Paris

chez_ami_jean_paris.jpg While things change so fast in this world, there are still places where time stands still. The face of Paris changes faster every year that I visit and not always for the better. There are more and more fast food chains, pasta restaurants, pizza sellers and Asian takeaway because everyone wants to eat quickly and run somewhere...

At L'Ami Jean time has stopped, it is old fashioned, handcrafted French/Basque cuisine. The restaurant has an aged yellowed patina with acorn fed Spanish hams hanging from the rafter with an inviting glow that welcomes you. The menu changes daily and the ingredients could not be better sourced or fresher! Whatever they make is always breathtaking!

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poilane_store.jpgOur excitement builds as our tiny Peugeot navigates the streets of Paris heading for rue du Cherche-Midi and my mecca, Poilane. Poilane is an extrordinary bakery that I had been reading about and I knew well ahead of time exactly what I was going to buy. It was early morning in Paris and the streets were not bustling yet. Just a gentle calm with only the sparse activity of a few Parisians heading to market. We parked the car within sight of Poilane and got out.

The classic storefront is natural finished wood with a large polished brass door handle, I pushed the door open to a heavenly scent of baking butter. The store was starting to be filled with their famous large round pain au levain breads, pastries and only two other customers. I spin around taking it all in – the large rounds of bread with the big P cut into the dough before it is baked, the tarte de pomme are lined up like little soldiers, cello bags of round butter cookies known as sables and the smell of the chasson de pomme fill the air as they are baking.

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An excerpt from  "Hungry for Paris"

paris1.jpg Some ten years ago, I went to dinner one night with no expectations. A London newspaper had asked me to write about Lapérouse, an old warhorse of a restaurant overlooking the Seine on the Left Bank—it was doing historic Paris restaurants, and this one’s been around forever. I politely suggested that there might be better candidates, because as far as I knew, this place was still a slumbering tourist table flogging its past: it has several charming tiny private dining rooms with badly scratched mirrors—as the legend goes, these cuts were made by ladies testing the veracity of newly offered diamonds (real diamonds cut glass).

The editor was unyielding, so off I went. The stale-smelling dining room was mostly empty on a winter night, and though the young mâitre d’hôtel was unexpectedly charming and gracious, I was more interested by my friend Anne’s gossipy accounts of a recent visit to Los Angeles than I was by the menu.

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IMG 0908It was hard not to take it personally.

The moment my mother and I stumbled off the plane onto Parisian soil this past June, the city was getting away from itself in a most unusual way.

Too-close-for-comfort terrorism alerts were being issued to Americans traveling to France. Torrential and relentless downpours of rain were pummeling the streets. The Seine was flooding to a historic level. A strike by transit workers and airport employees was looming. Unseasonably cold temperatures were forcing us to forego wearing the Paris-style fashions we had dreamily packed in our matching luggage sets. And, in an emergency act of protecting its antiquities from drowning, the Louvre had the nerve to close its doors - literally as we were arriving at the ticket booth - rendering us unable to so much as snap a prized selfie of us surrounded by hundreds of other tourists snapping selfies of themselves snapping selfies with Ms. Mona Lisa.

Frankly, the City of Light was looking more like the City of Uh-Oh, and I’m fairly certain my mother wanted to cry. After all, this was the highly-anticipated mother-daughter trip she’d been planning for a year now. A vacation to celebrate our triumphant survival through a previous year of abysmal woes. A vacation that had already been postponed once and had a lot riding on it emotionally and spiritually. A vacation that, at this point, seemed would have been better spent in the Bahamas. Or Trenton, New Jersey.

It was a hunk of meat that turned things around for Mom and me.

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sorza_collage1a.jpgThe Isle St. Louis is like the Nantucket of Paris. One of the ancient islands in the middle of the Seine, with Notre Dame at its tip and many picturesque bridges connecting it to the Left and Right Banks, its narrow streets are quaint and relatively free of traffic, with a concentration of shops and galleries; therefore, it tends to be much populated by Americans, who don’t seem to have been discouraged either by the metro strike or by the plunging dollar from flocking there.

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