Le Paris Weekend

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For the last 10 years I’ve been making  homecoming pilgrimages to Paris – sometimes alone, sometimes with a few girlfriends (or sister!) in tow, and always just for a long weekend. Instead of spending hours in line for museums or tourist attractions, I prefer to meander around my old neighborhood (le 6ème/St-Germain), visit old friends, trek out to the St-Ouen flea market, and devour every crumb of creative and culinary inspiration. Paris is a feast for the senses as well as the soul! I return home exhausted but reinvigorated. And interestingly – despite the daily consumption of whole milk cafés au lait, baguettes with butter, cheese, pastries and chocolate – I somehow come back 3 pounds lighter. (The key, apparently, is walking 8+ miles per day, as tracked by my Fitbit.) Here’s a little taste of my most recent trip. Bon appétit!  Continue reading

Holiday Open House 2013

Mini gingerbread cupcakes

For those who couldn’t make my Blog Holiday Open House earlier this month, here’s a little taste of what you missed.

This year’s theme was “Christmas in Paris” – I thought having a theme would help focus the menu and provide décor inspiration. Some of my menu items were legit French (i.e., gougères, or cheese puffs), but most were French-inspired/French-ish. I had fun creating a French Christmas theme board on Pinterest – a great way to organize ideas for a party.

Oui -those are little Eiffel Towers on my apron.

Oui -those are little Eiffel Towers on my apron.

Continue reading

La Vie Est Belle

A few years ago, after losing two friends to cancer, I vowed I would never again bemoan a birthday. Growing older is a gift! Birthdays should be celebrated! (Piñatas and goodie bags optional.)

And so, in this spirit I am happy to announce that I celebrated this year’s milestone  (and new crop of gray hairs) in my favorite city and home away from home: Paris, France. A whirlwind trip of 72 hours, it was still enough time to visit good friends, hit the flea markets, eat a lot of unpasteurized cheese, and give thanks for turning one year older.

Here are some of the highlights from the trip, in case you have a birthday coming up as well.

My birthday éclair au chocolat from Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris (est. 1730). Kate Moss once declared, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” She clearly never had a chocolate éclair from Stohrer. Inside this slender tube of pâte à choux was the most intensely chocolatey pastry cream I’ve ever tasted. (Confession: I also had a birthday pain au chocolat here, which was still warm and melty and worth every single calorie.)

Patisserie Stohrer

  • 51, rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris
  • www.stohrer.fr
  • Open 7 days a week, from 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.

After walking past this fromagerie near the Marché aux Enfants Rouges (a covered open-air market), I couldn’t help but stop to pick up a few cheeses to sample. They even carried thinly sliced Poilâne aux noix (walnut bread). A boulangerie with fresh baguettes was just a few doors down.

Fromagerie Jouannault père & fille

  • 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
  • Open Tuesday – Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., and then 3:30 – 7:45 p.m.; Sundays 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Little Breizh is a small, homey crêperie on the Left Bank. Despite being listed as one of the top Paris restaurants on TripAdvisor.com, there were still a couple of French people dining here. Crisp, lacey buckwheat crêpes with any fillings you like. Mine had bacon, raclette cheese, mushrooms and crème fraiche. So good my friend Kelly ordered it as her dessert crêpe! (Gena and I went more mainstream with chocolate and salted caramel sauces and vanilla ice cream.)

Little Breizh Crêperie

  • 11, rue Gregoire de Tours, 75006 Paris

Marché aux puces de St-Ouen (Clignancourt)

For me, no trip to Paris would be complete without an excursion to this massive flea market just north of the city. I’m determined to bring home France, one suitcase at a time. (Though this time I brought back some large abstract tableaux from the ‘70s, which had to be checked as oversized baggage.) Here are some shots from the puces, as well as some of the treasures I’ve found during past visits:

In the Marché Jules Vallès

One of a pair of red Sèvres vases

Old wine or cider bottles

Small signed oil on board

Terra cotta chèvre/cheese mould

Nested ironstone mixing bowls

Top Secret Flea Market Tips

There are web sites, books and even apps on the Paris flea markets, so I won’t rehash all the details here. I will, however, share some of my best-kept secrets for making a trip to the puces much more enjoyable:

  • Take the metro to Garibaldi (line 13), not Porte de Clignancourt (line 4). (Thanks to Kelly for this tip.) This will bypass all the unsavory and aggressive vendors lining the route from the Pte de Clignancourt exit to the heart of the antiques markets. After exiting the metro, take rue Kléber to rue Edgar Quinet to rue Rosiers. Take a right on rue Rosiers and keep walking until you see this Boulangerie/Patisserie:

  • Stop to get a snack. I recommend the croissant aux amandes (almond croissant) or anything that looks like it has pastry cream and chocolate chips. (This “Chinois” is one example.)

  • The best bathrooms can be found in the Marché Paul Bert. (This is the photogenic market most often seen in magazines.) There’s also a café and cash machine at the rue Paul Bert entrance of the market.

  • Take rue Paul Bert to rue Jules Vallès to find my favorite section of the flea market – the Marché Jules Vallès. Here’s where you’re more likely to find affordable, interesting bric-a-brac that can fit in your suitcase. Don’t be afraid to dig through boxes and strike up conversations with the vendors. (Unless they’re in the middle of lunch; best not to disturb the pot au feu.)

Wine Tasting at the Bon Marché

A lot of guide books list the Bon Marché (La Grande Epicerie de Paris) as a must-see for food lovers, but they neglect to mention the free wine tastings on weekend afternoons. This rosé champagne was one of the wines being sampled – lucky us!

Santé!