Paris Day 8 (September 8) (I swear I thought I posted this ages ago)

When I first found Square Georges Cain, I was very intrigued by all the edible produce growing among the decorative flowers and bushes. I meant to research it, but time slipped away until I ended up leading about it at the Musée Carnavalet. During WWII, gardens like Square Georges Cain were used to grow produce. Today there are just a few chard plants and squash vines in Georges Cain, but people still eat them, as was evidenced by the cut chard stems. My other question was, as you might imagine, who gets to eat this produce?

The answer to this question came when I stopped by the square to use the free Paris wifi. The wifi at the apartment was being stupid, so I had to my morning research and all the in the park. Hardly even a nuissance.

There were three groundskeepers doing their thing—keeping the grounds and all that—in a discussion with two other guys. I couldn’t make it out from the bench in far corner, but the upshot is that the two non-groundskeeper guys walked away with some very nice squash that was picked right then for them.

Now I don't want to say it wasn't necessary for all the groundskeepers to gather around and moderate the proceedings, but two of them did take the opportunity to have a smoke.

Now I don’t want to say it wasn’t necessary for all the groundskeepers to gather around and moderate the proceedings, but two of them did take the opportunity to have a smoke.

My Aunt met me there and we went to Ladurée for lunch.

But you know, whatever.

But you know, whatever.

Comedic understatement aside, Ladurée was pretty much perfect. I adhered to their no photo policy, so the only online proof I have that I actually went there is that picture. I guess something CAN actually happen even if I don’t post about it!

Anyways, I had the Monday special, steak tartare. When I ordered, the (I assume) well-meaning waitress asked “Euh, you know, is not cooked, right?” Yes, I knew. We have steak tartare in the US too. Nothing like Ladurée’s, of course. It was served with their pommes Pont Neuf, which are basically big frites, served in a cross-hatched stack on a separate plate. Also perfect.

Even the little chocolates that come with the receipt are fantastic, and I had the best café au lait of my life. All in all, a productive visit.

This day turned out to be a sort of double pilgrimage day with the proceeding stop at E. Dehillerin. I won’t publish exactly what I got because some of it is a gift for my mom, but I will say is was knives, because what else would I get there?

Here, have a picture of the storefront instead.

Here, have a picture of the storefront instead.

It was cool to see all the same knives my mom has from 30 years ago still being made and sold like it’s no big deal, and of course it’s a cool place overall.

This was a relatively quick and practical stop, but afterwards we continued on to BHV, a French department store. Very cool! There was even a craft beer display, and this Hardcore IPA jumped out at me.

9.2% ABV!

That ABV is a little hardcore for an IPA.

At this point it had been basically 9 days since my last Stone IPA, so I was craving an that kind of flavor—grapefruit, hops, bitter—and this beer actually delivered! It was a bit cloying, but great other than that.

BHV’s hardware section also yielded a cool “SORTIE” decal for my kick drum head.

We were oddly not so hungry after all that shopping, and a crêpe sounded just about perfect for dinner this night. A small time investment to scour the area around our apartment turned up La Cidrerie du Marais.

La Basque - jambon de Bayonne, tomato and bell pepper-y sauce, buckwheat crêpe.

La Basque – jambon de Bayonne, tomato and bell pepper-y sauce, buckwheat crêpe.

I’m not usually super into whole grain things, but the crêpe was just a small part of the dish. The cider was excellent too!

Advertisements

Paris Day 7 (September 7)

Another day, another breakfast. Yeehaw.

After a nice sitting session in my favorite Square Georges Cain, I wandered around the Marais. This weekend, most of the streets coming off busy Rue Saint Antoine were blocked off, making much of the Marais pedestrian only, with the exception of scooters, deliveries, and especially bold taxi drivers.

After some exploring and grooving on traditional Jewish music emanating from some school or something, I came to L’As du Falafel. You’ll be happy to know that this was rather more deliberate than the “happening upon” that had been happening in the previous days.

So, like any foodie with two eyes connected to a stomach, I was drawn in by the bustling long line out front. The system was at first a bit hard to discern due to the lack of an official L’As du Falafel uniform, but one orders from and pays a guy more or less in front of the main door, and then you take the receipt to the line stretching down the cobblestone street. Like any street food line, it moves fast.

€6! Read on, because I have more to say on this than will fit in a caption.

€6! Read on, because I have more to say on this than will fit in a caption.

The falafel itself is great, of course. Just had to get that out of the way. The other toppings/fillings are:  cabbage, tomato, cucumber, tahini, yogurt sauce, roasted eggplant, and more yogurt sauce and a little red chutney-the thing if one opts for sauce pimente.

The eggplant could be a (fantastic) dish unto itself! I found my favorite bites were the ones that included this eggplant. The whole thing is, of course, great. I just really love eggplant.

More exploring &c…

The day before, my aunt had texted me a picture of a poster for an open blues jam at a café right near our apartment. Back home, I attend a (what turned out to be uncannily) similar thing–a monthly blues jam where you just show up, sign up, and jam the blues.

IMG_9861

As a drummer, the drums themselves are always a point of interest for me. At the jams back home, I’ve played beautiful vintage Slingerland and Rogers kits that I would never have the opportunity to play otherwise. These drums were certainly vintage, and in fact, I had only heard of them just a couple of months before.

Today, there is an amplifier company called Orange. Originally English, they cater largely to guitarists looking for a fuzzy, grungy, and sometimes vintage sound. A lot bands I like use them—The Sword, Mastodon—but I don’t really know the first thing about “guitar tone” or whatever.

In the 70s, Orange tried their hand at drums. Not unheard of for an amp company—Marshall seems to be doing pretty well with their Natal drums, and Peavey made some cool stuff in the 80s—but the cool thing about Orange drums is that they were French made!

So, I, an American on his first trip to Paris, walk into a blues jam and find vintage, French-made Orange drums (I should mention that the actual finish was black). Not only that, I got to play them!

Of course I took pictures.

I ended up playing two sets! The audience and participants skewed a lot younger than in the US, and that was reflected in the more upbeat songs. It had been a week since I even saw a drumset, so I wasn’t exactly warmed up, but I got through it.

For dinner, we again made the long trek to Au Bouquet St Paul, and in a great feat of willpower, I got something different.

Bavette de bœuf grillée, sauce au poivre, frites maisons.

Bavette de bœuf grillée, sauce au poivre, frites maisons.

Excellently cooked to saignant. The sauce had a great balance of roux richness and pepper bite, and the frites were just plain great. The waiter suggested a very good Bordeaux that was the same price as the wine I had originally chosen.

2009 Château du Fourneau.

2009 Château du Fourneau.

Now this was a red more to my tastes. Sturdy in body, rich, and with a good tanic hit. Rather typical notes of ripe strawberries and other juicy “red fruits” as wine people say, but I like typical. My favorite reds tend to be Super Tuscans, but even I have to admit that they’d be a bit much for a casual café dinner.

Paris Day 6 (September 6)

Got a bit of a late start this day, so we opted for a breakfast out of the apartment and across the street at Le Petit St. Paul. Excellent little café. I particularly liked the Medieval-looking walls and ceilings.

I was able to check off another dish from my must-eat list, a croque madame.

Pain poilâne, the usual jambon et fromage, perfectly fried œuf, and an excellent salad with warm mayonnaise-boosted mustard vinaigrette.

Pain poilâne, the usual jambon et fromage, perfectly fried œuf, and an excellent salad with warm mayonnaise-boosted mustard vinaigrette.

This typically relaxed café visit left us with just a couple of hours to kill until a wine and cheese tasting thing with La Cuisine Paris, so I scoped out some cool parcs and places and the like.

Are you my mummy?

Are you my mummy?

The tasting class started with a pleasant shopping trip to a fromagerie and wine store on Île de la Cité. We adjourned to their wonderful kitchen and dining room overlooking the Seine to taste our plunder.

The whites were of particular note to me. Two excellent specimens:

2013 Les Maisons Rouges L’Éclos, 2013 Berticot Cuvée Première Sauvignon Blanc.

2013 Les Maisons Rouges L’Éclos, 2013 Berticot Cuvée Première Sauvignon Blanc.

L’Éclos was, to my palate, just a really solid white wine. Crisp, green apple notes, quenching, and a nice tart hit on the back of the tongue. The Cuvée Première was more distinct, especially in the nez. Pretty much the only thing I could smell was that one spice you smell a lot in Mexican markets that has sort of a good-bad quality at first, but smells just good after a second. The name eluded me until I asked my fellow foodie friends who supplied me with the answer:  cumin. This wine smelled strongly of cumin. What’s more, it had an almost black pepper-like quality that became apparent as you swallowed it. Up front, it was pleasantly sweet and soft.

Now if those clumsy descriptions didn’t tip you off, I’m no wine blogger. I mean, I’m barely even a blogger, but wine is especially not my area of expertise. I’ll skip over the three reds we tried because they were all a little thin in body and taste for me.

The cheeses, though, were 6 for 6! I’m no cheese blogger either, but I’m generally better at describing stuff that I chew rather than drink. I’ll impose a rather more rigid format for a minute here for expediency’s sake.

1. Petit Gaugry

IMG_9826

A spreading cheese, texture-wise, with the rind hardly harder than the rest of it. The smell is deceptively funky with a raw edge, not preparing one for the mellow creaminess upon the tongue.

2. Bleu d’Auvergne (there was no label to photograph)

Overall an excellent blue cheese. Not the most pungent, and slightly on the drier/crumblier side among bleus I’ve had. Would be great for salad or other topical applications.

3. Brie de Meaux (no label to photograph, a-gain.)

Quite a distinct cheese. Has a distinct—perhaps even more than distinct—broccoli and generally cruciferous smell. Not as pronounced in the taste. Obviously the reflection of what the animals had dined on before getting milked and that milk getting separated and aged and all that. Great cheese.

4. Pélardon

IMG_9830

A rather strong goat cheese. Texture was right around the sweet spot between creamy and crumbly where one could easily spread or break it up over something.

5. Banon

IMG_9831

Desite being wrapped in vinegar-soaked chestnut leaves (what cheese maker had the free time to think up that combination, right?), decidedly mellower that the previous goat cheese. Texture slightly better for spreading. Both are excellent cheeses, though.

6. Mimolette Vielle (Last one without a photo, I swear. But not just because it’s the last cheese.)

I’m always glad to get a little help from our mite friends! Reminds one of a cantaloupe when viewed in its whole form. Parmigiano-like in texture, crystals and all, with less of an edge and an overall sweeter, creamier taste.

After saying our goodbyes, we indulged in a little wine-fueled wandering of Paris. And I thought Paris was great withOUT a few glasses of wine in me!

We finally ended up at Au Bouquet St. Paul (a toilsome, upwards of 100 meter walk from our apartment) where I had the opportunity to try confit canard!

Just the duck and the potatoes. No pesky salad to be bothered with.

Just the duck and the potatoes. No pesky salad to be bothered with.

The potatoes—with the signature color and taste that one can only get with duck fat—were perfectly portioned to be eaten bite-for-bite with the luscious leg quarter, which is a thing I can almost never say for food I eat outside of my home. A sturdy rosé (IGP Méditerranée, year not listed) paired better than I expected after I lacked the foresight to get some sort of red wine.

Paris Day 5 (September 5)

Wow. What a day this was.

It was our last day on Rive Gauche, and the Army Museum was the last museum on my must-visit list on that bank.

No shortage of cannons here.

No shortage of cannons here.

Many of you probably know that a number of very cool things fall under the umbrella term “Army Museum.” The museum is in fact housed in the École Militaire, so the walk from the outer entrance to the ticket line is like a whole museum trip in itself. Cannons, beautiful architecture, minutes from Champs de Mars and the Tour Eiffel…pretty much the perfect school, eh? Except for all the militarism and stuff maybe.

Once one finally winds through the hallways once tread by that one guy with that one tomb somewhere around there, a relatively cheap (€9.50 for the whole museum) ticket gets you through the checkpoints to yet more halls, except these are filled with weapons and armor of old. I didn’t take any pictures because it was pretty dimly lit, so all I have to say is:  “Hey, humanity. 100% tone it down with the war and stuff.”

Weapons back then looked as much like works of art as weapons, with nearly as much variety and detail.

That was all the permanent exhibits. The current temporary exhibit, for the anniversaries of WWI and D Day, is a chronological walk through the late 1800s to just after WWII. I won’t bother writing a bunch of heavy stuff about the horrors of war or the almost odd mix of new technology and old tactics of WWI or any of that—it’d be as depressing for me as for you—but I’ve always been interested in 20th century military history, so the exhibit was interesting to me.

I took a little break to get some fresh air, then dove back in to Napoleon’s Tomb. Marble, gold, rich woods, and more marble. Not enough marble in modern architecture, I say. The one thing I would do differently, though, is to fill the space around the coffin with water, and maybe some sculptures/fountains too. But really, just the ceiling(s?) alone are a sight to behold.

After I felt sufficiently humbled and insignificant before the grandeur of Napoléon, I became hungry. The Army Museum ended up taking less time than I expected, so after a leisurely walk East, with a detour through the Îles for yet more Berthillon (strawberry) and a sandwich from Boulangerie St. Louis, I went to the Louvre.

Always a solid choice.

Always a solid choice.

Le Louvre. Now THAT’S a museum! Man! And people used to live there, too! If you walk too fast and see too much, it could almost stupefy one.

It took me a while to get my bearings while winding through the wings with room after room where the artistry of the floors and ceilings is as much an exhibit as the statues and all that arranged around. I got a little turned around in the Louis XV/XVI-era decor area until I refocused and returned to the main entrance area under the pyramid. After hydrating, the sign for Egyptian antiquities beckoned me to the Sully wing.

First drum I saw since leaving mine behind back home.

First drum I saw since leaving mine behind back home.

Beautiful, beautiful things. The Ancient Egyptian aesthetic is one of my favorite things in the world.

Underneath the Louvre is the original Louvre, a castle barely one quarter the size of the Grand Palais alone. My parents have told me many times the story of their visit to the Louvre in the late 80s when they were still excavating the towers. My dad apparently jumped the rope to touch the face of one of the towers. I did the same, but I had to settle for leaning over the railing due to the presence of Louvre staff. It’s a magical feeling, to touch something like that. There are also various outcroppings of the castle structure along the hallways to and from the main area and a couple more rooms where the walls themselves are the walls of the original castle, but those don’t yield the same satisfaction.

There should be special "touching privilege" tickets for museums.

There should be special “touching privilege” tickets for museums.

I should mention that perhaps the most surprising part of my visit was the security line that took all of two minutes, and the free entry for anyone under 26 years old. Or the two most surprising parts or whatever. Wednesday evening is the time to go to the Louvre, apparently.

I left the Louvre shortly after the first closing announcement and fixed myself a late dinner of an omelette du jambon et fromage.

Am I French yet?

Am I French yet?

Paris Day 4 (September 4)

Shorter post for this day because I spent a big chunk of time in the Museée d’Orsay, and most of the rest of the day wandering and zig zagging around.

In an unusual turn of events, I had breakfast.

Yay ok moving on.

Yay ok moving on.

This whole idea of putting museums in buildings that are themselves works of art makes for a nearly overwhelming experience. But in an area where new construction isn’t really on the table, one has to make do, I guess.

I won’t bore you all with lame photos of exhibits, but I do want to say a few words about this here desk:

IMG_9785

It’s over a hundred years old, yet it looks like it would work for a modern desk user, as in someone with a computer, a monitor or two, etc. I almost wonder what the former user(s) had to fill up all that space, but then again, maybe it was made to be a spacious desk. Either way, all that’s probably just the mark of a good desk.

The proceeding long day of wandering left me almost too tired to get up and get dinner, but with a heroic push, we walked across Place Saint-Sulpice to Brasserie O’neil. I got the same beer because, as I’ve said many times before, I am a boring person. But we were also there to eat, so I got the Flammenkueche Brasseur.

Oignons, lardons, champignons frais, gruyère râpé. My kind of eatin'.

Oignons, lardons, champignons frais, gruyère râpé. The smell of gruyère and onion is a very distinct smell. A wonderful smell, obviously.

Was fantastic, unlike my picture of it. Paired excellently with La Brune. Not much else to say about this hot, cheesy, lardon-y plate of goodness. The no-so-cured lardons gave me my first taste of pork since leaving the États-Unis, a taste I didn’t even realize I was missing, and mushrooms are always nice, of course.

Oh and we were only a party of two in for a quick dinner, so if anyone reading this wants to just fly on over here I’d like to go yet again to try more things.

Paris Day 3 (September 3)

As if our previous breakfast wasn’t French enough, on this morning I nipped out to the closest (open) boulangerie. The closest one happens to be closed on Wednesdays, so, unfazed, I just walked in the opposite direction of the people carrying baguettes. It didn’t take long to find one that was open, but just in that short walk I had to pass two other boulangeries that are also closed on Wednesdays. Despite all that extreme hardship, though, we got our breakfast together.

Still not passé.

Still not passé.

The closest market on Wednesdays is Marché Monge at Place Monge. An excellent market that covers all the essentials.

Since none of the record stores in the area are open after 19:00, this was now the time to hit them up. There are several disquaires clustered along Rue des Écoles, for obvious reasons, as well as more scattered around the general area. I doubled back toward RdÉ to begin my day of crate digging.

Met this nice and slightly odd chat along the way.

Met this nice and slightly odd chat along the way.

My search for a record store that had apparently closed or moved brought me to the Panthéon–just another majestic building in the middle of everything–and a funny little place called De Clercq, who claim to be les rois de la frite. “Well, ok then” I said. Un petit cornet and my umpteenth bottle of Badoit only cost me €4.60. I took one last look up and down the street (still looking for that record store), and then I had a nice sit down at Place de l’Estrapade.

Chose mayonnaise to dip in. Hardly missed the ketchup!

Chose mayonnaise for dipping. Hardly missed the ketchup!

Rejuvenated, I turned back toward RdÉ proper. Just a stone’s throw from Place du Panthéon, I happened upon a cool little record store specializing in classical music. A lot of happening upon, I know, but it…happens.

As I found subsequent disquaires I had researched, I found that American and British classic rock reign supreme here, which at first slightly disappointed me, but really it’s pretty cool. My music, that is to say my favorite music, can take me anywhere in the world, both in terms of listening and playing. For the Francophiles, most music stores, chain or mom-and-pop, usually have a sections called Variété Français, wherein they lump multiple genres by artists of French origin.

Another thing I found is that music is EXPENSIVE here. Regular (non-special editions, non-imported, etc.) CDs from a Barnes and Noble-like store, Gibert Jeune, cost €15+, or about $20 with current exchange rates. The going rate for a record from a little disquaire seems to be €8. Maybe wages and all that are such that €15 works out for the French consumer the same as $10-12 does for an American consumer. Either way, I had to dial back my shopping list. Despite that, I had some good finds.

Trust is an 80s metal band I found online a while ago, Catharsis sounds cool, and I enjoy Vivaldi.

Trust is an 80s metal band I found online a while ago, Catharsis sounds cool, and I enjoy Vivaldi.

A few hours had passed and I was approaching the limit of my daily budget. It was time to regroup with my Aunt for another (and another, as it turned out) stop at Berthillon. Fig and peach. Still fantastic, though I unfortunately forgot to photograph both of my cones.

Thus concluded the day’s activities, other that the walk home and me finally starting to write down all the things I’ve been doing. I ended up falling asleep without a proper dinner. Oh well.

Paris Day 2 (September 2) part deux

Celui-ci est part deux. Part un içi, mais il ne faut pas le lire en ordre…ć’est pas comme s’il y a une trame ou quelque chose.

Anyways.

I was a little antsy. We had walked by this place called O’neil (variations include Brasserie O’neil, O’neil Brasserie, etc.) and my beer drinker’s sixth sense drew me to the brewing equipment display in the window.

“Yes! I have found craft beer!” I shouted internally while jumping up and down, also internally.

The price of the tonnelet (keg, mini in this case) threw me at first so I didn’t stop upon first sighting, but my nightly beer craving brought me back after the wonderful dinner I prepared.

The beer list is succinct. Five beers named by color or style, plus one under development. I started with La Brune, an excellent Belgian brown ale. It’s delicately carbonated, with an excellent balance of the typical prune-y wine-like notes, malt, and hops. Of particular note was the nice touch of regular alcohol taste—I’ve had a couple Belgians with a bit too much alcohol flavor, but this beer, again, was really excellently balanced.

IMG_9743IMG_9742

Currently, there are only two choices for the keg, La Blonde and L’Ambrée. Both good beers (La Brune is still my favorite of these three), but I chose L’Ambrée for my keg. La Blonde is a very light, refreshing beer with nothing out of the ordinary going on. Would definitely drink again and repeatedly, but L’Ambrée had nice hops notes, and a bit of wine-y flavor. A DIFFERENT wine-y flavor. I dunno…wine, France, drink, something…I forgot where I was going with that.

♬Ain't that a keg in the head♬

♬Ain’t that a keg in the head♬

Now I’m sure you see the not-so-French name and the English on the menu, but don’t let that fool you. This place is totally French. O’neil is “just a name,” the cool bartender told me after I asked “et Monsieur O’neil est qui?” It was hopping, and I was the only tourist in there.

The most important part of all this is that there is craft beer to be drank here.

Also, this scene greeted me on my way home, situated just kitty-corner from us:

Place / Fontaine Saint-Sulpice