Last Tuesday morning I visited École Grégoire-Ferrandi to meet Stephanie Curtis, the head of the culinary school's bilingual program. After having met two students on separate occasions from the bilingual program (who were actually in the same class; it's a small world, dude) who emerged from the school knowing lots about how to make tasty treats, I thought that maybe baking school could be a part of my yet-to-be-determined future since...you know, why not?
...I mean, aside from the obvious problem that I'm much better at eating said tasty treats than making them? While Stephanie explained the rigorous program to me I thought about how it could be fun ("Sweet Jesus, I get to hang around bread and pastries beginning at the crack of dawn!") and/or potentially soul sucking ("Sweet Jesus, I have to hang around bread and pastries beginning at the crack of dawn?"). And there was also the thought of being totally incapable of just learning how to turn on an oven or mix flour and water. I'm quite sure that post-May when I become fresh meat out of college the discipline to dedicate myself to the program will be nonexistent, but later on in life, it might appear (hopefully sooner than later). Kind of like the ability to learn another language. I hope that when the urge to go to culinary school in Paris kicks me in the face, so will the ability to speak French.
The kitchen facilities are very peachy. Large. Spacious. Clean. Sunny (well, if the sun is out). Places that you wouldn't mind being in for a gazillion hours a day, which is good since you won't have a choice.
After putting on a white chef's coat and deeming myself less of a contamination risk, I was allowed to go into the bilingual class kitchen, which (I think) was being used for testing. The students quietly did magical things with dough around a huge metal counter as a random girl (me) stared at them and the tall cart in the corner of the room that was stacked high with trays of croissants and god knows what other hypnotically tasty buttery things. I also stared at the ginormous container of baguettes that sat just feet away from my stomach. My desire for a baguette was kind of obvious (taking a photo probably gave it away) and I was soon given my own personal wand of crusty baked dough to take home. Aw! It's like getting a newborn puppy, but without the barking or the slobbering or the "taking care of a live animal" thing. I mean, in either case (getting a puppy or a fresh baguette), the result is happiness. Maybe. Yeah.
The Pierre Herme fan in me had to take a photo of the sign to his kitchen in the school, which is attended by certified French chefs for large sums of money. But I'm sure it's worth every centime to learn how to make the most AWESOME STUFF IN THE WORLD, EVER.
If you have any intention of attending The French Culinary Institute in NYC (I'm looking at you, Kathy!), you should really just go to Ferrandi. Ferrandi is a little less expensive (methinks), it's in PARIS, and it's in Paris. That's five good reasons right there. Or two. Surely living in Paris is better for the sake of learning French cuisine than living in NYC and it's better for your soul because Paris is way more beautiful and clean than NYC.
And don't forget the shizzloads of bakeries overflowing with macarons.
Of course, there are some downsides. Not knowing French may be a bit of a burden and the selection of courses for English speaking students doesn't compare to what one could get at FCI. But if your French is good enough you could take any course! Time to brush up.
It was a pleasure to meet Stephanie (if anyone wants her contact information, ask me). She made me feel welcome and certainly convinced me that if I decide to pursue a life in the bakery/pastry kitchen, Ferrandi is where I'll want to give off oven-induced beads of sweat in the wee hours of the morning.
Afternoon of food
After leaving Ferrandi I walked over to Saint Germain de Pres to meet Jessie, a very sweet and friendly foodie temporarily living in Paris by way of Hong Kong (and Canada, which is why she knows French). We headed towards rue Mouffetard to visit Gelati d'Alberto, so you could imagine my shock and horror and the sound of all happiness escaping my body when we came across the dark storefront and a sign that said it wouldn't be opening until 3 PM. Hey, some of us need our gelato earlier than that! Damn you, Alberto—you never gave me the chance to let your creamy gelato churn in my stomach.
So I took some photos of bakeries.
We also came across knock offs of these adorable salt and pepper shakers that I probably should've bought despite not needing a salt or pepper shaker.
I want a hug.
Our next destination was Saint Michel where we could get giant gyros stuffed with grilled, shaved meat and fat, crispy golden fries at Maison du Gyros. Sadly, this gyro wasn't nearly as good as the first time I had it. Not even close. I guess it depends who makes it. The first gyro man was very friendly and full of smiles while the second gyro man handed us our food while barely noticing our existence. These things have to be made with love, folks. Compared to my previous gyro-eating experience, this gyro was too dry (it needed lots more sauce) and didn't have as much salady stuff. I hope that experience didn't turn Jessie off the idea of eating more meat and frite-stuffed gyros because they're hella awesome when they're...awesome.
With bellies full of meat and fried potato, it was naturally time for dessert. We went to the nearby Dammann's Glacier to fulfill our ice cream craving. (Or maybe that was just my craving, but Jessie was a good sport about also eating everything I wanted to eat.)
Sorbet isn't high on my list of desirable things. I'm usually the one whose face screws up in confusion (with a hint of unadulterated horror) at the idea of eating crisp, icy, non-dairy-fied sorbet as opposed to its evil, gloriously fatty and smooth ice cream counterpart. Yet for some craaazy reason I wasn't in the mood for ice cream, especially if it had chocolate in it. I needed something fruity and refreshing, not something that would weigh my tongue down with fat globules. (Actually, I was just really thirsty and would later gulp down a bottle of Orangina.) I somehow ended up with a dainty scoop of refreshingly fruity strawberry basil sorbet, which had the additional plus of giving the impression of containing a smidgen of vitamins. Good stuff.
Jessie enjoyed her scoop of orange chocolate ice cream. Her weeny scoop the size of a baby's fist. Or a ping pong ball. Or a giant marble. Or my brain, at this very second. I wasn't alarmed that the portions were so small—many places in Paris do the same thing—but I could've eaten more! So much more.
However, it was for the best that Dammann's gave such small portions because that left more room in our bellies for mountains of beautifully swirled, flufftastic gelato from Deliziefollie.
Our small cup of looked like it had been a victim of a pistachio and caramel gelato explosion. Gelato tends to look more awesome than ice cream when it comes to portion size, yes? Excessively paddling multiple flavors of gelato into one cup suddenly transforms the container, no matter what size, into A BUCKET OF HAPPINESS. Using pistachio as a test of greatness, Deliziefollie passed...the test of greatness. I could tell right away when the scent of roasted pistachios hit my nose before the gelato even entered my mouth. The flavor of the caramel gelato wasn't as mind blowing as the pistachio, but it earned extra "tasty points" with its copious splodges of soft golden caramel. Imagine how tasty humans would be if they're innards were made of caramel!
...Okay, maybe not.
Gelato always wins over ice cream in my world. Of course, I still like ice cream, but...but...surely you can agree with me that it just ain't the same. It's like when you have two really good candidates for a job but you can only pick one, preferably not by using eenie-miny-moe, so you try to remember if one stood out more than the other from characteristics unrelated to the job ("topiary gardener") and you remember, "Oh yes, one of them was wearing the t-shirt of a band I really liked, and he mentioned that he can swallow fire."
I think my point was that gelato also likes your favorite band and has cool, useless talents such as swallowing fire. Or whatever I just said has nothing to do with gelato.
Jessie is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and proved to be a very good fooding partner. :) I must thank her for letting me fill her up with so many calories.
Dessert, and then dinner!
As tired as I am now, I was possibly even more tired when I go home from the morning of visiting a culinary school and eating sweet frozen stuff. (That's my only form of exercise, you know.) I called Alex to tell him something like, "I am very tired. Need the sleepies. You can eat without me," or something equally loser-ish. Of course, he convinced me that SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, and PASTRIES ARE FOR THE AWESOME, and WE ARE AWESOME, and IF I KEEP TYPING IN CAPS IT WILL GIVE ME THE FALSE IMPRESSION THAT I AM NOT TIRED!!@!#@!!
I headed up to La Petite Rose, Alex's patisserie of choice for hot chocolate.
Remember how I said I wasn't in a chocolate mood? I still wasn't in a chocolate mood. Yet I ended up getting this cake of chocolate mousse covered in chocolate, possibly sitting on some sort of chocolate cookie.
I stupidly didn't write down the description of the cake, so relying on pure Robyn-brain power alone, I offer you...not a whole lot. The light, crunchy center was my favorite part, possibly being praliné feuilletine, or not. The chewy base may have been a macaron. Or not. I'm sure it was mostly composed of chocolate mousse and that the dark substance coating the cake was chocolate. Yes, I'm sure. If I had been more in the mood for chocolate i would've enjoyed it more, but I was happy that it wasn't too sweet or deeply chocolatey.
Charlie ordered a trio of macarons. I didn't try them, but judging from the photos they look like they were good.
Alex and Charlie ordered a cup of hot chocolate, probably both 70% (the other option being 80%, or as the French would say, 4x20%). I took a sip and found that for my tastes it could use a bit more sugar. A smidge. Perhaps. I LIKE MY SUGAR, OKAY?! If you don't like uber-sweet hot chocolate (and I think it's better to fall on the side of not-sweet-enough instead of too-sweet as long as the chocolate content is good) then this hot chocolate is fer yewww. Otherwise you can go to Angelina and get coma-inducing hot chocolate, which I don't enthusiastically recommend. Because comas are bad. (See, you learn so much from reading my blog!)
Alex found a surprise inside the walls of his empty cup—"A Georgia O'Keeffe painting made of the leavings of hot chocolate!" as Charlie pointed out. There was some shuddering and revulsion involved in our reluctant fascination with the pattern left behind by the hot chocolate. It was funny. You had to be there.
After finishing our sweet, mostly chocolate based snacks, we headed to Denfert-Rochereau to eat dinner with Mare! Yes, that Mare! My non-gluten-and-dairy eating friend! My best cooking buddy! The friend who gave me that awesome white fluffy hat that everyone seems to think fits very well on my cranium. MAH VERY TALL TWIIIIN! I was so veryvery happy to see her.
Mare took us to La Chope Daguerre, a favorite hang-out for her and her classmates. (She actually ran into some of them as we left the restaurant. I tell you, they're watching her.)
Since we weren't anywhere near famished, Charlie and I shared the confit de canard. Yes, our cravings are totally awesome. As soon as we saw "confit de canard" on the specials board, all other choices suddenly didn't exist. Because nothing else matters when you have confit de canard. Your loved ones and your pets for instance? Nope.
So like all confit de canard, it was very tasty and full of fat and covered with fat and as tender as a baby's bum, or what I imagine the tenderness factor of a baby's bum would be if I had ever eaten one. The potatoes were not mouth wateringly awesome, but they weren't bad either. Perhaps I would've liked them more if they were in the form of frites and not chunky rounds, as the pretty much tasted like rotund frites.
Alex ordered an omelette and frites (or what looks more like a mountain of frites with a side of omelette), a combination that easily fulfilled any requirement for yellow food.
For whatever reason I didn't get a photo of Mare's dish. Oh. Em. Gee. How could this happen? Whatever it was, it didn't have any dairy or gluten.
- Oh, this wasn't posed; this is what they always look like when they're just hanging out on the street
After we left the restaurant we took obligatory silly group photos. Look at these happy faces. The JOY! THE HAPPIES! I have no idea what's going on in this photo, but it looks happiness-producing.
I am short. Or Mare is tall. The combination of both leads to the sharp dichotomy in how well we'd fare not being in the front row of a concert (I lose). I also have SLITS FOR EYES!
The more different I look from a friend, the more inclined I am to believe that we're twins.
And this is when my eyes disappear completely, which is a sign of happiness, or birth defect.
PARIS, YOU MAKE ME SO HAPPY!
28, rue Abbé Grégoire, 6th
Metro: Saint-Placide (4)
Maison du Gyros
26, rue de la Huchette, 5th
Metro: Saint-Michel (4, B, C)
1, rue de Grands Degrés, 5th
Metro: Maubert-Mutualite (10)
7, rue Montorgueil, 1st
Metro: Chatelet / Les Halles (1, 4, 7, 11, 14, A, B, C)
La Petite Rose
11, Boulevard de Courcelles, 8th
Metro: Villiers (2, 3)
La Chope Daguerre
17 Rue Daguerre, 14th
Metro: Denfert-Rochereau (4, 6, B)