Another pleasant surprise was the spicy sausage quiche, with a flaky crust more akin to puff pastry than heavy pie dough. But the real reason you come to a place like Chez Arnaud is for patisserie, and theirs is the real deal. Underneath the glass and lights of the display case, the exquisite French desserts are positively resplendent displayed on gold, mirrored plates. When it comes to confection and patisserie, Arnaud emphasizes appearance and flawless execution, both of which are evident in desserts like the Nun (black-and-white, chocolate-coated pâte à choux puffs stacked two high and filled with cream and more dense chocolate), the Perigord (a sort of layered parfait of vanilla cream, chocolate mousse, pieces of rich and chewy chocolate cake, and fresh raspberries), and the epic Le Grande Macaron. Food & Wine magazine's Gail Simmons recently mused that if she could come back as any one item, it would be a macaron, and Chez Arnaud's is one deserving of reincarnation. It's roughly the size of one of those chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, but much more elegant and ethereal. The ground-almond cookies are tinted pale lavender or mint green and layered with thick cream and blackberries or raspberries. It's a little hard to eat, but once you bust into it, it's sweet, ethereal, and the epitome of spoiling yourself. Chez Arnaud does smaller, more traditional versions in flavors like champagne, pink lemonade, rosewater, and pistachio. It also makes eclairs, Napoleons, and Italian meringue tartlets. Of course, no French bakery would be complete without madeleines, which you can get here as a single on the side of your latte or take home by the dozen.
So maybe you can't get all the way to Paris by springtime, but if you can at least get to St. Paul this winter you'll be handsomely rewarded with rich and luxurious French food.