Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Written and photographed
by Sarah Valdizon
Some spots wrap a person up in the allurement of the most idyllic latte, or that impeccable, buttery blueberry scone. But with Aux Merveilleux de Fred, it was assuredly his merveilleux. It might have been one of the last hurrahs on the final day of a rather fulfilling Paris trip, but I recall strolling aimlessly through the Parisian streets (as one ought to) only to discover one of Aux Merveilleux de Fred’s Paris shops. At first glance it was that iconic, oversized, glistening chandelier that catches the eye. But then, it’s the little treasures under caring hands that truly draws the eye in—some, being tucked into fingers of those happily awaiting, or being into handled boxes for parties, to go… back and forth, back and forth, I watched them as we made our way across the street—mixing, preparing, finalizing, offering. I now believe it was the sheer fun, painterly scene of the warm light encompassing the hustle and bustle that convinced us to step into that deeply photogenic noir façade.
Truly an olfactory experience, it was within a moment of entry that I knew we had discovered a gem. Anticipated was a full display case of a wide selection of pastries, as the French do so well, but instead, we found just two: merveilleux and cramiques. A deliberate focus on the part of creator and mastermind, Frédéric Vaucamps (the former appellation I find most fitting). After one bite, temporarily amiss were all of the thoughts of quintessential French affairs with éclairs and croissants, and instead, a new lover, merveilleux.
I consider a young Frédéric, and wonder more about his first connection to the pastry; his first moment, his first memory. It has been said that he was enchanted by the world of cake-making early very on, and began as an apprentice pastry chef at just 14.
Forward some years, it was through about 8 years of trials and breakthroughs, where he found his grounding in tearing away from the overly rich in flavor, (and to his taste, far too rich) in favor for a delightful little snack—special to be sure, and lovely for holidays and celebrations. Gone was the merveilleux’s heavy-weight butter cream and predisposed sweetness, leading way to a more light and delicate meringue, sandwiching a chocolate whipped-cream filling and rolled in beautifully shaved chocolate. It was only a matter of time before he was wildly famous.
And through all of his trials, claims that his success has been brought together through a series of experience: failure, luck, experiments and success; and in and amoungst it all, a fulfillment he has found both personally and professionally.
Frédéric Vaucamps remains with a tight selection within his (over a dozen) shops—six flavors of merveilleux in total, alongside four kinds of soft brioches called cramiques. Though some might deem his selection limited, such a specialty has certainly created a lasting and trusted impression for visitors; one to share with your closest of friends, and to delight even the trickiest of gift-receivers. In fact, Frédéric pays no heed to mass marketing or advertising, and instead, has gained his tremendous following based on his dedication and persistence of excellence, and letting the lips of others speak of their charm.
Truly all are wonderfully delicious and perfect in their own right, but on this last trip to New York, we stopped in at the sole location for another taste. I ordered a “Sans-Coulotte” (meringue, caramel whipped cream coated with crystallized meringue) to go. It was every bit as perfect as the first, tried in Paris, years back. And as for the name, Aux Merveilleux de Fred, it originates from the French word, merveilleuse, and well that, in itself, is another history lesson…
Featured: Aux Merveilleux de Fred at 37 8th Ave, New York