J’ai les goûts les plus simples du monde, je me contente du meilleur
I have the simplest taste in the world, I am satisfied with the best
He was so close to the truth, so close to the secret way to live life – at least in Paris, that is, when in search of the ultimate in pastry glory and the taste to make your mouth water a thousand lifetimes.
My gastronomic tour of Paris Patisseries began my very first day in Paris as I took that initial glorious bight into a warm, flaky buttery croissant from a local boulangerie.
It was that captivating bite which sent me on a rollercoaster like journey through dessert brilliance and boredom, satisfaction and disappointment.
Corner family run patisseries and world famous institutions, I have been to them all, and tasted both their gourmet glory and their frustrating fiascos.
Sometimes the random cravings lead to the best possible rewards – unforgettable pastries to make even the sceptical cry from pure sugary bliss.
More often though, rather than random brilliance, our journey took the form of planned outings with clear goals, touring the city sometimes visiting up to three patisseries in just one afternoon.
All the walking from arrondissement to arrondissement across all of Paris you would hope that we began working off the tip of the mountain of calories we were ingesting, and not too infrequently the mention of prophylactic Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering agent, was rightfully brought up by those of us with concerns for our health.
Everything in moderation should be enjoyed, as my incredible grandmother would have said, and although we tried to listen to her trusted advice we may have passed the point of excess more than a handful of times.
My partners in these rapturous crimes of gluttony, most often other pastry and cuisine students, but on the rare occasion it would be family or friends visiting from overseas.
Joined by these fellow intrepid travellers, together we discovered and tested our might against these strongholds of French Pastry gold.
Name it, we have ventured into the famed tourist traps and also the local hidden treasure troves, and so I am here to be your guide to my Grand Tour de Goût.
And so, welcome to the new age of Le Cooking Bible, moving on from my education to a new focus – hunting and gathering. The pleasurable spotlight of efforts, gastronomic research and development, all for the purpose of growing and learning even more, so that eventually I can make even my wildest pastry dreams a reality.
By now I have completed 8 months of work and study in the field of French Pastry, graduating from both Le Cordon Bleu and Ecole Ritz Escoffier as well as completing my internship in the Pastry kitchens of the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
Now visiting patisseries has taken on a completely new dimension. I have training and knowledge from school and insight and experience from the pastry kitchen.
I’m developing a new way of thinking and appreciating the business, products and service of the patisserie industry.
I can already tell you in good conscience what is in store for me – months of gorging myself and encouraging others, just one more cake, another viennoiserie, all in the name of research. I couldn’t help myself, my time was limited, and in this city of gold, I too must make sacrifices for the greater good.
So take care as I share some of my greatest finds, take heed, catch your breath and just imagine the possibilities.
Welcome to the Gastronomic Milestones of Le Grand Tour de Goût!
On June 21st every year, the day of the summer solstice, something is awakened in the hearts of the French and the streets literally pulse with the beats of music.
Starting in 1982, this its 30th year, is an exciting one, with the festival now exported all over the world but it not being more inviting than in this the City of Lights!
It is of course Fête de la Musique 2011 and my cousins whisked me away from school for a night to wander the streets of St Germaine to live through this incredible lively street music festival.
It is one of the most popular events in the year and everyone comes out of their apartments to explore the streets.
You can feel it as you turn every corner, as hundreds of musicians’ line the streets giving free concerts.
Their performances ranging from World Music to Jazz, Rock to Hip-Hop, Classical to Electronica, lift up the energy of the streets, bars and cafes.
The resounding feeling is one of joy and excitement as people stroll the streets looking for their style of music before getting right into the performances with little regard for their normal reserved behaviour.
Musicians are a mix of professionals and amateurs, everyone dressed to impress and ready with their instruments.
After looking for our first free concert we landed upon a group of ‘a capella’ opera singers – interesting… but we quickly moved on before finding something to better satisfy our needs…
An awesome big band with brass and wind instruments playing both classic songs and new songs too – they were awesome, but the star was their tiny female drummer who had enough rhythm and personality to lead Napoleon’s army!
We crossed the Seine back towards the Marais…
And came upon an artists community at 59 Rue de Rivoli where a massive concert was being held on their balcony. Somehow we were drawn in by their strings and charisma along with at least a hundred others standing either by the side of the road or right in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Paris.
Their folk world music had great tones and a beat, carried by strong performances on the violin, bass and guitar. Everyone peered up reverently to the skilled musicians – we even bought their CD, although on return days later it had lost its luster.
We were there for what seemed like an hour as the sun finally set and people danced across the crossing at every green light!
Walking thorugh some of my favourite back streets of the Marais everywhere we found small groups playing to their fans.
The small squares had larger concerts with rock bands playing loud for all the surrounding cafes and larger groups of people dancing.
The clubs had spilled out onto the streets playing loud pop and dance music to packed streets.
DJ’s had set up mini-dance parties in front of historical buildings and people were letting down their hair.
Around midnight a snack of fresh cakes was in order and everyone was happy for a taste!
Things didn’t slow down and the music continued late into the night.
Walking home I made a short detour to see what was happening around Place de Vosges. Around every corner and under the vaulted ceilings were a latin drumming group belting out salsa, a one woman band on her keyboard, an alternative rock group, and a a group of 5 accordionists playing classic french songs whilst the crowd sung all the lyrics.
The sound resonated through all the streets and as I made my way home I knew I would sleep well before school tomorrow.
Fête de la Musique was a success as always with people all around France partying long into the night.
It is amazing how spontaneity can breed such opportunity – opportunity which with the right mix of timing, company and activity can breathe life into even the most boring of days.
And every once in a while, an impromptu session can metamorphose into a night of sheer brilliance.
Three friends, sparked by a single SMS and a little coaxing, had a wonderful night out in Paris.
We all got lost on our own accounts looking for a very small restaurant in a back street of the 16th arrondissement near the Arc de Triumph.
It is an inconspicuous establishment, which hides its wonderful owner chef Hideo.
Finally, a real Japanese Restaurant, and with only 20 seats – it is perfect in every sense of my favourite Japanese restaurants.
Wada means Peace
Need I say more!
As you enter you feel something different; Hideo might be very reserved at first, but by the time we left he gave us a huge smile.
Working only with fish, cooked or raw, his sushis, sashimis and maki are amazing … not to talk about his fresh entrées.
His food is a blessing and his exquisite delicate tastes are quite rare to find. It is all about a profound love for food.
He embodies the Japanese spirit – he is at all times at peace, respectful, serious.
He cooks, he washes, he serves – it is a one master show and this is where the magic happens, a small kitchen in the back.
He is proud of his traditions and all this comes across in the quality of the produce, the way it is prepared and the final presentation.
We were the only table there on a Monday Night for most of the meal, but I know that even when full he would approach each meal and each customer in the same way.
He was proud, he was a gentle presence and the experience was only enhanced by the calming Japanese music which flowed in the background.
Thé Otcha was made from organic new leaves and was served in large cups in the traditional way of a Japanese Tea Ceremony and started off our wonderful evening.
White miso sauce served over sashimi salmon and simply prepared blanched vegetables with sesame seeds.
Next was my simple plate of Sushi with fresh wasabi and ginger. He showed me how to properly eat the sushi, by tenderly turning the nigiri rice side up and quickly dragging just the tail of the raw fish through the soy and wasabi mix; luckily I already knew, but it shows just how much he cares. For my company, they were served Spicy Tuna Maki and Simply Grilled Salmon with sweet pickle of burdock and root vegetables.
The art of Japanese food suggests that we eat with our eyes, so it is just as important how it looks as how it tastes.
Well, all our senses appreciated the entire experience.
The miso soup was actually handmade and served to finish our meal.
And finally before leaving he schooled us in the world of green tea, the Japanese having unique names for the different qualities and styles of Green Tea.
Saying goodbye was a very warm affair with him shaking each of our hands and saying goodbye.
Next we headed towards Canal St Martin in the 10th Arrondissement for drinks at the famed Hotel du Nord.
Passing over Canal St Martin was new for me and it was so serene at night!
The full moon was bright in the midnight blue sky and somehow with all the lighting under the trees the scene seemed to glow!
After a couple of great cocktails we decided it was the perfect night to walk home, for an hour and a half that is…
I am realising more and more that Paris is its most beautiful at 2am when the streets are quiet and you can seemingly have her all to yourself.
Sauntering, for me, means to walk leisurely and absorb what is around you then reflecting on how it makes you feel, 2am in Paris is PERFECTION for SAUNTERING!
We walked for a long time around 1 hour or more, passing some of my favourite areas in Paris including the Place du Vosges.
And finally towards my destination, Rue Pavee in the Marais which too glowed under the Full Moon!
Having marvelled at the thought of even considering crashing a wedding or an exclusive party… when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a humble request to accompany a long lost friend into an exclusive event – I was compelled to comply!
It was our only chance for seeing each other after so long!
So we signed up for a random, daring and long night out on the town!
Security was very tight! The guards were large and menacing! But their brawn was no match for a little ingenuity, a chilled demeanour and a great smile!
Despite all the odds being against us, a mischievous Cambridge Masters student was able to sneak in a pastry student and an infectious diseases registrar into a party dressed fitting the part of Cambridge MBA graduates!
This was the gala party for the European MBA games.
The guests were privileged, good looking and entitled thus perfectly fitting the stereotype!
There were 2000 MBA students from all over Europe who had spent three days competing in rowing, soccer, rugby and my personal favourite inclusions chess, salsa and tug of war!
Everyone was well represented but the average bank balance defied the GFC.
I am sure we were graced with the presence of oil oligarchs, pharmaceutical princesses and information technology inheritance.
We could have been the targets of kidnappings and hostages.
Instead we were the targets of function organisers with drink tickets and food stamps.
We spent the night catching up on old times completely focused on our small group of friends!
When things started to slow down we planned our next target… bars in the Marais.
And so after walking around we found a suitable destination and began the celebrations.
First was the bottle of red wine, but then the Champagne began flowing, we were in Paris afterall!
The stories will last a lifetime and the friendships even more so! A great night with great friends – who can ask for more!
Over the past 2 months I have been travelling on the metro almost every day, if not multiple times a day!
It has been the lifeblood to my exploration of this incredible city.
Each of the lines has almost developed an individual identity in my head – we all know the nice ones, the dirty ones, the dangerous ones!
Well, whether it be when the trains are nearly empty, or when they are packed like sardines, you have to admire the character of this train network.
You have to admire the way it works, mostly on time, mostly frequent and so full of unique personalities.
Here is a short snapshot of some of the weird and wonderful things I have seen or experienced in the metro.
Intrepid students, such as myself, use it on a daily basis to get to and from classes with cakes in hand and always in a rush! We often meet up in the cabins having all worked out by now which are the best cabins, front, middle or centre, depending on which line we are on and at which station we are changing.
Musicians, actually talented ones, abound on in the stations and on the trains themselves.
It could be a lone soloist with their little amplifier and background tracks or whole bands.
And here are some creative shots that I have taken whilst experimenting with my camera in different lighting situations.
The Metro has certainly become one of my must see attractions in PARIS – who could live here without it!