What do L’As Du Fallafel and Le Taillevent Have in Common?

lulav

Yesterday we spent most of the day in the Marais district of Paris–the 4th arrondissement just across the Seine from where we are staying in the 5th.  If you don’t already know, the last two numbers in a Parisian address’ zip code will indicate in which arrondissement it is located.  That’s useful information as you make your way around the city.

etrog

The 5th is a very interesting part of the city; it’s very old–has had its ups and downs–but is flourishing today. It’s full of trendy shops, and many Jewish institutions.  That may seem an unlikely match but everyone is managing pretty well it seems.  As we entered the Marais we encountered men wearing kippot selling lulav and etrog for Succot. Others in black hats and beards were hustling in and out of the synagogue preparing for the kol nidre and yom kippur services later this week. There were lots of women buying challot and other foods to break their fast at the conclusion of Yom Kippur this Saturday at sunset.

K and Rabbi

Speaking of fasting, we were starving and headed to the best falafel in town.  We’ve had falafel in Israel and some poor imitations at home in Seattle, but the food at L’As du Fallafel is the “Ace of Fallafel” for sure!  I’ve never had a more delicious lunch–well, almost never.  The line was long, but we moved quickly to the head and were seated in a small dining room stuffed with people.  The staff spoke French, Hebrew and English and were efficient and courteous.  In ten minutes our falafel was on our plate.  Huge!  Warm fresh pita, its pocket open and yawning, full of cabbage, grilled eggplant and a great tahini sauce.  The little round falafel balls made from ground chick peas and wonderful seasonings were toasty and delicious. They were pushed into the pocket until it was bursting.  We ate it with a fork–hard to get a mouth around this baby!  A meal in a pocket!  For 8E.  A real bargain.

>Jewish bakerssystrudel and cheesecake

Then we wandered across the street to the Jewish bakery and managed to consume a Vienese struedel and a piece of cheesecake.  I make a pretty good cheesecake; mine is dense with a tang of citrus.  This one was smooth as cream and tended more toward vanilla.  Just so we wouldn’t go hungry, we bought two enormous triangle shaped spinach and paprika boreks to take home for dinner.

Today I had the second “best” lunch of my life! Ken received a thoughtful gift from a colleague for lunch at Le Taillevent restaurant located in the 8th arrondissement on a quiet street not far from the Champs Elysees. We were warmly greeted by the Directeur Jean-Marie Ancher who we later learned has been with the restaurant for 38 years! We were seated and a ballet of charming waiters transporting amuse bouche, water, wine, and heavenly food began. It all concluded several hours later. I noticed the staff placed small stools beside ladies’ chairs on which to place their handbags. I observed the sommelier use a lit candle to determine if a red wine was clouded prior to decanting it into a clear container. I found the entire process from beginning to end not only delicious, but fascinating. And this was lunch!

We had a three course lunch which included a starter, an entrée, a cheese plate, and dessert. All this was followed by small candies and cookies, a surprise glass of the house cognac and espresso. I am not a “food writer” and won’t attempt to describe the preparations and ingredients of each course. I can only say that my starter a flan of artichoke with minute chanterelles posed on top was divine. The entrée of monk fish was sweet and tender. My dessert of a rhubarb and strawberry fantasy was delicious. Each course was light, the seasoning was impeccable and the presentation so beautiful it seemed a shame to put fork and knife to it–but of course I did. The wines were chosen for us for each course and were better than any wine I have every had. I was served a white wine from Languedoc with my entree. I loved it.

Our waiter, Phillipe, was wonderful; his English was excellent. He was fun and easy to talk with; he and his colleagues were unpretentious but highly professional. We were worried that the ambiance would be overbearing but it wasn’t at all. Our heartiest cheers to the lovely woman who gave this wonderful gift to us. It was superb!

Paris: the good, not so good, and the wet

Our fast train from Bordeaux arrived on time at Gare Montparnasse. We passed the four hours chatting with an interesting American couple.  Bill is an exec at a tech company.  He and his partner had just spent several days tasting Burgundy wine and hobnobbing with some pretty exotic people including the sports maven on the Antique Road Show.  Their first stop in Paris: Le Musee de Vin!

Paris 1 and 2 2013-09-07 001

Our first stop was our apartment in the 5th arrondissement.  We stayed here 7 years ago and loved the place.  It’s near the Sorbonne, the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens and next door to Croco Jazz.  In the other direction it’s a short walk down hill to the Seine and two metro stops one of them at the Cluny Museum.  We’re not far from Notre Dame, Ile St. Louis and the Marais.  The Metro is a wonderful thing riding it saves energy for the hard work of visiting monuments and museums.  It is costly, however, just as the London tube is.  A carnet (10 rides, one way) is E20 and that’s a bargain.  ($1.30 = E1)

metro Cluny stop

Ken got up early the next day to do some antiquing at Porte Vanvres a bit of a schlep involving 3 transfers on the Metro. He’s directionally-challenged and had a tough time getting there but once among all the dealers and stuff he was a happy camper. The size of this brocante has grown a lot since we were last here. Ken found some interesting things and plans to return (with Sacagawea–that’s me) next week.

I went out on my own and said hello to our lady who has grown huge stadium sized bleachers absolutely packed with tourists waiting to get inside. I slipped around the lines and headed to the Ile St. Louis. Many wonderful small shops and an antique store I remembered from a previous visit–lovely and eccentric items.

Paris 1 and 2 2013-09-08 007Paris 1 and 2 2013-09-08 006

That evening we wandered around the Jardin de Luxembourg before dinner. Very impressive and very beautiful. We watched the boys sailing their boats in the fountain and I thought of Stuart Little. I didn’t see him but someone said he and Margo had gone to Provence for a getaway.

Stuart Little's boat

Medicis Grotte at Jardin L
This is the Medici’s Grotte built during the time Marie de Medici was married to King Henry IV in 1575.

beautiful beds at JardinJardin de Luxembourgh statue with bird How did that bird know I was taking a picture of the statue and decided to pose for me.

Now for the ugly. We got up this morning to visit the Marche aux Puces–the huge flea in Clignancourt only two Metro lines away. We knew rain was on the way but due late afternoon (we thought). The skies opened and dumped hours of rain on our heads, the vendors’ stalls and all their goods, and flooded the streets. We were soaked; all the brocantes were either closed or closing and we made our way home like drowned rats.

wet Pucepouring

travaux signs Today’s watch word indeed!