Shops & Markets

12 Hours in Paris

Three and a half years ago, I followed my friend Adam’s lead and imagined what I would do if I was given just Twelve Hours in Paris.

I still stand by the choices I made then. But, prompted by reader Patricia’s recent comment on that post, I thought it would be fun to revisit that theme now, and dream up another ideal Parisian day, featuring shops and restaurants that have opened in the meantime.

My twelve hours in Paris, 2012 edition, will begin in late morning with a croissant from Gontran Cherrier’s bakery, which I think is one of the best in Paris, extra flaky and extra good. I will also buy a half loaf of his rye and red miso bread, so good I won’t mind schlepping it around with me all day.

I will then spend a couple of leisurely hours walking up and around the Montmartre hill, which remains full of secrets even when you’ve lived in the neighborhood for many years. I will climb up staircases and down cobblestoned streets, check out the vineyard, peek into courtyards (and tiptoe in for a closer look if the gate happened to be open), and enjoy the village-y quiet and the greenery.

Hopping onto the metro or catching a Vélib’, I will go and have lunch at Bob’s Kitchen, the vegetarian restaurant where I cooked for a short while last year. I will order the day’s veggie stew, the satisfying mix of grains, legumes, roasted vegetables, and crudités I lunched on day in, day out during my stint there. I might also get one of their irresistible maki (garnished with avocado, mango, and daikon radish) to share.

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Gontran Cherrier’s Rye and Red Miso Bread

My biggest heartache as a temporarily nomadic cook, traveling from kitchen to kitchen while my own is being renovated, is that I’ve had to put my bread baking aspirations on hiatus.

I’d been baking a weekly loaf of pain au levain since I first got my sourdough starter two years ago, so not being able to do so leaves a gaping hole in my routine.

And while my starter Philémon marks the days on the wall inside the fridge (poor thing), I’ve had to go back to bakery-bought bread.

The flavor of this bread is unlike any rye bread I’ve ever had, thanks to the genius pairing of the malty aromas of rye with the umami sweetness of red miso.

You might think that would be bliss, living in Paris and in an arrondissement where bakers win more awards than in any other. But the truth is I’m quite particular about my bread, and we’ve suffered through a few disappointing loaves, including a rapidly staling Paume that had evidently not been baked on the day I bought it.

Fortunately, our friend Gontran Cherrier, whom we’ve known for a few years, had the brilliant idea of opening his bakery right in our neighborhood last December, and his breads have shed a much happier light on our breakfast tartines.

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Twelve Hours in Paris

Note: For more Paris recommendations, see this follow-up edition.

My friend Adam has just had what I think is a brilliant idea of a meme, named Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot: if you had only twelve hours left to spend in your home city/town/village/oasis, what would you do with them?

Because I lived abroad for a while, I have, on several occasions, spent twelve semi-final hours in Paris, and I admit they usually involved a combination of the following activities: 1) buying several months’ worth of my then-favorite face cream, 2) trying to locate my passport, 3) spending time with people I knew I was going to miss, simply enjoying the normalcy of being in the same time zone.

But I posit cosmetics, traveling documents, and companionable silences weren’t what Adam had in mind for this meme, so I came up with a more suitable — and food-oriented — timetable for my hypothetical last twelve hours in Paris.

It goes without saying that difficult choices were made, and that for every item I included, there were about ten more looking at me with a crestfallen expression. Most of these places are included in my Paris book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, in which you’ll find many more options to fill however many hours you get to spend in Paris (more info here).

I should also note that I chose to assume these weren’t the last twelve hours before I die, first of all because that would be a little depressing, and also because I worked in a few opportunities to buy things I would want to take with me wherever I was supposed to travel next, and who knows what customs policy they have in the afterlife.

Without further ado, I give you my Twelve Hours in Paris, which I’ve decided would take place on a Thursday, from 12:30pm to 12:30am. And of course, if you want to chime in with your own Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot, in the comments section or as a post on your blog, I’ll be curious to read your take!

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Galette des Rois, the 2007 Edition

Galette des Rois Arnaud Larher

Looking for a recipe for galette des rois? See this post.

And this year’s galette des rois (read more about the galette des rois tradition) was brought to us by Arnaud Larher, a thirty-something pastry chef and chocolatier who opened his own shop in Montmartre ten years ago, after honing his skills at Fauchon under Pierre Hermé’s direction.

I called the day before to order une galette pour six — ordering is not mandatory for such a standard size, but I sleep better if I do — and went to collect it in mid-afternoon. As I walked home and dropped by a handful of other shops for my dinner-making needs, the paper bag bearing the pastry chef’s coat of arms elicited much commentary from these neighboring vendors, whose facial expression (corners of the mouth pulled down, chin jutted forward, eyes semi-closed, head nodding slowly) indicated their respect for the artisan, and their approval of my choice of purveyor. I hurried home for the wind was picking up, and the threat of rain was a dark omen for my fragile disk in its not-even-remotely-waterproof paper house.

Although Arnaud Larher makes a chocolate galette that can’t possibly be anything but very good, my dinner companions and I all prefer the classic version. In Larher’s case, classic means a moist mattress of frangipane* lightly flavored with orange zest — a subtle and tasteful twist — between two sheets of extra-fresh flaked pastry. The ensemble was neither overly buttery nor overly sweet, and was much enjoyed by all.

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Favorites of the Moment

Sables Blancs

Barbie dolls didn’t do much for me when I was little, but I had a passion for plush animals. Each of them had a name and a set of personality traits (often refined by my father, who would improvise bedtime shows for my sister and me, with voices and everything), and they felt more alive than I think grownups can really remember. A direct consequence of this was that, even though I had preferences, naturally — I remember a black crow I’d won at the Jardin d’Acclimatation: it was ugly, it smelled funny, and I couldn’t bring myself to really love it –, I forbid myself to even admit these feelings, for fear of hurting theirs.

But now that I’m more or less an adult and have a pretty strong hunch that inanimate objects can’t get upset, I feel comfortable listing a few of my current edible and drinkable favorites from recent food shopping excursions. (If, however, the rest of my pantry turns sour all of a sudden, I may have to remove the post, I’m sure you’ll understand.)

~ Beurre au sel fumé (smoked salt butter) by Jean-Yves Bordier

Bordier can be described as the butter darling of the French gastronomic scene. His hand-beaten, hand-shaped butter is indeed outstanding, and his latest creation (yes, we now live in a world where the line between the artist and the artisan is blurrier by the day) is unlike anything I’ve tasted before: it is a butter that’s flavored with a mix of salt and spices — I understand this smoked salt follows a Norwegian technique — to give it smoky, almost earthy notes that reveal themselves in the back of your palate, in the aftermath of the rich yet refreshing butter kick.

It is splendid on fish and steamed (or mashed) potatoes, it can be spread on rye bread to eat with oysters, and I had such interesting results using it in a mini-batch of shortbread, that I must try it in salted butter caramels.

I buy my Bordier butter from Les Papilles Gourmandes, a neighborhood shop I’ve mentioned before (they also stock the unsalted, salted, and seaweed varieties), but it can also be found elsewhere in the city (La Grande Epicerie, Da Rose, Fauchon, Pascal Trotté’s cheese shop…) and, of course, right at the source in Saint-Malo.

Jean-Yves Bordier Map it!
9, rue de l’Orme – 35400 Saint-Malo
02 99 40 88 79

Les Papilles Gourmandes Map it!
26 rue des Martyrs – 75009 Paris
01 45 26 42 89

~ Sables blancs, a lightly flavored white tea from Le Parti du Thé

I like Mariage Frères as much as the next girl (though probably not as much as this next girl) but these days I am much more excited about the teas at Le Parti du Thé. This independant tea seller was recommended to me by Valérie Gentil of Beau et Bon (a quirky food shop I just as heartily recommend), and the first time I visited I had to physically restrain myself from buying a bit of each of their varieties — since they have over three hundreds, you can imagine why restraint is important.

The three kinds I’ve liked best so far are the Sables Blancs (“white sands”, a Pai Mu Tan Imperial white tea with discreet notes of coconut and vanilla, pictured above), the Oolong Fleurs d’Oranger (semi-fermented tea from Taiwan with orange blossoms; Beau et Bon carries it), and the Pousse-Pousse (a mix of semi-smoked teas).

Le Parti du Thé / Map it!
34 rue Faidherbe – 75011 Paris
01 43 72 42 04

Beau et Bon / Map it!
81 rue Lecourbe – 75015 Paris
01 43 06 06 53

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