15 December 2010

PARIS: Day 5

Our last day in Paris, after 26 days in France (21 in Provence and 5 in Paris). CA is pretending that we’re not going to Spring for lunch today, although he actually made a reservation…

We take the Metro to Louvre-Rivoli and walk north along Rue du Louvre to Coquillere. We’re going to E. Dehrillerin today, and also Mora and Simon to look at chef’s supplies, cookware, bakeware, and tableware—some of my favorite shopping topics.

We’ve waited to have coffee and after a couple of false starts, we walk into Promenade at 44 Rue du Louvre and have our best café experience since tout le monde en parle in Mougins. We linger over café crème, reading the Economist’s list of best books of 2010, and savoring the last of our European café experiences.

Yesterday’s café on Rue Cler was the absolute worst café experience I can remember in Paris. Maybe the only bad café experience we've had in Paris. Enough said… I mean, I just can’t believe that anyone in France even considers using margarine, and getting a good baguette is easy—getting a great baguette is easy. I digress.

I love E. Dehrillerin! Our baggage restrictions are hanging over our heads, so I look only for wooden spoons and pizza knives. Well, we look at everything but focus on obtaining just those items. No luck here, but we find pizza knives at Mora. All told we spend over an hour browsing in the aisles of these great stores.

CA has never been to G. Detou at 58 Rue Tiquetonne. I visited in 2008 and purchased some salt caramels and a tube of vanilla beans. It’s such a tiny shop, but not too crowded this morning so CA gets to browse around to his heart’s content.

We want to make one last visit to a DPAM, and I checked it out on our pirated Internet yesterday—the only location that sells shoes is at 1 Rue St. Denis in the 1st. It’s been tough finding stuff for JA. LE is easy, the only difficulty has been in resisting. Most of the 4 ans. boy clothing has English words on it and we’re partial to French detailing.

Speaking of which—after the “retard” debacle of 2008, we’ve been careful to check out what the cute shirts actually say. I loved a clothing line we found in St. Raphaël but CA wouldn’t let me buy a particularly cute shirt. It spoke of “Lu-Lu” which is perfect because of JA’s little sister’s name (Lucy). There was just this one small word that CA had trouble with—tit. It seems that French baby-toddler talk for petite is sometimes written "p tit." I volunteered to insert the proper vowels with my trusty Sharpie to make it work, but CA held fast.

We’re kind of making a big circle this morning before our 12:30pm reservation for lunch at Spring (6 Rue Bailleul, a little street hemmed in by Rue du Louvre and Rue de l’Arbre Sec, just one street above the Louvre-Rivoli Metro stop.). And just before 12:30pm CA says we have to leave DPAM now. We can take the Metro one stop, but we decide a healthy sprint will prepare us for lunch.

Spring. Daniel and Marie have done a splendid job with the décor and ambience. We’re early enough that we get to choose our table and I opt for a small one just opposite the open kitchen. At the old location it was just Daniel and Marie, but today there’s a sous chef, two waiters, and a dishwasher/prep guy.

I always enjoy a view of the kitchen, and so really appreciate the open kitchen with its stone walls and stainless steel fixtures. There’s a ton more space than at the old location, but this is still a small restaurant—actually, just the right size. Intimate and charming. I thoroughly enjoy watching Marie compose the plates—her attention to detail is amazing.

Enough about ambience and superlatives, let’s get down to today’s menu. I won’t get it all right, but here goes….

Lunch is 38€ prix fixe, and at that a great value. We’re first offered an amuse-bouche—a white ceramic shot glass of thick and creamy cauliflower soup, garnished with a bit of olive oil and a shave of truffle. And then, another amuse -bouche—small chunks of sea bass with trout eggs and the tiniest dice of red onion, turnip (we guess jicama, but it’s turnip), and parsley, lightly tossed in a vinaigrette that hints at lime juice. Delightful.

The entrée (first course, or appetizer is the French meaning for entrée) is scallops, cooked to perfection in a combination of butter and olive oil, then arranged atop a mélange that includes a tiny dice of apples, pomegranate seeds… We should have asked our waiter to write down the details before lunch service got busy. It is so good.

CA orders a glass of white wine, but I hold fast to just water until tasting his smooth and buttery wine, then I succumb. When the main course is served, CA moves on to a red wine (which is also superb), but I’m still nursing along my white.

The main course is veal—ah-h-h-h—melt-in-your-mouth veal. A very generous portion served over butternut squash and the sweetest cabbage I’ve ever tasted, with an array of mushrooms sprinkled over. Oh, and this is all topped off with a clear chicken broth, flavoured with a touch of curry.

A wonderful meal. I’m ready for coffee, but first dessert. We’re served a portion of fromage blanc (somewhere between crème fraiche and mascarpone) and a portion of a poached pear that is then drizzled with salt caramel and topped with crumbles of gateau (buttery cake). And over all this, Marie grates the finest bit of lime zest. I’m in heaven. Where’s that coffee?

Can’t help noticing that Marie is up to something else sweet. Yep! Dessert #2—a scoop of marron (chestnut) paste topped with a dash of sweet whipped cream, and then a scoop of dark chocolate glace (ice cream), and garnished with a small chocolate crisp. And, my café crème arrives at just the right moment.

We’ve love our meal, and more importantly the experience of our meal. What a great way to cap off our Paris days.

During our time here we've notice a gentleman hanging about the kitchen with a small recorder. On our way out, I speak with him--he's a reporter from Time Magazine-Europe edition and his article is set to run in January 2011.

CA heads back to the hotel, and I veer off toward Galleries Lafayette planning to spend the rest of the afternoon window shopping and squeezing the most out of the hours we have left in Paris. I love this Galleries Lafayette with its stained-glass dome. Today there are glittery Christmas packages hanging from the ceiling and other signs of the holidays throughout the store.

After Galleries Lafayette I wander the streets and visit Printemps. I know this is an expensive store, but can’t resist one more home store. If I hadn’t already replaced the gift I lost at Côte d’Azur I could come very close here, and the price is similar.

I’m fixated on walking through Place Madeleine, so I walk back toward the hotel. Nothing really grabs my attention here, but I have fond memories of my first visits to Hediard and Fauchon. And, the Maille mustard shop where they’ll decant your mustard selection into a stone jar with a large round cork, if you’d like. I liked on my first visit to Paris in 1999.

CA is by the fireplace in the lobby when I get to the hotel, so I burrow in with some magazines and stay for a long while. He eventually brings me a Coca-Cola Light (with ice!). Isn’t he the nicest travel companion!

We’re not eating again today. Our Spring experience will last us just fine. There’s some re-packing and re-distributing that has to go on this evening. No Internet access. Someone caught on and we’re blocked. Think it was probably the hotel, as their Internet home page comes up when we try to go on-line.

I always feel a certain poignancy when it’s time to leave Paris. There’s always more to do and see, and this visit was somewhat constrained by the cold weather. At least we’ve had no rain or snow. We will come back. And, I’m insisting that the next time we come in April or May.

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