When The Cheese Princess and her sister, The Chocoholic, were in Paris for two weeks over Christmas, I knew that we needed to do some serious degusting of the great and powerful ambrosia of the cacao, the food of the gods. Oh, the paste from the seeds of the cacao that breathes us into its addictive magnificence, rolls us around in its luxury of smell and taste, and leaves us in its creaminess. Yes, we were going to experience and savor some extraordinary chocolate.
WHILE I WAS in the United States of America, the Lone Wolf, Cheese Princess, her sister, Bret, and I were staying at an old beach shack on Pawleys Island, SC, (Town Hall shown on right). That alone was Heaven on Earth as well as a slice of Southern authenticity, but on top of that, one of our perks was having a cabinet full of our favorite drinking glasses.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are the famous Tervis Tumblers. Oh, how I've coveted actually having some in Paris. I love them so.
In France, we are lucky to have beautiful markets full of vegetables
and fruits, meats, poultry, and fish, artisan sausages and cheese, fresh
eggs, jams, jellies, and honey not to mention butter full of crusty
salt that is cut from huge rounds. French butter is spreadable gold on
still warm baguette, which you can sometimes be lucky enough to find at
the markets as well. Oh, woe are our waist lines with such bounty.
There is so much more, and if you've ever been to France, it is
likely that you've filled bags with these goodies and carried some of
them home. Tapenades, terrines, a hearty cassoulet in a big jar, sweet
lavender soaps, Herbes de Provence, caramels, chocolates, and salt.
These markets are a part of French heritage and culture that the
French are quite proud of--and everyone who visits absolutely adores.
Open-air markets seem closer to the Earth than a huge Costco or Sam's
Club. It is experiential shopping, especially buying food from the
farmers or winemakers who produce it themselves. The personal touch
always makes a difference no matter what individualized communication or
business transaction is occurring.
Our need to connect to others as well as tapping into deep, primal parts of ourselves is a potent component of the culture surrounding planning,
shopping, cooking, and serving a simple or grand meal to share with
family or friends. We break bread with others, therefore we are.
In my neighborhood--the 20th Arrondissement--we have a huge and
marvelous market with what seems like a mile of fine foods. It is le Marché Belgrand, and it runs along the Square Edouard Vaillant by the hospital where Edith Piaf was born, and turns onto the rue Belgrand and continues until the Place Edith Piaf.
In this last embrace of summer, here are a few photos...
As you all know, my daughter Blair--The Cheese Princess--is
my eyes and ears in the food and wine world. She leads, and I follow.
So when she was here this summer, I had to introduce her to our new
friends Sebastian du Petit Thouars and his lovely girlfriend, D'Arcy
Flueck--or @dupetitthouars and @chicsetera in twitter parlance.
The Lone Wolf and I had met them a couple of months before, and we
were charmed. Sebastian is a Parisian hipster in the best sense of the
word, a mod Renaissance man who is up on good music, food, wine, and a
range of other subjects including American culture. He has a natural
joie de vivre that radiates from him like a cherubic Buddha in a hot,
zesty band, and he happens to be running his family's vineyard Chateau du Petit Thouars (chateau pictured above). Not bad, as our friend M. Malric of the Hotel St. Germain
once said to us with a twinkle in his eye. D'Arcy has a background in
fashion and luxury goods, and it warmly shows. So naturally we wanted The Cheese Princess to meet these two.
So I snagged a reservation for us all at Le Baratin,
a restaurant which we'd wanted to check out for some time in our
neighborhood, Paris's 20th Arrondissement. The scoop about Le Baratin
is that it's the place where Parisian chefs like to go, including Pierre
Hermé. It can be hard to get a reservation, partially because it's
difficult to catch someone on the phone.
Le Baratin--notice all the stickers denoting its recommended status among various food guides (Photo by Beth Arnold)
I love the Ritz and thePlace Vendôme where it sits so majestically. It would be heaven to stay in the suite where Coco Chanel lived and changed the habits and ideas about the dress of modern women (even if she consorted with Nazis).
The Hemingway Bar is my kind of place with its icy martinis, even if they're a little silly with flowers in them. What would Papa say about that? Fish them out. (Here is the previous blog I wrote about my favorite Pariswatering hole.)
The salty cocktail mix and olives are the perfect accompaniments along with the other little hors d'oeuvres that one can order or that sometimes magically come your way, as if the Cocktail God has bestowed a great gift on us for being in such a hallowed hall. And Colin, the bartender, is a Hemingway Bar icon as well as a poobah in the world of cocktail mixing. In my opinion, it's only proper to give him a respectful nod if one is ingesting his artful libations.
When I dream of Corscia, I see a horizon with sparkling blue sea
touching electric blue sky as I smell the fragrant maquis in its
breezes. I slip into cool water and take a long swim, wondering at the
sea life around me.
The Lone Wolf and I fell in love with Corsica on our first trip to
the island, when we had cruised there on a ferry from Nice. We drove
our car off the boat and into the city of Ajaccio, where Napoleon
Bonaparte had sent some of his plunder to his uncle, the powerful
Cardinal Fesch. This collection plus more is housed in Cardinal Fesch's
palace and is a very well-hung museum .
On this trip, we had decided to go north, first to Calvi and then to
explore the Cap Corse. My guidebook had enticed us with this:
While Corsica is traditionally an agricultural and
cattle-breeding island, the Cap Corse headland is staunch fishing
country. The region's fisherman travel far out to sea to catch
lobsters, and seafood is the region's gastronomic delicacy. The
landscape and way of life of this region is much like the French region
of Brittany - but with sun."
You can see the appeal.
You can read Parts 1 and 2 of our trip, here and here.
One of the
striking things about Parisian pastry shops is the absolute consistency of the
offerings. There’s a repertoire of 30-odd confections upon which the
establishment is judged, which constitute an unyielding part of the French patrimoine. Surprises are quite rare in the French
because of, the presence of some 50,000 Americans living here, one would never,
ever find American-style cake, with its vulgar and unwieldy wedge-like slices,
or a slice of pie,
with its disorganized fruit, and imperfect strips of crust, in a French pastry
shop. The Parisians are
warming up to le muffin,
and the odd brownie, and cupcakes are sprouting up in some of the ice-cream
stores in the 6earrondissement (think Upper East Side), and le
Marais (think Chelsea).
Parisians like single-serve items.
Sugarplum Cake Shop
The new Sugarplum
Cake Shop is a total and
extremely welcome aberration for Paris. Its unabashedly American-style
offerings, and extremely high quality put most Manhattan bakeries
U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin and Ms. Susan
Tolson (Photo by Beth Arnold)
We were attending a reception in honor of the inauguration of the jardin
potager ornemental (the organic herb and vegetable garden) for the
American Ambassador's residence that Ms. Tolson had initiated to
support the work of America's First Lady Michelle Obama and her organic vegetable garden at the White House. This
movement called "The People's Garden" at the USDA is not just a
symbol to encourage all of us to eat healthily and well and to care for
the earth; at the same time it's also a living, growing reality that has
crossed the Atlantic to Europe. I also appreciate Ms. Tolson's effort
to support her husband's official policies in France which include a
Crossposted at the HuffPo.com. Comments not included here.
Any coastline on the Mediterranean is beautiful, so what is it
about Corsica that makes it so dreamy?
One perfect day: The Lone Wolf, Cheese Princess, and I were
wandering around Calvi's magnificent citadel when we came across the one
and only Christopher Columbus, a native son according to the signs.
Christopher Columbus in Calvi (Photo by Beth Arnold)
We knew Napoleon Bonaparte came from Corsica, before he put the "E" in
emperor. But Christopher Columbus? T.C.P. pointed out that Corsica was
actually closer to Italy's mainland than France, and that Corsica was
once part of Genoa. T.C.P. has a photographic memory, so she always
knows the skinny.
From 25 May to 19 September 2011, the CENTRE POMPIDOU presents a major exhibition that explores Indian society through the eyes of Indian and French artists. A FUN & DYNAMIC exhibit! For more INFO: http://bit.ly/nID8Ym
I'm on a mission--to walk to all the addresses I can find of The Lost Generation writers--Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and more. I've gotta tell you. They had some great digs, and it's a kick to look them up. As M. Malrick of our beloved Hotel Saint Germain would say, not bad. That wild gang knew how to create their lives. Something to think about.
I'll try to get some photos up soon. Ciao.