April 2, 2007
Spring Break in Paris: Day 7 & 8
I met up with the lovely Kate on Friday morning for...a peaceful stroll in the park.
NO, FOOD YOU FOOL! We eat! That's it! With a bit of dabbling in other activities like "walking" and "breathing".
Like the good pseudo-food guide that I am, I directed us towards Pierre Herme for an indulgent snack. The store had been taken over by a crowned and winged macaron homme thingy. I suppose the crown meant it was the king of macarons and the wings meant that it was flitting about in macaron heaven, or that as the king of macarons it naturally had the power of flight. I don't know. The eyebrows and evidence of nasal passages kinda put me off (surely this wouldn't happen in Japan where two bold vapid eyes and a simple line for a mouth are all that are required for maximum squeal-inducing cuteness), but the proclamation of A DAY OF MACARONS was brain tingling intriguing, the main problem being that I was leaving on March 17th and macaron day was on March 20th.
I did not try the ispahan cheesecake or the fruit exploded Madame Figaro cake (which also came in individually sized cakes) because I AM DUMB. Looking back at these photos makes me wonder why I didn't try more of PH's new stuff when it was sitting right in front of me, all tantalizing and such. Dumb. Next time I go to Paris I have to expand my PH-eating to things beyond the macaron category.
Back at my apartment Kate and I shared our small stash (actually, I had a huge stash of over 100 macarons, problem being that none of them were for me) of incomparably delicious things. PH's canelé was as perfect as the first time I had it, the difference between his and the others I've had being that his has a perfectly crispy shell and creamy, vanilla-laden innards while others tend to be chewier and drier, oddly flavorless and not as successful at converging the crispy and the creamy.
Although I've tried the ispahan before, it probably didn't wow the crap out of me because I didn't eat it as PH intended—I had taken the cookie apart to share with Mare, my non-gluten-and-dairy friend. This time I took a hefty half of Kate's bisected ispahan and ate it like a hamburger. Oh dear god. It is really good. I can say it's made of large rose macarons filled with lychee cream and whole raspberries, but that doesn't tell you anything about how the flavors meld together in a symphony entitled, "This is really fucking good. This is a chunk of heaven. In my hand. It's flowery and fruity. Like the flesh of angels. I want to chomp into an angel's arm and let it bleed sweet sugary syrup."
It's not a conventional symphony.
Our next destination was Poujauran where I bought 20 of their buttery, slightly crisp, pregnant looking madeleines to share with friends in Paris and bring home. I don't normally like madeleines—the fuss over these hand held cakes completely escaped me until I ate Poujauran's and subsequently felt a buttery jolt of awesomeness. But even now I'm not addicted to madeleines in general, only those borne from the ovens of Poujauran.
Poujauran's pain au chocolat is also one of my favorite things to eat in Paris (although unlike madeleines, I like pretty much all "pain au chocolat"-s). It's one of the best versions I've tried and, like everything else at Poujauran, cheaper than many others (less than a euro, methinks).
The flaky top layer comes off in one piece like a solid, but totally defenseless plate of armor, underneath which lie more layers of soft, slightly chewy buttery dough wrapped around a smooshy chocolate center.
I steered us back to Boulangerie Malineau (aka, the guimauve haven) to pick up one of every marshmallow flavor they had, but also got a slice of flan after horrifying Kate with my admittance that I had never eaten Parisian flan before. The wobbly block of vanilla egg custard tasted like it contained about a dozen eggs. I had nothing to compare it to, but Kate said it was better than other ones she's had. I was mostly surprised by how rich it was, as my experience with egg custard in pastry is contained within the world of Chinese egg custard tarts which are (or should be) always light and creamy. This thing is freakin' solid. ...Or kind of solid—after one instance of picking up the heavy slice, the top sadly flopped over and we were left with a disemboweled flan. Yup, I killed it. [hangs head in shame]
After directing Kate to the Picasso Museum I started going back home with my boxes of madeleines and heavy bag of marshmallow sticks when I got a call from an unknown number on my phone. It was...ANNA! Fresh off the plane! Kinda! Not really! Probably more like "a few hours off the plane, tired, somewhat jet lagged, would like a shower". I worked with Anna during the summer between freshman and sophomore year at Vassar and it was through her that I met Alex, one of her best friends (hence part of the reason why she was in Paris for spring break, besides that Paris is awesome). Unfortunately she had gotten his number wrong and couldn't call him. Fortunately I had his number! Problem solved.
After taking a break at the apartment (and by "break" I mean "sitting in front of the computer and blogging"), Diana and I went to St Michel to meet up with Alex and Anna. It may be a silly thing to be happy about, but I love that in Paris you can go, "OKAY LET'S MEET AT ST MICHEL [or some other landmark] AND FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO FROM THERE!", as that's something I don't really do in NYC. I mean, meet at a landmark (as opposed to a restaurant or someone's apartment) and then just roam around because PARIS IS BEAUTIFUL, not that NYC isn't without its charm, but the Lower East Side can only be charming for so long until it just becomes dirty and creepy and slightly maddening because Il Laboratorio del Gelato closes so freakin' early.
Sorry, got sidetracked there.
Remember the extra box of macarons that Charlie left Alex? Well. We devoured it. Not all of it, but a good amount. As we nonchalantly munched on the best macarons in the world while sitting in a park near the Cluny-La Sorbonne stop, I thought about all the people who would love to be in our position at that very moment, eating lots and lots of macarons. What made the experience so surreal/funny was that we didn't really want to eat them. There were just too damn many.
"Argh, I don't like this flavor," grumbled Alex while holding up a chocolate yuzu macaron. "Who wants it?"
"Uh, I'd rather have...that one," I said while picking up something that wasn't the chocolate yuzu macaron.
And we kind of did that for...a while. Until we were sick of macarons. And, yes, there is a point where you don't want to eat them anymore, especially if you treat them less like something to be savored and more like something to get rid of so you don't have to carry it around forever. I think we all reached that point that evening.
My gelato radar went off when we passed this gelateria, Tutti Sensi, on rue de la Harpe. When my radar goes off, I freak out just a bit...
[quickly sucks in air]—"OH MY GOD, GELATO YOU GUYS!" I shouted while excitedly pointing towards the glowing interior of the gelateria whose mounds of gelato made me gasp with gelato lust. I repeatedly spread out my arms in a way that made me look mildly insane (or like I was telling a story to a group of little kids beginning with, "In a faaaaraway laaaand...") to convey the curvature of the awesome gelato counters and my desire to stand in front of them and go into a gelato coma. From that point on, Anna, Alex and Diana stood 10 feet away from me in fear that I would maul them if I didn't have a cup of gelato in my hands.
...Well, I suspected that's what they wanted to do, but since they're nice people they didn't let me know that they thought I was dangerously crazy.
You know that thing called the Sabbath? It really messes things up! The Saturday before we didn't go out for falafel because we figured a lot of places would be closed (although that turned out alright since we had huge-ass potato laden salads instead) and here were were on a Friday night, once again met with meager falafel options. But there was one shining beacon of falafel-ness to save our vegetarian friendly dinner (ALEX, JUST GIVE INTO THE MEAT, FOR THE LOVE OF GAAAWD) coming from within Chez Hannah, the self proclaimed maker of THE BEST FALAFEL IN THE WORLD.
Saying you make the best falafel in the world has a few problems. First off, there's no way to prove it. Secondly, no, you don't. But Hannah makes some pretty damn good falafels. Maybe they should change the wording outside their restaurant to say, "WE MAKE SOME PRETTY DAMN GOOD FALAFELS!" Wouldn't you want to try it out? At least you wouldn't be disappointed that they weren't the best in the world—instead you could just say, "Hey, those were pretty damn good! I am pretty damn satisfied! I now feel pretty damn oddly at peace with the world! BABIES EVERYWHERE!!!!!"
All four of us ordered the same "falafel special", basically a "make your own sammich" falafel plate with pita bread on the side. The falafels were pleasingly crisp, light and moist and the falafel accoutrements were...plentiful. Cucumber salad, chopped red cabbage, hummus, shredded carrot, butter-like roasted eggplant and possibly other things surrounded the central pile of yogurty sauce-covered falafels in a fortress of tastiness. None of us could actually finish our plate, not because we didn't want to but because we would've exploded or have been in some sort of gastro-intestinal pain not involving the combustion of important organs.
(On a random note, we were sitting next to a nice guy who said he used to work at Little Giant. I'm noting it so I don't forget that I may want to try it out. Eventually. ...Wait wait, they have DUCK CONFIT, OH DEAR LORD, let's go, people.)
Since we didn't explode, that meant we had room for dessert! And where else would we go in the Marais besides...
POZZETTO, sweet sweet sanctuary of the best Italian dessert ever (no arguing here, uh-uh). After much staring at the menu, Alex went with some of his favorite flavors of chocolate fondente and fior de latte and tried zabaione for the first time. Zabaione, a combination of egg yolks, cream, sugar and liquor, is one of those things that I feel like would benefit so much from the lack of alcohol. I mean, I'd actually want to eat it. Unfortunately, it is laden with the liquid of fermenty bitterness and one bite was enough to tell me that indeed-io, I really do not like alcohol.
In an attempt to try new flavors, Diana and I shared a cup of tiramisu, lemon sorbet and yogurt. I had tried the yogurt before ('tis awesome), but got it again to cut through the sorbet. Tiramisu probably wasn't the best choice since I don't actually like tiramisu that much, but it doesn't make me recoil with disgust like anything with alcohol in it. The sharpness of the lemon sorbet got to me after a while even though I was eating it with the yogurt. Overall, I didn't choose the best combination of flavors for my palate. But I tried them, putting me one step closer to my goal of trying everything at Pozzetto. and fulfilling the nonexistent title of "person who has eaten everything at Pozzetto".
Anna went with an affogato to combine her need for caffeine with the necessity to get something of gelato-based nature while sitting in the warm belly of Pozzetto.
We took a group photo with Nayller, our kind gelato man, because WE LOVE GELATO MAN and WE LOVE POZZETTO! Nayller was actually the guy who served us on my first visit to Pozzetto; it was easy to remember his unique laugh. :] Alex looks unnaturally ginormous in this photo due to being the tallest out of all of us and standing closest to the camera. Oops.
Nayller put on a different hat in this photo with Diana. STYLIN'!
I left another entry in the Pozzetto guestbook after looking up the first one I made last November. Still there! Starring Poofy! Suh-weet! Poofy loves gelato. And pancakes. And waffles. He's not even vaguely nutritionally balanced.
As we were ready to leave, Nayller gave each of us a piece of Pozzetto-branded gianduja chocolate! Yes, he's very sweet. I hope we brought a little bit of joy (or oddness) to his life as he brought to ours.
And then we roamed Paris with bellies full of gelato, but feeling oddly empty at the same time. Or at least I did because I knew it was my last night there.
No more late night strolls past the "damn, this looks so French" Hotel de Ville. Don't leave me. Noooooo!!!
And no more magical strolls past the Conciergerie where at night it is illuminated by football stadium-strength lights of blinding doom from across the Seine. Diana saw the cool lighting as an opportunity to take silly photos where divine light emanated from my armpit and proved that I am a good armrest for a tall person, but Alex is a very ineffective armrest for a short person. It was buckets of fun. After it was all over I felt about as sad as I did to leave Disneyland, or even sadder.
I owe Diana many thanks for taking beautiful candid shots. She's good at being unnoticed even while lugging around a not exactly inconspicuous DSLR. I do have many photos of myself giving expressions of unbridled joy, but un-posed happiness is...different. I think these are the only photos I have of myself where I just look naturally happy. Even in the photo where you can't see my face, I remember being happy. It's weird, maybe. And it's not like I need to be reminded that I'm a generally happy person, but when I'm in a bad mood or feel like everything is going to shit and my heart has been replaced by a concrete block dipped in rat poison, an image is more comforting than anything else in the world. I can't convey how important it's been to me for the past few weeks since I've gotten back from Paris.
Oh, so what the hell was going on in those photos? I was trying to head-butt Alex into the river. Duh. You head-butt the ones you love. I think that's from a Hallmark card.
To extend the night for as long as possible and because we didn't know what else to do, we hung out at Les Etages St Germain on some not very uncomfortable chairs around a table the size of a tennis racquet.
Since I'm not a fan of alcohol, I went with a non-alcoholic drink. The weirdest one on the menu, of course. That's how I roll. My apricot-banana-coconut milk-creme de menthe concoction tasted about as good as you think it would. ...Uh huh. It wasn't horrible, it just made no sense. While I slurped it down I wondered why the hell I was drinking it (well, I paid for it) and why anyone else would order it. Surely there aren't that many non-alcohol drinkers who like to order weird things on menus? Does that mean people actually like this drink? Are they insane? Yes. This drink won't kill you, but it's damn weird.
Anna took a photo of me holding a PH olive oil macaron next to my cup to illustrate the disturbing observation that they were the same color. The expression she caught is just one of many "faces of horror" that I portray on a regular basis.
And then it was time to separate. OH DEAR GOD NO. It wasn't quite as bad as when I said goodbye to Alex in the subway last semester (when he was probably thinking, "Okay, when will she leave..."), but I was still like, "NOO OH DEAR GOD WHY! [insert sad face]" Hopefully I will be around NYC next semester and he will visit so we can get vegetarian food that doesn't suck, unlike a lot of vegetarian food in Paris.
I can't imagine a better last night in Paris than hanging out (and fooding!) with Alex, Anna and Diana. For me it was the best day of the week. That, and Disneyland. Come on, people, Disneyland!
Time to leave.
Diana and I went to Casino the morning of our flight back home to pick up some foodstuffs. I got some of my favorite cheapo cookies plus a bag of gummies and a packet of salted crunchy coated peanuts (one of my favorite things from Casino for whatever reason) while she unsuccessfully looked for La Fermiere yogurt. It's our favorite kind and apparently the favorite of everyone else in the neighborhood as they didn't have any left. :(
I packed my BHV-bought plastic bin to the brim with French foodstuffs. Not bad, eh? This bin will come with me on every trip to Paris.
While we were cleaning up our stuff, Diana noticed a bottle under her bed. It was Tristan's displaced wine that he meant to bring back to London but accidentally left in our room. A relic of the past. We were amused. ...And then I poured it into the sink and washed away the stench of alcohol. OOH YEAAAH!
The flight back home on Air India was alright. Nothing worthy of an award of utmost comfort, but nothing that could be labeled as traumatizing. Our flight took a few hours longer than expected though and Diana's brother had probably been waiting in the airport for four hours before we actually got out of the baggage claim, which may had taken another hour or two to escape.
But then we got back to our homes. And immediately felt homesick...for Paris.
Although my original plan was to go to Paris by myself, I'm happy that Diana decided to come along (it was a bit of a last minute decision). It was more fun to have her around than I would've had on my own and I'm really glad I got to show her why coming back home after my semester abroad was so heartbreaking. BECAUSE PARIS IS FREAKIN' SWEET.
I know that a great deal of my love for Paris has to do with the friends I have who are mostly temporarily stationed there, but I would love to figure out an excuse to (legally) live in Paris and actually make some money while doing it.
I miss you, Paris, and all the awesome people and food you contain.
18, rue Jean Nicot, 7th
Metro: La Tour-Moubourg (8)
54 rue des Rosiers, 4th
Metro: Hotel de Ville (1, 11), St Paul (1)
Posted by roboppy at 12:47 AM