Easter Monday was a national holiday in France. I met up with my Swedish friend, Andreas, at a cute little bistro in the Marais.Not far from Saint Paul metro station, Chez Mademoiselle is situated at 16 Rue Charlemagne, a quiet street in the southern half of the Marais (near the river).They serve up traditional French cuisine and their portions are generous. I had the roasted cod fillet with potato purée and a red pepper sauce.Andreas had a plump-looking duck and chicken combo. The bistro offers a fixed price menu at 17 euros 50. You can choose between a starter and a main course or a main course and a dessert.For starters I had a crudité salad and my lunch companion had a plate of fresh scallops.After lunch we strolled northwards, walking in the direction of rue du Temple, number 44 to be exact, to a boutique called ESSENTIEL. Based in Antwerp, Belgium, this is a colourful Ready-to-Wear collection for men and women. At reasonable prices.Andreas was looking for shoes, I wasn’t looking for anything. In the end, he bought a pullover and I bought a carry-bag. Here he is….looking very GQ indeed.Blue is his best colour. It matches his ice-blue Scandinavian eyes.As for me, I spied this leather carry-all bag. I love squishy bags that you can throw things into, sling over your shoulder and GO!Once our respective purchases made, we stepped back outside and continued walking north. I never tire of the history and architecture of the Marais district.We were on our way to the rue Charlot which is lined with interesting boutiques on either side. This fabulous boutique below sells fabulous leather products. All products are entirely conceived and crafted in their Montreal workshops. Mais oui, m0851 is Canadian.Yves Andrieux and Vincent Jalbert, at number 55, are a designing duo who transform antique fabrics into clothes, bags, cushions and throws. Had this nice-looking Italian café been open, I would have popped in for an espresso. But it was closed.Below you’ll find the links of these three boutiques.
During my growing up years in Canada, I was acquainted with the leek while watching my mother make vichyssoise for her dinner parties: a thick soup of puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock, traditionally served cold. But the French don’t make vichyssoise, even though it’s named after the French town of Vichy. Or rather, they do make it, but under a different name: velouté de poireaux et pommes de terre. Velouté means velvety. The origin of the name vichyssoise, apparently, is the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City.
Called poireaux in France, they use the trimmed vegetable in a classic recipe called leeks vinaigrette. Creamed leeks are tastier when served underneath a sautéed fillet of fish or in a quiche mixed with gruyère cheese, mustard, onion, one egg yolk and crème fraîche.
My recipe is a light version. 1. Place a heavy-based sauté pan over a medium heat and add any kind of oil. Nut oils are nice if you have (walnut, hazelnut, etc.) When hot, add the leeks, cut into rounds, and cook, turning frequently, until they’re softened and a golden colour. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add garlic, thyme and butter. Once the butter has melted, add some white wine (not too much) or if you wish, a small amount of chicken broth (optional). Set a piece of fish atop the leeks, cover the pan and simmer gently for 12–15 minutes. If there’s a lot of liquid, remove the lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking time in order to reduce it.
3. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley if you have any lying around.
And voilà. There’s your steamed fish with veg in a single pan. Simple. Serve with a Muscadet or a light Alsation wine.
Oh, by the way…for those celebrating it….Joyeuses Pâques (Happy Easter).
I am sorely tempted to hop on a train and go to Rouen for the weekend, just to visit this extraordinary new art exhibition that opened four days ago. It’s entitled CATHEDRALS, 1789-1914, A MODERN MYTH. Rouen is in Normandy and only one hour and 17 minutes from Paris by train. A one-way train ticket costs 14 euros.
CATHÉDRALES 1789-1914 UN MYTHE MODERNE
With “Cathedrals”, the Rouen Museum of Fine Arts explores two centuries of Gothic representation with 180 masterpieces and 60 artists over a period of two centuries.
Goethe, Friedrich, Hugo, Constable, Turner, Corot, Sisley, Pissarro, Monet, Rodin, Redon, Moreau, Marquet, Delaunay, Kupka, Beckmann, Schwitters, Feininger, Chagall, De Staël, Morellet, Delvoye…
Under the patronage of the French and German Ministries of Foreign Affairs, this innovative exhibition explores a unique theme: the place of the cathedral in the artistic imagination and in the national debate, from Goethe and Hugo to the First World War and the bombing of Reims.
This Franco-German project brings together two cities, Rouen and Cologne, each of which retains a world famous cathedral and two museums, the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Rouen and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, both considered among the finest in Europe. With more than 180 works, 15 sections, and 1200 square meters, the exhibition showcases paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelery, photographs, models, literature, cinema and contemporary art that trace an unexpected journey through two centuries of artistic adventures.
If you click on this link below and then scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can view a video of the exhibition. See you there!
Come with me and discover some of the fashion, food and shopping hotspots in Paris: some well-known, others less so; some central, others off-the-grid. These are places that I (and other Parisians) visit regularly.
Our first destination is the Place des Victoires, territory of the fashionista and far from the crush of the 8th arrondissement. Compared with the oh-so-crowded Marais district, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the big department stores on the boulevard Haussmann, this understated yet fashionable neighbourhood is far more spacious and quieter on Saturday afternoons. Wedged between the opera house, the Grands boulevards and the Palais Royal, with the Stock Exchange smack dab in the middle, the 2nd arrondissement is perfectly positioned in the central core of the city.
The best way to get to the circular Place des Victoires is to take the metro to Palais-Royal then walk through the Palais Royal gardens. When you come out of the gardens at the north end, turn right onto the rue des Petits Champs. As you walk along the narrow sidewalk, you’ll see the elegant 19th-century shopping arcade, the Galerie Vivienne on your left. Why not have lunch at the reasonably-priced Bistrot Vivienne? Or, even better and if the weather is nice, stop for lunch in the actual garden of the Palais Royal where there are a few reasonably-priced restaurants under the arcades. The Palais Royal garden is my most favourite spot in Paris. So much so that I have dedicated a blog post to it (the link, entitled Secret Garden, is at the bottom of this post).
Here’s the inside of the gallery which, in essence, is an early 19th century shopping mall.
A note for wine buffs: don’t miss Legrand wine merchants (photo below), a delicious Paris institution. When I’m feeling flush, I come here to buy a bottle of plummy Chinon. Legrand has selections not only from prestigious vineyards, but from small and independent vineyards as well.
Make your way to the front to the original shop and you’ll find chocolates, gourmet food items and old-fashioned candies on sale. Ask for négus which are stored in a big glass jar; these are my favourite (crackly on the outside, soft caramel inside). Still made in the Burgundy town of Nevers, négus are dark brown bonbons created in 1900 in honour of the official visit of Menelik II, the Emperor of Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia). Imagine that! Everything has a story.
Walk further along and on your left you’ll come to a second-hand designer clothes shop called La Marelle. Depending on their stock at the moment, you can pick up some real gems. As well as designer clothes, they also sell handbags, shoes, belts and some jewelry.
I fell in love with these shoes but they were a size too small!
People seemed to be enjoying this café, so I went in for a fuel stop. I stood at the bar and ordered an espresso.
It was awful. And it cost me 1 euro 40. Here’s the barman making it for me. I should have said to him – Monsieur, votre café est dégueulasse! – but on that particular day I was feeling mellow and let it pass. The majority of Parisian cafés serve pretty foul coffee which explains the coffee revolution that took place a few years ago. Today there are a number of quality coffee bars dotted around the city, most of them run by Australians and Americans.
Three ladies made their way to the 11th arrondissement in Paris last night to meet, eat and swap stories at the much-loved bustling bistro, Paul Bert.The third lady is behind the camera.My friend Rosemary from London had steak entrecote with bearnaise sauce and the bistro’s signature crispy fries.Beth from Toronto and I shared a stew of slowly-braised beef cheeks in red wine served with sea shell pasta called conchiglie. It was deliciously satisfying.Rosemary tactfully dissuaded me from ordering Chinon again (I’m always ordering Chinon. I’m a Chinon buff.) We all agreed that a nice Crozes-Hermitage would fit the bill nicely.Towards the end of the meal, Rosemary saw a soufflé go by and said she simply had to have one.I saw a crème caramel go by and the sight of it gave me a fillip. I used to make crème caramels – in a bain marie – when I was a teenager. I thought I was being terribly sophisticated. Not having tasted one in over a decade, I put in my order.And I was so glad I did! This was the mother of all crème caramels. Light and silky and doused in a sweet caramel sauce. I swooned with each spoonful. Beth went for the cheese plate and a wooden plateau arrived laden with different fromages.The service was impeccable; the skilled waitstaff patient and charming. The convivial atmosphere of Paul Bert has you striking up conversation with the diners beside you. It helps when they are Americans: friendly and sociable. This couple hails from New Orleans. He’s writing a novel, he told us.And these young people are from Brooklyn.I think we were all making a lot of noise towards the end of the evening. I’ll bet the French were thinking “Those loud Anglo-Saxons with their cameras….and snapping pictures of a common crème caramel. Grands dieux !” (that’s the equivalent of “good grief!”) Oh well. A good time was had by all.