Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The proof is in the pastry: Paris Take Two

After a nice long sleep we were eventually stirred by music floating in through the open window, announcing the beginning of Journée du Patrimoine (Cultural Heritage Day, when numerous monuments and important buildings open their doors to the public, usually offering a special programme of events). Once fuelled up with a café crème and three mini viennoiseries we sauntered towards Le Château de Vincennes to take advantage of the free cultural programme. The château is large, attractive, and, well, very French-looking! People were lining up to take tours, several of them kitted out in traditional dress, but we continued to the central courtyard where we could see some kind of marching band emerging from an archway. This turned out to be a reenactment of a march by the Grognards de la Somme, soldiers of the old guard of Napolean I. The drummer’s time-keeping and the group’s synchronicity left a lot to be desired, but the concentration on the their wrinkled faces as they huffed and puffed in their archaic uniforms was endearing to say the least.

All castled-out, we focused our attention on the real priority of the day: the great pâtisserie hunt. I had read a blog post about the ultimate macaron experience in Paris, and was therefore keen to find this treasure trove and try the goods out for myself. We took the metro to the 16th arrondissement and soon arrived at Pierre Hermé on Avenue Paul Doumer. This is one of those places where it would suffice to simply stare in wonder at the delicate confectionary on offer, as it is all so pretty you hardly want to ruin it by eating it. Oh, who am I kidding, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING! But the luxury price tag (€1.95 per tiny, delicate treat) forced me to repress my gluttony and enter into serious discussions with K as to which two macarons we should buy and share. As the aforementioned blog had sold the Mogador so well we really had to try it, and lucky macaron number two was the Infiniment Caramel. Passionfruit and chocolate? Genius! Caramel and salted butter? Scrumptious! Perched paradoxically on a bus-stop bench we savoured these fabulous flavours, nodding at eachother and making “Mmmm!” noises. When I win the lottery I will celebrate with a macaron party catered by Pierre Hermé.

Macaron heaven

Next on the list of sweet-tooth hangouts was Pâtisserie des Rêves, which K had read about in a guide book, also in the 16th arrondissement on Rue de Longchamp. Upon entering this café-cum-cake-shop you get the distinct impression of having walked into a fairy’s laboratory – individual cakes displayed under large glass domes like scientific specimens, and minimalist décor in pink and white with a sprinkling of fairy-lights. We made our way through to the light, airy Salon de thé and ordered a Citronelle tea infusion drink to share, along with a Folie for me and a Tarte au Citron for K. My food arrived in a little grey sack, which was interesting but a little disconcerting as I was unsure whether to remove it from the sack before consumption… When I googled this patisserie I actually found a comment from someone who had the same impression of the Folie as me – it was a very nice, light pastry, but there was far too little of the bergamot custard filling, so the overall impression was that the whole thing was too dry. K’s dessert was, nevertheless, both delicious and delicate. It was pretty expensive here (around €6 for drinks and between €4 and €8 for cakes), but a very interesting place to visit, and certainly amongst Paris’s modern-day pâtisserie elites (owner Philippe Conticini is well known for his experimental, sweet creations).

Who needs a plate when you can eat out of a sack?!

Now you may be thinking that all we did all day long was eat… and you’d be right! So, not wanting to break the habit, next we made our way towards the restaurant where we had reservations for dinner. En route we passed a street protest, confirming our location in France beyond all doubt. And blimey does the French police riot gear look the business – the forty-or-so riot police standing by ready to quash any rowdy behavior looked like they had stepped right off the set of X-Men. Anyway, we made it past the manifestation unscathed and dove into the bustling streets of the Bastille area. This is a melting pot of all different types of cuisine, and I honestly think I would quite happily have picked any one of about thirty places to eat had we not chosen in advance. As we were a little early we stopped off for a happy hour cocktail in a cute little Cuban bar called ¿Qué Pasa? At €4 a drink this was the perfect pre-dinner refreshment.

We had chosen a restaurant from a website called La Fourchette that offers daily discounts at various restaurants all over France. I was very impressed with the website as there is so much choice, and the booking process is extremely efficient – you simply book online and do not even have to print out any vouchers. So, we arrived at Crepes Show, at the end of Rue de Lappe, and settled in with a Kir Breton (Breton cider with Cassis). I do not normally like Breton cider, but with the fruity addition it was great! There was a really good selection of sweet and savoury crepes at very reasonable prices. I went for the Spéciale (cheese, ham, mushrooms, egg, tomatoes and lettuce) followed by the Martiniquaise (chocolate and banana). Thanks to the good food, welcoming staff, lively atmosphere and of course the 40% discount I must say I was a very satisfied customer!

A day of indulgence – what Paris is all about! Then home to bed where two ex-university flatmates curled up to watch Britain’s Next Top Model like old times…

TG xx

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