Tuesday, July 01, 2008

One Day In Paris

Eating Bobi on the train from Charles deGaulle.

While passing through passport control in Frankfurt, the German Polizei officer joked: "one night in Paris?" Don't know if his computer relayed to him my itinerary and I don't know if he was referencing the 2002 Depeche Mode video or the infamous Paris Hilton video (and my cameo appearance), but I kinda played along with it hoping that he wouldn't flag me.

The problem with this visit to Paris was that it was too short. One day is simply not enough. Especially when that day is a Monday - a day when most businesses are typically closed.

I got up rather early and hit the streets by 9am. Had a chocolatine croissant in my hand from what is rapidly becoming my favorite croissant baker: Colas Patrick, as I sauntered through the opening market on Rue Cler to the post office.

The French post office is a curious place. Part post office, part bank - I really don't understand what goes on in there, but there's always people waiting for something. Maybe they're waiting for their money. Luckily, the line for a stamp was short and I got out of there quickly.

I forgot to hit the money exchange at the airport and was forced to head over to Tuileries to get me some Euros. While there, I checked out a bookstore and bought a copy of Michel Bras' new book, a delightful tome chronicling his culinary genius. From there, it was a quick trip through the Tuileries Garden to spy on some fine French babes and then back to the Metro for the long ride to lunch.

Lunch was out by the Palais d'Congress and while I'll save those details for another post, I'll just say that a bottle of wine on a light stomach is not the way to keep a sober day. But touring Paris in an inebriated state is certainly worth trying at least once. At least I know how happy those Spaniards were the night before.

My dream spot for a cafe on Ile de St. Louis

Next stop, the famous patissier Pierre Herme for an assortment of macarons to take home for my parents and a couple of the chaps at Woodberry Kitchen. As always, it's a wonderful place to spent a ridiculous amount of money on some very fine pastries. Though a new development was rather irritating: they've stopped printing their seasonal brochure of collectible pastries and only offer the catalog online through their website. That's just cheap and lame. But at least I have a copy of the last one printed from my visit this past February.

After a pitstop back at the hotel to drop off the book and pastries, it's back on the metro to the Marais to visit my friends at Soluna Cafes on the Rue de l'Hotel de Ville. Of course, it being a Monday and they're closed, so no good coffee on this Parisian holiday - at all.

Disappointed, I make my way across the Seine to the Ile de Saint Louis for a bit of coconut Berthillon ice cream from one of the local parlors (since the actual Berthillon shop is closed too), and to spy on the space I've picked out for my Paris outpost of The Spro at the corner of Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile and Pont Marie. Happily, no one has yet leased the space out from under me.

From there it's back to the Marais and since I've run out of things to do (I called the olive oil shop and they too were closed), I decide to play Pathetic Food Tourist by visiting the site of the former Piccolo Teatro - the failed vegetarian restaurant featured in Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares television show. It's a cheesy thing to do but I'm giddy as a schoolgirl to be there.

L'as du Falafel!!!

Luckily, Piccolo Teatro is a half block from L'as du Falafel in the city's Jewish section. I didn't know this. I just happened to wander in the right direction and found L'as du Falafel by accident. The corner that it's located is one of those interesting places in many cities where that areas institutions are surrounded by imitators. Surrounding L'as du Falafel are several other falafel/schwarma shops, but only L'as du had the line. I dutifully took my spot for the sake of food science.

The falafel was good. It was tasty. It was eaten with a fork. Maybe I'm just not well-versed in falafel because while it was delicious, I couldn't tell what made this falafel better than the rest. The fried texture was light and delicate, unlike the hard and crunchy texture favored at home. But what made this falafel the favored choice over all others in Paris? Perhaps another science field trip to Paris is on order...

An evening cigar respite on the solarium.

Days seem to last longer in Europe than in America, and I'm not complaining. I got back to the hotel and decided to set up an early evening camp on the rooftop solarium with two cokes, a bucket of ice, Croatian Paprika-flavored Pringles and Paul Garmirian cigar in tow. The last time I sat in the solarium was in February freezing my butt off trying to make the most of it. This time, I was in shorts, t-shirt and slippers. Lovely. Took my refuge at a table, lit up my cigar, poured myself a stiff Coke and relaxed to a nice book. Beautiful. All men should have a couple hours of quiet reflection to cap their day.

Sitting there with a fine cigar in one hand and an ice cold Coke in the other leaves one to reflect upon the days' (and weeks') achievements: the successful excursion to Pierre Herme, the attractive French-Algerian girl from the night before, the stunning Croatian barista from last week, and most importantly, a time to plan for the evenings' dinner.

Even though it was a Monday night, plenty of options exist in the City of Lights for the daring and intrepid traveler. But tonight that would not be. Even with two more Metro tickets in my wallet, I was too darn tired to venture away from my neighborhood in the 7th. I decided that I would enjoy another meal at my local restaurant: Chez Pierrot.

Baguette Mecca - Stephane Secco.

The next morning, I trucked over to Stephane Secco to pickup some baguettes and caneles for the trip home. In fact, I had shifted my flights and paid an extra $200 to fly out of Paris later so that I would have enough time just to pick up these baguettes. They're that good. In fact, they're the best I've ever had. I also grabbed a croissant for good measure.

The honest truth is that this trip to Paris was predicated on two places: Robert et Louise and Stephane Secco. If we just take into consideration the price differential for the later flight, those four bagels worked out to costing fifty bucks each. If we consider that they're half the reason I went to Paris to begin with, well, I'm too scared to try to figure out how much each of those baguettes cost. Perhaps I should have bought six...

Bouffant Foam in the 7th.

In what's fast becoming my routine in the 7th, I made a stop into Colas Patrick for my morning chocolatine. Delicious as usual. Light, delicate, refined and way better than Stephane Secco's chocolate croissant. But such a good chocolatine deserves a coffee. Unfortunately, there's really no good coffee in most of Paris but I did know of a place down the street that makes cappuccinos with incredibly gravity-defying foam. Plus, I thought it would make great footage for a future episode of Barista del Mundo.

I've been working with coffee for five years and I still can't make foam like these guys. It's just amazing - in a gross kind of way. I would never serve a cappuccino like this, but strangely, I would like to know how to achieve this foam. Unfortunately, my camera battery died so there's no footage for the show but the guy steams and steams and steams, generating bigger and bigger foam - and then he puts the whole thing in the refrigerator and tells me it will be a few minutes. Good Lord, is that the secret? Refrigerate the foam?

When he comes back, he pulls a very long and watery shot and spoons the foam on top. I'm horrified. Actually, I'm pissed because I don't have video of this. I taste it and surprisingly, it's not really offensive. It's mild and with sugar it's actually consumable. I wouldn't go out of my way for this coffee but I'll drink it for awhile.

As I sit, I realize the magic of this place. It's not the coffee. It's the camaraderie. I sit there for about fifteen minutes watching the regulars coming in to say hello, drink a coffee and interact with each other before heading off to work. It's a nice atmosphere and one that tempers my expectations of the coffee. This is what it's about: community and experience. I'm happy to be there.

WMD - Weapons of Mass Degustation: baguettes from Stephane Secco and macarons from Pierre Herme.

Before I know it, I'm off on the Air France Bus to Charles deGaulle and my flight to Frankfurt where I'll end up stuck overnight in the arms of young women.

Colas Patrick
178 Rue Grenelle
Paris 75007
01 45 51 06 35

Pierre Herme
72 Rue Bonaparte
Paris 75006
01 43 25 28 17

Galignani Books
224 Rue de Rivoli
Paris 75001
01 42 60 76 07

Soluna Cafes
52, rue de l'Hotel de Ville
75004 Paris
33(1) 53 01 83 84

Piccolo Teatro
9 Rue de Ecouffes
Paris 75004
01 41 72 17 79

Stephane Secco
20 rue Jean Nicot
75007 Paris
01 43 17 35 20


rado888 said...

You are the best, J.

m said...

this falafel is the reason i missed Lance Armstrong passing through before taking the 02 Tour de France. it was worth it.

smt said...

Your description of the foam being made is f'n hysterical!!!