Thanksgiving in Paris dawned gray and cloudy, as we journeyed for breakfast pastry. Journey is the correct term in this case, as we crossed the city looking for Blé Sucré, a David Lebowitz recommendation. He did not disappoint. The unassuming Blé Sucré appears to be a simple neighborhood boulangerie, which on some level it is. Yet on another level it’s home to the most delicious baked goods we consumed this trip, or others. The shop workers didn’t speak English, but we muddled through with me pointing at items and speaking key words like “croissant” in garbled French.
We took our spoils outdoors to sit at the small café tables and watch the park nearby. We split a croissant, pain au chocolat, and a roll. Each piece was delectable, but the roll was the crowning glory. Studded with porky bits of fatty lardon, laced with cheese and rosemary, we couldn’t eat that roll fast enough.
Still hungry, we walked to the Marché des Enfants Rouges market which was still being set up when we arrived. As purveyors laid out wares for the day, we strolled around, pausing for some merguez sausage grilled and wrapped in Moroccan pita bread.
Though only November, the French, like many a Wal-Mart, had already transitioned to Christmas. We took the metro to the somewhat barren capitalist wasteland of new Paris to see the La Defense Christmas Market. We walked the sprawling market, stopping to see vendor’s meats and cheeses, Christmas nougats, colorful Christmas lights and decorations, and fresh-baked breads and pastries. We stopped to buy colorful scarves from some friendly Pakistanis. Our lack of French made the market a bit hard to navigate, as it was populated by sellers from throughout France, not just Paris urbanites with a command of English.
Feeling hungry after our walk, we returned to the Marais neighborhood for L’As du Fallafel. We’d heard much about how this tiny falafel stand served some of the best food in Paris and we can hardly disagree.
Paul ordered lamb schwarma sans any toppings, while I ordered falafel with every topping they had. Yes, opposites attract and somehow our love survives. Paul eyed my falafel in envy, as I exclaimed over the creamy tahini, the piquant garlic sauce, and the heat of the harissa. He tentatively took a bite and then proceeded to ask for seconds, and thirds, and twenty-fourths.
L’As du Fallafel has a clever system where you order and pay before you get to the counter and an employee helps facilitate your order when you get to the window. Our helper was delightful and kept saying how much he loved America. Throughout the trip, as we strolled through the Marais, he remembered us and would stop us, chat, and ask when we were coming back for another round.
Our next stop was the atmospheric Au Petit fer a Cheval for an afternoon glass of wine. We were lucky to sit at the rounded horseshoe marble bar, cheek-to-cheek with locals, and sip on our wine. The Lenny Kravitz-looking waiter admired my choice of Cote de Brouilly multiple times, which made me feel very accomplished and worldly. He snubbed Paul’s Saint-Emilion, a wound that hasn’t healed to this day.
Flush with wine and falafel, we walked to Pierre Hermé for a sweet bite. Pierre Hermé specializes in unique flavors and flawless execution. Paul chose classic, but boring chocolate maracon and I lived dangerously with foie gras and lime/raspberry. The thin, delicate shell of the foie gras macaron yielded to release the savory insides. The lime/raspberry’s crackly exterior and vibrant hue felt like eating a fairy dish and the bright, tart taste was as delightful as its shimmery exterior.
As dusk fell, we made our way to the Place du Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower have its nightly light seizure. Or perhaps that’s only what the flashing, pulsating, electric frenzy causes. Despite the drizzle and fog, we had the perfect view of the Tower’s lights piercing the night sky.
We had booked a late dinner at Au Petit Tonneau, a charming bistro complete with dim lighting and red-and-white checked tablecloths. To start, they provided olives and frites to stoke the appetite. The French have a superior “bar food” culture where most drink orders arrive with complimentary nibbles that put bar nuts to shame. We ordered Kir and rose which we sipped before ordering a Cote du Rhone to accompany our oeufs (eggs) in red wine and escargot.
As an interlude between appetizers and entrees, they provided complimentary saucisson sec, radishes, pickles, and crusty bread. Free food following free food must be the new way to dine. Spread the word! Parisians know how to live.
We closed the meal with Paul’s Flinstone’s sized veal chop with demi-glace and my blanquette de veau. The tender veal shone in each dish and the rich sauces proved why the French are world-renowned for their saucier work. On the side was a crock of potato gratinee. Apart from the aforementioned dinner at Au Doux Raisin, this was our favorite meal of the trip.
We bid adieu to Au Petit Tonneau in search of dessert in the form of a Nutella crepe from a tiny stand in the Marais a couple blocks from our hotel. Feeling stuffed and content, as one should be on Thanksgiving whether at home or abroad, we called home to our families and slept the sleep of the sated and righteous.