It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety. ― George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
The moment you realize that the almond croissant is filled with chocolate ganache is the same moment you consider stocking up on more elastic, because when one is in Paris one MUST subsist on a three-croissant/day diet. I came to France for dairy and pastry and I’ve succeeded in conquering both, especially when I’m following David Lebovitz’s advice on hoovering choice sweets in the city of Lights. Today I hopped on the metro at Bastille, making my way to Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles in the Second Arrondissement. Lined with restaurants, cafés, bakeries, fish and cheese mongers, bakers of fois-gras bread loves who play chess with passersby (see above photo), pastry and cooking supply shops, wine shops, produce stands and flower boutiques, rue Montorgueil is a must-visit haven for devout foodies. From David’s blog post, I learned that this open market was once the famed covered Les Halles market, but was dismantled in the 1970s and replaced with a shopping mall making me think that some people are dead set to wreck everything. Today it is home to proprietors who proudly sell their wares and a gastronomic history that is awe-inspiring.
Don’t make the mistake I did and go on a Sunday. Although many of the restaurants and shops were open, a considerable amount were closed so I do plan to return before I leave for Aix en Provence. As soon as I entered, I ran straight to L’Atelier du Chocolat. The shop is known for their bouquet de chocolat, paper-thin sheets of chocolate infused with chunks of dried fruit, hazelnuts, pistachios or almonds. However, you’ll find bars and truffles of rich chocolate infused with everything from coconuts to brandy to caramel ganache. Naturally, I hoarded loads of them and am presently snarfing a large pistachio-encrusted truffle in bed as I type this. PRAISE CHOCOLATE.
Let’s talk about the éclair, shall we? The magical oblong pastry made with pâte à choux dough, filled with cream and topped with icing, is quite possibly the dessert of gods. Perhaps the éclair is what really sprung from Zeus’ head. Typically I don’t choose this pastry when I patron bakeries because it’s typically too rich, too gooey — I tend to like my desserts simple, minimal. However, when one encounters a chocolate éclair in Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris (opened in 1730), one stops, weeps and consumes their weight in pastry. It’s hard to describe an éclair that is perfect. The cracked chocolate icing, the tender dough, the sweet (but not too sweet) chocolate filling is a trifecta of riches. After finishing off one in a record 15 seconds, I considered what life would be like if I lived in France, ate pastry, all tra la la and than WEPT as I’m back in the office in a week.
Imagine the joy one experiences when one is eating what one thinks to be an almond croissant to only discover that it is a CHOCOLATE ALMOND CROISSANT. THE RICHES! THE DELIGHTS! [PUMPS FISTS IN TRIUMPH!] This is what happened in an alleyway whilst savoring a croissant from le Boulanger de Monge, an organic bakery best known for their boules and bread loaves. Unlike many of the croissants I’ve consumed in two short days (believe me when I say that I’ll make room for a croissant; you don’t know what I’m capable of!), the croissants at Monge are flaky, tender and not overstuffed with cream or sugar. The chocolate cookies were so warm and tender they broke apart at the touch yielding a soft mass of oozing chocolate in its center. I wept kittens I tell you, KITTENS.
Although I don’t love fish or snails, I’ve been told [and have read] that Au Rocher de Cancale is quite known for their exquisite oysters and L’Escargot Montorgueil — a tourist trap with fantastic, buttery escargot.
As always, I’m drawn to beautiful blooms, and Paris is simply not failing me. Rows of shops bursting with buckets of vibrantly-hued flowers can be found all over Paris, and there are lovely shops in Rue Montorgueil. You will want to splurge on a bouquet just because.
And although Pain de Sucre is technically not on Rue Montorgueil, it is on my way back to the hotel in the 11th Arrondissement (Rambuteau) and worthy of inclusion. An eclectic patisserie, you’ll find a host of delicious and delightful treats. From rainbow-hued homemade marshmallows to veal and veggie-filled croissants from gruyere herbed biscuits to fruit-glazed nut breads, this simple shop is packed with flavor surprises. I left with a jar of homemade blueberry preserves and loads of scones and marshmallows. I have enough sweets for six months. HELP.