Absence does make the heart grow fonder. After eight weeks away on an epic trip through Germany, Austria, Madrid, London, and the United States (NY/NJ), coming back to Paris felt comfortingly familiar, yet refreshingly new.
We landed in Paris on Sunday, February 9th with new visas in hand, mission accomplished. Once I came out of a jet-lagged fog, I realized that Valentine's Day was quickly approaching on the horizon.
What to do? As much as I love to eat out, I had been almost continuously chowing down at restaurants for two months. There were days of catching up with dear friends and family in the States that meant eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...and one exceptional day that included a coffee and dessert break. It was wonderful, but returning to Paris made me really look forward to getting back into my kitchen.
I started running errands off to some of my regular places in my neighborhood of the Marais (and the nearby Oberkampf neighborhood in the 11ème for an open-air market). Then it hit me - without intentionally thinking it through, I was frequenting some of my favorite spots to bring together a romantic meal chez moi.
The staple of many of my meals revolves around my two favorite markets for fresh produce and herbs. I regularly shop at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges for produce at my favorite vegetable and fruit stand. This covered market is conveniently open daily (except Monday) and also makes a great lunch stop in warmer months when it is pleasant to sit at the outdoor tables.
Luckily Valentine's Day fell on a Friday this year, which meant a guaranteed trip to the nearby open-air market, Le Marché Popincourt. The wide Boulevard Richard Lenoir is transformed into a bustling market on Tuesdays and Fridays from rue Jean-Pierre Rimbaud to rue Oberkampf. I also do produce shopping here, as well as frequent one of les poissonneries for fresh fish.
Thus the foundation of my meal was procured. To start, a fennel, prosciutto and pomegranate salad I spotted on Smitten Kitchen.
Next was the plat: salmon en papillote accompanied by sauteed spinach.
Salmon en papillote may sound complicated to some, but it really is not! Wherever you live, you can channel France to your own kitchen with my favorite cookbook: Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Its easy-to-follow recipes that really deliver great dishes make it a go-to book for me. And the way Dorie shares glimpses of her time in Paris yet relates it to her American readers makes this book a charming read.
Consider this book to bring delicious French cooking to wherever you are! It certainly delivered on Valentine's Day:
Dinner was of course followed by the cheese course. Le fromage came from our favorite fromagerie: Laurent Dubois. The quality of the cheese is some of the best I've ever had, and the staff are friendly and helpful (I can only speak for the shop in the 4ème - there are two other locations in Paris I have not been to).
The fresh chèvre (goat's cheese) is always incredible from this cheese shop, and I couldn't resist one with a heart of fig confiture (jam). A hearty piece of comté turned out to be a good idea, as it always proves to be.
I feel at this point in the post, I need to insert a discloser. I don't eat (or cook) like this everyday. And it was a special occasion. And we really missed French food. There. That ends my "please-don't judge-what-is-to-follow" segment.
What did follow, as you might have guessed, was dessert. Not just any dessert. Two gorgeous pastries from Carette.
Macarons and a personal pot of filtered coffee were what brought me initially to Carette. These and its delicious pastries keep me coming back. Carette crept into my repertoire of places to bring friends visiting me in Paris last year. In warmer months, its location on Place des Vosges makes it a perfect stop to get pastries to-go and picnic on the green. The pretty silver pot of coffee and plate of boldly flavored macarons have welcomed a fair share of friends on their first day in Paris in jet-lagged dazes searching for lots a caffeine and a first bite of those famous French confections.
Needless to say, Carette delivered once again for our dessert course.
And then there was one more extra treat for the evening.
I told my husband not to worry about flowers or gifts for Valentine's Day. I knew exactly what I wanted to give and receive, and it involved one-stop shopping at Jacques Genin.
I discovered the most delicious caramels I've ever had in my life at Jacques Genin months ago. I love the flavor of caramel, but I don’t enjoy eating caramel squares that are sticky and hard to eat. I thought that was the way all caramel pieces were meant to be until I sunk my teeth into one of these smooth, buttery pieces of perfection. The plain nature caramels are wonderful, but then there are more options such as chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, and raspberry caramels. To say these are the best caramels is an understatement, so you're just going to have to trust me on this one.
As you might expect, the price tag for these caramels are not cheap. It cost me just over €11 for 10 pieces. For a special occasion it makes a perfect little splurge. Taste one and try to tell me you've eaten a more delicious caramel.
My Valentine isn't big on caramels, so for him I bought a hand-picked box of Jacques Genin's chocolates. The milk chocolate and ginger one is my favorite so far, but the dark chocolate and fresh mint is a serious contender. I'm convinced the only wrong choice you can make here is to leave empty-handed!
So that's my mini-round up of Paris favorites as seen in my Valentine's Day meal. What would you have included?
Les bonnes adresses:
39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
Open daily except Mondays
Le Marché Popincourt
Boulevard Richard Lenoir (between rue Jean-Pierre Rimbaud to rue Oberkampf) 75011, Paris
Open air market that takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:00am-1:30pm (I always make sure I get there before 1:00pm before vendors start closing down. Seek out the Lebanese stand (called Zaatar Zeit) for the best lunch deal in Paris - €3.50 for a vegetarian sandwich. It is as much a part of my Parisian life as a baguette!)
97-99 rue Saint Antoine, 75004 Paris (the one I frequent), Tues-Sat 9am-8pm / Sun 9am-1pm
47 Ter Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris, Tues-Sat, 8:30am-7:30pm / Sun 8:30am-1pm
2 Rue de Lourmel, 75015 Paris, Tues-Fri, 9am-1pm and 4pm-7:45pm / Sat 8:30am-7:45pm / Sun 9am-1pm
-All locations closed on Mondays-
25 place des Vosges, 75004 Paris - open daily 8:00am-11:30pm
(also have a location at 4 place du Trocadero, 75016 Paris - open daily 8:00am-12:00am)
(For more info, take a look at Paris by Mouth)
133, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
Tuesday - Sunday, 11:00am-7:00pm (until 8:00pm on Saturday)