I spent the past week in New York City for a work event, and just had to find some time to visit the newly opened bakery Aux Merveilleux de Fred. HAD TO.
The Manhattan version of Frédéric Vaucamps’ meringue-shop looks like his many Parisian outposts, with a stunning chandelier, rows of merveilleux in display cases and an open kitchen that allows passers-by on 8th avenue to see how the pastries are assembled by hand. And the pastries? Well, they’re just as marvelous on this side of the Atlantic 😉
If you’re not familiar with the merveilleux pastry, you’re not alone. This traditional northern France sweet had fallen out of fashion until the late 90’s, when Fred decided to make it the star of Aux Merveilleux de Fred, his Lille pastry shop. It’s a marvelously airy combination of soft and not-so-soft meringues, held together with flavoured whipped cream and rolled in pieces of nuts, coconut flakes, or chocolate shavings. It looks a bit like a snowball and, for many, bitting into one evokes delicious memories of childhood. In New York, they are sold individually in mini or regular or large size and declined in 6 different flavours with extremely French names you might find hard to pronounce: le Merveilleux (chocolate), l’Incroyable (speculos and white chocolate), l’Impensable (coffee), l’Excentrique (cherry), le Magnifique (praline, almond, hazelnuts – my personal favourite) and le Sans-Culotte (caramel). The shop also sells cramiques, which are brioche-y breads.
But let’s get back to how fred ended up in New York. Following on fellow Lillois Meert’s footstep, Fred brought his marvelous pâtisseries to the French capital, a rare feat in itself. As Olivier Magny, the best-selling author of “Stuff Parisians Like,” note: “it’s a rare thing for Parisians to adopt a provincials’ favorite.” And yet, that’s just what Fred achieved. Parisians can’t get enough merveilleux, at one of the six pâtisseries that are scattered around the city. His newest Parisian shop is actually around the corner from where I went to middle school. If you’re in Paris, you should go and check out the houses across the street at 11 and 13 rue François Miron. They’re some of the oldest in the city! Swing by Izrael next door too, it’s a tiny but fabulous spice shop. But I digress. Back to Frédéric and his merveilleux….The pâtissier is now out to conquer the world… starting with outposts in Brussels, London, and now New York. I can only hope Washington will be next! Spoiler alert: it’s not. Geneva and Shanghai will get sweet merveilleux before I do. So I like knowing that I can get my merveilleux fix in the West Village. And I should note that Aux Merveilleux de Fred is not the first New York bakery to sell merveilleux. Belgian expat Anne Sophie Diotallevi opened O Merveilleux in the Upper East Side last year, just a few blocks away from Ladurée and the French bookstore Albertine. Stay tuned for posts on both O Merveilleux and Albertine. Because obviously, I had to check these out too. HAD TO.