"Would you like my towel?" asked Daniel while we stood in a recessed doorway out of the drizzling rain on Saturday night. Naturally, the day I decided to not bring an umbrella would be the day I would actually need it. We waited in hopes the rain would stop or at least lighten up. Of course, neither happened.
"Yeeeaah, that'd be nice, thanks." Daniel pulled a towel out of his damp luggage, which he had been dragging around with him all day up and down countless metro stations since it was safer than leaving it at his hostel.
"It's clean," he assured as he handed me the medium sized blue striped towel.
"Well, I didn't think you'd bring a unclean towel with you." I plopped the towel on my head, trying to find the best position for my new stylin' headdress. "I'm not sure what to do with my Fauchon bag..."
"Here, take down this strap." I dropped a handbag strap off my shoulder and gave Daniel my Fauchon bag. He strung the outer strap of my handbag through the Fauchon bag's handles so it would be secure when I brought the outer strap back up to my shoulder.
"...God I feel stupid," I mumbled.
We ran down rue Theresa—feeling my shoes slap against wet pavement, hearing Daniel's luggage wheels click-clack on the sidewalk, clutching onto my towel in a fruitless attempt to stay dry and keep the towel from flying out of my hand—and around the corner of ave de l'Opera to the Pyramides metro. The total distance was short, but I like knowing that I can recall an atypical night in Paris involving running through dark street with a towel on my head. It's a nice ending to an interesting story.
Thanks, Daniel. And rain clouds.
oh yeah, the rest of the day
After passing a boulangerie/patissier, I met Daniel outside La Musardine. ...No, not randomly. That'd be kind of weird. We had initially met through flickr (my chocolate show photos roped him into the foodie madness of my narrowly focused photostream) and from there exchanged emails. When he found out he'd be staying in Paris for the weekend (as it's only a short flight from his home in Germany), he suggested fooding. Could I resist such a proposal? HELLS NO. It wasn't my idea to use the erotic bookstore as a meeting point (read Daniel's profile for more info about his interest), but I figured I would use the opportunity to go somewhere I wouldn't go on my own free will. Erotic bookstore definitely wasn't on my list of "Places to Visit in Paris". (If you want a better explanation behind the meeting point, Daniel wanted to visit the shop during his weekend stay, but since it was closed on Sunday and he only had time to meet me on Saturday he had to combine meeting me with visiting the bookstore.)
I'll admit that it initially felt odd to meet someone I had never met before (real life tends to be a little different than online, of course) while being bombarded with more sex-related books—many emblazoned with naked women in various positions that I will aim to not reproduce—than I ever knew existed. But they're just...books! A wide variety of books that have a common theme. Harmless. Um. Yes. I would've preferred the common theme of "food", but hey, I try to be open-minded. It's much easier to get used to if you have a tour guide such as Daniel to point out the good photographers and interesting topics to you, thus showing a clear delineation between erotic art and straight out porn in case it wasn't apparent to you beforehand.
"Oh, this photographer is very interesting, looks at this lighting...this photographer specializes in black and white...here's a famous Japanese photographer...these photos are from the 20s...see how the style of photography changes over the decades?...and this book is about finding the g-spot, but you can't understand it since it's in French."
I don't think I'd understand it even if it were in English, but I decided to keep that comment to myself.
After perusing the small, neatly organized bookstore, we headed to Fauchon.
Fauchon is a ridiculously upscale food shop whose white, black and hot pink interior looks more appropriate for selling jewelry and makeup than for macarons and cured ham. That's part of why the experience can feel so odd; the uncharacteristic food environment throws off your senses. I felt awkward taking photos (besides that I thought that one of the black suited employees may smack me with a gold-plated whip if she saw me stealing the souls of Fauchon's precious foodstuffs), so you'll have to visit it to see for yourself. Their deli-patissier-prepared foods section (which is separate from the not-as-perishable food shop around the corner) is where you can buy macarons, beautifully crafted cakes and pastries, breakfasty goods like croissants and pain au chocolat, produce (god knows who goes to Fauchon to buy lychees), terrines, sandwiches, and probably other things that I didn't get a good look at because I was intensely focused on the macaron and cake section. They're the Mona Lisa of the Louvre equivalent of a gourmet food shop, yes? Something like that.
To buy things at Fauchon you take your white receipt of whatever you ordered at the counter to one of the caissiers (cashier) and bring back your "paid for" pink receipt back to the counter to get your bag of goodies. I guess this keeps the food packaging process moving and the money in less places? Now you'll know what process you'll be faced with before you attempt to buy fancy baked goods. I spent 5.18€ on four little macarons (72€/kg) and 4€ on an éclair au chocolat praliné.
As someone who doesn't especially like éclairs, but got one because of the prettiness and Fauchon factor, I can't say the experience was worth my 4€. Obviously, if you like éclairs then you should try it. If you don't really care for them, Fauchon isn't going to change that. My éclair was surprisingly still as pretty when I first saw it in the shop after carrying it around for 6 hours in a bag subjected to much jostling (diagonally, it fit perfectly in the box). Choux pastry filled with a light chocolate mousse, covered with a strip of glossy, slightly sweet dark chocolate and topped with some pop-ish candies (like pop rocks, but less head-explodee action) and crushed nuts. It held together beautifully and was easy to consume while grasped in its cardboard sleeve, but overall I don't really care much for éclairs. So sad.
After Fauchon we went to Monoprix so that Daniel could buy chocolate milk. You know how some people need coffee or tea to get their day going? Daniel's choice stimulant is chocolate milk. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I'm not one to object to the idea of consuming chocolate in a liquid form (although I'd skip this "CANDY UP" since Daniel didn't seem to like it that much).
We roamed around in search of a place where we could comfortably consume our goodies. On the way we stopped at a bakery at my request, where I got a small pain au lait (milk bread) as I didn't have a craving for anything in particular and it sounded promising. Around the corner from the bakery was a creperie. Dammit, if only I had seen that first!
The smiling man took one crepe off the top of his pre-made stack and re-heated it on the buttered crepe griddle. After letting the large, flat, slightly browned crepe sufficiently sizzle, he spread a few spoonfuls of chestnut cream onto the once-folded crepe. In exchange for my 2.50€, he handed me a warm, rolled up crême de marron crepe tucked into a paper holder wrapped in a few napkins.
We sat in a nearby park and I chomped down on my fresh crepe (I don't think the pre-made stack had been sitting there for too long) as soon as I had managed to take a photo of it with my greasy fingers. Since it was my first crepe-eating experience in Paris, I don't have anything to compare it to. Don't worry—after finishing the thin, chewy, sweet, surprisingly filling crepe with thick chestnut creme splodging out of its folds, I'm sure I'll eat more of them.
I finished off Daniel's Fauchon croissant since after taking one bite he decided he didn't like it, the problem for him being that it was too flavorful. I found that to be the best part; it tasted of sweet, sweet butter (not doubly sweet, but "taste sensation" sweet and "slang word for awesome" sweet). However, I found the inner texture too fluffy and the outer layer not crusty enough to deem the croissant awesome as a whole. Butter? Awesome. Croissant? Okay. In other words, go to Poujauran if you want a croissant that is warm and crusty with the love of a homey neighborhood bakery. Or the heat of ovens. I'm sure love and oven heat are both very important factors in the creation of awesome croissants.
More roaming around brought us to a hostel where Daniel could secure a bed for the night and to another erotic bookstore, Les Larmes d'Éros. Yes, there's two of em and Daniel had to visit both. According to him, there aren't many erotic bookstores in general (such as in the entire continent), but two major ones happen to be in Paris. I found Les Larmes d'Éros more interesting than the other one since it was a used bookstore and had more random stuff. ...Such as decades old slides of Japanese women bathing in hot springs. Huhwuh? I guess someone out there will want them.
We headed to rue St. Anne, also known as the street of Japanese food, for...well, Japanese food. The first restaurant we went to was Naniwa-Ya, but after seeing the ramen-less menu Daniel asked a young French guy huddling with us out of the rain right beside the restaurant's door where to get ramen. He directed us to Kunitoraya, which we found out didn't have ramen either. Perhaps the guy just lumped all noodly things together—Kunitoraya is known for udon.
Past the open kitchen on the first floor that looked like a scene out of Tampopo (except with udon instead of ramen), we descended into a domed cellar with walls of malformed stones that looked like it hadn't changed in a century, . We were seated next to a Japanese man and woman that Daniel had briefly spoken to when we were waiting outside and the four of us ended up chatting throughout our dinner. The man, who was in his late 50s and spoke very good English, had attented FIT. The woman was less talkative, but despite that she said she was just starting to learn English, I thought her pronounciation was very good. However, I stupidly spoke too quickly for her to understand most of what I was saying. As someone who can only speak one freakin' language and French to a fraction-of-a-miniscule (also known as "pathetic") extent, I should keep my speaking speed in mind.
While giving our life histories (Daniel, 32 year old German professional translator who speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, a bit of Russian and is starting to learn Japanese and Chinese and maybe a language that hasn't been invented yet; and me, 21 year old college student from NYC), the man asked us how we met each other. And thus began the explanation of how people can meet one another on the Internet and know perfectly well that the other person is not a rapist.
"We both use this photo community site called flickr..." started Daniel.
"It's an online website where people upload photos and other people can comment on them..."
"Oh...what's the name again?"
I let Daniel explain the website and its structure while I talked to the woman. If you're reading this it's highly possible that you're already semi-versed in meeting online contacts in real life (or if you're like neotokyotimes and have realized, to your horror, that meeting people through blogs is akin to meeting them online), so I'm not going to explain that bit. I'll just say that from the first time I started communicating with Daniel and after spending a day with him (or subjecting him to a day with me) I knew he was a cool guy I felt comfortable hanging out with.
Oh, food! That's what my blog is about, yeah? Yeah.
Udon, those hearty fat, pencil-thick, slippery, soft and chewy ivory-colored wheat noodles, is something I've been eating since I could walk. I'm quite content with buying a plastic-wrapped pack of pre-cooked udon at the Japanese supermarket and plopping it into a bowl of salty broth (hey, my tastebuds don't care); this was one of the few times I had ever eaten it at a restaurant. My tempura udon came with a long fried piece of shrimp whose first bite tasted surprisingly fresh and sea-like compared to any other shrimp tempura I've eaten. Whether the shrimp was actually exceptionally fresh I have no idea, but either my tastebuds played a trick on me or it was just a really good piece of shrimp. Little round bits of the lumpy batter broke off from the mother shrimp and mingled with the chopped green onions in my soup in between the mass of noodley white ropes. I ate it all.
Trailing behind me due to his chatting with the man next to him (exchanging business cards, Daniel testing out his Japanese, etc), Daniel eventually finished off his beef udon after our neighboring friends had left behind their empty bowls. He lifted the bowl to his face to finish off every last drop of soup.
As we were finishing up, two Japanese women, whose tagged luggage told me that they came directly from the airport, filled the neighboring table. Not to reinforce Japanese stereoptypes (if the following words seem like that), but they were...adorable. In nearly whispering tones they wished each other a good meal and slightly bowed to each other before they ate. It's more than just wishing your partner "bon appetit", you know? It seems more serious than that, but still playful. Or maybe I'm getting it all wrong. I AM AMERICAN, RAWR RAWR RAWR. (Yes, Americans are like dinosaurs. That's meee!)
We were disappointed to see that it was still raining when we left the restaurant, thus bringing the entry back to the beginning. When I got home (of course, when I emerged out of the metro, the rain had stopped), I felt like my Saturday had far been more productive than going to school or doing any kind of work. Spending time with someone new and interesting, sharing strange stories (I didn't talk as much since I disappointingly have very few stories to tell) and gaining new perspectives on life is something I rarely get to experience. If it happened more often it may not feel as special...or maybe I'd just be a more well-rounded person (in the psychological sense; I have the physical sense down—HAR HAR HAR, I made a funny).
Something abuot that last paragraph sounded too thoughtful. BACK TO FOOD!
(I am open to meeting more German-Italians over Japanese food who are as cool as Daniel, but maybe that's an isolated event.)
other stuff I ate
Annnd to sum up the rest of the week! Photo splodge is coming at ya.
When I found out that chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin was mere steps away from my campus, I couldn't figure out why my internal chocolate and macaron radar hadn't alarmed earlier. Despite writing down the address, I actually walked right by the storefont. WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY RADAR? Needs new batteries? In the form of macaron fuel? Uh. Sure, I'll go with that. After hovering in front of the store for a while trying to summon whatever French skills I had (almost none), I successfully bought four small macarons from the friendly woman in charge of distributing chocolatey goodness. (I'd like to note that ever since my first few days of being here, all the shop employees I've encountered have been nice, or at least not sneering and scary).
After passing a display of baked goods and stacked sandwiches at a supermarket on the corner of ave de la Motte-Piquet and ave Bosquet (and buying a croissant and beignet for lunch, ahem), I...
...took my foodstuffs to the nearby lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower (ye can't miss it) and sat down to some solitary chomping. A part of me had the intense desire to roll around the grass, which was barely touched by humans at the time, but I think that would've made me stand out too much. Maybe I'll let my inner puppy out later. When no one is around.
My 0.50€ croissant and 0.75€ fruit jelly-filled beignet tasted about as good as you would expect anything that cheap to taste. Not bad, nor good enough for me to want to eat again unless I happened to only have a few cents in my pockets. The croissant had the kind of crispy, flakey exterior that I like, but it didn't have much buttery taste. The oily beignet didn't have much flavor either, except for the sweet, gloppy apple jelly inside. I still ate them in their entirety though, as I am piggish and like to test the limits of my metabolism.
Grass is a nice backdrop for a pouch of macarons, oui?
Ahhh, look at the little family of macarons all snug in the bag, later to be snug in my belly.
From the Eiffel Tower (past the gypsies and hawkers, oh well) I walked to a market on ave du Président Wilson (runs from ave d'Iéna to ave Marceau, I think). I didn't actually buy anything, so here's some more photos splodging:
I passed many produce stands, fresh seafood spread upon crushed ice, mountains of pink flesh (like bunnies, ooh), and non-food things that I can't recall because I have a one-track mind. The longest lines were for stands offering prepared food, like crepes and sandwiches.
Like the good blogger I am, I dutifully recorded the whole unchomped/chomped macaron process without resorting to making a stop-animation movie of the macarons being nibbled into my stomach. All the macarons from Jean-Paul Hévin are chocolate tinted by another flavor, which you probably could've figured out from everything being brown colored and that JPH is a chocolate shop. I expected stronger non-chocolate flavors, but they're quite subtle. It took me a while to realize that the top macaron was passion fruit flavored. The bottom macaron is chocolat vanilla flavored, although I realized that more because I recall butchering the word "vanille" (I BUTCHER ALL FRENCH WORDS) when I bought it in the shop than from the meager power of my tastebuds.
My preference is that I'd rather eat a a singularly flavored macaron than a chocolat + [something else] macaron, but I'm all for biting into a delicate, crisp outer shell that melds into soft, moist innards that further moosh into a creamy, flavorful center. I think the textural layers are apparent in the top half-chomped chocolate caramel macaron. :) The bottom one was hazelnut flavored, although I don't think that was the exact name. Since they have a lot of flavors, figured I'd just pick four random ones this time and go back later for the rest of my macaronic victims. Macarons are so light, I think I could shove ten in my mouth at once.
...[strokes chin]...oh man, can you imagine a macaron eating contest? That would be ridiculous.
...[strokes chin some more]...
Ah well, we can all dream.
It's going to take me to get through Steingarten's list of recommended places to get baguettes, but lookie, I knocked off one boulangerie (my assumption being that the Julien on rue St. Dominique is the same as the one he lists on rue St. Honore)! I asked for the same thing the guy in front of me ordered (un baguette traditional), prompting the young woman behind the counter to pull a long baguette out of a huge woven basket on the floor. My crusty magic wand of carbness cost 1.05€; I'm almost positive that the cost-to-happiness ratio of a baguette surpasses that of all other foodstuffs. By the end of the day after much butter slathering, my baguette was gone. Because I ate it. And swallowed every last encrusted chewy dough bit.
Market near my apartment (there are lots of markets!), open on Wednesday, Saturday, and maybe other days (yes, I am vague) until around 1 PM
ave du Président Wilson
Metro: Iéna (9)
somewhere on rue St. Dominique near rue Jean Nicot (damn, why can't I find the exact address?)
Metro: la Tour-Maubourg (8)
Did you know about the Le Meilleur Macaron de Paris (the best macaron of Paris)? HOLY SHIZZ! That's so awesome. Except that the website is in flash and could've been easily done in good ol' HTML, which I would prefer. BUT WHATEVER, THEY'RE MACARONS!