Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oui oui Paris!

Breakfast at Le Pan Quotidien

Not long ago the Expat Kochen crew boarded an early flight (super deals found at Air France before the eruption) for a weekend in belle Paris. It was a perfect trip, really; the sun shone bright every day and spring's early blooms filled the entire city with color. Until the week before our departure we had only two items on our Parisian to-do list: attend Jim Haynes' weekly Sunday dinner at his atelier in Paris and explore all things food in the 'City of Lights'. Jim's house for dinner was simple—have friendly disposition, will enjoy. As for said exploring we didn't have a solid plan—visit E. Dehlerin, eat croissant, indulge in foie gras and drink French wine. It all sounded enticing but we were hoping to make this trip about more than just indulgence.

Then, a few days before departure, I had the crazy idea to write to fellow food blogger and cookbook author, David Lebovitz, who resides in Paris. He's definitely in the know with all things food everything in that city, I'm sure, so I thought he and his Parisian recommendations would be a sure bet. Well, the idea turned into just that, an idea. Things got busy and I kept remembering something I once read in David's FAQ section. It went something like this:

Q: I’m coming to Paris and I'm too lazy to search your blog for tips.
   Can’t I just ask you?
A: No

Totally understandable.

So, I figured before I write an email to which I actually hoped to receive a response, I'd better do some research on my own. Well, the Parisian food gods were smiling down on us that week because a few days before our trip Mr. Lebovitz himself wrote a blog entry sharing all the foodie secrets of Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles, a quaint street (Les Halles is the neighborhood) in Paris filled with some of the city's best bakeries, chocolatiers and kitchenware stores. After reading his post the deal was sealed: We'd spend an entire day exploring Les Halles!

Uniquely flavored olive oils, spreads and lotions at Le Oliviers

We began the day walking to Les Halles from our little hotel in the Latin Quarter, print-out of David Lebovitz's recommendations in hand. First stop was at Le Pan Quotidien on Rue Montorgueil—I've been a huge fan of the Belgian chain for a few years now and was thrilled to try out the Parisian version. Turns out there isn't really a difference! We each enjoyed a petit déjeuner—croissant, panier de pain, jus de fruit & boisson chaude (or, small breakfast: croissant, basket of assorted breads, fresh fruit juice & a coffee). Perfect sustenence for a day of shopping!

Fragrant spices and delicious-looking canned goods

After breakfast we decided to put the notes away and leisurely peruse Rue Montorgueil. We tasted olive oil at a beautiful place called Oliviers & Co, which is a chain, but a fun store to visit nonetheless. The gentleman showing us around the store was quite friendly and the oils he shared were nice, especially the variety from Provence!

Fragrant spices and delicious-looking canned goods

Next we moved on to what seemed to be a Middle Eastern store, full of beautiful dried fruits and spices. The address is 21 Rue Montorgueil and when I Google this, a restaurant comes up—this place is definitely not a restaurant, but well worth a visit for some beautiful eye candy, if nothing else. We tried the dried and candied kumquats, strawberries, kiwi and ginger. Yum! And the preserved lemons were gorgeous...perhaps an idea for a future CCA project?

Fragrant spices and delicious-looking canned goods

We spent the later part of the morning popping in and out of bakeries and small stores. We were sure to make a stop at Maison Collet for a traditional Frech baguette. We also picked up some absolutely amazing fruit jellies there, so full of flavor one may have a hard time believing they are actually candy and not the fruit they are imitating. Chocolates, cheeses and breads abound in this area—my advice is to not explore too much on an empty stomach or you might find yourself gorging around every corner.

Beautiful, delicious Parisian foods

That afternoon we wandered over to the kitchenware section of Les Halles. The visit to E. Dehillerin was a must—Rylla has sung the store's praises here on Expat Kochen before but I myself had never been. We had a wonderful time browsing the aisles, ogling the Staub pans and copper pot lined shelves, and ultimately leaving with a few little must-haves.

E. Dehillerin storefront

E. Dehillerin

If you look closely below you'll see Julia Child's photo which can be appreciated while standing in line at the register. Ahhh, Julia. My expat cooking hero!

E. Dehillerin

After this we visited Mora to pick up a few key pieces including a fancy chocolate mold and a Silpat® or two. For those of you who haven't worked with a Silpat® and are living in Europe, especially Basel—let's you and us take a trip over the border; we'll introduce you; you'll get along swimmingly; your life in the sSk will be forever changed. :)

The famous Laduree confectionary house

The rest of our trip consisted of wine tasting here, pastry testing there and soaking up the vibrancy of the city everywhere. One specific stop for an afternoon snack took us to Laduree, quite possibly Paris' most famous macaron (macaroon in English) shop. How could we go wrong (or pass them up) with flavors such as Rose Petal, Dulce de Leche and Lavender. Now, the Salted Caramel—I was really excited about this one but I have to tell you that it did nothing for me. Shocking and disappointing but thankfully the Dark Chocolate macaron swooped in for a swift recovery.

Escargot & wine dinner

The evening spent at Jim Haynes' home was wonderful. Tight quarters, friendly conversation and new friends from, quite literally, around the world made for a night of laughter and story swapping. We had so much fun we've vowed to return, only next time for a little less mingling and a lot more cooking. Stay tuned!

Overall, our weekend in Paris was thrilling. The city, chic yet timeless; the cuisine, delectable; the energy, inspiring.

Oui oui, Paris!

If you'd like to learn more about Jim Haynes's Sunday evening dinners at his home in Paris you can listen to his interview, Inviting the World to Dinner, here on NPR .


David said...

Glad you liked the street as much as I do!

Robyn said...

Best post yet...I feel like I'm there, and I love it!

Juansi said...

Erin, primera visita a tu blog y... me parece increiblemente bueno!!!! Este post me ha encantado!!!!

Madame Fromage said...

Gorgeous photos. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post over toast and coffee.

Cathy said...

What a great post! You brought back some wonderful memories of my trip to Paris last April. I bought a small copper saucepan in Dehillerin's and use it every day. What a trip!