Paris, day 4: More food and perambulations, plus “high” fashion

It was a rainy day in Paris, but that lends some atmosphere to the place as the boulevards become glistening black. Umbrellas in hand, we set off for a morning walk. As the rain was pretty steady, it was time to go indoors—to France’s spiffiest department store: the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.

On the way, we saw a cat poster:

Further along you pass the Opera House, called the Palais Garnier, a baroque extravaganza built between 1861 to 1875 and one of the architectural highlights of Paris.

One can take tours of the inside, but it was closed today. We settled for visiting the bookshop.

Lovely opera lamps on sale in the bookshop:

There was a mirror on the ceiling, so of course I took a self portrait:

And into Galeries Lafayette, where there are mini-boutiques selling the famous names of French fashion: Chanel, Gucci, and of course Yves:

The Balenciaga boutique sold Hello Kitty purses. I didn’t look at the prices, but you can believe that they’d be stratospheric.

The Galeries is built on an open plan, and you can walk a catwalk halfway up to get a good view of the floors below and the gorgeous stained-glass dome ceiling:

It’s an Art Nouveau wonder:

While much of women’s fashion in France is gorgeous, men’s haute couture is dreadful. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff they were selling as men’s clothes. I would never wear this, nor have I seen any Parisians wearing this dreck, except on the runways. Look at this stuff!

I checked the prices of the Gucci vest and matching shorts on the adjacent model. 1400 euros for the vest and 830 euros for the shorts! (That’s $1539 and $912 US respectively.) As Dolly Parton said, “It’s takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”

More schmatta for men. The jacket below, emblazoned with Mickey Mouses, cost €1600 ($1759)! If you want to see more insane Gucci men’s fashion for 2020, go here.

Oy! These designs look as if they were painted on the side of American fighter planes during World War II.

And what’s up with this? Is there a fly problem in Paris, so that they have to ape Australian “cork bobble” hats? I’ll believe this is men’s fashion when I see any men wearing this stuff on the streets of Paris.

A real cowboy would punch this lame-o out.

The best part of the store is its justly famous food hall. It’s a great place to go before lunch to get the saliva flowing. Nice bread:

A chocolate stiletto heel (100% chocolate) for only 68.2 euros ($75).

The finest Jamón Ibérico, only 330 euros per kilo!

Piles of lovely spice mixtures, and whole sections of fancy salts and peppercorns (not shown):

Lunchtime! I picked out today’s choice, a well known place called La Bourse et La Vie,started by an American who wanted to put his own”twist” on traditional French food. That alone should have been my warning. You simply don’t mess with traditional French food. But the place was highly rated, which is why I chose it.

“La Bourse” is the nearby stock market, and so the phrase literally means “The stock market and life”, but I’m told it means something like “Your money or your life.”

Sure enough, though the food tasted okay, it wasn’t spectacular, and—worse—there wasn’t much of it, although my dining pal was happier than I was.

The venue:

The menu:

Inside. It’s a very small place. Maybe it was simply too small to allow the kitchen to give us decent quantities of food! (Yes, I am a gourmand, not a gourmet. But if you like good food, you want a lot of it!)

Bread and a tzatziki-type appetizer with cucumbers in yogurt to put on the bread. Well, the bread was good. . .

The menu consisted of an assortment of no-choice appetizers and a choice of steak or fish. The appetizers: three niggardly portions of vegetables, which must be “an American twist” on French food. These were in my belly within a few minutes of being served, and in France that’s not right.

Veggies: carrot slices marinated in something or other, yellow beetroot, and a thin layer of endive with a piece of smoked fish and crème fraîche. This should have been an amuse-bouche, not an entrée!

I had a steak au poivre, cooked rare, with frites. It was good but again, not a lot of beef there. And it was served sliced. If I wanted someone to cut up my steak before serving it to me, I would have asked my mother!

The fries were good, though the portion was again meager.

My dining pal got the fish, which was whiting (“merlan”), served on a bed of roasted eggplant with watercress garnish.

Neither of us were near satiation, and decided to skip dessert, also likely to be meager, in favor of a visit to a couple of pastry stores back on the Left Bank. On the way back, we admired the lovely architecture of the area, including (second photo), the Bourse itself:

 

Time for treats! First a visit back to the Isabelle to get a croissant, and I wanted some sweet stuff.

The famous croissant (again). Most bakeries have them available only in the morning, but Isabelle’s, because it won a prize for the item, keeps making them until they close at about 8:30.

Isn’t it a beaut?

My haul: a croissant aux amandes (almond croissant). Oy, was this good!

I also had a “koign-amann” (pronounced “Queen Amann”), a pastry from Brittany. I’ll let Wikipedia describe it:

Kouign-amann (pronounced [ˌkwiɲ aˈmãn]pl. kouignoù-amann) is a Breton cake, described in the New York Times as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe.” The name comes from the Breton language words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann). It is a round multi-layered cake, originally made with bread dough (nowadays sometimes viennoiserie dough), containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in its layered structure) and the sugar caramelizes. The effect is similar to a muffin-shaped, caramelized croissant.

Well, I couldn’t deny, after eating it, that it might well be the “fattiest pastry in all Europe.” But it sure was good! OMG was it good. . .

Dining Pal opted, after a croissant, for a pain au lait and a chocolate cramique (below). The verdict? “That chocolate cramique was WARM and pillowy soft, and the chocolate bits were rich, dark and melty – even more satisfying than a good chocolate croissant.”

Voilà:

The bakery for the two items above, almost next door to Isabelle, is Aux Merveilleux de Fred, and its specialty is a cake called Merveilleux, which, as Wikipedia notes, “consists of a sandwich of two light meringues welded with whipped cream which has been covered with whipped cream and dusted with chocolate shavings.” Here are some for sale.

A dignified French lady of a certain age bought one right before my own purchase, and when I walked back to the hotel she was shoving it down her gob on the street. These must be good. I will try one before I leave.

When we were there, two young women were making giant cakes, “Incroyables” (“Incredibles”). The description:

Frosting the meringues with whipped cream:

And coating it with white chocolate shavings. This is a very good place, and you should go there–and to Isabelle.

With an almond croissant and a koign-amann in my tummy, I finally achieved the desired level of satiation.

41 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    “It was a rainy day in Paris, but that lends some atmosphere to the place as the boulevards become glistening black. ”

    Artist Edouard Cortes captures this mood and more :

    https://www.wikiart.org/en/edouard-cortes
    https://g.co/kgs/A6JuZB
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Cort%C3%A8s

    I’d love to see these paintings in a museum… and of course Paris in these conditions…

  2. merilee
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    That Brittany goodie looks GOOD.
    Most of those menswear models don’t look even like men – not that there’s anything wrong with that😬

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    It was a rainy day in Paris, but that lends some atmosphere to the place as the boulevards become glistening black.

    “Actually, Paris is most beautiful in the rain” is the final line from the lovely Parisian antiques docent as the rain begins to fall gently upon the streets of Paris in closing scene of Mr. Allen’s movie:

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes. Midnight in Paris is one of my favourite movies because of Paris, the jazz music and the historical characters we meet. Most of the contemporary characters – not very much.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 27, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I thought the Lost Generation characters were perfectly cast, from F. Scott & Zelda to Hemingway to Picasso to Cole Porter to Adrien Brody’s turn as Salvador Dali and Kathy Bates’s as Gertrude Stein.

        One of the three great films the Woodman made once he got outta New York for a while to shoot in London, Paris, and Barcelona. (His fourth European film in that run, To Rome With Love, was merely so-so.)

    • rickflick
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      I can’t remember having seen it. I don’t remember. I’d better get a copy from the library. Thanks for the tip Ken.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    That $1539 Gucci vest — on the bright side, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about anyone noticing if you dribbled soup on it.

    • merilee
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      On the “bright” side??🤣
      Actually, I wouldn’t mind the vest if it didn’t have those damn Gs on it, and it cost $15.39.

    • davelenny
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      The gaudy Guccis are probably more wearable than $20 notes while serving as the human equivalent of the peacock’s tail – ‘I am so wealthy that I can totally outcompete and ignore your modest and financial constrained display.’

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      The Norwegian curling team springs to mind. They’d love it and the shorts!

  5. Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I am with your dining pal on La Bourse at la Vie. The food there looks scrumptious. I wish I could taste it.

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      The steak was okay but nothing special, as were the veggies. But if you leave a restaurant and you’re still hungry, something is wrong.

  6. Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    For ridiculous fashion for men, there are these inflated latex trousers:
    https://www.nssmag.com/en/fashion/21072/i-pantaloni-gonfiabili-di-harikrishnan

    • darrelle
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Ahhhahahhahhaaa! Looke like they ripped that off from the Oompa Loompas from the original Charlie & The Chocolate Factory movie. Talk about cultural appropriation!

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      A guy has to have balls to wear those babies.

  7. Posted February 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I think a Montana cowboy would just shake his head and think you got dropped on the head as a baby. A Texas cowboy would shoot anyone wearing that outfit.

    Love all the pastries.

  8. Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    This makes me miss Paris!

  9. revelator60
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I would kill for those pastries! So sweet…

    I think this post gave me a cavity.

  10. Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    When you eat out a lot in France, you become so very picky, always expecting the very best. I went to a similar second-rank restaurant a month ago, and quickly detected the shortcuts…. a peppercorn sauce probably from a packet, and wine not from the bottle it was served-in…. But no matter… It’s good to slum it once in a while just to appreciate the great restaurants…
    The professor would make an admirable Frenchman…
    the big thing is to master a hundred or so cheeses… At my three-star Michelin the cheese cart is a long barrow with over 160 cheeses ‘a point’ I like a glass of tanin-rich Claret (Bordeaux) with cheeses… The whole cheese course takes an hour and is often considered by the French as the high point of the meal… A good cheese board at home should have eleven cheeses, starting with a mild brebis (I keep sheep) and ending with Roquefort…

    Many thanks to Professor Ceiling Cat for bringing French fine dining to the Internet…

    George in Burgundy

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Okay, what is your three-star restaurant with 160 cheeses? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • Posted February 28, 2020 at 3:27 am | Permalink

        The restaurant where the cheese-waiter boasted of 160 (with 80 on display) is The Cote d’Or, known as the Bernard Loiseau, in Saulieu, a rather run-down town in The Morvan Regional Park, in Burgundy. Very sadly the chef suicided, and the restaurant has lost a star, but in its hey-day, it was said to be one of the top four in the world. It is a great curiousity in rural France that the best restaurants are often to be found in derelict towns and villages. It makes it all a treasure-hunt.
        I hope the professor will come to Burgundy (with companion) one day to enjoy the vinyards and restaurants from Beaune to Lyon, but best done in warmer weather…
        I do doubt we would find a better boeuf Bourguignon than the professor found in Paris three days ago…

        George in Burgundy

    • Roger
      Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      A good cheese board should have a fine American cheese slices and a lovely low moisture mozzarella brick.

  11. Vaal
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    As a big fan of almond crescents I’m drooling over that photo. It looks so perfectly caramelized/crispy on the outside, just how I like them. All those baked goods are leaping off the page.

    (Fortunately I happen to live right near a bakery with bakers who trained in France, and their almond croissants are, for me, as good as I had found in France).

    Also: I appreciate that your noms photography is very good, where most of the food looks appealingly photographed.
    I’m always amazed at how unappetizing some food photos are from those who document their food.

  12. Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    “La bourse” also means “the purse” in the British English sense i.e. a pouch to put money in

    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/images/thumb/purse_164673938_250.jpg?version=4.0.51

    Typically, in Britain the wallet that a woman carries around is also called a purse* by virtue of the fact that it is a woman carrying it. I guess the distinction is that purses are designed to carry coins and wallets are not. Women, of course, are not allowed pockets in their clothing for some bizarre reason.

    Anyway, I digress. The translation to “your money or your life” almost makes sense given the above, but it should be using “ou” instead of “et” in my opinion.

    *what Americans call a purse, we call a handbag**.

    ** I can’t see the words “a handbag” written down without pronouncing it in my head as Dame Edith Evans would.

  13. Posted February 27, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I am looking forward to reading the book. I have it on order.

    The problem I have with most discussions that ask, “Is the mind (or brain) a computer?”, is that they seem to confuse its many different interpretations. It’s too easy to conclude the answer is “no” by looking some of the many ways in which the analogy is false. Analogies are always false in some respects. That’s what makes them an analogy and not a simply a description. For example, no one thinks our brains are electronic or have an architecture similar to the brain’s. Looking at the ways the analogy is true is far more interesting and productive.

  14. Jim batterson
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Re your food quantity today….reminds me of the old borscht belt joke about two elderly jewish women kvetching at a restaraunt: first one says “the food is terrible here”. To which the second responds: “yes and such small portions!”

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s a classic joke. But in this case the food was okay (not terrific) AND the portions were too small!

  15. chrism
    Posted February 27, 2020 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I do enjoy these vicarious meals, Jerry! Since my vegetarian wife is away, and my son is visiting, I’m getting to try some different things: yesterday I made a pot roast of moose, and tomorrow it’s going to be moussaka. And since you mentioned another multi-folded confection, I’ll introduce you to a Wiltshire treat from my childhood – lardy cake. A sweet bread dough with layers of raisins, sultanas, and currants, with butter and lard spread on each layer. Photos at https://tinyurl.com/qkr5fzv

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Looks delicious! I would definitely eat that, even if the wife was home.

    • Posted February 27, 2020 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that does look good!

    • Posted March 2, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Moose and moussaka? How about mousse, and complete the trifecta? (I suspect you don’t want mouse. I have been told by my Inuk friend that *lemming* is a “don’t bother” food, and mice are smaller!)

  16. Posted February 27, 2020 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Looks amazing! Whats the deal with men’s clothing?. Jeesh!

    • rickflick
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      William Barr thinks it’s the the rise of secularism.

  17. marioz
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    The original sentence should be “la bourse OU la vie”, where “bourse” means something like bag (=wallet=money). “La bourse ET la vie” probably means that in that restaurant you can have a good time without being “robbed”.

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Galeries Lafayette is gorgeous. One place I can safely visit and enjoy looking around without the slightest danger to my bank balance 🙂

    I’d love to show it to Mrs cr but my credit card would leap out of my pocket and strangle me.

    cr

  19. Posted February 28, 2020 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Where is the vin rouge???!!!

    That’s what I want to test/see tasted!

    glug glug glug…

  20. Bill Shipley
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    “bourse” doesn’t only mean “stock market”. It also means “purse” and this was its original meaning. Perhaps the word is no longer used much for this second purpose in France but it is commonly used in Quebec.My wife often tells me to “va chercher ma bourse”.

  21. Posted March 2, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I have asked every lady friend I have every had what the point of fashion is. I am still confused.

    In any case, $2000 for a shirt?? I could replace my entire wardobe for that! (Well, almost. I do have a lot of t-shirts, so I’d have to add carefully.)


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