Paris in Fevrier!

24 Feb

When presidents’ week dawns, get plane tickets to Paris, as I always say.  Then again, I have never uttered those idealistic words before in my life.  It just so happens that my family has racked up so many frequent flyer miles that we were  able to afford two free round trip tickets to France.  Consequently, my mom, my sister, and I packed our bags. 

I was in search of warmth.  After a month and a half of school work that drained the life from my veins, I needed redemption in the form of French cuisine.  Arriving in Paris after a dreadful flight, my family hungrily opened the door to a creperie on our street, many of which there were, but few of which looked as inviting as this.   Creperie Josselin, a traditional Bretton creperie, tantalized us with wafting aromas of butter and – well- butter. 

I ordered the crepe Josselin –filled with cheese, ham, eggs, and mushrooms.  It was a decadent treat as well as the perfect way to start off my French experience.

crepe josselin:

Following our fortifying repast, we cabbed it to the Champs-Elysees for some window-shopping.  Finding that many stores were closed, we decided to walk back to our hotel and find dinner nearby.  After sidling past Sonia Ryckiel stores and the likes, we stumbled upon a small brasserie called La Petite Rotonde.  I ordered the escargot and a salad Landes, thinking I would have a light meal.  I had never been so wrong; when the salad arrived, it was adorned with heaped smoked duck breast, a medallion of bloc du foie gras, and duck hearts.  It was delicious, but I was very full after devouring it like a hungry lion.  However, this did not stop me from aiding my sister in her mission of finishing a slice of tart grandpere.  Full and content, we headed to our hotel for a night of sound sleep and dreams replete with food in the days to come. 

On our second day, we arose fatiguedly to get ready.  Today would be our day to explore St. Germain.  We walked to Le Procope, a cafe that has been around since the dictators of pre-Revolutionary France.  Faced with an expensive and full menu, we decided to instead grab a light bite down the street at a cafe called Danton.  We were welcomed into a casual setting where we readily downed croissants, baguette, cafe creme, and chocolat chaud.  Energized, we shopped around on our way to Notre Dame.  When I passed a chocolatier, Patrich Roger, I stopped in for a few chocolates and my first marron glacee of the trip.  Everything was divine, from the sugary and mysterious chestnut right down to the praline and the passion fruit chocolate. 

Too busy to stop for lunch (there is such a thing, much to my surprise), we grabbed a nutella crepe from a street vendor.  It was so delicious that my mouth waters just writing about it.  Then, we went to Le Gran Epicerie, where I was scolded for taking pictures of the pastries.  Just to apologize, since my sister did not teach me how to say “I’m sorry” in French, I bought some macaroons.  Mmmm…I am sorry about that picture.

Later on, after having walked about fourteen miles total, we were hungry yet again.  We decided on dining at Le Vagenende, a seemingly casual brasserie.  Upon entry, we realized that the restaurant was nicer than we had anticipated, and we were grateful for our good fortune.  To start, we feasted on the delicious and ubiquitous baguette that is my  rock in every dining establishment in Paris.  Next, we ordered some marrow bones, which I had never had before.  On crispy toasts with sea salt gris, the marrow put me into a euphoric state from which I never wanted to be awakened.  For our main courses, my grandmother ordered rabbit in mustard sauce; my mom ordered beef tartare with fries, and my sister got steak with bearnaise sauce.  I was unfortunate enough to end up with some oddly fishy prawns, but I enjoyed the others’ dishes in the utmost.  As if we weren’t obese enough, we capped off our night with a creme brulee and ile flottante.  This meal was my favorite during the trip, and I know that many more marrow bones are in my future. 

Luckily, I woke up the next morning, so, taking it as a sign, I suggsted that we head to the market on Rue Mouffetard, in the Latin Quatrer.  We picked up some pastries at one of the small bakeries along with a raisin baguette with which to eat some cheese from one of the many market stalls.  Although we had no knife, we were able to use a plastic stirrer from a cafe as a tool to spread some artisanal butter and espoisses cheese onto the baguette, which was fantastic.  I was so moved by the sense of unity among the people in the market that I wished I had a local market near my home. 

Rue Mouffetard

Prying ourselves away from the rest of our food, we walked to the Pantheon to walk among the graves of many great French figures of the past.  It was a great experience, and I felt a sense of comaraderie when standing next to Voltaire’s grave among others.  Of course, all of this philosophy made me hungry, and we later found ourselves in a random brasserie for a pick me up in the form of baked eggs with foie gras and cream.  Needless to say, in a world paralelled by Popeye, this was my spinach–I was ready for more sightseeing.  Although we decided not to go to Montmarte, we were ambitious enough to walk all the way to Montorgueil from the Latin Quarter.  This was certainly a trak, but it was well worth it.  Rue Montorgueil was adorable, with its numerous patisseries and rotisseries as well as flower shops.  Its charm can perhaps be best expressed by my sister’s raspberry sorbet, which the amiable server shaped into a rose.

rose shaped raspberry sorbet

Unsure of where to eat, for the most desirable restaurant (L’escargot) was too expensive, we decided to grab a baguette and some wine and head back to our hotel for an indoor picnic, as we still had two miniature goat cheeses from the morning’s market.  (NOTE: It was below freezing outside, so food poisoning from having carried cheese around all day was not a concern.)  Because I am me, I assumed that a slice of good pate wn croute with pistachios was necessary to complete our meal.  Too, My grandma had not eaten lunch and was craving something more substancial than bread and cheese and pate and wine and pastries from Stohrer, a legendary French patisserie.  Since we could not find any wine or sandwhiches, as a result of cabbing it back to the hotel, my mother and I went to a Yakitori restaurant near our hotel.  We got a few shimmering shish-kabobs of Japanese goodness (quail, chicken meatballs, shicken wings, duck, and cheese [yes, cheese]), and a half bottle of red found its way back to our room with us as well.  Party time.  We feasted in a way that the Whos in Whoville would not even be able to top, and then we lapsed into a delighted coma.

Seemingly catastrophic but contrarily successful stay-in feast

By now, one would guess that our troops would be dwindling–that we would slowly be giving in to hardened arteries, strokes, infarctions, or at least one little diabetic coma–but no.  We, either by dint of miracle or unmarred health of ethereal proportions, were absolutely fine. 

The next day, we woke up and went out to a cafe for our standard but heavenly breakfast of croissants, baguettes, cafe au lait, and chocolat chaud.  Following our meal, we took a taxi to the Louvre–a real live taxi!  I suppose that we figured we deserved a car ride after walking more in the preceeding days than we ever had in any of our lifetimes. 

After the museum, we went to another random brasserie for lunch, and I had a tasty salad with blue cheese, ham, walnuts, eggs, potatoes, and a creamy dressing.  My sister shared a croque madame with my mom, but it was not quite as decadent as some I’ve had in the U.S.  Then again, we are known for being unreasonably unceremonious in our use of lipids.  My sister, after eyeing a miniature chocolate cake in the case in the fromt of the brasserie, decided to order it.  Although we were not sure, our suspicions that it was a molten lava cake were confirmed when we piggishly dug chunks out of it with the conveniently present extra spoons and forks.  The interior flowed, but this was no ordinary chocolate lava cake; it’s center was a shocking bright green.  Recalling that the waitress had mentioned something about pistachios, we eagerly devoured the little volcano of joy.  Although it did not taste decidedly of pistachios, we were pleased by the satisfaction that the gooey package bestowed upon us.  After practically scraping the plate clean, we paid up and left the restaurant in search of more museums.

After discovering that all of the museums to which we were eager to pay a visit were closed, we waddled (a word that I can readily substitute for walk, as we had gained ungodly amounts of weight by that point of our trip) over to Madeleine, a cute arrondisement where the specialty food stores Fauchon and Hediard are located only a stones’ throw from one another.   Because we planned to go out to a restaurant for dinner, we did not buy all of the lucious looking edibles that I normally would have forcibly placed in our shopping basket.  However, we did purchase two small jars, one containing a strawberry rose jam and the other a “milk jam,” both of which we took back home with us. 

We did not know where to eat dinner.  Fortunately, we passed through a boulevard, St. Michel, in a cab the previous day, so we decided to return to that area in  our hunt for a meal. 

Living on the edge was not perfect; upon leaving our taxi, we found our surroundings to be less than inviting.  St. Michel, we learned from our handy map, was very long.  In an optimistic fashion, we walked down the boulevard in the direction of our hotel.  When we saw strings of pretty green lights dancing around some well groomed trees from across the street, we crossed to see what kind of establishment was upheld in such charming quarters. 

Finding ourselves in the doorway of La Closerie des Lilas, a sort of fine-dining brasserie, we quickly approved of the menu by the door, and as soon as the request for “quatre” left our lips, an attentive waitress showed us to a table.  We started with some oysters from Brittany and baguette with butter (as always).  I got the beef entrecote with french fries and bordelaise sauce, while my mom got a milk-poached smoked haddock dish with poached eggs, spinach, and potatoes, and my sister got seared Magret duck breast.  Both of there dished were delectable, and while my beef was very fatty, I  enjoyed it.  My grandma had a scallops dish, which she enjoyed very much.  Finally, we ended the night with a chocolate cake and chocolate mousse dessert as well as a sorbet sampler (raspberry, vanilla, and passionfruit).  The chocolate dessert came with a scoop of chocolate hazelnut ice cream and a shot glass of creme anglaise.  It was pitiful to know that this would be our last dinner in Paris, but since it had to be done, that dinner was a delightful way to go. 

It was hard to enjoy my slice of tart tatin at breakfast the next morning, for I knew we would be leaving later that day.  As the caramelized apples slid down my throat, I took comfort in knowing that home did not mean the end–it simply meant the beginning of another prowess in my own kitchen.

rotisserie at the market.  can’t be bad


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