La Petite Rose des Sables: Your Very Own French Grandparents

When reminiscing on our La Petite Rose des Sables experience, two words come to mind: bizarre, and wonderful. 

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 1

This gem popped onto the radar midway through our Paris stay whilst I was browsing the city’s top-rated restaurants as per TripAdvisor. Nestled between haute cuisine and Michelin stars was this peculiar little establishment, and the reviews immediately piqued my interest. There was mention of delicious food, yes, but the main attraction was overwhelmingly plain: the proprietors themselves. Reviewers spoke of an elderly French couple; they were short on English but abounding in warmth and hospitality. I excitedly hopped over to the restaurant’s website. It’s an admittedly sparse affair, but a trusty Google translation told enough: “We are open for twenty years. We try to share home cooking based on exchange and warmth. Feel free to visit us, we will try to have you as it should be, at home.”

Paying such a visit turned out to be a task in itself. The TripAdvisor reviews urged us to make a reservation – and so, not trusting our miniscule French to a phone conversation, we traipsed over to the tenth district in attempt to make contact with the famed Mr. and Mrs. La Petite Rose des Sables. Three times. In one day. My determination to eat at this restaurant was thoroughly foiled, mostly by our own incompetence in reading the very obvious sign on the door announcing that they were closed for a function. Over the following days our extraordinarily lovely Airbnb host, Cristina, repeatedly called to try and make a reservation on our behalf. Alas, this brilliant plan was also foiled. The phone rang unanswered – and on the one occasion someone did pick up, the conversation was incomprehensible even to French-speaking Cristina.

Mat and I tried one last time. We arrived at noon on our last day in Paris; we figured our best chance was to squeeze in for an early lunch sitting.

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 6

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 3

We pushed open the door of La Petite Rose des Sables to find it totally empty. The restaurant is tiny – five little tables for two clustered to the left, and a bar to the right. I offered a ‘hello?’ above the French jazz wailing from the radio, dearly hoping someone would appear from what I assumed was the kitchen at back.

A few nervous seconds passed before she materialised. Clad in a gingham apron and straw boater hat, an elderly lady hurried us inside and sat us down. Despite conveying our most apologetic “Je ne parle pas français”, she spoke in a constant stream of French as she prepared our table. She laid down menus and extended a handshake to each of us, then placed a hand on her chest. “Madame Zouzou.”

And so, this Madame Zouzou would be our most extraordinary host. Before we had even a chance to order food, complimentary plates of ‘tapas’ were brought to the table and she delighted in filling our glasses with her special ‘sangria’. ‘Welcome, welcome!’ she cheered as she topped us up, beaming and laughing and then shuffling away to tinker behind the bar. She talked perpetually and exuberantly – and whilst we obviously struggled a lot in understanding one another, it was quite amazing how much we were able to communicate despite the language barrier. She was thrilled to learn we were Australian, and equated this solely to Sydney. She told a very long story that had something to do with a couple from Sydney who had previously visited La Petite Rose des Sables, and a pregnancy that assumedly followed. As she motioned to an imaginary pregnant belly over her own stomach, she erupted in raucous laughter and shook her head in apparent wonder at her own tale.

We ordered the daily special: beef bourguignon. Madame Zouzou yelled the order into the kitchen. She looked back to us and motioned to the rear of the restaurant – “Big Boss,” she said, and cackled loudly again. We could only assume this ‘Big Boss’ to be her husband. She took an old, black and white photo off the wall and laid it on our table, pointing down at one of the faces amongst a group strapping young firemen. “Big Boss,” she said again, and waited for our impressed response. She then very much appeared to start talking endearingly to the photo itself, poking the image of her younger husband repeatedly before making several kissing motions right up close, laughing somehow even louder than before and then tottering away. 

Mat and I were in the thick of the Petite Rose des Sables experience.

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 7

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 2

We were in fact the only ones in the restaurant for most of our visit. Cristina’s failed efforts to make a phone reservation were suddenly explained; Madame Zouzou seemed mainly annoyed by incoming calls and ignored them all. On the other hand she was ecstatic for us to meet ‘Big Boss’, who introduced himself as Christian whilst he briefly appeared to deliver our beef bourguignon. He was lovely, smiley and quiet. His food was rustic style, hearty and delicious in that wonderful home-cooked way. As we ate, Madame Zouzou busied herself preparing complimentary cheeses and a giant bucket of walnuts on our side-table. Her entire being seemed to be consumed with attending to every little detail – but in a doddering old grandma way. When she noticed I was chilly, she emerged from behind the bar with a souvenir Paris scarf, opened it up and draped it over my shoulders. ‘Welcome to Paris!’ she shouted, and then pulled out souvenir keyrings for us. She would later apparently deem that I still looked cold, because she opened yet another souvenir scarf to give to me. This time she gave Mat a beanie.

Our post-lunch espressos came with the cutest little fondant decorations and chocolate ‘Roses des Sables’ treats, which I had watched Madame Zouzou arrange with adorable attentiveness. I naturally took a photo, but not before she had launched in to style the table for maximum La Petite Rose des Sables marketing. She urged us to don novelty hats for any photos of ourselves, and made sure she changed into her ‘Paris’ apron before jumping in a picture with us.

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 5

Little Wanderings - La Petite Rose des Sables 4

It was just the most incredible, crazy affair. Madame Zouzou was hilarious, unabashed and beyond all, genuine. There was so much about the experience that, in any other circumstance, could verge on the tacky or touristy – but there is an honest warmth Zouzou and Christian have for travellers that simply transcends. It was a heartbreaking moment to realise it was time for us to go. As we prepared to leave, we were treated to Madame Zouzou’s last show of generosity: a pear liqueur digestif poured from a comically large carafe. “Aphrodisiac, aphrodisiac!” she loudly proclaimed, pointing at each of us. We laughed, she laughed and then she poured us both another. We paid the bill (outrageously cheap), offered our best ‘merci boucoups’ and were pulled in for double-cheeked kisses.

Another young couple had just taken a table; it was with full hearts and stomachs that we gave them knowing smiles on our way out. Boy, were they in for a treat.

La Petite Rose des Sables | 6 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris, France
http://www.lapetiterosedessables.fr/
Open | 
Lunch from 12.00pm, Dinner from 7.00pm. Closed Sundays.

Behold, the Schmalznudel

Before Mat and I discovered the glorious stroopwafel, there was the schmalznudel. It was in the lovely city of Munich that we would find this incredible little piece of pastry perfection. We asked our Airbnb host, Matthias, if he had any recommendations for a good breakfast in town, and he insisted we venture to one very special place.

‘Schmalznudel,’ he said. “A Munich institution. Ask any local, ‘where is Schmalznudel?’ – and they can tell you exactly where it is.”

Matthias attempted to describe the exact nature of a schmalznudel, though in the end we couldn’t settle on anything wholly familiar. What we could discern was that it was fried and doughy. We were intrigued at once. 

Though affectionately referred to as ‘Schmalznudel’, the little bakery is in fact called Café Frischhut. You’ll find it right by Munich’s wonderful daily food market, Viktualienmarkt, making it a very convenient stop for the visiting foodie. The bakery boasts just four different pastries – striezerl, krapfen, rohrnudel and most importantly, the famous schmalznudel:

Little Wanderings - Schmalznudel 1

A ring of fresh, deep-fried dough circling a thin, almost transparent dough film; the schmalznudel is kind of like a large, flat doughnut. Direct from the fryer – you can observe the chef working his magic with impressive speed and skill through the shop window – the cooked pastry is wonderfully warm and full of the most incredible, rich flavour. Matthias had told us that a schmalznudel should be doused generously with sugar, and the waitstaff were also quite particular about this. I was of course very happy to oblige. We spied several locals on nearby tables upending that sugar dispenser with a vigour to behold!

Little Wanderings - Schmalznudel 2

Over the course of a couple of visits, we also tried the krapfen (above), a doughnut filled with apricot jam, and the striezel, which is essentially a long, stick-like version of schmalznudel. Everything is fresh and hot, so the pastries have that wonderful crisp outside and a delightfully soft centre. The coffee is actually pretty decent too, which made for a couple of lovely, lazy Munich mornings sitting outside and happily basking in the schmalznudel buzz. It’s certainly very popular with Munich’s own; whilst we mostly found ourselves surrounded by greying locals (always a good sign), Schmalznudel is apparently also quite the destination for young folk on their way home after a big night out. A fresh schmalznudel sure sounds better than a dirty Macca’s run to me!

It was after our first visit, totally enraptured by the place, that Mat and I thought to Google the English translation of ‘schmalznudel’. You know something tastes damn good when the words ‘lard noodle‘ don’t sway your determination to return the very next day. Or ever, for that matter. Oh, dear schmalznudel: may our paths yet cross again!

Little Wanderings - Schmalznudel 3

Schmalznudel – Café Frischhut | Prälat-Zistl-Straße 8, 80331 Munich, Germany

There’s Something About Stroopwafels

We need to talk about stroopwafels. 

Why, of all things, would I begin to recount six weeks’ worth of European adventure with stroopwafels? Good question. What I do know is that I can’t stop thinking about the goddamn things, and if any friend or family member ever travels to the Netherlands and returns without a packet (or five) for me, there will be severe consequences. 

Mat and I spent three days in beautiful Amsterdam to tie off our trip. A little weary after six weeks on the road, it turned out to be the perfect place to stop, unwind and soak in the last of Europe before our journey home. Amsterdam was just one of those destinations that made my heart sing. Tree-lined canals, cobbled streets flanked by those wonderfully tall, skinny houses, crossing the IJ by ferry to reach our little Airbnb houseboat, and an incredible world of cute little cafes and shops; the Dutch capital romanced us with a delightful, quiet charm.

And stroopwafels. 

IMG_2140

The stroopwafel, or ‘syrup waffle’, comes in two forms: the first is a large, freshly pressed treat usually found at bakeries and markets. We tracked down a small, canal-side bakery called Lanskroon – Google hinted this was one of the best places for a fresh stroopwafel fix, and it did not disappoint. As big as my plate, the stroopwafel consisted of two thin, crispy waffle layers with a thick syrup sandwiched in between. Fresh from the press, it was warm and crunchy and oozy, and tasted of caramel and toffee. It was divine. We shared Lanskroon mostly with elderly locals (through the trip, we realised this usually meant the discovery of some seriously top-notch eats), as well as a handsome little tortoiseshell-and-white cat. It was the perfect little morning pitstop.

IMG_2157

The second type of stroopwafel is a smaller, softer version, bought by the packet in stores. We picked up a packet of about ten in a busy sweets store called Metropolitan, located on Warmoesstraat right by the Red Light District. It wasn’t until we arrived back in Australia that we busted it open, at which point we realised what fools we had been for bringing home only one packet. These snacks are the bomb. And according to strict Dutch lore, there is a very special way one must eat these stroopwafels. You see, their size is quite conveniently appropriate to that of the rim of a coffee cup. After preparing a hot drink (coffee, tea, hot chocolate – anything goes!), one should rest a stroopwafel atop the coffee cup for about five minutes. Over the course of these five minutes, the steam from the hot drink softens both the lower waffle half and the delicious, caramel filling inside. The result is chewy and oozy and again, divine. And oh, the aroma! These stroopwafels had a hint more cinnamon to them, which I loved. It was a truly glorious week of nightly cuppas and stroopwafels before that final, bittersweet ritual, I can tell you.

IMG_2235

Really, that’s it for our little talk. Guys, stroopwafels are freakin’ amazing – if you ever have the chance, you should eat and/or buy as many of them as you can. Seriously. I’m not kidding on this one. And if anyone happens to know of a good supplier in Melbourne…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...