Ahhhh Pareee. I’m not really sure what I expected to find there, a quick decision to return to the city I once called my second home. Memories of times both good and bad. Friends, old and new. Exes. Flirts. Definitely flaky, golden croissants, crispy/doughy baguettes and a daily pick of groceries only found in specialty stores in the U.S.
Sunday morning began with a croissant and café crème at Aux Rendez-Vous Des Artistes in Pigalle (my new home for the next two weeks) with my friend Charly. A short nap later, it was off to the Chocolate Show at Porte de Versailles.
This year’s show was a bit lacking in the glam of yesteryear. Granted, it’s been a few years since I first attended the elegant array of chocolate treats underneath the grand Pyramid. There was something magical about it being held there. Sophistication. Elegance. A room of chocolate-filled dreams. While I understand that the Porte de Versailles offers more space, I was slightly unimpressed with the intense grabby grabber crowd and the temperature of the hall. I’m surprised the models didn’t flee from the runway leaving trails of dripping cocoa behind. I did manage to purchase a jar of Caramel au Beurre Salé from Charpentier (87 rue de Courcelles 75017 Paris), however, which did indeed save the day.
As this was more of a trip for pleasure and grounding rather than business, my time was not bombarded by fancy restaurants and outings with chefs. However, a girl’s gotta eat right?
First of all, the experience of grocery shopping in France is ideal. Small terrines of rabbit pâté in Armagnac, crunchy brown cubes of sugar, thick and creamy Perle de Lait, an entire aisle dedicated only to cheese. And of course there is La Grande Epicérie otherwise known as foodie heaven. Comtesse du Barry never fails to bring joy to my eyes either with their small cans and jars of foie gras, confit de canard, etc. Of course, I didn’t spend all my time in grocery and food specialty stores.
Chez Papa (this time in the 8th arrondissement at 29 rue de l’Arcade). Their original restaurant still stands in the 10th at 206, rue Lafayette, with other locations in Paris (my favorite: 6, rue Gassendi in the 14th). Growing ever so popular, they have begun franchising their establishment. Coming soon to a city near you. ‘Papa’, Mr. Bruno Druilhe is apparently the spitting image of that of the Chez Papa brand, from the Southwest of France, and a bit rough around the edges. He does make a mean Super Papa salad brimming with cantal, gesiers, lardons, and patates. This has to be one of my favorite spots in Paris. Down to earth and real with the tastes of home, if you grew up in the Southwest of France.
Refuge des Fondues near Metro Abbesses at 17, rue des 3 Frères still promises a friendly uncle-type (not the creepy kind) atmosphere as the main man takes your hand to help you step over the giant wooden communal table and up to the other side. 16 Euros will get you an apéritif, potato/saucisson/olive hors d’oeuvres plate, a bubbling pot of Savoyarde or Bourguignonne fondue, and either a fruit salad or cheese for dessert. Oh, and of course let us not forget the baby bottle of wine. Takes ya back, don’t it?
Angelina’s is still the classic place to watch tourists-in-awe as well as the ladies who tea(?) on rue de Rivoli. Their ‘Africain’ hot chocolate is to die for, let alone their signature Mont Blanc (might wanna share that last one).
Pinxo is a new one for me, run by Alain Dutournier of Le Carré des Feuillants, also situated within the Renaissance Paris Vendôme. A more relaxed atmosphere than the latter, yet less informal than Chez Papa, Pinxo also offers small plates with a Southwest theme, though in a soignée manner. Three small glasses of Chestnut Cappuccino were accompanied by Chervil, and Foie Gras on crispy Toasts. Tuna Fillet arrived rare stacked on Eggplant with Garlic and Olive Oil. The prices run in the 13 to 25€. Though they seemed a bit razzled at times, the staff was friendly and efficient.
Stops at La Coupole, small, traditional bar tabacs, and old faves were happily revisited, my last evening bringing me on a short walk near the Eiffel Tower to La Carette at Place du Trocadéro for an ice cream sundae. What I love about Paris is that in many places you can still sit outside when it’s cold thanks to the strategically placed heat lamps.
Some things have changed, however, in the past four years. (Please forgive me as I begin my rant.) I noticed more people eating in the streets on the run, whereas before it was frowned upon. I never would have eaten in the street as I would have immediately been targeted as a rushed American who doesn’t take time to enjoy and appreciate life. Diners lunched long hours until the sieste and held strong appreciation for what they were putting into their bodies. It was about pleasure and passion. But this love and desire hasn’t completely disappeared. I attended a crêpe birthday dinner with several folks in the theatre/circus industry who continued the tradition of conversation by discussing how cèpes (porcinis) were in season, and in abundance, but how they weren’t as flavorful as last season. They spoke about quantity verses quality. During the next course, the discussion continued with the differences in culture: Americans are loud and the French are complainers. Of course, the coffee brought on talks of the war in Iraq. Upp, time to go out for a drink with another friend in town.
There is something to be said about our over consumption. The world seems to be reeling at an even greater pace as we are consuming ourselves nearly to death. The commercial links and developments in technology we are increasing around the globe seem to also be increasing our desire for finding the perfect flavor, the perfect gift, the perfect life, the perfect body. Yet, in my opinion, it is only digging us deeper into a hole from which we may never emerge. There is something to be said about the differences in culture and lifestyle. It is how the world has always worked. But I suppose that can also be said about commerce. What are the answers? Do we need leaders who see the world as a whole and who dream of uniting all peoples through commercialism? Do we need leaders who believe so strongly in their own world that they feel there is no other choice but to spread the word across the world? Is the advancement of technology pointing us in the right direction for world advancement or is it only creating a greater divide between peoples as well as deteriorating our health? This is in no way meant to depress anyone, but to make people think. We definitely do not take enough time to think about and to discuss with our fellow man the direction in which our world is going. Life speeds along, and we latch onto the reigns accepting whatever the media and our governments feed us. They are the ones in power, so they should know best, right? Well, we are the ones that put them there, and it is up to us to work together to find the best route. To see all options. Of course we can always hope we are making the right decisions, though one can never really know. Things are changing quickly, but we must slow down and be aware of what is happening around us, as well as the actions we are taking. Just take some time not only to realize what you’re putting into your mouth, but also the words coming out of it.
Whew. Now that that’s said, here are a few other places to check out during your next visit to magical Paris or if you’re just looking for some pret
ty words and pictures:
Rétrodor: 42 rue Jacob, 6th (some of the best croissants in Paris)
L’été en Pente Douce (cute, small, and good for a stop during a stroll in Montmartre)
Bistro de Breteuil (click on English, restaurants, Breteuil)
Le Timbre Poste (interesting décor, cheap, not the most delicious, but if you’re in the neighborhood…)
Sucré/Salé (premium photo stock agency with GORGEOUS food photos… for sale)