Archive | February, 2011

Curtains…

25 Feb

Our 20 district bakery tour has hit intermission, before we even arrived at the halfway point.  Why must the curtains be drawn so early?  Well, our young pup’s knees seem unable to withstand the power and sheer strength of his torso, therefore rupturing another knee ligament, tragically only four months after the same injury on the opposing leg.  How fun!?  We live in a 6 floor walk-up at the moment, due to elevator repairs (perfect timing!), so rehab at this current address is quite impossible.  Therefore, we have decided to temporarily take ‘Roscoe in Paris’ to Cannes, the south of France, where my grandmother’s apartment awaits with a working elevator.  Luckily, the beach is across the street and the sun shines most days.  We hope the warm Mediterranean Sea breeze helps Roscoe along with a quick recovery.  We’ll update the blog with stories from down south!

This past week included trips to the veterinarian on Paris’ RER, express train lines connecting the Paris city center to surrounding suburbs.  We weren’t quite sure how Roscoe would react, but we happily observed an extremely excited dog upon boarding the train.  In the future, we hope he doesn’t associate trains with painful vet visits.

Dagger

24 Feb

The bakery tour hit a snag today, as the boulangerie we picked out in the 19th district was closed, unbeknownst to us.  Many bakeries, restaurants, and shops have closed these past two weeks due to school’s Winter Break, but there’s little chance finding out in advance which ones are closed.  Luckily, the bakery sits right next to Parc des Buttes Chaumont, one of the largest and definitely the steepest park in Paris.  We took a walk through the park and made our way to the Temple of Sybil which sits at the top of an island in the middle of a lake.

Instead of stuffing our faces with sugar and carbs, we actually got a bit of a workout today.  It’s probably for the best.  We’ll be back shortly though to visit the bakery, as it’s home to one of the few wood-burning bread ovens that remain in operation in France.

Montmartre

20 Feb

Yesterday it rained buckets all day long. It was cold and dreary, but it didn’t keep us from venturing out to the 18th arrondissement, also known as the neighborhood Montmartre. The cobblestone streets of Montmartre snake around steep curves, leading up and around a big hill, and at the apex is the famous Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. In my opinion this is the cutest neighborhood in Paris. Every street you wander down you find quaint little storefronts and picturesque squares where you want to sit on a bench with some wine or a coffee and watch the young, artsy Paris crowd pass you by.  However, every bench in Montmartre was soaking wet! We opted for a dry seat inside Coquelicot, our second bakery on our bakery tour this week.  We warmed up with some coffee, baguette, brioche and homemade jams inside the bakery. We also bought a few delicious items on our way out to enjoy throughout the rest of the day, including fougasse (focaccia) stuffed with blue cheese and a chocolate chip cravate (a tie shaped puffed pastry). All the items were amazing! There were so many selections to choose from at Coquelicot, both sweet and savory, and we will definitely be going back to sample some others.

After our snacks, we climbed up to Sacre Coeur, took some shelter from the rain, and enjoyed a quiet seat in the beautiful church. I’m sure we’ll visit Montmartre with friends at a later date…hopefully the next time around the sun will be shining!

Layers and layers of butter

17 Feb

Croissants are the quintessential French breakfast pastry, no?  I would say so.  However, the French are not the inventors of this multi-layered pastry.  Per Julia Child, “the croissant, or crescent, was invented to celebrate the Austrian’s turning back of a Turkish siege in 1686 – the shape of the multi-layered roll mirrors the crescent on the Ottoman flag.”  Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, an Austrian opened a bakery in Paris and served Viennese specialties which became wildly popular and spawned French imitations; therefore, the birth of the french croissants.  It also explains why the term “viennoiserie” is used all across Paris to describe croissants and all other variations sold in bakeries.

My brother and I grew up dunking buttery croissants in bowls of hot chocolate, only to find ourselves seriously disappointed in Au Bon Pain’s version of a croissant upon arrival in the United States.  Therefore, one of my goals this year is to learn how to make a proper croissant.  Trial #1 was a failure, although Amy and I still managed to eat a few of them.  Trial #2 turned out much better and I hope, with perhaps some help of professionals, to perfect these by the end of the year.

Trial #2 - Croissant and Pain au Chocolat

 

Behind the 8 ball

16 Feb

As many of you have reminded us, we skipped a bakery on our weekly bakery tour last week. Don’t misinterpret that to mean we didn’t eat any items like bread, tarts, cookies, cakes all week long…that would be pure nonsense! However, in staying true to our original plan of selectively choosing one bakery per week in each of the Paris districts, we decided we should just double up this week.  It’s the only obvious solution, and it is Valentine’s Day week afterall! Since Valentine’s Day so often involves chocolate, we chose a bakery in the 8th arrondissement that specializes in chocolate, fittingly named “La Petite Rose” as our first of two bakeries to visit this week. Man, writing that down makes me feel like a complete glutton. I digress, back to uninhibited disregard for healthy eating…


La Petite Rose displays its perfect, artfully-created pastries in the front window allowing all to see. They are so pretty, you get this feeling before taking your first bite, that you just don’t want to ruin it. Chris opted for the “tout chocolat” which, as it’s name suggests, is all chocolate (chocolate biscuit, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache). I tried the hot chocolate and a chocolate hazelnut pastry. The hot chocolate at La Petite Rose comes in two options…do you want 70% melted chocolate and 30% steamed whole milk in your mug, or are you having the kind of day where 70% just doesn’t fit the bill and you need 85% chocolate and 15% milk. I told Chris, and I don’t say this often, my pastry AND the 70% hot chocolate might have been a bit over-indulgent, even for me!

Springtime?

15 Feb

60 and sunny in February?  We’ll take it.  And by the looks of things, most Parisiens enjoyed the day.  A stroll through Les Halles and the Pompidou center revealed quite the scene.  Packed terrace cafes, occupied benches, and lunch outdoors were the prominent themes.  We tried to follow suit.  After a quick stop at our favorite store for Financier baking molds, we enjoyed the sunshine while lazily making our way through Les Halles.  Lunch was a takeout sandwich and a ledge at Saint-Eustache Church.

We certainly were not the only ones with that idea.  When the weather permits, the French obviously flock outdoors.  Although the weather isn’t supposed to hold, the sunshine put a smile on our faces.

Familiar Faces

11 Feb

We had a friend visiting for a couple days this week, hence the lack of blog updates.  Hadrien, one of the twins from France whom I’ve known since kindergarten, traveled from his home in Marseille to Paris for a wedding, which gave us a quick two days to catch up.  Many of you have met Hadrien either back in Falls Church, VA or at our wedding last summer.  Remember this?

We enjoyed some walks in Paris, long lunches near the Eiffel Tower, and a few glasses of wine.  I think it did both Amy and I some good to have someone with us who knows his way around the city and I’m sure Roscoe enjoyed having another playmate!  Last night, we brought Hadrien along to meet some family friends for dinner at a neighborhood bistrot in the 1st district.  The menu was chock full of traditional french dishes such as warm goat cheese salad, roast chicken, and steak tartare.  The place was completely full at 1030 at night, which I remarked is quite different from dinnertime in the United States.  It’s definitely a change, but we’re getting the hang of it.  My father is now in town for 48 hours.  We’re excited to see another familiar face in Paris and we hope to see a few more in the upcoming months!