A Week in Paris, Part 2 (of 4): Madeleines in Reverse

  April 22nd, 2010

     If you travel to Paris an ascetic, you come back an epicure. If you go there an epicure, you come back a hedonist. And if, god help you, you go to Paris a hedonist, well, you’re not coming back. Come the hour of departure you’ll be gobbling ganache in the back-room of some confectionery, rifling through rues for one last macaron shop, or just sitting in some square, serenely feasting on the fresh memory of how a tomato or chanterelle or asparagus spear startled you into new recognition of a food you thought could not surprise you.
     Of course, we do come back — bellies full, livers bruised — but some part of us never really does in quite the same way; this of course holds true for any place we visit that deeply moves us. We come back with some faculty or sense transformed, and that changed part of us is perhaps the most satisfying souvenir we can hope for when we travel. Maybe it’s the texture of the pillars in the Place de la Concorde or the brocade wall-coverings in Versailles that gives us new eyes; maybe it’s a week of being balmed in the honey of spoken French that gives us new ears. Maybe some lingering walk through the medieval Ancien Cloître Quartier‘s street-tangle awakens us to history, opens it within us like a nova, revealing to us the depth of ages, a gift of an awakened sense of what has preceded us. All these things and more were true to some extent for me, but the simplest way I’ve come to feel altered by Paris is in my relationship to food, drink, and all the collected table pleasures of texture, vision, taste and smell.
     My life with food has always been fraught. To borrow from essayist Adam Gopnik (whose Paris to the Moon is required pre/post-Paris reading), “I am hedonistic but not at all heedless, a bad combination.” He offers this insight in light of how the wallet constrains the pursuit of the finest sensual pleasures; I borrow it to call attention to how my inner self-flagellant has often done the same. Different lock-downs, same result: an uneasy inner song-and-dance about if and when and how to give into table pleasures, let alone indulge in them. For me, this has meant a lot of rhapsodizing about roquefort and mole sauce and the perfect crab curry but disproportionate sampling of the same. I talk in gourmet but eat in gulag.
     Going into backstory on my own foodie self-mortification is beyond the scope of this travelogue (as confessional writers go, I’m not at all full-nudity, maybe just a little ass-cheek now and then), suffice it to say I’ve had issues with the gullet and what goes in it. Which made me all the more thankful about how travel to Paris gave me permission to totally let my guard down and indulge. This process didn’t take long — in fact, by the time my girlfriend and I arrived at our hotel, our seven days lined up before us and waiting like cakes on a tray, I was happy to find myself already relaxed at the prospect of all the tastiness that awaited. My inner food warden asleep for the week, I wasted no time in taking advantage of that fact — not more than a minute after leaving our hotel for our first serious Paris stroll, we were rooting about in A l’Etoile d’Or, Denise Acabo’s famous chocolate mecca, a spot I’d hoped we’d be able to locate during our stay but which I never imagined, and was thrilled to discover, existed mere footsteps from our lodgings. It was our first retail and gustatory moment in Paris, and therefore angsty (“how do you say ‘how much’ again?” etc.) and emboldening and intoxicating all at once. With double emphasis on intoxicating.
     Acabo’s shop is tiny, sweet-smelling, and charmingly overwhelmed with artisan bonbons and caramels, candied chestnuts, and, of course, chocolates: chocolates in rich naked lustre or studded with pistachios and hazelnuts or available individually in snail-shaped or gem-like bites or dolled up in ribbons or sealed in elaborately-printed boxes and tins. The place had the quaint, comforting cram of an old library piled to the rafters; the cozy plenitude of a place that’s been around for ages and whose accumulations have been lovingly curated and allowed to exist in a kind of managed motley. You’d look up and make a new discovery every step: a sudden shelf of sugared fruit-pastes in small individually-wrapped squares, bundled together in colorful bricklets, or licorice in handsome little tins that themselves felt worth the price. I couldn’t keep my eyes still. So much sensation vied for my attention; I felt like I was going to be letting some little treat or delicacy down by not spending hours gazing at everything. But we didn’t have hours, so we made our choices, coming away away with a little variety-sac of chocolates we took turns selecting — of which the above-mentioned “escargot” chocos were the clear winners, each full of velvety hazelnut filling — and which we steadily depleted over the next couple days. (Pastry chef David Leibovitz, whose exhaustive and entertaining site “Living the Sweet Life in Paris” I much relied on in building our Paris itinerary, has a lot of wonderful prose to spare on Denise and her wares here.)
 
D'ACABO
         (A L’Etoile D’Or. Image courtesy of miffed217.)   
 

     We visted Acabo’s shop one last time before we left Paris, deciding it was the perfect place to gather up souvenirs for friends. I also had my own agenda, being a dark chocolate fiend, & having spied the first time we went a table of luscious-looking chocolate bars, all stacked like ingots, all bearing the stamped name of Bernachon. I chose a particularly inky (and pricey) bar of full of whole hazelnuts. Like much of the rest of the chocolate we had from L’Etoile d’Or, this was refined stuff, but not austere, simple but not simplistic, extremely self-assured in a rich, classical way. I learned later from Leibovitz’s site that I had good reason to feel fortunate about this impulse purchase of mine (there had been many other bars that looked nearly as good to me, but something about the unfussy aspect of the Bernachon stack drew me) — I quote directly from his site: “The main reason to visit A l’Etoile d’Or is simply because it’s the only place outside of the original shop in Lyon that sells Bernachon chocolate. If you’ve never had anything from Bernachon, close your laptop and get on the next flight to Lyon. Bernachon is one of the handful of chocolate shops in the entire world that makes the chocolate they use from scratch. That’s right, folks. They buy sacks of cacao beans, then roast and grind them into pure, dark bittersweet chocolate.”
     And while the Bernachon bar was truly a gift to the mouth, dissolving against the palate in powerful waves of serious flavor, I’m just as thankful we visited A l’Etoile d’Or for Denise herself. Both times we visited her shop I was smitten with her kind and excited and caring way, not to mention her pigtails and schoolgirl’s outfit of tartan skirt and tie (that she, an older woman probably in her sixties, could wear this outfit without a hint of irony or awkwardness is a testament to her completely sincere aura). She didn’t speak a whit of english, but was the only person during our stay in Paris who not only didn’t seem troubled by this fact, and who not only didn’t seem to be trying, subtly, to make us troubled by this fact — but who seemed almost to thrive on this fact, smilingly going about engaging us and pointing out treats and describing their virtues with excited pleasure, communicating with her hands and eyes as much as with words, as if language itself was only decor of ribbons and crepe and which, once unwrapped & dispensed with, allowed us all to focus purely on the real matter at hand: chocolate. As much as those escargot ganaches, or that Bernachon bar, it was deliciousness just to speak fumbling french to Denise and watch her be.
 
D'ACABO2
         (Denise. Image courtesy of hizknits.)   
 

     La Maison du Chocolat gave us the other memorable chocolate experience we had (aside from one achingly good pain suiss snagged from a Vienesse-style bakery in Montmartre, moist with flan-like cream and littered with dark chocolate bits), an experience that in some respects was the polar opposite of what L’Etoile D’or gave us.
     La Maison has several outlets in Paris (and, I later learned, Manhattan) — we visited the one near the Opéra Garnier — and they run a sleek operation: you walk in and see elegant, slightly aloof, attractive women in stewardess-like uniforms at your service; clean sumptuous decor and colors (maroons and caramel browns abounded, naturally); a sort of pharmaceutical precision in the chocolate display; arrays of cubbies full of pristine chocolate nuggets and truffles to choose from, all under their expanse of display-glass; expensive, high-end boxing, packaging & ribboning — the works. It was all appealingly modern, if a little severe, and drastically different from the belle epoque, crammed-attic atmosphere at L’Etoile (this isn’t to say inferior to or better than, just, qualitatively-speaking, on another planet). Decor & approach aside, what we were there for was the chocolate, so we made our selections, paid, took a lingering look around, and left.
     We weren’t disappointed. The flavors and textures were complex, a little more exotic than in the chocolates we chose from L’Etoile — the pistachio ganache in particular deeply satisfying, as was the raspberry, its flavor brightly popping in the mouth. Textures and fillings tended to be creamier here, more lush. Some of the chocolates we’d chosen sourced cacao from South American and Africa, and tasted heavier or tangier or more coffee-like depending on the region. If a chocolate continuum could be mapped, with fidelity to tradition on one end (L’Etoile’s Bernachon bars being the noble, stolid monument to that style) and on the other an interest in the new and unusual (focus on new-world ingredients, unusual flavor combinations [absinthe, chili], expressive design/decor printed on the chocolate itself — exemplified perhaps by Jacques Torres or a very fine Brooklyn chocolatier called Nunu) — Maison would clearly live nearer the latter pole. Both of us being pretty open to all the colors on the tradition-to-heterodoxy spectrum, we were more than happy to have our two most fulfilling Paris-chocolate experiences be so divergent.
     I can’t wrap up the Paris sweetness without first paying respects to two other lovely mouth-things we got to try: a pastry called a Paris brest and macarons from Ladurée. First the brest (there’s a slogan for ye): this little delight stole my attention while shopping for bread-treats in a Montmartre boulangerie, as much a blessing to the eye as the mouth:
 
pb
         (A Paris brest. Image courtesy of www.randonneurs.bc.ca)   
 

I had no idea what this critter was when I ordered it, I just knew I loved the look of its texture. It could have been crunchy-then-soft, like a churro, it could have been full-crumbly like a doughnut, I had no idea. (This is another of the great pleasures of travel when languge is not at your disposal — how it forces you to take chances. Often, when presented with food choices, I had no vocabulary to manage a proper question, or decipher an answer to said question, and so I’d just pick on a whim. You end up almost by default relying on sight and taste and smell and intuition to order from menus, or pick streets to walk on. Disengaged from your communicating faculties, you become a little more childlike and impulsive, reliant on sense data, something which at first I found vaguely unsettling, but which by the end of the trip was a condition of existence I had not only grown used to but come to love). It turned out to be the best pastry I tasted during our entire trip. I learned later that a Paris brest consists of praline-flavored butter-cream lathered in the middle of those two bike-tire patterned pastry rings (apparently this treat was created to honor a famous bike competition between Paris and Brest), each tire crusted with baked almonds. All of which sounds delicious in itself but doesn’t begin to do justice to what it felt like to bite into the warm, gently-crunchy almond-crust of the pastry and meet with the cooler butter-cream. The contrast in temperature and texture and the flavorful nuttiness of the praline and almond bits was a real revelation, and I remember standing in our hotel room, taking my first bite, and immediately urging my girlfriend to try some.
     This endlessly-reliable crunch-to-velvet texture-tactic was also what made the Ladurée macarons so damn good and worth most of the endless hype spilt over them. Disclaimer: I had no experience with proper macarons before this trip, and, while in Paris, didn’t venture beyond Ladurée in trying them. So macaron-istas might be yawning; for all I know Ladurée might be the fusty old guard of macarons, and some other upstart in Le Marais — or Bushwick — could be making the real deal. All of which didn’t matter to me then nor does it now, since the macarons we had at Ladurée were flat-out extraordinary, offering the kind of mouth-pleasure that gives you soft, quiet startle. We chose just four (pricey buggers): lemon-chocolate, cassis-chocolate, pistachio-chocolate, and, hmm, I forget the last one. The pistachio was the clear standout, the nutty cream tasting like it was freshly mixed minutes before we bit into it, the cookie crust delicate and giving way to soft crumb, not with too much snap, not with too much chew. Such a delight. I could’ve wolfed a barrel of those easy and rolled my way down the Élysées after that.
 
macky
         (A Macaron. Image courtesy of Wikipedia)   
 

     If I’ve spent a lot of time on chocolates and bon-bons in a chapter ostensibly about my impressions of Paris food in general, it’s because sweets, out of everything we ate and drank during our Paris stay, consistently gave me the most satisfaction. I realized this on about the third day with near astonishment, never having had a real sweet-tooth; even now, writing about it, I remain surprised. I noticed something was up when our wanders around St. Germaine or Montmartre would find my eye not caught by fromageries (even though I came to Paris already a big cheese lover, especially of the funky washed-rinds and blues), or even boulangeries with their appealing fresh golden-brown assortments, but confiseurs, patisseries and choco-shops with their delicate chocolate carvings out front (I remember one display with choco hedgehogs and a huge choco fox, their textures fresh-hewn, this little menagerie kept lovingly from the sun during peak hours with a big window-shade). That’s what I kept longing for: sweets — mostly chocolate — even above coffee, wines, ports and muscats; even above those ineffably pure tomatoes and carrots and haricots verts; even above the prospect of a repeat of my initial coq au vin at L’Affiche — all of that was staggeringly delicious and memorable stuff, some of it excelling even the best of what I’d had in Manhattan, but it kept coming back to the sweets, the goddamned sweets.
     There are two simple reasons why I think this was so. The first, and more practical (though, to me, less persuasive) reason is that it was terribly attractive for us to be able to have transportable treats to comfort us while we wandered around and took our little daily forays into new neighborhoods. You couldn’t quite do this with fruit (not decadent enough) or cheese (squishy, looks bad as finger-food, need a knife) or bread (well, maybe, but kinda boring). Chocolates though can be eaten with the fingers without shame, can keep for days, are contained and easy-to-manage, and, for us, offered the gift of surprise, since in some cases we’d chosen chocolates whose flavor-secrets we either didn’t register at the time of purchase or totally forgot by the time we got around to eating them. Chocolate thus became an important little ally for our daily adventures.
     The other reason is much more fundamental and visceral: for many of us, sweets and chocolates (especially the latter in my case) remind us of childhood, of those pure moments of comfort when we’d enjoy a Snickers or Milky Way given to us by a grandparent, or a surprise black-chocolate Dove bar or Häagen-Daz in the freezer that mom brought home on a whim, or some stolen Reese’s from the kitchen cupboard eaten hurriedly in our bedrooms, under covers. Long a craving I had successfully suppressed in adult life, something about my relatively child-like and susceptible state as a language-less traveler in another country, not to mention the encouragement of my girlfriend (who long has tried to help me give in, guiltlessly, to occasional food indulgences), allowed my sweet-tooth to come to full sharpness: before I knew it I was re-united with a core memory-set of boyhood, happily snacking away each day on truffles & Gü Puds.
     It’s not quite Proust’s tea-soaked madeleine, but the reverse: whereas the narrator in Swann’s Way finds the cake crumbles unlocking the gates to an entire mental city of childhood memory, for me, the process was opposite, and it was a city itself — Paris, with its way of freely offering endless streetside table and mouth pleasures; Paris, with its way of asking you, comfortingly & with full encouragement, to join in casual celebration of the life of the senses; Paris, with its way of nurturing and preening its displays and arrays of breads and bonbons and butcher-meats — it was a city itself which, when combined with my vulnerable, anxious feeling-state within it, created the conditions that allowed me, unconsciously, to find my way back to my own particular childhood madeleine: chocolate. If the path was reversed, the destination was the same: the glad revelation of something important within that had long been concealed.
 

***

     Even though you come to Paris knowing it revels in the senses, knowing it represents an entire culture that prides itself on the availability and quality of its food and drink, you’re not quite prepared for the full impact of it, for the freeing magic it works on your senses. Being on the streets in certain arrondisements is like being in an orchard where trees are bent with the pull of ripe fruit — everything’s begging for you to pluck, you’re presented with such a consistent, various bounty of pastries, spices, berries bursting, fresh fish on ice, sweets, sizzling crêpe, that the sight and availability alone drunkens one. Hell, some entire quarters were like constant markets interrupted by cars and houses (even so, when we finally did stumble into a proper farmer’s market [somewhere on the Blvd. de Batignolles if I remember right], we were dazzled, mostly by colors: the rich reds of the tomatoes, the healthy green glow of shelling peas — the spectra was deeper than what I was used to [and mind you, we have some very fine farmer's markets in Manhattan]). Too, the very public nature of Paris (public affection being it’s best-known example) encourages the life of the senses: watching people queue up for fresh bread, watching people eat and drink at cafes (people who are also watching you as you walk by looking for just such a place to do the same). I found the spectacle of people gathering and self-gratifying over food and drink, on impulse, very freeing. This was something, before paris, that I didn’t know could affect me.
     The impulse thing’s important. I couldn’t get over how easy it was to act on a whim when I was hungry, or wanted a coffee, or needed a glass of wine. I loved being able to drop in any of scores of constant cafes (all of which carry every alcohol you might want, with more attention of course, this being Europe, to pre- and post-meal liqueurs, which I love and wish the U.S. would adopt), stand at the counter, down an espresso, leave. Or pop into a patisserie as needed for a raisin-bread. Or stop at a little market for raspberries. Or grab crêpes á la confiture just as you’re getting hungry.
     All this was availability at first felt like too much to me, gratuitous, almost sinful. This says a lot about me, of course, but it also says a lot about American culture and our guilt-laden attitudes to having treats when we want them. If alcohol and, to some extent, food, are balms and salves for human existence (balms and salves which can be as richly complex and artful or as blunt and brutish as humans desire), Parisians seem fine applying a lil’ liniment a couple times a day to where it hurts (and it always hurts) — reasonable tipples & nibbles at reasonable times. But I’m used to a different culture, I’m used to the school of deny-deny-deny, wait til the pain is brutal, then binge back vats (of beer, Breyer’s, brie) to self-medicate in concentrated blasts. I’m used to cycling from repression to the perversion of excess that inevitably follows.
     Of course, the relaxed frequency of indulgence you see abroad depends on smaller portion-size — that coffee in a Parisian café is going to come in a dainty cup, but taste rich as hell and knock you back; that “house wine” is coming in a six-ounce goblet but is going to be far better than house wine you’re used to in the states; those raspberries will be wee, unsteroidal, but shockingly-red and Pantagruelian with flavor. Given U.S. portion sizes, you’d have to throw away a big chunk of what you eat to approximate Parisian portions, and our bedrock Puritanism just won’t let us toss like that (though we could all benefit from doing so; my girlfriend tries to get me to do this with bags of chips or ice cream, just have a little and toss the rest, and it’s a testament to my acculturation that I find this really difficult — for me it’s either don’t buy the stuff in the first place or finish the whole damn thing off if you do).
 
hammie
         (Ambitious hammie.)   
 

     Just being immersed in a culture where food and alcohol aren’t dealt with in extremes (of size, of consumption), & aren’t charged with guilt, changes you. I came back softened, relaxed, calmer about such things (for now!). This was one of Paris’ great gifts to me.
      

***

     As I touched on in Part 1, food in Paris was not only the nexus of some pretty intense anticipations and satisfactions, but of some anxieties and slight discomforts as well. I remember us being in the midst of a spectacular (& affordable!) prix fixe at Chez Casimir, a pleasantly rusticated spot near the Gare Du Norde. Dessert time had come, and we sat in eager anticipation next to another couple who’d come in at the same time, and who’d also prix fixed it. The waitress, a mischievous twig of a woman who’d been smirkingly enjoying my numerous little language disconnects and mis-enunciations all night (or maybe, as is more likely, I was just being oversensitive), came by with a big round wooden tray heaving with cheese of every stripe and rind, from deeply mottled blues and runny washed-rinds (including what looked & stank like the infamous Epoisses) to Camemberts and Chevres. Since the seating was cramped, and since apparently our neighbors had gone with cheese for dessert, she laid this tray across both our neighbors’ table and ours. The other couple went about carving their little wedges, and I was happy to accommodate their selecting-time. But as the minutes passed, I got a little worried about how long my girlfriend (not a fan of smelly cheese) would be okay with half-a-tray of cheese fumigating her face. More minutes passed, I became more worred still, and then the waitress came, asked us if we wanted any cheese. I said no thanks, thinking she’d forgotten what we’d ordered, but not dwelling on it. Twiggy then took back the tray and brought out our desserts — and our neighbors’.
     That’s when my girlfriend seized upon what was up: the cheese-tray had been meant for us too, and had been included in our prix fixe all along. That’s why she’d waited so long before taking the tray away. This hit me with a little bellyknot of shame — not only was I disappointed at not having a chance to cheese out, but I felt like I’d committed a cardinal French restaurant sin by not even deigning to sample such a grand cache as it sat there in kingly array on our table for five minutes. I was slightly consoled by the likelihood that, as my girlfiend put it, they knew we were Americans and probably expected us to ignorantly blunder along like this anyway. (As postscript to all this, when my girlfriend’s dessert order of ananas came out, we saw, to our surprise, pineapple. Turns out I’d misunderstood the word and mistakenly caused us expect bananas [the dish, focused around a marinated pineapple cross-section, ended up intriguing but difficult, a peppery-clovey and acid-sweet slog saved only by home-made ice cream]. Further, I insisted we comically swipe said dessert plates twice when I couldn’t identify my own dish (clafoutis with plums) — I had expected, for some weird reason, a sort of cobblery-looking thing. And all the while, oh-so-brightly did Twiggy’s eyes twinkle. Travel: beautiful as she is humbling.)
     Menus were funny for us too. I’m a menu junky, and used to poring over them, keeping them by my side after ordering so I can refer back to ingredients, etc. They comfort me in smallish, crowded New York restaurants, since I usually need a private place to focus my attention, being slightly agoraphobic. In Paris, however, many cafes didn’t have pre-printed menus, relying instead on portable chalkboard placards or simply making do with chalk-written menus permanently posted around the front of the establishment. If the café does have menus in the printed, paper sense, the waiter will hand them out by request (and request we did, nearly every time, sometimes in embarrassment when it was clear one might not be available), but he might do so with the added bonus of slight amusement flickering across his face. (As for the occasional menu-lessness, I have a theory about how Parisian eateries can turn out such good food. By doing away with menus and bus-boys and hosts and hostesses and napkins — all that extra stuff we, as Americans, were very used to — they are allowed, rightly, to focus more money and energy on ingredients, leading to overall higher-quality meals [if also, as was often sadly plain, overstressed waiters]).
     Little faux pas & anxieties aside, mostly we made do just fine eating out in Paris. We tried at every turn to speak as much French as possible (even though everyone we encountered spoke functional-or-better English), meeting with near universal grace and kindness, resorting to English only when it was the only course left. Sometimes a restaurant would peg us right away as non-French speakers, and sometimes they wouldn’t (which would bring me a small thrill of pride even though it meant at some point I’d have to cut into their incomprehensible beautiful stream with a “désolé.”)
     I really feel like trying to speak the native language goes a long way when visiting a foreign country. English-speakers have a special responsibility here. When your home country’s tongue has asserted itself as the global lingua franca you owe it to other countries to not treat this fact as manifest destiny, and to actually try and speak their language. I remember an American family at an outdoor waterfront café in Versailles, loudly speaking english and only english to the waiters, their kids squabbling and throwing french fries at each other and running about. You could feel the wait staff glowering at their loud sprawl — a tension that perhaps could’ve been mitigated if mom or dad had essayed so much as a s’il vous plaît. It was the kind of defiant anglo-centrism we all are perfectly aware exists, but to actually see specimens of it, in Versailles of all places, can still be kind of startling.
     In retrospect, my girlfriend and I fretted too much around eating, talking to waiters, hell, even asking for baguettes. But we’re fretty people in general. In a way, being brought to a mild state of social crisis for a few moments while menu-deciphering in front of a café (or, as happened at one restaurant that was a little more luxe than we’d expected, while waiting to hear whether you can be seated after showing up sans reservation) made the ensuing pleasures all the more vivid and gratifying. (Somewhere in there’s a strange masochism-nerviosum pleasure principle that’s a bit outside my reach right now… Maybe next chapter.)
 

***

      Our entire food-life during our week in Paris was the lush silk ribbon that wove through and tied our 7 days together. I came there already loving food and drink, and returned with that appreciation deepened, broadened, from pond to lake. Not a day passed where we didn’t encounter some table pleasure that quietly startled us, or caused us to reflect on some way in which food and drink were presented, sold, conceived of or related to in Paris that was unusual or striking or beautiful to the eye and palate. I leave you with a few of those moments gastronomique, little slices snapshots of delights we were lucky enough to share while in Paris:
 

         Ze Kitchen Galerie in the 6th,
         sharing a dish of raviolis stuffed with langoustine,
         the sweet crawfish meat thick in its pouches,
         the packed bundles dunked in savory, foamy thai bouillon,
         each bite flooding the senses,
         reminding you how barriers between
         taste and smell break down,
         or don’t even quite exist,
         a dish to to inhale, as a flower,
         and hold in the mouth, as wine,
         as much as to chew and swallow.

         At Chez Casimir,
         after devouring a dish of sea bream,
         finding what I’d taken to be roasted potatoes
         at the bottom of my sea bream’s copper stew pot
         were actually two mushrooms,
         dense as organs,
         together the source of the flavor I’d tasted
         in the broth and veggies I’d ladled over the fish,
         each mushroom giving way in the mouth like a ripe fig,
         juicy & wild with flavor.

         And Al-Ajami,
         a Lebanese restaurant off the Champs-Elysees,
         where, after a decadent vegetarian 8 plate tasting,
         out came a dish called Layali Loubnan:
         scoops of cold sweet milk custard
         wreathed with banana and fleur de lait,
         the whole thing topped with lavender honey and crushed pistachios,
         the cream-cheese savor of the fleur de lait
         mingling with the custard just at the moment when
         the crunch of the pistachio hits the give of the banana
         and the stick of the honey,
         all of this basking in an inlaid glass bowl
         which itself sat snug in another bowl of hammered silver
         cool and textured to the touch,

         almost too much to take in,
         almost too much nested-doll delight,
         in this like Paris itself:
         endless halls of intaglioed mirrors
         with lily bouquets chandeliering.

 
 
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2010

 
 
 
 
 
Links to stuff mentioned above:
 
Chez Casimir’s profile over at cityvox, which seems to be a kind of Parisian Yelp?
La Maison Du Chocolat’s English site.
Al-Ajami
Ze Kitchen Galerie
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
Marcel Proust
Ladurée
Bernachon Chocolates
Jacques Torres Chocolates
Brooklyn’s Nunu Chocolates

[posted by C Way at 6:26 PM]

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