Food nostalgia is a very real feeling. It’s the sensation of missing a particular food that you once deeply enjoyed, and which isn’t so readily accessible due to distance (as is often the case for me). The memory of the flavours, smells, and textures haunt you (in the best way possible, of course) and you long to savour this food again. I have food nostalgia for all the food I’ve written about on this blog, but especially for the carbonara at Alfredo e Ada, the cheeseburger at Bez Burger, and the Dutch apple pie at Winkel 43. Now I’m adding Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches in Bordeaux to my food nostalgia repertoire.
Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches in Bordeaux specializes in one thing and one thing only: cream-filled choux pastries. Yes, that’s all. But let me tell you, they are killing the pastry game! I mean if you’re only going to make and sell one item, it better be the best anyone has ever tasted! And I can happily confirm that these are the best of their kind.
Chez Pascal is the name of a bakery based in Cap Ferret owned by artisan baker Pascal Lucas (the founding father of dunes blanches pastries). Cap Ferret is a strip of land separating the Atlantic Ocean from Arachon Bay on the coast west of Bordeaux, and it is here that Pascal opened his first bakery in 2006. The story goes that Pascal’s son used to snack on leftover choux shells from the bakery, but he would top or fill them with cream first . From this, Pascal decided in 2008 to try selling them in store, and they were of course a massive success. At the beginning, he only made a single batch of 60 cream-filled choux pastries daily, which would unsurprisingly disappear within minutes. Pascal was on to something here and due to the sheer enthusiasm from his patrons, he expanded the production of these delicate pastries, which were dubbed dunes blanches (translation: white sand dunes) after the sandy coastlines of Cap Ferret.
Due to popular demand, Pascal has since opened two more bakeries as well as three Dunes Blanches boutiques located in Bordeaux, Paris, and Arachon. When researching Bordeaux, I knew I had to pay this place a visit, and so I did… twice!
I only had a short amount of time to explore Bordeaux and you bet I maximised it. I spent my Saturday visiting some landmarks, the Marché des Capucins (blog post pending), and trying typical Bordelais canelés. My agenda for Sunday was to visit the Marché des Quais and Dunes Blanches, before catching a train south to see Lili in Biarritz. As luck would have it, I met a fellow foodie traveller in my hostel who wanted to do the very same things so we agreed to go on this food adventure together.
After visiting the market (where I tried oysters for the first time! Shocking, I know), we arrived at Dunes Blanches and opted to share a box of 6. It was only when we got around to eating them that we realized we should’ve gotten a MUCH bigger box! In a nutshell, we loved the perfection of the dunes blanches. How to describe them? The choux pastry is expertly crafted, with a beautiful crunch and yet it still manages to melt on your tongue. Topped with sugar crystals and a sprinkle of icing sugar, the pastry shell is delicately sweet. Then there’s the cream – the lightest, fluffiest cream I think I’ve ever had. It’s reminiscent of vanilla Chantilly cream, but even lighter. Apparently, Pascal is the only person who knows the secret to making this uniquely airy filling. What’s more, the choux are filled with a very healthy amount of cream. They don’t cheat you on the cream front, that’s for sure!
We both agreed that the dunes blanches were fantastic and we instantly wanted more! In the words of my fellow dunes blanches companion, “They’re so bite-sized and light, you can (and want to) eat a box of 16 in one sitting.” When we were in the shop buying our box of beauties, we noticed a poster with an image of dunes blanches and the word éphémère on it. We asked what it meant and learned that 2 or 3 days a week (usually Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays), the bakery whips up a special cream flavour to fill the dunes blanches. Éphémère means “short-lived” in French, so it makes sense! We were very intrigued by the featured flavours, but with it being a Sunday, we were sad to have missed out on trying the éphémère. This just meant that I needed to return!
Thankfully for me, I was back in Bordeaux the following Friday ahead of my return flight to Edinburgh. Naturally, I had two things (read: foods) on my agenda: Dunes Blanches and canelés. I navigated back to Dunes Blanches and arrived by 5:20pm, hoping they hadn’t yet run out of their exquisite morsels of delight since they close at 7:30pm. I was worried for nothing because they were still pumping out whole trays of choux pastries! From the counter, I could see a baker pulling out fresh choux shells from the oven, ready to be filled and sold by 7:30pm. The demand for dunes blanches is clearly very high!
The éphémère flavour was Nutella and I was into it. Um, yes please, I’ll take them all. I bought a box of 6 all for myself this time, 3 Nutella and 3 original dunes blanches. They were just as amazing as the first time I tried them, a mere 5 days earlier. The Nutella cream was just as light and airy as the original, but seamlessly infused with that classic Nutella flavour we know so well. How can they make something so simple so incredibly delicious? It was far too easy to eat all 6 solo and I was again stunned by these small works of pastry genius. Previous éphémère flavours have been caramelised apple, strawberry, chocolate pear, chocolate hazelnut, coconut, brownie, speculoos, and salted caramel. I can only imagine how vibrant each new flavour tastes. If only I lived in Bordeaux to try them all…
Really, I should change the title of this blog post to “Dunes Blanches, The Loves of My Life” because all I’ve done is rave about these choux pastries. I actually saw someone on Instagram say that these were nothing out of the ordinary and I was personally affronted. HOW DARE THEY? Don’t listen to those ungrateful haters. These beautiful light and crunchy clouds are truly divine. Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches does one thing, and they do it exceedingly well. Do yourself a favour and buy all the choux your heart desires, because the food nostalgia will definitely come back and make you wish you could grace your tongue with these gems just one more time.