Monday, February 3, 2014

Two Days in Paris (told through food): Day 1

Rue des Martyrs
A Parisian friend had suggested as part of my itinerary for my short stay in Paris a stroll along the Rue des Martyrs, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.  He had described it as a quintessential Parisian street offering a glimpse of village life; after having visited the street, I couldn't have described it any better.  Bakeries, butchers, cafes, cheese and charcuterie epiceries, and shops selling everything from chocolates to eyewear line the street, which stretches from the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Church northwards (and uphill) to the base of Montmartre.  

seafood restaurant
a cheese & charcuterie epicerie
a fishmonger
the selection of choux at Popelini
this cookie shop sells 9 varieties of chocolate cookies, along with several other flavors
chocolates sold at Jeff de Bruges
My first stop was Maison Landemaine, a delightful bakery and my friend's favorite in all of Paris.  I could hardly choose from among the pastries and breads artfully displayed inside: croissants (plain, chocolate, or almond), tartes fines (tarts filled with apples, pears, or apricots), baguettes prepared with a variety of flours and leavens, paris-brest, eclairs, and more.  I hemmed and hawed for a while before finally settling on the tarte au pomme (apple tart).  It was exquisite: the crust was light and buttery and the thinly sliced apples atop it were fanned into a spiral and kept moist with a finishing glaze.

the tarte au pomme at Maison Landemaine 

The timing of my trip coincided with a Brassai photography exhibit ("For the Love of Paris").  I spent the rest of my morning there, after which lunch was in order.  
amazing falafel in the Marais

During prior visits to the Marais, I'd taken note of L'As Du Fallafel.  The restaurant is hard not to notice: it's painted a bright green, and long queues of hungry people perpetually wait outside it, the line often spilling into and interrupting the heavy foot traffic along Rue des Rosiers.  There is more to L'As Du Fallafel's menu than just falafels (the menu runs two pages long and includes dishes like chicken shawarma, lamb kabobs, and salads), but I had come for the falafel sandwich.  It was, in a word, incredible: a warm pita bread stuffed with light, crispy balls of falafel and topped with a salad of cucumbers, pickled cabbage, and grilled eggplant, and drizzled with a hummus-tahini dressing.

Since I was already there, I visited several of my favorite shops in the Marais, working up an appetite for dinner.  Dinner was another of my friend's recommendations: Le Verre Vole. 

Le Verre Vole

"Bistronomie" (loosely translated as serious food in a casual environment) would be the best word to describe this gem.  It's a modest-looking restaurant sitting on a nondescript street in the 10th arrondissement, with a 2-room dining space taken up by wooden tables and mismatched, beat up-looking chairs.  The daily-changing menu is hand-written -- in the front room, on a chalkboard and in the back room (which you get to by descending down some stairs) on a mirrored wall.  
Galician-style octopus

pan-seared pollock with carrot puree

apple crumble
The evening I dined at Le Verre Vole, they were offering two selections each for a starter, main course, and dessert.  As a starter, I had the Galician-style octopus: an octopus tentacle served with boiled baby potatoes in an olive oil-paprika sauce.  For my main course, I had the pollock: it was pan-seared (tender with a nicely crisped exterior) and sat atop a carrot puree and some roasted baby carrots; on the side was a shaved fennel salad.  I had a delicious glass of wine to accompany my meal, chosen by the waiter (I didn't see a wine list). My dessert was an apple crumble: cubes of baked apple, a streusel topping, some scattered pumpkin seeds, and a dollop of yogurt.  

It was the perfect meal to end a delicious first day back in The City of Lights.

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