“L’envie en rose”

If you ever find yourself hungry in Paris’ 5th ‘arrondisement’, there are a few places you may want to visit. Between fresh fruit stalls and seafood markets, in addition to local pâtisseries, this district boasts full of restaurants that cater to various palettes.

Au Jardin de Lutece 1 arrKeeping you well informed, here’s a little taste of what I spotted along the streets of Rue Monge, Paris. Not to be confused with ‘mange’ that means ‘eat,’ Rue Monge is not your typical tourist attraction and, however quiet, it remains worthy of some notable buzz.

Starting with a duo – literally neighbouring markets – Poissonerie Monge and Au Jardin de Lutèce are considerably destined stops for local Parisians who seek fresh seafood and a bountiful of tropical fruits and garden vegetables. While I haven’t had the fortune to cook the ‘catch of the day’ – chez Poissonerie Monge – my testing of freshly squeezed orange juice, decadent honey-sweet dates among other seasonal berries are to be discussed.  Beginning the day with vitamin-rich essentials, locating this fruit stall all began with a quick passage down the street. Like many happy accidents, some hidden gems are best identified when merely walking. Once there, this roofed ‘garden’ does not disappoint. Eyeing a rainbow display of every fruit and vegetable you can name from A to Z, there’s clearly no shortage of items.

As for my impromptu excursion, the prices are a bit steep but, the quality reigns supreme and leaves a lasting impression from first to last bite. Personally, I recommend the ‘jus d’orange’ as it’s prepared on the spot, and is consistent of sweet and tart flavours – seriously, a delicious way to start the day. Like the citrus, this vendor knows how to pick dates. Au Jardin de Lutece 6 arrToo mesmerized to ask their origin, whether Medjools or not, there’s no mistaking these dates were certainly fresh with a soft outer layer, meaty in size – not dried up or shrivelled like some other varieties – and, jam-packed with sweetness.  Surely, a date or two is the perfect lightweight snack to keep anyone energized.  Consisting of more happy surprises, each corner of this small shop carries pockets of nature’s beauty. For instance, while indulging in ruby red currants and organic strawberries did amaze, the one that got away – hopefully, to be sampled on a future trip – was the box-load of once again ‘fresh’ hazelnuts. Can you believe it? Now, I know from former experience what fresh almonds look and taste like but, much to my excitement, seeing fresh hazelnuts was a first! Luckily, for those in the area, they can be found here Au Jardin de Lutèce. Now you know – ‘je vous en prie,’ you’re welcome!

Maison Gregoire 1 arrFrom land and sea to farm fresh and freshly baked or cooked, there’s an endless list of gastronomic stops to recount. Briefly, for those with a sweet tooth, Rue Monge is also host to an array of ‘viennoiserie’ and classic French pastries – pain au chocolat, brioche, croissant, flan, tarte aux pommes, macarons, etc. – as well as simple cheese sandwiches, all courtesy of Maison Grégoire. Maison Gregoire 2 arrHaving said that, those after a more hearty lunch or late night dinner must-visit and must-walk further along Rue Monge and take a detour – all within walking distance, I promise – to Rue Mouffetard. Once there, behold: foodie central! Taking a late night promenade to Rue Mouffetard, myself, I find this street to be lively and boasting with a mélange of young and young-at-heart patrons. Likewise, the diverse spread of dessert parlours, tea houses, international fare – Greek, Italian, Turkish – and authentically French cuisine-oriented bistros run plenty.

Crepe 1 arrVenturing to satisfy sweet and savoury senses, I opt for a cheese and egg-filled paper thin crêpe. How so very typical – I know, but don’t mind! Almost an equivalent to what we – North Americans – commonly identify as a pancake house, this ‘crêperie’ offers both Nutella/fruit options and meat/veg components, and speedily prepares them ‘à emporter,’ for takeout.

Gelati d'Alberto 8 arr

In continuation of the next sought after treat, I set out for a real beauty – an edible rose – at Gelati d’Alberto.  Truly, a sight for tasteful eyes, this gelateria impresses not by its compact dimensions but, instead, by its glass-encased selection of uniquely flavoured congealed confections. At initial glance, I’m left intrigued by flavours such as açaí berry, “Alibaba” – a mixture of sesame and orange blossom water – litchi, and even aloe vera. Gelati d'Alberto 6 arrUltimately, request is made for a delicate yet vibrant trio of: rose, pistachio and strawberry gelato. Taking time to savour this ‘fleur,’ each petal layer at a time, the distinct combination of the three gelati did make for a pleasantly memorable experience. Undeniably fragrant, this perfumed hand-crafted rose smelled sweet as much as it tasted intoxicatingly true to the essence of rose water – simply, magnifique!

Needless to say, it’s all in the way it tastes!  And, in keeping with homemade tradition, Alberto’s use of pure fruit and quality ingredients speak volumes in the final product of gelati and sorbets that is clean and refreshing on the palette.  It’s no wonder, then, that gelati and sorbets made by this ‘maître glacier’ – master ice-cream maker – are self-proclaimed to be the envy of town, “L’envie en rose,” and rightfully so. All in a day’s work, this food-hunting escapade just touches the surface of all there is to explore. While I’m sure I could go on with more mention of French food or the artisans who craft them, there’s no denying this fact: “La vie est belle, et vous êtes comme elle!” Life’s beautiful – and even more so with ‘la cuisine française’!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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I Saw the Sign: L’As du Fallafel

L'As du Fallafel 1 arrLooking for an ideal grab ‘n’ go snack, in Paris? Look no further than L’As du Fallafel. Situated along 34 Rue des Rosiers, this falafel hut serves up orders as quickly as they take them. Getting my ‘fill’ of a widely popular mid-east treat, I order piping hot deep fried pillows of falafel rounds that are sandwiched into a soft pita. Specifically asking for the ‘fallafel spécial,’ it’s consistent of the famous falafels plus hummus, veggies – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grilled eggplant – and for added spice, I also get mine topped off with piquante sauce. Loving the hand I’m dealt, the verdict’s in: this ‘ace’ of a sandwich delivers in bold taste!

L'As du Fallafel 4 arrWhat’s more, word of mouth still works! And, in little to no time you’ll find crowds gather by this hotspot. So in case you’re running low on energy or simply can’t wait to get your falafel fix, be in-the-know of the how-to’s when it comes to speedy service at this restaurant. Taking out the guesswork, here’s what to expect for takeout: first, spot the staff/rep – most likely standing outside, infront of the venue, already taking orders – then, find your place amid the open air queue of patrons and submit your request. In following, provide payment directly to the ‘outdoor’ staff who will, in exchange, provide a paper receipt to be presented to the cooks. Simply put, the invoice is key: no paper – proof of purchase – no falafel.

L'As du Fallafel 3 arrLuckily for tourists, both English and French are spoken/understood here. Appreciating the spontaneous French lesson, ‘on peut bien y practiquer le français!’ But if learning languages is not your thing, fear not as all foodies are well aware of this certainty: no matter the destination, expression of ‘hunger pangs’ – not words – remain the universal language.

Equally vocalizing my desire for food, I pursue the vegetarian route and stick to the “must-indulge” menu item of choice – pure falafels. L'As du Fallafel 2 arrMore than ‘a’ chickpea, it’s the culmination of chickpeas plural in addition to the compounded mixture of fresh herbs and spices that make for tasty bites of falafel. Generously wrapped, this veggie sandwich bodes well in freshness as in portion. Catering to meatlovers as well, other selects include: chicken or turkey shawarma, meatballs, schnitzel, sausage and fries that are available for takeout. Food-excursion of the day complete – with a falafel pita – I attest that L’As du Fallafel does indeed transform an otherwise mildly flavoured légume into something palatably wonderful. Whilst feeling peckish in the Marais district, then, look for the righteously named sign of this Parisian food-stop and sample the ‘ace’ – the base of falafels!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

Good Things End with ‘É’

Herme Macarons 1 arr

When you can’t meet the King of Macaron himself – Pierre Hermé – a visit to his ’round’ table is the best substitute. Saying, “Oui, oui!” to my absolute favourite city – Paris, of course – a trip to this magical place would not be complete without a must-see and must-visit stop for food shopping at noneother than Monsieur Hermé‘s boutique of sweets.

Yes, indeed, I can now attest to having tried select artisan-made delectable almond French macarons. Conviently dispersed throughout Parisian streets, I make my way to one of many of this master’s stores. Strolling along 18 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, in particular, I’m introduced to a quaint sized shop beholding a gateway to chocolates, dessert spreads, and the highly anticipated glass-encased table of lovely ’rounds.’

Herme Macarons 10 arrA picture worthy of thousands of words, who wouldn’t capture this Kodak moment of sorts? Politely asking permission first to do exactly that, I’m clearly too enticed to leave such a moment to memory alone. And, afterall, how better to timelessly share Hermé’s offerings – even if it’s only in pixel format. Access happily granted, capturing the multitude of unique treats didn’t take too long and equally deserved more than a photographic close-up.

Pleasantly tried and taste tested, my order of palatable macarons did not disappoint. Worth the pretty Euro – and souvenir tin – any patron can be sure to fill their dessert coffers with the best of the best in quality macarons. Likewise, Hermé offers 18 distinct flavour profiles ranging from the traditionally expected to surprising flavour pairings. Herme Macarons 11 arrWanting a bit of this and that, here’s what I enjoyed: Madagascar Vanilla, coffee, chocolate, Mogador (duo of milk chocolate and passion fruit), Ispahan (evoking hints of rose, litchi fruit and raspberry), Infinitely Jasmine, and Montebello (a signature combo of pistachio and raspberry). Unequivocally divine, macarons by Hermé do satisfy! What’s more, recounts of previous macaron-making endeavours ‘chez-moi’ leave me to attest that the amount of work, skill and purity of high grade ingredients involved with Hermé’s handheld gems are evidently synonymous in his final product. Artisan, to say the least, these cookies deliver in premium taste and texture from first to last bite. Simply stated, they’re ‘magnifique!’ Clearly, well made – and, well received!

Hoping you’ll make your way to Pierre Hermé’s shop for your own box of truffles, macarons or jar of hazelnut spread, other reputable Parisian macaron houses exists. Among them include Ladurée, which remains a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. But if long queues are not your thing, fear not as many local pastry shops – a.k.a. ‘pâtisseries’ – often offer macarons in their own right. Ultimately, wherever you go, venturing to Paris persists to be a deliciously good idea!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

‘Atelier’ – Simply the Best!

Boulangerie Patisserie Shop arr One of the many things I love about Paris is the fact that you can find traces of the old world in modern times. To this very day, the Île-de Paris maintains cultural integrity by offering clients an extensive selection of singularly-themed specialty food shops. Whatever your guilty pleasure – cheese, chocolate, bread, pastry, pâté or wine – brace yourself when entering stores that purely dedicate their products and services to artisan standard merchandise. Truly a gourmand’s paradise!Parisian Chocolate Shop arr

A chocolate connoisseur, of sorts – knowledgeable in tasting – this indulgence never disappoints. As such, the sight of any premise devoting every square inch to display high-grade cocoa-inspired handmade creations is thrilling. Parisian Chocolate Bins arrSuffice it to say, I knew I was in for a treat upon sighting the term ‘chocolat’ – translation not required. Scene it: bins of chocolate, ranging in shape, textures and ingredients, ribbons and fancy packaging – ‘ooh, la, la,’ is right– I couldn’t wait! Having watched Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, of course, I understood perfectly the purpose of incorporating a line of stringed dehydrated capsicums in a chocolate boutique. In the presence of red hot chili peppers – ‘pas’ the band – good chocolatiers know how to spice things up, by delivering variety. Anything but an odd pairing, sweet heat is bound to tantalize anyone’s taste buds.

Parisian Chocolates arrLeaving “trick or treating” days behind, I have, too, left any desire for candy bars. Complex flavour compounds cited in dark chocolate – where cocoa surpasses sugar – is much preferred, and where better to expect refined chocolate in all its splendour than at ‘l’Atelier du Chocolat.’ Why come here, for chocolate? In French, ‘atelier’ signifies a workshop where designer quality products are made by field experts. Being witness to shelves of cocoa products, superior in quality and unique in flavour combinations, it was only a matter of time before receiving my own pièce de résistance – a pistachio encrusted chocolate cluster.

Paris Desserts arr“Pourquoi pas,” I’d say, when it comes to sampling masterly produced chocolate. After all, high-end ‘chocolat’ is bon appétit-pleasing! Parisian ateliers abound, there’s more to discover. Catering to various palettes, I spotted workshops dedicating time, precision and skill in generating all kinds of edible goods. Among the terrine shops, most-loved boulangeries (bread stores), and farmer’s fresh cheese vendors, I had to convenient a ‘pâtisserie’ (pastry shop).

Parisian Patisserie arrHandcrafted and soft on the eyes, the glistening sheen on the sighted luxurious cakelettes and tarts was enough to lure me in one particular bakery. I can only imagine the arduous process involved in the manufacturing and assembly of these pastries. If anything, the overall detail evident in the final presentation is revealing of the level of talent, and attention put forth in making these desserts. To me, food succeeds when it’s a complete package; it looks attractive, smells appealing, and tastes just as enticing. Always exceeding expectations, ‘ateliers’ are leading artisan shops that consistently exhibit the finest chef d’oeuvres – food art!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

“Vive le macaron!”

Food-spotting? We’ve all heard of trend-spotting – when you see every other person dressed in identical outfits. The same can be told about societal eating patterns. Don’t believe me? It does exist! In Paris, and other regions in France, I identified the next North American edible craze when I saw the very same “it” dessert being sold everywhere. From the Charles de Gaulle Airport to innumerable pastry shops, there were no coincidences in seeing flocks of people, lined-up in queue, patiently waiting to get their hands on bite-size discs – ‘le macaron.’Macarons Topiary 2012 arr

These meringue cookies carry a ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor, making them all-the-more appealing. Attractively displayed in topiaries and neatly packaged into tissue-lined boxes, just holding these chic treats makes you feel more cultured, and even – do I dare say – French. In fact, if Chanel were ever to release ‘haute biscuits,’ these macarons would live up to standard –grand in both quality and sophistication.

Macarons Topiary arrLadurée, the leading producer of macarons, has been making these cookies for more than 150 years. Their boutiques offer clients these sweet, yet light, indulgences that vary in flavour profile and hue. Pale green macarons, for instance, are synonymous with pistachios; grouping colour and flavour is just one contributing factor that allures consumers into easily picking their desired macaron. Mix and match your macarons or stick to your favourite(s) – chocolate, lavender, vanilla, raspberry, and lemon among others. The possibilities are endless! With the exception of unique flavours and added food colouring, these crispy meringue cookies are practically stiffened egg whites, beaten with sugar and ground almonds.

Macarons Display Case arrMeringue recipes are not original, in concept, as they have been seen and done before –think pavlova. Still, popularity in favour of the marcaron continues to spread continentally. Pretty irresistible, these round temptations transcend from a level of ordinary to ‘extraordinaire.’ And it’s no wonder! The meringue itself has a chewy interior – good just as is – but, it gets better as two cookies are sandwiched between ganache, buttercream or fruit filling. Mess-free and jam-packed with flavour, literally, macarons are convenient to eat.

Ever indulged in these cookies? Guilty! I simply had to inquire what the fuss was all about, and content for having tasted this ‘trend.’ After all this sweet talk, you may decide to do the same. Steadfast to years of tradition and history, the simplest joy has come out of simple ingredients. As in the case of this French meringue, ‘le macaron’ is ‘très bon!’

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

L’air du café…

Cafe Cropped arrCoffee is a must! Morning or afternoon, I enjoy cozying up to a ceramic mug filled with this hot liquid gold. Arguably closer to bronze, in colour, tone is irrelevant. As long as it smells good, and is strong enough to wake me up and keep me going through the day, I love coffee; my preferred afternoon pick-me-up.

Bistro Chairs cropped arrLanding in Paris, a.k.a. bistro central, how could I passé on the café? To do so would be unthinkable, for me, and perhaps to coffee-lovers everywhere. For the love of coffee, my ‘joie de vivre,’ I retreated to one of the many cafés in the city of lights.

Already familiar with Turkish-style coffee, I would liken Parisian coffee to be just as strong. Its consistency is by no means watered-down like cafe Americano, which I am often exposed to back home. I usually only take milk in my coffee, but even I found my Parisian café-drinking experience more pleasurable with the addition of sugar. However you like it, I would describe French coffee as bold, robust and authentic in flavour. To my understanding, French café is coffee made the right way – the real deal.

When in Paris, you’ll note a distinguishable scent looming in the air – it’s the smell of coffee. If you crave it, lookout for a set of neatly arranged chairs in any arrondissement (district), and you’ll be sure to find a well-dressed waiter to serve you a cup of joy. Having tasted French café in a Parisian bistro and the McDonald’s along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, I can honestly rate both drinks as very good. The main distinction, then, lies in the manner of service and the atmosphere. Wherever you decide to take your Parisian coffee break, remember two things: first, rejoice in knowing cafés are within arms-reach; and, second, the city of love is not entirely ‘in love’ with drive-thrus – no Timmies here, just so you know!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.