The Trouble With Paris

Paris_2007_5_028

 

The
trouble with Paris,  especially if your days here are numbered, is that there is too much to eat and
not enough time that you can afford to wait to be hungry again in between
meals, snacks, and small bites of this and that. So be it.

Yesterday
was a lovely day — sunny, rainy, blustery, and fine. We skipped breakfast at the hotel, feeling absurdly
virtuous under the circumstances, and took the metro to a friend’s sunny sixth
floor apartment in the 11th arrondissement. Suffered serious kitchen envy – to be able to
shop at a French market for things that you would actually cook seems like the
height of luxury. Note to self: Next
time we come I am going to look into renting an apt. – even if it is only for a
week.

It
wasn’t far from the apt. to the market at the Bastille, but in the less than
ten minutes it took us to walk there it went from blue skies to heavy gray
clouds. For serious market-goers, the drenching
rain that followed made no difference to the business of the day. The air rang with the vendors’ constant
patter, vibrated with the spicy, lively mood as Parisians came out to shop. It had rained before, it would rain again,
but the important question was what to have for Sunday lunch.

There
were huge flat pans of paella, of lentils and sausages, of braised cabbages and
pork – delicious looking dishes whose smells mingled seductively in the wet
air. But I itched to buy the raw
ingredients, the colorful produce and fish and meat and eggs and oh, everything
I could see. Amazingly, we confined
ourselves to the purchase of a single cheese (an Époisses – a washed rind
cheese from Burgundy that we love) and some hot bread and zaatar from the “Libanaise Specialties”
stall that the three of us ripped into and ate in the rain as we walked.

By
the time I was thoroughly soaked — my coat heavy with rain and my hair hanging
in wet ringlets — it was sunny again. I love Paris.  We went back to the apartment and made short work of the cheese as a
sort of pre-lunch snack, I guess, just because we couldn’t bear not to eat it
right away. (That’s it,in the picture above, in its pre-eaten state.)  Époisses can be a real
stinky cheese, and by the time we get them in the US they  usually are. I love them that way too, but this one was
young and firm and mellow and I savored it.

Then
over to the Marais, a place that is shuttered and silent on the Saturday Sabbath,
but teems with people on a Sunday afternoon. Though it was past 1:00 we had a 25 minute wait to sit down at L’As du
Falalel. I know that many people claim
that eating the unwieldy sandwich while standing up is half the fun, but not
for me. So we strolled for twenty minutes and, arriving back, were promptly
wedged into a tiny bit of real estate that was ours for the duration of lunch.

I’ve
sung the praises of this falafel sandwich ad nauseum and won’t do it again. You
can go here to read about it. Just be sure, if you are in Paris, that  that you don’t miss the experience.

It
was 3:30 by the time we left, and we swore we couldn’t eat again that day after
the heaping plate of Israeli appetizer salads, the enormous sandwiches and the
assiette de frites. But after walking
back to the hotel (dawdling by the river because the blue skies held up and we
didn’t want to waste them), changing our
room because of small, broken things that couldn’t be fixed on a Sunday (and
ending up in a much nicer, bigger room that was worth all the trouble of moving
all our belongings — twice), we
thought that maybe we could do with a little something.

So
at dinner time we sauntered over to Balzar, a classic brasserie by the
Sorbonne, now owned by the Flo Group but still retaining its full share of
charm. The service is impeccable, the
waiters are a stitch, the room is filled with French voices, the haze of smoke
and the smell of good food. Sitting
there, squashed on a banquette between a thin woman with a large purse on one
side and an exuberant family on the other who kept inching closer to each other
(and to me) to fit in newly arrived members, there was no doubt about where in the world I was.

Dinner (where did we put it?) was frisée salad with warm goat cheese for me and
leeks vinaigrette for J (we swapped plates halfway though), and crispy roast
chicken and frites for me with a side of spectacular braised endives, and juicy,
perfectly cooked pepper steak for J. Tarte Tatin for dessert with a bowl of lusciously sour crème fraîche.

Came
back to the room and called my Mom, whose surgery is early this morning, NY
time. They scheduled it two weeks ago
and she wouldn’t hear of us canceling the trip, bless her heart, but it makes
being here bittersweet today.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m loving these daily dispatches from Paris! And I had no idea young Epoisses was mild and mellow–I always think of it as the epitome of stinky cheese. In any case, I hope your mom’s surgery goes well. She’s in my thoughts.

    Like

  2. Thanks, Lisa. Glad there is someone out there reading them!

    Like

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