Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paris, part 2

  After having our espresso and croissant at a local café near our hotel, my daughter and I discussed our plans for the day and knew that our first stop had to be the open-air green market in the 7ème Arrondissement at the lovely Marché Saxe-Breteuil, only a couple of minutes walk away. 

              There are no fewer than eighty greenmarkets in Paris, the vast majority of them are open-air markets (marchés volants, or roving markets) that operate two or three days a week, most of often in the morning. 

              But the Marché Saxe-Breteuil has to be one of the most appealing outdoor food markets in Paris.  Set in an upscale residential neighborhood, the market is shaded by two rows of sycamore trees and the tall light poles with modern fixtures provide a bit of architectural glamour.  The Eiffel tower is in view which adds to the pleasure. 

              On this particular morning, Paris was awakened by sunshine flooding down through the canopy of trees giving the whole market a golden glow.
           As we negotiated our way from stall to stall I was overwhelmed by the mind-numbing assortment of produce

 cheese, bread, meat, and seafood 

            not to mention the household goods. Personal clothing is abundant, flowers, toys, purses, wallets, and other leather goods known as maroquinerie (because they come from Morocco) are displayed as well as oriental carpets, fine lace tablecloths and quilts. 
But of course for me, it was the food that captivated my attention, it was a sensory awakening.  I felt a kind of camaraderie as I strolled from stall to stall watching the Parisians discussing with the vendors specific nuances of the what seemed like dozens upon dozens of artisanal cheeses displayed, sampling a little of this and a little of that. 

            I couldn’t believe the abundance of oysters piled high in baskets down a long table.  There were plat or flat, and curved/crenellated types.  They are numbered 1 through 5 to distinguish the largest (#1) from the smallest #5).  A dozen #3’s will set you back as much as a dozen euros in a restaurant, though much less in the open-air market.  The vendor seemed to be explaining the fine points of differences among fines de claires, speciales, and belons all from Marennes and Oléron on the Atlantic coast.

               There are multiple charcuterie stands with sausages, prosciutto, even pig snouts, which attest to the French genius for finding culinary use for every part of the beast.  In an adjacent stall, half a dozen varieties of mushrooms are laid out along with all the glorious greens: crinkly spinach, crisp peppery cresson and my favorite frisée.

              Paris is a city over flowing with wonderful ingredients to cook with. If you are truly in love with food, you can be assured you will be in love with Paris.  And if you are in love for beauty that runs deep through all genres, Paris will happily take you by the hand and accommodate you.

jouir de,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

remembering Paris and Poilâne

Whenever I'm asked what I love most about Paris, the reply is of course the food. More specifically, the boulangeries.

Admittedly not all bread in Paris is created equal, but there are those places that are off the charts. One place in particular is Poilâne. Poilâne is probably France’s most famous bakery, founded in 1932 on the chic rue du Cherche Midi.

The bakery welcomes you with beautifully crafted wrought iron door handles made into the shape of wheat sheaves and then as you enter you are overcome by the warm yeasty smell of freshly baked bread and pastries.  

This bakery produces the most famous starter bread in the world simply called pain Poilâne or miche Poilâne. They have taken the most humble of ingredients, bread, salt and water and have elevated it to an art form. One of the things that make Poilâne’s bread so good is the traditional manufacturing process. They use stone-milled gray flour and Guérande salt. A slow natural fermentation process is used which is what helps the bread develop that deep, earthy flavor that is key, and then baked in wood-burning ovens.

The bread is formed into giant wheels, of which you can buy a half or quarter, and boasts a thick crust. The top is slashed with the signature “P” and the bottom is slightly charred to perfection. The moist, fragrant crumb begs for some creamy butter and fresh fruit preserves. Aside from this star item, the bakery also sells specialty breads that are baked with rye flour, raisins or Périgord walnuts.

The wooden slat shelves that support the loaves of bread wrap around the perimeter of the tiny shop. There are also Poilâne-endorsed accessories that make lovely gifts for the bread lover: embroidered aprons, bread bags, bread knives, bread boxes and homemade jams.

There are croissants that take you’re your breath away

as well as flans, apple tartlets, and pale blond butter cookies (which can be sampled from a basket at the register) are all for the taking.

Poilâne’s breads are so distinctive and delicious that loyal fans world wide clamor to have them shipped to far-flung locations. Fortunately, the bread’s crusty exterior and chewy interior lasts up to a week and renders it hardy enough for the voyage, just in case you won’t be able to make a little trip to Paris yourself, grâce à Dieu (thank goodness).

bonne mémoire.