Friday was a fabulous day. After trying to convince a friend who lives in Paris that Lightroom was the way to go and giving them a quick tutorial I was treated to a lovely lunch at Café Pinson, a unique vegetarian restaurant where much of their offerings are also vegan and/or gluten-free. This is just one of a handful of such restaurants in Paris. Unlike NY where you can find a vegan and gluten-free spot on nearly every corner, gluten-free and vegan places are just beginning to become more popular in Paris. This bright and welcoming space features a menu that’s both inventive and tasty. It was almost as if I were in Brooklyn- except it was Paris.
I can only thank David for what came after lunch. Not only did he introduce me to the Jacques Genin store, which sells some of the city’s most divine chocolate, caramels and pâtes de fruits and where I savored (perhaps too many) mango-passion fruit caramels, but he also took me to an extraordinary spice shop and recommended an amazing spot for cocktails and weekend brunch.
The sleek, ultra modern interior of Jacques Genin feels more like a high-end jeweler rather than a confection shop and though it may feel pretentious and intimidating at first, the staff was warm, friendly, and more than happy to translate the flavors and make suggestions.
Each luxurious piece of caramel is wrapped in clear plastic and encased a melt in your mouth, buttery morsel that exuded its rich flavor with every nibble. I tried several different chocolate ones but the mango-passion fruit were so delicate and delightfully bright and fresh that it was love at first bite. And second. And third.
While a bit pricey, you can see the love and passion behind each tray of goodies- they are perfect- not only in the look, but in the way they taste. They are truly works of art and well worth the splurge. You can purchase your treats in a clear plastic bag (pay by weight) or in a pretty box if you are so inclined as to be unselfish and to give them as a gift. I took a bag to go and I’m afraid that I didn’t really share them.
Thiercelin (Goumanyat & Son Royaume) is a beautiful spice emporium situated in an old apothecary shop. Run as a family business since 1809 they are especially known for their saffron, the shop’s signature product grown on their own farm in southern Iran.
As soon as you enter, you’ll see large jars filled with various spice mixtures and peppercorns at their “sniffing bar.” Here you can take a whiff of mace, star anise, cloves and juniper berries, inhaling aromas so vibrant and complex that any spices you buy at the grocery store will now seem to be a poor, pale substitute. The store boasts almost 200 different varieties of spices and plant extracts and is the place that Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and other Michelin-starred chefs come to buy their rare spices.
They carry an amazing array of peppers, including white Malabar peppercorns from the Malabar region of Kerala, India, which are considered to be some of the best peppers in the world.
The proprietor really enjoys educating his customers too and even in the short time I was there, I learned quite a bit about the different varieties of peppers, spice mixtures and even the craft beer they sell. I inhaled so many glorious scents!
I picked up a bottle of the white peppercorns, a bottle of Ras el Hanout du Roy, a mix of more than twenty crushed flowers and spices that is used primarily in Moroccan cuisine and a bottle of the award winning dark Artesian beer, Bière de Brie Ambrée (http://www.biere-de-brie.com). Just as we were leaving, the proprietor gave me a parting gift, a bottle of agar agar so I can make their recipe for panna cotta from the back of the bottle. I’ll have to translate it soon!
I am kicking myself for not buying some of their saffron and for not taking photos of anything else in the store other than the beer, but that is a good reason to return!
After parting ways with David, I met up with my friend Michael and we made our way towards O-Chateau for dinner. But walking down the street, you know it is always exciting in Paris-Oh My! Hope no one was hurt.
Continuing on to dinner….
This time we had made reservations and I was so happy that Olivier was there to greet us. As always, dinner was fabulous and we had several glasses of delicious wine.
You really can not go wrong there. The filet is consistently perfect, melt in your mouth tender and incredibly flavorful. I never leave any left over! We also really enjoyed a plate of thinly sliced squid topped with a light salad. Then we each had dessert. The profiteroles were light and airy and filled with a chocolate creme. My rose of pistachio and creme filled cake with raspberry ice cream was delicious and visually stunning.
In case you were not aware, Olivier has a second book that was released this year- Into Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure, which makes learning about wine not only fun, but also unpretentious as Olivier’s enthusiastic sense of humor and personality shines throughout. If you don’t have a copy, I’d suggest you order it. It’s a quick, entertaining yet informative read. (Links to my Amazon Affiliate Shop where you can order your own copy.)
We finished off the night with a stop to my friend Max’s bar- Maria Loca. This was the first time I had been there since it opened and it was the last night it was going to be open before they closed for the month. So I was very lucky to sneak it in. I am beyond blown away by how awesome this bar, no, cocktail lounge is.
It was wonderful to catch up with Max (former sommelier at O-Chateau) and to see his vision come to fruition. He gave me a tour of the entire place and explained some ideas that he and his partners have for the future. I have no doubt they will make them all happen.
The decor is funky and casual, dimly lit at night with an array of exciting bottles housed in an assortment of wooden crates behind the shutter fronted bar. Featuring a different artist’s work on a rotating basis, the walls are lively and fun and offer a showcase for up and coming talent. They also have regular jazz nights making this a cool, relaxing place to come hang out for a while.
The kitchen is huge and puts out some seriously scrumptious tapas and small plates. Even though we had just finished dinner, we dug right in to the sliders, mini pizzas, shrimps, cheese and fruit. I definitely want to come back for a full eating event and to try many more of their creations including weekday lunch, but this night was just a preview. We were there for the cocktails. And wow! The Cocktails!
Michael Landart, who just competed in the Diplomatico World Tournament in Venezuela, is the cocktail creator extraordinaire at Maria Loca. His concoctions are so inventive and feature unusual ingredients like balsamic vinegar reduction, Jamaican black pepper and Tonka beans. Surprising flavors alone but when paired with the right spirit and infused with one of the house made syrups, you are in for a pleasurable experience.
I tried the Rosé… mais pas trop! Made with Plantation 3 Rhum (3-Star rum), Citron vert (lime), Sirop de Canelle maison (cinnamon syrup), Baies roses (pink peppercorns), Pamplemousse (grapefruit) and Spanish Bitters. It was delectable. Tart and warming, and perfectly balanced.
My friend had the Jamaican Pearl, a mix of Appleton V/X Jamaican Rum, Citron (lemon), Mélasse d’Ananas (pineapple molasses), Poivre de Jamaique (Jamaican peppers) and Cherry Hering (cherry liqueur). His drink was also tangy with a bit of a bite but went down smooth.
These were probably some of the best cocktails I have tried in a long while. Coupled with the atmosphere and the good food, I can see how Maria Loca is quickly becoming one of the hippest nightspots in Paris.
It was rather dim and I didn’t take very good photos here either… but that just means I have to go back again. And have a few more drinks.
Here’s where we spent some of our day:
75003 Paris, France
Goumanyat & Son Royaume3, rue Dupuis