Our first full day in Paris was on Easter Sunday, and many cultural sites were closed (and they would also be closed on Monday because the holiday weekend was extended and some of them on Tuesday because they're always closed on Tuesday). So no museums for us, which was fine. We had a culinary scavenger hunt to complete, and as I established in my previous posts, it's always a good idea to start out with chocolate.
(I apologize for the yellowness of this photo, but we were in a dining room that managed to be both golden and dim.) When Jeff was in Paris, walking in the cold November rain by himself, he warmed up with frequent hot chocolate breaks. Parisian hot chocolate, or chocolat chaud, is not something you pour out of a packet and add hot water to it. It's more like pure melted chocolate, not too sweet, with just enough cream to make it pourable. I don't know if the photo here conveys its thickness, but if I had to compare it to something universal (and I'm sorry, this is jarring) I'd say it was like shampoo. A person can add whipped cream and sugar to the chocolate to taste. Some even ask for hot water to thin it, which strikes me as ludicrous.
Anyway, Jeff wanted me to try the hot chocolate that he'd been raving about for years, and he researched until he found one of the best in Paris, Angelina. Near the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens, Angelina is an institution, or at least that's what it seemed like to me. It reminded me of New Orleans' Cafe du Monde--packed with people at all times whose trip wouldn't be complete without consuming its beloved little treats. Near the entrance was a selection of beautiful sweets, which I admired as we waited to be seated. The decor: grand, bordering on rococo, with lots of decorative moulding, gold accents, and large paintings.
So let's try this chocolat chaud (off-puttingly pronounced like this). It was unbelievable and I quickly announced that it was the best hot chocolate I had ever had, including its Spanish sister. I wanted to inject it into my veins. I wanted to drop it into my eyes. I wanted to rub it into my skin. It was straight up chocolate heroin, and this song began to play in my head.
I added some whipped cream (in cute container on the left) to it, just to see if that was worth doing, and it made some nice swirly shapes on top but that was about it. I drank the rest of the chocolate, housed in that small pitcher in the center of the table, black. Brown, anyway. The cupcakey thing on the far right is a mont blanc--a domed network of skinny, coiled frosting atop a core of whipped cream and chestnut puree on a meringue base. I later read that Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, and Marcel Proust have all enjoyed this chaud/mont blanc extra-valu meal at Angelina. Oh, the mont blanc? It was pretty awesome.
Thus fortified, the two of us continued on. The weather was overcast and a little on the cool side as we made our way to the Paris Tourist Information Center to buy four-day museum passes. They would enable us to bypass the terrible lines at the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, Versailles, and places like that later on. This was a really good way to go, and we felt more like VIPs and less like suckers as we used the passes throughout the week.
The next hour or two involved lots and lots of walking, and my S.A.S. shoes did a fine job of keeping my big flat feet from turning into pulp. But it was still tiring. We had been told that Le Bon Marché, an upscale food market slash department store, was worth a visit. So we worked our way west, checking the map frequently because the city blocks in Paris are a mish-mash of triangles, kinda-trapezoids, and shapes with no names such as these...
...and if you're working the back streets, it's easy to get lost. But we didn't get all that lost, and when we finally found Le Bon Marche, it was closed for Easter. Sacrebleu!
We did some window shopping on St. Germain, the equivalent of Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Jeff and I are not big shoppers--indeed, we came home from Paris with nothing new in our spy luggage--but we had a good time talking about the clothes, furniture, and appliances we saw.
Snack break! How about we try the best macarons in Paris?
Oh this place was precious. Pierre Herme makes macarons and so much more, and lots of spring/Easter items were on display.
They might as well have been museum pieces (shiny shiny glaze! want!).
We were dying to try one of the more unusual, extra special macarons called ispahan. It is that pink guy with the red rose petal in the middle.
Jeff had read a rapturous description of it on one of the food blogs he follows, so that gave us some idea of what to expect, which was great. But otherwise we do not speak French. Many times while we were in Paris, we read descriptions of food items and could make out maybe a handful of words. For example, this is how Pierre Herme describes the ispahan. I've highlighted the words I understood.
Biscuit macaron à la rose, crème aux pétales de roses, framboises entières, letchis. Subtile alliance de la crème à la rose, douce et suave, et de la note florale du letchi. En prolongement, la framboise contraste par son acidité et sa puissance, le tout dans une enveloppe moelleuse et craquante de macaron. Une des plus envoûtantes créations de Pierre Hermé, un équilibre permanent entre le capiteux et l'acidulé.
My interpretation: it's a rose-flavored macaron with rose petals, raspberries...some kind of "subtle alliance" (I freaking love that) and something suave is happening. It tastes like flowers. The raspberries provide contrast. An envelope? A good creation by Pierre Herme. They want to make it a permanent part of their menu? Was it in a contest?
Sounds like fun to me!
It came in its own special box, and we walked around with it for the rest of the day before eating it back at the apartment. It had suffered some mild contusions, unfortunately. Conclusion? It really tasted like roses, and Jeff didn't care for it all that much. I ate the rest of it and thought of my great-grandma Bradshaw, who always smelled like roses.
We also bought a bag of six macarons (caramel with sea salt, passion fruit, and hazelnut), sat on a park bench, and ate them immediately.
They were perfection. These little hamburger-lookin' sandwich cookies are so delicate and tender, with a rich filling that delivers on its promises and how. The passion fruit macaron, for example, managed to be the passion fruitiest thing of all time. How, how, how to make them at home? What have I gotten myself into?
Other places we visited on our Easter food tour: a deli where we window-shopped. I think I want to paint this young man cutting some Iberico ham, removing my stalker reflection, of course.
Across the street: Grom, where we shared a small gelato. We love gelato's unique stretchiness, as illustrated here.
Later on we had some merely-okay mussels from what turned out to be a chain restaurant (not our first choice, but we needed some protein and it was there). Jeff is crazy for mussels and a particular variety of french fry he had years ago in Belgium. Probably fried in duck fat, those frites haunt Jeff the way that perfect hamburger haunts Marshall on How I Met Your Mother.
So the mussels were alright, but as always the fries did not measure up. Thank you for ruining fries for my husband, Brussels!
Our legs completely spent, we went back to the apartment, done for the day, with our damaged macaron that tasted like Grandma.