Southern Candymakers & Praline Charms

Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 1 arrNew Orleans is a city full of charm and tradition. And with gems to be found at pretty much every corner, Decatur Street is no different. Sighting one sweets boutique, in particular, I find ‘tortue’ central at none other than Southern Candymakers.Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 8 arr

Making pralines on the spot, this boutique candy shop is where I get my taste of the pecan classic, and some more! Between the left-side aisle of souvenir items and showcased individual treats to the right, I pick up an assortment of chocolate-covered caramel pecans – inclusive of milk, white and dark chocolate – a container red beans and rice, truly candy-coated sunflower seeds and peanuts, in addition to old-fashioned salt water taffy. Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 9 arr

Bonbons selected and collected for later enjoyment, now would be a good time to beat the heat with scoops of ice box refreshers – homemade vanilla, pralines ‘n’ cream, and banana pudding ice creams – also, allowing more time to peruse the delectable quarters. Glad to have done so, the atmosphere beckons little reminders of NOLA from Café Du Monde coffee and ‘beignet’ mix to alligator-fashioned oven mitts. Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 4 arrClearly appealing to all tourists at heart, the real treat – for me – was eyeing a batch of freshly made pralines being prepared and proportioned on a marble surface, and all done so right on-site. Watching candy being made in action plus the sweet aroma of caramelized sugar in the air, there’s just one thought that comes to mind: “Oh, how sweet it is!”

Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 2 arrLeaving content with an undeniable sugar rush, Southern Candymakers know how to appease to the senses. Likewise, and given the multitude of selection, a fun-filled discovery is to be anticipated. Among my handful of treats, here’s the ‘one’ I highly rate: chocolate-covered pecan ‘tortue’ that are – honest to goodness – divine. Evasive of hard candy bits, you can taste all three layers of this nutty yet sweet praline that is the culmination of crunchy pecans, melt-in-your-mouth buttery caramel, and chocolate coating. Authentic, to say the least, these little charmers are soft and chewy morsels of “must-indulge” temptation. A turtle in name, not inception, these delightful clusters are too good to savour slowly – C’est si bon!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Deliciously Repeating History: One Muffuletta at a Time

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 8 arrFor a foodie who encounters a ‘sign’ professing to be the ‘original’ – anything food related – there’s one motto to follow: “Veni, vidi, vici!” Caesar knew better and, in suit, so do those with a curious appetite.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 12 arrSpotting such signage in New Orleans, I open the doors to Central Grocery, to experience the hype of their famous muffuletta. Self-proclaimed originators of this Italian sandwich, who wouldn’t want to sample a bread-encased ‘charcuterie’ spread, let alone a chance to step into the world of the “Home of the Original,” itself? Passing rows of jarred pickled veggies, dry pasta and sauces, I know I do! Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 3 arr

Making my way to the counter, I read the menu of options – only two – for either a half portion or full, and decisively order: “One whole muffuletta, please!” And, in a flash, I’m promptly handed a food gift – a freshly made, cut and wrapped whole sandwich – also lunch for the day. Luckily, given the generous size of this rounded fare, my midday snack is to be shared though it could easily feed two to four people, dependent on hunger levels.Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 7 arr

Ready to ‘mangia al fresco,’ I leave my side treat of Zapp’s “Kettle Style Voodoo” potato chips for later, and prepare for the main event. Quartered piece in hand, I take notice of the reveal: layers of mortadella, salami, provolone, ham, mozzarella, and a heavy topping of olive salad. As if that’s not enough, the buttery shavings of meat and savoury olive condiment are held together between a sliced round loaf of sesame crusted bread. Each component, however simple, balances one another for the making of a flavourful sandwich.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 4 arrNever having tasted bad mortadella, there’s some debate to what makes a perfect sandwich. Without a doubt, the cuts of premium deli are fresh and tasty on their own. Similarly, you can’t go wrong with an untouched homemade recipe for success as seen in the marinated olive salad that’s heightened by aromatics such as celery, carrots, garlic, and oregano to name a few. All delicious, the aforementioned can easily be enjoyed together or alone. Still, to me, the bread takes the prize. Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 9 arrCovered with toasted nutty goodness, this bread is golden: it bears a crispy exterior all the while remaining soft and chewy to the bite. Light as air, this porous loaf is sponge-like to the touch and, although less dense than a focaccia, well made. So much so, in fact, it holds its shape despite the absorption of the olive oil dressing, and the weighted addition of meat and cheese slices. Carb-praising aside, the only crumbs you’ll find are none – a muffuletta so good you’ll wish you purchased another for the road.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 6 arrEvidently worth imitating, I can see why Central Grocery prides itself in being the creators of the muffuletta. In consideration of its popularity, this grocer offers delivery service for those who can’t stop by 923 Decatur Street. But for those who can, the making of your own muffuletta is as easy as ordering some deli and picking up a jar of the signature olive salad. With the necessary ingredients available in-house, this grocer has those wanting to recreate the humble meat and cheese hand-held covered. Happy to have arrived, witnessed and tasted the ‘original’, the verdict’s in: the real-deal muffuletta is a new lunch box favourite.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

The Old Absinthe House

The Old Absinthe House NOLA 1 arrDo fairies exist? I couldn’t tell you, but I will say this: a belle of a drink – a glass of good ol’ Tinker – is to be seen, made, and encountered at Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House, in New Orleans.

Situated at 240 Bourbon Street – where else – this bar embodies a relaxed atmosphere, as one would expect. Just step in, find a seat, and you’ll immediately notice walls covered with a shameless stretch of self-promoting patron-inspired art – a.k.a. business cards. The Old Absinthe House NOLA 6 arrFinding no designated boards, here, the walls are the bulletin. Clearly atypical albeit clever, interesting, and a quick read in passing – the ambiance is to be appreciated.

Innovative wall paper aside, there’s absinthe to be found and it’s bar side. Pleasantries made, the friendly and informative bartender promptly presents a list of green possibilities. And, there’s plenty! So be prepared to throw indecision out the open door, and select an absinthe of choice. Doing just that, let the magic begin!

The Old Absinthe House NOLA 3 arrGoing for a classic, the bartender first sets up an absinthe spoon with a sugar cube atop a glass. Pouring some Butterfly Absinthe over the sugar, he then lights it on fire. Kindly explaining each step – for the absinthe novice that I am – he leaves the cube ‘en flamblé’ to allow the sugars to caramelize but prevents the alcohol from burning off via a splash of cold water. The Old Absinthe House NOLA 4 arrFor the final touch, he dilutes the anise-infused spirit with more water, and stirs-in the semi-dissolved sugar. A spectacle to behold, the once clear absinthe has distinctly changed to an opaque lime green, which the bartender details is a result of a chemical reaction known as ‘louche.’ Clearly a pro, the bartender ‘appropriately’ concocts a drink that leaves me with a cloudy absinthe and word for the day.The Old Absinthe House NOLA 5 arr

Enjoying the show, I leave this long-standing establishment deducing this: fans of licorice will enjoy the reminiscent taste profile that absinthe yields. Highly aromatic, its herbal notes are synonymous with fennel and anise flavours, and lend to an overall fragrant yet strong product. Keen on absinthe or not, the Old Absinthe House has been serving ‘tradition’ since 1807 and remains a historic fixture minus any old-world stuffiness. Lastly, please drink responsibly!

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All Day Beignets & Chicory Brew

Craving old-fashioned fried ‘beignets’? Well, if you’re ever in New Orleans, be sure to stop by the iconic Café Du Monde. Serving piping hot and fresh doughnuts and/or your choice of beverage, this NOLA fixture has been running since 1862. And, that’s not all. Keeping locals and visiting folk – like ‘moi’ – happy, this coffee house runs nonstop.Cafe Du Monde Beignets 8 arr

That’s right, open 24 hours/day, 800 Decatur Street is the place to be! Making my way to this very hotspot, midday service is – as expected – busy! But, with perseverance and patience on my end, coupled with the dutiful display on behalf of the staff, order’s up: a classic pairing of café au lait and beignets, as well as sweetened ice-blended coffee. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 1 arr

And, now, for the taste test. Starting with a sip of the cold ‘refresher,’ the frozen café au lait is sublime. A grown-up take on slush, if you will, this caffeinated drink hits all targets: it helps beat the heat, tastes satisfyingly sweet, and gives you that added pick-me-up for the day, to keep touring the Quarter. Preferring slush over iced-coffee, you definitely have the option to request the floating ice variety. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 9 arr

Sticking to tradition, let’s move on to the long-awaited beignets. Prepared two-ways – with or without a thick dusting of confectioner’s sugar – these powdered pillow squares are always plated or paper bag packed in threes. Going for the snow-capped option, my trio of beignets smell sweet, are soft to the touch and are revealing of a chewy consistency upon first bite. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 2 arrIn a dough-nut shell, they’re plain-Jane – ‘au naturel’ – bundles of fried up comfort, no frills required. And, as with all fried foods, be sure to enjoy these goods while they’re hot.

Clearly, having enjoyed the venue and blast of air circulating from the ceiling fans, sitting ‘à la table’ with a chicory-blended brew of java is my kind of shady afternoon. So, for all those wanting to take a Parisian-esque break in the south, just find a seat at this corner coffee stand and prepare to watch the world go by – one sip, slurp, and beignet at a time.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Cray Cray for Deanie’s!

Deanie's NOLA 1 arrCrazy for NOLA! Truly, who wouldn’t be? Infatuated with brass tones, French culture, rich food and good company, New Orleans is a city I’ve long yearned to visit. And, finally, venturing to the birthplace of jazz music and legends alike has come to fruition – Oui, oui!!!

Offering plenty to feed all your senses, the list of food events and street sightings is too long to name. With the promise of more posts to come, there’s just one thing to do: “Laissez le bon temps rouler!”

Deanie's NOLA 5 arrGetting down to business, I make Deanie’s Seafood my first dining stop. Conveniently situated right in “Quarter” – the French Quarter, that is – this local favourite easily gets packed during peak times. Fortunately, making an entrance at the ‘right time,’ my party is soon seated and served with spiced “hot potatoes.” You heard right! Talking about a “good change,” find no pre-meal dinner rolls, here. As the server helpfully explains, patrons are presented with a plate of boiled red-skinned spuds and butter in ‘lieu’ of bread, and as a side note: these potatoes evoke a distinct element of heat given they are extracted from an authentic ‘seafood boil,’ and consequently have absorbed all the good piquant seasoning.

Deanie's NOLA 3 arrAlready kicking things off in the right direction, this prelude starter is sign of more delicious food to come. Clearly dishing the fish, seafood is fresh, made to order and prepared your way – fried or broiled – and, as if that’s not enough, it comes with a plateful of fries. Bearing all the markings for an evening feast to share and remember, here’s a quick rundown of what ‘was’ enjoyed: a half seafood platter in addition to an order of stuffed shrimp, and a broiled crab quartet consistent with stuffed crab, soft shell crab, crab legs, and crab gratin. Yes, I know it’s a lot but, “The ocean called…” and, I’m running out of time in NOLA, so I must-indulge.Deanie's NOLA 4 arr

Nothing short of ‘magnifique,’ I can attest to the quality of the aforementioned dishes. Between the battered and fried shrimp, fish, oysters and soft shell crab, these ‘fruits de mer’ were divine. Sweet, succulent and tender, I enjoyed the seafood at Deanie’s. Deanie's NOLA 2 arrAs a standout, the crab gratin dish was ‘dat good!’ It was decadent, creamy, loaded with lump crab meat and it paired well with the side plate of fries. Perhaps, not the intended method of consumption, but it makes perfect sense. After all, why not top off fries with a cheesy crabby topping? Just think: upscale seafood poutine – you’re welcome!

Deanie's NOLA 6 arrWorth repeat visits, letting the good times roll is made easy at Deanie’s. Back again for a taste of authentic crawfish, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to leave NOLA without getting my hands a little messy. Learning the tricks of the eating trade, I efficiently learn how to ‘work for’ a morsel of crawfish. Far from the simplicity of peel-and-eat shrimp, crawfish is similar in texture though differs in taste and, above all, requires more effort for less reward. Still, I’m happy for the real deal experience in yours truly, and can appreciate why these mudbugs are so loved. From ‘bon voyage’ to ‘bon appétit,’ good eats are undoubtedly found at Deanie’s Seafood.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Heavenly Delights

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 13 arrOut and about, and feeling peckish for dessert? Say no more! Venturing along 8992 Yonge Street, keep your eyes wide open for these three words: Heavenly Delights Pâtisserie. Specializing in Persian and French-inspired desserts, this pastry house offers an extensive variety of items ranging from traditional handmade cookies and moist layered cakes.

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 7 arrNotably pure tasting of real cream, butter, fruits and nuts, to name a few, dessert selects are synonymous with authentic quality ingredients as much as overall freshness. Also catering to one’s preference for subtle sweetness, pastries are ever so slightly kissed with sugar. Heavenly thanks earned, these cakes are made right! Using enough sugar to rightfully allow the vibrant profile of fruit, spices, and floral essences to shine, this bakery truly yields applause-worthy delights that are light in texture, delicate in taste and visually stunning.  Good news:  there’s more!

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 10 arrSighting row upon row of edible confections, I order a fleet of temptuous ‘beauties’ for take-away, including: lavender, pomegranate, saffron, pistachio, coffee and chocolate single-serve cakes in addition to hazelnut chocolate and pistachio cream-filled sponge rolls. Some sampled and others shared, the saffron cake tops my list of three “must-indulge” items. Upon first bite, I’m immediately reminded of ‘bastani sonnati,’ a popular Persian-style ice cream that encompasses all that’s nostalgically reminiscent of a summertime favourite saffron, fragrant rosewater and pistachios but, in the medium of cake. So, if you want to have your cake tasting like perfumed ice cream, now you can P.S., it’s also no-melt!

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 15 arrEqually making the grade, the pistachio cream-filled sponge cake roll is divine. Everything a sponge should be, this pastel-hued roll remains moist while springy to the touch, and is sufficiently embedded with chopped nuts and real cream. Honestly, find no complaints here!

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 14 arrHappily expecting the unexpected, I also recommend the tart pomegranate cake for it’s element of surprisingly good taste. Clearly, sweet and sour is not a new pairing but, in cake? When proportioned and prepared well, the answer is a definitive YES – the duo works, even in dessert!  Already a popular fruit in its natural form as in juice and molasses, this gem of a cake is worth mention. Packing a mélange of mild sweetness from the neutral vanilla cake and acidic punch via vibrant ruby pomegranates, this superfood indulgence is pleasantly cleansing to the palette without being overly lip-smacking the ideal ‘after’ dinner treat.

Heavenly Delights Patisserie 8 arr‘Gâteau’ galore, I’m temporarily distracted by coffee and occasion cakes.  Soon enough, proceeding to finalize my order, last requests are made for a couple of skillfully crafted French classics. Sharing an affinity for French fare, Heavenly Delights transforms ‘choux’ into generous hand-sized cream-filled profiteroles. Similarly, these artisan-made cream puffs are light as air and offer more than two-bites to satisfy anyone’s appetite. While the list of cakes, pastries, baklava and cookies are endless, there’s one more thing I simply can’t leave without. Ordering a square portion of mille-feuille layered with custard, this grandiose treat lives true to its namesake, the Napoleon – “Vive l’empereur,” indeed!

Leaving impressed, there’s no doubt that traditional Persian and classic French desserts reign at Heavenly Delights Pâtisserie. With boxes full of goods in hand, celebrating life just got better – one pastry at a time.  But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and get your hands on a ‘heavenly delight’ of your own choosing.  Happy food-shopping!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved. 

Paris Dreaming

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Wishing everyone happiness, prosperity and health-y appetites, the start of 2018 is made fabulous thanks to resolutions.

Parisian Carousel 1 arrYes, you’ve read right! Love them or not, resolutions are not to be feared. Paris dreaming – myself – I’m resolute to start off the year with a taste of France. And while a real-deal French escape sounds alluring so, too, is the next best thing: Parisian-inspired eats, ‘chez-moi.’

Almond Frangipane Croissants 6 arrNeedless to say, if you can’t go to the magical “City of lights,” why not bring Paris – or, replace with your fantasy destination – to you? Keen on keeping my vow to enjoy more French fare, “Vive la France” doesn’t ring anymore true than starting the day right with this classic breakfast staple: buttery rich yet light and flaky croissants.

Almond Frangipane Croissants 5 arrFinding no judgement here, you may by all means purchase croissants and enjoy them as-is. Elevating an already scrumptious pastry, I have almond croissants in mind for my ‘petit déjeuner.’ Cheating, ever so slightly, I create almond frangipane from scratch but, proceed to use Pillsbury Crescent Dough – and, I’m glad I did! Sorry but not sorry, I lay out the triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and add a spoonful of the creamy almond filling prior to rolling. Oven set at 375 F, I proceed to bake the eight crescents for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. End result: a perfectly warm and tender almond-filled pastry that is nothing short of divine. Mildly nutty and equally fragrant, you don’t have to travel far for these parcels.

Pleasantly evoking memories of Paris, there’s no doubt this breakfast plate of ‘la nostalgie’ makes for a very delicious attainable goal. Already 1-0, resolution-trepidation is literally a thing of yesteryear – happy resolving!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved. 

Basque-It, Full!

 

BAB beach arr

Longing to leave work days and dreaded deadlines, behind? So, too, do the French. ‘Being one’ with an idyllic postcard in real time many find themselves escaping to surf city central – beloved Biarritz, in the South of France.

Maison Adam Biarritz 9 arrFacing the Atlantic Ocean and bordering Spain, the sandy beaches of Biarritz are among one of my favourite coastlines. Designating summer days with basking under the sun, what’s one to do once the temperature drops? I don’t know about you, but soaking up the rich Basque history that is synonymous with BAB – Biarritz, Anglet and Bayonne – is what I have in mind.

Gaining a glimpse into this region’s food and culture, one post would not suffice. Providing you with a snapshot, however, good news is: eating well – à la Biarritz – persists to be a year-round event. So, while some tourists and locals are being pushed toward the shoreline, find others being pulled into the city centre. Maison Adam Biarritz 4 arrGravitating toward the sweet aromas of pastry shops myself, I walk along the cobble streets of Biarritz and make two notable stops: first, to Maison Adam and second, to Maître Chocolatier Henriet. Face to face, these corner surprises are conveniently located along opposing streets and are not to be missed. Venturing to one venue and then the other, I clearly follow suit of an over-indulgent and self-serving yet, applicably foodie-appropriate tactic: dividing time to conquer all – that’s gluttonous!

Biarritz Desserts 1 arrHappily pursuing chocolates, cakes, and pastry, these conquests are nothing short of successfully sweet. Yielding appetizing treasures to be devoured and shared, I find ‘my people’ – chocolate lovers and s’more – scanning shelves and rejoicing over display towers of sinfully delectable artisan crafted delights. Equally taking time to study unique cakes and cookies, Maison Adam is reputably the originator of the Basque macaron. Stopping to sample both, why not order some more? Requesting a little bit of this and that, I take away the famous almond cookie, Basque gâteau – cherry and chocolate varieties – along with a box of praline truffles and a bar of refined dark chocolate.

Chocolatier Henriet Biarritz 1 arrBut, that’s not all! Dessert excursion halfway complete, another lesson in tradition awaits at Chocolatier Henriet. Food-spotting between one pastry house to another, Henriet literally evokes history in the making as seen with their production of elegant French pâtisseries – éclair au chocolat et mirabelle, tarte aux pommes, truffes, pavlova, etc. – in as much as Basque-inspired confections like ‘touron’ and nougat. Candies and classic pastries abound, the assortment of goods range from simple flavour profiles like vanilla and chocolate to enhanced tastes including apricot, orange, and almond to name a few.

Chocolatier Henriet Biarritz 5 arrSpeaking volumes about the coast with the most, I leave this well-stocked boutique of treats – like the one before – with a handful of boxed up beauties. Sailing through this inland shopping experience, I’m ready to sample my ‘Basquette’ full of heavenly selects. Best part of all, this voyage need not wait on Mr. Sun or that bikini body – phew! Certain to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, Maison Adam and Chocolatier Henriet are a couple of Biarritz’s finest locally-situated dessert houses – sugar rush, guaranteed!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

When in Rome, Giolitti!

When in Rome, venturing to the Trevi Fountain is a must! Definitely a sight to behold, the same can described of the outpouring of tourists. Rightfully wishful, there’s truly no shortage of admirers tossing coins and within elbow’s reach. So let’s face it, when the only open space left is the mini pool – ‘la fontana’ itself – reality strikes: it’s time to go! Saving you the trouble of locating your next mini-getaway, allow me to retrace my steps and acquaint you with a must-visit gem of a gelateria along the maze-like streets of Rome. Giolitti 13 arr

Nestled between an espresso bar and neighbouring boutiques – Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, to be exact – I find myself reliving a happy incident of déju-vu at Giolitti. Oh, how sweet it was – a few years ago – and still is, today! Clearly having been there and done that, a good first impression is enough to leave me wanting more. And with an endless display of premium quality frozen desserts, Giolitti makes repeat visits easy. Giolitti 11 arr 

From start to finish, getting your hands on ice cream is quite the experience at this parlour.  Upon entry, most tourists shuffle between the pastry counter and the corner stop for cafe beverages all the while lost in amazement of the ornately decorated establishment.  Almost frozen in time, the traditional handmade pastries and sweets if not the interior ambiance is sure to take up a couple of your minutes.  

Giolitti 1 arrOvercome by a spectacle of confections – cassata siciliana, sfogliatella napoletana, crema e pinoli, marmellata, paste assortite, cannoli, cookies, and brain-freeze selects – the commotion of eager patrons will certainly bring you back down to earth, and in no time you’ll soon remember why you’re here in the first place: “Gelato, por favor!” Sure enough, crowd control is in check and, so too, is the step-by-step ordering process:  first, place your order – one, two or three scoops – then, pay the cashier and receive a receipt to present to one of many ice cream servers.  At this point, don’t be shy to make your request and be heard, especially since there’s no formal queue and the servers are beckoning ice cream lovers to efficiently make their way to the counter.  Essentially, your wish is your command. Literally, the sooner you voice your ice cream desires the sooner you’ll grab it and go – just be prepared, and know what you want.

Hanging around the masses of gelato fans, delighting in a chocolate-covered cone-filled treat is monumental sight in its own right.  Just imagine:  cones upon cones covered with scoops of freshly churned congealed dairy dessert and topped with a generous slathering of sweetened whipped cream. No risk, no reward – get in queue already!

Sticking to the caffeinated side of things, I spot so many variations of cocoa indulgences through the glass window but narrow down my choices to three.  Going for a trio of dark chocolate, tiramisu and coffee, this combo is velvety rich and packed with nuanced flavour. Simply put, Giolitti’s gelato is the ideal afternoon pick-me-up. Better yet, it’s an everlasting souvenir that’s meant to be devoured and detailed for later recounts. Clearly repeating history, this foodie chronicle is worth reliving – in person!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

“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’!

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