Category: paris

Somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city…

Dearest reader,

Gosh, it’s been a long time! Too long it seems, as I had to dust the metaphorical cobwebs off just to log in to my WordPress account. In the time since we last spoke I made a pretty big move, from Paris to Bloomington, Indiana. It hasn’t been easy, though it hasn’t been terrible either. I’m firmly of the mind that happiness is what you make of it, and that one can be happy anywhere. Perhaps not Antarctica or a war zone, but you know what I mean. I’m here for about a year, writing my dissertation on a fellowship while B teaches and finishes up some of his obligations at a large university nearby. That is officially too much information for a pseudo-anonymous blog, but there you go. I’ve got scads and scads of unstructured time and heaps of work to do in it, a combination that has more often than not leads to some very bad, very un-grown-up behavior. I’m not completely feral yet, but I have noticed that my work clothes are identical to my gym clothes, which are also identical to my sleep clothes. The Marais feels far away indeed.

Our last few weeks in Paris in July were rather melancholy. Most everyone we knew had either departed permanently or was on one of those achingly long and delicious vacations that Europeans take in the summer, so it was pretty much just B and me killing time. It was a record-breakingly wet summer, so my plans that we spend the month of July drinking Campari cocktails and working on our tans at Paris Plage were quickly dashed, as it rained nearly every day. We also found ourselves in a bit of a money pickle, what with the cost of moving internationally and our traveling in the spring. So those final days we were living pretty frugally, to say the least. That is to say, when we weren’t living frugally, like the day I managed to drop about a hundred euros at Dehillerin on Laguoile cheese knives and silicone trays for making madeleines and cannelés bordelais (which, um, I’ll get to making, someday), or the day when I bought a heap of antique lithographs and Turkish kilim pillow covers at the flea market. I think I was hoping that if I insulated my future digs with enough things from Paris, I wouldn’t miss it so much.

Most days we would trudge over the Louvre in rain (tough life) and continue our increasingly manic quest to tour the entire damn thing. We succeeded in the end, though I’ll admit that certain sections are just a delirious blur in my memory.

I cooked a lot of rabbit and boudin noir, and we ate rillettes and cheese for many meals. Every morning we ate croissants from our local bakery Huré, and most afternoons I would insist on a Paris Brest or a chocolate éclair with my afternoon coffee. Many evenings were spent with books, a bottle of wine, and a plate of charcuterie at our favorite caves. I probably gained ten pounds that month as a result of constantly saying “I won’t be able to eat this ever again!” We took a lot of long walks, went to see a bunch of Buñuel movies, and I cried a lot on various bridges.

Inexplicably, in our final weeks in Paris a magical thing happened. We were suddenly at home. Our neighbors chatted with us, the ladies that worked in the button shop downstairs joked around when we came through. Our baker, our vegetable man, our seafood lady, that guy that owned the bookshop down the road — everyone suddenly knew us and made small talk on the street. We got into long conversations with strangers while we hung out in bars, or sat in cafes, and or waited outside the cinema. The women at the market where I shopped every week knew what kind of lettuce I wanted to buy before I told them, and the man at the butcher shop where I bought our rotisserie chickens knew I wanted enough potatoes for two people without asking.

In short we were suddenly, amazingly, after two years, a real part of the community. And then we had to leave. I think that was the most heartbreaking part of the whole thing, and the part that has made it really hard for me to come back to writing here. In the end we said goodbye to Paris, for now. But I’m happy that I left plenty of things on my list for future visits, and I’m comforted that Paris is one of those cities that only gets better as you get older.

Our move was a real monster, as we both had things in storage with our respective families. We shipped (gulp) thirteen boxes of books to the States and managed to carry the rest of our junk in our luggage (it helped that we had sent a lot of stuff back with assorted visitors throughout the spring and summer). Upon arriving stateside with miraculously none of our precious glassware or ceramics in pieces (and a giant gratuitous bottle of Aperol to boot), we then managed to drive through ten states in the course of the month of August. B worked out that we spent more time in the car than we did in any one stationary location. We took a little jaunt to Santa Fe and Taos for B’s thirtieth birthday, which was lovely. I’d really like to tell you about it because I’m so in to New Mexican food it’s kind of crazy, but that has to be another entry for another day.

After seemingly endless schlepping we made it to Bloomington, where we quickly discovered that the little 1930s Craftsman-style house we are renting had fleas. I don’t know if you have ever had fleas, dear reader, but I’ll go on the record as saying that it was quite possibly one of the most annoying things that has ever happened to me. How generations of garret-dwelling 19th century artists and writers dealt with this and didn’t lose their goddamn minds is beyond me. We only made it through by pretending that we were Baudelaire and occasionally sleeping at B’s sister’s house. It took fumigating our house with six rounds of bug bombs and vacuuming and cleaning every day like madmen before we finally got rid of the little buggers, and I still feel assume that every piece of lint and pencil shaving I see is a flea waiting to bite me. I now officially understand what is meant by “the heebie-jeebies.” So September was written off to parasites, as I for one could think and talk about nothing else. I’d tell you to try it sometime, but I wouldn’t wish a flea infestation on my worst enemy.

The following months flew by, with a little trip to California and visits to Colorado and Michigan for the holidays punctuating long periods of rather solitary writing on my part. I’m a jerk and a half to complain about having nothing but time to research and write, but I’m finding it hard to feel purposeful and excited about my work everyday. The town we are living in is lovely, but this work is very lonely. I find myself talking a little too long to the cashier at the coffee shop or the grocery store. Thank goodness for the convention of Midwestern small talk, or I’d be a goner. I miss teaching, even teaching those crazy and disorganized classes at the university in Paris, where I did (as silly as it sounds) feel like I was making some kind of an impact on my students. But I’m deep in my writing now and it makes for good company on the days I let it. I suspect that what I’m writing it only feels stupid because I’ve been thinking about it so long, and some days it actually feels okay. On the days it doesn’t, I keep running over the final passage of the Great Gatsby in my head: “Gatsby believe in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther…” Writing well and with discipline may not really be an ‘orgiastic future,’ but I do find reassurance in the idea that tomorrow I will be better than I was today if I keep trying.

For those of you that have dozed off already or are wondering where in the hell all the food talk has gone, I’m still eating! Say what you will about the Midwest, the produce and the meat here in Southern Indiana are to die for, and I’m a happy camper in the food department, especially at home in a kitchen four times the size of our little culinary closet in Paris. We’ve been cooking up a storm with the welcome addition of some lovely culinary tools and cookbooks from Santa, including a stand mixer, an ice cream maker, the new Silver Spoon, and two tomes by Yotam Ottolenghi. And I still get my mandatory offal fixes, like when B took me to the oh-so-lovely Restaurant Tallent here in town for my birthday last month.  Veal sweetbreads and seared foie gras never tasted so good.

So thanks for coming back, my friend, and I hope you stay even though my life has gotten exceedingly less glamorous in the past six months. Thanks especially to An Accidental Expat for his kind comment that prompted me to write today, and to M, whose gentle prods about the blog make me hope that she hasn’t banished me from her Google reader just yet. I’ll be back soon!

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Such sweet sorrow, yes?

About a week and a half ago M left Paris. She stayed as long as she could this summer, but needed to get back to the States to move to Boston, where she’ll be living with her wonderful husband this year while he studies at the Big Fancy School near there while she works on her dissertation. We had sort of “reserved” her for her final week in Paris. We didn’t do anything particularly out of character, maybe a few little things that we hadn’t managed to do before, but basically we just shared a few lovely days of rambling around town, chatting and lounging in the park, seeing films at our favorite places, and eating some great meals. It was impossibly sad.

M was the first person I came to know in Paris. We were both working at the same university here and had both had a terrible time with the process of getting a visa back in the United States. I contacted her about her consulate visit before she arrived, and she sent me a long, concise, yet surprisingly warm e-mail about what I could expect from my own appointment. I recall showing the note to my mother and declaring that I was going to make friends with this woman. At our first staff meeting, I pounced on poor M, declaring that I thought we should be friends. She seemed a bit flustered by my forwardness (she’s unfailingly reserved with new people), but nevertheless agreed to my proposal that she accompany me to see Lars von Trier’s Antichrist at Le Nouveau Latina next door to my apartment. That lead to coffee, and that lead to falafel, and the rest is history as they say. Somewhere along the line we picked up B and the three of us were inseparable ever since.

Being in Paris for two years has been a magnificent experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But a huge part of what has made it so amazing has been the presence of these two remarkable people in my life. I fell in love with Paris because I fell in love with M and B. I truly have never felt more cared for than I do with this crew, and I know that they feel the same way.

The best part of leaving Paris is that I get to take B with me. The worst part of leaving Paris is that I don’t get to take M. Her final week was profoundly bittersweet, with poor B having shepard two women liable to burst into tears at any moment around town. I spent most of the day she left sobbing, and even though it will come three weeks later, I don’t think that the day we finally leave Paris will be anywhere near as difficult.

The good news is we’ve talked every day since she left, and I know that it’s only a matter of time before visits to Boston and the Midwest will be planned. I also know that she will be my Skype buddy during the long, likely lonely days of writing I have ahead next year. She’s not getting rid of me this easily.

A few have you have asked about my list of things to do in Paris before I leave. We’ve crossed off a lot in recent weeks, though I haven’t been stressing about doing everything. There is something strangely reassuring about the idea that there are still things left to do sometime in the future, a yet-to-be-determined “next time” with two of my best friends in tow. But a few little things that can be crossed off the list include:

Take B and M to the Cimitière Montparnasse

Not only did we cross this one off the list, but we did so with a bang. We tracked down all but one of the graves we wanted to visit (damn you Eric Rohmer!), blessed M’s new Repetto Zizis (the same ones that Serge wore, but in black, not white) at Serge Gainsbourg’s grave, and finished our afternoon in Montparnasse with a coffee at Le Dôme with M and E. It was a perfect afternoon.

Visit the Maison Rouge

What a lovely place! We especially liked touring the current exhibition of contemporary Canadian artists called “My Winnipeg.” Oh, and they have one of the only original-style Photomatons in town.

Go to Marché des Enfants Rouges as many weekends as possible

The last few months we have been positively religious about our Sunday Marché visit. M was the one who “discovered” what we now fondly refer to as “McDo Bobo,” so it was fitting that her last Sunday morning was spent happily over a yummy marinated tuna tartare.

And finally:

Eat at Frenchie

So after two years of trying to get a reservation at this place, they apparently finally took pity on the Americans on the 4th of July and granted us a table at 7 p.m. (the French equivalent of social suicide). The food is excellent, though the service was kind of weirdly abrupt. Um, yes, we do want that final hunk of foie gras before you whisk away our plates, thank you very much! Still, it was a lovely evening. I’m not going to spill too much ink over it, because too many people on the interwebs already have, and there are indeed better places to eat in Paris along the same lines that aren’t going to give you an attitude (La Gazzetta, Rino, and Yam’tcha among them).  But still, here were the highlights:

Followed by a visit to Le Champo for a final Monica Vitti flick, Buñuel’s Le fantôme de la liberté, it made for a perfect Fourth of July in Paris. Three little Americans (okay, two little Americans and one little Soviet), three friends forever.  Don’t worry, the blog snark will be back next time. For now, I just want to wish my lovely friend M happy travels always.  Thanks for letting me come along on the ride.

Clarence Goes to Brunch: Rose Bakery, Le Bal Café, and Marcel

When I first lived in Paris for a semester back in 2002, I stayed with a lovely family in a very residential part of the 17th arrondissement.  My memory of Sundays in that part of town is pretty bleak, with all restaurants and shops closed and tumbleweeds rolling across the streets. After ending up at the McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysées on more than a few Sundays, I became an obsessive Saturday market shopper. Better to have a full fridge than starve on Sundays, I reasoned. So you can imagine my surprise when I moved in to my Marais apartment a year and a half ago and discovered that my new neighborhood was quite the bustling affair on Sundays.  It is literally as if someone sent out a city-wide memo saying that the areas around my street is the only place to be on a lazy Sunday.

I joke a bit – there are many neighborhoods around Paris that have finally gotten with the program on Sundays, much to the delight of the people that live here and the people that visit. You’ll still be hard-pressed to do much shopping on Sundays, and the grocery stores that tend to be open in central Paris aren’t usually the nicest ones. But increasingly restaurants are offering something new and exciting:  American-style Sunday Brunch!

I’ve been unabashed here before in declaring that I love all things brunch. Fancy brunch, buffet brunch, boozy brunch, greasy spoon brunch – you name it, I’m in. Paris was remarkably slow to catch on to brunch as a concept, especially compared to cities like New York or Berlin where there has been veritable brunch culture for decades. While there are a lot of great places for brunch in Paris, you should be prepared for a few things. Number one, brunch isn’t nearly as boozy an affair as it is in the States. Remember all the things we’ve said about the French and their inability to make proper cocktails and their phobias concerning spicy food? This means that if brunch for you means Bloody Marys (let’s hang out!), you’ll probably be disappointed. Number two, if buffet brunches are your bag (hey Berlin readers!) be prepared to drop a serious chunk of change for a likely underwhelming spread. None of this delightful Kreuzberg nonsense where you pay eight euros and eat lox and mackerel rolls until you can’t move. We’re talking 28 euros a head without the coffee here in Paris, and the turnover you might expect in the cheese/charcuterie/smoked fish/cocktail shrimp platters is never quite what you hope it will be. I’m a buffet brunch strategist, dear reader, and you’ll never catch me filling up on bread.

Those caveats aside, you can certainly get a great bite to eat with friends on a leisurely Sunday morning these days in Paris, France. I say morning because the French seriously can’t imagine showing up to a restaurant on a Sunday before noon. Arriving at 11:30 at any of the places I’m about to name will secure you a large, handsome table by the window or the good-looking stranger reading the newspaper (FYI, he’s probably British).  Arriving at 12:03 will mean a long, testy wait in a line stretching down the block, likely in the rain, because that’s how those things always work out, am I right? This is seriously the best advice I can possibly give you about dining out in Paris.  Get to brunch at 11:30 a.m. (or noon on the nose, as many places offering “brunch” aren’t open in the morning) and dinner at 7:45 p.m. and you’ll rarely have trouble getting a table, even at the most popular places. The French are ridiculously rigid about their eating schedule, and you’re not. Have a leisurely drink from your prime table, watch the impatient cue form, and revel in all the wisdom that Keeping the Bear Garden in the Background has brought to your life.  You’re welcome.

Another strategy for a great brunch is to frequent the handful of establishments run by British ex-pats in town.  Rose Bakery (I like their Marais location at 30 Rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris, Métro Filles du Calvaire, but they now have three locations around Paris) is the mamma of this movement. Husband and wife team Jean-Charles and Rose Carrarini started it all in a tiny space in Montmartre, where they dish up market-fresh salad plates, vegetable pizzettes, and savory tartes alongside egg-based dishes and yummy baked goods on the weekends. There is probably no space that could be better described as ground zero of bobo chic in Paris than their second location in the Marais, which I like because it has a bit more seating in a brightly lit space with a ceiling of ancient whitewashed wood beams. I’m not a tea-drinker, but I’m told that these Brits know how to properly brew a cup of tea (something my English friends are constantly complaining about in Paris). My favorite part: the fruit crumble of the day, served piping hot from the oven with a generous bowl of crème anglaise. Last week when I visited this little beauty was filled with tart rhubarb and sweet apples. One serving is a hearty dessert for three people. I’d call this and a cup of tea a nearly perfect lazy afternoon.

English breakfast traditionalists should head to the delightful Le Bal Café (6 Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Paris, Métro Place de Clichy) housed in the amazing contemporary art space of the same name.  After you take a leisurely brunch in the achingly hip cafe, you can an afternoon of it by visiting the current exhibition (currently a wonderful photography show featuring heartstopping work by Emmet Gowin and Alessandra Sanguinetti) and browsing the carefully curated bookshop.

Run by Willi’s Wine Bar veterans Anselme Blayney et Ivan Kouzmine, Le Bal Café will scratch every English breakfast itch you might have in style with its sausage rolls, Welsh rarebit, kippers with toast, kedgeree, and of course a “classic English breakfast” with over-easy eggs, crisp bacon, and tomatoes. The clear winner at Le Bal, however, is their amazing scones, which will make a convert out of even the most scone-skeptical (yours truly included). Additionally, Le Bal is credited by some people in the know as serving the best cup of coffee in all of Paris. I’m not going to get into the details of why this might be so, but if you want a long lecture on the difference between robusta and arabica beans and the proper roasting duration and temperature and how the French are generally doing it all wrong, you can certainly contact my boyfriend. He gave the nod of approval to Le Bal’s cuppa, and as a coffee philistine, I also thought it was delicious. Plus they did that pretty thing with the foam on the top!

I’m such a prole.

Finally, should you find yourself in Montmartre, might we recommend a visit to newcomer Marcel (49 avenue Junot, Paris 75018, Métro Lamarck-Caulaincourt). Even if you don’t find yourself in Montmartre, this might be a lovely place to visit if your only impression of that part of town involves the seedy sexclubs and the tourist hoards that surround Sacre-Coeur. The post neighborhood around Avenue Junot is an entirely different affair, and Marcel is a well-executed riff on the formula that Rose Bakery brought to Paris.

Their menu features another traditional English breakfast (this time with oven-roasted tomatoes and some dreamy sausages in addition to the bacon), eggs Benedict, and an assortment of nice sandwiches. B sampled their Ruben, which isn’t really a Ruben in any classic sense of the word and needs about triple the pastrami and some proper sauerkraut. Not that anyone with any decision-making ability in such things is reading this, but if they were, there you go.

The clear winner of the spread (god, I’m so competitive!) was the perfect, oh my lord, I haven’t eaten one of these for nearly two years, thank you sweet girl, BaLT. I live for a proper BLT, people. The combination of toasted white bread spread with mayo, crisp bacon, tartly sweet tomatoes, and crunchy lettuce is my Ur-sandwich. Add avocado and I’m reduced to a quivering heap of joy. You don’t see these in Paris, and you certainly don’t see them looking like this.  The dessert we ordered (fromage blanc with salted caramel and an apple crumble) wasn’t spectacular, but I didn’t care. I’ll be back for a the BaLT. Tomorrow.

So that’s about it as far as my brunch recommendations for Paris, though you might want to revisit my reviews of Le Loir dans la Théière and Breakfast in America if you have a hankering on this lovely Sunday morning.  We’re off to our favorite market instead today, something I can’t wait to tell you about when I’ve got enough pictures assembled to make a post.  I’d love to hear about your favorite way to spend a Sunday in Paris (or wherever this might find you).

Happy Sunday, dear reader.

Slightly More Rarified Bottom Feeding

Apparently all this time I thought that you wanted to be talking about what I ate for lunch, you actually just wanted to talk about The Bachelor, huh? Thanks for all the nice comments. I am happy to hear that among other things, B’s sister who I hope to charm is as much of a TV addict as I am.

And, for the record, our money’s on Emily for the finale (obviously). I’d put Chantal’s odds at ninety to one.

This has been a bad week for bottom feeders like me.  First, Charlie Sheen unleashed a sound-bite ready storm of interviews that I consumed like a cokehead trying to budget their stash. Just one video and then I’ll get to work! Well, maybe if I just watch all the videos now, then I’ll be able to get some work done. There are more videos!? Gimme my fix! Poor B, who is diligently trying to do some kind of project that involves lots of Latin translation and spreadsheet columns (I had no idea that Medieval Studies involved so much Excel) has been forced to listen to near-hourly updates on the status of Sheen’s dubious sobriety, two live-in girlfriends, and child custody.  I’m relatively certain that B wasn’t even aware that Sheen was still on television, as when I first showed him a video he made a comment about Hot Shots 2, which is digging pretty deep as far as I’m concerned. B is like an old man whose cultural references dropped off somewhere around 1995. Mention any band popular in the past five years or so and you’ll get nothing more than a blank, uncomprehending stare. Play any band popular in the last five years or so and you’ll surely have to listen to the entirety of Peter Gabriel’s So during dinner.

And if Sheen’s rapid televisual disintegration wasn’t enough, the swirling mass of controversy John Galliano’s bar fight and subsequent dismissal from Dior has kept me riveted to all fashion blogs French and American.  Part of my interest in this whole fiasco stems from the fact that La Perle, the bar where the incident took place, is a mere stone’s throw from my apartment and was a frequent setting for boozy evenings during my first year in Paris.  I’ll cop to still kind of liking it in an “ooh, look at all the beautiful people” kind of way, but B and M have made it abundantly clear that they hate La Perle in so many myriad different ways that I can’t suggest that we go there anymore. The two of them even make a point of crossing to the opposite side of the street from the bar when we walk by after eating pizza at our cherished Pink Flamingo on the same street.  If either one of them walked by La Perle without muttering something along the lines of “hipster scum” under their breath, I would die of surprise.

Anyway, we used to hang out there a lot. The booze is ridiculously cheap for the neighborhood, and if you get there early enough you can snag a booth to while away the evening. I live for bargain beers and booths. We never saw John Galliano there, though there was always the possibility that he might be around, as it is the watering hole for all the local designer ateliers. I find the description of La Perle as “a neighborhood bar” in the New York Times rather laughable, as I’ll bet you ninety-six percent of the people that go there don’t live within a twenty-block radius of the place. (Did that sound smug?  I didn’t mean it to.) In fact, I’ve bristled at most of the characterizations of the Marais that have accompanied news coverage of the Galliano event. Yes, of course this neighborhood is filled with gay bars and fancy clothing stores and falafel joints. But it’s not even faintly dangerous, nor soulless, nor hopelessly bourgeois. It’s my wonderful, weird neighborhood, one I feel more attached to than anywhere I’ve lived in recent memory. That is to say, I definitely feel like a Maraisienne these days than anything else, and you better watch what you say about my beloved marsh. Thems fightin’ words.

* * *

I had a lovely week otherwise, the highlight of which was a girly day with M and her lovely friend AR.  The three of us had lunch at Rose Bakery, which I’ve been wanting to do for ages (it’s on the list!) and I can’t wait to tell you about (tomorrow: Clarence Goes to Tea!). Then, we did a bit of window licking in the Marais before heading to the superb “Women in the Orient” exhibition at the Musée Quai Branly. To my dear Parisian readers, I’d definitely recommend you go and see the amazing collection of historical and contemporary garments from Jordan, Syria, and Palestine curated by Christian Lacroix. I’m usually hesitant to recommend things at Quai Branly because it is so goddamn dark in there that people with bad eyesight like yours truly usually spend their whole visit worried that they are about to walk into a poorly-placed glass wall. But this exhibit is worth strapping on your pocket flashlight and venturing in.

* * *

Among a smattering of other smart things that M said while we were window shopping (this girl understands a bias), she made a great observation that A.P.C. basically gets all of their design ideas from Eric Rohmer’s movies. You know, the ones where all the bobos hang out in their beach houses and talk endlessly about their romantic problems and nobody seems to have a job? Well, it hardly seems necessary to spend hundreds of euros on an aesthetic so easily obtained by just by watching the Six Moral Tales, which I intend to start doing this weekend. For your Friday afternoon looking pleasure, here are some sartorial ideas from all six:

The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963)

Susanne’s Career (1963)

My Night at Maud’s (1969)

La Collectionneuse (1967)

Claire’s Knee (1967)

Love in the Afternoon (1972)

And, finally, French summer beach style owes everything to 1983’s Pauline at the Beach:

Happy Friday, dear reader.

Clarence Puts on His Fancy Pants: La Gazzetta, Spring, and a Handful of Other Pseudo-Accomplishments

In my looooong absence (sorry ‘bout that!), I managed to make a pretty serious dent in The List, my to-do list for final five months and change in Paris.  It’s a pretty idiosyncratic affair, but nevertheless it goes a long way in justifying indulgences.  We have to eat at this incredibly expensive restaurant! We have to buy this stupid print! It’s on THE LIST! Best of all, it’s not even me that has to do the justifying. M and B are my own private little enablers, both deeply concerned that I won’t finish in time. The List ties in pleasantly to M’s preemptive nostalgia for leaving Paris months before she has even left. She has begun, rather annoyingly, I might add, declaring that everything we do might very well be for the last time.  “This might be the very last time the three of us eat pizza at La Briciola.” Uh, highly unlikely.  “This might very well be the last time we all window shop on rue Sainte Anne!”  Well, maybe, but have we ever done it before today? She’s even begun keeping a journal in which she chronicles all of her “last things” in Paris. I’ve been giving her a hard time about it because I don’t want this to become a moody, end-times kind of period. I also don’t really want to think about the fact that I’m not going to live in Paris by the end of this year, and that I won’t live in the same city as M. Sometimes you can only just trace the periphery of something sad, because you know that if you actually dive in, it will be too much to bear. So that’s what The List is, limning the contours of something that throbs.

Lest you get sappy too, dear reader, let me say that I’m not too worried about the blog. I  fully intend on seducing the shit out of you, so long after I have no Paris restaurants to tell you about you still want to come here. Come autumn we will be visiting Amish farms and learning to make our own kimchee and planning a barbecue tour of the American South. I’m playing the long game for your affections. Consider yourself on notice.

So back to The List, let’s see what I’ve accomplished lately, shall we?

  • See the Jean-Michel Basquiat show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris before January 30th

That one was a bit trickier than I had anticipated, as every time we were over in that part of town, there was a line down the block to get in to the exhibition. But a teeny-tiny bit of advance planning meant we were able to buy tickets online, and gloatingly skip past a line of impatient tourists. Suck it, short-timers.  The show itself was pretty great, but I won’t bore you with my art history 101 analysis, as it has closed already, so if you were going to see it, you saw it.

  • See the Arman show at the Centre Pompidou before January 10th

Now this was seriously awesome.  I only really knew Arman as “the trash guy,” but the retrospective at Centre Pompidou was exquisite.  It’s pretty rare to encounter aesthetic objects that completely shift the way that you think about a given piece of material, but that is exactly how I felt about Arman’s work in burned furniture, resin, and cut household objects. As someone who used to work on the exhibition end of the art industry, I am always thinking about the sheer labor that goes into the hanging of large-scale artworks.

An exploded car hung vertically, entitled “White Orchid,” drove home what an accomplishment the installation of this enormous show. Perhaps our favorite part of the exhibition was in the collection of paper ephemera. A notice, issued by the Black Panthers of America, encouraged people to bring in “any and everything” to be cut in half by “artist Arman’s amazing saws.” The halved objects would then be signed and sold back to the owner for a fee, which Arman was then charitably donating to the Black Panthers. Did this fundraising event actually transpire? Where are the photos? Internets, you let me down!

  • See The Gospel According to Matthew and Oedipus Rex at Accattone, working towards the project of seeing all of Pasolini’s films on the big screen

Yes, I’ve started taking pictures inside of movie theatres. Sue me. To be fair, most of the movies I see have pretty small audiences. It’s usually me, B, M, and a creepy-looking guy that is slumped down unconscious in the back row. So I’m not too worried about the etiquette. I don’t use a flash, either, Miss Manners. We’ve still got Porcile, Accattone!, and Medea to go. I’m starting to get worried about this one. While Accattone! is on regular screenings, I haven’t seen Porcile or Medea in my Pariscope, like, ever. If you are playing along at home, let me know if you see either of those playing in Paris. I’ll buy your ticket and a beer.

  • Obtain an oyster knife and oyster shucking glove, learn to shuck oysters, and do so for my friends on New Year’s Eve

Done and done.  Except instead of a shucking glove, we decided on this amazing device known as the Clic’ huitres. It’s sort of a rubber stabilizer that makes it easy to get leverage on your oyster. On New Year’s Eve we bought two dozen bivalves, an assortment of excellent cheeses, some beautiful foie gras, and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Only Prairie Wolf showed up to our last-minute gathering (more oysters and foie gras for everyone!), but the three of us had a pretty lovely time. We only sustained one oyster-related injury (Prairie Wolf cut his thumb), but he was so drunk by the time it happened that he barely noticed. B proved himself to be a dyed-in-the-wool shucking demon, expertly prying apart shells without so much as a drop of liquer going to waste or a shard of shell ending up in the meaty bits. That’s right, people. Not only can my boyfriend explain to you why the bits of mortar you are looking at in this heap of rocks are actually from the late Roman Empire and not the early part (silly rabbit!), he can also shuck the shit out of a pile of oysters. Don’t you wish I hadn’t gotten here first?

  • Eat a Pierre Hermé foie gras and chocolate macaron (if possible)

As we weren’t in town for the holidays, I was worried that we would miss the limited window of time where Pierre Hermé’s foie gras macrons are available. When we finally got our lazy asses to the store on January 6th or so, we discovered that the only way the foie gras macarons were available was in boxes of sixteen.  Fifty euros for a box of cookies?! But it’s on THE LIST! We bit the bullet, bought the box, and had an impromptu macaron-tasting party that evening. We sampled both the classic dark chocolate and foie gras as well as the wild rose, fig, and foie gras variety.

The verdict? Well, they aren’t like anything you’ve ever eaten before. There is a strange harmony between the fatty richness of the liver and the sweetness of chocolate. But, to me, the sweetness of the macaron somehow accentuated the meaty quality of the foie too much. It was really overpowering to me. Sometimes macarons are too rich for my palate, and these were the worst offenders yet. But B and our new friend L really loved them, so who am I to judge? Should you want to drop the bones, I’d definitely encourage you to try them next December. I’ll be sticking with my classic lemon and rose. Unless a white truffle or green tea with red bean makes it into my life again.

  • Eat at La Gazzetta

For my (gulp) 28th birthday celebration, B had tried to snag reservations at Spring sometime in early October. They laughed at the audacity of a young man who wanted not only to eat at Spring in December, but on a Friday night as well. They offered him a Thursday night in early January, and he delightedly accepted, realizing that it was just a few days after M’s birthday. So for my birthday, we ate at the (also much-hyped) La Gazzetta (29 rue de Cotte, 75012 Paris, Métro Ledru-Rollin). Let me just say that I can certainly see what all the fuss is about.  Swedish chef Petter Nilsson offers a fixed-price, five or seven course dinner that changes on a weekly, if not daily, basis (five plates 39€, seven plates 52€). Everything was totally inventive, unexpected, and exquisitely executed.  On the evening of my birthday, we started the evening with an aperitif of aged Amontillado sherry from 1922. Seriously! Bring on the Edgar Allen Poe jokes from a group of literature graduate students! It was surreal it was so perfect. Dinner was Saint Jacques scallops served in a shrimp and bacon broth; red chard and cauliflower served with an egg yolk confit, giant capers, and crunchy almonds; an aromatic dish of white beans and cod; Breton lobster in a light celery broth with fresh hazelnuts; a Pierre Duplantier chicken cooked with cedar, peppers, and pickled pink onions; mandarin oranges soaked in espresso served alongside chocolate and bread sorbet; and finally, an almond and yougurt daquoise paired with fresh lychees and mint. The ambiance of the restaurant is comfortable and cool without feeling fussy. I’d actually go so far as to say that it is a bargain for the kind of meal you are getting.  We’re excited to go back and see what the bounty of spring brings to this innovative restaurant.

  • Eat at Spring

Even before arriving in Paris, I’d heard of Daniel Rose’s much-celebrated Spring (6 Rue Bailleul, 75001 Paris, Métro Louvre-Rivoli, but don’t even think about trying to walk in without a reservation unless you are Brad Pitt). An American chef cooking something that all the Parisians are twitterpated about? This must be a thing to behold. Spring was closed for renovations during our first year here, which somehow managed to only increase the buzz that surrounded this restaurant and this chef. As I said earlier, it was next-to impossible to get reservations. Poor B must have called for three weeks without ever getting through to a real live human being, only to be scoffed at when he asked for a reservation in December. Still, we got a pretty amazing table for dinner on January 6th, which ended up timing perfectly with M’s return to Paris after traveling with her husband for her birthday a few days earlier.

The renovations were well worth the wait – the space is quite fantastic if you are interested in watching expert chefs yield their knives. Like La Gazzetta and many of the best new restaurants in Paris run by young chefs, the menu changes on a daily basis and reflects the incredible diversity of seasonal ingredients available here in France. Our meal in January began with champagne and a single perfect oyster dressed with a fresh herb and soy vinaigrette.  I expected the vinaigrette to overpower the oyster, but it instead brought out some of the green, salty notes that I might not have otherwise picked up on. That is to say I could have shot those bad boys all night long and been one happy camper. But instead we had to move on to a course of foie gras, served with house-pickled vegetables and a quince chutney.  Then on to another noix de Saint Jacques (sea scallops) dish, this time in a chestnut and bacon foam, with both roasted chestnuts and crispy deep-fried chestnut slivers. As an unexpected pop of flavor, the dish was spiked with red cipolline onions. Heaven.

Next up was a whole battered and fried merlán truffle butter, Meyer lemon wedges, and a frisée salad dressed with a lemon curd vinaigrette.  Yes, we are the type of table who fights over who gets the fish head.

The meat course was a perfectly cooked piece of venison served with both roasted brussel sprouts and tart, flash-fried brussel sprout leaves. Somehow M translated chevreuil as baby goat, so we ate this course assuming that was what we were eating. B kept insisting that his father’s venison tasted JUST LIKE this baby goat flesh and wasn’t that STRANGE? Then we went home and looked up what chevreuil actually means. It’s venison, fyi. And at Spring, it’s like buttah.

Then, we added a cheese plate, because hey, if you are only going to get to eat at Spring once in every six lifetimes or so, well, you probably should add a cheese plate. We’ve been debating for the past half hour or so what all was on it. Brillat-Savarin and Roquefort Papillon, for sure. The other two are up for debate. This is why one ought not to try and write about meals they ate a month and a half ago.

Finally we made it to a two-part dessert.  First up was a piece of pineapple soaked in Japanese whiskey served with vanilla gelato and some kind of crushed cookie and lime zest…

…followed by a pistachio ganache and chocolate mousse served with a smoky black tea wafer. I could happily spread that pistachio ganache over toast for the rest of my life.

It was pretty cool, all in all, to have an opportunity to eat at a place like Spring, though I didn’t particularly love the staid, stuffy crowd that we dined alongside. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is I like in a restaurant, and I find that the Michelin-star experience is one that generally leaves me cold, even if the food is something to change your life over.  I’ll take every time a more casual and innovative restaurant, one where their might be misses in individual dishes but where the overall experience makes you want to spend the evening relaxing with friends, perhaps talking and laughing a bit too loud. I’m so lucky to have such great peeps for such a very purpose.

Save Me from What I Want: Shopping in Paris for Everything Else

Hi there!  What a slacker I’ve been about updating!  I’m currently hanging out in my mountain hometown in Colorado, getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon and seeing movies with my parents like three delinquent teenagers.  It’s been delightful.  I have so many things to tell you about, dear reader, including a pretty killer birthday dinner I had in Paris with my lovelies and a slew of down-home restaurants in Denver where I’ve been gleefully gorging.  Get ready for your cholesterol to hit an all time high when you see the pictures.

But first things first, I want to finish this damn shopping guide.  I’ll admit I’m doing this for one person and one person alone, my dear friend S who is currently in Paris.  He’s crashing at our apartment and finishing up some dissertation research at the Pompidou during the holidays.  If his last week in Paris this past spring was any indication, he is also going to be hitting the pavement and looking for a gift for his oh-so-ravishing girlfriend H. The poor kid probably spent a week walking the streets of Paris searching for a gift for her in the spring and ended up purchasing a candle.  Is there anything worse that the massively overdetermined gift?  The gift to which you want to attach a map of all of the miles you walked, the stores you scoured, the headaches you incurred, all out of your desire to buy your favorite person something perfect?

I’ll admit that S has his work cut out for him.  I wouldn’t want to buy a gift for H.  She’s one of those maddeningly pulled-together gals that manage to always make slightly quirky and off-kilter things look impossibly chic.  The kind of woman that makes those of us who wear a veritable uniform of American Apparel and Uniqlo separates feel, well, a bit sheepish. H isn’t alone of course – somehow I manage to attract a lot of überstylish friends, my besties M, MT, and J among them.  If I was a rich lady and could buy presents for everyone, I’d probably hit some of the following locations in Paris. I’ll move from the “what a lovely thought” ideas to the “wow you really shouldn’t have!” categories.

Soap!  Everybody knows about soap from Marseille! Before I headed back to the States, I went to La Maison du Savon de Marseille (17 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, Métro Hôtel de Ville) and seriously stocked up on their beautiful 200 gram bars of scented soap.  I especially like that some of their floral and herbal varieties are loaded up with actual dried plants (I find a winning combinations to include fleur de lavande, rose, anise, rosmarin, and herbes de provence).  Best yet, at 10 bars for 25€, you can seriously bang out some gifts. Feel free to select the perfumes of your choice and then tell the cashier which ones you want wrapped together – it’s gratis and they do a pretty job with ribbon and such.

Candy!  Everyone likes candy!  My favorite stop for sweet stuff is the beautiful Les Bonbons au Palais (19 rue Monge, 75005 Paris, Métro Jussieu). Georges the proprietor is a veritable expert on the artisanal sweets of France and he brings together an amazingly curated collection of treats in his gorgeous store, which is lined with memorabilia from his schoolboy days.  His fare, which includes a host of bizarre candied fruits, flavored marshmallows, and herbal hard candies, are housed in beautiful glass jars.  It’s worth a stop even if you don’t have a sweet tooth. One thing I will mention, however, is that Georges does not want you to touch his candy.  Seriously.  Don’t even let your finger graze the lid of a jar, or you will receive a sharp rebuke.  Instead, indicate to Georges what you are interested in and he will likely give you a sample.  He will also create a lovely gift bag of your selected treats, which are sold by weight and are (cough) expensive but worth the bones, as you aren’t going to be seeing many of these candies anywhere else in Paris (and certainly not aux États-Unis).

For intriguing home decor, head to De Bouche à Oreille (26 rue Roi de Sicile, 75004 Paris, Métro Hôtel de Ville).  While the space is filled with everything from ceramic phrenological heads and antique marionettes to a wide-variety of taxidermied animals and insects, there is also a great selection of candles, quirky picture frames, and beautiful glass and hammered tin Christmas ornaments (I stocked up on the latter for my mother this year).  They also sell handsome paperweights and vintage letter openers and magnifying glasses, a trio that might make a lovely gift for anyone who spends a lot of time at their desk.

For true paper junkies, a visit to rue Pont Louis Philippe is a must, with the handsome store Mélodies Graphiques (10 rue Pont Louis Philippe, 75004, Métro Pont Marie) at the top of my list.  I seriously can’t get B out of this store and avoid this block if we have anywhere we need to be at a particular time. The store has an incredible selection of hand-marbled paper, sold both by the sheet and covering handsome leather-bound journals.  There are also amazing handmade cards and stationary sets, fountain pens, and an assortment of seals (maybe a handsome H and some wax, S?).  While you are on the block, make sure to spend a moment gawking at the rare musical instruments at Orphée (8 rue Pont Louis Philippe, 75004, Métro Pont Marie).  Obviously, not everyone is searching for the perfect baroque bassoon, but this would be the location if you were looking for rare or antique musical instruments. A violinist of sorts myself, I get a tingly feeling in my fingers when I see the collection exquisitely crafted string instruments, many of which are from the 17th and 18th centuries.  Swoon.

For the vrai or would-be artist in your life, cross the Seine and visit the venerable Magasin Sennelier (3 Quai Voltaire, 75007 Paris, Métro Palais Royal). Oh man, is this place cool, even to someone like me that couldn’t render a figure to save her life (or a game of Pictionary).  Opened in 1887 by Gustave Sennelier, the store is four rickety floors jam-packed with every art supply under the sun, including a legendary selection of oil pastels, which were actually developed as a medium by Henri Sennelier (Gustave’s son) for Pablo Picasso.

I mean, seriously, do you think that you are going to find a better art store in Paris than Cezanne did?  I didn’t think so.  As a feel-good bonus, the century-old business is still family-run.  I’d suggest buying a handsome palate or artist’s smock for the painter in your life.  Or, check out their beautiful selection of Japanese watercolors (Neon and metallic watercolors? Be still my heart!) and house-bound artist paper tablets for a variety of media.  B, a newly-formed calligraphy junkie, swears by Sennelier-brand inks, which happen to come in beautiful jars that are themselves worth showing off.  If you’re curious about the history of the store itself, here is a great piece from NPR’s Morning Edition on Sennelier’s relationship with the world of Parisian art making.

Everyone thinks of perfume when they think of Paris, but it’s trickier than ever to find something special and uniquely Parisian in a world full of Sephoras.  Never fear!  We here at Keeping the Bear Garden in the Background would never send you back to your girlfriend with a bottle of perfume she could buy at the local mall!  I’d instead recommend a trip to the Annick Goutal counter at Merci (111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, Métro Saint-Sébastien-Froissart), a laboratory-style setup where you can pick and choose the perfect scent from an apothecary-worthy selection of glass beakers.

You also couldn’t go wrong with a piece of jewelry from one of Merci’s well-curated cases, or a featherweight scarf by Epice in the ladies’ clothing section to your right when you enter the store (I’m imagining here my little Marxist friend S freezing like a deer in headlights when he enters this “concept store”).

Or, if you want to dig a bit deeper into the history of Parisian perfume making, trek across town to the eighth arrondissement and visit the House of Creed (38 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75008 Paris, Métro Georges V).  A family business since 1760, the Creeds have been supplying perfume to the royal houses of Europe (and commoner schlubs like me) for centuries.  Using a traditional infusion technique that has been abandoned by most commercial perfume manufacturers because it is so expensive and labor-intensive, Creed produces a wide variety of perfumes that smell like nothing else I’ve ever encountered.  I’m a positive slut for their Royal Scottish Lavender (for men, but who really cares about these things) and their unisex Virgin Island Water, which is effectively sex distilled in a bottle. I discovered Creed because MT showed up in Paris wearing Virgin Island Water and I literally couldn’t stop hugging her. It became totally inappropriate, and she told me to leave her alone and get my own damn bottle.

When in doubt, everyone wants (and looks excellent in) a classic striped marin shirt from Saint James (locations all over Paris).  I’ll save you the legwork: Saint James is only place in Paris where you can actually find the iconic Picasso shirt (which is solid white at the top and has three-quarter length sleeves, if historical veracity is your bag).  Their knits are exquisite, and their wool sweaters (while spendy) are the kind of thing that I can see both men and women wearing for decades.

Finally, for a great selection of oh-so-achingly-hip Parisian clothes, jewelry, and handbags, take the métro to Ledru-Rollin and head to the intersection of avenue Ledru-Rollin and rue de Charonne.  From there, you can pop in to Les Fleurs (6 passage Josset, 75011 Paris, Métro Ledru-Rollin), a clusterfuck of all things feminine and twee.  If you can avoid the brain-hemorrhage that inevitably results from this much pink in one small space, you will find that their bijoux are well-priced and their selection of Nat et Nin handbags are spot-on, making it a good stop for the younger women in your life.  On rue de Charonne, you can hit Sessun (30 rue de Charonne) for Liberty of London print fabric dresses and deceptively nice but surprisingly inexpensive leather bags.  I recently got stuck in a dress there and can never return from the sheer shame of this event, but their clothes are always pitch-perfect. Next door is French Trotters (also 30 rue de Charonne), a concept store that hosts an up-to-the minute selection of the coolest French brand of clothing and accessories, including buttery driving gloves and drool-worthy purses in brightly colored hues by Jerome Dreyfuss.  French Trotters also have an excellent children’s store down the block, if you are the type of person who doesn’t squirm at spending fifty bucks on a child’s dress.

Finally, Oxyde (28 rue de Charonne) has offbeat modern, but utterly wearable clothes and a yummy selection of Spring Court sneakers (the preferred brand of John Lennon and the comfiest shoes I’ve ever owned).  I especially covet the weird and Meret Oppenheim-esque fur-lined ones they have been hawking as of late.  Because whose toes don’t deserve rabbit fur?

So that’s it for my Paris shopping guide, dear reader, as this is all the conspicuous consumption I can muster for this month.  Ironically, I’ve been doing most of my Christmas shopping at the local Target, where I act like a slack jawed idiot marveling at the vast selection of American consumer goods I can’t get in France.  Be prepared, my Paris-denizen loves, everyone is unapologetically getting organic dryer sheets and habenero salsa as gifts this year.  As for the blarg, we’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled programming (food, kvetching, and more food) now.

To gift-hunting S, courage! Feel free to polish off our bourbon if it will take the edge off of all this shopping.

 

 

Save Me From What I Want: Shopping for Foodies in Paris

To catch up those of you just tuning in, this is the second of a multi-part (how many parts?  GOD ONLY KNOWS!) series on shopping in Paris.  In our first installment, I told you all of the places that I like to spend money on books, information that I’m sure was terribly interesting and extremely useful to those of you reading this from Iowa.  Now, I’m handing things over to Clarence so that he can tell you where to buy foodie things to stow away in your suitcase.

A question I’ve been often asked by visiting friends is “What would you stuff your suitcase with on a trip back to the US and where can I buy it?” Now, Clarence makes it virtually impossible for me to carry on my luggage, as it’s usually filled with jars of liquid carefully wrapped in socks. So buyer beware, my suggestions are not particularly TSA-friendly.

Maille (6 place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, Métro Madeline), which has been making mustard since before the Revolution, makes some of the yummiest mustards you can imagine. I wouldn’t have really thought of myself as a mustard-nut until Maille entered my life, but now I am a verifiable lunatic.  The basic Maille mustards (both classic dijon as well as ‘à la ancienne’ with whole mustard seeds) are available on the cheap at any grocery store in Paris and make a handsome gift, especially if you snag one of the cut-glass jars that doubles as a whiskey glass when you finish the mustard.However, Maille mustard like this (in some form, I’m told) is available in the US at some specialty markets.  If you want to get something singular, head over the Maille store and purchase one of their specialty flavored mustards.  We love the chablis-morel and the hazelnut-death trumpet versions, but all the different varieties sound like they would take a sandwich (or a mustard cream sauce on pasta) to a whole new level.  Maille also makes the best cornichons in the universe.  I go through a big jar every week or so. I’m told these might be available in the US, but I would probably stash a few jars in my luggage just in case.  I also have the mentality of a hoarder, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Regular readers know that Pierre Hermé (many locations around Paris) is the winner of the macaron Hungerdome, and therefore wins the dubious honor of being the first and only macaron shop that I take my visitors. But seriously, they do such a lovely job of packaging their singular creations that I can’t imagine why you’d buy a gift of macarons anywhere else. Just remember, they get stale in a heartbeat, so it’s best to buy any macarons for gifts the day you are leaving town. Moreover, no matter how cleverly they are packaged, they are fragile and bound to take some hits during travel. I’d probably instead select one of Pierre Hermé’s beautifully boxed collections of chocolates or tea, which I suspect would fare better than the macarons, which I regard as an “in Paris only” treat.  But since some of my readers will likely quibble with me on this, I’ll hold my tongue. Caveat emptor. Stick them in a refrigerator if you can, that will extend their lifetime somewhat.

Many of my guests can’t wait to visit the venerable teahouse of Mariage Frères (look it up yourself, I’m sure not going there with you), which is a regretable stone’s throw from our apartment. Look, go there if you have to, but it’s massively overpriced and will give even the least claustrophobic person a headache. The real tea fiends I know (and I am not counted in this observation, as I am a coffee drinker to the core) seem to prefer Le Palais des Thé (64 Rue Vieille du Temple, 74003 Paris, Métro Hôtel de Ville) which seems to have a similarly large and studied collection of classic black and green teas as Mariage Frères, minus the ludicrously expensive packaging and the hoards of tourists. I recently overheard a young woman blathering outside of Mariage Frères about how this is the “best tea made in France” and I refrained from explaining that no tea is “made in France,” rather all tea bought here is imported and packaged in Europe, holy god don’t they teach you anything about colonialism in school anymore, insert the sound of brain exploding. That aside, I’d also recommend Kusmi Tea (locations around Paris), which has brightly packaged boxes and tins of both bagged and loose tea. I particularly like their Jasmine Green and their Prince Vladimir varieties, and find that the small assortment boxes that are sold at Monoprix make a nice gift for someone who you have no idea what to buy for.

I’ve already waxed poetic about La Grande Epicerie here plenty of times, so I won’t bore you with another sonnet to my favorite Parisian foodie institution. There’s no place better in town for picnic fixings.  I’d also recommend you pick up your specialty Maille mustards there and check out their assortment of canned fishes, which includes the largest selection of La Belle-Iloise and Rodel sardines and anchovies I’ve found in Paris. (Yes, I carry cans of fish back to the States. What of it?) That said, many of the other shelf-stable products you will find at La Grande Epicerie you will also find much more cheaply at a larger Monoprix (locations around Paris), including Bonne Maman jams that are not available Stateside (Frenchies don’t know how lucky they are — the yummiest and best ones are sold in thinner, taller jars with purple checkerboard lids and labelled “Fruitée Intense”), various Bonne Maman cookies (we love the tartlettes and the financiers), and Albert Ménés rilettes and pâtes (or my favorite, their lobster butter). Other great (and cheap) gifts for foodies include Speculoos à tartiner (a gingery spread that is the consistency of peanut butter but tastes exactly like the Speculoos cookies that accompany many coffees in Paris) and crème des marrons (a chestnut spread that is often found at crêpe stands but hasn’t seen the global distribution of Nutella).  You can also buy shelf-stable foie gras at both La Grande Epicerie and a larger Monoprix, something that your friends in California will be thanking your for effusively in the next few years.

Okay, so let’s pretend that you are a real stick-in-the-mud and refuse to check your luggage to accommodate all of these liquids. Where might one buy some non-perishable gifts for people who spend most of their time in the kitchen?  Well, for the friend who can’t cook but likes to entertain in their impeccably curated home, I’d recommend a visit to the homewares section in the basement of the concept store Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, Métro Saint-Sébastien-Froissart), where you can buy all kinds of lovely (if somewhat frivolous) objects, including all the Pantone mugs in every shade your heart could ever conjure up.

Or, brave the jam-packed La Vaissellerie (92 Rue St Antoine, 75004 Paris, Métro Saint-Paul) for everything from clever dish towels to a rainbow of multicolored marmites. I especially like their crushed Solo-cup espresso cups, their wood-handled cheese knives, and their brass Champagne stoppers (a real bargain at 1 euro a piece). For real cooks, head to the cavernous E. Dehillerin (18 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, Métro Châtelet). Once you’ve finished gawking at the copper pots, duck presses, and human-body sized cauldrons in the basement, head upstairs to the small goods area and pick up an oyster-shucking knife and glove or a non-stick rubber Madeline pan for your favorite chef.

Do you really like them?  I mean, really really? Then go to Laguiole (35 Rue Deux Ponts, 75004 Paris, Métro Pont Marie) and buy them a set of horn-handled steak knives, a wooden bottle opener, or the perfect set of cheese knives. You’ll see plenty of imitation Laguiole while in Paris (the distinctive honeybee on the handle), but the real deal is the real deal, and would make even the most difficult snob swoon.