Monday, 28 November 2011

Simple Pleasures

I'm in Paris for a few days. I haven't come to admire the Mona Lisa, I probably won't see the Eiffel tower while I'm here. I'm here to absorb, to learn, to take in and to take stock. Weight gain will be an inevitable and happy souvenir.When I asked chef for some tips on places to eat (despite already having a bursting list to amble through - there will be no ticking and minimal itinerising) he told me he couldn't be bothered with all the top restaurants and this struck a harmonious chord. Not to detract from the wonder that is a meal crafted from indescribable genius but don't we all rather crave for our every day lives the simplest of pleasures? Good bread becomes the stuff of legend, four-ingredient plates earn knowing smiles and satisfied nods. Right now, at least, life is simply too complicated on its own for food to also need deciphering and hefty accompanying explanation.

The night of my arrival I enjoyed cheeses and bread with my lovely friends C&F and it was a perfect start. As it happens we had been guided towards our selection - a St Marcellin, a Mourbier, a Bleu de Causse and a liquid-centred goats cheese with 'un goût un peu animale' (never a truer word spoken!) by a lovely man in Fromagerie Quatr'hommes, which happens to be one of the best cheese shops around. I expect nothing less from my friend C.

My first full day was spent ambling from Les Halles to Temple, Le Marais and then Opéra, admiring shops, noting which establishments earned queues and gaining my bearings, with a lovely stopover in a Jewish deli on the way, before cooking a rustic dinner of split pea and smoked sausage. I wish the 'bourgeois' notion apparent in the UK about the wonder of independent food shops was just the norm, as it is here; I would love every street facade to look like this, with butcher, baker, fishmonger and cheese shop living harmoniously side by side, like they used to:

Fishmonger, Butcher, Deli, Cheesemonger, Wine shop and Baker, living in harmony.

A purchase of the newly-published magazine 'Fooding' has been very useful in directing me towards the type of food I'm after: honest, classic, unadulterated. So lunch on day two at Le Coude à Coude was a warm goat's cheese salad followed by duck legs with sautéed potatoes. I was surrounded by regulars pausing for a bite halfway through their work day - a good sign in my book, and this with a good glass of white and an espresso came to €16. The potatoes were delicately scented with garlic, the goats cheese warmed just to a delicate ooze and the coffee had a beautiful crema. What else does one need?

Well, to be honest, the food may have become somewhat more complicated after this point, to a certain extent. Several circles later (orienteering skills having failed me abysmally) and after a few retail distractions, I decided that the likes of Fauchon, Hédiard and Printemps might feed my eyes but little more and I headed for St Gérmain. After making use of a very wise tip to visit Gérard Mulot for after-dinner desserts, I headed to Da Rosa for a snack. Taking a seat outside ('non, je n'attend personne'), I treated myself to a plate of lardo do Colonnata, some sweet garlic and a hot chocolate. The lardo, cured bacon fat with sea salt and herbs, came like thinly slices sheets of silk, ready to melt imperceptibly on warm toast before their inevitable disappearance, and the garlic was so beautifully delicate that I remain easy prey for vampires. Good hot chocolate but after all I will be treating myself to Angelina tomorrow so little can compare.

Returning to chez C&F I was greeted with the wonderful scent of pumpkin, chestnut and bacon soup which we ate with salad and the rest of the animalistic cheese before a veritable dessert-fest: Portuguese tarts from 'Comme à Lisbonne' and my little treat from Mulot: a Troubadour with sablé biscuit base, salted caramel, coffee mousse and chocolate glaze, and two macarons: passion fruit and basil, and salted caramel.

A perfect end to the day. I just hope I can sleep after all the sugar as an early rise awaits so that I can cram in as many markets as possible before a dinner I'm very excited about in the evening. Check back on Wednesday to find out why!


  1. Da Rosa - I miss it so much!

    Have you been to Sadaharu Aoki or Maison de Trois Thes yet?

  2. Seb - bought some Sadaharu Aoki delights, yes, but not convinced about M3T just yet - reviews sound like one needs to be much more of an expert than I am!