Shops & Markets

L’Etoile d’Or

L'Etoile d'Or

L’Etoile d’Or is a little candy store in the rue Fontaine, sprung right out of a fairy tale.

It is but a ten-minute walk from where I live, so I find it charmingly ironic that I owe its discovery to my Bay Area blog-friend, Derrick, who mentioned it to me in a recent email : he and his wife Melissa have taken several trips to Paris, and food lovers that they are, they have excellent finds to share.

And so it is that just a few days ago, following Derrick’s advice, I set off towards the Moulin Rouge to hunt for this little boutique, in the maze of narrow streets lined with cabarets and bars which have seen better days – days when they were all risqué and glamorous and shady, days come and gone, leaving them touchingly derelict. The very picture of a woman, way past her prime, with a tight leather top and too much makeup.

But I find L’Etoile d’Or easily in the midst of this, surrounded as it seems to be by a golden glow, showering down on me beneath the awning. The pleasant impression is confirmed when I push the door open to the ring of a bell, and step inside the store, all glass cases and mirrors and golden shelves and candy, candy everywhere, as far as the eye can see. I find myself alone inside, a little intimidated, a little Goldilocks.

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Le Campanier, a Lucky Bag of Produce

Le Campanier, a Lucky Bag of Produce

Campanier is a porte-manteau pun on “campagne” (countryside), and “panier” (basket). It is also the name of a cool service in which you get a weekly basket of seasonal organic produce. The little Pousse-Pousse boutique at which I recently bought my sprouting gear happens to be a pickup point, and we decided to go for the four-week test subscription.

I went to pick up the first assortment this past Tuesday, and the vegetable basket contained :
– a head of red batavia lettuce,
– a bunch of parsley,
– a small head of cauliflower,
– two avocados,
– two panais (parsnips).

I was really happy to get parsnips : they belong to what is sometimes referred to as “les légumes oubliés” (forgotten vegetables), those vegetables we used to eat a lot in the past, but which have been more or less abandonned : panais, rutabagas, salsifis, pâtissons, crosnes… I have read that most of these were what people had to live on during the second world war, so they were promptly pushed aside after the war, because of the bad memories they brought back. Nowadays these vegetables aren’t very widely cultivated and can seldom be found at produce stands. Of course, I find the idea of forgetting a vegetable heart-breaking and cruel and terrible and saddening, it makes me want to save the vegetable and bring it back home and give it love and affection and decorate a little room for it with a little bed it can sleep in. Ahem. Anyway, I was glad to welcome those parsnips into my vegetable drawer.

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Pierre Hermé’s Aztec Entremets

Pierre Hermé's Aztec Entremets

As many of you guessed, the dessert for our dinner party last Saturday was ever so kindly contributed by pâtisserie expert and enthusiast Ulrich, he-who-works-with-Pierre-Hermé. You see, Pierre Hermé is a perfectionist and it really shows in the simple beauty of his creations. Extreme and skillful care is taken in the preparation, but once in a while of course, something goes wrong. In that case the product cannot possibly be sold as is, and whoever in the staff is interested (and the quickest, I guess) can have it.

And this is how Ulrich was able to bring a large Aztec cake (more precisely, Pierre Hermé’s cakes are called “entremets”). I will describe the Aztec cake for you, but before I do so, I feel I have to warn you to please take any action you deem appropriate to protect your keyboard from accidental saliva spillage. Ready? Here we go. The Aztec cake starts with a bottom layer of muesli biscuit, crunchy and tender at the same time, with teeny tiny bits of dried fruits and nuts. Then come several intermixed layers of flourless chocolate cake, dense and moist ; orange compote with balsamic vinegar, zesty and aromatic ; and chocolate mousse with specks of fleur de sel, mellow and soft with the subtle shadow of salt. These layers are topped by a final thin layer of macaron-like almond meringue. All of this is wrapped in a shawl of glossy frosting, of a deep dark chocolate color, luscious and velvety. The final touch of beauty on this cake is a disk of caramel, delicate and thin, brushed with a smooth and shiny sugar coating, the color of copper with specks of gold, deposited on four small dice of ganache, and seemingly floating just a few millimeters above the cake, like a nimbus.

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Pousse-Pousse

The Sprouted Seeds Project

At the lovely Pousse-Pousse boutique the other day, I bought myself a sprouter, and two tubs of sprouting seeds. A tub of pink radish seeds, and a tub of the “longevity mix“, which includes alfalfa, broccoli, turnip, lentil, mustard, black radish and soy seeds.

They have a lot of other seeds to choose from, but the pink radish is peppery while the longevity mix has a more mellow taste (devoid of aniseed), so the duo seemed like a good place to start.

I left them to soak in water for the night, before placing them on different racks of the sprouter, and have been faithfully watering them, twice a day, with water filtered in our Brita jug. They’re supposed to be ready after 5 days, and so far so good, so Monday should find us eating our first sprouted seeds salad!

Pousse-Pousse
7 rue Notre-Dame de Lorette
75009 Paris
01 53 16 10 81

Mini Sandwich Skewer

Brochette De Mini-Sandwiches

[Skewered Mini-Sandwiches]

The boulangépicier store, or “be”, opened a year ago in Paris, and is owned by Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser, the famous restaurant and bakery emperors. The name, as well as the concept, is a fusion of “boulanger” and “épicier” – baker and grocer.

On the grocery front, they sell a range of gourmet goods (unusual spices, condiments, jams, chocolate, candy, pasta…), a small selection of organic produce and dairy products. On the bakery front, they sell the fantastic Kayser breads, made on the premises, an array of lunch items (soups, salads and sandwiches), as well as a few pâtisseries and desserts (tartlets, cookies, chocolate mousse, fruit salad…).

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