Angelina's

  Where do I begin.... Anyone that knows anything about food (or should I say sweets) in Paris knows about Angelina's. The famed, the amazing, the sublime... Angelina's. I've been coming here for 20 years and it has never failed me.

The place to start, I suppose, is the African Hot Chocolate. It is assuredly unlike any other hot chocolate you have ever tried. Thick, rich and perfectly balanced. With an intense chocolate flavor not for the faint of heart. The best part is that it's served with a side of whipped cream - so you can be in control of diluting it to you liking, changing the drink back and forth from strong to creamy as you drink it. Imagine. A carafe of drinkable chocolate - a bowl of fresh whipped cream - served to your table in an atmosphere of gilded gold. There are few things better in this world.

The other thing they are rightfully famous for is the Mont Blanc. This is a desert I would normally not be fond of. I don't like meringue - in any form. I'm appalled at the big clumps of it being sold throughout France (and Miami - it's also loved by Cubans). But it works so perfectly here that I'm able to transcend my dislike of it and embrace it. So this is what a Mont Blanc is: meringue, vanilla whipped cream and chestnut puree (that's the noodle looking stuff on top). It's a perfect balance of not too sweet, creamy, crunchy, smooth, earthy, can't stop eating it until it's done divineness. Did earthy throw you? The chestnut puree has that sense of frolicking through the forest, not quite sure what it tastes like, fluffy, understated magnificence. That's what I mean by earthy. I'm not sure if the whole thing is an acquired taste of sorts, but I have come to love it.

 

 

Anything else that you order from here will be great. It may not have the exact finesse of Laduree (which will be another post) but it will be delectable and bring happiness to your life in that moment. Wandering through the streets, past the Louvre, through the Tuileries... life is grand. How can you argue it when you've just tasted the decadence of the angels?

How many baguettes is too many?

I asked myself this question the first week I moved to Paris. After seeming to go through baguettes so easily I wondered if there should be some limit on my baguette consumption. I'm not usually one for restrictions - the sheer thought of it makes me want to do the opposite, just because. But I wondered if there was a time and a place. A friend advised me that the baguettes would let me know when I had overstepped my allotted consumption, and though I do believe in strange happenings, I don't bank on my baguette talking to me. So, I carried on about my baguette eating days and forgot about the question of limits - I was living in Paris after all.

You can tell a lot about someone by the way they eat their baguette. Biting the end off just after buying it is so irresistible.... fresh out of the boulangerie it begs to be bitten. I wondered if this was rude - somehow lacking in manners. With baguette in hand it somehow didn't matter what the rest of the world thought. What's that Wayne Dyer saying - "what you think of me is none of my business" - yes, that's how I choose to walk through the streets of Paris eating my baguette.  Then there is the matter of once you have it home do you cut it with a knife or pull it to pieces with your hands? One little bit at a time. Cutting it implies some sense of order. Some deeper plan. Some boundaries of control. Who doesn't wish to make order and sense out of this life that we live? But cutting my baguette isn't going to help me with this matter, I quickly realized.

The best thing to do really is let Duncan grab the baguette from it's bag. He always seems impressed with it as he wanders around munching it's perfection.

It can't really be thought of as a 'loaf' of bread. Or so I told myself. I found comfort in seeing people walking through the streets with four baguettes in their bags. Who were they going home to? How many people lived at that home? Or was it all just for them? We were taught in culinary school that the shelf life of a baguette is 7 hours. It seems to go hand in hand with French culture. They buy fresh food daily. None of this buy for the week mentality. And so I concluded that the baguette can and should be bought freely without a thought as to how many is too many. Other people around me didn't seem to have this question - and even if they did - it wouldn't be any of my business to judge, right?

Pour l'amour de .....

VANILLE. It's intoxicating to me. Whatever form its in - Perfume, tea, ice cream... I could happily eat only the vanilla side of a black and white cookie. I don't drink coke, but make it vanilla coke and I'll have some. It makes everything better. It's like taking a happy pill. Smother me in the scent and taste of vanilla and all is right in the world, if only for a few moments.So imagine my delight at grabbing this vanilla yogurt pot from the grocery store. Just your typical grocery store and just a typical french yogurt. But dear god. One bite and I was holding onto the kitchen counter for stability as my knees buckled out from under me. It couldn't have been more sublime. I wanted to dive into that little pot of bliss and drown myself in it. Instead (seeing as the pot was quite small compared to my body), I ate the whole thing promptly. There is a thin line between the joy and the ordinary. Things float by all day long. Depending on how we look at them can change our whole day. Our whole life. A moment spent swooning over the explosion of taste in our mouths can alter our outlook on everything that follows it. Time stands still. Other dimensions open up.

The next thing I picked up while running around town was this little vanilla yogurt drink. Again, nothing fancy, nothing special. Could it be true?! It was like melted vanilla ice cream swishing down your throat. I gulped the whole thing down while wondering how Americans could have it so wrong. All it takes is some real vanilla beans and some real yogurt. Realness seems to get lost somewhere along the way. Bouncing back to a time when things slowed down. To savor a moment, a day, a week. Things hurry by at lightning speed. I wonder if there is a vacuum bag full of unexperienced moments that have passed me by. A failure to grasp, understand, hold on. But holding on is a useless act as well. Perpetual motion. We are all in perpetual motion.

And here I am. Standing on rue St. Michel. Wondering where all these people are going in such a hurry. In the blur of humanity I wonder if in these moments I will remember. Remember that all is right in the world. That nothing can take away this moment. And though things float by at feverish speeds there will always be this moment. To savor.

deux mille douze

It's a new year. 2012. Are things supposed to feel different? Somehow more bathed in hope? I'm not sure I feel the difference. I don't have a list of things I want to do better or things I want to accomplish. Life is about living and at the moment I feel I'm doing a pretty good job at doing just that. Living. Sitting on the edge of a window on the edge of time. The Parisian kind of windows that open in and are big and grand. Everything looks good up against the warped glass and the curled iron window guards.
We stayed at a chateau this past week. A big, grand, dazzling example of perfect French countryside splendidness. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere we pulled up - to jazz music dancing through the grand entrance way (I would tell you what it was but I'm not well versed in names... I leave that to my dear friend Rick Lange). I felt as if I had been transported through time into another dimension. The silk curtains were perfectly placed in hues of eggplant, moss and red wine. I liked this dimension. We were the only guests - the chateau was all ours. All of its understated decadence. As I stared out across the field I felt like anything was possible. Through the oval window carving its name into another time - these things can slide through your fingers if you're not careful. A haze of memory - a push into the present moment. Look around and let go. It constantly moves and jumps and begs to be heard. Don't try to pin it down, it disappears into light.
And the best ray of light was hitting Duncan. He ran around the breakfast room with croissant in hand. A perfect mini croissant for a perfect mini hand. He understood. He watched the glass birds sitting on tables, their still fragility looking back at him. The hush of the rain coming down outside meant everything. And out the perfect glass door he ran. Down that hallway of memories. Stomping on rugs and pulling on doorknobs. With a belly full of croissants anything is possible.
As we slide into this new year I wonder if Duncan will remember all the croissants he ate in France when he was just one year old. All the cheese and bread and nibbles of macaroons.
If he doesn't I'll make sure to bring him back to taste it all again - when he's sure to remember it all.
Happy New Year.

Le Beurre

I've waited a full 18 days since moving to Paris to buy butter... and now I'm making up for lost time. I LOOK for things to put it on.... Baguettes, croissants, crackers. And I'm one step away from eating it by the spoonful (which I really might as well be, if you saw the amount spread on my baguette). It's that good. Maybe it was the way I was raised... I'm not sure (I won't go into those stories right now and taint the beauty of the butter). People may argue that a croissant can't possibly need more butter - (do you know how much is already in the dough?!) and those same people will say that having toast with peanut butter & butter together is disgusting (I once had to listen to a friend explain how gross her x-husband was for doing just that - I was shocked to hear she would think that it was anything but truly divine). And the great thing about butter in Paris is, you can buy any kind and it's amazing. I tested this thought out by buying a fancy butter I stumbled across in a great cheese shop (more about the cheese place at a later date...) and lo and behold I actually liked the supermarket kind better. Go figure. Maybe it's because I'm American. No, but really - it wasn't a true fair comparison because one was salted and the other unsalted (it was how I rationalized buying the second one) and I like unsalted better to begin with.

I found myself the other night eating spoonfuls of rice, butter and a sprinkle of salt. So satisfyingly delicious. Try it the next time you're feeling lost and alone in the world. I swear it helps. Oh, the joy of butter.