—they’re chocolates too! Entering his store and getting a taste of the chocolates made us feel like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It’s handmade love for sure!

The day we visited the Patrick Roger Paris store, a one tonne block of chocolate in the window had been carved to a huge elephant. Something really amazing to see!

If you are in Paris and you’re looking for a chocolate gift then you will not be disappointed.

Flavor suggestions: anything with lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorn, pralines and caramels

Locations: Paris and Belgium click here for directory. We’ve vistied both and they are equally exciting. Read more…

Paris Est Amour: Our 3 Favorite Pastry Shops

Here at Dello Mano, we’re such advocates of handmade luxury food and products. While Dello Mano style is about refined rustic cakes and produce, Paris contines to provide us with inspiration in our commitment to handmade edible luxury. Paris is everything we dreamed about and more! The Parisian flair for creative artistry and distinct taste for opulence are such great influences, that we decided to share with you our love for the city of lights in a series we’ll be calling Paris est amour. Let’s get started with our favorite pastry shops:

LADURÉE

Laduree Entrace

Entrance to Laduree in Paris

Brief background:

In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller founded a bakery. After a fire, the bakery was transformed into a pastry shop in 1871, with popular painter Jules Cherét in-charge of the interiors.  With a combination of Parisian-style cafés and French patisserie goodness, the company opened a tea room for women and became one of the pioneers in the area. Ladurée brand further rose to fame when Pierre Desfontaines (grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée) thought of taking two macaron shells and joining them with ganache filling. The recipe for the ‘double-decker’ has not changed since then. Ladurée has been recognized as a French luxury sweets maker and the brand has also branched out to chocolates (Marquis Ladurée) and candles and home fragrances (Beauté Ladurée).

Fun Fact: The sweet treats Kirsten Dunst was eating in the film Marie Antoinette were from Ladurée, as chosen by director Sofia Coppola.

What we loved: The elegant interiors showed true Parisian flair. Together with the dainty packaging and fine china, it was a very luxurious experience. Of course, the  delectable sweets are amazing. The Strawberry cake in the picture below has to be one of the most precious edibles we have ever seen. We loved too the secrecy. With much fuss about no photography it has to be one of the most photographed food shops in the world.

Must-try products: strawberry tarts, pistachio pain au chocolat, St. Honoré, world-famous macarons (flavors like Fleur d’oranger, licorice, cassis and chocolate yuzu)

Locations: Ladurée Houses can be found in several countries across the globe and is increasing as I type this note. For a complete list of locations click here.

Laduree Interior

Laduree – the glamorous interior

Laduree strawberry

Laduree – most exciting cake.

laduree raspberries

Laduree Raspberry cake enjoyed by team Dello Mano

Read more…

Chocolate Brownies, no ….but macaroons yes!

picasso of pastry

The Herme Store in Paris

We set out on a Dello Mano quest  to explore great pastry in Paris and wow did we find it at Pierre Herme.  For the brownie obsessed like us, there were no brownies as we know them (I say this with tongue in cheek) however, the amazing choice of pastry and chocolate was more than a little  distraction.

packaging at Herme

Herme Packaging - simple clean lines

Herme has stores in France, Japan and England. Known for executing some of the most divine desserts and chocolate treats, he is perhaps  best known for his macaroons, often said to be at the foremost of their kind in the world.  After our visit to this pastry and chocolate store, we’d have to say the macroons are incredible!

chocolate macroons

chocolate macroon

Pierre Herme is no stranger to baking and chocolate making as he’s the fourth generation of a premier Alsatian bakery tradition. He began his training at 14 with Gaston Lenotre. To this day, Herme avers that his 11 years with Lenotre were his greatest from a learning and inspiration perspective. He followed this experience with another 11 years at Faulchon where he built his chocolate expertise. In 1997 he was part of the expansion of Laduree across France. He started his first boutique, Pierre Herme Paris, in Tokyo. By 2002 he  opened his Paris store and ever since has strengthened his presence in Japan, France and London.

Herme offers a range of innovative Macroon flavours. The  white truffle hazelnut macaroons are said to be fantastic. On the day we visited we selected  the Herme signature macaroon of olive oil and vanilla – amazing crispy outer texture, delicious creamy centre and surprisingly a very distinct yet subtle olive oil flavour. Really unique!

macroon at Herme

macroons the specialty at Herme

We’re not sure if he offers a chocolate brownie macaroon ( 🙂 ) however saw and tasted  many fruity varieties. As well as macroons we tried several amazing pastries and cakes.

delicious pastry

amazing pastry

Herme  could easily be considered a couture pastry maker, producing 2 stellar collections a year and so often each one even more creative than the one preceding it. Each collection has a theme and a focus- just like the fashion runway. Vogue dubbed Herme the Picasso of Pastry.

We devoured the chocolate tart below – simply delicious! Absent of any in store dining  and in a wonderful show of community, the lovely assistant at Herme told us of a cafe around the corner where if we were to buy a coffee we could enjoy our pastry while sitting down. We did indeed do that – the coffee price added to the overall cost however it was a food and chocolate experience to remember. Interested Parisians starred as the Dello Mano family slowly peeled open the litte white boxes and admired the beautiful chocolate treats.

ichocolate heaven in Paris

chocolate tart - yum!

A list of Herme stores is provided on the website – http://www.pierreherme.com.  We visited in the 6th Arr of Paris however there is also a store in the 15th. A memorable chocolate and pastry moment!