Paris: Day 6

May 14, 2018 • 11:45 am

The days dwindle down to a precious few: three days, three activities, three meals. Yesterday’s activity was a long visit to the huge Bastille Market, which goes Thursdays and Sundays, and a walk along the Canal Saint-Martin, a lovely place that many tourists miss (a lot of it is underground and invisible, though). Here’s part of the Wikipedia entry on the canal:

The Canal Saint-Martin is a 4.6 km (2.86 mi) long canal in Paris, connecting the Canal de l’Ourcq to the river Seine. Over nearly half its length (2069 m), between the Rue du Faubourg du Temple and the Place de la Bastille, was covered in the mid-19th century to create wide boulevards and public spaces on the surface. The canal is drained and cleaned every 10–15 years, and it is always a source of fascination for Parisians to discover curiosities and even some treasures among the hundreds of tonnes of discarded objects.

First, though, a walk through the market, which was crowded with Parisians buying their food. If you have the time, this is the way to shop. It’s also a way to work up an appetite, and an exercise in self-restraint lest you buy something to nosh and spoil your lunch!

Some food at the market:

“Veal of the sea” (watch for teeth):

I consider mackerel one of the most beautiful of fish. It’s no wonder that another name for a striped tabby cat is a “mackerel tabby”:

Species?:

I don’t know if white asparagus, as delicious as it is, counts as a vegetable, but if if it is, it’s my favorite:

Wild asparagus; I’ve never had it:

Flat peaches:

Lots of Middle Eastern merchants with wonderful olives and breads, as well as pastries, falafel, and hummus.

To the beautiful Canal Saint-Martin with its ducks and locks.

“Love the birds, but do not feed them.” We did not: I feed only Honey, Frank, and any ducklings in Chicago:

Three resplendent drakes, all in a row:

And a beleaguered hen mallard, with her ducklings huddled together. This really made me miss my ducks back in Chicago:

A tile store along the Canal:

And to an old favorite that I haven’t visited in thirty years. The Astier is supposed to have gone through a bad period, but then revived. It was one of my favorites, not expensive but excellent, and famous for its cheese tray, with about twenty cheeses that was plonked on the table before dessert so you could have as much and as many as you wanted.

It has slipped just a notch, but for a four-course, 45-Euro meal it was still a bargain. The cheese course, so crucial to a meal here, was as good as ever.

If you can make out the menu, see what you’d order. The items with the crossed knife and fork by them are on the prix-fixe menu.

Entrée: Poached egg yolk served with toast and “ham-cured chicken”:

Duck breast with oven-baked bok choy and two kinds of beets:

Pork, tender and juicy, with vegetables and a veal sauce:

The cheese tray! The cheese tray! Eat them in order with the milder goat cheeses at bottom working your way to the strong cheeses (Époisses, Munster, and Fourme d’Ambert) at the top:

Which to try? I tried most of them. The strong creamy cheeses at the top were particularly good:

Dessert after cheese: a crème brûlée with two madeleines:

And a millefeuille with fresh pineapple, coconut sorbet, and Szechuan peppercorns. Normally I would find this too chi-chi, but it was the perfect refreshing dessert after all that heavy cheese.

On the way back for a nap, there was a big anti-Macron demonstration. It seems that at least these young people and workers don’t like him:

 

 

 

 

41 thoughts on “Paris: Day 6

  1. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that dessert. Szechuan peppercorns? I don’t doubt it’s lovely but… not something I’d come up with in a million years!

  2. What memories you are invoking; I too when visiting Paris on research trips would wander the markets, stimulating the special senses, ahhhhhhhhh

    And I am not bothered in the least with your musing on food imbibed and enjoyed

    1. ‘Il est interdit de nourrir les oiseaux.
      Tout contrevenant sera verbalisé ‘

      “It is forbidden to feed the birds.
      All offenders will be sworn at.” 😉

      Too bad they give the correct English translation on the sign. I still prefer my version.

      cr

  3. Glad you answered the “Where’s the cheese?” question. That cheese tray looks great.

    My order would have been:

    Starter: herring & potatoes

    Main: pork, though none sounded that thrilling

    Cheese: yes!

    Dessert: rum baba

    Not that anyone should care though. Hmmm, what shall I have for lunch today? None of those things, unfortunately. Closest I can come is a Vietnamese-French place which is not that close at all.

  4. Great note! When I was in Paris in 1973, post Gabon, I remember walking the canal de Saint Martin and being impressed with the water fowl.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. A wonderful cornucopia of comestibles! I’m very envious, apart from the white asparagus: nothing would convince me that this blanched stuff is a patch on green English asparagus fresh from the farm. The season here is two weeks late, thanks to the cold spring, but the product has been well worth waiting for!

    1. I had a very good crab and asparagus soup in a Chinese place in Montreal that used the pale kind. I would find it funny eating it on its own (with sauce) like the green ones …

  6. The fish might be a Patagonian toothfish or Chilean sea bass (Dissostichus eleginoides).

    It could also be the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni).

      1. In the photo above the fish close-up there are hake on the upper left of the counter,to the right of the gaping Norwegian redfish,so now I’m pretty confident.

  7. Another beautiful pic – the arched store front

    Please try to listen for some live music percolating down the streets before you go

      1. If you travel to the plains of southern France you will see fields with the soil longitudinally thrown up into long hills at least 1/2 m high and 1 m wide, and covered with plastic. The asparagus shoots have to travel through the extra soil without encountering sunlight that would stimulate the production of chlorophyl in the chloroplasts hence the white (blance) color (lack). Not as healthy as green asparagus, and green asparagus in my opinion tastes better. I lost a lot of asparagus plants in my garden because of the very wet and exceedingly wet early spring here in OHIO.

        1. In my experience, white asparagus can be really great but too often it is mushy and has little taste.

          A commenter here mentioned that it is very popular with Germans. That reminded me of a meal I had at Rockenwagner, a restaurant in Los Angeles that no longer exists. The chef is German and on one visit they had an entire “white asparagus” menu where it was part of virtually every dish. We ordered several and they were all delicious.

      2. If you travel to the plains of southern France you will see fields with the soil longitudinally thrown up into long hills at least 1/2 m high and 1 m wide, and covered with plastic. The asparagus shoots have to travel through the extra soil without encountering sunlight that would stimulate the production of chlorophyl in the chloroplasts hence the white (blance) color (lack). Not as healthy as green asparagus, and green asparagus in my opinion tastes better. I lost a lot of asparagus plants in my garden because of the very wet and exceedingly wet early spring here in OHIO.

      3. Damn tootin’. Whenever I get hold of a batch of white asparagus, I steam it all up, and whatever I can’t eat the first night, I keep in the fridge, and eat it cold, drizzled with some vinaigrette (or similar) dressing. That’s how I like it best.

    1. Because it is a delicacy. It has this wonderful asparagus taste, contrary to the green asparagus which is bland, virtually tasteless, and hence a vegetable.
      I like asparagus best with a sauce composed of molten butter, mashed hardboiled egg and a small whiff of nutmeg.
      Asparagus has only one negative: your urine will smell of asparagus, many times stronger than the asparagus itself.

    2. Justified silliness aside, it seems that a vegetable is just part of a plant or (sometimes) fungus that people eat that is not sufficiently sweet to be labeled a “fruit”.

  8. The mackerel picture reminded of poet Mark Doty’s poem, “A Display of Mackerel.” It is available on the web. I admire his poems.

    Thanks for the photographs and short commentary accompanying them.

  9. Ref the mallards, is there any evidence from individual banded examples, of birds that have frequented two continents – say, via summering in the Arctic and wintering on one continent one year and another the next.

    Also, re. the white asparagus – a) it is very labor-intensive. b) Germans apparently love the white stuff – I guess that’s true of the French, too. There was an account I read a few yrs ago of someone who avoided consignment to a concentration camp in WWII by being sent to an asparagus farm to keep the mulch piled high to block sunlight to yield the white spears, so when I do occasionally see the white variety I think of that.

  10. Love the photos from the market! When travelling I particularly enjoy exploring markets. Most recently Omicho in Kanazawa, Japan. Being on the Sea of Japan it’s highly seafood oriented, but with some vegetables. The only downside is seeing all those wonderful ingredients and me without a kitchen!
    Enjoy your last few days in Paris!

  11. After a year in France, my daughter referred to white asparagus as “vampire asparagus.” apparently, it offended her California sensibilities.

  12. What’s “ham-cured chicken” mean?

    Also, how was the creme brulee? Was it served warm, with the top being caramelized right before it came out?

  13. Somehow ‘Macron degage maintenant’ lacks the punch of ‘Macron out now!’ 😉

    (I think that’s most likely the applicable meaning of ‘degage’, though I’m ignorant of the context)

    cr

  14. Exploring markets when traveling is great fun; the photos are fascinating!

    I think I would have chosen the poached egg on toast, the cheese tray, and the creme brulee. If there’s a market for a monograph on Great Creme Brulees of the World, then I volunteer for the task of doing the research. The cheese tray looks exquisite, and your photos make me want to smack myself upside the head whenever I succumb to the lazy temptation of eating flavorless plastic-textured distantly cheese-like substance. With good cheese, a little bit goes a long way, and it’s infinitely better-tasting.

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