Saturday, 14 June 2008
Don't you hate it when you're on holiday and you have nary a clue as to where to go for genuinely fabulous food sans the ripoff? That's travel for you; it can be hit or miss.
I had no plans for my three-day stint in Paris last month. The only thing I was sure of? I wanted to eat. Constantly. Visions of tartare, pâté, cheese and crêpes danced merrily about my palate and I could almost taste the Nutella. I even had a recommendation, and so I was set. A friend said I should go to Chez Pa Pa on Rue de Lafayette for the duck with peaches as "it is quite simply the most amazing thing you will ever eat."
We arrive to Chez Pa Pa with our tummies bare only to discover that, in true French fashion, the workers are on strike. A shame, yes, but now we had a story to tell. With proof now that you can plan on nothing, we wandered away hungry and aimless.
From this moment on, we relied on the streets for suggestions. Parisians love to flaunt their culinary creations with windows full of edible masterpieces and every street vendor emanating scrumptious scents. We snacked on Grand Marnier crêpes and feasted on hotdogs nestled inside baguettes, covered with melted Gruyere. Colourful cakes, too artistic to eat, lined the glass displays, and we found that there is no better lunch than one eaten on the sun-blessed, grassy hill of Sacré Coeur.
Street cafés in France aren't cliché: they're genuinely typical, and entrancing. The best afternoon ever was spent having wine outside a corner café while watching the stunningly beautiful locals pass, armed with fresh herbs, baguettes and flowers. A neighbouring street fair assured us that plenty of smelly cheese and farmhouse pâtés awaited. Our waiters were all charismatic comedians, and our favourite (a bow-tied gent at La Cigale, Montmartre) even remembered that we were the coffee-with-croissant girls every time we returned.
Eventually I satiated my cravings as I ate my way through Paris, but that duck with peaches still sits anxiously on my palate. Maybe Chez Pa Pa and I will meet at last, but if not, I know there is a crêpe stand on every corner that will never let me down.
Also in Bite Magazine July 2008