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french pastries

Lenotre

Inside the Paris Hotel

When Gaston Lenotre opened a branch of his Parisian pastry shop in the Paris Hotel last year, no one was more skeptical than yours truly. Having eaten at his eponymous shop on the Right Bank of Paris, I just knew it would be a pale imitation of the real thing. No way could the tastes of Paris be transformed to the high Mojave desert. This lame Lenotre (I thought) would only achieve the verisimilitude that defines Vegas culture. As the opening of the hotel approached, I read with rapt and cynical attention the press reports of authenticity in technique and ingredients that would ensure the lightness, ingenuity and intensity for which Lenotre's pastries are famous. It’s all in the highly refined flour, the mineral rich water and the super rich French butter, Gaston assured us, as he and his P.R. flacks defined the essential differences between American and French sweets. There was not much they could do about our water, but that French flour and butter would be brought in exclusively to guarantee the quality that made him the world’s best know pastry chef. Yeah right I thought….like every big opening in our town….the attention to detail and quality would stick around for about the time it takes the paint to dry and the hoopla to subside….and then it would be back to the mediocrity that made our town famous. Well what I didn’t count on was that Gaston was a man of his word. One bite of his chasson aux pommes (that's a feather-light apple turnover), pain aux chocolat (dark chocolate inside a croissant) or tartelette aux framboises (a raspberry tart) will convince you that Lenotre is putting his money (and the world's best ingredients) where your mouth is soon to be. But don't worry if you don't know French. . .everything has a translation next to it. . .but I suggest you just point and eat, because everything here from the heavenly macaroons to the intense eclairs, is the final word on why French pastries are words synonymous with gastronomic luxury. There is nothing dumbed down or inauthentic about this food. . .and for about $5.00 a dessert, your taste buds take the world's cheapest and most delicious French vacation.

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My final suggestion is to go there soon before someone turns it into a donut shop.

This is John Curtas.

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Thursday, June 15, 2000

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