Wednesday night, my first night there, was a strange mix of cultures as we three American musketeers headed out for sushi in Paris. Genevieve and Cooper discovered a tiny Japonese restaurant tucked away behind a burlesque club with a blazing neon sign where "Menu N" gets you miso soup, a crunchy slaw-like salad, and 18 pieces of sushi for 12 euro! It was the beginning of my affirmation that I would "eat myself under a table while I'm in Paris!", as I was stuffed to the gills (pun intended) by the end of the meal. Leaving our Japanese-American meal we set off to meet some French kids that Gen and Cooper go to school with to go to a bar celebrating childhood; there were action figures and games all over the restaurant and drinks are only served in baby bottles. Nothing like drinking a rum and coke through a rubber nipple...
Thursday morning I vowed to uphold my gluttonous intentions and while Genevieve was in class I enjoyed a cafe au lait with a croque madame sandwich (ham and chese smothered in a creamy cheese sauce, with a fried egg on top!) and a huge plate of French fries. Then I met Cooper for crème brulée near his apartment which overlooks the Musée d'Orsay, followed by some browsing at a great book store and then a pain au chocolat. By the time I met up with Genevieve, my stomach, by now used to a Mediterranean diet of lots of tomatoes but very little cream and butter, was all but pleased with my culinary choices of the afternoon.
Not to be put to shame by a silly stomach ache, Genevieve and I ventured into the outskirts of the 15th arrondissement searching for a restaurant that Ruth Reichl had raved about in the Parisian edition of Gourmet magazine. She declared it "a great bargain!" but we quickly came to realize that a great bargain to Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, was not quite the same for us. It was a fortuitous thing that we weren't up for splurging that night, or else we may have never found Le Buron on our way back to the subway. It was a lively, small bistro where everyone was friendly and joked with us about not finishing our meals. You would have understood if you had seen what we ordered! We started off with appetizers: a tomato and mozzarella salad with especially (and surprisingly) good pesto, and an oeuf en cocotte, an egg cooked with cream in a little ramekin, covered with chorizo cream - a sort of purée of the spicy sausage that I love so much. The egg was truly delicious, especially with the standard chewy baguette to sop up the yolk and juices that escaped my fork. We couldn't help but marvel at the huge planches (platters) of meat and cheese that were coming out, and I couldn't resist the steak tartare on the menu, so we ordered one of each, even though any logical person could have easily surmised that one or the other would have been plenty to share. Genevieve's platter of meat was served on a big wooden board with at least three different salamis, prosciutto, a few kinds of cheese, and a bit of pate that she quickly tossed aside. We were both curious as to a mysterious substance (seemingly) of pourridge-like consistency in a small pot on the side, and were even more curous after trying to scoop some out and finding that its consistency did not resemble pourridge at all, but more so taffy or a really sticky dough. Come to find out, it was aligot, which I will argue that, despite being lesser known, is just a wonderful gift from the French as say, the Statue of Liberty...or croissants. Upon further research, we discovered that aligot is basically mashed potatoes with lots of garlic and so much cheese that it pulls like taffy. Mmmmm! My steak tartare was also delicious, but a much bigger serving than I had expected, so I couldn't manage to eat more than half. The french fries were history, though.
Friday we went to the Galleries Lafayette and even though it was only Halloween, it felt like Christmas for the first time! I have since been informed that the decorations have been multiplied exponentially since I left Paris just a short time ago, but I was impressed by these nonetheless:
Never a huge fan of leaving the house to take candy from neighbors when you could just as easily eat candy at home, and ensure that it's the kind you actually like, I wasn't too hyped about Halloween. So Genevieve took over and constructed truly awesome homemade costumes for both of us. See below:
So even though by end of the party we attended my tin-foil shoe buckles had been ripped of, Genevieve's sword which she borrowed from her host brother was nearly stolen, and the two of us were desparately trying to help the hostesses clean up ugly messes and walk out of control guests to taxi stands in the freezing rain, at least we looked fabulous doing so. As it turns out, however, French people don't get the concept of Pilgrims very well and kept calling me "amish". Oh well.
Saturday was a pretty lazy day spent walking around the 15th, which I've come to realize has a distinctly small-town feel to it. It's like a little village within Paris where the fruit vendors know the people in the neighborhood and their children, and the kids ride wobbling bicycles down the sidewalks and play ping-pong in the park. And we ate more croque-madames at the local cafe where everyone was busy being typically French, except me with my camera.
At night we went out for really great tapas with Cooper - fried goat cheese balls with honey, crispy sesame chicken, fried eggplant in parmesan cheese sauce, chunky gazpacho, chorizo marinated in red wine, and tiny meatballs with a rich cheese sauce. Then of course more crème brulée and some mediocre espresso cake (so I mostly hogged Cooper's crème brulée). Even though it was cold, we went walking to meet a friend of Gen's from high school, and it was a beautiful walk across the River Seine.
Sunday evening we cooked for Genevieve's host family - a simple risotto with roasted red peppers, sheep's milk cheese, and parmesan, with a Caprese salad and an apple crumble for dessert. Cooper joined us, of course, and we had a great time sitting around talking with the family. They were quite impressed with our risotto, saying that the only risotto they had ever tasted had tomato sauce on top! Something I have never heard of.
Overall, a great five days in Paris! I was so glad to be there that I didn't even mind the rain, and I loved the cold that I'd been missing. Next adventure, Barcelona in one week! Too bad I won't have my camera after stupidly leaving it on the plane! I am heartbroken! If living in Italy has taught me nothing else, it's that bureaucracy reigns supreme here, so getting in touch with the airport Lost and Found or the airline desk is virtually impossible. Four days, numerous phone calls, messages and busy signals later, I'm still holding out hope...