Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oldest Covered Market and the La Boutique Maille

There were specific food destinations that I had mapped out prior to our trip: namely the Maille store, Fauchon and La Grande Epicerie. These are their stories :)

The day started with an excursion to the oldest covered market in Paris - Marche des Enfants Rouges, dating back to 1612 (1612!!!!!). It was named for an orphange nearby the original market where the children wore red uniforms. Similar to our Saskatoon Farmer's Market, the weekdays are typically slower than the more bustling weekend markets, and fewer vendors - we were there on a Thursday. The entrance to the market (39 Rue de Bretagne, 3eme) was inconspicuous, we walked right by it the first time - just a narrow space between two buildings. You are greeted with fresh produce stands, all of excellent quality. There were several ethnic food vendors (mainly Middle Eastern), who were likely tenants, as they had commercial kitchen setups in their space. Ready-to-eat foods were available for purchase, in addition to packaged food and grocery items. It was early in the day and nowhere near lunch, so we decided to keep moving, but not without buying a perfectly-ripened mango.

Destination two, the Maille store (6 Place de Madeleine, 8eme), founded by Antoine Maille in 1747. The notably cute storefront was inviting, with interesting window displays. Upon entering the store, it was a feast for the eyes. The walls were completely lined with perfectly-arranged jars and bottles. Doing a preliminary scan, there were MANY more varieties than we will ever see on this continent.

I bought a wooden crate that contained 9 small jars (108g); I chose the crate because it would almost guarantee a safe journey home without having to pack each jar individually. The varieties in the crate were: bleu cheese, hazelnut and nutmeg, coconut with Columbian spices, Chablis with Morels, Pesto with Rocket, Red Berry, Cognac, Sundried Tomatoes with Espelette Pepper (a French pepper variety) and Parmesan Basil. Crazy!!! They look so adorable in their little crate that I cringe at the thought of opening them. I'll let the visual honeymoon fade and then I'll start sampling :)

On the front desk, there were three ceramic 'taps' (at first glance, you might think they were beer taps) that contained mustard that could be poured into customer's containers - mustard on tap, who would have thought?! While making my purchase, I attempted to explain that I make mustard for our Farmer's Market. Eventually, I got that across. He asked if I start using the seed, and I said yes. I was about to try to explain that the seeds that they use for their mustard come from Saskatchewan, but quickly realized that might take the rest of the afternoon. So, I just asked where Fauchon was.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Adventures Begin

The next morning we started off the day with a traditional breakfast of croissants from the Boulangerie across the street with a lovely cherry jam that we had picked up at Monoprix the night before. Amazing - oh how I've dreamt of being back in Paris having these most amazing crispy clouds of buttery goodness!

After spending spending the morning at Notre Dame and wandering around St.Germain, we ventured on over to Ile St. Louis, the tiny little island just east of Ile de la Cite (where Notre Dame is located). I had heard that there were a lot of interesting shops there, and had I heard right! It was such a cute neighbourhood (I decided I would live there if I ever HAD to live in Paris - when/if I eventually take the one month intensive course at Le Cordon Bleu, I shall!) with tiny streets lined with really interesting stores.

La Cure Gourmand was this little gem of sunshine, filled with brightly coloured tins and hand-crafted candies, including chocolated-covered olives that looked liked black and green olives, but were actually almonds - so cute!

The patisserie, Calixte, shown here, had a beautiful display of pastries, cakes and, of course, macarons. They had seven flavours, so sadly, I had to buy seven macarons.
After that satisfying purchase, we found THE gelato shop in Ile St. Louis - Amorino . I ordered a dish of coconut (amazing), and my husband got this flowery creation, created from two flavours of gelato - mango and lemon. Could anyone have a more look of pure glee? They formed the petals from some little special scoop - really cool.
After doing a drop & dash of our treasures at the apartment, we headed out for dinner. I had chosen a little restaurant called Chez Leon (5 Rue Isly, 8eme), having researched decent restaurants in Paris for a good price. It was crazy inside - loud, bustling, very tiny, but we spotted an empty table & grabbed it. This would be the equivalent of a diner kind of place with simple food cooked well, visited by locals. I'm pretty sure we were the only tourists there, ergo, English was not spoken. We waited about 20 - 30 minutes to be spoken to at all - the place was being entirely run by one woman, presumably the owner. Eventually we ordered - I chose the rosbif with frites, my husband chosen veal, and after about another 20 or so minutes, we were told they were out :) Roast chicken it was - at this point, it appeared there was not a lot left in the kitchen to serve. When the food finally came it was presented very simply - no fancy garnishes here. The food itself was great - good quality ingredients (the potatoes really do taste different there........all in the soil, so they say) with excellent flavours.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Adventures in Paris

Before the memories fade.....................where to start? I'll do a trip summary in a series of posts - there's just too much to talk about in one super lengthy one :)

To begin at the beginning, the entire flight to Paris, my intrepidation at speaking French was increasing exponentially. It was 25 years ago that I was last there. At that time I was hinging on being completely bilingual. Just from what I've helping my sons out with their homework, etc (they're in French Immersion), I knew I had lost a LOT, if not most, of my comprehension. Can you say "Babelfish"?!

Once we landed, we took a shuttle bus from CDG to the Opera area. From there, in the middle of the beyond-traffic-congested area, we were left to fend for ourselves and begin the journey. Somehow we had to get a taxi - did I mention it was rush hour, and this area in Paris is likely the most congested in the city? When I say congested, picture several angled streets, merging together into an open circle. There is no concept of lanes and barely any direction provided by traffic lights, or lack thereof. Envision hundreds of cars, all of which have converged into the circle, driving in every direction possible, all clustered together and literally,bumper to bumper. Like, literally. It was the most insane cluster**** I have witnessed - somehow, our taxi driver got us out of there and to our apartment, located in the 8th arrondissement about 2 blocks southeast of the Arc de Triomphe and a block and a half north of the Champs d'Elysees. Upon arriving there, we waited for the rep from the apartment rental company to let us in.

The apartment was situated on the 4eme level, which, if you know how things go in France, is actually the 5th floor. After hauling up our luggage up the 5 flights of stairs, up a teeny, narrow wooden spiral staircase (being coached by our rep who said "you only have to do this once") and pleading with my heart not to go into full arrest before our trip had even begun, we were in. There were no surprises, everything was just as it had been depicted in the website photos. High end kitchen (complete with a Nespresso machine) and crazy funky design with blood red walls. Once we settled in we immediately headed out to the nearest grocery store, Monoprix, to get some basic supplies.

After a lovely stroll down the Champs d'Elysees, we found the store. The package left for us by the apartment people contained all sorts of useful information about the area, including this store location. The store was busy - at this time is was about 9pm; like any big city I've seen, dinner is eaten later than around these parts. I beelined for the yoghurt aisle, knowing that I would find lots to choose from. The selection was awe-inspiring. Grocery stores there have relatively little selection of everything, compared to what we see here (for example, the sugar section consisted of about 8 tiny items), but the yoghurt, well, that's entirely another story. The French LOVE their yoghurt, and it shows. So many brands, so many flavours, and the section blended into the next section, puddings/desserts, and not like the Jello brand things you find here. I chose two yoghurts, coconut and black currant. My husband chose a pkg of 4 pots de creme, which came in actual glass jars rimmed with gold foil; you'd think they'd be $$, but the set was something like 1.4euros, so just under $2. This section blended intot eh cheese section, also an enormous selection - I had to buy thes fun little 'aperitif" cheese tray, comes complete with the serving tray and little party picks :) Spent about 1/2 hours just perusing the aisles, taking it all in. This is one of my favourite parts about visiting other's a job hazard :) Chose a lovely jar of cherry confiture to go with our breakfast croissants, which I was eagerly anticipating. There's also interesting 'takes' on things we see here, like these smoked ham chips - not so far off from smoky bacon, but they definitely taste like ham. We discovered, at the till, unfortunately, that produce is weighed out and labelled by the customer, not punched in with codes at the till. So, with the long line behind us, we abandoned the fresh figs (lovely, supple and plump..........) and apples we had bagged up for that day.

Sauntered back to the apartment, packed our purchases away, and started drafting a plan of action for the following day.