After my obsession with rain, yesterday, there turned out not to be any. By afternoon it was a lovely, fluffy-clouds-in-blue-sky kind of day.
Post-breakfast we headed over to the Place Maubert market. On Saturdays there’s a vendor there specializing in products from the south of France and I try to stock up on my supply of fruity olive oil from Les Baux. He also has the best olives – usually my favorite are the picholines, big crisp green olives from the same region. This year he had big bowls of lucques as well, and while they look like picholines except for being kind of curved at the tips (like elf slippers), the guy assured me that they are better. He gave us tastes and they are undoubtedly good, but better? Couldn’t make up my mind, so bought both. The taste test is ongoing. Bought some nicoise as well, and a fougasse aux olives.
Fougasse is an olive oily kind of pastry from Provence -- probably (I am totally guessing here) related to foccacia and the like. The first one I ever had was years ago in Avignon and it was a kind of flakey pastry. Fabulous. I would cross the town every day to get one. Mostly, though, like the one I bought yesterday, they are yeasty. Really delicious, either way. You can get them with lardons, but I am partial to olives, so olives it was.
The other stall we made a point of visiting was the one over flowing with Libanaise specialties. My father’s family was from Lebanon and I grew up eating the most wonderful food when we visited them (all in the U.S, alas), most of which is heads and shoulders over what I’ve had since (because Grandma’s cooking is always best, you know?) But the stuff at this stall is really good. Often I get a huge flatbread bread heated on a domed heater thing they have, covered with olive oil and zataar (a spice mix with thyme, sumac, and sesame.) (Bread and zataar was one of my Dad’s favorite snacks, when he could get it, which used to be hard, back in the day.)
Full of my delicious hotel breakfast, I passed on the bread and zataar yesterday, but mindful of the approaching lunch hour, got some bread, taboule, labne, and an eggplant spread that was baba ganouj but called something different. Back at the hotel we had a Lebanese picnic. The stuff was sensational, all of it good but the bread was just the best. Very thin, chewy, and cleanly opening to a pocket if you wanted to stuff it with something (we didn’t, just scooped.) It was the “Syrian bread” I remember from my childhood, before the ubiquitous doughy and dry grocery store pita became all you could find. I was in heaven. Great lunch.
Walked around most of the day. All around the Jardin de Luxembourg (a favorite spot, right near our hotel), over to the church of St. Sulpice, this year not only still surrounded by scaffolding, but wrapped in what looks like (but no doubt isn’t) a white plaster cast over half of it as well, down to the river where we hung out on the Pont des Arts, taking pictures, and over to l’eglise Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, a beautiful little church we love to visit on the right bank. And back to the hotel to rest our weary feet and wait for dinner time.
Dinner. So many choices, so little time. We decided to go to La Bastide Odeon, a provencal place where we had had a very good lunch a couple of visits ago, and which had the advantage of being a block away from us (a consideration, given the weary-feet situation.) The food there was superb. I started with a grilled eggplant millefeille (eggplant wrapped around cheese with some tomato confit on top – just wonderful!) and J had a huge salad of very strong greens (mostly arugula, but some other stuff too) with artichoke hearts and citrus.
I ordered the roast farm chicken (yes, I did. I ordered chicken. Yhere is more and more flex in my flexitarianism
every day, I guess), and J got the brandade de morue, and we switched plates
half way through. The chicken was
simple, simple, simple and totally fabulous, all of it, but the part that
really got me was the rich brothy sauce over sautéed potatoes. I think I secretly ordered it for those
And the brandade! I love it anyway, but this was really great, rich and creamy and ladled into a nest of cooked leeks. A mouthful of leek and garlicky, salty cod was just a dream. (That's it, in the picture above.)
We had to order dessert when we ordered the meal, which is the only reason I had one because I was full enough without. I had the cheese plate – a kind of Roquefort pate full of pistachios, and a half a small cheese that they insisted was fresh goat and probably was but I swear it tasted more like sheep – possibly because of the argan oil drizzled over the top. Some chutney and a slice of poached pair came alongside. J had pastry-wrapped bananas, caramelized. Very good, but they were crying out for some vanilla ice cream on the side.
Then we rolled ourselves down the street to the hotel, and collapsed into bed. This morning we are meeting a friend at his apartment in the 11th arrondissement and going to the Bastille market (because you can never go to too many markets.) After he does his shopping, we are heading into the Marais, to brave the Sunday lines and get a falafel for lunch. More on that, another time.