Last Friday, over a glass of wine and some nibbles at a city centre tapas bar, the Boyfriend – after WEEKS of mystery – handed me my passport and…a guidebook for Paris! He had told me that we were going away for the weekend, we would be spending time in a city and that I had to pack for cold weather. Despite lots of guessing – I thought Galway, or maybe Belfast – I hadn’t even come close to figuring out where we were going.
Coincidentally, I had been reading Clotilde’s Paris-based Chocolate & Zucchini blog that morning. Between salivating over her descriptions of croissants aux amandes and peering with interest at the contents of her basket at the supermarket (I love visiting supermarkets in other countries), I was mentally planning a trip to Paris. Some dozen years ago, while au pairing in Chamonix, I had visited my friend – a fellow au pair – in Paris. At the time neither of us had any money so we just spent our time walking outside museums, reading menus and gazing longingly in patisserie windows.
Paris is the perfect city for food lovers – especially if you’re not flat broke! We spent much of the weekend exploring Le Quartier Latin, thinking, talking about, sampling and eating all the wonderful French food on display. I could spend the rest of the week writing about the weekend but, instead, here are a few of the food highlights of our trip to Paris.
Les goûtes de Paris à Samedi – Tastes of Paris: Saturday
– café crème, les tartines – pieces of fresh crunchy baguette, slathered with sweet butter – and strawberry jam for breakfast.
– tooth-shudderingly sweet Turkish delight, moist nutty baklava and a restorative cup of coffee in the annex to theInstitut du Monde Arabe after a fascinating walk around their L’Age d’Or des Sciences Arabes exhibition.
– the hustle and bustle of market street Rue Mouffetard, complete with the savoury scent of rotisserie meats at the charcuterie, pungent fromagerie and fragrant chocolatiers, all demanding my attention, tastebuds and euros.
– lunch was bought on the street and transported back to the hotel room for an impromptu picnic. Herb flavoured ham shank hot from the rotisserie with a roasted quail, all crisp greasy skin and fragile bones to be stripped of flesh. We also got a serving of baby new potatoes, cooked at the base of the rotisserie, soaked in all the fat and flavour, and a demi baguette to mop up the juices. That was accompanied with a bottle of syrah, followed that with a small chalky button of goat’s cheese and, some time later, with a few tiny melt-in-the-mouth macaroons.
– defrosting after an icy wind-blown trip up the Eiffel Tower in a bar with a couple of hot bitter coffees and a warming mellow calvados
– despite an extended search for a recommended restaurant called l’Afghanistan in the 11eme our dinner was mostly red wine. The restaurant was complet, full, so we grabbed a couple of eaten-on-foot pastries from an Algerian bakery and repaired to a bar called Le Chat Noir to deplete their stocks of Bordeaux.
Manger de Dimanche: Sunday eating
– a couple of pain au chocolate eaten while wandering the city looking for a Sunday morning organic market mentioned on Chocolate & Zucchini.
– restorative hot chocolate with warm flaky croissants at a café while we tried to figure out where our wandering had led us.
– after the purchase of an extra bag, a dizzying dash through emptying markets and closing shops for wine, cheese, garlic and chocolate to bring a little taste of Paris back to Dublin.
– ridiculous queues at la Musée d’Orsay made us decide to abandon sightseeing on Sunday and instead indulge in what became the pièce de résistance of the weekend – a three-course €19 menu complet at a quiet bar near the hotel. Good food, decent wine and leisurely eating.