"Did you have any luck finding anything?" asked Bonnie, my homestay mum, as I walked through the front door after going on an unsuccessful food hunt on a Sunday evening, also known as the time when most of Paris is dead.
"Eh...not really," I half-heartedly answered. Technically I did find food, but I felt helpless as to how to obtain it in French.
"Would you like to join us for dinner? We has mashed potatoes and lentils and..."
"Mm...nah, it's okay. I'll eat something later." The gurgling of my over-melkesjokoladed stomach overtook any desire to eat normal food.
I walked down the hall with a funny feeling in my head. As I crossed over the carpeted line of my room, the funny feeling came out in tears. Little quiet ones. Damn waterproof skin doesn't have any soaking properties. What a mess.
What was wrong with me? I may easily feel the urge to cry, but I'm also pretty good at holding it in. It wasn't just because I had the problem of not knowing how to communicate exactly how I wanted to in French, thus resulting in lack of food (yup, the same problem I mentioned in a previous entry). But...what else? I really like Paris and feel oddly comfortable here, odd in that I thought I would've had a harder time to adjust. But...eh, maybe you just need five minutes to let your sadness physically expell itself in some kind of messy liquid form so you can return to a semi-normal psychological state.
My mum thinks I'm inhibited. Ha ha.
Anyway, I'm okay. I just wanted to start my entry with a happy sunshine story that could bring about joyous feelings akin to watching playful baby puppies rolling around in a field of wildflowers. PUPPIES, LOOK AT EM GO!!!!
Ladurée, here I come...ish
I spent the weekend doing things on my own because that's what you do when you have no one to hang out with. It's not too bad—I don't have to worry about wasting anyone else's time.
On Sunday morning I went to Le Grand Palais to see the exhibition Il était une fois Walt Disney after having seen the poster in seemingly ever metro station I passed through. I'm no Disney fanatic, but there's a lot of Disney in my childhood, probably in the form of too many songs stored away in my brain somewhere (remember when those songs used to be good?). My family went to a Disney theme park about every year when I was little after I turned five (we'd take off school for it, ohhh yeaah) and we had the same excessive collection of animated Disney movies that came in those huge-ass squeaky plastic cases seemingly all children's movies came packaged in (what was up with that?) as other families with numerous children who needed something to direct their attention to (little mermaids, flying elephants, wooden boys, etc). The exhibition featured original artwork by Walt Disney, other artists at Disney and artists who influenced Disney creations. I spent about an hour walking through the red-carpeted, black-walled rooms, quiet aside from the audio of Disney film clips and songs, dedicated to different periods of Disney history, feeling intensely unworthy in the creativity department the more animations and artwork that I saw. I wish I had had a stronger desire to be an animator when I was little...or perhaps that I had the skill...hm.
Seeing film clips and artwork from certain Disney classes made me want to curl up on my couch at home and have a Disney movie marathon until my eyes bleed. Or, since I'm not at home, go to DISNEYLAND PARIS. Not one person suggested I go there, but this has been on my "to do" list before I got here. Yeah, it's silly; why go to Disneyland in Paris? Isn't that kinda like going to McDonalds in Paris or any other haven of American-ness? Eh, not really (each Disney park is slightly different from the other...really!), but it's obviously not the main attraction you would suggest to an American visiting Paris.
I have to go to Disneyland Paris at some point, preferably not alone because that sounds too depressing. I doubt anyone reading this would have the ability to come with me, but if you are, then the invitation is there.
After leaving the exhibition, I walked under the grey skies and some dead leaves (here comes autumn!) up the Champs Elysees. What's on the Champs? Mainly restaurants, big name designers, department stores, movie theaters, bakery chains and, unavoidably, a McDonald's (or two). Of course, I mainly wanted to see one thing.
Helloooo, Ladurée. You're looking minty fresh and palatial.
Just to cut to the chase, I didn't try it. Yeah yeah, what the hell is wrong with me? It was a bit crowded and intimidating at a time when I didn't feel like going into a crowded and intimidating place. Of course I will go back and try as many things as I can, but for now here are some photos.
- they have little sammiches!
- I could eat all of those, seriously
- people inside enjoying high-class edibles
You want to know what's really "pee your pants and roll around the floor in a fit of wheezes" funny? ...Ah, I've got nothing for ya. But what's kinda funny is that I passed by the other Ladurée on rue Royale just for kicks.
I went inside this one! Yes! And for some reason I DID NOT SEE ANY MACARONS. Swear to god, I either didn't look hard enough (through the swarms of people) or there weren't any macarons. There were plenty of other patissier items, but no armies of those adorable multi-colored button-like sandwich cookies that become a point of obsession for many dessert-loving humans who are otherwise fairly normal. Actually, it'd be abonormal to not love macarons. In my humble opinion. [cough]
Eh, I'm in no rush. For anyone who's wondering why I haven't been to a major patissier yet, it's cos...I'm getting there. I stopped by Fauchon on my way to the second Ladurée and it was sadly closed. All that passersby could see in the windows aside from a white, stark empty store were some jewel-like pastries.
That is an eclair I wouldn't mind eating. I'd barely feel worthy of letting it enter my bacteria-laden mouth.
Chinatown and stuff
On Saturday after seeing no Techno Parade action at Place de la Bastille (maybe I was there at the wrong time after 12:30 PM?), I impulsively went to Chinatown in the 13th arrondissement. Here are some random photos because I KNOW YOU LIKE THE VISUALS:
Tang Freres is the huge-ass supermarket amidst the smaller Vietnamese (because it's really more like Vietnamtown than Chinatown) grocery stores. You can't miss it—it's where all the cars and humans seem to gravitate towards.
Even though I had already eaten something for lunch, I figured it'd be stupid not to eat something while in Chinatown, especially when I was surrounded by places advertising cheap bahn mis. I chose the Tang Freres bakery outside of the supermarket since I could sit on one of the nearby benches to eat at.
For 2.45€ I received a ridiculously huge (yet only the "normal" size, not the "grand") lemon beef with pickled carrot and cucumber bahn mi that I knew I should've have eaten in its entirety for the sake of a comfortable stomach, but did because it was tasty and I have no shame. It didn't bother me too much that the beef wasn't as tender as I would've preferred. The bread was the main factor in filling my tummy with glee.
I took this close-up shot (one-handed!) to illustrate the crust shattering properties of the bread. That's what I want the most out of mon pain. A millimeter thick exterior that is strong, but easily crackable, like glass. This easily wins as the best bahn mi I've ever had just because of the bread. The stuff inside, while certainly yummy, wasn't as memorable.
I know I said I was overstuffed from the sandwich, but ye know...can't resist sweets. However, you should resist the French pastries at Tang Freres because, just like the Chinese bakeries in NYC that attempt to make American desserts at Chinatown prices, the Tang Freres take on French pastries just wasn't right. I liked the sweet almond filling in my almond pastry something-or-other (I forget the French name, which may or may not have had the word "butter" in it), but the dough part was disappointingly bland. No enticing texture or fat-filled taste. Eh well, now I know!
I really liked that one of my favorite Chinese desserts, fried sesame-covered rice balls (or something like that) is called a beignet au sésame in French. It sounds cooler.
I'm going out of sequence to bring you cake. While roaming around Place de la Bastille, I took some photos of the nearby Dalloyau window. Pretty cakes. Yes. Trust me, I will go inside at some point.
I passed by a cutely decorated bakery that constantly had a line of people outside the door. I wonder how tasty it is. OH WELL.
Holy crap, I've never seen that before! A bunch of teenagers were eating McDo in the nearby park-ish area. I guess I only cringe at the thought because I'm American and slowly grew out of my McDo eating phase after eating it non-stop for about half of my life.
Oh god, will this entry ever end. Yes. But not now.
Excessive italian food
Last Friday I met up with flickr foodie friend Marianna to eat at Convivium, a large Sicilian-run (I think) Italian restaurant right by the Victor Hugo metro stop. Before going to the restaurant we hung out at a cafe, where I spent 5.20€ on a small bottle of water that would barely satisfy a plant. I think I have to start getting in the habit of ordering un café just so I can relax at a cafe without blowing money on a substance that falls out of the sky.
I ordered La Norma, "Tomato, mozzerella cheese, eggplants, basil, sprinkled with salty ricotta cheese". Not great, but better than average. It's mainly the crust that bothers me when it comes to pizza; it's hard to get it right (surely Jeff would agree). The toppings were good, nothing overpowering (no excessive cheese globs, thank god!), and I would like to eat more pizzas featuring buttery soft grilled eggplant in the future, but as you could tell from my sandwich bread preferences, I like my wheat products to be awesome. Funny how it can be so difficult to make the simplest ingredients shine.
Oh, I am so not getting used to eating pizza with a fork and knife, especially when in the two times I've eaten pizza in Paris so far I've received a sub-par knife that couldn't easily cut through the crust. See, these things can be avoided if the pizza is cut beforehand and if you just eat it with your hands. Cut it with your teeth; those are the knifes you were born with. Let me display my uncouth American habits, dammit!
In generous foodie fashion, Marianna and I split our dishes 50/50. Her fettuccine with artichoke, basil and tomato was good. You know, al dente and all that stuff. I'm not sure what else to say besides that we had the same notion about ordering pasta in a restaurant. Most of the time you feel like you can easily make it yourself at home, maybe not to the same degree of tastiness, but pretty damn close.
Of course we got dessert. Marianna's black and white profiteroles, "Chou pastry balls filled and coated with chocolate mousse and vanilla cream", were...um, just as the menu described em. Soft, airy pastry balls filled and covered with generous amounts of light chocolate mousse or vanilla cream. Unfortunately she was too full to finish it and I was too full to attempt to eat the remains because I already polished off my own dessert.
I don't know the history behind la glace au four as googling it unhelpfully brings up my own flickr page. All I know is that the rough translation is "baked ice cream" (or something having to do with ice cream and an oven), which makes sense from the description, "Very tasty vanilla ice cream with fresh red, berry fruits covered with sweet, thick frothy emulsion sauce, served oven-grilled". I was enticed by the unconventional ice cream preparation method and was half scared, half enticed by the 12€ price tag. "These guys must mean business. And I want some thick frothy emulsion sauce in my belly, nooow."
If I had an innards shot, this is where it would go. It wasn't especially photogenic—imagine vanilla ice cream soup for a visual reference point. For a taste reference point, think a thick vanilla ice cream chunk topped with chopped strawberries drowned in creamy, frothy egg custard sauce filled to the brim of the bowl and protected by a thin skin of slightly burnt (but not hot) custard lightly floating on top. It's really good. Damn. Where else can I get this dessert?
Yes, I'm finally done.
48, av Ivry, 13th
5, Place Victor Hugo, 16th
oh wait, something else
Here's an even going on tomorrow for anyone in NYC:
Real Simple will Entertain New York on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 from 12pm to 7pm at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal.
Join us for:
- cooking demonstrations with Real Simple editors and guest chefs from highly-acclaimed New York City restaurants.
- 10-minute decorating solutions from Real Simple editors: how to create centerpieces and flower arrangements
- easy entertaining tips from Real Simple editors: how to throw a birthday party, a shower, and a wine and cheese party
- cocktails, served from 4pm-7pm
- food samples
- gift bags
Event is free and open to the public.
For those who don't use feed readers, don't check my website too much to see if I've updated. Because I probably haven't. I don't think I'll post again until the weekend or later, unless I eat something impossibly amazing in between.