Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paris Je t'aime! Day 6 Highlights (Or, How I Burned My Finger in a French Cooking School)

Christa and I wish Mere luck as she heads out to work. We decide to spend the morning at Les Halles, chasing down actual bon marche deals. Les Halles is often described as "labyrinthine."

People, that is putting shizz politely.

It takes us 15 minutes to figure out how to get the escalator that takes us to the third floor of shops. Because the 2 escalators we do find before that prove useless.

Les Halles, navigational issues aside, proves to be a great shopping center. We come across a museum store that carries French pop-up books on human anatomy. I somehow manage to show restraint and keep my credit card safely tucked inside my wallet.  We do spend some money at a lingerie shop, which is having a semi-annual sale. The sales associate is very friendly and extremely patient when, after she asks (in French) if I need any help, I reply meekly that my French language skills are pathétique. We manage to hit up the Sephora before I start to crash.

We  decide to check out the Catacombs. We get to the entrance, but at the last second I decide not to go in. It turns out to be a long tour and I have a cooking class I don't wish to be late to. Also, I feel weird snapping photos of people's remains for souvenir purposes - it seems, I don't know...disrespectful?

All is not lost, however, as Christa has yet to check off a quiche Lorraine from her to-eat list. Thankfully, the street nearby is lined with cafes. I crush a large baguette with salami and a bechon/beachemel sauce (so, so awesome). 

Time for some more shopping! We turn out to be surrounded by cooking good shops and food purveyors. SWEET. I buy some cookware and herbs at a Provence shop, where the store owner continually tries to feed Christa and I samples of various tapenades, bless) and then some jordan almonds at a local chocolatier.

We head home to drop off our gear. The news is doing a piece on the annual Dieux du Stade calendar and video. I'm almost embarrassed at how much I know about (a) French rugby and (b) the French rugby team's penchant for nudity. Almost.

But enough of naked athletes - it's time for my baking class! Today I'm heading out to La Cuisine, which offers a range of French cooking and baking classes taught in English. (You can check out a great interview with the school's owner at Lindsey's phenomenal blog here.) Today chef Jennie is teaching me and 6 other Americans (and 1 Irishman) how to make a Choux Chantilly Chocolat et Caramel (choux pastry stuffed with chocolate and dipped in a caramel sauce) and Fondant au chocolat et Sauce caramel beurre salé (molten lava cake with a caramel sauce).

The class is great! I manage to burn my finger just once while dipping pastry into the caramel sauce - which is like friggin NAPALM in its heat intensity! And the food...Oh holy Mary, the FOOD! Only a few pieces of the choux make it back to the apartment. I'm sugar high for most of the afternoon. I give serious thought to extending my stay permanently to take the next day's bread baking course, but then remember that I have a husband and pets back home.

It's my last night in Paris, so of course Mere, Christa, and I decide to do it up and have a proper night on the town. We put on heels, dresses, hair and make up and hit the Experimental Cocktail Club to pregame. The bartender is flirty, the music is bumping, and the drinks continue to be awesome.

We make it to Maceo for our dinner reservation. I've mistakenly made the reservation for "M." (Monseiur) Baker, which the host finds entertaining. Oh well. We opted for Maceo based on their prix fixe menu selections. I opt for the Decourvertes, which comes with a roasted eggplant and minced salmon appetizer; roasted duck with parsnip mash and red wine reduction entree; and a nice frommage plate for dessert. (Delicious frommage.)

And a bottle of red wine, of course.

Dinner takes roughly 2 hours and runs about 60 euros a person and I don't notice or mind one bit. A nice man at a nearby table asks if we are in town for the fashion week shows. Christa says the guy has excellent game, but I think he's simply observed and appropriately admired our table of hotness.

As we finish dinner Christa announces that no trip to Paris is complete without seeing the Sacré Coeur. We metro over and take the many, many, many steps and hills to get there. Mere and Christa are fine but I am huffing and puffing away like a fat kid at a track meet. Several jokes are made about my upcoming half-marathon.

The SC is beautiful at night. And crowded. The view though, is impeccable (if a bit smoggy). We take the funicular down to street-level and metro home. We're all exhausted, still full from dinner, and a bit sweaty from our hike, so plans for a heading out for champagne evaporate quickly.  

Instead, we decide to stay in and watch more news coverage of the Dieux du Stade's calendar. I'll say this much: There are certainly less pleasant images to which one can fall asleep.