The iconic ring shape of Le Paris-Brest immediately conjures up its secret past, hinting at the famous cycling race that inspired its creation. These delights can reach epic dimensions of 30 or 50 centimetres (10 to 20 inches) in diametre.
This wheel-shaped wonder was created in 1910 by Louis Durand, pâtissier of Maisons-Laffitte, located 18.2 kilometres (11.3 miles) from the centre of Paris, in order to commemorate the Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race that he launched in 1891.
Its high calorie content easily secured popularity among the Paris–Brest cycle race’s two-wheeled participants in need of a quick energy boost. The delicious pastry is stuffed with praline cream, then garnished with flaked almonds to produce one of the most iconic Parisian desserts.
Le Hachis Parmentier
Anyone who has ever wandered a little astray in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, perhaps losing their way from République Square, is likely to have come across Parmentier, a station on the Metro’s Line 3. This station is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist and nutritionist of the late 18th century, who pioneered the groundbreaking idea that potato could be an edible crop and solve famine. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until after the reign of Louis XVI that the potato stopped being considered a vulgar food intended only for animals.
It’s this very dish, Le Hachis Parmentier, consisting of delicately mashed (hachis) or baked potato, diced meat and a delicious lyonnaise sauce, all served cosy in the potato shells, that helped convince people of its power. It’s somewhat similar to English cottage pie, but slow-cooked à la Parisienne.
Le Flan Parisien
There is only one place to eat Le Flan Parisien if you want to get it right, and that is in Paris itself. It’s distinguishable from all other flans by its crumpled bed of broken dough, supporting a thick, light yellow layer covered with a wrinkled top, before lightly browned by cooking.
Its elasticity and freshness to the palate mingle with a sharp and surprising taste of vanilla to concoct a delightful and unique dessert. While the flan has its roots in many other French regions, it is only Paris that has mastered the proven recipe for Le Flan Parisien. Sometimes, you’ll find the wrinkled, browned top covered in a layer of chocolate.
Le Croque Monsieur
It was originally in Paris that this strange, double-sided, toasted sandwich was born, in a café on the Boulevard des Capucines in 1910. It looks like the inside has oozed its way out by accident, but it’s actually the sandwich’s iconic design. The origin of its curious name, where ‘monsieur’ refers to man, gives rise to a legend that the bistrotier, when serving the croque monsieur to his customers, would laugh and insist his secret ingredient was ‘man meat.’ Thankfully, this wasn’t true.