tanti auguri a me
what’s better on one’s birthday than waking up in paris?
nothing, i say.
well, unless one is waking up on one’s birthday in paris to take an early flight back to italy, the better option might be stay another day. i’ve been on the planet for 26 years, give or take a few hours, and to celebrate, i paid a much-needed visit to the city of light over the weekend. and yes, even if parisiens live up to their reputations of unfriendliness and general contempt for non-parisiens, i still want to move there straightaway. particularly for the food.
in all honesty, i don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but there’s something about this city that pulls me into patisseries and chocolate shops, even if it’s just a half-hour before lunch (or a half-hour after). my intrepid host tom (MIHT hereafter) took me to the classic pastry shop in his neck of the 2nd, stohrer, for breakfast. i also managed to stumble into pain de sucre, a fairly recent addition to the patisserie stratosphere. no photos of the pistache-flavored calisson square or the marshmallows (chocolat, safran et piment d’espelette, gingembre et angelique) i picked up there, because they disappeared too quickly into my mouth and plus, i had to go into the
musée carnavalet, a beautiful structure (complete with idyllic garden) housing a collection detailing the history of paris (through paintings, relics, signage, etc.). highly recommended. in any case, i did manage to record my return trip to pierre hermé — if not the hordes of japanese, at least the macarons:
the second photo, of course, is of hermé’s specialty, the ispahan, a rose-, raspberry- and lychee-flavored confection and a really miraculous combination of flavors and textures. my favorite macaron is the passion fruit.
on clothilde’s advice, MIHT and i went to l’ami jean, a lovely basque bistro in the 7th:
my tongue and ears en gelée, with piment d’espelette. i love aspics in summer. and tongue is one of my favorite offal cuts. come to think of it, there’s a piedmontese saying that’s fitting for cold tongue salad suspended in aspic: bon pì bon fa bon (good plus good equals good).
MIHT’s pannière de cochonailles.
[MIHT’s and my exchange as we peruse the menu:
w: what do you suppose this is?
MIHT: well, cochonaille must be some pig thing.
MIHT: i don’t remember pannière.
MIHT and w: hm.
MIHT: ahem. i remember what pannière is. it’s ‘basket’.
terminology confusion aside, i loved the spicy one (though really all were very, very good, and made by the camdeborde family — see post on le comptoir tomorrow. l’ami jean’s chef, stephane jégo, is one of yves camdeborde’s protegés.). MIHT was a fan of the blood sausage.
axoa, a veal and pepper stew. much written about, but i wasn’t all that impressed. the veal was a little on the dry and stringy side. the robuchon-style pommes purées were, as always, kick-ass. (we’re talking 4:1, potato : butter here. ass-kicking and name-taking is what this baby is about.)
it’s unfortunate that my photo of MIHT’s pigeon (roasted, with lobe of foie) didn’t turn out so hot because it was one of the bestest birds i’ve ever tasted. and of course, foie gras never hurts.
my soupe de rhubarbe et fraises. a perfect, perfect dessert.
space is tight at l’ami jean, so you’re well within earshot of your neighbors. we made friend with ours:
a funny priest who lives just a hundred yards from this place (lucky dog). we had an amusing exchange with him. not sure if it was all priest-appropriate, but then again, i’m no authority on any religious practices, much less catholic ones. he’s definitely one of the most friendly parisiens i’ve come across — possibly a little too friendly in that elderly european male way. but doesn’t he look like a fun guy? even if the food here weren’t head-spinningly good, the prête would probably keep me coming back.
more on paris tomorrow. in case you were wondering why i’ve been so silent lately, there’s been too much work and not enough good eating in these parts. but i can’t complain too much: i did manage to make it out to bern with the Big Friendly Giants to see the cousin, cousin-in-law and the bears — who seem to be more docile than ever:
maybe even ridiculously so. this one has taken to rolling over on her back to more comfortably catch the fruit and veg that visitors toss down to her. she doesn’t bother straining herself if they overshoot. if it’s beyond tongue or claw, she just waits patiently for the next toss.
switzerland itself is still pretty alright looking: