Sunday, April 10, 2011

Une Américaine D'Origine Chinoise - Part Un

Every season as Paris fashion week creeps up, I want to equally curl up under my desk to hide and squeal in joy, jumping up and down, clapping my hands gleefully.  I feel so lucky that I get to participate and enjoy the European market.  
View of the Eiffel Tower from the taxi on the way to hotel

When you ask anyone about Paris, about 99.9% of the time the response will be "J'adore Paris!!"  And yes, it may be cliché but Paris IS wonderful. There is something magical around every corner, despite the lack of taxis to be found, people urinating on the corners in broad daylight, and poor restaurant service. When I see the Eiffel Tower first thing in the morning through an early mist, my heart still flutters a little.  Visions of Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Degas' ballerinas, and Marie Antoinette flicker through my head.  
Jardin des Tuileries

Not only is it a beautiful city with art and history on every corner and great shopping, but the fresh produce and goods to be found here in the local markets is so prevalent compared to the US. 
There are a few things I do as soon as I land in Paris on the red eye flight from New York. One of them is to pick up a pain au chocolat and a café au lait from the local patisserie.  Usually, it's Paul which I adore.  But I had actually had it so often in the past year, since they've started popping everywhere from the Dubai airport to South Beach in Miami.  Once I dropped my bags off at the hotel, I headed right back out to hunt for my morning treat.
Unfortunately, weekends in Paris are notorious for local shops being closed in numerous neighborhoods.  So the one I found on my last trip in the Marais was closed.  But the other lovely thing about Paris is the abundance of patisseries and boulangeries.  So I wandered across the République, followed my nose and found an open patisserie on Rue de Temple. Eyeing all the goodies there, I decided to switch out my normal pain au chocolat to the pain au chocolat amandes because it looked so delicious! Don't you agree? Ymm ymm. I decided to eat my petit déjeuner at the foot of the République statue and people watch. A much needed moment of bliss and quiet to gather all my thoughts, enjoy the flaky goodness of my pastry, and the bitter sweetness of my coffee. Ahhh.

On my walk from the showroom in the Marais by the Bastille, I pass by several restaurants de fruits de mer serving one of my favorite things in the world: huîtres (oysters)! My mouth automatically salivates thinking of a slippery, briny and plump oyster going down my throat.
But, I have to hold off this time for dinner one night at hotspot, La Fidelité in the 10th district by Gare de L'Est. This place screamed "FASHIONISTAS" from the hip, too-cool waiters to their well-heeled clients including one woman who came in with red heels glued to each shoulder of her blazer and then three more on the front. I wish I was joking and had a photo to share, but alas you will have to use your imagination for this one.  :)  
Foie Gras Mi-Cuit , Confiture d'Oignons

While in Paris, I must always have the foie gras if it is on the menu. It is a given. It's relatively inexpensive here compared to the US and just so good.  The foie at La Fidelité did not, buttery and creamy. The onion marmalade on top just brings out all the richness with the acidity from the vinegar.
Croustillant de joue de boeuf

My steak while a perfect medium-rare and a nice amount of char was not well-seasoned. The potatoes however were delicious...just the right salt and crisp.
Cremé brulée

And while in France, I must always have one of my favorite desserts: créme brulée. Their version was well-worth the calories I ingested.  My biggest gripe with créme brulée at most restaurants is that it is always too cold on the bottom and not enough crystallized, burnt sugar on top. Mine was just slightly chilled as it should be with a nice crunch when I cracked through the top layer.  And look at all those lovely vanilla bean seeds inside!

Another night, my local hostess in Paris, the Mistress of Spices and her husband Luis, took me to St Germain on the Left Bank. St Germain is a cute, artsy neighborhood full of great cafés, restaurants, and shops on tiny streets.  I remember a two hour hunt on one of my last trips for a vanilla shop down a random little street which I eventually found out had closed a few months back after asking a neighboring shop! It is also home to Le Cordon Bleu, one of the world's most elite culinary schools that opened in 1895. 
No eating on this trip though. Instead, the Mistress took me to an intimate jazz bar on one of the hidden side streets called L'Echelle du Jacob (Jacob's Ladder), a recently revived cabaret from the 1950s.  There was a slight incident at the door, but the mojitos and drinks we received inside, as well as the smooth, sultry voice of the live jazz singer, made it all better. We also made friends with one of the manager's dog who was obviously well-known and loved in the bar. Even though I had to work the next day, our one drink turned into two because we were enjoying the atmosphere and crowd so much. It was all in all, a wonderful way to end the evening and really hang out with the locals in a neighborhood lounge...even if I speak almost no French. 
Emilie Papaye

La Fidélité 
12 rue de la Fidélité
75010 PARIS

Phone: +33 (0)1 47 70 19 34

L'Echelle de Jacob
10-12 rue Jacob
75006  Paris
Phone: +33 (0)1 46 34 00 29