Paris (and what I ate there)
June 20, 2010 § 3 Comments
I’ve been back from France for over two weeks now, and have been swept up in an on-again-off-again cold, my birthday (!!!) celebrations and back-to-work malaise (then bliss, then malaise), hence the long gap between my last post and this one. Since I’ve been back, already a million food and drink adventures have happened, but before I get into any of that, I should say something about my week in Paris at the beginning of June.
Not to over-romanticize or anything. It did rain the whole time we, my pal Amitha and I, were there, and tourist high season was just beginning, and it was impossible to know ahead of time if we were headed for a disappointing meal or an earth-shattering one. But all in all, Paris was wonderful, breathtaking at times, and I ate some amazing things and met some amazing people.
On our first night in Paris, in a rush to make the most of the extended Friday night hours at the Louvre, we got a quick (and very filling) dinner on the street. Not the most traditionally Parisien meal in the world (although that’s not really true anymore), the sandwich doner kebab is ubiquitous — essentially shawarma, hot and very thinly sliced into a tall heap, stuffed into a pita (or a baguette) with the most consistently well-made fries ever, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, not at all greasy. I ate a lot of these, and didn’t feel guilty in the least. The one above was eaten sitting cross-legged at the Pont des Arts, across from the Louvre, watching babes go by, wishing I had a beer to wash it down with.
Our first morning, instead of eating random riffraff from the millions of cafes and brasseries on our block, the rue de Turbigo, we took a long and very confusing walk to rue St. Antoine, where we hunted down an adorable patisserie, Miss Manon, recommended by my friend Dante Micheaux. There we purchased the loveliest pastries and wonderful coffee and walked over to the Place de Vosges and ate a triumphant breakfast. My chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) was a small revelation. I’ve never had such perfect pastry in my life, buttery without being greasy, crisp and flakey on the outside, warm and just soft enough on the inside. It was a miracle of texture.
After running around on the Left Bank, seeing silly things like Shakespeare and Co., with its astonishingly beautiful and well-lit second floor (forget the books!), we went on a blind-friend-date to the home of these ladies, Francesca and Imelda, and their baby and their cat. We were friend-set-up by the owner of La Monita (Mahatun Plaza, Phloen Chit Road) in Bangkok, the best Mexican place in the city. Cess is his sister. We went over, not sure how it would be, if it was a dinner invite or a just-drinks invite, when we’d know to politely take our leave, et cetera. But none of that mattered when we got there, because they were awesome and smart and in love and hilarious and gorgeous and warm and super-hostesses and we stayed for five hours and three bottles of wine and a marvelous spread of cured meats and amazing cheeses, the highlight of which was the saucisson de canard, another revelation. I smuggled back no less than four of them back to Thailand. How wonderful it was to accidentally stumble upon good folks, new friends, to hang out in their home, to know we will see them again.
The next morning, we were meant to go to the rue des Martyrs to check out a brunch place recommendation in Montmatre and then walk up to the Sacré Coeur, but when we got there, we discovered that the place was obscenely expensive, and any inclination we had to just go for it anyway was thwarted by the delicious roast chickens spinning outside the many boucheries. We bought one chicken, two cheeses from a proper fromagerie, and two baguettes and took them up to the basilica with us and had a bench picnic.
I’ve sort of had a mental block against “scary cheeses” limiting myself to easy stuff like cheddar, Swiss, maybe some brie. But this bleu d’Auvergne opened something up for me in my mind. It was utterly gross and so freaking delicious I couldn’t stop smearing it on my baguette and stuffing my face. Mental block lifted. Lifetime of stinky cheeses to look forward to! Hooray!
And finally, for one of our last breakfasts in Paris, we went back to Miss Manon and I ordered the above treasure. I don’t even know what to say about it. The chocolate and the raspberry were a lovely combination, but the PASTRY! I cannot speak properly about the pastry. I used to think there was a distinction to adhere to: if you cook, you don’t bake. And if you bake bread, you don’t bake pastry. I always thought I was the cooking type, but the pastries in Paris were so unparalleled, so elevating, LEVITATING that I have a dream now to learn how it happens.
Of course, there was lots else in Paris. Profound thoughts and museums, especially Monet’s Waterlilies, which I’d previously thought were for corny sissies, but which brought me to tears. But hey, this is a food blog. There’ll be none of that!