Chefs’ Supply District Part II, and French toast for real

July 24, 2008 at 3:23 PM | Posted in Paris 2008, Paris markets, Wanderings | Leave a comment

I woke up with a shock today at 6am. The apartment complex’s stray cat was sticking his head through the sliding glass door in my bedroom (which I had opened about 4 inches to get some fresh air–no screens in France) and yowling–baying is more like it–while staring directly into my eyes. What a way to wake up. I think I shrieked a little–this cat is huge. Instead of falling completely back asleep, I started half-dreaming about Parisian cookware and the chefs’ supply stores. So I decided to go to work early, leave early, and track down the dough whisk I learned about yesterday, and perhaps some little tartlet pans.

After a productive day at work, I felt completely justified in leaving at 4pm. I got the last dough whisk from the hardware store/cookware store on R. St. Augustine in “Japantown” (more like Japan-block), and for probably the first time since I got to Paris, I had reverse sticker shock (it was way less than I had believed was possible)! I then stopped in a little Japanese cookware/grocery/gourmet foodstuff store on R. St. Augustine, and as I was looking at the sake pitchers, the saleswoman came up to me and said (in French), “You can taste anything in the store that you want”–and I understood her!! I then said (in my toddler-level French), “le sake froid c’est bon ajourd’hui…il fait chaud” (Cold sake is good today, it’s hot out–yeah, told you it was toddler-level) She led me to a refrigerator case in the back and picked out four bottles, then set them out on a counter with little tasting cups and told me (in English) how they’re all different as I tasted them.

Then I found culinary heaven–E. Dehillerin. Seriously, the stores I saw yesterday paled in comparison to this. It’s much more a restaurant supply store than the ones I saw previously–for example, you can buy at least twenty sizes of ladles (some the size of mixing bowls), and the bowls come separately from the stems so you can customize your ladle to exactly how you want it. The store has the industrial feel of Home Depot, has about ten times the breadth of products as Sur la Table, is jammed from floor to ceiling, and is very reasonably priced for the quality (you’d pay a whole lot more at Williams-Sonoma). After forty-five minutes of happily browsing and trying to figure out the uses of the tools–an endlessly entertaining activity, especially with the occasional help of the salesman working in the gadgets section–I bought a set of nonstick, fluted tartlet molds with removable bottoms.

E. Dehillerin is in Les Halles (by the Louvre), and since it was gorgeous outside, I decided to walk home–down R. Rivoli and through the Marais area, which I love. On the way home, I ran across yet another kitchenware store–Le Vaissellerie–which sells discount china, ceramics, and other various and sundry kitchen goods. I started hearing the siren song of the amuse-bouche plates and mini mustard pots and cheese knives that I so valiantly resisted yesterday, and I’ll go back when I am not so deeply in the mindset of “my life will be incomplete without a Camembert knife.” (But speaking of which–cheese knives are brilliant! They have a blade like a normal knife, but the end of the knife is forked, so you can spear your piece of cheese after cutting it).

I finally got home around 8pm and decided that I would put the last stale five inches of yesterday’s “pain au tradition” to good use (pain au tradition is, incidentally, my favorite kind of bread here–shorter and squatter than a normal baguette, with a springy inside, big holes perfect for catching jam, chewy-crunchy crust, and a light dusting of flour on the outside, AND usually still hot when I buy it). I had some organic eggs, milk, and honey….so I made pain perdu (French toast–literally, “lost bread”) and ate it with some of the raspberry-peach compote that my housemate made last weekend. Using good bread and fresh eggs made a huge difference–the inside was like custard, and I think it actually helped that the bread was a little stale. Trés délicieux!

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