Q: When is a marshmallow not a marshmallow?
A: When it’s a beautiful $1 cube of earth-bound cloud that’s rose-scented or cocoa-flavored (my favorite) and thus earnestly deserving its fancier-sounding French name “guimauve” (made with local egg whites and local honey, it’s also decidedly un-sticky and un-gummy).
You need a lot of talent and knowledge to transform “Who cares?” marshmallows into charming and uncommon treats (a la mignardises in refined eateries). Fortunately you don’t need a lot of money to buy one of these pretty things.
Welcome to Patisserie Lallier, a mostly one-woman operation that’s truly a labor of love. Wait, make that “un vrai travail d’amour,” because it was the intoxicating pull of French culture that caused Michelle Kozak to cash in her safe American banking job for the rather riskier new career she started courtesy of a revered pastry diploma from the esteemed cooking school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
I discovered Patisserie Lallier (Lallier is the surname of Kozak’s French grandparents) at the wonderful Clintonville Farmers Market, where this roving — and address-less — French pastry “shop” commands a table on Saturdays (permanent brick-and-mortar food businesses are sooo 20th century). It was “l’amour” at first bite, as I found Kozak’s elegant confections — some of which are gluten-free, all of which are sophisticatedly restrained in sweetness and made with as many organic, fair-trade and local ingredients as possible — tasted as marvelous as they looked (but cost a lot less).
Here’s a sample:
Pave aux amandes et pistaches ($3) This gently crusted and super-moist gluten-free beauty is like a little tea (or coffee) cake whose wholly green interior is a clue it’s bursting with fresh pistachio crunch and flavor
Croissant aux amandes ($4) A buttery and flaky crescent roll with a delicately crinkly exterior that leads to a blast of marzipan-y almond paste
Sable au chocolat ($1) There’s a place somewhere special where cookies, brownies and fudge all co-exist harmoniously, and this dreamy disc of chocolate shortbread proves it with every single nibble.
Orangettes (6/$2) Candied strips of orange peel dipped in dark chocolate — aromatic, crunchy, chewy and intense, and hence terrific mini-sized pick-me-ups
Pates de fruits aux fraises (3/$2) These classic sugar-crusted gumdrop-style candies are made with local Rhoads Farm strawberries (also sold at the Clintonville Market), and you can tell.