Sunday, February 27, 2005

And then, it was over...


I woke up with a deep hankering for a croissant on my last day in Paris. It must've been my body knowing that the days of joyous over-consumption would soon be over. I craved that buttery smell and the flaky tenderness of French croissants.

And satisfied, I was with the croissants at the Au Panetier.


This picture is currently my desktop picture because it was one of my tastiest moments in Paris. I never liked a croissant before. I always thought they were overly oily and too mushy. Boy, was I ignorant!!! Croissants may be one of the greatest breakfast joys one can experience. The trinity of buttery scent, the thin layering baked to crispy flakes even at the center of the airy croissant, and the moist tenderness hidden underneath the crispiness in each layer - boy, this stuff is GOOD! The perfect croissant is simply divine. Divine. If I could have a croissant like that and a cafe creme for breakfast every morning, I wouldn't mind running an extra mile or two, or even three, every day to work it off.

Lunch on this day was an unexciting bistrot again. I had steak tartare, which was good except for the fact that I think no raw beef can compare to the Korean steak tartare or yukke. And no, I am not afraid of mad cow disease. And no, I am not afraid of food poisoning from consuming raw anything. I deemed the place not blog-worthy, so no pictures of the steak tartare. It was basically just a block of grounded up beef, mixed with a pickle-containg cream sauce that must've been the tartare sauce. That just occurred to me as I was writing this - that was tartatre sauce!!! Wow, what a revelation. I didn't even make the connection, since the sauce at that bistrot was much lighter than what I think of when I think of tartare sauce. Shoot, I guess I should've taken a picture of it!!!

We spent the entire day at the Lovre, where I proceeded to take a 15 min nap on the benches. I shamelessly sprawled on the couch and snoozed. Hey, what's a girl supposed to do when she reaches that foie gras state of overconsmption????


After some cultural education (and a good nap), we went to the place I've been looking forward to throughout my trip: Angelina, right by the Lovre. They are famous for their Mont Blanc pastries and decadent hot cocoa. And let me tell you - decadence is the right word to describe this drink, if I can call it that. Angelina has been open for over 100 yrs, and it deserved the business it gets. The Mont Blanc you see above is found in many, many pastry stores in Japan, but there is only one Angelina Mont Blanc. The brown chestnut cream is sweet and dense, yet tenderly supported by whipped cream in the middle, and the combination adds a sense of lightness to the intensity of the chestnut cream. Underneath all the cream is a strong meringue layer that gives the two soft layers a distinct personality and texture. The trio deserves the Best Dessert title for my trip in Paris (the mille-feuille is a close second, but that is penalized by the lack of sufficient service by the Closerie des Lilas staff).


The hot cocoa was a whole other dessert on its own!!!!! I hope the picture conveys some of the viscosity of this 'drink'. I think this hot cocoa was borderline viscosity to qualify as a drink. And it was heavenly. This was chocolate melted to be consumed right away luxuriously blended with cream to produce a drink to bring decadence into our lives. There were spices added in to make sure the bitterness of the cocoa could be enjoyed for its flavors and really show its personality instead of being shoved behind the sweetness of sugar as it so often is in US. Yum.

I failed to chronicle any of my trips to the chocolatiers in Paris, but I tried a few pieces from four different chocolatiers. They all uniformly showcased the bitterness of cocoa with no hestination and I really enjoyed that. Bitterness is not even the right word - for a lack of better skills on my part ot explain it, I am resorting to bitterness. In each piece of chocolate, I tasted a sense of playfulness - pushing the envelope of how much of each flavor - the cocoa flavor, the buttery cream flavor, the various spices or liquor flavors - could co-exist with the unifying yet dictating sweetness of sugar. A complex creation it is, that chocolate. No wonder we all love it so much... More on chocolates later, since I will be reporting on the COPIA chocolate event.

I then dropped off my tired traveling partner off at the hotel and headed to Gallerie Lafayette. The place is exactly like a Japanese department store, which is nothing like an American department store. I wandered around the gourmet food section in the basement for an hour or so and indulged my senses silly. I have this habit of wandering aimlessly when there is food around - I do it at Trader Joe's, at Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl, Dean and Deluca, Southern Season, etc, etc. I came home with nearly $75 in chocolates and macaroons. I wish I had my camera with me then. I love eating, but I also love shopping for food.

My last dinner in Paris did not disappoint - we ended up at a non-touristy place called Cinamon in a non-touristy section of town. This place made up for the poor cost performance of Closerie des Lilas from the night before. We had a three course meal for 30 Euros, which may have been the best deal of all three nights, and the food was inventive and solidly delicious. My spider senses picked up on it when I saw that they had a fish creme brulee on the menu as an apetizer. Fish creme brulee!


It was a French take on the Japanese chawan-musi, except instead of the clear Japanese dashi broth, they used a cream-based broth that added a lot more richness to the dish. This was really inventive and left me in awe. I never would've made this kind of modification to chawan-mushi. I'll definitely be making this dish sometime at home.


The crostillant of Brie was another apetizer that got my spider-senses all excited for this restaurant when we were menu browsing. I remembered the banana version from the first day and knew that the Brie version would be just as satisfying as the banana version. And it was - there were leeks and onions folded in with the Brie and they all worked well together. I would make this with Vietnamese rice papers to give it a little more crunch, though. This would make a great party dish, and I really should think about trying it one of these days...

Both main dishes were good - my roommate had a lamb stew cooked in a tagine, which tasted curiously IDENTICAL to my mom's beef stew if it weren't for the lamb, adding its slight scent to the stew. Identical. It was almost curious how identical it was. My steak au poivre was excellent with a very deep flavor and just the right blend of fat, salt, and meaty 'umami'. It was tasty enough that I hardly used the cream sauce it came with - I'm definitely a 'light-on-the-sauce' kinda diner. We then headed to Moulin Rouge, which was recommended to us by the hotel attendant. Word of caution - don't do it. It was the biggest waste of money in my recent memory and a total tourist trap.

Well, so it went, yummy to the very last meal. We finished off the trip with breakfast at Cafe Lateral, and then, my epicurean adventure in Paris was over. I learned to pay more attention to my food in France, and my senses are hightened for more flavors. I vow to pick up on subtle details and appreciate risks. And what better way to keep myself attentive than to have this forum to share with you my thoughts, visions, and tastes?!

If you're interested in my non-food pictures from Paris, check out my Flickr site!


Seth said...

An interesting account Alice-san. Having reconned France, who do you now suppose would win an epic battle of the chefs, Japan or France? Whatever the winner, they sure better look out for the cuisine of merry old England!

I had a hard Saturday morning of volunteer work cleaning trash out of a river in the rain. Afterwards, I strolled just a few blocks to The Fat Cat, a Norwich public house voted British Pub of the Year in 1999 and 2004. I had a pint of hand-pumped Norfolk ale, a corned beef and pickle sarnie, and some stale chili nuts, all for less than 3 pounds GBR. Fantastic ambience, great beer. Sorry, no photos. However, they do have a website in progress --

The Papa Bear said...

Alice-san strikes again with another set of good posts.

By the way, your memory is a bit faulty; you were completely out for closer to 30 minutes in the Louvre. The sight of you sprawling unpretentiously on the bench drew a lot of glances and smiles (first to you and then to me, who probably looked like I needed to sprawl out too).

Anonymous said...

Any reports of food poisoning at the Copia "Death by Chocolate" event? Our party of three were infected and Copia was the only common factor.