Thursday, February 28, 2008

Breakfast In Bed

Breakfast in Bed on the February 16th Specials Menu at Woodberry Kitchen.

Since this will end up being my signature drink for the up-coming 2008 United States Barista Championship being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from May 2nd to 5th, it's probably a bad idea for me to post this.

But, oh well...

The idea for Breakfast in Bed has been floating around in my mind for a couple of months now. When I mentioned the idea of pairing toffee with bacon in a drink, the typical reaction was one of horror or disgust - like, how could I even think of doing something so ridiculous.

Like any "original" idea, this one is rooted in the teachings, lessons and wisdom of others. I'm not the first person to think of this crazy combination. The initial idea was sparked by Chef Jesse at Abacrombie Fine Foods in Baltimore with her dessert called "Breakfast for Dessert." An interesting combination of fruit, maple syrup, bacon and brioche.

The problem was that I really wasn't sure what form a drink inspired by that dessert should take and how I should approach it. Plus, I've been so darned busy with running The Spro that details like a competition signature drink just fell to the wayside.

Shoplifters Of The World Unite And Take Over
Things really started churning during my London trip to visit reigning World Barista Champion James Hoffmann and his faithful Irish sidekick, Stephen Morrissey (of Square Mile Coffee Fame, not of The Smiths Fame). During my short few hours at the new Square Mile Bat Cave, James shared with me the approach to his "doughnut" drink from 2006, as well as kicking around ideas on how to make the "Frozen Cappuccino Experience."

Determined that "Frozen Cappuccino" was more stunning that some silly breakfast drink, i returned to the United States and got cracking. With only a week left before the Mid-Atlantic Barista Competition, I started experimenting with freezing coffee and cream and how to deep-fry it oil. The idea was to have a molten center surrounded by a french toast fried exterior a la Wylie Dufresne's "Fried Mayonnaise."

It was sheer and utter disaster.

With only three days to competition, I decided that maybe the Fried Cappuccino Experience wasn't quite ready for prime time and started to focus on Breakfast In Bed.

Getting In Bed With Tiffany
It took two days of experiments, but making Breakfast In Bed is really quite simple and straightforward - especially if you have kitchen resources at your disposal.

Like the previous competition signature drinks I've been involved with, the most important factor for the drink is that it must be repeatable on the line. It must be a drink that can be made on a daily (or at least regular) basis. It cannot be one of these one-off extravaganzas you so often see at barista competitions that are so complex that no one wants to make them ever again.

No, this drink has to be formulated in such a way that it can be duplicated and repeated. Otherwise, it's just stupid and an exercise in masturbation.

Note: I still consider this drink "in progress" which means that I'm providing you with a rough formula for making the drink. Like most cooking, there's some wiggle room. Just pay attention to the general ratios and you can size it up or size it down. Remember, the batch sizes here are to supply the line for service and not just four drinks for four judges.

Here's the list of ingredients I used:


3/4 loaf Pan de Mie - Stone Mill Bakery, Baltimore
4 large eggs - Springfield Farm
1qt Half & Half Cream - Trickling Springs Creamery
3qt plus 3 cups Whole Milk - Trickling Springs Creamery
1 Madagascar Vanilla Bean, split and seeded
Unsalted Butter - Trickling Springs Creamery
No. 1 Amber Maple Syrup - Quebec, Canada
Organic Cane Sugar

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, mix in 3 cups whole milk and vanilla bean with seeds to make the French Toast Batter. Dip Pan de Mie slices in batter and pan fry in batches with butter until golden on both sides. Dredge cooked toast in maple syrup and cool in a large sauce pan until all the bread has been cooked. After, break French Toast into chunks.

Note: Avoid the temptation to eat your ingredients. Or perhaps use the remaining 1/4 loaf to make French Toast for your breakfast.

Add Half & Half and remaining milk to saucepan and heat on medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Do not boil. Once the mix begins to simmer, remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a cooling container (like a Cambro) and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, strain and squeeze bread solids from the liquid. I like to strain twice with a fine holed China Cap and then strain it twice more through a Chinois. The more you strain the infusion, the better the texture. You could do it ten times a la Thomas Keller, but I think twice is just fine.

Sweeten with organic cane sugar to taste. Like salt with savory foods, the sugar here helps to "pop" the flavor of the infusion. Otherwise, the flavor will remain "flat."


1 pound Organic Cane Sugar
1 pound unsalted Butter - Trickling Springs Creamery
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream - Trickling Springs Creamery

Heat sugar and butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until the two have combined and darkened to the right flavor for toffee - roughly 350F to 400F degrees. You can do this with a thermometer or by taste - just be sure to let the sugar cool before tasting. However, be careful not to burn the toffee. Once you get close, things really pick up speed and you can easily lose control of the process.

Once you've reached the right point for your toffee, add the heavy cream. There will be boiling, bubbling and sizzling. The toffee will seize into a hard glob. This is okay and perfectly natural. Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring. Once the liquid heats, the toffee will loosen and emulsify into the cream. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a Cambro and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, expect a layer of fat to have formed on your chantilly mixture. Skim the fat and strain mixture through a chinois. Pour a portion into an ISI Whipper and single charge the container - you can double-charge the whipper for a more foamy texture.


Applewood Smoked Bacon - Springfield Farm
Lite Brown Sugar - Domino

Spread bacon on a parchment lined (or silpat covered) baking sheet, dust with brown sugar and bake at 300F degrees until the bacon has cooked through and the sugar has carmelized into a glaze.

Cool and chop into bits. Store.

Getting Down with BREAKFAST IN BED

Now that your mise en place is ready, it's time to get cracking. Grab a 3z demitasse cup, preheat then pull a single shot of espresso into the cup.

Steam and froth a portion of your French Toast Infusion and add to espresso a la macchiato.

Top with Toffee Chantilly from the whipper and sprinkle bacon bits on top.

And serve.

During the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, I also decided to serve Breakfast in Bed with an accompanying fresh-squeeze orange juice chaser.

The drink should be pleasantly sweet with a delicate balance between the french toast and the coffee. The idea is to combine all the good things about waking up in bed - sans the pretty girl next to you. While I was proofing the drink at The Spro, I used the La Marzocco ACF demitasse cups which were the ideal size for a single shot and french toast infusion. But for the competition, I pulled out the old Crate & Barrel glassware which I used for the 2006 USBCs' Coffee and a Cigarette. The problem with the glasses is that they are a bit larger than the demitasse cups, which throws off the balance slightly and the judges reported that the coffee was being "lost" in the mix.

Personally speaking, I dispute those claims because i tasted their drinks backstage, but they're the gatekeepers.

Chances are that you will see Breakfast In Bed again at the USBC. In the meantime, check in at The Spro because it's going to hit our menu there soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

As The Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade...

I'm in the midst of a crisis: I have writer's block.

I just can't seem to write anything of interest or substance. I'm frozen in time. Lethargic. Apathetic. Life surrounds me yet I cannot find the words.

Meanwhile, the presidential race is on and about a week or so ago, I found the most curious thing happening in American Media: the reporting of the SuperDelegates and their ability to vote for whichever Democrat Candidate they desire - regardless of what the people want.

But I haven't seen anything on the news about it since. As though those reports were just to plant the idea in the peoples' minds that "it could happen." To me, this forebodes the future when Barack Obama has won the majority of the Democratic vote and Hillary Clinton receives the nomination through the SuperDelegates.

Someday maybe our people will realize that our vote is just a pacifier.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The chaff collector on fire. Evidently, it happens.

With unseasonable weather in the upper 60s yesterday, I decided to pull open the garage doors and do some coffee roasting. Truth be told, I'm not an amazing roaster. I'm still trying to understand chops in order to build them. At least I've got a nice roaster.

A month or so ago, I decided that I really should use the chaff collector that came with the roaster. So far, I had just been running the roaster without it meaning that smoke and chaff would blow everywhere. Off to the local hardware store I went in search of flex vent tubing and clamps.

It's been hellaciously cold here in Maryland lately and since I have to roast outside, no roasting would be going on. Until yesterday when it was 66 degrees outside. I pulled everything out, connected the tubing to the collector and fired her up.

Things were moving along swimmingly for the first couple of hours. Doing 3 pound batches, I was able to complete six roasts before things got smoky. Five roasts of the Rancho San Francisco from Chiapas, Mexico and one roast of the Idido Misty Valley from Ethiopia.

The smoke seemed relatively normal as I dropped the Idido into the cooling tray but I noticed that even after the beans had cooled, the smoke coming out of the collector was getting thicker. What's going on here? Ooops!

Back in July when Marty came out to set up the roaster and we disassembled it to clean, I pulled out quite a bit of fabric material that mice had used to build nests within the interior of the roaster. I never cleaned out the chaff collector...

As the cool, white smoke started to pour out of the collector and turn a slight cream/tan color, I realized that it must be some other fabric matter on fire. Oh well, at least it wasn't spreading.

After waiting a little while, the smoke dissipated and the fire had burned itself out.

Next time, I gotta remember to clean the chaff collector. But now that the deep of winter has returned, it's gonna have to wait until Spring!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm Not Wylie

Bitter and burnt toffee.

It's barista competition season once again here in America and while the rest of the barista nation has been hard at work developing their signature drinks in a bid for the national crown, I've been doing something else. And now that an actual competition is upon me, it's time to get busy.

Of course, this is a recipe for disaster and I've been chosen as the guy who proves the rule.

The hard part of competition is for me to take all of this too seriously. Fact of the matter is that the competitions have very little impact on our business or our customers - or our reputation for that matter, making the whole pursuit to be somewhat trivial. Add that to the thought nagging in the back of my mind that Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria did not build their reputations through competitions and I can't help but think that my participation is just a bit contrived.

Contrived or not, we push onward and it's been nothing but disaster this week.

In recent conversations, the notion of something along the lines of Wylie Dufresnes' much lauded Fried Mayonnaise came to mind. Could there be a way to actually fry coffee? After tossing around a few ideas, that weird stand-by: the fried ice cream, served as a springboard. Perhaps we could freeze the coffee with the AntiGriddle, batter and then deep fry?

Of course, anyone that's tasted frozen espresso can tell you that the freezing process enhances everything you don't want to enhance in espresso - creating something metallic, bitter and nasty. Not exactly championship material. But what about mixing it with milk? I'm game, so I took a double shot of espresso, mixed it with a 1.5x its' amount of half and half cream, and froze them overnight in silicone molds.

Next was time for the batter: milk, eggs and panko breading with some spices to "kick it up a notch." Heated up some oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, dipped the frozen macchiato in the batter and dropped into the hot oil.

That was a mistake.

The thin batter quickly disintegrated, exposing the now rapidly melting macchiato to the hot oil, resulting in an explosive evaporation of the macchiato mix. Good thing that $25 Rival fryer had a lid. All that was left were bits of burnt batter and milk solids.

So much for the fried macchiato.

Since yesterday, I've been working on a French Toast infusion. Today's batch sample proved that we still have a long way to go as the infusion was mostly lost in the espresso.

On another front, I've been thinking about toffee and bacon and decided to combine the two. Whipped up a batch of toffee (sugar, butter and heat), spread it out on a silpat and sprinkled it with cooked bacon. Sounds divine. In fact, some of the spoon samples that solidified after intermittent stirrings throughout the cooking process were very promising. Unfortunately, I took it a bit too "caramel" which resulted in burnt and bitter notes in the toffee. More disaster.

As the day ends here at The Spro, I leave with my head slung low and the taste of bitter, burnt toffee in my throat.

Seems like competition is faraway indeed.

It starts Friday at the Washington D.C. Convention Center.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chez Pierrot 2

Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee Maison et ses Crouton

Foie Gras de Canard Fait Maison, Servi Avec de Sel, ses Toasts et sa Confiture de Figues

Blanquette de Veau a l'Ancienne et son Riz Basmati

To Do Leticia or Not To Do Leticia?

The Eiffel Tower from the rue Saint Dominique.

It's my last day in Paris and I've got to figure out what to do. But more importantly, what to eat.

Overall, I've been a lazy bastard this trip. Not getting out on the streets until 12noon (or later) and doing nothing of significant importance has been great for my mental health but poor for my inner-tourist. Maybe I should have seen The Louvre? Maybe I should go to the Eiffel Tower?

Bah, next time, I tell myself.

Of course, I said the same exact thing about New York's World Trade Center while gazing at it from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday night, September 9, 2001.

And look what happened there.

I hope I'm not some sort of Herald Of The Apocalypse.

Meanwhile, the city is at my feet and I'm ready to hit the pavement. I'm just not sure of what to do. Head over to Recrutement Cafe and watch France spank Scotland in rugby's Six Nations tournament or go back to SexODrome and spend the sixty euros burning a hole in my pocket with Leticia?

Marron et The Vert Matcha Macaron from Pierre Herme.

Instead of Metro-ing it over to Leticia in Pigalle, I decide to hike it over to St. Germain and spend even more money at Pierre Herme. It's a long, cold walk but it's pleasant and once my body reaches total numbness, I'm doing fine.

Pierre Herme is reputedly a pastry god. If that's true, then his shop is pastry mecca. It's modern, slick and expensive. Even the average stuff here in Paris comes at a price, for true luxury, your testicles are also mortgaged. One macaroon is 3,70 euros. That's five dollars and fifty-cents for a macaroon. Expensive is the operative word at Pierre Herme.

If this guy is the god of pastry, then I must sample a range of his offerings. From the Sensation Satine to Plasirs Sucres to Pates de Fruits Satine, I grab an assortment of Pierres' temptations because I'm, well, tempted.

As I step back outside into the cold, after spending more than I would have with Leticia (and feeling tenser because of the damage to my credit card), I begin to wonder if sex might actually be cheaper than food. While most of my booty is for later consumption, the macaroon is for now. Something to keep my energy level up while I walk across Paris.

Quite simply, this is the most exquisite macaroon I've ever had in my life. It's brilliant. Just the right amount of sweetness and a complexity of flavors from the green tea, the chestnut and the delightfully baked shell. It's amazing. I'm blown away. It's sensual. My God, could it be that this macaroon was more sensual than a session with Leticia?

Perhaps I ought to visit Leticia to compare notes and offer an accurate contrast and comparison...

Cubana Cafe.

But that's not going to happen (not yet at least) and I continue strolling along and happen upon Montparnasse and Cubana Cafe. I had heard about Cubana Cafe and it's cigar room and connections to Paris' Latino community. Immediately upon hearing this, visions of Latina women filled my mind and I decided that i need visit this place sometime this week.

I arrive there around 5pm and it's pretty empty. There's a couple of Latinas, but they're already with others. It's too early to eat and I hate to sit around and smoke a cigar alone in a room so I decide to put the cigar off for another time and to visit Cubana Cafe again on my next visit to Paris.

Creperie Henri

Strolling along the Boulevard du Montparnasse, I come across a long line in front of Creperie Henri. And you know what they say: the locals know the best places. I stand there for awhile just watching the crepe chef in action. She's a seasoned pro. Just watch how she spreads out the batter on the crepe cooker. No wasted motion. No wasted batter. Amazing. Every motion is precious, every action is deliberate and everything happens at just the right time. Watching a true craftsman in action is always a pleasure.

I decide that I too must know this pleasure and fall in line. I don't know any better so I order a Nutella crepe. So very simple. The crepe, once finished, is folded in half and then the Nutella is spread thinly over the half side. The whole thing is folded into a cone shape, placed in paper and served hot. The crepe is creamy and chewy and while the Nutella looked thin when she was spreading it on, it's just right. A delicate balance between the Nutella and the Crepe.

After the crepe, I keep strolling and return to my flat in Invalides.

My Nutella Crepe.

Pierre Herme
72 Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
01 43 54 47 77

Creperie Henri
73 Boulevard du Montparnasse
75014 Paris

Sunday Breakfast


Unlike most of America, most of Paris is closed on Sundays. The French for some reason feel that Sunday is a day of rest and not shopping, eating or making money. As such, it's kinda hard to find a place to eat.

Luckily, the 7th has a few places that are still open. One of them is Le Centenaire at the corner of rue de Saint Dominique and Boulevard Tour de Maubourg. It's an average-looking place and I decide to take a chance.

The server is friendly in a slightly homosexual way. This is not meant to be perjorative, just an observation. He's quite enthusiastic about the plat du jour, the lasagna, that he decides to order that for me. After a brief discussion where I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I am not interested in lasagna, I order the Croque Poilane Madame - a typical croque madame with egg.

Ouef Dur - Hard Boiled Eggs with Mayonnaise.

Since this is France, I decide that a multi-course meal is in order and go with the hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise. It's a nice presentation and I make a mental note to remember how to make this at home.

The breakfast itself is pretty decent. Nothing to rave about, but nothing to puke over either. Just standard bistro/diner style fare, with frozen fries.

Croque Poilane Madame - Ham, cheese and egg sandwich with salad and french fries.

Le Centenaire
27 Tour de Maubourg
75007 Paris
01 47 05 80 57

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Getting Serious at The Crown

Phil and the fried calamari at The Crown.

In spite of my best intentions, I always seem perennially late. Just when I think I've got the timing down, it's off. This time it was way off. The last time I spoke to my cousin, Mimi, I thought I'd meet her in an hour. I was off by two hours.

You know how it is, you just get so into what you're doing that time flies past and you didn't even know it. Luckily, family is family and mine are very patient. Mimi and her husband, Phil, were out shopping in Picadilly Circus when I arrived.

I hadn't seen Mimi since I was last in Manila at the beginning of 2001 when I was able to participate and cover the EDSA2 Revolution. That was seven years ago and since then she closed up her shop and moved to the London area. Outside of the pastries at Flat White and Fernandez & Wells, I hadn't eaten anything, and I had consumed a large quantity of coffee and espresso at Square Mile, so I was pretty hungry and jittery.

Like all good Filipinos, Mimi and Phil suggested we eat Chinese.

Hell no. I didn't travel all this way to London just to eat Chinese food. I wanted real, traditional English food. I wanted Curry Chips.

Of course, we're around Picadilly Circus, which is an absolute madhouse of people and tourists. Prospects of eating well in a tourist area are low indeed. When searching the internet via iPhone turned out to be fruitless, we turned to people on the street. Lots of people with good intentions recommended all sorts of places. One even suggested a vegetarian place. God Bless That Girl.

In the end, hunger and desperation won the day and I chose a place called The Crown. It's a pub on the street level and a restaurant upstairs. The pub area was packed with rugby fans watching the Six Nations Tournament of England vs. Wales (Wales is my choice) and the upstairs restaurant was largely filled by Spaniards in red uniforms with a big, automatic handgun silkscreened onto their jerseys. Futbol or rugby, I couldn't tell. They were Spaniards, sans botas.

Home Baked Aberdeen Angus Cottage Pie with chunky minced lead beef in a rich gravy, cheesy mashed potatoes and fresh, green vegtables.

The room was manned by a woman who was somewhere between grumpy and rude (I really couldn't tell anymore). Maybe she was just British. Whatever the case, I was more concerned with passing out that understanding what her troubles were.

For our dinner, we ordered several dishes. First off was Fried Calamari (decent enough) with a sweet and hot Asian-style dipping sauce (that was pretty good). Phil went with a steak (not bad). Mimi had salmon and boiled potatoes (I didn't try it, but it looked pretty bland), and I went with both the Fish and Chips and a Cottage Pie. Of course I did because I wanted to try a variety.

Fish and Chips.

I hate to say it, but there's really no point in belaboring it any longer. If these dishes were indicative of traditional English food then it's no wonder the American Forefathers wanted to get the hell outta there. The fish actually smelled fishy when I cut into it. The batter was crispy, but so thick. Neither the tartar sauce or vinegar really helped to enliven the fish. Even the chips were bland.

The pie wasn't mush better, just a lot cheese. And a lot of mush in the form of mashed potatoes and the meat and gravy filling. Actually, the brown gravy and meat were pretty tasty - with some salt, but where was the "life"? Where was the "ooomph" in the cuisine?

Perhaps that's why I've like Curry Chips so much. There's actually flavor and spice in the curry. Layer that over my favorite french fries and how can you go wrong? I just wish they had it here on the menu.

Mimi and the salmon.

The rest of our time was spent catching up on family gossip, how things are in England and plans for the future. Like a good family member, the inevitable question came up early on. The question of: "When are you going to find a nice girl and settle down finally?"

A loaded question indeed but one that no amount of diversion would divert. Sooner or later (always sooner than later), she would bring the story around to my needing to settle down (it's really amazing how women in my family are so good at that). We could go on and on about my womanizing (or desire to womanize) and she'd bring it right back.

Finally, I had to tell her the only thing that made any sense. That I thought I had found someone who I wanted to "get serious" with and plan for a future, but that relationship was over now. That as much as I had tried and hoped for the best, that's not the way it's going to be - and that maybe one day I would be ready to try again, but right now, I don't.

That worked for about half an hour, then it was back to scheming and planning on how I should meet a nice girl to settle down and get married...

This must be a conspiracy orchestrated by my mom.

C'est la vie!

The Crown
64 Brewer Street
Soho, London W1F 9TP
020 7432 9711

London Coffee Is Falling Down

Twin La Marzocco Lineas at Flat White.

From the Eurostar to the London Underground to Picadilly Circus, up Shaftesbury Avenue, left on Rupert Street, through the Porn Alley, go for a quickie lap dance, continue on Berwick and Flat White is on the right.

Flat White. American baristas like me wonder: just what the hell is a "Flat White"? Evidently, it's some sort of Aussie thing, or some kind of Kiwi thing, or - well, I'm from America, we just don't know anything outside of McDonald's. Whatever it is, Flat White is just about the best coffee shop in London and quite probably all of the United Kingdom.

Good thing the British aren't too hung up on national pride, otherwise they might have burned the place to the ground for showing them up so roughly. Flat White is run by New Zealanders. They've brought their style of making espresso coffee to London and are doing a seriously good job at it. The shop recently underwent renovations and the place looks sharp.

First off, I'm really surprised they can offer a food menu as well because the space is quite small. Maybe five hundred square feet, at the most. As you walk in, two La Marzocco Lineas line the counter to your right and the friendly Kiwi owner is there to greet you. On this Saturday morning around 10:30am, the place is packed. They probably seat about 25 and all the seats are full. A long banquette lines the left wall and a cash register sits next to the espresso machines and then a partitioned section is where the food is made. The girl next to me is eating scrambled eggs with toast and it's looking very tempting.

Since they're from New Zealand, little things poke out at me calling attention to that fact. The poster on the wall of an upcoming party of Kiwi DJs and the Hei Tiki made from the Maori pounamu(or material supposed to resemble pounamu) stuck to the back side of the Mazzer grinder facing customers. Cool touches from their homeland that someone like me can appreciate.

My Flat White at the eponymous Flat White.

Since this is the Flat White, I might as well order their "Flat White." The girl behind the counter is friendly and eerily reminds me of my high school crush Sarah with her dark eyeliner eyes, white skin and dark brown hair. The physique is different but the overall look is so similar to Sarah's that it's scary. I break into a sweat for a moment as I remind myself that it's been over between us for over twenty years.

The place is not only packed but it's jamming. There's not a line out the door but the customers come in at a steady pace, one after the other. I would love to chat with the owner and ask some questions but it's so busy in here that idle chatter is out of the question. Cheerily, he brings over my Flat White.

I have to say, for a drink called "Flat White," it's still quite brown. And it looks very similar to what we call a cappuccino. A glance at the menu on the wall and the price is the same as a cappuccino. So, what's the difference? I don't know. I can't tell you. Everyone is too busy for idle chatter, remember?

Either way, the latte art on the Flat White looks fantastic. Nice proportions and good definition. When I drink the Flat White the first thing that pops to mind is "bitterness." Not bitterness in the negative sense, but a bitterness that punches through the milk. The bitterness of nice coffee. And while the milk isn't sweet, the flavor blend together for a very tasty Flat White.

It's taken awhile but finally Stephen Morrissey arrives. it's been awhile since I last saw Stephen at the Canadian National Barista Championship in Toronto back in September. He's doing well and getting ready to compete in the Irish Barista Championships at the beginning of March.

After a few moments, James Hoffmann, the 2007 World Barista Champion (of the world), makes his grand entrance. Like a proper world champion, everyone here knows him and a cheer erupts from the bar. The welcome is so enthusiastic I'm half-expecting a pair of guards with spears to come in, stomp on the floor and shout "God Save The King!"

The three of us hang out and chat for a bit and then we're off on a brief and quick London Coffee Tour.

Stephen Morrissey and our loot at Fernandez & Wells.

First stop is just around the corner (literally) at Fernandez & Wells. This place is a bit bigger than Flat White with a completely different approach to interior design. Very modern, white, pine colored wood, steel and a bit on the cold side. Evidently, these are Spanish hipsters bringing their stuff to the London Coffee Scene (are there no Brits involved in this London scene? I begin to wonder). The place looks slick and they've got a wide assortment of baked goods on the front counter, as well as some sandwiches and a big, three-group Synesso Cyncra pulling shots.

I grab a custard and a piccolo while Stephen and James both have a couple almond croissants and drinks. The left wall has a long counter and steel stools to sit on. It's a sharp-looking space but the design is a bit on the cold, industrial side. Not much in the way of getting comfy and sitting for a spell. The piccolo is actually quite good and goes great with the custard's sweet baked filling. We're there only for a few minutes because we still have a bit of ground to cover between here and East London.

Londoners braving the cold as Italians would do at a corner cafe in SoHo.

As we stroll around Soho, they take me to see a few other coffee spots, notably Monmouth Coffee where I sample a Melitta brewed Indonesian that's a bit on the heavy dosing side. Heavy enough that it's coating the mouth and just making everything dead. Note to Monmouth: less coffee in the Melitta, please.

After more than a few samples at the local cheese shop and a viewing of the hip Italian joints, we're back into The Tube heading out to East London (the dodgy part of town) to see the new home of Square Mile Coffee.

Located in warehouse space, under railroad tracks in a part of London where the neighbors laughed at their original sissy padlocks, Square Mile's HQ isn't in the trendiest part of town. But beyond the barbed wire walled fence, the armored steel and cockney gangs is a new and pristine space promising to become the new "It Girl" of the London Coffee Scene.

Since they haven't opened for business, I won't disclose much about the space except that I think exciting things will be developing between those walls.

I hung out with James and Stephen for several hours. They were great hosts. We chatted about all sorts of topics. Industry gossip. Competition theory. Recipe ideas. Who knows who in the restaurant business, and whole lot more. Unfortunately, my time in London is short because there's still so much for us to discuss. Perhaps we'll have more time when James comes to America in a few weeks.

We left James at HQ and I left Stephen as he took the tube to Heathrow for a flight back to Jenny. And I made my way back to Picadilly Circus to meet my cousin.

Flat White
17 Berwick Street
Soho, London W1F 0PT
020 7344 0370

Fernandez & Wells
73 Beak Street
Westminster, London W1F 9RS
020 7287 2814

Monmouth Coffee
27 Monmouth Street
Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9EU
020 7379 3516

Square Mile Coffee Roasters

En Route to London

The morning sun peeking over the French countryside.

After a week of lazily languishing in bed, the alarm and the phone started ringing at 6am for my wake-up call. Nothing hurts more than getting up at six when you went to bed at two. It's killer and I just want to laze around the bed, but I can't. I've got an 8:07am Eurostar train to London to catch today.

After a quick shower, I'm off to the taxi stand. Here in Paris, you just don't flag a taxi down like you do in New York. There are civilized ways of hailing a cab and Parisians aren't like the barbaric Americans (or so they think). It's still dark outside as we pick our way through the Paris streets to the Gare du Nord, or North Rail Station. Since it's a Satuday morning, it's a quick ten minute ride that costs nine euros. I give the guy ten euros and start to get out of the cab. The driver makes a motion to give me my change but I tell him to keep it.

Then it hits me: maybe I don't need to leave a tip because the tip is included?

The Little Black Book of Paris that I've been using states that you can give your taxi driver a ten percent tip. It also says it's okay to leave a little tip at the restaurant. Are these people pulling my leg? So far, I haven't had to leave an additional tip at any restaurant (I was even told by the owner of Chez Pierrot that it was unnecessary) and now this cabbie wants to give me back my change? This ain't New York.

First course on the Eurostar: yogurt, orange juice, croissant, mini baguette, butter and jelly.

Taking the Eurostar is like checking in at the airport. You have to go to the counter, go through security screening and passport control (I thought the UK was part of the EU?) and then you're released into the terminal waiting area compete with shops, coffee bar, magazine store and duty-free shopping. I grab a sausage and cheese combo for Stephen and a book titled: Talk To The Snail by Stephen Clarke for the ride - especially since I left my iPhone earbud headphones on the desk at the flat.

But one thing I didn't leave was my passport - and I was thinking about leaving it behind since I'm just heading to London and aren't they also part of the E.U.? I guess not.

Once the train is ready, everyone makes a mad dash for the coaches. Each is numbered and you're assigned both a coach and a seat number. There are three classes of service: Economy, Leisure Select and Business Premier. I chose Leisure Select since the Business Premier seat was $450 each way. To board, you walk along the train until you've come upon your coach number and a conductor checks your ticket to make sure you are where you belong (God knows we don't want those tourist riff-raff in Economy invading our foot massages).

The Main Course: cheese omelette, mushrooms, bacon and tomato.

The seats are wide and spacious - three across the width of the coach. Half of the seats face in one direction, half in the other, which means some of you are riding backwards (and I hate riding backwards) Half of all the seats are also in a face-to-face configuration so you can make gaga eyes at the cute curl sitting across from you, as well as play footsie under the table.

I get seated and, of course, I'm facing backwards. Our coach is pretty empty so I quickly switch to the four person face-to-face going in the right direction and I've got it all to myself.

The train gets underway and it's just like any other train. We start gliding out of the city and once we clear the city limits, the train escalates in speed to 186 miles per hour. Not as fast as the Shinkansen in Japan, but certainly faster than the Acela on Amtrak. The train is smooth and quiet at that speed and the French countryside speeds by while I get comfortable and wait for the meal service.

Today's meal is a cheese omelette, bacon and mushrooms with tomato. The food is standard airplane food. Nothing to get excited about. Actually, the most exciting part of the meal is the yogurt.

Like I said, I didn't sleep much and I'm pretty exhausted. I want to sleep, but I can't get comfortable. I squirm and I move, but the velour fabric on the seat keeps catching onto my jeans, twisting and contorting them into an uncomfortable twist.

I'm hating life at 186 mph.

Riding on the train is odd. As we blow through an underpass or careen through a short tunnel, the speed of the train causes such turbulence in the air that it creates pressure zones that fill the ear cavities. Every once in a while, I have to equalize my eardrums.

Then there's the Chunnel Tunnel. Thirty-five miles of water flow above us in one of man's greatest engineering achievements. If it somehow collapses, we're dead. If the train decides to derail at this speed, we're dead too. Good thing it's dark in the tunnel. We never have to know it's coming.

But the tunnel only lasts twenty minutes and then we're in the United Kingdom. Those blokes are driving on the wrong side of the road, but they couldn't care less. I vision for a moment forgetting this nifty fact and getting creamed by a lorry as I try to cross the road at Piccadilly Circus. Hopefully, that won't be the case.

After two and a half hours, we arrive in London at St. Pancras International Rail Station and onward to a London adventure.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rêver du Entrecote Mis le Feu par Bois

At the other end of the bar with Bourdain at Robert et Louise.

Sometimes, I can't help it. In Paris, there are thousands of places to eat that it seems absurd to eat at any place twice. Why do it? There's more adventure to be had.

But that fireplace and the wood-fired beef at Robert et Louise was getting to me. I couldn't get the vision and aroma out of my mind. I had chosen poorly and now I must pay a return visit. Which, to be honest, isn't really a hardship. I'm a convert.

This time, I got there early. As close to 7pm as I could manage and the place was empty save for the six top by the fireplace. The girls offered me a seat at the bar and said it was their "best seat in the house." Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't, but it's tucked into the corner of the bar with a side table filled with reading materials, a place to hang my jacket and in a spot where I'm out of the way from people entering/exiting and just trying to squeeze past the bar. I guess it is the best seat in the house.

Gambas ready for consumption.

The plan was simple: eat more. And eat only what's cooked on the fire. First course: Gambas, Tiger Praws. Four of them sauteed in butter and served with sauteed potatoes that were fire-seared to a crisp and baguette. These were whole, large prawns and I tore into them. Not knowing the local custom, I used the knife and fork to de-shell the prawns, but later they brought a plate and wet napkin so I suspect that hands would have been perfectly fine.

The prawns were good. A little overcooked because the shell was sticking slightly to the meat, but the flavor was tremendous - especially when you split the head and sucked out all the good stuff. Heavently.

Entrecotecooked medium.

Not too long after, the entrecote of beef came out. The cuts of beef here are thinner than in the Unites States. For the same price, my ribeye would have been twice as thick. Doesn't mean this was bad though. This steak was perfectly cooked au point and the uneven angled thickness of the steak meant that this was hand cut. Nice to see real butchering still being done today.

Not only was the steak perfectly cooked but it was perfectly seasoned as well. Just enough salt to pop the flavor. Combine that with the smokiness of the wood fire and it's just divine. Well worth the effort of going back.

I'm already looking forward to another meal at Robert et Louise.


Chocolate Croissants from Coquelicot and a cappuccino at Soluna.

Never tell me that your cafe is my "home," I might just take you up on it and move it.

Or at least it seems that way since I've been at Soluna Cafe every day this week. Bernard, the owner, has been very gracious hosting me, along with Victor and Yadh - the baristas.

It's interesting to see a coffee shop in operation over the course of several days. I've been hanging out around the same time every day (3pm) and each day, the scene is different. There's no classes going on this afternoon, but I am greeted by Yadh's friend Amele.

Originally from Tunisia, Amele is quite a vision. She's petit, Arabian and has those light-colored eyes that draw you in: mesmerizing. She's cheerful, funny and a singer trying to make it in the big city. Her CD is playing over the stereo and it's Arabian folksy. Just a guitar and her voice. I listen and it's pleasant - kind of like a simpler version of Frente! And when I say "simple," I mean less orchestration and instrumentation. The voice is solid and we hang out chatting about life and arts for quite awhile.

Euphoric Visions Through Glass.

Victor and Yadh are my kind of baristas. They're friendly, enthusiastic and interested in learning more as well as growing the community. They want to know how they can put together a barista party during the French Nationals and how they can develop what we call a barista "jam" - an event where baristas come together to talk shop and hone their craft. Would I be interested in instructing? Of course. Could I introduce them to other great baristas, like James Hoffmann? I will try.

So if you're interested in a Paris Jam, let me know and I'll put you in touch with these guys. They're our kind of people.

It's getting late (about 5pm) and Amele decides that she's been hanging out too long and needs to practice her guitar. I think about offering to help, but perhaps that's premature. There's always time in the future.

As she leaves, I realize that I haven't had anything to eat since Montmartre and I'm feeling kind of famished. Off I go across the bridge to Ile de Saint Louis for an afternoon snack.

Crepe Buerre au Sucre et The Melange Anglais.

Once on the island, I find my way to Au Lys d'Argent, which I think means: The Flower of Money? I certainly hope the crepes here aren't that expensive. Au Lys is another old place whose offerings look pretty good on the other tables. I'd love to go for the fancy crepes filled with Nutella or chantilly or all sorts of other goodies, but this is supposed to be a "snack" to hold me over until dinner. I stick with the simple crepe with butter and sugar with a pot of English Blend tea.

The crepe is really nice. Light, chewy and soft, it's got a bit of butter and a smidge of sugar. Very light in sweetness, I think it's a great accompaniment to the tea. I don't spend a lot of time here but it seems to be a husband and wife team who are very welcoming and used to the ignorant traveler.

The Chocolate Bar at Cacao et Chocolat.

Wandering along the rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, one notices so many wonderful little shops. Wine caves, cheeses, fruits, epiceries, hotels, restaurants - I suspect it would take at least three days to eat your way down this street. I stop into L'Epicerie to gawk at the spices, confitures and canned goods. Large jars or cans of confit de canard and cassoulet tempt the palate and scare the wallet (a good sized jar of confit is over sixty dollars), and the assortment of jams (confitures) is bewildering. If only I was a connoisseur.

The selection of glaces et sorbets at Berthillon.

Next stop on the food tour is Berthillon. Reputed to be the best ice cream (glaces) and sorbets in Paris and, ostensibly, du monde. As you're strolling along, it's very easy to be seduced by one of the bistros selling ice cream on Ile Saint Louis - they have Berthillon's name emblazoned on the windows and awnings, just like bars have beer names on their walls in the United States.

But to have the truly "authentic" Berthillon experience, one must go directly to the source: to the Berthillion ice cream parlor. There are two sides to the establishment. The left side is a sit down eatery where they offer table service. It's nicely appointed and fancy enough, but you pay more to sit and eat and I just wanted to pop in and sample their wares. I didn't need to have a full-blown sundae with lots of chantilly.

The right side is the parlor side. Think of an upscale Baskin and Robbins. Wood panels. Stainless work surfaces. Quite nice really and the selection is large.

Chocolate on top of Coconut in a waffle cone.

After a few moments pondering the possibilities, I decide to go with something basic and simple: chocolate and vanilla. Basic flavors that, I believe, demonstrate the true ability of the ice cream maker. Then I remembered how much I liked the coconut ice cream at Les Halles on Park Avenue in New York City and decide to go with the Noix de Coco instead of vanilla.

The ice cream is good. Rich and decadent, the chocolate is dark and moody - more cacao than milk. The coconut is smooth, creamy and the taste of freshly grated coconut. But is this the best ice cream in the world? I don't know. They're certainly good. Perhaps very good. Excellent even. But the best? Maybe in Paris, but I can't say this is the best in the world and superior to others I've tried. But it is quite good.

Another thing that I like is that they give you the option of cup, double-wide cake cone or waffle cone. Sure, those options really aren't anything to write home about - everybody does it. However, unlike other ice cream parlors, Berthillon does not charge extra for the waffle cone.

Parisians know how to eat.

A fond au revoire! to our new friends at Soluna Cafes.

I swing back into Soluna Cafes for a round of chats with some new friends from Chile and then it's off into the wilderness once again. But before I leave, I must take home with me a kilo of the Kenya Getwhimbini coffee and two jars of their huile de cafe - oil made from green coffee beans, something to play with when I get home.

Au Lys D'Argent
90, rue Saint Louis en l'Ile
4th Arrondissement, Paris
01 46 33 65 13

31, rue Saint Louis en l'Ile
4th Arrondissement, Paris
01 43 54 31 61

Oh La La!

There are reasons why we love Paris. Even in the rain.

Le Sex

Gentle Readers!
Please Note: The following post may contain graphic language of a patently offensive and sensitive nature. Please be advised that if you have an aversion to a frank discussion about sex then you should move along to the other posts. Because this post is all about sex, sex, sex and then even more sex piled on top of the other sex talk.

In other words, if you are easily offended, you will be egregiously offended by reading this.

Metro Pigalle - your entry into Paris' smutty side.

In a humanitarian effort to spare you, Gentle Readers, from subjecting yourselves to the decrepitude and seediness of the underworld, I have taken time out of my day to boldly venture where men of respectability fear to tread. I have emerged from the Paris Metro into Pigalle.

Okay, it's really not that bad. The once-bawdy Moulin Rouge is now a not-so-titillating tourist attraction and Paris has been on a mission to clean up the quartier from its' sexy past.

But feat not intrepid reader, all is not lost in this land of debauchery.

As with any red light district, there's lots of seedy fucks waiting to take advantage of the ignorant and weary. Never, and I mean: NEVER EVER, go into any of these clubs (not that you would) and allow yourself to "buy her a drink." Invariably, she'll get a bottle of cheap champagne that they're going to charge you 300 euros. When you protest, they'll puff up their chests and buff up their muscles to intimidate you and you'll spend who knows how long trying to "negotiate" your way out of it.

Better to just keep your hands in your pocket and let the experts guide you in the land of sin.

And how do I know this? Not from first-hand experience, thankfully. Let's just say that I haven't spent my time travelling across the world visiting the Disney themeparks.

Finally, a place that speaks my kind of language.

I didn't have much time to properly tour all the sex joints of Pigalle, so I chose the biggest one of them all: SEXODROME, on the boulevard de Clichy immediately outside of the Pigalle Metro entrance.

As you can see above, SEXODROME means business. A multi-story haven for all kinds of kinks and perversions - stuff you would never tell mommy about. Want to be dressed as a baby and spanked? Not a problem. Ready to address someone as "Mistress"? They will handle that too. Or perhaps you just want straight sex? Me oui!

The street level has videos for sale and a peep show. Other levels house more video booths, an erotic library, a coffee bar, jacuzzi rooms, sauna rooms, lap dances, live sex shows and God knows what else. If it's got something to do with sex, this place can handle it.

It just occured to me that this district has the best of both world. Here, you can do unnatural things with unnameable objects, and then when you're finished, just trek up the hill to Sacre Coeur for confession. The Catholics have really succeeded in making sin a commodity. That will be seventy-four Hail Marys, two hundred thirty-five Our Fathers, and ten quid for the till. In Excelsius Dominae. Be good my son.

Anyway, I'm taking a few minutes to browse through the DVD selection when I'm approached by one of the two girls who were at the front counter welcoming characters like me. She's up-front and no-holds barred. She wants to know if I want to have sex with her - if only it were this easy in the "real world."

I know this game and I turn her down. You're not my type, I tell her. She persists, telling me that we can have "Sex Massage."

One thing to keep in mind in situations like this: she's a professional. It's her game to sell sex and make a lot of money doing it. No man can really be her equal because she's doing this day in and day out. It's how she makes a living, and by looking at her, she must live very well.

To be very frank, this girl is unbelieveable. She's an incredible sight. 20, maybe 23 at the most. Long, curly dark brown hair and an angelic face with a shapely nose and dew brown eyes. Her body is solid. A solid one or two dress size - at the most. It's shapely and hard and the legs are spectacular. Of all the girls I've seen around the world in "adult entertainment venues," this girl is one of the best. I can't imagine how she could end up here in Pigalle at SexODrome.

As with "real women," you can never let on to how amazingly hot you think she is, that would tip the balance too far in her favor. If you're going to be the customer, you've got to be discriminating and scrutinizing. There's an imperfection somewhere and it's up to you to zero in on it.

I tell her I'm not interested and she steps away for a bit. I know she'll be back in a few minutes. It's the early afternoon and it's pretty dead around here. The sooner she gets to work, the more money she'll take home at the end of her shift.

After a few minutes, she works her way back to entice me again. "Don't you want to be with me?" Well, yes that would be nice, I think to myself, but just what is she offering?

"Sex Massage" is simply that. Me naked on a table or bed with her naked massaging my body and she "releases" me - that's club-speak for "handjob." It's one hour of erotic massage for 60 euros. Ding, ding - I'll take it!

"No way, I'm not interested in that," I counter. Now she gets serious. "Then you can fuck me." Woah, that was more forward than I was expecting. No code words, no double-talk, just "you can fuck me." Evidently, there's no rules against this kind of thing in Paris. Thank God.

Now she gets into the nitty-gritty. We can "fuck" and do anything we like - anal, oral, bondage, S&M, I fuck her, she fucks me, whatever kink kicks my fancy, she'll oblige me. No time limit. All inclusive for 300 euros.

Like I said, this girl (her name is Leticia) is amazing. One of the most incredible girls I've seen anywhere. If you saw her on the street, you'd be gaga over her. If you saw her dancing in a nightclub, you'd be scared to talk to her. She's that unbelieveably fine and she's ready to fuck right now.

Good Lord. Thank Jesus that I didn't have 300 euros in my pocket.

Now, I'm the kind of guy who likes to think he's seen a lot of things in his life. I've traveled. I've played the game. I know the dance. But this offer certainly tests my resolve and my morality. 60 euros for a taste (I got 120 euros in my pocket) or 300 euros for everything.

Someone out there hates me.

I test the waters of morality: I'm newly single once again. I don't have any commitments that I would break. There's nothing to hold me back. Like Eve and Cain, I'm tempted by the fruits of desire. I'm just a man. I'm not Jesus Christ for crying out loud. I'm made in God's Image, not God Himself.

But in the end, this is all "just for research." It's not my thing to go out and buy girls around the world. As incredible as Leticia is, I feign disinterest and lame out by telling her "that I'll think about it."

I will spend the rest of the day telling myself that this was the right choice - convincing myself that this was the right choice.

But at least I'll have sixty euros to spend on dinner tonight...

23 Boulevard de Clichy
75009 Paris
01 42 82 11 90

Je Suis Amelie

The Metropolitain at Abbesses, one of two remaining with the original iron shelter.

I finally managed to get out of my flat earlier than usual today - around 11:15am. No matter how honest my intention, I just can't seem to wake up and get rolling early. There's still a whole city I haven't seen. Tourist spot yet unrevealed and all I can do is languish around the bed all morning. Perhaps there's a good reason for such languishing...

At the behest of blog reader "true," I'm on my way to Montmartre this morning to check out Coquelicot Boulangerie and Bistro for my petit dejeuner. Getting there on the Metro is relatively easy, just one transfer and many stations. The transit is uneventful and we arrive at the Abbesses station.

Abbesses is know for it's wrought iron and glass canopy - one of only two surviving originally designed by Hector Guinard (the other is on the far side of town at Porte Dauphine), but what no one tells really tells you is that since Montmartre is on the top of a hill, the actual train platform is farther underground than any station in the city. And after you get used to merely walking up a flight (or two) of steps to get to the street, you really don't think much about taking the stairs - even though you noticed those people waiting for the elevator.

The stairs are hell. A sprial staircase that rises endlessly, unrelentingly driving you forward and by the time you realize that this is ridiculous, you're too far gone to go back down. If Moscow's subway is 250 meters underground, Abbesses has got to be at least 100 meters. Take the elevator, it's to the right of the platform marked "interduit." Save yourself.

Morning breakfast: bowl of hot chocolate, half a baguette, grape confiture, farm butter and a soft boiled egg.

Coquelicot is just a block west of Abbesses and was extremely easy to find. The staff was friendly (and cute) and the food came out quick. I went with the prix fixe menu of: Le Bol de Chocolat Maison, La Tranche d'Une Demi Baguette, Buerre Fermer et Confiture Maison for 4,45 euros. Not a bad way to start the day.

A bowl of hot chocolate seems like a lot, but it's just right for the meal. Dip the baguette in the chocolate or slather with butter and/or jelly and you're good to go. It may seem weird to dip baguette in chocolate but they go very well together - kinda reminds me of Mexican Churros and chocolate.

I also ordered Le Oeuf Coque et Ses Mouilletes, or soft boiled egg with bread sticks for 2,50 euros. The egg was the typical French style, which I always find kinda hard to open without getting some cracked shell in my egg. Add some salt and all is well. Dip the bread as desired and just chew through the crunch of the shell bits.

The steps to rue Trois Freres.

After my breakfast, I decided to wander a bit around Montmartre: Home of Amelie Poulain, from the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Polain or Amelie (as it was released in America). I haven't seen the movie in awhile, so not much of the village looked familiar to me, so I decided that perhaps I should do the one really touristy thing of my trip: visit the Sacre Coeur.

As I've said, Montmartre is on a hill. Sacre Coeur is the highest point with reputedly commanding views of the entire city. If one must command his people from on high, then this is the place to do it. Darn Catholics. They get all the good real estate.

We're about halfway up the hill and the climb is a long one involving many, many stairs. It's cold. And raining. Good thing I've got my foul-weather gear.

I'm no wimp. I've made the summit of the highest peak in southeastern Maine: Mount Bradbury at 500 feet - in frozen and icy conditions. I've made the summit of Mount Olomana on O'ahu (1,200 feet) and I've made the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai'i (elevation 13,476 ft), but these stairs are kicking my butt.

Hiking to Sacre Coeur from the West Face is for the young and thin, not the old and plumpy.

The View from Sacre Coeur.

As I reach the top of the hill, expecting to see visions of glowing virgins (or at least an apparition of Jesus Christ), I see something that horrifies me to my core: an electic tram ferrying passengers from the street below to the Sacre Coeur.

All of this cursing and sweating and being rained upon and I could have easily rode the tram for a few pence! Bloody hell.

That really sucks.

But I reassure myself that I've made it "The Man's Way" through blood, sweat and tears, and I promise to make an offering to honor this achievement.

These flats are next to Sacre Coeur. The guy in the top unit has to be the most stoked guy in Paris.

In spite of the clouds and rain, the view is quite spectacular. All of Paris is laid out at my feet. I feel as Napoleon must have felt: Emperor - ready to crush his loyal subjects into Froggy Mush at the whim of my twenty-three mistresses. Behaviour unbecoming a good Catholic? Nothing but a few thousand Francs to deliver absolution.

And that's just by Tuesday. On Wednesday, we start over again.

No photos allowed inside the Sacre Coeur, but it's quite gorgeous inside. If there's one thing to be admired about the Catholic Church, it's they know how to build them. Ornate, refined - the best artisans of the day. No expense spared. These are buildings fit for God.

Looking down on the plaza below.

I make a little prayer offering and I'm back on the front porch admiring the view. It's still raining and it's time to go. For a moment, I think about taking the tram, but that would be silly. I've made it to the top, time to walk down and savor the moment.

The Sacre Coeur.

The walk down through the garden is simple, quick and easy. Tourist take photographs. Lovers kiss in the falling rain. It's the Paris of the movies and Amelie is returning those photos.

Me and the Carousel.

As I make my way down rue de Steinkerque I'm fascinated by the fabric shops. Seems that whatever fabric you need, you can find it here. Between them are the kitschy tourist souvenir stores you find in all tourist zones in major cities across the world. Statuettes of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur can be had for six euros. I want to get a big one for The Spro, but at 24 euros, that's too much.

Anvers Metro

Later, I'll find a small one on the boulevard de Clichy for three euros. It's not a big tower, but it will be good enough.

The free toilet on the Boulevard de Clichy.

Boulangerie Coquelicot
24 rue des Abbesses
Paris 18
01 46 06 18 77