How would I spend a perfect morning in Paris? I found out on Saturday when I realized that I had several hours stretching in front of me with no obligations. This is what I did, starting from my temporary base in rue Montmartre near Les Halles:
9.30am - Hopped on a Velib' to to visit a new pastry shop that I had read about on Dorie's blog. It was a bit of a slog up rue Monge, but my thighs would soon be grateful for the anticipated calorie-burning. Carl Marletti's shop was bright and inviting, and the crackly choux pastry of his éclairs and religieuses immediately caught my eye. The pastry chef told me that the chocolate éclair is his most popular pastry (I can understand why), while the millefeuille is another specialty. Given the season I chose the raspberry millefeuille, which I savored unabashedly at one of the two outdoor tables. Two Japanese women stopped to giggle and take pictures, one passer-by wished me "bon appétit" and a second Parisian said "bonjour" as she walked by (the sight of pastries has a way of softening people). The puff pastry shattered under my fork, squashing the raspberries into the not-to-sweet vanilla cream - soon, there was nothing but deep golden crumbs on my plate. As I nibbled on these, the chef's assistant popped out to ask me "Votre dégustation se passe bien?" Marletti worked at the Café de la Paix in the Grand Hotel Intercontinental before opening this shop, and it shows in the classy service. I couldn't leave without a jar of his jam, and the choice was agonizing: pineapple-jasmine, blackcurrant-violet, raspberry-bitter chocolate, or mango-white chocolate? I chose the latter, which has since turned out to be sensational on pastry beneath a layer of raspberries.
10.30am - Walked up rue Mouffetard, past the Panthéon and down rue St-Jacques, turning left on rue des Ecoles towards Odéon. Took a right on rue de Seine and entered Kusmi Tea, where I spent a few pleasant moments lifting the lids off canisters and sniffing their spicy, smoky and herbal contents. I finally settled on the Detox (green tea, maté and lemongrass) to start my day, and the Kashmir chai (black tea with Indian spices) to sip in the afternoon, resolving to return one day and taste the tea-based dishes in the red-and-white dining room upstairs.
11.15am - Turned left off rue de Seine into rue Jacob, site of one of my all-time favorite shops in Paris. What Huilerie Leblanc lacks in size it makes up for with its vast selection of unusual nut oils - anything from pistachio to pine nut. Limiting myself to two oils this time, I chose walnut oil from the Leblanc family's Burgundy estate for its toasty depth of flavor and prune kernel for its intriguing intensity - almost as potent as almond essence, it can be used by the drop in cakes or with chocolate.
11.45am - Headed up rue Mazarine to the Seine, then crossed the wooden Pont des Arts and cut through the Louvre's Cour Carrée (something I'll do at any opportunity). Borrowed a Velib' and cycled to my next destination in the Marais. I had been warned that Philippe Conticini's new boutique Exceptions Gourmandes was tiny but that didn't stop me from walking past without spotting it, thinking that the ice cream stand outside belonged to the café next door. Inside, I found a mini treasure trove of macarons - refreshingly free of lurid food coloring - individually wrapped financiers (buttery almond cakes), soft caramels, nougat, and almond brittle (not for those with tender teeth) which is charmingly sold in paper cones.
12.30pm - By now I had absorbed a considerable amount of sugar and found myself longing for the clean flavors of Japanese food. Not knowing quite where I would eat, I took the Métro (my legs were tiring) from St-Paul to Palais Royal, then walked to rue Ste-Anne, the hub of the city's Japanese community. Just off this street lined with noodle shops I came across a tiny bistro that sat no more than 15, including two pampered pooches complete with pink and blue hair ribbons and frilly bibs. Run by three friendly Japanese women, Chez Miki specializes in bento boxes, which you can compose from the constantly changing list on the blackboard. I was so delighted with their fresh, homemade food - including unusually thick slices of salmon sashimi - that I must have been smiling from ear to ear, as the Franco-Japanese couple at the next table commented on my obvious good mood before telling me that Chez Miki had catered their wedding.
My perfect food morning in Paris could have endless permutations, but it would probably always involve at least a couple of pastry shops, a food market, high-quality tea (I'm not much of a coffee drinker) and some Japanese food to cut through all the richness. (Living in Nice, I've come to appreciate Japanese food all the more as it's so hard to find.) An hour or so on the Velib' helps burn off the excesses, which naturally are all in the name of research.
Carl Marletti, 51 rue Censier, 5th.
Kusmi Tea, 56 rue de Seine, 6th.
Huilerie Leblanc, 6 rue de Seine, 6th.
Exceptions Gourmandes, 4 place du Marché Ste-Catherine, 4th.
Chez Miki, 5 rue de Louvois, 2nd.
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Pineapple-jasmine and black currant-violet - the stuff dreams are made of. What a morning, indeed, Rosa! Kusmi tea is lovely; I've had some of their Russian blends.
Kirstin, in one day I can taste an awful lot of food! Though I'm not sure I could have handled any more sugar in the afternoon...
Nora, I hope you'll have a chance to try these places!
Susan, if mango-white chocolate was anything to go by the others must be incredible! I love the Kusmi tea packaging, but of course it's what's inside that counts, and I'm very happy with the two teas I bought.
At Carl Marletti also try the tarte citron. I was in Paris last week and I went two times to his place. I am back home in south east Asia now but I am still remembering those sweets with great pleasure.
Rosa, what a day, what food! Just reading your words makes me want to hop a jet plane over. I was thrilled to hear your comment about, "lack of food coloring"...don't know why that has been done to the lovely macaron!
Keep up the good words and thank you very much!
Thanks so much, Geraldine! Having tried to make macarons without food coloring, I can understand why pastry chefs use it - however, I would be interested to know if any pastry chefs use natural coloring.