Portable Paris?

August 14, 2009 at 10:38 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As I sit here eating breakfast (still-hot baguette tradition from Boulangerie Julien–they are open again!–spread with soft, heavenly, sea-salted butter), I am contemplating what to do with my last full day in Paris.  It mostly involves running around town to get things that are impossible or way too expensive to get in the States, or are just not the same as when you get them here.  Butter, for instance.  The butter here is sweet and creamy, and it is ribboned with fleur de sel (a flaky sea salt), and it tastes basically like what happens when butter goes to heaven.  And it makes everything taste good.  While butter is obviously widely available in the U.S., it just doesn’t taste as–for lack of a better word–buttery as it does here.

I began packing last night, and realized that 95% (by weight, at least) of what I have acquired here has been edible or can be used to make or consume or enhance edible things, including…

  • Lentilles de Puy–a special variety of French green lentils that have a caviar-like quality to them.  Really, you never knew that lentils could taste like this.
  • Tablettes of chocolate, including my new find, which is dark chocolate sprinkled with fleur de sel (on an unrelated note, in France “six-pack” abs are referred to as tablettes–abs like a scored bar of chocolate.  Yes)
  • Fleur de sel (noticing a theme here?)
  • Harissa (Moroccan hot sauce, extraordinarily flavorful)
  • A cheese knife with a split tip like a snake’s tongue, so you can stab the cheese after you slice off a piece
  • A white-wine cooling device requested by my grandpa (it is a double sleeve filled with water between the layers, and you freeze it to create a ring of ice.   You can then slip this onto bottles of white or rose wine to keep them chilled)
  • Tea from Mariage Freres
  • Pearl sugar for choquettes and brioche sucre
  • Bags of spices from the Moroccan spice merchant on R. Montorgueil (I am a bit afraid that my entire suitcase will be scented with ras-el-hanout by the time I get back, despite the quadruple layer of plastic bagging)
  • A big jar of thyme honey, which I got after my degustacion at the honey shop in the Marais

And the list of things to pick up today continues to grow…

  • Vacuum-sealed cheeses and butter from Pascal, my fromager on Rue San Antoine (the vacuum seal prevents air from getting in/out, simultaneously keeping your clothes from smelling like Camembert and your cheese from going bad)
  • Mini financier from Eric Kayser
  • A loaf of pain campagne from Boulangerie Julien (I want to bring baguettes but I’m afraid that they’ll get stale by the time I get home, since Julien is closed tomorrow and a baguette’s ideal lifespan is 18-24 hours at most)
  • Chocolates for my office
  • Perhaps some vacuum-sealed olives (so many varieties that you can’t find in the U.S., including the fresh green ones to which I’ve grown addicted)

And then there are the ephemeral things that I just don’t think will travel well, like macaron, choquettes, tartes au chocolat.  So sad.

Who cares about making room for clothes when there’s the possibility of enjoying French butter for the next month or two?  I’m sure glad that I bought an extra gym bag.  And my hiking boots, after 2 Boston winters, a trip up and down Kilimanjaro, and a stint on the Camino, are ripped and full of holes and are now in the poubelle (trash)…more room for cheese!

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