I thought I should warn you that this entry is not very good. I think my brain shut off as soon as I got back to New Jersey. Besides that, my asthma acted up (which never happened in Paris) and my nasal passages filled with mucus. New Jersey has that kind of effect. I thought writing about Paris would inspire me, but instead it kind of just made me sad.
So. Well. Yup. Thank you for all your comments on my last entry! Sorry I'm too lazy to acknowledge them all, but you know I usually would; they meant a lot to me. I had an awesome December 25th (also known as Christmas, but I don't really celebrate it), which I may talk about later, and I already have plans for the most awesome New Year's Eve ever. :) But until then...
Being back home is odd. When I entered my house, it was almost like I had never left. Everything's the same except that my brother moved out and I haven't seen him yet. Frankly, he's being an asshole right now. I wish all of you in Internet land and I could go to his apartment and smack some sense into him.
...But whatever! Let's think happy thoughts.
:D :D :D :D :D
Or attempt to. I'll start by going back to last Monday.
cheap eat + a splurge
Right outside the ginormous metal gates of my apartment building was a minty green Ladurée truck. Taunting me. How many macarons do you think would fit in there? A gazillion, roughly? I have no idea why it was sitting in the middle of the street, but I suppose someone ordered a lot of tasty things. Lucky bastard.
I walked to Trocadero to meet up with Kathryn, my roommate from freshman year who was in Paris visiting her boyfriend. It was nice to meet up with her again since we hadn't seen each other in about two years. I'm great at keeping in touch, eh? Well. We're not very close, but we certainly like each other enough to meet up if we have the chance. I can't say the same about the last two roommates I've had; I didn't hate them, but if I saw them walking on the street I wouldn't make any effort to say hello. How mean I am.
I took Kathryn to Saint Michel so she could exchange money at the Travelex right by the fountain and see the joy that is rue de la Huchette, "the street of meat and fries-stuffed gyros". Since we had no fooding plan, we ended up walking across Ile de la Cité and wandering as far as rue Montorgueil. Despite the many fooding options in the area, we couldn't decide on anything and ended up going back to a place we passed on rue de la Huchette for lunch.
We were drawn in by the illuminated menu. Oh, if only all menus lit up. ...I don't know why I said that.
"Ground beef pepper thing" wasn't the official name, but that's what it was. And it was pretty awesome. The rectangular hamburger-esque patty was nicely charred and had a spicy kick to it. Although the salad didn't look like much, the dressing was amazing to my American-saladed-palate for being intensely mustard-ified and poking holes in my nasal passage. The fries emited fresh, burning hot deliciousness. We were also given little containers of ketchup, I suppose because of all the American-ness we were projecting.
Kathryn's chicken dish was just like mine but with a different meat in the form of amazingly juicy and tender chicken.
I can't find the address of this restaurant online, but now you know what it looks like. It's inexpensive (less than 10 euros), tasty, and has vegetarian options. It looks dairy and gluten free too, in case you need that. Mmmm. However, if I went back to Saint Michel, I'd need me one of those extra pita grecs.
God, do I sound tired? Sorry. I am. I'm not horribly jet lagged, it's just...New Jersey. It does that to me.
BACK TO FOOD!!!
On Monday night I went to Atelier Maitre Albert with Callie and Whitney, two friends from school. I was thankful that it was Callie's idea because I wouldn't have thought of going to such a nice restaurant on my own. Left to my own devices, I'd live off of sammiches, baguettes, macarons, and other baked goods. (Left to my own devices, my diet is highly unbalanced.)
After our host took our coats, we were seated amidst the sparsely populated dining room. Ah yes, people eat late in Paris; I keep forgetting. It did fill up later on, but get there before 8 PM and you shouldn't have a problem getting a table.
We were given a place of some kind of dried sausage and a bread bowl to start with. I can't say much about the sausage, nor was I sure what kind of role it played in the meal (maybe one of you can fill me in, or perhaps it's more common to get at the start of the meal than I thought), but the bread was awesome. Underneath the thick, shards-a-flyin' crust of seemingly multilayered crunchiness were soft, chewy, toothsome innards with a slightly sour flavor. It was among the best bread I've had in Paris.
Does "Fresh seasonal salad with sauted chicken liver" scream "Robyn dish" to you? No? ...No, it doesn't. But I felt like I needed something slightly healthy in the form of salad greens and I was intrigued by chicken liver, which I had never eaten before. And I'm not sure if I would again, not because I didn't like it, but because it may not be as good in the future. The liver pieces were little soft creamy bags of...mildly organ meat flavored deliciousness. I felt like I was eating precious babies. In the form of tender liver blobs. Yes, that is a horrible description; aren't you used to that by now? The only off-putting part of the salad was what I thought was too much dressing. The precious baby liver blobs made it awesome.
My god, I almost don't want to describe the rest of the meal. I'm kind of horrified at my inability to describe it in a competant manner. WHY DO I KEEP THINKING ABOUT BABIES? Babies make my brain melt.
Whitney ordered scallops and Callie got pumpkin soup. I'm not a fan of shellfish (not yet at least) and as much as I like pumpkin, soup doesn't entice my stomach. I'm sure both dishes were awesome, but I picked what fit my tastebuds best.
My main dish was sea bream in a pot with lentils. That's not the exact description from the menu, which was probably more poetic, but that's what it is. FISH CHUNKS IN A POT. Really tasty fish chunks in a pot where the skin is ephemerally thin and crispy while the muscle remains moist and tender. It reminded me of the fish I had at Union Square Cafe (which I forgot also came with lentils), but...better.
I didn't try Callie's "spit-roasted veal shank with spinach and mushrooms gratin" or Whitney's "risotto with wood mushrooms", but judging from the remains (i.e., none), the dishes were probably very good.
It wasn't hard for me to decide what dessert to get when I read, "black chocolate fondant, crispy praline, sorbet cacao and custard cream". Let's combine everything that Robyn likes and put it on a plate? Alright. Nothing to complain about here. The sprinkling of cacao nibs gave a nice crunch to everything. I can't really provide a better description than what the menu said. Or I could, but I'm feeling lazy. Sorry.
Callie and Whitney both ordered the dessert special, "Paris Brest with salted caramel ice cream". I didn't go for it since I know I don't like choux pastry very much, but the pastry in this one didn't look especially choux pastry-ish. Maybe I should've tried it. Doh.
The restaurant was full by the time we left at 9:40 PM, but we were among the first to sit two hours beforehand. I keep forgetting how late people eat in Paris. In the US I'm used to eating around 6 or 7 PM.
My major food splurge in Paris came out to 43.50 €. Eeeegad. That might be the most I've ever spent on one meal. I think it was worth it—all the food was memorable and the service was especially well-timed, friendly, professional—but I would feel guilty eating a meal like that again anytime soon. Hell, I feel guilty that I could study in a foreign country and blow my parents' money. Yet I did it anyway.
I guess I should get a job. Or sell extraneous organs on the black market.
I wrote the previous part of this entry on Sunday, which was a very blah day. I have a feeling that it showed through in my writing. Argh. Poo. Well. Let's see if I can do better today.
Last Tuesday I went to Patrick Roger to buy a gift for my homestay mum since I knew he was her favorite chocolatier in Paris.
As if being loaded with chocolates wasn't enough to entice me, one of the window displays was dominated by a life-sized penguin family made out of chocolate. Out of all the possible things to make chocolate sculptures of, Patrick Roger chose penguins. Freakin' sweet. That's the mark of a true...awesome person.
I don't have much to say about the chocolate, so all I can really do is bombard you with photos. I bought a bag of pralines and a milk chocolate bar and thought both were very good. Why? Well. Because. I said so.
Indeedio, the title of "chocolate master" is not in my future. But lookie, Patrick Roger is David Lebovitz approved! It's all good.
Last Wednesday I ate at Café du Marché with Annie for our FINAL MEAL TOGETHER (sniffle) before taking our French finals that afternoon.
It wasn't hard to make a decision. Confit de canard for 9 €? YES. Fat-soaked duck leg never fails to please. The meat was heavenly tender, skin was bursting with fatty, crispy goodness, fried potato slices were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and even the simple salad was delicious because...because that's just how the French do it. Oh, and everything was doused in garlic. Except for the salad. Although I'm sure some garlic-ness imparted deliciousness on the lettuce leaves also.
Annie's steak tartare, which would've been my second choice, also came with the awesome fried potato slices and salad. Steak tartare reminds me of spicy tuna, for anyone who hasn't had it before. Then again, that description is entirely unhelpful if you haven't had spicy tuna either. Hm. Well. Think of a really, really rare burger. As in not cooked at all. And with spices mixed in with the ground meat. It's a bit like that, maybe. I like it.
On Thursday after my psychology and gender final (which signified the end of the semester, YES YES YES) I went to Angelina with Valerie, Mare, Adelyn, and Adelyn's friend, Robyn/Robin (not quite sure of the spelling, which I should be sensitive to because Robyn just ain't the same as Robin). I wished Alex could've come too since Angelina seemed to hold a special place in his heart (the one that craves thick, mind alteringly intense hot chocolate), but he wasn't in Paris at the time. AH WELL.
Their famous hot chocolate comes with a huge cup (well, huge since four of us were sharing it) of unsweetened cream. I would soon find out how important this cream was.
Plop on some whipped cream, take a sip and...
Well, it's very good. Thick. Creamy. Liquified. Chocolate. But don't drink it on an empty stomach or else you may feel a bit unsettled. Vomitous, perhaps. Like I did. While I happily downed my first cup, the second was less contenful. I realized that the cream was crucial as a way to buffer the intense chocolate-ness of the...chocolate. You don't want it to hit your stomach at full strength. But even at medium, excessively whipped creamed strength, it may be tough to handle. I felt like a failure for my inability to ingest my portion of hot chocolate.
Actually, my stomach wasn't completely empty—I also ate part of a Mont Blanc, a dessert made of meringue, cream, and chestnut cream (basically sweetened mashed chestnut). Eating this on an empty stomach was also a bad idea. As much as I love Mont Blanc, after eating half of it my tastebuds and stomach disagreed with the excessive sugar content. The overall stomach discontent probably had to do with the combination of a super sweet dessert and super chocolatey drink, similar to how you shouldn't mix alcohol and drugs, but probably not as life threatening.
Still, it's not a good idea. Don't mix hot chocolate and Mont Blanc if you would rather not clutch your stomach and have a desire to roll into the fetal position. Or at least eat some "real" food first as a buffer.
After going into chocolate comas, Adelyn and I went to Maison du Miel where we encountered Paris's most disgruntled employee. Or at least in the top 15%. Our first interaction occured when Adelyn tried to ask if she could taste a sample of the honey. When the employee didn't give a response, I asked if she spoke English. After she replied with a curt "no", Adelyn continued to try to get her point across and finally succeeded in getting a sample. She later asked the employee if she had any recommendations, which also received a curt reply of something like, "No, it's all personal choice."
But the way she said it was really funny. You had to be there, I think. She only smiled after ringing up our purchase.
"Well yeah, we bought stuff and left! Of course she was happy," explained Adelyn.
If you want honey, this is definitely the store to check out. Just about everything is labeled in French and English, so it doesn't really matter whether the employees speak English or not. If you want a sample and don't know how to ask for it in French, you could probably make hand gestures. After a while they'll either get it or think you're insane. Eh, what can you do?
We went to Montmartre to fulfill Adelyn's desire for tacky t-shirt souvenirs. There were loads of em. There were also loads of artists roaming the street offering to draw our portraits. Some people understand when you politely decline; some do not. After one guy called me Mona Lisa I thought, "Why would I want a blind guy to draw my portrait?"
(...Get it? HA HA HA HA ha um.)
I'm glad Adelyn wanted to go to Montmartre since I would have never thought of going there just for the heck of it (especially not to buy anything). The sky was insanely clear, giving us a beautiful view from the top of the staircase at rue du Calvaire.
We went to Pierre Hermé at my request. The new foie gras and fig macaron looked impressively bloaty and festive. I've since tried one and...it's pretty weird. Not bad, although not something I'd want to eat more than once either.
Mare and I cooked our last Thai yellow curry vegetable dinner together that night. We made that dish at least four times before due to its easiness, tastiness and cheapness factors. IT WAS OUR SIGNATURE DISH. Making it with anyone else would be wrong.
I think I'll stop now since this is mildly depressing. There will be one more entry about Paris since I can't fit it all in here. And I have a case of the sleepies.
Le Relais de la Huchette
somewhere on rue de la Huchette
Metro: Saint-Michel (4, B, C)
Café du Marché
38 rue Cler, 7th
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg (8)
226, rue de Rivoli, 1st
Metro: Tuileries (1), Concorde (1, 8, 12)