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Forget Paris; the French Embassy Is Closer

This too can be yours: A French Embassy fruit tart. (Bill Webster -- The Washington Post)

How much is too much trouble for a nearly perfect fruit tart? This morning, I arrived for a 10:30 appointment, showed my ID, was buzzed through a gate, entered a door marked "B," then took an elevator up to another reception area, where I surrendered my driver's license. Only then was I directed to the kitchen, where a glistening French tart awaited me.

That is the process when you order pastries from the French Embassy. Too much trouble? Absolutely not.

My quest for this tart began about a month ago, when we received a request from an anonymous reader in our chat. "A friend of mine brought an INCREDIBLE chocolate ganache cake embedded with poached pears to a baby shower. She bought it at a patisserie at the French embassy. . . . I don't even know the name of the patisserie or the French pastry chef who works there. So your mission: Please find out how us commoners can buy these amazing desserts."

I e-mailed the chef at the French residence, who eventually tracked down the name of the caterers at the French Embassy. Pastry chef Arnaud Herodet is primarily responsible for feeding the embassy's 300 employees and catering parties, but he does accept a limited number of special orders as well.

There are tarts with apricots and pistachios, apple feuillettes, chocolate charlottes and the aforementioned amazing chocolate cake with pears. At Christmas, Herodet hand-makes hundreds of buches de noel in four flavors. The tart we ordered was textbook, with a delicate but crisp crust, a layer of almond filling, then pastry cream, fresh strawberries, kiwi and raspberries. Our one caveat: Order fruits in season. Herodet may be French, but even he can't make a California strawberry taste sweet. We also tried the four croissants on offer. They were respectable but not as ethereal as we had hoped. Stick to the pastries, where Herodet excels.

The pastries are French in style but American in size, and the most expensive, a Saint-Honoré aux fruits rouges, costs just $31. The fruit tart is $27. Individual tarts and pastries cost from $3 to $3.25. For a complete list of pastries and prices, call 202-944-6099 or e-mail You must place your order at least 48 hours in advance and make an appointment to pick it up so security is expecting you.

Mission accomplished.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  May 11, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Good to Go , Shopping  | Tags: Jane Black, embassies, pastries, takeout  
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