April 15, 2005
I'm sure this happens to you all the time, too.
You set out to buy a gift for someone, say, a hostess gift. You happen to be on the Place de la Madeleine, or any other place where razzle-dazzle food stores abound -- La Madeleine is home to Fauchon, Hediard, Petrossian and La Maison du Chocolat among others.
And you think: a food gift! Now, that's a novel idea.
On one corner of the square, you step into the Maille boutique, where the black and gold emblazoned company sells its world-famous mustards and vinegars. Of course, every single supermarché in the country and far beyond sells Maille products, so you stop to ponder: "wait, is this like getting her a bottle of ketchup or a box of tissues?", but no. While the brand has definitely gone from artisanal to industrial some 75 years ago, the two Maille boutiques (one in Paris, one in Dijon) are there to try and maintain an image of tradition and quality for the brand. After all, Antoine Maille was named official vinaigrier-distillateur at the royal court of France in 1769 -- and he had a good twenty years to enjoy the benefits of the position before things turned sour (sorry, couldn't pass that one).
The Maille boutique at La Madeleine (which I believe is fake old because the historical location of Maille in Paris was rue Saint-André des Arts in the 6th) sells the usual Maille products and a variety of vinaigriers and moutardiers in painted faience, plus a range of products sold exclusively in the boutique, appropriately named les exclusivités boutique.
The age-old scheme such treasure hunters as myself fall for every time.
You start to look at the display of cute little jars of mustard in dozens of unusual flavors, and indeed, you wanted to taste all of them. But they're trapped behind a glass pane, so you need to ask the saleslady to take them out for you. She is a little snappy, but she loosens up a bit -- though not quite reaching the point of smiling -- when you insist on knowing what her favorite flavor is (and hazelnut it is).
You make your selection, planning to use the acceptable cardboard gift boxes they provide, that can hold four little jars. And next thing you know, you've accidently chosen six. Tomate au piment d'Espelette (tomato and hot pepper), citron confit et harissa (preserved lemon and chili paste), vinaigre balsamique, noisette (hazelnut), orange confite et gingembre (candied orange and ginger) and myrtille et violette (blueberry and violet). But the gift box only has room for four! Might as well keep the two extra ones for yourself, no?
And this is how I justify going out for a gift and bringing home yet another jar (wait, make that two!) of flavored mustard, when I know for a fact that we already have three open ones in the fridge and Maxence only eats the plain kind. But they look pretty on the table, and what's the harm in a little mustard fun, at 2.90€ a pop?
Tasting notes: I must say the myrtille/violette combo somewhat disappoints (lovely color, but little identifiable blueberry or violet taste). On the other hand, I am very happy with the orange confite et gingembre flavor, with its tiny little bits of candied orange rind and its slight gingery heat.
Rice and Bean Salad
Smoked Paprika Potato Salad