Cupcakes were all the rage a few years ago, and some would argue the doughnut has since risen to take its place atop the popularity pyramid of baked goods. But to say so would be to overlook the French macaron. What was once a relatively hard-to-find French specialty has now become so widespread you can find it at many bakeries around the Valley.
In fact, the macaron has become so popular you can even get your fix at the sprawling Desert Ridge Marketplace in North Phoenix -- and from a duo of French ex-pats nonetheless. That fact is thanks to husband-and-wife team Michael and Laurence Rousselle, who opened a French pastry and chocolate shop called Paris Gourmet inside Desert Ridge earlier this year.
In addition to a variety of different types of macarons, Paris Gourmet serves French pastries, chocolates, gelato, and coffee and espresso drinks. The couple says their hope is to bring "a little piece of France" to their new home though the food they serve.
The Rousselles moved to the States last September, and always greet customers with a cheerful, "Bonjour." (On the downside the French natives can sometime struggle with the English/French language barrier.) Using French phrases, Michael says, gives customers a real sense of France, and Paris Gourmet hosts a French language club every Wednesday at 3 p.m. For one hour, anyone is welcome to come to the pastry shop and practice their French.
Michael says that though he worked as a sales representative for a construction equipment company in France, he wanted to come to the United States to open a business for some time. The idea came back in 2008 when he came stateside to help a friend open a restaurant in Florida.
He and Laurence visited the U.S. again in 2013, this time stopping in Phoenix to visit some friends. That was when the couple fell in love with the Valley, and in fall 2014, they uprooted their family (the couple has two daughters) from their home an hour north of Paris, and moved to a north Phoenix suburb not far from where they would end up opening their shop.
Since Laurence brought experience in baking from France, opening a pastry shop seemed like a logical idea for the couple's business. Paris Gourmet offers 20 or more flavors of macrons, as well as freshly baked croissants, chocolate croissants, and canelé. You can also order a "gelato panini," something between an ice cream sandwich and a gelato-stuffed doughnut.
The bakery also sells handmade chocolates, imported from a French chef based in California, and gelato, which the couple sources from the well-loved Gelato Dolce Vita in Mesa.
The macarons come in flavors ranging from the usual suspects like vanilla and coffee, to more unexpected varieties like apple pie, peanut butter and jelly, and green tea. But for Michael the blueberry lavender flavor will always be a favorite.
"In the south of France there are huge fields of lavender, so it reminds me of France," he says.
How did you end up in Phoenix?
Michael: We were going to open our business in Florida, since I went in 2008 to help a friend in a French restaurant called "Cafe Paris." And when we came back to prospect, we can to Phoenix to see our friends and my wife decided to come here instead.
What inspired you to open Paris Gourmet?
Michael: I wanted to come to the United States for 20 years, but I couldn't. We decided to find a business to realize my dream finally. My wife cooked a lot in France and she did several pastry trainings, and we thought it was a good opportunity to open a pastry shop in the United States.
One thing you want people to know about Paris Gourmet:
Michael: We want to work with high quality products only. We don't have the chocolate and gelato because that's a very different job than making pasties, but we looked for the best product and the best chef.
Where did you learn to bake?
Michael: Laurence did several trainings with different chefs in France.
What's the secret to making the perfect macaron?
Laurence: You're right, it's a secret. It takes a lot of training and hard work to find the perfect macaron recipe.
One thing you want people to know about French pastries:
Michael: Pastries are only good if they are fresh; it's for that reason we bake fresh every morning croissants, chocolate croissants, almond croissants, and canele.
Describe your first impression of Phoenix as a dining town:
Michael: You can find everything that you're looking for here. You can all the world's foods.
Three things you miss about living in France:
Michael: Baguettes, of course; our family; and our friends -- but not the rain.
One thing most people don't know about you:
Michael: That customer satisfaction is our one and only target. We wanted to offer them a great time and share a little part of France.
What's your favorite childhood food-related memory?
Michael: Personally, lapin a la moutarde (rabit with mustard) that my mother prepared, very popular in France. Laurence: Apple pastries from my grandma.
Your favorite meal to cook at home:
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Laurence: Choucroute au poisson (sauerkraut with fish)
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