There is no excuse. It has been way too long. I was whisked away to Paris and ended up lost in a whirlwind of baguettes and cheese and wine too good to be true. Too good compared to the normal life of work, work and more work that I all-too-quickly returned to. So can you blame me for having no clue how to begin my first post, post-Paris? There is just so much to tell. The only thing I can say is that it has been 3 weeks now, and I still miss it.
I miss Paris. Almost as much as I’ve missed New York City ever since we moved out and got a house in the ‘burbs. So I hope you can understand why it’s been tough to sum up the trip in words. Or follow it up with a blog post worthy of association with the culinary powerhouse that is Paris. One week is simply not enough time to see all the things I wanted to see and well, eat all the things I wanted to eat. I had quite a long list of to-dos courtesy of Chocolate and Zucchini (her book Edible Adventures in Paris is amazing). And I checked a few things off the list. A few. But ultimately, I had to let go a little and leave a few things to chance. After all, part of the fun of exploring a new city is discovery. You can’t plan everything. Sometimes the best baguette is from the little bakery in Montmartre with a line snaking out the door and calling your name. If there is one lesson to learn from this trip (and perhaps life) it’s this: Look up. Look around you. Get your head out of that stinking guidebook and just let the city guide you.
Every city has its own pulse and personality, and if you listen close enough, you might just become part of it, even if it’s just for one teeny tiny week. That was my favorite thing about Paris. Language barrier or not, I felt like I belonged. Just like I feel in New York. Your body plugs into the energy rushing through the streets and you connect with it in some supraphysiologic way. You can feel the history breathing beneath your feet. The lives of all the people who’ve walked the same streets before you seem almost as palpable as the weight of the brioche sitting in your belly. And yes, there was brioche. For those of you who know my husband and me (or for those of you who have read this blog), you know that we have a borderline embarrassing obsession with brioche. (If you want the full story, there’s a part 1 and a part 2). Rather than turning this series into a trilogy (we all know the dangers of that), I’ll focus on brioche in addition to a few other equally notable Parisian treats (ok, not equally, but close).
A few highlights included macarons from Ladurée, a well-known stop on any Parisian pastry tour. If you’ve never tasted macarons, these are classics and worth a try, although I regret not going to Pierre Hermé to taste some of their more adventurous and unexpected flavor combinations, like strawberry and wasabi or olive oil and vanilla.
Another noteworthy nibble was the sourdough bread from Poilâne. Chocolate and Zucchini called this the Mona Lisa of starter bread, so I had to give it try. It was interesting to eat something other than a baguette too. The crust had the perfect crunch, and the inside was soft with just the right amount of bite. My husband cooked up some fresh eggs, and we happily dunked it into the yolks, which escaped onto our plates in an orange hue as bright as a prison uniform.
Le Grenier à Pain was the bakery in Montmartre I mentioned earlier. The line was likely due in part to a sign on the window, which read 2010 Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris. And I am not one to pass up on an opportunity to dig into the best baguette in Paris. The line moved quickly, and we ordered multiple best baguettes to go, along with some delicious praline cookies to give as gifts. As we were emptying our pockets to pay and pick up our bagful of goodies, we noticed a little chalkboard sign stuck to a toothpick and perched in a loaf of bread. But it was not just any bread. The little sign had scribbled on it two words that I’ve never seen paired together to describe the same thing: brioche feuilletée. It’s basically a Brioche croissant. Brioche bread with the buttery layers of a croissant all rolled into one.
And then there was Bread and Roses, a Parisian pâtisserie with, of all things, an English name. Their claim to fame in our book was the brioche l’ancienne. Brioche made the way it was meant to be made. With the freshest ingredients and a back-to-basics recipe. It was exactly what we were hoping to find. Fluffy and moist and not too sweet, it tasted right at home when paired with cappuccino and slapped with extra butter and jam. And lucky for us, it was only a few blocks away from our apartment. Not only did we go there at least 4 times during our 7 day stint in Paris, we also asked our friend to graciously lug a luscious loaf back to the states after her trip two weeks later. My husband actually thought that maybe, he was finally brioched out. But his fervor in devouring the Bread and Roses brioche that made its way over the pond and into our kitchen proved otherwise. You just have to go there and try it.