Question: Which of the following sound is most appealing?
- Pouring a stream of coffee into a cup
- Popping open a can of soda
- Breaking into the crust of a fresh baguette de tradition
I used to think that eating a whole baguette in one day was a bad idea. Luckily, my stomach appears to have gotten used to ingesting entire baguettes and has subsequently grown in size or increased its gluten digesting power so that I can look at a baguette that is a third of my height and think, "Pssh, easy."
Upon Emily's recommendation, I went to Miss' Manon on Tuesday afternoon to get something sweet and tasty, but was distracted by the numerous other places also specializing in sweet and tasty things.
Since Aux Desirs de Manon was right outside the St. Paul Metro, I went there first and randomly bought a pistachio and chocolate roll (same structure as a pain aux raisins, but with pistachios and chocolate chips instead of raisins and green-colored almond paste rolled in the crevices) and some kind of seeded baguette thing that I ordered using the method of "confused pointing". The pistachio roll was awesome. Need. More. Pistache. The pistachio roll isn't common (I think I've been to enough bakeries here by now to figure that out), so try it if you find it.
The next place of temptation on the same block as Aux Desirs de Manon was L'Atelier du Chocolat, a small store whose display case of chocolate-filled baskets jutted out onto the street so that people like me (gluttons) couldn't ignore the huge variety of sweets that looked like regular chocolate truffles and bon bons...on steroids. Each piece was 2.40 €, thus making it easy for me to limit myself to one piece. The smiling mademoiselle behind the counter carefully handed me a small paper pouch containing a feuilleté blanc and gave me an enthusiastic, "Oui" when I asked if I could prendre des photos. It's nice to have an experience that makes you want to go back to a place, eh?
My hefty feuilleté blanc consisted of a light, crispy milk chocolate hazelnut praline core encased in smooth white chocolate. If you've never had feuilleté praliné (which I didn't even know was called that until now), it's a praline "blended with pieces of extremely fine and crisp wafers to yield a confection that has at once the smoothness of praliné and the crispiness of a flaky pastry" (- moleskinerie). It's one of my favorite chocolate fillings for good reason. The faint crispiness is surprising amidst the rich and smooth praline. Think Pop Rocks, but with much, much less exploding power.
...So it's not like Pop Rocks. Nevermind.
Back to Miss' Manon, the initiator of all this gluttony. While waiting in line, I stared at the dainty, pretty cakes and other visually appealing things (which was everything) without any idea of what to get. This happens at most of the bakeries I go to, meaning that I end up picking something randomly (perhaps something that I can pronounce without butchering the name too much).
Actually, I do butcher the name croissant aux amandes, but not badly enough so that the woman behind the counter couldn't figure out what I had said. (The first time I tried one in Paris I had asked for something else with the word "croissant" in it. Oops.) A croissant aux amandes is a re-baked old croissant after being coated in syrup, filled with almond paste, topped with slivered almonds and dusted with confectioner's sugar (C&Z has a much, much better description). It's like a deluxe croissant. With deluxe the calories. One thing that C&Z warns is that these babies are very rich and best suited for coal miners, which scares the shit out of me since I eat stuff like this (and worse) almost every day. Seriously. I think I must eat 2500+ calories a day the way I snack on butter cookies and salted nuts (aka "crack") and chocolate bars...
Oh, of course the croissant aux amandes was awesome. Sticky, crispy edges, belly of almond paste sandwiched between sweet, chewy croissant...halves. (Sorry, I'm coming up with particularly bad food descriptions today.) A nice plus about the bakery is that unlike most others, they have a few seats inside along the window so that you don't have to ungracefully walk while you eat or search for another bench or, god forbid, wait until you get home to eat whatever it is that you just bought.
And time for your Poujauran break
At my beloved Poujauran, I picked up a baguette and a pain aux raisins in my slow domination of their entire menu. (Sadly, I'm never going to be able to try everything unless someone comes with me to split the goods 50/50. Come onnn, guys.) Like everything else I've had from there, it was above average in awesomeness, freshness, and inexpensiveness (cost 0.95 €, maybe). Poujauran has a way of giving these flaky pastries uber-crispy and delicate outer-most layers with the weight of air and innards that are soft, light, and moist. The center of the roll contained some custardy goo that I hadn't seen in other pain aux raisins. Mm, custard-filled bread nubbin, you are my favorite kind of nubbin. It's like finding a surprise toy at the bottom of a cereal box, especially if the surprise is custard goo. But that's kind of gross, so many not.
Whoa, another bakery? Oh, how I gasp with surprise.
Colas is down the street from my most visited school building, but I've avoided it ever since the first time I went there and felt as though the woman who got me my sandwich would have liked it if I choked on the sandwich. However, the bread enticed me (it's the baguette I opened up this entry with), along with the basket of macarons. This time the young woman behind the counter was nice (although a little perplexed by my request to take photos, as though there'd be no reason I wouldn't be allowed to) and gave me my baguette and macaron au chocolat without giving me any death-vibes. I felt like a winner. Considering the yumminess of the baguette and macaron, I may even go back!...as long as the scary woman isn't there.
The macaron au chocolate was thankfully not as scary-huge or dense as Poujauran's. It was still a little denser than I would've liked, but the thin shell was nicely crisp and light. As to what the density was, think of...a brownie. Not a heavy brownie. But. Well. Nevermind. The brownie comparison comes to mind mainly because it's chocolate flavored. I can't describe food; that's why I take photos of it.
MACARONS ARE KINDA CHEWY AND LIGHT AND DELICIOUS. Yes.
I would love to try the other flavors that Colas offers, but I can't tell what they are from mere color and I'm too much of a poop to ask. The ones in the back hint of green, so perhaps they are pistachio? There's always pointing, I guess. Or just getting chocolate macarons for the rest of my life.
pho and macarons
"This might sound weird, but...I have a craving for pho. Would you mind eating it for lunch?"
I gave Annie a blank stare. No. Way.
"Are you KIDDING me? I WANT PHO TOO. Hell, I actually looked up pho places online last night. That is insane."
I seriously did look up pho places. The weird thing is that I never really crave it; Friday was probably the first time I had eaten it all year. How did our cravings align? How?
Annie, a friend I made during orientation (the only one, pretty much) and I went to a small, homey Vietnamese restaurant near school to get our pho fix. It was just one choice on the menu with either beef or chicken. We both got the same large bowl with partially cooked beef (the soup continues to cook it while you eat) and after mixing in mounds of raw bean sprouts, piling on basil and smooshing in some limes, we dug into our noodle-and-broth buckets.
Hm. The soup was unfortunately bland. We squirted in streams of red hot sauce and mixed the soup some more. Better. But still a little disappointing. The portion was certainly enough to satisfy me, but the soup fell flat and I found the noodles a bit too soft. After paying 8.50 € I longed for Vietnamese food in NYC's Chinatown where awesome noodles can be found for $5. I'll be sure to check out the Chinatown here for comparison.
I wouldn't write off this restaurant just from their pho, as their menu has lots of choices and they have a 9.50 € lunch set that sounded good. I'll just get my pho somewhere else.
Where do you go when your stomach is a-jigglin' with rice noodles and soup?
Ladurée, naturally. We visit the Saint-Germain-des-Prés location nestled among narrow streets with narrow sidewalks and more people than the narrow streets and sidewalks can hold.
"Each one costs 4.30 €!" gasped Annie.
"...What the huhwuh?!"
"Oh wait, those are for the large ones." Insert collective sigh of relief and return of blood flow.
The small ones cost 1.30 € and the large ones cost...more. It's not really that unreasonable when compared to prices of macarons in the US, just more than what you would pay for macarons at any regular French patisserie for mere mortals.
The service in the shop was quick and friendly (yes, service with a smile!). After you order your macarons (or something else that they sell because they do make other stuff), you bring your bill to the cashier a few steps to the right of where you had just placed your order. After you pay, they hand you your minty green bag that they would otherwise hold hostage behind the register.
We walked to the pedestrian bridge Pont des Arts and shared our winnings while sitting over the Seine. I bought pistachio, lemon and salty caramel and Annie got pistachio and coffee. You don't really need me to tell you that these macarons are great and perhaps the best in Paris (I can't vouch for that until I eat more of them), but I'll describe them anyway. The cookies were exceptionally light and crisp with strong flavors and just enough sweetness (unlike Fauchon's macarons, which I found too sweet). The fillings were also light and creamy, except for the caramel macaron, which was filled with caramel instead of a caramel flavored cream.
The caramel macaron is not made for sharing unless you want to make a small mess out of it like I did and drop some macaron bits for a lucky pigeon. Actually, none of small macarons are really share-able considering how small they are, as one half of the small macaron vanishes into your digestive system after one second of chewing. My favorite macaron (and possibly Annie's) was the pistachio. The coffee was surprisingly sharp, but sweet enough so that I actually liked it (I don't like coffee normally). And the caramel, which seems to be on many people's "top foods" lists, was great/delicious/other not-very-descriptive word, but I think it suffered from overhype. I was expecting neuron-exploding deliciousness or something to that degree, which nothing can really fulfil.
Overall, I must confess that I don't think I could really "get" the macaron eating sensation unless I ate at least two small ones. Or one large one, preferably. I'm not proud of my gluttony. It's not as though I don't get the flavor, but I don't feel like the macaron has enough time to seep into my brain. For instance, eating Levain Bakery's chocolate chip cookie, which is roughly the size of a baby's head, blew my mouth away...and possibly my gallbladder. Dainty, demure dessert, it is not. After finishing off my Laduree macarons, instead of "OMG AWESOME", I mainly though, "Well, I need to go back and get a large one."
I am what's wrong with this world. One of many things.
While walking along rue St. Honore, we came across Michel Cluizel. Someone must be quite taken by macarons to have invented the macarolat.
I suppose they're macaron-shaped chocolates. Does that mean a chocolate flavored macaron is a chocaron? A chocolon? Hm.
We also stopped by Toraya since I wanted a little peek. Hoo-man, it's pricey. I decided to get my fill of eye candy for the time being and visit again later to actually ingest something. They set up a tree in their window from which grew various bean jelly and rice based Japanese sweets, along with some Japanese flavored macarons. They looked even dantier than Ladurée's. Am I worthy of eating such precious cookies? ...Probably not. But I'll try it at some point.
It's 3:14 PM on a Sunday and I still haven't gone outside. It's beautiful; I just don't have anything in mind to do. Going out with other people makes me realize that either doing things on my own isn't as fun or that I don't like being around other people. It depends. Mulling over my asocial tendencies is a rant better suited for another blog, but a quick summary of my Saturday night during Nuit Blanche goes like so:
- walking around the Marais with my housemate's group of outgoing friends results in abnormal feeling of disconnection from everyone
- later walking around the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees by myself is slightly more liberating, but still results in odd feeling of disconnection from the hoards of people milling around me
- walking around one of the greatest, most beautiful cities at night alone isn't a sad experience, but I can turn it into one
I could write an encyclopedia about my inhibitions and paranoia and self loathing, but it wouldn't get me anywhere.
Also, I don't see myself ever getting used to the kiss-kiss French greeting.
Aux Désirs de Manon
It's right outside the St. Paul metro stop on rue Saint-Antoine. Put on your bakery radar.
Metro: St. Paul (1)
L'Atelier du Chocolat
109 rue Saint-Antoine, 4th
Metro: St. Paul (1)
18, rue Jean Nicot, 7th
Metro: La Tour-Moubourg (8)
178 rue de Grenelle, 7th
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg (8)
This is either on rue Bosquet or passage de la Vierge off of ave Bosquet. You would notice the big sign that says PHO.
Metro: Ecole Militaire (8)
I drew some socks. In case you were wondering. (Probably not.) If that makes you think, "WTF", I should add that it was inspired by a stupid comment I wrote on livejournal. But then why did I write the comment in the first place? Because I am odd. Just not odd enough to draw socks for no reason whatsoever.
...Nevermind, I am braindead.
Also, I hope people didn't really think I didn't know what a barrier on a metro platform was for aside from a way to keep me from leaving the train. I thought it was notable since I hadn't seen them in other stations in Paris (and we don't have them in NYC). But knowing that the line was automated made it more sensible.