The major culinary arts school Ferrandi, the fine pastry shop and tea room Colorova and the quirky wine shop and tasting room Le Vin en Bouche put rue de l’Abbé Grégoire on the gastronomy map of the 6th arrondissement (metro Saint Placide), and it so happens that the pastry chef behind Colorova and one of the sommelier’s behind Le Vin en Bouche are Ferrandi alumni.
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It’s hard to imagine that a district as well-trodden as the 6th arrondissement would still have anything resembling a backstreet, but if a backstreet in Paris can be defined as a street with neither thru-traffic nor croissants—selling croissants requires sufficient morning traffic or an elementary school nearby—then rue de l’Abbé Grégoire fits the bill.
Ferrandi, the French School of Gastronomy
Actually, there are croissants on rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, but they aren’t for public sale. They’re made as a practical exercise during baking class at the Ferrandi School.
Ferrandi is well known in Paris’s gastronomic circles for its secondary school curricula covering all aspects of the culinary arts and the restaurant business, from chef to manager. The school also offers short and long programs for amateur or professional chefs, and foreigners may apply for any of the school’s programs.
The culinary school also houses one of the best kept gastronomic secrets in Paris. Anyone, upon reservation, can become the well-fed guinea pig for the cuisine and services of the school’s young and budding chefs and restaurant staff at Ferrandi’s two dining rooms, les restaurants d’application.
A 3-course lunch menu is served Tues.-Fri. for 25€ or 30€, depending on the dining room. A 3-course dinner menu is served Mon. and Tues. (45€) and the occasional Thurs. (40€). Prices exclude beverages; there’s a decent wine list here. The students in the kitchen and in the dining room are being trained in French gastronomy, so whether achieved or not in every dish and every gesture, each meal has gastronomic leanings in its preparation and service.
Each table is requested to select a variety of dishes so as to give the chefs practice in the full range of the day’s menu. Come as a couple if you like, but as a restaurant experience a meal chez Ferrandi is especially endearing for a party of four or more. You’ll find the wait staff more willing to speak with diners than other waiters about town (students are expected to attain a certain proficiency in English) and you may even have the occasion to meet the young chefs before they head to their next class, or out for a smoke.
Ferrandi Paris, 28 rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, 6th arr. Tel. 01 49 54 28 00. Saint-Placide (line 4) is the closest metro station to Ferrandi and to the shops below, while the Rennes station (line 12) is just a bit further.
Backstreet doesn’t mean that Abbé Grégoire is difficult to find (the liberal, revolutionary abbot himself is entombed in the Pantheon) but that the neighboring streets are more commonly shopped and strolled and transited: rue du Cherche-Midi, rue de Vaugirard, rue Saint-Placide, rue de Rennes.
Colorova, Pastry Shop and Tea/Lunch Room
Guillaume Gil, the chef and owner of Colorova, a shop across the street from Ferrandi, is a 2004 graduate of the school, pastry section. Though he speaks highly of education at Ferrandi, it isn’t an attachment to the school that brought him to rue de l’Abbé Grégoire but the possibility in 2012, at the age of 31, to deploy his dream of operating his own business after honing his skills as an apprentice at the Plaza-Athenée, as commis chef at La Maison Blanche and as second and then chef at the Terrass Hotel.
At first glance, Colorova could be taken for an architect’s office, a frame shop, a design shop or a decorator’s showroom. You’ll likely first notice the light jade Smeg fridge to one side of the window and the Florentine nest of tables and woven-fabric-covered footstools to the other before catching sight of the presentation counters. And even then you might notice the slats that decorate the side of the counters before the array of pastries on top. But there they are: Guillaume Gil’s beautiful and delicious creations, and behind one of the counters, the man himself, working away with an assistant or two in the open kitchen.
About ten different pastries appear on the counter on a given day. Since the pastry presentation isn’t the focus of the room, the offerings of about 10 different pastries can appear rather sparse, but that illusion disappears as soon as you take on the challenge of trying to select one.
Gil’s luscious modern pastries stray noticeably if slightly from the canons of classic fine pastry-making without being avant-garde, e.g. a commendable caramel mousse tarte with a ring of speculoos and peanuts; a candied raspberry and chocolate tart; a café mousse with amaretto mascarpone. Gil eschews traditional pastries such as éclairs and basic fruit tarts. Viennoiserie (croissants, pains au chocolat and other morning pastries) are also absent, other than on weekends and holidays, when Colorova serves what has become a very popular brunch (26€ or 35€, reservations required). Weekday lunch, also prepared by Gil and his assistance, is also available. Pastries remain his true expertise.
The large minimalist boutique area and additional seating area, both enlivened with splashes of color, have an air of refinement but neither snobbery nor exclusivity. Anyone will feel comfortable here. In the morning and during afternoon tea, Colorova is a fairly quiet place that makes for a sweet, perhaps romantic linger.
Since Gil’s aren’t pastries that one can easily eat while walking, it’s best to choose one and have a seat. Pastries cost 4€50-5€50, so you might as well take a seat and savor the pleasure along with a Lov Organic tea or Nespresso coffee or a thick hot chocolate for overkill. A nice breakfast is also available at 12€ consisting of a slice of soft, delicate French toast (from a brioche made here); a whipped vanilla cream, caramel and apple compote; a hot drink and orange juice; bread (not made here), and homemade jams, a chocolate spread and a caramel spread.
Colorova, 47 rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, 6th arr. Tel. 01 45 44 67 56. Open Tues. 10am-5pm, Wed.-Fri. 7:30am-7pm, Sat.Sun. 9am-7pm. Weekend brunch is served at three seatings: beginning at 11/11:30am, 1/1:30pm and 3:30/4pm.
Le Vin en Bouche, Wine Shop
While Colorova, at first glance, looks like a design shop, Le Vin en Bouche, when I first walked by, looked as though someone had left the door open to the back pantry. I say that fondly because this quirky little wine shop and tasting room has an inviting spirit that comes from the knowledge and personalities of its two dissimilar owners, Vincent Martin, 41, and Jonathan Jean, 24, either of which would make a fine drinking companion.
Vincent Martin is a Ferrandi graduate, where he studied the culinary arts from 1993 to 1995 after three years in hotel school and where he discovered an aptitude for and an interest in the subtleties of wine. He was head sommelier at La Truffière, where he worked from 2000 to 2010 and helped develop the gastronomic restaurant’s tremendous wine cellar. He and Jean met when the latter, then in his teens, was hired as his apprentice.
Combining Martin’s great experience and Jean’s knowledgeable and engaging enthusiasm, they opened their little shop as peers in 2012. Whether you come upon one or the other you’ll get expert advice on an eclectic selection of wines and spirits and can pursue the conversation with them or with your travel companions over a glass and some well-selected charcuterie or fromage at the narrow table by the brick wall. They also offer wine tasting workshops and events, and Martin continues to advise restaurants and individuals on constituting wine lists and wine cellars.
Martin has personally visited each of the vineyards represented in the shop. But that’s not the end of his purchase policy. More than a dozen bottles are open at the shop at any time. The purpose of the open bottles isn’t simply to give clients a taste or larger pour, but also because Martin believes that for a wine to be worthy it must, among other qualities, be able to stand up to having been opened for a week or so. He continues to test open bottles for up to ten days to understand how they evolve. They’re simply recorked after each taste, without any air pump device, and either left on the table or placed in the wine fridge. “It’s a little extreme,” he acknowledges, “but I don’t like to leave things to chance.”
Martin and Jean’s small selection echoes their “passion for the wines of small winegrowers that truly represent their place of origin [terroir],” as Martin says. That’s a formula, at once trendy and old-fashion, that the traveler is well-advised to take as his own motto while getting to know French wines. In wine tastings with those unaccustomed to French and European appellations, Martin joins many small-shop owners in saying that one of his tasks with New World consumers it to get them to loosen their focus on expecting a particular taste from a particular grape varietal.
These aren’t necessarily pricey wines. Most are in the 15-35€ range, along with a splash of more expensive wines from notable low-yield vineyards. There’s no Bordeaux in the shop, as Martin explains, because he finds that too many vintners and traders of the Bordeaux region have generally opted to sell through large distribution channels, meaning that any retail price that he might have for such wines would far exceed their price in chain shops, which would in term make him and Jean look like a price gougers. Actually, Martin does have some well-aging Bordeaux along with along with other “vins de garde” and old vintages in a private cellar in the 5th arrondissement. Those wines are also available for sale, so knowledgeable wine-lovers might wish to inquire about wines beyond those found in this wonderful little wine pantry.
Le Vin en Bouche, 27 rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, 6th arr. Tél. 01 42 22 02 97. Open Mon.-Sat. 10am-8pm.
© 2013, Gary Lee Kraut