Paris, Day II

Paris_2007_4_003_copy_2

 

After
my obsession with rain, yesterday, there turned out not to be any. By afternoon
it was a lovely, fluffy-clouds-in-blue-sky kind of day.

Post-breakfast
we headed over to the Place Maubert market. On Saturdays there’s a vendor there specializing in products from the
south of France and  I try to stock up on my supply of fruity olive oil from Les Baux. He also has the best olives – usually my
favorite are the picholines, big crisp green olives from the same region. This year he had big bowls of lucques as
well, and while they look like picholines except for being kind of curved at
the tips (like elf slippers), the guy assured me that they are better. He gave us tastes and they are undoubtedly
good, but better? Couldn’t make up my
mind, so bought both. The taste test is
ongoing. Bought some nicoise as well,
and a fougasse aux olives.

Fougasse
is an olive oily kind of pastry from Provence — probably (I am totally guessing here) related to foccacia and the like. The first one I ever had was years ago in Avignon and it was a kind
of flakey pastry. Fabulous. I would cross the town every day to get
one. Mostly, though, like the one I
bought yesterday, they are yeasty. Really delicious, either way. You
can get them with lardons, but I am partial to olives, so olives it was.

The
other stall we made a point of visiting was the one over flowing with Libanaise
specialties. My father’s family was from Lebanon and I  grew up eating the most wonderful food when we visited them (all in the
U.S, alas), most of which is heads and shoulders over what I’ve had since
(because Grandma’s cooking is always best, you know?) But the stuff at this stall is really
good. Often I get a huge flatbread bread
heated on a domed heater thing they have, covered with olive oil and zataar (a
spice mix with thyme, sumac, and sesame.) (Bread and zataar was one of my Dad’s favorite snacks, when he could get
it, which used to be hard, back in the day.)

Full
of my delicious hotel breakfast, I passed on the bread and zataar yesterday,
but mindful of the approaching lunch hour, got some bread, taboule, labne, and
an eggplant spread that was baba ganouj but called something different. Back at the hotel we had a Lebanese
picnic. The stuff was sensational, all
of it good but the bread was just the best. Very thin, chewy, and cleanly opening to a pocket if you wanted to stuff
it with something (we didn’t, just scooped.) It was the “Syrian bread” I
remember from my childhood, before the ubiquitous doughy and dry grocery store
pita became all you could find. I was in
heaven. Great lunch.

Walked
around most of the day. All around the
Jardin de Luxembourg (a favorite spot, right near our hotel), over to the church of St. Sulpice,  this year not only still surrounded by scaffolding, but wrapped in
what looks like (but no doubt isn’t) a white plaster cast over half of it as
well, down to the river where we hung out on the Pont des Arts, taking
pictures, and over to l’eglise Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, a beautiful little
church we love to visit on the right bank. And back to the hotel to rest our weary feet and wait for dinner time.

Dinner. So many choices, so little time. We decided to go to La Bastide Odeon, a
provencal place where we had had a very good lunch a couple of visits ago, and
which had the advantage of being a block away from us (a consideration, given
the weary-feet situation.) The food
there was superb. I started with a
grilled eggplant millefeille (eggplant wrapped around cheese with some tomato
confit on top – just wonderful!) and J had a huge salad of very strong greens
(mostly arugula, but some other stuff too) with artichoke hearts and
citrus.

Then
I ordered the roast farm chicken (yes, I did. I ordered chicken.  Yhere is more and more flex in my flexitarianism
every day, I guess), and J got the brandade de morue, and we switched plates
half way through. The chicken was
simple, simple, simple and totally fabulous, all of it, but the part that
really got me was the rich brothy sauce over sautéed potatoes. I think I secretly ordered it for those
potatoes.

And the brandade! I love it anyway, but
this was really great, rich and creamy and ladled into a nest of cooked
leeks. A mouthful of leek and garlicky,
salty cod was just a dream.  (That’s it, in the picture above.)

We
had to order dessert when we ordered the meal, which is the only reason I had
one because I was full enough without. I
had the cheese plate – a kind of Roquefort pate full of pistachios, and a half
a small cheese that they insisted was fresh goat and probably was but I swear
it tasted more like sheep – possibly because of the argan oil drizzled over the
top. Some chutney and a slice of poached
pair came alongside. J had
pastry-wrapped bananas, caramelized. Very good, but they were crying out for some vanilla ice cream on the
side.

Then
we rolled ourselves down the street to the hotel, and collapsed into bed. This morning we are meeting a friend at his
apartment in the 11th arrondissement and going to the Bastille
market (because you can never go to too many markets.) After he does his shopping, we are heading
into the Marais, to brave the Sunday lines and get a falafel for lunch. More on that, another time.

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