Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Best Icecream in Paris?

I had a little bit of a revelation over the last two months in Paris: Berthillion isn't the best icecream in Paris. In fact personally it doesn't even come close. Here are three places that do:

La Maison du Chocolat

Sure, not a big selection of icecream, but when you have a chocolate sorbet this good, who needs choices? And if you felt the need to veer off the path of pure unadulturated cacao, then the caramel with fleur de sel would be an excellent bet, as would the apricot with rosemary.

Eric Kayser

Icecream isn't the only reason you want to come here: the fruit tarts are pretty great too, as are the quiche. But the pistachio icecream knocks out any competitors. An iridescent green, and with little nibs of pistachio studded through the icecream, it is fabulous, rich and creamy.


I haven't had a better fruit sorbet. They also have the benefit of being pretty competitively priced at 2 euros a scoop: this may be the best deal there is in Place du Madeline. My two favourites are the strawberry and the fig, neither is too sweet and taste purely and cleanly of ripe fruit. Come here for a kick of summer.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

La Boulangerie Veronique Mauclerc

This is simply the most beautiful little boulangerie in Paris. I've been here two months now, and I've eaten a lot of bread, from baguettes, via sourdough, to little brioche feuillette noisette, but this is the best. That's saying something. There are a lot of boulangeries in Paris. Chi chi little ones with gleaming stainless steel counters, so-so ones with baguettes that don't do it, bobo ones with cereals, snobby ones where you wonder if really a macaroon is that difficult to make (it is), but this beats them all. It is simple and honest and fantastically good. It lends itself to a lazy day and a late brunch. It is personable and relaxed. Sure, its way out, but then so am I. All the way out of Paris to be exact, past the peripherique and in Ile de France itself. Or Le Pre Sainte-Gervais. So for me Veronique Mauclerc is just a hop over the peripherique (or actually under), and into the 19th, at 83 rue du crimee. And yes, that may be a schlep for you, but its really worth it.

For a start it has a wood fired oven, and if you google it then you'll find that makes it only one of four in Paris, and its all the way out here because you can't move a wood fired oven. I was intrigued by the woodfired oven, to be sure, and of course, it makes the bread great, and different, especially if you add the organic flour and sourdough. But for me this isn't the selling point. Rather it is the obvious love and care which is lavished without pretension, on both bread and customer, which makes it simply lovely. Its homely and relaxed, while being stupendously good. You sort of wonder if they know how good...

We went for brunch, which is 10.90 euro (a veritable bargain in Paris), and comes with the choice of sucree or sale. Both involve tea or coffee, and orange juice, and the sucree gives you a choice of venoisserie followed by a choice of fruit tart, with a selection of sweet breads and jams, while the sale gives you a choice of quiche, followed by choice of fruit tart with a selection of savoury breads. We chose one of each, and both were excellent. One deceptively light chocolate croissant for me, a wonderfully rich slice of quiche with potatoes and reblochon for A. Then a chocolate, pear and walnut tart for me, and an apple and raisin tart for A. Great pastry, the chocolate pastry on the pear tart being a particular revelation. But oh the bread. For A. a great basket of sourdough studded with mushrooms (which was amusing because mushrooms are one of his only dislikes). But my basket of sweet breads more than made up for it. A chestnut flour, honey and hazelnut bread was a particular favourite, all deep and woodsy, but the walnut and raisin bread was also fantastic, while the saffron brioche with walnuts and orange flour water was light and ethereal. Neither of us was a fan of the chocolate, banana and pineapple bread, but that was more a personal preference. Of course we couldn't finish all this, but were very helpfully sent home with what remained.

I returned a few days later, in search of the chestnut flour bread with honey and hazelnuts. Though they didn't have the same bread I tried a much lighter chestnut floured bread with praline, all sweet and light and almost brioche. To go with it a savoury sourdough studded with a profusion of pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds, which was fantastic with goats cheese for lunch.

A few little things. Though they are open all through August and July, its best to call to check that they are serving brunch. We waded through some unseasonable rain to try brunch recently, only to find that the lady serving was all alone, and therefore unable to serve food to eat in. So check, especially if its raining and you were planning on warming up in front of the bread oven. Also, don't expect it to be anything but rustic: the first day we went they had run out of butter for the bread (not that it needed it), and you get coffee and lait chaud not expresso or cappuccino. But that is the charm of the place. On a sunny day Parc des Buttes Chaumont is just over the road and a beautiful little place to take breakfast.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Sunday Organic Market

I have been remiss - I spectacularly failed to take pictures of my outing here. But it was lovely, so lovely that it reminded me more of little villages in the south than the hustle and brazen bustle of Paris. In fact it was really only the Parisian prices that reminded me where I was... Boulevard Raspail right in the 6th arronissement.

More misshapen but beautiful tomatoes have not been seen, in a rainbow of orange, yellow, green, purple and red, some diminutive, some huge and swollen like a bruise. Little bunches of onions, papery shallots, the wonderfully bulbous pumpkins and winter squash beginning to make an appearance, the last of the summer squash being sold off cheap. Wonderful milk, cream, creme fraiche and yoghurt, goats cheese and sheeps cheese and a comte which was sublime. These are just some of the many reasons you should go, shop, eat, and that I should have brought my camera.

Raspail Organic Market, between rue de Cherche midi and rue de Rennes
Sunday Mornings, from 9am to 2pm (earlier in bad weather)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Goats cheese and fig salad

Not really cooking, not even really a recipe. But my time in Paris has been peppered with little things like this, be it a simple green salad, some lovely charentais melon, or a perfect slice of terrine.

I adore figs, and at home they are an expensive treat. But at 2 euros a kilo salad becomes a distinct possibility, and with a little mild goats cheese and a few walnuts lunch is complete. If you feel like it a drizzle of olive oil or, if the figs are not particularly sweet, honey go well, but really all a lunch like this requires is good bread, and perhaps a small glass of wine.