Purely Paris: Jams Better Than the Best Patisseries
Lise Bienaimé runs La Chambre aux Confitures, a closet-sized boutique whose name she translates as “the boudoir of jams.” Lise’s own last name means “beloved,” which, she says, some people think is just her nom-de-jam. But, for Lise, making perfect preserves is a family heritage. Her great-grandfather Joseph Soulier ran an épicerie at 139, faubourg St.-Honoré. She is following suit in the rue des Martyrs, a sweet street that is home to some of Paris’ best patisseries.
Bienaimé always shared her family’s passion. But the unexpected flavors here (as well as the elegant packaging) were a dozen years in development. “For 11 of those,” she explains, “I worked in the beauty industry. There, presentation is a part of quality. I let my concept simmer away until I was sure about every element.” Another factor in her long-range planning: Lise also is the mother of three children.
However, all that time produced a spectacular stock. All the seasonal jams and jellies are here, many with special touches. To replace my usual English marmalade, I was torn between orange à l’ancienne, orange exotique, clémentine, citron-orange and orange à la fleur d’oranger. I found it equally hard to resist seductive combinations such as ananas et citron vert (pineapple-lime) or a yummy rhubarbe et sureau (rhubarb and elder flower).
La Chambre offers chocolaté spreads for brioches, crêpes and ice creams (mango, coconut and white chocolate is a best seller) and friponnes (“cheeky treats”) you can eat straight from the pot. The latter includes two perfect guilty pleasures: a chestnut cream that tastes like marrons glacés and a conserve made from figs, cognac and hazelnuts.
All these delicacies are fabricated traditionally, using organic fruits with a minimum of sugar. There are no additives, colorants or chemicals. Lise promises “over 100 different perfumes”—from jam and petals in jelly to jars of aromatic sugars (in rose and lychee, lemon or raspberry and nettle). There are also fragrant honeys and a set of confits designed to complement meats or foie gras (as well as another set meant to enhance different cheeses).
The great thing about La Chambre is that it reflects the owner’s enthusiasm. Every question meets with warm recommendations—as a mountain of tiny spoons helps you sample almost anything. Lise and her in-store aide Elisabeth even offer tips on making preserves, jams or jellies. Equipment to help with this is on sale, as are tabliers (aprons), Chinese teas and delicate biscuits.
For me, this is the perfect gift shop. The jars are a stylish size, with charming labels—and your package can be finished off with a Sabre spoon. The fragrant sugars are a perfect souvenir, and also easy to carry or pack. As one who prefers a crusty baguette to the best patisserie, I have made this a regular destination. However, you need to be aware of the hours: La Chambre is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but it does close for lunch between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Weekends, it is open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 pm on Sundays.
Lise has started a blog to share her news, recipes and tips. Even for a girl who buys ready-mades, it’s fun reading. Find it on her website, La Chambre aux Confitures.
My Top 10 Parisian Sweets by the Spoon
1. Confiture Abricot Gingembre (apricot and ginger), La Chambre aux Confitures
2. Confiture Cassis et Violette, La Chambre aux Confitures
3. Confiture Extra de Figues Blanches (Les Figuières), Aubertine
4. Fortnum & Mason’s Lemon Curd (OK, it’s my English thing, but this is an objet fétiche in Paris), La Grande Epicerie
5. Abricot Confit (a glazed or candied apricot), A la Mère de Famille
6. Dulce con Leche/Confiture du Lait (better than Nutella), an Argentine recipe from les poulettes at La Cocotte
7. Confiture Clémentines de Corse, Fauchon
8. Mara des Bois Confiture de Ré, by Le Jardin de Lydie, Aubertine
9. Confidiet Rhubarbe (sublime rhubarb jam made with a sugar substitute from the silver birch), Aubertine
10. Miel du Gâtnais (meant to be anti-inflammatory, antistress and antianemia, this smooth ivory honey has been popular since the 19th century), Hédiard
Honorable Mention: Aix et Terra Crème de Rose Gourmande; this was a gift, but it came from Hervé Gambs Seconde Nature
La Chambre aux Confitures
La Grande Epicerie
A la Mère de Famille
Hervé Gambs Seconde Nature
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