April in Paris — from memory
I’m perpetually behind on Paris — but then, who could possibly keep up with that city?
If you’ve been with me for a while — I’ve been writing this newsletter for almost two years now — then you know that I’m always behind. If you’re new here — welcome and yes, I’m always behind. Always trying to catch up. And always rushing to write about something before it’s going to happen again or worse, disappear. It seems as though I’m perpetually behind on Paris — but then, who could possibly keep up with that city!
Because I return to Paris, my part-time home, in less than two weeks, the race is on to tell you what I found the last time I was in town. Fortunately, most of it is evergreen — although there are more and more pop-ups these days in Paris (see below). There’s so much joy and excitement in the ephemeral and a twinge of sadness too — if you love something from a pop-up, then you’ve either got to take pleasure in the memory of it or, in the case of food, figure out how to make it at home.
Here are a trio of memorable pop-up dishes — I haven’t replicated any of them, but maybe you will. Tell! Tell! if you do.
This is cacio e pepe made by Akira Sugiura when he and Misaki Frankel popped up doing Japanese-Italian food at Bistrot Tontine. The pasta is handmade udon noodles, the egg is on top and there’s some seaweed in there too. It was a knock-out.
And this red endive salad is another winner — gorgeous and lively. The endive wasn’t the surprise — it was winter-into-early spring, the time of endive and citrus. The surprise was the kombucha vinaigrette. The salad was part of a whimsical all-seafood dinner by Alice Arnoux at Le Perchoir. In addition to tasting so good, it was fun to eat it with our fingers.
If I could have gotten a seat, I’d have eaten any pizza that Dan Pearson made in the months that Le Rigmarole (one of my favorite places in Paris) was temporarily transformed into Pizzamarole. The last pizza I had there was potato and lemon. Sigh. Rumor has it that Dan and his pizza will be back. This is a rumor I want to believe.
Breads and Sweets, Not Homemade
I did some baking while I was in Paris — lots of gougères, as always; a couple of batches of madeleines; a cake salé (a savory cocktail cake); and assorted tarts and cookies — but mostly I admired the work of the pros.
I know you’ve seen them before — I try to have cookies at Mokonuts early and often when I’m in town — but it’s always a good thing to see Moko Hirayama’s cookies again. She is so creative. And I am so forgetful — I wrote down all the flavors and then lost the note. No matter — you can trust me that Moko’s cookies are not like anyone else’s and better than just about any others you’ve had.
Tourbillon means whirlpool and so many of the pastries in Yann Brys Patisserie Tourbillon draw on the image. The crust on this tart is made with rice cereal — I’m seeing that a lot these days — and so the sweet is gluten-free. Tart and delicious, too.
Thanks to my good friend, Hélène Samuel, we snagged a table for lunch at Café des Ministères. (Café des Ministères has been a tough reservation to nab for a long time, but it’s gotten even harder since it appeared in T-Magazine’s list of 25 things you must taste in Paris and was a top pick on a couple of Paris by Mouth lists. Read the review fromand you’ll agree that it’s worth the effort.) After a hearty lunch (the chef, who took our order — it’s a mom-and-pop place — told us to order less and come back another time for what we didn’t have), we were sure that we didn’t have an inch of space for dessert, but the teeter-tottering tower of profiteroles looked too good to miss. Glad we didn’t pass on these!
Painn is the new kid on the block. The croissants as well as the pains aux raisins and a few other viennoisserie are baked in mini casseroles. (You buy the bread and leave the casserole behind - in case you were wondering.)
There’s no question that Maxime Frederic is a genius pastry chef, but since he’s the chef for the Hotel Cheval Blanc, it’s not easy to get a taste of what he creates. That changed recently when LVMH opened a gallery/boutique/tea salon at the foot of the Pont Neuf. In addition to the salon — I was there with Caroline LeTouzé of the soon-to-open patisserie Galizé — there’s a chocolate shop, built with Vuitton luggage. Brilliant! Can you guess which trunk is the refrigerator?
This is such a classic dish, and Bistrot Paul Bert does it so well. It’s a meringue island floating in a sea of crème anglaise (pouring custard). The red crucnhies are pralines rose, pink candy-covered almonds used in many parts of France, but most famously associated with Lyon.
Many of you know how much I love what the pastry chef François Perret is doing at The Ritz Comptoir, the Hotel Ritz’s pastry shop. I love how playful he is! Remember his cookie that had so many good things on top? Now he’s gone a little further — this cookie is almost like a cake. It’s a little thicker and it’s got a lot more on top. More fun per bite.
Not everything fits into categories …
Because Comté is one of my favorite cheeses — Michael’s too — the first day that we’re in Paris, we go to Fromagerie Saunders in the Marché Saint Germain and buy a hefty wedge. While I like to use it in my gougères, we mostly nibble on it and serve it as a one of the stars of any cheese plate. Comté and white wine is the proverbial match made in heaven. And if you want to try it, you can get great wine (and great wine advice) and great Comté at Augustin Marchand d’Vins. And yes, that’s #comté.
And speaking of great wine and great advice … you’ll get both from Elaine and Hervé at L’Etiquette — their natural wine shop on the Ile Saint Louis. Also really good nibbles.
We have Robert and Jess from Le Rigmarole to thank for introducing us to Shu, which is just around the corner from our apartment and easy to miss. The specialty is kushiague, bite-size pieces of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables or even fruit, breaded, perfectly fried and served on sticks.
As I mentioned (above), the chef at Café des Ministères told us that the portions were hearty — I just didn’t realize how hearty. When I couldn’t finish the scallops — a perfect rendition of an elegant classic that you don’t often see nowadays — I was too embarrassed to ask to take it home, but I didn’t have to: Madame offered to wrap it for me. Miraculously, the scallops were still marvelous when I reheated them gently for Michael.
This is a Victoria pineapple, a palm-size fruit that is reliably sweet and juicy. Can we find these in the United States? Am I just looking for love in all the wrong places?
Just because Paris is beautiful …
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Oh how I love your newsletter.. let me count the ways☺️. I feel like I’m on the trip with you. It’s wonderful! Thank you
Thanks for so many great tips/suggestions. I leave for Paris on Monday so have been in a bit of a pre-trip frenzy. Your newsletter was just the thing I needed to replace some of my pre-travel stress with excitement and anticipation. Bon voyage!