Saturday, April 2, 2016


Sorry to be slow writing up Paris. We've had a late-season revival of this out West, and there's still kilometers to be had ... so enjoy the picture-heavy entry.

Before spring break, I'd been to Paris two times: with my parents in 1984 (before the d'Orsay Museum even opened, to give you an example of how long ago that was), and for 6 hours in 1993, where I started a train ride to Barcelona with Isaac and Reilly (long story there about a long night listening to a man hack up a lung and say the phrase "Barcelona si?" about 2500 times). So I was looking forward to seeing some of the iconic sights. And to finally tracking down the duck à l'orange that eluded me in Strasbourg

But this is No Place Like Homes, and I know you want me to begin with my updates on the beer and coffee scenes. I can report some modest progress, but think New York City circa 1992 … 

First of all, the Nespresso Crisis is worse than I thought. My God, Parisians don’t observe lines in supermarkets or train stations, but they’re happy to wait in line for their awful Nespresso pod refills.

And I didn't even know that Korean had a word for Nespresso. 

I can confirm that what I wrote last time via David Lebovitz — that café workers seem to treat the espresso tamper as a decoration — is 100% correct. I was standing at a bar one day (enjoying the standing price of 1.10E for an espresso — something I do like about Parisian coffee culture), and I saw the guy draw the portafilter (half) full of coffee and then proceed to lock it in its place sans even a perfunctory tamp. Incredible! Luckily, however, John and Sarah had tracked down the coffee map of Paris, showing where one can find an American-style café. Next time you’re in Paris I recommend Cafeotheque, Craft, and Strada.

I can also report a couple green shoots in the beer garden, so to speak. The situation at the typical café is utterly hopeless (and look, I’m a liberal not a revolutionary; I’m not calling for the end of Parisian café culture and the triumph of only American-style taphouses — just the availability of something other than 1664 or Kronenburg …). I almost hate to blog this place, because it already gets crowded, but do not go to Paris without visiting the cave-like goodness of Le Fine Mousse. I especially enjoyed my IPA from Crazy Hops. So yes, it is possible to get an exquisite, locally made beer in Paris. 

Paname Brewery on the canal was also excellent.

Kansans reading this, there's progress in the stores, too.

Still, the crap continues to rule the day. When I discovered Sagres, from Portugal, my brain instantly filled with happy images of epic man-dates with Brian at Tallest Man on the Earth concerts, and future idyllic trips to the rugged Portuguese coast listening to T.M.O.T.E. while J drives because I'm too scared to drive along cliffs ...

But alas, Sagres turned out to be just another bland and too-sweet adjunct lager. Best song of 2015 at least. Maybe song of the decade.

With the ongoing search for decent beer, I didn't even try this famous local drink:

The first cultural order of business in Paris, of course, was checking out the 17th-century Dutch art at the Louvre. Navigating an entire suburb of Shanghai on the way in was the easy part. The hard part was finding the main Dutch rooms open ... and I was 0 for 2 days tried. So I had to make do with just the bare minimum of Dutch ice scenes. 

We also stumbled on a few statues by somebody or other.

And I guess a church had ordered some stained-glass.

After seeing a bunch of pretty pictures of flowers and water lilies

It was back to doing what the Parisians do best ... sitting at a bistro. We found a great little absurdly narrow one with excellent duck confit.

And man there's a lot of chocolate in Paris.

And I couldn't write this entry without including a picture of a chou (some choux?), little stuffed pockets of sugary goodness. Can one find these in Brooklyn? If not, I see a serious goldmine ... 

And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the eclairs and Paris-brests we had (the latter an amazing giant Hazelnut-stuffed concoction).

And then there were the lemon tarts and Yiddish pastries in the Jewish Quarter ...

... and so on and so on. Looking back, it seems all we did was walk around Paris eating pastries and looking for third-wave coffee cafes (and I wouldn't have had it any other way). Well that and play Hint Hunt, one of those new hour-long escape games. Very fun, and we almost prevented our sub from sinking, but unfortunatly we were too egalitarian in our problem solving when clearly I simply should have been put in command. 

This left only left two items of unfinished business. Get a decent shot of both boys at once, and find that duck à l'orange. The first count, as you can see, is nearly impossible ...

Luckily, the three of us stole away for a guys' half hour in Montmartre. Hemingway would have been proud.

On the second front, I figured we couldn't leave things to the vagaries of the French. So grabbing the bull by the horns, on our last night we all ate at the Petit Canard, which, if your 7th-grade French escapes you, all but guaranteed duck à l'orange, unless the orange-truck drivers were on strike. It did not disappoint, even though the French are closer to the Germans in their disdain of decent vegetable servings (of vegetables not names potato) than I imagined (I had expected mounds of herbed carrots in Paris ...). 

The kids were so happy from duck 4 ways that I even came close to the money shot. 

The true money shot came one night after dinner at Le Clos des Gourmets, Dad and Laura's favorite restaurant when they lived here. After dinner we rounded the first corner and voilà ...