French Bakery Marvelous by Fred defends century-old dessert with the opening of its American flagship in New York

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New York’s new bakery Marvelous by Fred has plenty to do. As New York emerges from the upheaval of the pandemic, the hope is that this boutique’s signature cakes will become a household name here. The flagship location of Marvelous by Fred, or Aux Merveilleux de Fred as it is known in France, officially opens on August 10 near Bryant Park, located at 1001 Sixth Avenue and 37th Street.

The boutique’s signature dessert, the Marvelous, is a 200-year-old confectionery from northern France and Belgium that has long been overlooked. Until a few decades ago, it wouldn’t be surprising to ask the average French citizen if these sweets – a meringue-based shell wrapped around a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings – were as wonderful as their nickname. The answer would have been a resounding no, even if the name of the candy was inspired by the aristocrats of the post-French Revolution who posed as the Merveilleuses (“wonderful women”) and the Incroyables (“unbelievable”, for men).

Wonderful with cherry.

Wonderful with praline whipped cream coated with almond chips and caramelized hazelnuts.

Melissa Hom / Merveilleux by Fred

There are seven varieties of the wonderful.

That changed when pastry chef Frédéric Vaucamps made it his mission to reinvent what he considered to be a little-known and underestimated regional dessert. Reworking the recipe, the technique and even the ovens (together with a French manufacturer, he created an exclusive ventilated convection model whose exact specifications are kept secret even by the culinary management team), Vaucamp unveiled the confection as it is. he knew it could be: lighter, more airy, and with flavors beyond traditional whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Across France, his invention has been selling like hot cakes since 1985. The abundance of YouTube tutorials on how to make hearty pastries mention Vaucamp’s eponymous bakery, Aux Merveilleux de Fred, by name.

At the new American flagship, there will be no exterior seating plans. There are 13 banquet seats that overlook the production kitchen on the first floor and 34 seats in the comfortable space on the second floor. Before the official opening, there is a package of pastries and coffee for $ 4.

Aside from a seasonal option, the marvelous comes in seven flavors that have remained mostly unchanged over the past decade (an original, smaller location in the West Village opened with a similar menu in 2015). The original, aptly named Le Merveilleux, is rolled in light shavings like a feather of Belgian dark chocolate. Other more modern flavors include Le Magnifique, filled with praline whipped cream and topped with crispy pieces of toasted hazelnuts, and Le San Culottes – in reference to the lower-class French revolutionaries of the 1790s, who did not wear panties. silk – with creme caramel and crystallized meringue chips. The ephemeral (ephemeral) seasonal offer will be a surprise; past iterations have included raspberry-cassis and yuzu-lemon.

The cupcakes combine a trio of textures: the airy lightness of the meringue, the velvety whipped crème fraîche with light notes of aroma and the crunchy bits of the candy coating. The lack of dough, oil, and butter – a rarity in all French cuisine – makes these sweets gluten-free and around 80 calories each.

“He’s definitely a product person,” says Antoine Jacques, the company’s North American president and baker, describing its founder’s vision. “He’s a creative genius and he does everything by intuition.”

desserts at wonderful by fred

Besides the wonderful, the menu includes croissants, brioche and savory sandwiches.
Melissa Hom / Merveilleux by Fred

Wonderful by Fred

All the pastries on display are less than two hours old.
Melissa Hom / Merveilleux by Fred

The rest of the menu is equally small but disciplined, capturing Jacques’ intention to focus on the quality of a handful of desserts that are well executed instead of offering a menu with more options. The croissant baked from scratch has a satisfying crust, while the harder-to-find Flemish waffles ($ 18.50 for six) look like a softer version of a Dutch stroopwafel, but filled with butter and sugar instead. of caramel. There are all kinds of brioches, from traditional sprinkled with pearl sugar imported from Belgium, to more special varieties cooked with raisins or Valrhona chocolate, including salty (turkey, ham) and sweet (chocolate ganache, Nutella) sandwiches. ). At the back of the store, prominent bakers shape the dough before allowing it to rise, rise and bake in a process that takes around eight hours from start to finish. The ovens operate from 6.30am to 6.30pm to ensure all pastries on display are less than two hours old.

Not to be outdone with pastries, the vision of Marvelous by Fred extends to the decor. Italian marble countertops in the cooking and dining areas are valued for their ability to maintain cooler temperatures. Gold leaves shine on the stark black windows. On the wall, an oversized fresco represents the original Incredible and Marvelous in all their exuberant and haute couture attire.

The oversized chandelier can be spotted across the street.

The oversized chandelier can be spotted across the street.
Melissa Hom / Merveilleux by Fred

The bohemian crystal chandelier spectacle of New York’s bakery flagship isn’t a unique design touch. Each of the 46 locations around the world features this model, which is made in the Czech Republic as a one-piece replica used in an Austrian coronation ceremony, but the 10-foot-diameter models in New York and Bruges, in Belgium, are the largest in the world, with an undisclosed price tag of several tens of thousands of dollars. Visible from across the street, it draws passers-by both near and into the store like moths in front of a flame; tourists can often be found taking photos of the outdoors.

For Jacques, the debut of the historic brand in Bryant Park represents a kind of homecoming. Over the past five years, he and his team have set up two ovens in a 100-square-foot kiosk to sell hot pastries in freezing cold as part of the park’s annual outdoor vacation market. But creating comfort food – whether in a park or during a pandemic – captures the cuisine of his native northern France, where Jacques says, “People always say to themselves, ‘Wow, what is that? ‘is ?’ “

A portrait of a wonderful.

A portrait of a marvelous.
Melissa Hom / Merveilleux by Fred


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