Francois Payard Patisserie

One of my favorite holidays, especially when we were in college, was Macaron Day.  On Macaron Day, you go around the bakeries and patisseries around New York and smile and get free macarons.  Okay so maybe it's not a bank holiday, but it should be.  The fabulous Frenchman who brought the miracle of Macaron Day to New York was Francois Payard.  Chef Payard has several bakeries in New York and around the world, and he has just opened Francois Payard Patisserie to be his flagship restaurant.

Francois Payard Patisserie is in a pretty swanky neighborhood with boutique shops, right next to the Museum Mile on the Upper East Side.  Incidentally, there is another Francois Payard outpost in the Village, Francois Payard Bakery on West Houston.  It's conveniently located right around NYU and definitely reflects the clientele.  You could definitely whip out your laptop and linger over coffee and macarons at the Bakery.

Similarly, the Patisserie caters to its neighbors.  It is a gorgeous and sexy space.  A great glass case greets you at the entrance, showing off  glistening pastries, colorful rows of macarons, chocolates, and even gelato.  Facing the pastries are well-arranged packaged products that make it easy to bring a bit of Payard home.  Midway through the shop, there is a coffee and wine bar.  Finally in the back of the shop, there is a small restaurant where they serve up French bistro food.

We had the pleasure of speaking to Chef Payard, the Macaron Master himself!  He was glowing with pride when he spoke to us about his new flagship Patisserie.  Chef explained that he was aiming for a very classy, young, modern look: more Parisian, more glamorous.  This difference from the more rugged downtown bakery would cost you a little more, but makes up for it with the sexy, romantic ambiance.

Chef Payard also chatted with us for a bit.  He said that the cakes are unique to the Patisserie, and they often rotate the pastries every season.  Certainly, they introduce new macarons often.  The Valentine's Day flavors out now were very herb-inspired: strawberry basil, chocolate mint, lemon thyme, raspberry lychee, and chestnut.  Chef said that he has an Herb Guy in France who gives him the best-quality goods, all fresh and extremely aromatic.  This really shows through in the macarons.  The strawberry basil was one of my favorites.  Imagine a really fresh, basil-y margarita pizza, minus the cheese and tomato sauce and crust.  The basil flavor was strong, and the sweetness of the strawberry was a completely different pairing than the savory meals I've had basil with.  I actually admitted to Chef Payard that it was like eating a sweet pizza.  Strawberry basil sort of knocked everything else out of the park (my tastebuds just became all-basil, all the time), but I also really liked the lightness of the lemon thyme.  The chocolate mint was super fresh and the flavor of mint just wafted around my mouth.  It wasn't like the neon green stuff you get when you eat other mint things, but rather it tasted so natural; subtle in color, but bodacious in taste.

Finally, we munched and lunched in the bistro.  I had a quiche Lorraine and Alex had a croque monsieur, very homey French dishes.  When I brought my parents to Paris last year, we were pretty much starving after a long day of museum-going and outdoor-walking.  We popped into a random patisserie for a desperate lunch.  Mom tried the quiche Lorraine and I think she had a revelation and totally loved it.  Mind you, my mom doesn't approve of anything.  I loved Payard's quiche slice.  It was fluffy and light and perfectly eggy, and had nice chunks of ham embedded inside.  I devoured the whole thing and could have gladly eaten the whole quiche from whence my slice came.  I was afraid Alex's croque monsieur would be very salty from all the ham and cheese on top, but I had a taste and found the flavors were so well balanced.  It wasn't too salty, it felt light and easy on the mouth, especially impressive since it's easy to cross the line to the side of too salty/oily/heavy.  I was extremely impressed with the bistro bites that we had.

Francois Payard Patisserie was an amazing overall gastronomic experience, for everything from shopping for gifts to bringing parents for a nice dinner to a romantic date with your cherie amour.