Paris To-Do List: DONE!

I wish I had posted my list of things I wanted to accomplish in France in the beginning of my study abroad experience, but I didn’t. Rest assured, I didn’t just put up random things that I did so it could look like I am Super Woman.

There were things I didn’t do that I would have liked to have done. For example, I would have liked to go to an apple ciderie in Normandy, but I really didn’t put that much effort into going there. It wasn’t on the list, but it was worth mentioning. Next time, I guess!

And there were things that I wanted to do that I did, but they weren’t that big of a deal. I drank hot wine, I ate macarons, I bought baguettes and ate half of them on the walk home. They weren’t big deals or anything.

Anyways, here are the top five things I would have been pissed about if I didn’t do them while living in Paris:

1. Eat weird animal products.

This was the biggest, and also vaguest, thing I wanted to do. There were specific meats I wanted to try—horse, rabbit, duck, snails—and there were specific animal products I wanted to try—foie gras and boudin, mostly. Basically, I wanted to eat all of the crazy French foods I would never eat in America, which is pretty much what I did, minus frogs legs. I really had no desire to eat frog legs and, what’s more, I didn’t see them at all on any of the menus I looked at.

Robert et Louise -- (L to R) rillettes, boudin, foie gras.

Robert et Louise — (L to R) rillettes, boudin, foie gras.

But whenever I saw something on a French menu I wouldn’t necessarily see on an American menu, I ordered it. Granted, I was still eating on a college student’s budget while in France, so that would sometimes mean a week living off of a one-euro bag of pasta, but I did eat out sometimes and when I did I tried to make it count.

The hardest part, for me, was finding a restaurant that sold horse meat too—I would only find horse meat at open-air markets or at butcher shops, and goodness knows there was no way I would try and cook horse. It wasn’t until the last week when I finally asked my program director where was the best place to eat horse and he gave me a recommendation.

Except, they didn’t have proper horse on the menu, which was good because the cheapest plate was 24 euros and my friend Jenn and I started hyperventilating about how to leave this super expensive restaurant. I asked the overly attentive waiter if they had any horse, and he even went to the kitchen to ask. I said we came just because we heard this had the best horse in Paris, and he said we could have “charcuterie de chevaline,” or horse charcuterie  which is basically saucission or jerky of horse meat.

IMG_0203

Jenn and I split it for 14 euros and even though the waiter asked if we wanted wine, coffee, or dessert after, he let us do it. So I did eat horse, but not the kind I was expecting.

And, I ate a lot of unpasteurized cheese. So much that something weird should have happened with my body but it didn’t. I just liked the idea of eating cheese that was illegal in the States, so sue me. I would literally ask the fromager at a fromagerie or a cheese stand what was illegal in the States, taste whatever they offered me, and then end up buying it.

 2. Get my French makeover

I already blogged about this, but I did get a French makeover even if it was one that wasn’t exactly like celluloid makeovers. Still, I got bangs and five inches of haircut off, so I consider it a success.

I also picked out a nice pair of frames for my dad to give me for my birthday, which is December 28. They’re men’s glasses, but they don’t look like them, I swear! (although I have a wide face so they kind of had to be a little bigger). So I really will come back a whole new person!

 3. Receive an invite to a French party

I wanted to do this just because it would mean that I would make French friends, and good enough French friends to get invited to their house. Being invited to a French person’s house or apartment is like a big deal, because they are oddly private.

I did get invited to French parties … that were taking place in my house. Haha. But still, I was really, actually invited to them. And what’s more, at the last house party, my host mom came home early and I helped make the introductions between her and most of my host daughter’s friends. So that made me feel really welcomed!

 4. Give directions in French

The first time someone asked me for directions, it was only the second week I was in Paris. But, it was a letdown because some American girls asked me, in English, where the McDonalds was. Talk about stereotyping! The worst part is that I actually knew where the McDonalds was … because it was literally down the street, within viewing distance, so the whole asking for directions thing was completely unnecessary on their parts. Hmmph.

This is what escargots look like BEFORE you throw them up.

This is what escargots look like BEFORE you throw them up.

But the other times I gave directions in French were much better, mostly because they were done in French to French people. I’ve given directions to the nearest Metro stations, the nearest biggest streets, and how to get to my apartment from a cab. One time someone asked me where the closest Metro station with Line One was and even though that question was crazy specific, I was still able to do it (only because there were two stations with that line within walking distance).

So not only did people think I was a local, but they thought I was a competent local who knew where shit was. Boo yah!

5. Become a regular somewhere

This was just me being superficial and wanting someone to recognize me. The first time I became a regular was at my local Franprix, but that’s easy to do so it doesn’t count. I wanted a kind of Cheers deal where everyone knows my name, or at least my face or my drink order. But have this happen in Paris.

I got that at The Green Linnet, this Irish bar by Châtelet. It’s a block away from the Metro, and originally we only stopped in because I couldn’t remember the bar we had set out to go to and it was cold and rainy and we wanted to go inside somewhere, anywhere. Blindly, we made a good choice. It’s small and cozy, with couches and wooden furnishings and live Irish music every Saturday night. It’s a chill bar where you can hear yourself think and most of the other patrons let you do just that.

La Fée Verte -- parmentier de canard

La Fée Verte — parmentier de canard

Plus, there was an American bartender from Green Bay, Wisconsin who studied abroad when he was in college and loved to give us tips and ideas and recommendations. He warned us no one would ever know what our study abroad experience would be like besides us, and he said this to me so long ago I had no idea how right he was until now. He was wise that way, and also because he gave me the name of the best authentic Mexican food place in Paris that helps during those times he described as “when you just really want some fucking sour cream, you know?”

But, best of all, he knew my drink—the fantastically cheap and wonderfully strong martini blanc—and he knew me enough to say “Hey! How you doin’?” instead of “Bonsoir” whenever I would first come in.

The best foodie picks for Paris

It’s that time of year again where blogs, magazines, and other media publications start putting together their “Best of ____ 2012” end lists to sum up the year in review. And since my four months in Paris were the best of my 2012, I’m going to do a “Best of Paris 2012” of my favorite Parisian foods and restaurants.

So in no particular order…

–Best pizza: La Tavola, 8 rue de la Roquette, 75011

This place looks like a cheap and cheesy Italian restaurant, complete with red and white checkered tablecloths and a sign in red, white, and green—but its’ pizza is legit. Where else can you find a pizza with a fried egg?

La Tavola -- fried egg and merguez sausage pizza.

La Tavola — fried egg and merguez sausage pizza.

I recommend the pizza with chorizo or merguez, two different types of spicy sausage.  And there’s this olive-oil based chili sauce that really complements the pizza, which is cheesier than it is tomatoe-y. You get the fattiness of the cheese cut with the spiciness of the sauce, and the fried egg and thick crust is there to mop it all up.

Definitely get your own pizza, because you can eat it on your own and, more importantly, you’ll want to eat it on your own too.

–Best hot chocolate: Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés  75006

Hot chocolate or no hot chocolate, you should really try to visit Les Deux Magots, especially if you’re into the famed literary scene of Paris.  Located in the fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, the café was the thinking and meeting place of a lot of great writers like Hemingway and Sartre & de Beauvoir, Les Deux Magots has such a good literary reputation that once a year it gives out the Deux Magots literary prize to a French novel.

Les Deux Magots -- melted chocolate bars in a cup.

Les Deux Magots — melted chocolate bars in a cup.

But on to the actual restaurant. It’s in a beautiful Belle Epoque-era building, but it’s almost worth sitting outside on a sidewalk table to see the waiters in the stereotypical suit and long white apron getup dance in between pedestrians to take orders.

My dad took me here when he was in Paris, and I ordered the hot chocolate because it was freezing and we had been walking around all day. I didn’t know that I’d be ordering a melted chocolate bar, because that’s pretty much what I got. I was so surprised when I took my first sip—not only is the hot chocolate really rich and flavorful, but its’ consistency is also on par with a melted chocolate bar.

Also, I know that Angelina’s has a reputation of having great hot chocolate (with a not-so-great expensive cost). And it does, it totally does, but when I went to Angelina’s I ordered their famous hot chocolate and a Japanese cheesecake thing (basically lemon cream cheese on a thick biscuit covered in white chocolate with strawberry cream) and I felt like vomiting afterwards because the hot chocolate + pastry = stomach overload. So maybe there’s a bias and it was experience-based, but I’d still pick Les Deux Magot because you could sit outside and sip.

–Best typical French food: Robert et Louise, 64 Rue Vieille du Temple  75003 Paris

This is where I had my first boudin noir black blood sausage, my first rillette pork fat paté, and my first foie gras (the sandwich doesn’t count in my book because that was just foie gras on a baguette and now I know that’s not how you’re supposed to eat foie gras).

But the best typical French part about this restaurant is that there’s a huge open brick oven right there in the dining room—not even sectioned off from the tables that are like three feet away—that is surely breaking a bajillion American health codes. Who cares, though—like the honey badger, Robert et Louise doesn’t give a fuck. You don’t even mind waiting for your food because you get to watch the two cooks on duty carry the raw meat up the stairs and throw it in the oven and then cut it up and then put it on a plate.

Robert et Louise -- (L to R) rillettes, boudin, foie gras.

Robert et Louise — (L to R) rillettes, boudin, foie gras.

In fact, watching the cooks is most of the fun. There really are only two chefs—one sous-chef and one head chef, I guess. But from what I could see, there’s one guy that’s in charge of the meat and one guy that’s in charge of everything else, like the salad and potatoes.

This is a nice place to get the French experience, so you might as well go all out for your meal. When I went with my dad and step-mom, we each ordered an appetizer, so we got to split the blood sausage, the rillette, and foie gras (served with American toast and an orange marmalade that really complimented the fattiness of the foie gras, especially when paired with the sweet white wine that comes with the foie gras). Plus, you get a basket of nice, thick pieces of French baguette that you can watch the waiter cut in the tiny makeshift kitchen.

For the main course, I got duck confit and my dad and step-mom split the beef ribs for two. You get baked potatoes with herbs de Provence and a clean salad with a typical French salad dressing (which, coincidentally, is nothing like the disgusting French dressing in America). Everything is simple—no ornamentation, no fancy positioning on a fancy plate, no random dribbles of some sauce, no uneatable piece of green leaves. It is literally meat and potatoes and you wouldn’t want it any other way here.

Robert et Louise -- beef ribs, potatoes, salad.

Robert et Louise — beef ribs, potatoes, salad.

Unless you want to sit at the communal table, I’d recommend getting a reservation here, especially if you’re going on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. There are two main dining rushes—7 and 9 p.m.—but if you go before or after you might be okay. And if you buy the cheapest “dumb” phone like I did—30 euros for a phone that looks like it came straight out of 2003—be prepared to have the cute guy (the grandson of Robert and Louise, we think) laugh at your little phone, but in a cute way.

My dad used to come here all the time, I guess, when he lived here—and more telling, this is where he would bring people who were visiting France, so they could get the real experience. His frequent appearance, coupled with his obvious Americanness, made him memorable in the eyes of the current proprietor François, who is the son-in-law of Robert et Louise. Robert et Louise’s daughter, my dad says, used to make the desserts but I’m not sure if she does now; I am sure that she remembered my dad and step-mom because she waved and smiled and said “Bonsoir” to them when she walked by. François definitely remembered my dad, even saying that it’s been a while since he was there. He came and talked to us at our table, but he did that for all of the guests.

Robert et Louise -- the oven is to the left (with the meat cook) and the kitchen is to the right (with the everything-else cook).

Robert et Louise — the oven is to the left (with the meat cook) and the kitchen is to the right (with the everything-else cook).

François is a character. He sits at the bar all night manning the phone and drinking rosé. My dad said that he first talked to François one night when they were at a table for four and it suddenly got really busy, so the two of them told their waiter they could have their after-dinner coffee at the bar—which put them in François’s eyesight and good graces. He bought them each a glass of wine as a thank-you gift and they started talking from there.

And when my dad took me here, he made sure to send François a glass of his favorite rosé as a thank-you. When François noticed the glass—and that we were leaving—he got up and gave my dad the traditional bises, which was kind of funny to see because François is this big, balding French guy who looks really intimidating. My dad introduced me (in English) as his daughter and said I was studying abroad in Paris for another month, which made François really smile and ask me (in French) if I knew French and that I should come back and drink a glass of wine with him and practice my French. Where else are you going to have a restaurant owner say that to you? It’s been two weeks and I haven’t gone back there yet, but I might—if only because François told me “I am going to do the bises with you” in French as a warning, so I loooooooooooved that (those are not sarcastic “o”s, those are sincere “os”s btw).

–Best duck: La Fée Verte, 108 Rue de la Roquette  75011

I went to La Fée Verte because a former co-worker of my dad recommended it for us to all meet up. The name is literally translated to “The Green Fairy” and both the French and English versions are of the nickname for absinthe, because this is an absinthe bar. But unlike the absinthe bar that I’ve written so much about, this is a restaurant AND an absinthe bar, and the food is just as out-of-this-world as the absinthe. I’m assuming this because I didn’t drink absinthe here, but I did ask where they buy their absinthe; the bartender gave me the business card of the absinthe bar (Vert des Absinthes located right in the Marais) and I ended up going there and buying two bottles of absinthe for my dad to bring home for me.

Anyway, everyone but my dad ordered the parmentier de canard (he ordered a hamburger and got mocked by his former colleagues), but everyone at the table loved it. Parmentier is the name of the guy who popularized the potato as a major source of food in Europe—he even has his own Metro station in the cool Oberkampf area where there is literally a statue of him with a potato—and that works because this dish is basically  a mound of mashed potatoes on top of a mound of shredded confit de canard.

La Fée Verte -- parmentier de canard

La Fée Verte — parmentier de canard

Can you just imagine how fabulously fatty and rich that would be? It was heavenly. I wish I was eating some now. I can’t find the menu online but I’m pretty sure this was an expensive dish for my student budget (not that it mattered the night I ordered it since my dad was paying). It would be worth scrimping just to justify eating this luxurious dish.

P.S. You might notice that this is on the same street—Rue de la Roquette—as the “Best Pizza” place, La Tavola. Rue de la Roquette is this long straightshoot of a street that has a lot of great restaurants, many of them ethnic, and it’s a great place to walk down if you’re hungry but not sure what you’re in the mood for.

–Best French Onion Soup: Aux Anysetiers Du Roy, 61, rue Saint-Louis en L’Ile, 75004

This place is also the unofficial runner-up for best traditional French cuisine. But I love it so much, I just had to include it on this list. It’s so traditional French, its’ name is actually written in Middle Ages French and not modern French—it’s called “the ancestors of the king” but “roy” is the Middle Ages French version of “roi” for “king.”

When I went here with my dad, we ordered the French onion soup as an appetizer and it was so filling I would have been completely content with asking for the check afterwards. It’s French onion soup, but it’s French French onion soup and not the Americanized version of the meal. You get all of the typical French onion soup parts—broth, bread, cheese—but they’re each in separate bowls. You don’t get the queasy thick cheese layer, but instead you get a bowl of broth with a bowl of shredded cheese an a bowl of bread croutons and you get to make your own French onion soup.

Aux Anysetiers du Roy -- French onion soup

Aux Anysetiers du Roy — French onion soup

The difference in preparation technique is extraordinary. You don’t get like seven spoonfulls of cheese and then the rest is just the broth; you’re in control of the cheese, so you can have the cheese and bread and soup in perfect proportions. Before I came here, I had never had French onion soup like this—and now that I’ve been, I’m not sure I’ll be able to order a typical French onion soup ever again.

Head’s up: the soup was 9 euros, and like I said, it’s totally a meal on its’ own even though it’s listed as an appetizer.

–Best Bar Areas: Rue de Lappe, Bastille; Rue des Lombards, Châtlet; Rue Mouffetard, Place Monge; Rue Oberkampf, Parmentier

There are two things you should note about that superlative. One: it is not just one bar, but bar areas. Two: it is not just one bar area, but many.

That’s because for me, the best way to meet French people was at a bar. My program was only for American students, so you were kind of on your own to meet French people to talk to; there was a “conversation buddy” program with a French fashion school down the street, but I don’t think anyone actually met up with their conversation buddy outside of the first required meeting.

Now, granted, my host family had someone sleeping at our house every week so I really got to meet French people. But most of these people were old artists who would just ask me basic questions and then be really artsy whenever I tried to talk to them (example: “How are you?” “Fantastic because I am going to go take pictures of Père Lachaise in the rain.”). So going out and meeting French people was really a big deal for me and my friends and the best way to do that was to go to a bar and just strike up a conversation (or let them hear you speaking English and have them strike up a conversation with you).

So here we go—

–Rue de Lappe, Bastille: This is the tiniest of all of the streets I’ve listed, but what it lacks in width it definitely makes up for in number of bars. There are so many packed on this street that every bar is tiny, which is fine because everyone just orders a drink in the bar of their choosing and then goes outside on the cobblestone street to smoke and chat. It’s funny because I’ve walked by this street during the day (it’s right before that Rue du Roquette that I’ve mentioned twice now in this post) and no one’s there and every bar is closed, but this bar really comes alive at night.

–Rue des Lombards, Châtlet: This is a little piéton, or pedestrian-only, street—which is good if you plan on doing some heavy drinking. A lot of the bars on this little street are open later than the Metro, so you have to be mindful of the time if you plan on staying out late here or be prepared to fight for a taxi in the wee hours of the morning. I first heard about this place because of the Hide Out, a great dive-bar with a dungeon-esque dance floor. But all of the bars in this little area are great, cheap, and open late.

–Rue Mouffetard, Quartier Latin: My friend Lilly lived right off of this street, so that was why she always tried to get us to go here for a night out. But we kept going because it’s such a great cobblestone street with a bunch of bars. This is somewhere that’s actually open during the day, too—there are a bunch of specialty foods shops towards the bottom of the street. It’s funny because at the top, it’s mostly bars, but as you keep walking down you see more fromageries and boulangeries and patisseries and butcher shops. So I love this street in the day and in the night—plus, it spawns the streets that Hemingway and Orwell respectively lived on during their stays in Paris.

There’s one bar, The Wall, that’s always bumping. Its’ name comes from the Pink Floyd album, and the font on the sign mimics the font of the album cover. They play great music here—one time it was three Beatles songs in a row—but it can be kind of hard to hear it sometimes because it gets so packed, despite the hoards of French people smoking outside on the sidewalk. Another great bar here is The Fifth Bar, which is where you can go if you miss playing beer pong and are sad because you haven’t seen a plastic red cup in weeks. We went here with a French friend one time and saw how terrible the French are at playing beer pong. It’s 15 euros for a pitcher and you have to ask for extra cups, but if you’re feeling homesick for the shitty college drinking game this is the place to go.

–Rue Oberkampf, Parmentier: Beware, becasuse this is the real Oberkampf “bobo” hipster area, and not the area that’s at the Oberkampf Metro stop. We learned this the hard way one frustrating night. But once you finally arrive on this street, you’re going to want to stay here for a while. It’s bar after bar after bar—and not even that, but it’s theme bar after theme bar after theme bar. Want to go to a pirate bar? Bar Les Pirates is what you’ll want to seek. Want to spend the night drinking piña coladas and listening to the Beach Boys? My Woodie’s is the place to be. Plus, the streets going off of Rue Oberkampf are full of good bars too; it’s where you’ll find La Cantada II, aka the absinthe bar I’m always blogging about.

–Best Macaron: Maison de Collette, 100, rue Montorgueil 75002

This whole street, rue Montorgueil, is five minutes away from my school, but even if it wasn’t within walking distance it’d be worth going to. This is another piéton area, which means that it’s cute and small and has a cobblestone street. Plus, there’s a lot of diversity here, which means one day I can have Thai and the next Indian and the next French and still walk the same five minutes each way. But the best is dessert. The macarons are bigger than your average macarons and also less expensive—less than 3 euros for a macaron the size of the palm of your hand. Plus, there are really interesting macaron flavors too. Like, I’m obsessed with everything cassis, mostly because there isn’t any cassis in America (cassis is like a fruit that’s half blackberry, half red currents). And they have cassis macarons at this place! It’s the only time I’ve seen it. Same with the praline macaron. I’m really into pralines, since it’s not a flavor I have easy access to in the states. There were even little chunks of pralines in the cookie part! Mmmm… There are many different flavors of macarons, and they are all the perfect combination of cake and crème, of crunch and frosting, of price and taste.

–Best cake: Berko, 31 rue Lepic, Quartier Lepic-Abbesses, 75018 Paris

I’ve already waxed poetic about this cheesecake. But now that I’ve tried the regular cheesecake, the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, the regular cheesecake with fresh fruit, and the Mars bar cheesecake—I’ve gotta tell ya, the regular cheesecake is my favorite.

My friend Lily and I have it nailed down: it’s the crust. It’s not a regular cheesecake crust, but it’s more like a condensed carrot cake of a crust. It’s kind of like a reverse carrot cake, where there’s more cream cheese and less spice cake. And it’s scrumptious, obviously.

–Best chocolate: Leonidas chocolates (locations vary)

I would feel like a smuck for recommending a Belgian chocolatier on my best-of Paris list, but the chocolate is so gobble-worthy I don’t even care.

There’s a backstory to this. Even before my dad moved to Paris and he was just doing a lot of European business trips, one thing he would always do is bring home a big gold box of Leonidas white chocolates. But it had been a while since that happened, and I got ridiculously, childishly excited when I saw the royal-looking Leonidas symbol from two blocks away and dragged my friends to the store.

All of their chocolates are delicious, but the white chocolate ones take the cake, so to speak. I’m a white chocolate kind of girl to begin with, but these white chocolates are converters. A lot of the Leonidas chocolates feature pralines or hazlenuts, but those nuts combined with the white chocolate is a whole other taste experience I have yet to find in the States.

Leonidas chocolates.

Leonidas chocolates.

These are expensive, to be fair. You can get a small box of maybe 15 chocolates for 10 euros. But they’re worth it. Just be sure to ration yourself off of chocolates or you’ll go through a whole box in four days like I did.

And if you’re getting them as a gift, like I did for my mom (the third-biggest size of box) or for my host daughter (smallest box), then make sure you get it wrapped. Or, if you want to treat yourself, you can get it wrapped too.

 …

–Best frites: De Clercq, les Rois de la Frite. 169 rue Montmartre 75002

This is another example of a Belgian takeover, but I think it’s okay in this case because French fries technically are in Belgian. And it’s awfully cocky to have “the kings of the fry” as part of your company name, but De Clercq has earned their crown, in my opinion.

This particular De Clercq is a five-minute walk away from my school, and a cold winter day it’s so pleasing to eat a handful of hot French fries on the way to the center. This is a tiny little pop-up of a restaurant, and it’s so packed during the lunch rush hour that it’s not even worth standing up or sitting down to eat inside, even if there are specially-made counters with holes to put your cornet, or rolled-paper cone, of fries.

Their burgers are pretty good, but you need to come here for the fries. True, you can get a burger, a small drink, and a medium cornet of fries for under 7 euros. But the fries are really the best part. They’re thick and have some potato-ness to them, but the exterior is fried and crispy so that you get the best of both worlds—mushy and crunch—of all things French fries. 

–Best cookies: Scoop Me a Cookie,4 rue du Pas de la Mule

I never thought of myself as a cookie snob before coming to Paris. Yes, I preferred the homemade kind to the store-bought kind, but a cookie is a cookie so even the bad ones are good. Or so I thought.

Scoop Me a Cookie window display

Scoop Me a Cookie window display

You’ll see a lot of cookies in Paris, but you won’t see a lot of thick, fluffy ones. Even the best patisseries with the prettiest little desserts and macarons only have flat, crunchy-looking cookies that aren’t visually appeasing.

This is the exact opposite of Scoop Me a Cookie, which is located inside of a chocolatier shop, Josephine Vannier, by Place des Vosges. I first noticed this shop with my dad because there were a lot of funky creations, like mugs and plates and little shoes, made out of chocolate. But what made us actually go inside the shop were the cookies. Oh, the cookies.

These were the thickest, gooiest cookies I’d ever seen in person. They were the kind of cookies Pillsbury or Toll House wish they could feature in their TV commercials. Somehow, the cookies were huge, the size of a hand, but they still retained height and volume as well as width—they didn’t flatten out during the baking process, and for that I am very thankful. Maybe that’s why it’s called “Scoop Me a Cookie” because they must use an ice cream scoop or something to make the perfectly-sized cookie dough ball.

Scoop Me a Cookie website screenshot. Even their food photography is enticing!

Scoop Me a Cookie website screenshot. Even their food photography is enticing!

The names are just as sweet as the cookies. I ordered a “Moi Tarzan, Toi Jane” cookie with dark chocolate and dried bananas. So where else are you going to get a Tarzan-referencing cookie with bananas? Exactly.

Even when the cookies aren’t straight out of the oven, they’re still really soft, almost a little too soft in the middle. But the best part is the chocolate—whether it’s a cookie with white, milk, or dark chocolate, the pieces of the chocolate are going to be the size of melting chocolate pieces and not chocolate chips.

The cookies are 3,10 euros, but you’ve never had a cookie like this, ever. If you end up getting homesick for regular cookies, this is the place to go to get your fix. Just beware because then you might end up getting homesick for these cookies, which I totally will be.

–Best outdoor market: Marché Bastille, bd Richard Lenoir 75011

I’m spoiled because this is right around where my dad used to live, so it was always a thing on Sundays to go to the Marché Bastille and buy all of our fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads. And the first Sunday of my Paris, I told my friends about this place and I was able to give them their first taste of an open-air market, or un marché de plein air.

The Bastille market takes up a whole block, with rows and rows of different vendors. You’ve got your fish vendors, your cheese vendors, your bread vendors, and your produce vendors. But there’s also ethnic tents of Chinese, Lebanese, Créole, and Italian takeout, plus the roasted chicken stands where chickens are roasted on rotating sticks and the juice drips down onto the baked potatoes lying at the bottom of the oven. Suck it, Boston Market—the Bastille market wins hands down, even if there isn’t any cornbread.

This market isn’t just for food either: plastic jewelry, leather wallets and coin purses, hats, scarves, cooking wear, African masks, clothes … there’s even a stand that literally only sells stereotypical striped French shirts.

Everything is very cheap here, because the food is usually so fresh you have to eat it either that day or the next. I struggled with this in the beginning when I would buy my fruit here and open the refrigerator the next day only to see it spoiled.

I think it’s unofficially open from some ridiculously early Sunday morning time to like three p.m., but you want to get here early. Not just to buy the food first, but to beat the crowds. Most of the Parisians in the area flock here for their food and you really do have to fight for space and attention.

The market can be a little intimidating, with the amount of people and the vendors all yelling their prices, trying to entice you to look at them so that when you do they can offer you a slice of pineapple or a tomato or whatever they’re selling. You can get a lot of samples this way, if you try hard enough. Plus, you can buy a baguette and just kind of nibble while you figure out what to get. It’s the best.

For pictures, click the link up top.

–Best crêpe: Crêpe stand at marché Bastille, bd Richard Lenoir 75011

I tried really hard to find the name of this stand, but I just couldn’t. Guess this just means you have to go to the Bastille market then, ehhhh?

There’s only one crêpe stand there, so you’ll know where it is (it’s usually on the right side of the market if you’re standing with your back to the Bastille tower). It usually has the longest line or biggest crowd out of all of the little tents at the market, and the crêpes make it obvious why.

Like most crêpe stands, this offers sweet, or sucre, and savory, or salé. But the offerings are more diverse than what you will normally find.

The sweet crêpes range from your ordinary sugar, jam, Nutella, or fruit-and-Nutella, but it also features crème and caramel. A caramel and banana crêpe!! Can you even imagine? It really puts the sucre into the sucre crêpe.

Likewise, the savory ones have the usual cheese, egg, meat components, but there’s a lot of variation. For starters, you can get crêpes with goat cheese here, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. And the meat is much more varied too thanks to the different types of sausage and fish. You can get a salmon, chive, and goat cheese crepe here, which sounds like a restaurant plate that you can eat in your hands at a food truck price.

I like coming to this stand in the middle of my usual marché Bastille routine because you can sit on a bench and relax and people-watch the poor sods stuck in the lines you were just in. Plus, it’s the perfect breakfast sandwich in a country where the idea of a breakfast sandwich isn’t really all there. I got a egg, cheese, and saucission crêpe one late morning after a late night, and the crêpe guy literally took a whole sausage and cut it into pieces before placing it on the crêpe. It was exactly what I needed and cemented the idea that these crêpes are exactly what I need whenever I go to the marché Bastille.

Aaaand …. that’s it! Let me know if you have any recommendations or categories!

Cookie (spread) for breakfast?

I’ve written before that my host family kind of thinks I’m crazy because I don’t put Nutella on my toast for breakfast, but now I wish I had just bowed to peer pressure and started waking up to chocolate and hazelnut for breakfast, because then I would be able to bring my own sweet spread to the breakfast table: Speculoos.

Now, even if you’re familiar with that word and know that I didn’t just press random buttons on my keyboard, you still might be scratching your head about it. Speculoos is almost like a gingerbread/spice shortbread biscuit that is treated like an animal cookie in consistency and also shape, since it can be put out in Christmas or animal shapes.

But wait a second, you say, how does that relate to toast and breakfast?

There is Speculoos spread. Speculoos à tartiner, or Speculoos to spread.

IMG_9972

Hello, beautiful.

This is cookie butter. Cookie butter. That’s what it is.

I’ve never heard of Speculoos before coming here. And even after I had my first Speculoos, I still didn’t find out about it until months later, when we were talking about peanut butter at school and the program assistant, the French manic pixie dreamgirl dream that is Julie, told me there was a Speculoos spread.

So what do I do? Next time I’m in Monoprix, I stroll down the tartiner aisle looking for the Speculoos spread that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find. It’s not by the Nutella or the Nutella knockoffs. It’s not by the honey. It’s not by the marmalade or jam.

Now I’m starting to think that Julie was just teasing me and I’m the idiot on her hands and knees on the grocery store.

But then, pushed back all the way on the bottom level, there they are: two jars of Speculoos—literally, just Speculoos with pasta à tartiner on the label in smaller letters. One is crunchy, one is not. Both have images of the Speculoos cookies I know and love kind of dripping onto a gingerbread-colored spread on a piece of bread.

I'm talking to you.

I’m talking to you.

Turns out cookie butter actually exists.

I debated between the crunchy and noncrunchy versions of the spread, even at one point picking up both to put in the basket before remembering that I’m just a poor college student. And—more importantly—I should try one to make sure I like it (although, come on, how could I not????) before buying two.

That’s really the deciding factor, embarrassingly enough.

After many moments looking like a fat dummy looking back and forth between the two jars of creamed cookies in her hands, I finally picked the crunchy. I prefer crunchy peanut butter to creamy. And if there were such a thing as crunchy Nutella I would eat that all day every day … but just not for breakfast.

And the way I see it, if there’s a crunchy cookie spread, chances are that the crunchy bits are going to be cookies. And if you’re going to eat a cookie spread, you might as well just go all out.

I bought a bag of brioche buns, because I thought those would pair well with the spread. Brioche is a thick, sweet bread, and I wasn’t sure how a buttery croissant or pain au lait would go with it.

Tah-dah!

Tah-dah!

Honest to God, I almost bought a package of Speculoos cookies too.

I’m glad I didn’t. The spread is BURSTING with Speculoos flavor. It is Speculoos in a spoon or on the side of the knife. Thankfully, it looks like the brains behind the spread had the same “SPECUYOLO” mentality that I had.

I didn’t feel as guilty as I should have just licking some Speculoos spread off of a knife, since it really is a dessert in itself. But, I do feel guilty for eating like a quarter of the jar in one sitting.

What can I say? It really was love at first bite.

Cookie on cookie.

Cookie on cookie.

Now, if only there was some way to eat this on the brioche toast that’s always in the bread box without my host family calling me out for being a hypocrite…

But for now, I’m totally content to keep it hidden in my suitcase cupboard along with the rest of the brioche buns and whatever else I will buy (and I know I will add to my “what can I put Speculoos on” collection). I think I might even buy vanilla ice cream and try melting the Speculoos spread. And then crunching up the Speculoos cookies I will buy and adding those on top.

With a cookie spread, the possibilities are endless.

P.S. HOLY CRAPPING CRAP YOU GUYS CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THERE WAS A COOKIE SPREAD FOR ALL COOKIES?

TRY TO GUESS WHAT AN OREO SPREAD WOULD TASTE LIKE! OR A THIN MINT SPREAD?

WHY AREN’T THESE REAL THINGS???????????

WHY DON’T WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE SUGAR COOKIE SPREADS EXIST??????????

WHY DIDN’T I LEARN ABOUT SPECULOOS SPREAD LIKE THREE MONTHS AGO???????

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

BRB gonna go cry into my Speculoos jar. I bet it’s even more perfect with a little bit of salt.

Absinthe-minded

I was eating peanut butter sandwiches everyday at my middle school cafeteria when Anthony Bourdain started making a name for himself, but I still had the same initial reactions to him when I became interested in food writing and watching as the foodie world did about five or six years later than the initial Bourdain breakout. When I watched the pilot episode of No Reservations on Netflix, I ended up more impressed with Bourdain than the food he tried. He seemed like the most badass of chefs, with the ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips and the small silver hoop dangling from his earlobe.

In the world of Emerils and Mario Batalis, he was the food world’s Keith Richards and I was the little girl falling in love all the way at the very back of the concert hall.

When I started planning my Parisian 4-month vacation, I rewatched that episode again. I knew that I might not be able to afford to visit all of the bars and restos and patisseries and boulangeries that Bourdain did, but I definitely had to go to that absinthe bar.

And two months in, when I watched it again, I felt like such an insider that I scoffed at Bourdain’s recommendation that taxis are an easy way to get around Paris and could pick out neighborhoods and streets that he passed by. But then I deflated when I realized that no, I hadn’t actually gone to that absinthe bar yet and only had a month or so left to do it.

As I wrote in a previous post, suddenly it was  Thanksgiving—aka, Thursday, in Paris. I had gotten a little taste of the holiday and its tradition the Wednesday before at a little potluck dinner thrown at my school, but I still wanted to do something. And I thought, if I can’t have all of my Thanksgiving traditions, then I’m going to do something so outrageously un-Thanksgiving like that there’s no way I’ll be able to get homesick.

The outside. You can already tell it's pretty badass.

The outside. You can already tell it’s pretty badass.

Using that brilliant logic, I ended up suggesting the absinthe bar to my friends.

I sent over the Youtube clip of the bar scene—and my friends actually took the time to watch it, which usually doesn’t happen (to be fair, I do love sending Youtube videos).

“We’re not actually going to hallucinate like that, right?” one friend asked.

“Nah, of course not,” I said. “We don’t have the special camera effects Bourdain did.”

We also didn’t have the illegal, pre-prohibition absinthe that he did, either.

The bar looked pretty kitchsy in the video—low lighting, skeleton decorations, cartoon pornography featuring hot naked demon ladies. The website was equally bizarre. The “philosophy” of the bar is to be exactly what a “rock ‘n’ roll” bar should be like—but also being “punk rock” and “metal” at the same time.

IMG_9639

I made sure I wore my leather jacket—but it’s a jean-colored fake leather jacket cut in the style of a jeans jacket, so I was nowhere near the leather daddy/witch goddess fashion of all of the bar patrons.

And this was something I picked up as soon as I walked through the door—although that could have been because a woman with piles of dark hair messily held on the top of her head laughed and said, “Come on, kids” in French as we walked by her.

Yeah, not exactly the kind of welcoming I wanted.

Later, my friend confessed, “As soon as I walked through the door, I wanted to bolt out of there.”

But we soldiered on, trying not to stare at the demon porn or all of the leather. It’s funny, because there are a lot of bars in Paris that try to capitalize on the coolness of rock or Anglophilia and call themselves “bar du rock” or a “bar du punk.” But La Cantada II really was a metal bar, sure, but the people here were older, in their thirties and forties. The Oberkampf/Parmentier neighborhood the bar is in is really known for being the cool hangout place for the young hipsters and “bobos,” and we quickly decided that we were at the bar these people went to when they got too old or too creepy.

If you want to see the cabaret in the basement, you have to make sure you're cleared by the bouncer.

If you want to see the cabaret in the basement, you have to make sure you’re cleared by the bouncer.

I felt like I was back working at the record store I worked at in high school—once again, I was the only natural blonde there with no piercings, no tattoos, and no way of ever intimidating anyone ever. Except now, my friends were with me and there’s always strength in numbers, I guess.

We timidly approached the bar, and I was thrown once again when I didn’t see a menu for absinthe. Sure, I saw the absinthe bottles and the antiquated “Absinthe” sign, but I didn’t see prices or names for absinthes, only for beers, mixed drinks, and wines. I started internally freaking out—I brought my friends here, I was the one pushing for the bar, and then there wasn’t any absinthe?

The bartender approached us, and I was so busy being surprised at how he looked exactly like Harris from Freaks and Geeks would look as a thirtysomething bartender at an absinthe bar that I fumbled and just said, in French, “Good evening, it’s our first time here and …”

He immediately interrupted me and said, in English, “You came for absinthe,” as he grabbed a laminated absinthe menu from behind the bar.

It was that obvious. We were one of those American tourists who wandered in because of Anthony Bourdain. But really, how many twenty-year-old girl American tourists can say that?

No, you're not hallucinating, there's a coffin in the corner.

No, you’re not hallucinating, there’s a coffin in the corner.

The names of the absinthes meant nothing to us, as did the country of origin listed in parentheses. What did interest us were the prices (less than 5 euros for most of the glasses—a better bargain than most alcoholic drinks at bars here) and the alcohol content (around 60 to 70 %). But when the bartender came back a couple minutes later, we still had no clue what we were doing.

“What’s the best drink for our first time?” we asked, since giving us the menu really didn’t help us out.

He pointed to the “Mata Ari,” which was 4,80 euros so we felt confident that he wasn’t trying to rip us off.

I’d Google the drink later, and apparently it’s a bohemian absinthe without the pedigree of a French or Swiss absinthe, which means it’s more like a wormwood bitter than the proper anise absinthe. But to my newborn absinthe palette, it was a pretty good starting off drink.

Who am I kidding—anything would have been a pretty good starting off drink. I started giggling as soon as the bartender pulled out the old-time water drippers. Everything about this bar and this drink was becoming an experience in itself.

Ooh la la!

Ooh la la!

He poured a little bit of absinthe—not even a full shot—into a fancy glass, and then took out a triangular log with holes in it to lay across the rim of the glass. A small sugar cube was then placed on top of that, and then the water from the water dripper slowly dissolved the sugar into the absinthe.

The resulting color of the drink was a pale mint—not the bright green I was expecting. It tasted a lot of black licorice, but in a way that I could easily drink (I always give the black licorice anything to my mom, can’t stand the stuff). And this is something that is not something that should be easily drank in large quantities. I went home after one drink, not even wanting to try another because I just felt heavy and thick.

Maybe it’s because of all the pancakes I like to eat on brunch excursions, but has anyone ever described food as “sitting on your stomach?” Well, because absinthe definitely sits on your liver. I think people would have to be crazy just to drink large amounts of absinthe. I’m glad I went to an absinthe bar, and I would definitely drink absinthe again, but it’s a one-time-only per occasion kind of drink for me.

But I still like absinthe. Like many people before me, I only knew about absinthe because of its scandalous reputation, not because of its taste. It was only a friend of a friend, with those “friends” being Anthony Bourdain and Oscar Wilde as the people I most associated with absinthe. But now I’d say that absinthe and me are acquaintances, and it’s always nice making friends at bars.

Say “Mac and Cheese!”

So as I’ve mentioned here before, one of the biggest—and most surprising—“homesick” foods I’ve been craving was macaroni and cheese, aka mac & cheese, aka perfection. And perfection became a reality last week when my dad smuggled nine boxes of it in his suitcase when he visited me in Paris.

When he had asked me, a week earlier, what I wanted him to bring, I quickly answered “Annie’s mac & cheese—the shells and white cheddar in the purple box—and Kraft mac & cheese, with the character pasta.”

“And, you know, bring yourself,” I added, almost as an afterthought.

Daddy came through with the goods. A six-pack of Annie’s and three boxes of Kraft. I took a picture of all of the boxes, knowing that would have to last the week until my dad left and I would resume being in charge of (and paying for) my own meals.

It was worth the eight-day weight. The first night I made it—I picked Annie’s because of the 2:1 ratio—I was testing to see if the pasta was done every thirty seconds. No one was home and I ate it slowly, licking the spoon after every bite. I wouldn’t have to hide my powdered astronaut cheese.

The second night, I conveniently wasn’t hungry until the host daughter left. Then, it was time to creep into my room, grab a box from my suitcase-cum-pantry, and run upstairs to get the water boiling. Another night putting off the eventual judging!

But then she came back fifteen minutes later, right as I was getting ready to dump the pot’s contents in the strainer, and my heart almost stopped—and not because of the upcoming dish.

“What are you making? Pasta?” she asked, coming over RIGHTNEXTTOME to grab a fork.

“Do you know mac & cheese, or macaroni and cheese?” I replied. She travelled around North America for the whole month of October. There was no way she couldn’t know mac & cheese.

She laughed. “Yes, I do. I’ve never tried it. But an American friend of a friend described it to me. He said it was like … comfort food?” (English is in italics).

“Yes, exactly,” I replied, trying not to sigh in relief.

“So that’s the pasta, and that’s the cheese?” she asked, daintily placing a slender, French finger on the packet.

“Um, yes.”

I waited. Oh, how I waited.

I waited for the “Oh, that’s nice,” airy response my French teacher lobbed at me when I told her what I missed the most from school. I waited for the “Why would you miss that in France?” speech that her friend had thrown at me (in French!) in September. And, most of all, I waited for the “you might as well have said you missed eating earthworms” face the Irish guy made when I told him I missed mac & cheese (I ended up explaining it as Ramen noodles but a thousand times better, and I dont’ think it really worked, judging by his face).

Yeah. Europeans don’t really get mac & cheese. 

“Cool,” she said, and walked over to the couch and started watching television on her laptop.

The smile I had on my face when I mixed the butter and the milk and the cheese shockingly had nothing to do with the meal I was preparing.

Two boxes down. Seven to go. Nineteen days left of Paris. Whassup.

P.S. Pretty revealing that I wrote the “mac & cheese” blog post first before the “my dad visited me” post, right? Love you, dad! 

One way of pudding it…

I’ve never been much of a pudding girl. In fact, I think I’ve been more of an every-other-dessert-ever kind of girl. It’s not that I dislike pudding, but just that I like a lot of other desserts more. But here I am writing a blog post about it—putting it on par with cheesecake and mac & cheese. What the heck?

It all started when those British couchsurfers made a traditional British Sunday dinner as a thank-you gift to my host family (and, by association, me—what, it was hard waking up in the morning, finding three British passports, and being told six hours later that oh yeah, these guys are going to be staying here for a week!).

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty funny to watch these three tall, lanky guys crammed together in the kitchen and actually cooking. They didn’t even allow anyone to come over and see what they were making, but at that point it wasn’t surprising because they were very secretive when they brought their groceries home. My curiosity was piqued when they asked the host daughter, and then me because they thought she didn’t understand, where they could buy a jar of goose fat. They were so causal, like they were just asking for a jar of strawberry jam. What the heck did they need goose fat for?

They wouldn’t tell me. All they would reveal was that they were trying to make a traditional roast, but a Frenchified version since they couldn’t find some of the staples. Like goose fat.

Later, when all of the full plates were placed on the table, we were given a crash course in Traditional British Roasts 101. I forget the names of the vegetable mash and the roasted turnip things, but I’ll never forget the Yorkshire pudding I was served.

Does the name seem familiar? It did to me that night, if only because of Harry Potter. But Voldermort’s wand to my head, I would have guessed that the Yorkshire pudding was the vegetable mash, because that was the only pudding-like thing. I was just assuming that, like the American pudding I was used to, this Yorkshire pudding was supposed to be slightly liquid-y.

Find the Yorkshire pudding.

But alas. It turns out Yorkshire pudding is most like a popover, I guess, and it’s usually served with roast beef on these Sunday roasts. The guys wanted the goose fat for these pastry things, because that’s one of the main ingredients along with eggs, milk, flour, and salt (seriously, that’s it). And, even more un-pudding like, Yorkshire pudding typically is served with gravy. What the what?

We had chicken instead of roast beef, and we also had Yorkshire pudding made without goose fat; to the British guys, these two discrepancies had equal value, even though I could only understand the difference between chicken and roast beef.

It’s okay, though, because the British guys were having a hard time understanding my understanding of pudding. Wikipedia backs me up on this—apparently in America and Canada, pudding is a sweet milk-based dessert, but across the pond it’s also the name of dessert in general (sometimes, like the pudding course), as well as a baked starch-based savory kind of dish.

“So is your pudding like a trifle then?”

My mind flashed to the infamous Friends trifle. “Um, like a dessert trifle, but without the layers, and only one kind of custard-y thing.”

“Only one?” he asked.

“Yeah … its more like rice pudding without the rice,” I tried to explain. “But you could have it in all kinds of flavors … like vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, pistachio, caramel.”

Rachel’s pudding: equal parts meat and cream.

“Woah.”

Honestly, I’m so glad that I got to have that conversation in English. It was confusing enough in my native tongue. I don’t even know what my French sister thought of the conversation or how she tried to translate this mind-blowing discussion to her parents.

When I came to Paris, I knew that I’d have to do a lot of explaining about American things, but I just didn’t expect that I’d have to do it in English and about pudding.

I just told my French family that pudding was a dessert like a creamier, sweeter yogurt—because my host family is very cautious about their sugar and I had to get used to yogurt for dessert (womp womp, life is hard). They seemed to get it and I was proud of myself.

Then, three weeks later, we had pudding for dessert. NOT YOGURT! To my eternal dessert-lover shame, I didn’t even realize that it was pudding and not yogurt until I took my first scoop and got the surprise of a bite-time (the packaging is eerily similar, all right?) I almost spat out the pudding in surprise.

“Do you remember the pudding talk with the British guys? This is actual pudding!” I exclaimed to my slightly grossed out host family, thrusting the pudding cup in the air like it was the Olympic Torch.

I looked at the top wrapper I had sloppily discarded on the table. It said “crème de dessert,” which certainly isn’t “French” for pudding.

They chuckled a little and continued eating. That crazy American girl and her pudding, she thought.

Now, I have another pudding, one I can’t believe I forgot—especially in wake of the great American-English milk-based versus starch-based pudding debate of 2012.

BREAD PUDDING, YOU SNEAKY BASTARD.

And last I added another sneaky pudding: croissant pudding. Yeah, you read that right. Croissant pudding.

I’ve already posted a picture of this, but I’m so proud of the pudding I’mma do it twice.

It started with the potluck Thanksgiving dinner my host program held the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (not on Thursday because we don’t have school on Fridays and students usually leave Thursday night—yeah, our school plans after-hours events around students’ travel plans). I was trying to find something cheap that could be Frenchified into a decent dish I could carry on the subway for twenty minutes.

My mom (my actual mom, LOVE YOU MOMMY) suggested bread pudding. My wallet suggested only having to buy eggs, heavy cream, and bread plus the staples in my host family’s kitchen. And then when I searched for cool bread pudding ideas, my internet browser suggested banana Nutella croissant pudding.

Every molecule in my body suggested that recipe.

It was a little pricier than what the people who signed up to bring two bottles of 2 euro wine would have to pay. But what the heck, this recipe intrigued me, and I figured I could just eat the leftover Nutella, bananas, and croissants—which I did, minus the Nutella. I only bought the small one in the glass container, but I used the whole thing in the recipe.

I was a little nervous, because there wasn’t any vanilla and I had to use packets of granulated white sugar to make the custard and then didn’t find the box of sugar until after I dumped the mixture in the bread bowl … but I was lucky and it was a big old soggy scoop of Nutella heaven. The bowl was licked clean at the dinner and I felt like such an accomplished grown-up because people asked me for the recipe.

This would derail my pudding definition as well. CURSE YOU, FIGGY PUDDING.

But because I made the pudding at my friend’s place, I didn’t have to have the pudding talk with my host family when I had to go against my previous description of budding and add that there’s such a thing as a milk- and starch-based pudding. And because my host family doesn’t believe in dessert, I probably won’t end up making it for them.

So that’s one pudding conversation that was narrowly avoided. I just hope “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” doesn’t play on the ever-present radio, because I would need a Christmas Miracle to explain what a figgy pudding is. Who am I kidding … with my luck, that will probably happen.

Thanksgiving absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

This is my obligatory Thanksgiving-abroad post. Although, I feel like it’s a little different, because I did get a (Frenchified) Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the potluck shindig CIEE threw at the program center.

French Thanksgiving on a plate.

I was surprised, because I hadn’t found any squash or cranberries or sweet potatoes at the markets or grocery stores—but people did, because they brought the traditional Thanksgiving sides and I was super duper excited about that. In fact, I was so pumped about the sweet potatoes that the scoop I scooped was so big and heavy that my flimsy paper plate fell over … so that the sweet potatoes were stuck to the paper tablecloth like SPLAT. Thankfully, no one in the assembly line saw it, but I did have to scoop a smaller ball of sweet potatoes : (

But in addition to those traditional dishes, there was turkey (flown in from an American grocery store, I’ve heard) and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and lots and lots of French wine. No cornbread or stuffing, but I was so full at the end of the dinner that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Plus, the Nutella banana croissant pudding I made (it’ll be in the next post, for sure) was a huge hit, so all in all it was a good Wednesday night.

This is the best Nutella banana croissant pudding you’ve ever heard of, right???

It wasn’t Thanksgiving though, but like Tofurkey, it went down like a decent substitute. Usually, Thanksgiving break is the one time in the fall quarter I see my mom. Her parents live outside of Philly, so she’ll drive down with my sister and I’ll take the bus to my grandparents and we all eat together.

But this year—for the first year since my parents split up—is the year of Thanksgiving with my dad. Kind of. I’m thankful that he sacrificed his Thanksgiving Thursday to fly over and arrive in Paris Friday morning. That’s better than cornbread. Plus, I never see him during fall term, so it’s a nice change. He and my step-mom will be here for 10 days, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Like I’ve repeated on here multiple times, he lived in Paris for a couple years so most likely he’ll be showing me around. Although—and I take great pride in this—he never went to a Paris Christmas Market so I’ll get to take him to that. We won’t have to go to the tourist traps and I won’t have to babysit him. And, unlike my mom, he’ll be living close enough that he can meet my host family—which I am nervously excited for. It will be like a merging of two parts of my life.

But what did I do on actual Thanksgiving? Nothing really. Went to class, did homework, walked around my neighborhood, took a nap. My host mom has a cold and took a nap upstairs in the loft, so I accidentally woke her up when I went to get dinner and that made me feel like crap. But she laughed when I told her I was going to an absinthe bar on my Thanksgiving night.

Even the bar looks like an absinthe hallucination…

It’s the same one Anthony Bourdain went to in the first episode of No Reservations so you can expect a blog post about that too. The website is pretty punk, and that’s what the “philosophy of the bar” is telling me about too. Apparently it’s supposed to have the opulence of a 19th century absinthe bar in a 21st century rock karaoke bar. So what’s not to like?

Here’s the link to the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6t9mWBKs9I

And here’s a link to the bar’s website: http://www.cantada.net/

I’m very excited—and thankful—for this opportunity. Not just to go to the absinthe bar, but to be in Paris, to be able to celebrate time in the fall with my dad, and to be able to write about it all and have an audience. I feel kind of sappy because I’m the only one sitting at my table who is saying what I’m thankful for—and it doesn’t even really feel like Thanksgiving anyway because everyone else’s Facebook statuses are about food and family and football and I don’t have either of those with me today.

But maybe I needed to get away from the food and family and football to realize that it’s just about taking time out of your life to look at it from a different angle (or, you know, writing it all out for a blog post).