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Fussy Eats Paris – Part One

September 18, 2013

Goldilocks had to try a few different things before she could settle on the one that was just right. I feel her pain. When I arrived in Albany, I found it to be too small. There was no grassfed hamburger, no place to get a reliably good espresso, and there wasn’t even a Chipotle or Trader Joe’s.

But Paris? Paris is much, much too big. As a food lover, I can barely stand it. I go to a cheese counter and gaze upon rows and rows of raw milk farmstead cheeses that will never ever make it to the US and I want to eat them all. But I can’t. And there are so many highly acclaimed bakeries within the city walls that even at a pace of visiting two a day it would take months to sample them all.

So what’s a fussy food lover to do? Prioritize. And it helps to have a loose plan.

More than anything else, I wanted to get the things that I just couldn’t eat anywhere else. And while my short list was comprised of fundamentally simple things, they are mindbendingly delicious. It’s the glorious trinity of butter, bread and cheese. My goal was two loaves and two cheeses per day, and as much butter as I could squeeze in, in between.

People have requested a travelog, so here’s how it all played out.

I generally operate in such a sleep deprived state that I can pretty much sleep on demand anywhere. So a window seat against the bulkhead on the overnight flight to Paris wasn’t much of a challenge. The upside was that I awoke at CDG ready to take on the day. Mrs. Fussy didn’t fare so well.

Still, armed with plenty of euros (last time we arrived with only dollars) we grabbed a quick cafe noisette at the airport. It was crap, but it helped to clear out the cobwebs from the plane.

We grabbed the train at the airport into the city and popped out by our hotel in the 3rd. The Paris Metro is awesome. Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we ditched the bags and took a walk down to the Seine. Mrs. Fussy was feeling peckish, and I thought it would be an auspicious beginning for this trip if the first bite I put in my mouth was the same as the last thing I ate before leaving the last time.

That was a financier nature from Eric Kayser. Mrs. Fussy is very good to me (either that or she was too sleep deprived to argue), so we went back to the very same one in the 6th and grabbed that decadent butter-filled pastry along with the first baguette of many to come.

We got Mrs. Fussy back to the hotel before she collapsed from exhaustion in the street. And while she napped, I went out to take care of some eating and procure some supplies for the room.

Early in August I had promised my friend Chef W that this visit I would make a stop at L’As du Fallafel to eat their famous version of this Middle Eastern concoction. And since I was both close by and relatively hungry for actual food, that I should seize the moment and cross it off my list early.

For the record, it was very good. Maybe not quite 5* good. I really wanted more from many of its components. I wanted the pickled cabbage to be more sour, I wanted the hot sauce to be more hot, and I wanted the sesame sauce to be more robust. But it was remarkable for the crisp, hot, small balls of fried ground chickpeas that were surprisingly well distributed within the overflowing pita. Now, for the very first time, I feel compelled to go to Israel and see how this stacks up against some of the best native versions of the form.

By sheer luck, or maybe it was fate, I passed by an epicerie that specialized in food from Brittany. And there I found the main object of my desire, Bordier butter. Can’t get it here. Never going to happen. This butter is fragile stuff. Even refrigerated, it doesn’t taste as good on day two as it does on day one.

I also picked up an incredible bottle of funky, effervescent farmhouse hard cider. Man, that stuff is good. Its deep barnyard flavor isn’t something I’ve been able to find in any other cider available in the U.S. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but the small production stuff from Brittany rocks.

The shop only had the unsalted version of my butter, so now I needed to find some salt.

In an attempt to get my bearings, I found myself wandering down side streets, just taking in the sights and sounds of the city. And I made another fortuitous discovery in a small shop called L’epicerie de Bruno. My French is awful, but it seemed to specialize in spices, so I thought they might have my salt.

Voila.

Not only did they have salt, but the gentleman sold me 115 g of fleur de sel de L’ile de Re. When I told the proprietor it was for butter, I showed him my Bordier. Turns out the fellow was from Brittany himself, and volunteered that the butter in my sack was the best butter in Paris. And in fact, the salt I was getting was the same salt Bordier uses in his salted butters. His pride was palpable.

I probably should have stayed and talked with this passionate food lover longer, but I had to return to the hotel and wake Mrs. Fussy from her slumber.

Soon thereafter I discovered the first minor tragedy of the trip. As we were unpacking the suitcase it seemed as if we were visited by underpants gnomes. All of my underpants had completely vanished, and I had packed five pairs. So my early evening outing was going to include an extra stop. Before I went to pick up more bread and the first two cheese of the trip, I needed to stop in at H&M.

The good news is that I discovered the H&M boxer shorts are quite comfortable. Who knew?

Anyway, the bread was another loaf from Kayser. This time the pain levain. I also picked up a baguette from Paul which also has shops everywhere. Turns out I’m not nearly as big a fan of Paul as I am of Eric.

The nearest cheesemonger was a place called simply “La Fromagerie” on the Rue Montorgueil, and asking specifically for farmstead cheeses, I picked up a handsome piece of reblochon and another piece of a firm and salty brebis. Future cheese excursions would be much more satisfying, as this shop seemed to be in relatively short supply of fermier cheeses.

Still, that night Mrs. Fussy and I gorged on cheese, bread, butter, salt and cider in our hotel room. And it was magnificent.

Laying down at the end of the day, I finally realized that this was the first time I was horizontal in close to 48 hours. Damn, that felt good. And as I was nodding off to sleep, I was mulling potential plans for the morning. Mrs. Fussy was going to have to work, and there was so much in the city that I wanted to eat.

Where would I start first?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2013 9:23 am

    Mmmmm. Cheese.

  2. September 18, 2013 10:20 am

    “Now, for the very first time, I feel compelled to go to Israel and see how this stacks up against some of the best native versions of the form.”

    Are you claiming the best falafel for Israel? I believe that might be something of a controversial statement…

    • Debo permalink
      September 19, 2013 3:24 am

      He’s right. I’ve had all of the felafel and Israel does the best. Hands down.

  3. Susan permalink
    September 18, 2013 12:03 pm

    We so loved Paris – went twice and ate bread, butter and cheese every day! Oh and wine.

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