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Fussy Eats Paris – Part Deux

September 19, 2013

To date, one of the greatest pure sensual experiences of my life involved a hose at the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I had hiked down the trail with ADS and Raf without nearly enough water for that hot August day, and on our way up there was a rest stop with non-potable water.

While we might not have been able to drink it, the water that came from the public hose was copious and cold. And the feeling of pure pleasure as it cascaded over my sweat-drenched head, neck, face, and hands was immeasurable.

Laying down on a soft bed after a restless sleep on a cramped airplane and an afternoon wandering around the Right Bank was pretty high up there, though. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I overslept. Thankfully, there was some construction going on outside the hotel, otherwise I would have slept even later.

It was a happy accident, because I was going to need my rest for day number two in Paris. But before I could do anything else, I needed a cup of good coffee.

The morning was gray and cool, but not rainy. Parisians on the whole don’t seem to be that tough when it comes to cooler weather. I was comfortable in my shirt sleeves, but most everyone else was wearing jackets and scarves.

My plan today was to discover not just some French food treats, but also to try and learn more about this city. I wasn’t looking for tourist sights, but rather trying to get a sense of the different neighborhoods and what they were all about.

So I walked north to the giant archway at the end of Rue Saint-Martin. There was clearly another stately structure further up the road, so I thought I would check it out. Turns out, it was Gare de l’Est. The French know how to build some really beautiful train stations.

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To get to 10 Belles, the cafe I had set my sights upon, I then had to cross a canal.

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The canal was amazing. Not only was I able to watch a small motor boat ride its way up one of the vine-wrapped locks, but I followed the canal downstream and discovered that it went underground through most of the city.

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For Paris coffee, 10 Belles was great. Coffee in Paris is one of those things that is largely not so great. The milk often comes from shelf stable boxes, and the coffee beans are all pre-ground and over-extracted. This was on a completely different level, but I’ve had better, even in Paris.

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I followed the canal down to the Bastille. After it went underground, it was covered by a long narrow park that stretched the canal’s length through the city. At the far northern end, there was a homeless encampment, complete with ratty mattresses crammed under a gazebo. But just a few dozen yards away, there was a fancy garden party underway with a large spread of food and cases of fancy beverages.

At this point I knew where I was going. After coffee, I was going to walk towards lunch, which was a recommended gourmet sandwich shop in the 11th called Chez Aline.

Seriously, my favorite thing in the world is walking from one delicious thing to the next. I spent one birthday like that in Berkeley, and I wish I could do the same thing pretty much every day of my life.

Walk. Drink. Walk. Eat. Walk. Eat. Walk. Drink. Walk. Eat. Walk. Drink. Walk. Sleep. That’s a perfect day.

On the way to lunch I passed a Parisian McDonalds. There was a line out the door. And it’s not as if McDonald’s is inexpensive there either. When I saw this a little piece of me died, and I stopped to weep for mankind.

It’s kind of remarkable how expensive American staples are in Paris. A Coke could cost you anywhere from two to eight dollars. But you can get a truly stunning croissant made with real butter, from a fabulous patisserie, for just over a dollar. And mind bending cheeses are a relative bargain too.

Fortunately, there was also a line outside Chez Aline too, and that restored a bit of my faith in humanity.

There I had a scrumptious sandwich of a fried veal cutlet dressed in a sauce of capers, garlic, parsley and hard cooked eggs, with a little bit of dressed greens. The whole thing was folded into a sliced baguette, and it was perfect (that’s a word I don’t use lightly). The place itself was teeny. There were a few tables outside, and a few stools inside at a counter.

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At one point in its history, this shop must have been a butcher. There was an antique ceiling rail that ran into a walk-in refrigerator that at one point was used for hanging sides of meat.

Honestly, the sandwich was so good, that I was tempted to make a return trip here on day three. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

While the sandwich was completely satisfying, I couldn’t resist the ice cream just down the street. It may not have been the best ice cream ever, but when a chocolate shop makes their own triple chocolate ice cream, it’s hard to say no. And for good measure, I also picked up a baguette from the bakery on the corner.

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Yesterday I told you about the problem I had with underpants gnomes. What I didn’t tell you was that the day before I left for this trip, I got a bee sting on my foot, and now it was starting to bother me. So after lunch, I hopped on the Metro and rode back to the hotel. Seriously, the Paris Metro is fantastic.

After a little rest, I went back out in search of the day’s second loaf of bread and the two cheeses I needed to stick to my master plan of bread, cheese, butter and salt.

The cheeses came from a much better fromagerie at the corner of Rue Charlot and Rue de Bretagne. Most everything was fermier versions of raw milk cheeses. It was easier for the matron of the shop to point out the cheeses that were not fermier, there were only about six of those. So I ended up with an extra pungent form of brie and a young ripe disc of Saint Marcellin.

My second baguette of the day (third if you count the one on my sandwich) came from 134 RDT, a shop that had won a pretty big award in the past.

But it was in picking up this baguette that I learned a valuable lesson.

As I came into the neighborhood, I smelled something heavenly. It was the heady aroma of burning sugar mixed with butter. There was a caramel maker on the block. But instead of going into Jacques Genin to pick up a few caramels based on the strength of their smell alone, I thought it would be prudent to go back and do a little more research first. After all, there are so many good things to eat in Paris and this shop hadn’t been on my radar.

This was a mistake. Of course they were good. Noses don’t lie. And even if they weren’t, and even at one euro per petite caramel, buying a couple to experience first hand wouldn’t have been a big deal.

In the end, I never made it back. That was a shame.

But I did have some fantastic cheese and awesome breads on hand for dinner. In addition to the two cheeses I had just picked up, there was still a chunk of the Reblochon and a big piece of the Brebis from the night before. And of course, there was plenty of Bordier butter and fleur de sel.

What there wasn’t was any wine or cider.

Mrs. Fussy joined me for cheese before heading out to her business dinner. And after she went out, I made it to a David Lebowitz favorite, Le Garde Robe. This wine bar is all about charcuterie, and they had a gorgeous slicer. I sat at the bar and inhaled the perfume of cured and smoked meats while I sipped on my glass of organic wine. However, after all of the cheese I had just eaten, the thought of munching on cured meats held no appeal. The wine on the other hand, was perfect for pushing all that cheese through my veins.

Apparently this wine bar doesn’t have a license to serve wine without food. So I was compelled to order something from the menu.

Given my love for all things dairy, it’s probably no surprise that I went for the panna cotta. Theirs was topped with wine poached fig with rosemary. Yeah. That was incredible. More desserts should have rosemary in them.

And it was a lovely way to end my night. Mrs. Fussy was back at the hotel by the time I returned. Her work dinner was okay, but I think I totally won on the strength of my dessert. It took a little while to fall asleep that night, but I had learned many lessons that day which would come in handy for the remainderr of the trip.

So before my head hit the pillow, I set an alarm for the morning. Day three was going to involve a lot of walking and a lot more serious eating.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2013 9:54 am

    “On the way to lunch I passed a Parisian McDonalds. There was a line out the door. And it’s not as if McDonald’s is inexpensive there either. When I saw this a little piece of me died, and I stopped to weep for mankind.”

    Maybe the Parisians view McDonalds as we should in the US. That is to say as a bizarre novelty to be sampled infrequently. Factory farming, environmental issues, minimum wage, food additives, blah blah blah, aside — there is no denying that certain McDonalds items tasty very, very good. If enjoying your Royal w/Cheese once every 6 months tickles your French pickle, then pourqouis pas? “Stopped to weep for mankind” is a bit dramatic for me…

  2. Susan permalink
    September 19, 2013 10:38 am

    You have me salivating over all of this deliciousness!!! I want to go back to Paris – and eat, walk, drink, walk, eat, walk….etc.

  3. September 19, 2013 1:21 pm

    Sounds like you had a wonderful day! I agree that more desserts should have rosemary. When we were in San Gimignano last month, I had a scoop of raspberry-rosemary gelato that really surprised me. So good!

  4. Jamie permalink
    September 19, 2013 3:35 pm

    Europeans always wear scarves.

  5. October 21, 2015 8:59 am

    Parfait!

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