The Alsatian region of France has a see-saw past, from the late 1600s to just after World War II . First, they were independent. Then, they were part of France. Then, they were taken over by Germany. And finally ended up as part of France. As such, a lot of both French and German cultural elements blend together there, and this is quite evident in the charming city of Colmar.
The most important thing to know about Colmar can be summed up in one word: pâtisserie.
While it is true that Colmar is on the Alsatian Wine Route, the residents seem dedicated to some of the best pastries on the planet (at least in my humble opinion). One particularly well-known pastry, called by the German name kugelhopf, is similar in appearance to the U.S. Bundt® cake. Another regional favorite is a French style macaroon made of two small, light colored, almond flour cookies with icing in between. These two pastry types demonstrate in edible form the melding of German and French cultures! Fruit tarts, egg custards, Black Forest cake, and meringues in pastel colors also await you in this delightful and quaint city.
You can enjoy these treats and more at an afternoon tea break and dine at one of the many pâtisseries, some of which are located along the Lauch River that runs through the town. Outdoor seating is plentiful in warm weather. I was able to enjoy a wonderful occasion at one of these purveyors of sweet delights (although their sweets tend not to be as sweet as U.S. sweets tend to be sweet…uh, well… you get the idea). There was plenty of sunshine, lots of tourists wandering about, and fairly nice tasting black tea to go with the torte I ate leisurely as the river water burbled on by. The sort of occasion that lingers in the memory for decades!
A word of caution: here in the U.S. a bakery is a bakery and sells anything made of flour, baked or not. Over there, they have pâtisseries (shops specializing in sweet pastries) and boulangeries (shops specializing in breads, rolls, and generally leavened and non-sweet baked goods). Some shops combine both of these. Others focus on the sweet side, selling both pastries and chocolates and other confections (confisseries).
Can’t make it over to France? Have no fear. Just take a trip to Pacific Grove, California, and stop in at Pâtisserie Bechler. Master Pastry Chef Gérard Bechler is the founder and owner. However, he is originally from Colmar and apprenticed there, learning all the secrets of the pastry chefs. In 1984, he relocated to the U.S. and opened his own pâtisserie, bringing with him the knowledge and experience to thrill your tastebuds the Alsatian way.
Whether your pâtisserie tea moment is in the U.S. or Colmar, be sure to include a pot of tea with that kugelhopf or meringue. Enjoy!
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