We’ve traded our floral dresses for chunky knits - winter is upon us in Paris and I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds the idea of cozy conversations over cakes and hot cups of tea enticing.
This season, Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, under the helm of its new head pastry chef Michaël Bartocetti, launched a 100% Vegan Afternoon Tea.
I'm sure some of you would be curious: What exactly is veganism?
To put it simply, it's when one avoids all meat products and adopts a plant-based diet. This doesn't just mean abstaining from meat but also eggs and dairy products.
For Shangri-La Hotel's 100% Vegan Afternoon Tea, cow's milk and cream have been replaced with plant cream and milk such as soy and almond milk.
To take it a step further, they have chosen not to use refined sugar and instead rely solely on natural sweeteners like coconut sugar, panela and maple syrup.
My interest is piqued but I can’t help being skeptical: How good could pastries taste without dairy products?
As a point of reference for people (like myself) who are unfamiliar with vegan food, Michaël helps to make it easier by working with classic pastries.
Of course I have to try the Calisson, a fluffy and moist almond financier topped with almond mousse and an orange marmalade and apricot glaze, which also happens to be Michaël's favorite.
It is delightfully tangy with the right amount of sweetness, I am swayed.
At just 31 years old, Michaël has already honed his craft at Alain Ducasse's Parisian bistro, Benoît and most recently at Ducasse's Michelin-starred Hôtel Plaza Athénée restaurant.
For the 100% Vegan Afternoon Tea, Michaël and his team have decided to work with French producers all over the country for ethically-sourced local and seasonal ingredients.
Take, for example, the Mont-Blanc marron-cassis. It contains flour made from chestnuts grown in the Ardèche, wild blackcurrants from the Hautes-Alpes and Anjou, and chestnuts from Lozère.
The smooth chestnut mousse contrasts nicely with the delicate and crunchy chocolate half-sphere shell. Chickpeas are also cleverly used as a base in the vegan meringue. I wouldn't have guessed!
While it's probably not easy to be vegan in Paris, the ethical dining scene is slowly but surely catching up! It's safe to say Shangri-La's 100% Vegan Afternoon Tea definitely passes the taste test.
The scones, made with 100% organic flour, are delicious and go well with the light vegan cream – a much healthier substitute for clotted cream.
As a bonus treat at our dégustation, Michaël also took the opportunity to unveil Shangri-La Hotel's bûche de Noël for this Christmas.
His interpretation of an edible Christmas bauble is a festive spherical creation that showcases a vertical-standing log cake with a yuzu and mandarin confit centre. A hint of fleur de sel in the chocolate cake cuts through the sugar perfectly.
As Michaël tells us, there are no limits in patisserie for those who want to achieve success.
We'll take his word for it since this comes from a pastry chef who had boldly added kombu, a dried sea kelp used in Japanese cuisine, to one of his lemon desserts.
Not surprisingly, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for what Michaël's up to in the future.
100% Vegan Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-La
Monday to Friday, 3.30-5.30pm
Cost: 39 euros (or better yet, go with a friend and enjoy tea for two at 70 euros)
Pictures: Brandie Raasch, Writer: Wee Ling Soh