Fussy Eats Paris – Day Trois
I’ll let you in on a little inside joke. Sometimes when Mrs. Fussy forgets her manners, I’ll ask her, “Where did you go to finishing school?” The only correct rejoinder to that question is pronounced [DAY-twa] which as I’ve gleaned from my Michigan friends is the fancy way of pronouncing “Detroit.”
Never forget, I write this thing almost entirely for my own amusement.
That said, I don’t like to leave topics half-baked. And last week I took a brief break from the travelog of my recent Paris trip. You know, I didn’t intend for this recap to take up a week’s worth of posts. But then again, I haven’t really begun to eat around New Jersey in earnest.
Heck, I haven’t even been to the local Whole Foods yet. Nor have I eaten a Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich with saltpepperketchup. Needless to say, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I can’t not tell you about my third day in Paris, because this was my feast of butterfat.
Friday, like all other days was gray and wet. But I had big plans. Not only was I meeting up with some old Berkeley friends who now live in the 16th, but I intended to correct the wrongs of my trip last December.
Then, I left Paris without ever trying the famous miche from Poulaine. And my friend Chef Paul will surely be beside himself with disbelief, but I didn’t eat a single macaron. Oh yeah, and I didn’t try either of David Lebovitz’s favorite croissants. I was fairly confident that I could bang all of that out in a morning, provided I got an early start.
So I crossed the Seine and headed to the Left Bank.
Stop number one was Gerard Mulot for croissant number one. Holy cow! I don’t know how this place is able to sell such an incredible pastry for just over a euro. More than anything else it was toasty, and just oozing with browned butter flavor. With great lift and a crisp crust (despite the damp air) I was willing to overlook the fact that its interior crumb was just a little bit tougher than perfection.
The map told me that croissant number two wasn’t far away at Pierre Herme. But somehow I walked past it, ignored the storefront numbers, and ended up walking blocks and blocks out of my way. That was the bad news. The good news is that I found myself at Laduree, and I figured I could concurrently conduct a mini tour of macarons while in the midst of this mini croissant tour.
My flavor for the day, Venezuelan chocolate. And theirs was pretty good. The chocolate intensity was there. But the shell had a little bit of grit to it, and I thought that perhaps there was just a smidge too much ganache in the center. I know. Who complains about too much filling? Except the issue here is balance. Macarons should have it. This one was off.
Now it was time to backtrack to Pierre Herme.
Wow. This shop is amazing. It’s like a crazy expensive pastry museum. The word gorgeous wouldn’t be out of place. Luckily, I was there with a plan, and I was going to stick to it, dammit. So I grabbed my butter croissant and Venezuelan chocolate macaron, and left to eat them under the protective eaves of a nearby church.
First the croissant. While almost twice the price of the first specimen, this was still an incredible bargain. Some people in the northeast sell bagels for more. And bagels aren’t overflowing with sweet, aromatic butter. The crumb on the PH croissant was tender with a fresh butter flavor. This exterior was also crispy, but a lot more delicate.
Each croissant had its strengths. Really, I wanted the crust of the first with the interior of the second.
Surprisingly, the Pierre Herme macaron did not measure up. While the shell was blissfully grit free, the chocolate ganache was much too firm. This is going to sound terribly precious, but the only way to bite through the cookie was to apply extra force once the teeth encountered the ganache. Mon dieu!
Okay, two croissants and two macarons down. Time to get bread.
Originally, I had thought the giant round loaves of miche at Poulaine were only available in their whole form. It never occurred to me that they would sell fractional units. While the bakers didn’t speak great English, with an initial, “Bonjour” followed my wild gesticulations, I was barely able to communicate that I wanted two quarters, unsliced.
It took a tremendous amount of restraint to hold onto these in my satchel, as one was intended for Mrs. Fussy at the hotel, and the other was going to friends’ apartment for dinner.
Now if you happen to find yourself at Poulaine just before lunchtime on a Friday, you are right around the corner from the Raspail market. So even though I was full of butterfat, and I had some of the best bread in the world in my sack, I had to at least take a peek at the foodstuffs on display. Oddly, one of these was a California style taco truck. And I was so so tempted to have a carnitas taco. But despite all of the walking, I was full of pastry, and I didn’t want to use up any of my capacity on a taco.
My morning took a bit longer than expected, so I popped into a well regarded coffee shop to collect my thoughts and plan out the rest of the afternoon. While Malongo looked like a great place, their noisette was over extracted, and their milk came from shelf stable boxes. Better than average for Paris, but not as good as the buzz.
My original plan was to hit a bistro for lunch, pick up some more butter on the way back to the hotel, get a little rest, head off to one of the best cheese shops in Paris, grab a couple more baguettes, and drop in on my friends.
I wasn’t going to make the bistro in time. But I figured I could at least pop in and try to make a lunch reservation for Saturday, and that way at least I could enjoy this well regarded spot with Mrs. Fussy.
On the way, I passed Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis. Given that ice cream is just frozen butter fat, I really couldn’t say no. And I couldn’t say no to salted caramel either.
Remember that canal that went underground through most of Paris? Well I was able to see where it came out on my way to A la Biche au Bois. The bistro was absolutely charming, and the matron was incredibly warm. Sadly, I must have gotten some bad information, because while I knew they were closed on Saturday for dinner, I had thought they were open for lunch. Nope. Bummer.
Well, at least I’ve got someplace I have to go on my next trip.
It was time to get back in the direction of the hotel. And I was able to pick up another brick of Bordier butter and some of the beurre cru baratte a l’ancienne from Pascal Beillevaire. Oh my God those butters are mind bendingly good. But the Bordier has a much more robust flavor and firmer texture. If you can only get one butter, it should be Bordier.
At this point, I had walked over 20,000 steps. Mrs. Fussy sent me off with a pedometer so I could tell. And not only did I take a brief rest, but I showered before dinner.
Before I left for Paris, I had La Fromagerie d’Auteuil on my list of places to go. It was a long list, and I wasn’t going to make it everywhere. And had my friends not lived around the corner, I might never have actually made it to this fantastic shop. Michel Fouchereau is not just a cheesemonger but also an affineur, which is to say he ages his cheeses, and sells them at their peak of ripeness.
Almost everything is fermier and raw milk. And it was there that I was like a kid in a candy store. I was so so so glad to be able to put a cheese plate together for my friends, because it meant I would be able to try more cheeses than I could possibly imagine on my own.
Perhaps my favorite of the bunch were the buttons of Rocamadour fermier that were just 1.55 euros each. And they were runny, grassy, raw milk goat’s cheese with a bloomy rind and an unctuous creaminess. Far too fragile to import, and far too dangerous for Americans to eat in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
It was also a treat to try something incredibly different like the Elutcha des Cabasses, which was an intense semi-firm raw milk sheep cheese from Avignon.
To round it out there was a lovely piece of Beaufort, a quarter disc of Coulommier, and a glorious stinky and slightly sweet blue (whose name was written on the wrapper, but proved to be illegible).
Oh yeah, and the baguettes I picked up in the bakery next door were hot. Not still warm. They were just out of the oven. And they were fantastic.
Seriously, I don’t think I could have asked for a better day.
Okay, maybe I could have asked for better weather. And I probably could have done without getting turned around when I popped out of the Metro station back near the hotel. I don’t think I was ever in danger, but I stumbled into a pack of some strangely aggressive prostitutes.
Mostly they just made me uncomfortable in how they looked at me like I was a juicy steak. But I can’t say that I blame them. After what I ate that day, I was probably the most delicious person in the city.