This Is Why I Love Paris.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Paris for some time. It’s always seemed like too great a task, though. How could I possibly describe my love for that great, gorgeous city? When Anna at Slightly Astray prompted me to enter Accor Hotels’ ‘A Tale of Three Cities‘ competition, however, I couldn’t resist. The mission: write on “three things I love about my favourite city”.

Paris, your time has come.  

Bon Appétit  

Paris is a dream for foodies, as you most certainly already know. It’s more than snails and stuffy restaurants though; far greater than macarons and Michelin stars. My best advice? Find at least one great little place and make it your ‘regular’. The very first thing Mat and I did upon arrival in the City of Lights was collapse upon a table for two at 5e Cru, a wonderful little wine bar near our accommodation in the 5th district. It was small and intimate, the atmosphere casual but unmistakably Parisian. We connected immediately with our waiter (a mixture of unbridled enthusiasm and monolingual awkwardness on our part), who guided us through divine wine and the best charcuterie platter I’ve had the fortune of devouring. That is, of course, on par with the charcuterie platters we devoured on two return visits. By our second sojourn to 5e Cru, our waiter was taking painstaking lengths to make sure our red wine was at the perfect temperature, whilst the third saw us favoured with a generous amount of the night’s almost-emptied wine bottles on the house. 

IMG_8000

IMG_8326

And then there was beef bourguignon at La Petite Rose des Sables, tasty indeed, but outshone by the incredible hospitality of eccentric Madame Zouzou and her silent sidekick, Big Boss. The most gorgeous éclairs laid out like jewels at L’Éclair de Génie. Schwartz’s, a New York style deli tucked away in the Jewish Quarter where the delicious, juicy burgers go almost insistently hand in hand with a glass of French red. The most incredible steak I’ve ever sunk my teeth into at Cueva del Diablo, a little Argentinean restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and a hot plate of sliced potato gloriously smothered in blue cheese at nearby Bistro Gladines on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Bon appétit indeed. 

Flânerie

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.”
     – Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

Admittedly, my knowledge of the 19th century Parisian flâneur comes from a mere tutorial or two nested somewhere in my Creative Arts degree – but I’ve always loved that image of the urban wanderer. Yes, Baudelaire’s flâneur was exclusively male and upper class, but I think we’re at liberty to expand that these days.

Once you’re in Paris, the concept of flânerie is palpable. It is a city made for wandering. On a sweltering summer’s eve, a stroll along the Seine from Notre-Dame to Eiffel Tower reveals half the city emptied along the left bank, picnicking and partaking in an extraordinary amount of glistening rosé. On the following Sunday morning (now grey and drizzly), the Georges Pompidou expressway along the Seine’s right bank closes to motor vehicles; the normally frantic stretch is quiet and poised, cyclists and joggers and fisherman slipping through in a hushed truce with the traffic. 

IMG_8017

IMG_8019

Explorations of the cosy, cobbled streets of the Marais district give a rare glimpse into medieval Paris before Napoleon came along with his sweeping squares and boulevards. And oh, the delight in being swallowed up by the Art Nouveau entrances of the Métro, where a whole other Paris shines in fluorescent! Or simply take up residence at a little table on a cafe terrace, café au lait in hand, and watch the world go by (prepare for anything – Mat and I watched in awe one day as an unattended dog took take an absurdly large amount of poops all along Boulevard Saint Germain. He truly looked like he was having the best day of his life).

IMG_8253

Vive la Différence

Paris, I’ve learnt, is most rewarding when you simply make it your own. I hear a lot of people say that they were disappointed by Paris, which naturally makes me sad because I think it’s so wonderful. I think a lot of people must find it overwhelming; the city is so heavy with history and culture, and the mad dash to tick off Eiffel Tower and Louvre and Notre-Dame and Sacré-Cœur and everything else in between is exhausting. It is entirely okay if you don’t see those things. Polishing off a fresh croissant in bed at ten in the morning because you’re quite content gazing out over the sea of grey-blue rooftops can be just as rewarding.

IMG_7880

Eating Argentinean steaks and New York style burgers in Paris might sound like treason, but they made up some of the best experiences Mat and I had in Paris. We didn’t make the trek out to Versailles (we traded for Disneyland Paris) nor even Montmartre (we had daily dalliances with Notre-Dame instead). Our Paris was eating and wandering and giving ourselves permission to simply do what we love. Your own Paris might be quite different. And it’s definitely there waiting for you. x

IMG_8209

Roses des Sables: The Recipe

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little about La Petite Rose des Sables – a tiny Parisian restaurant helmed by the wonderfully eccentric Madame Zouzou and her husband, ‘Big Boss’. Mat and I visited this gem on our recent trip to Paris, and were treated to one of the most memorable dining experiences we’ve ever had. It was bizarre and heartwarming all at once. 

At one point, Madame Zouzou appeared and eagerly pointed at a laminated article (written in French, no less) pinned to the wall above our table. Mat and I were sipping a couple of post-lunch espressos at the time – and I, of course, was taking a few happy snaps of the cute little arrangement of accompanying sweets. She pointed at my camera, motioned toward the sweets and then back at the article. I’ll admit I was confused. Luckily the cogs in Mat’s brain were turning somewhat faster.

“It’s a recipe for the chocolates. She wants you to take a photo.”

And so I would find myself back in Melbourne, months later, typing that recipe word-by-word into Google Translate. I kind of felt like I was code-breaking the secret to Madame Zouzou’s own Roses des Sables; what a marvelous little gift to be able to take away from Paris! The treat takes its name from what is known in English as a ‘sand rose’ or ‘desert rose’ – a crystal formation that occurs in certain desert conditions. The Roses des Sables recipe quite impressively recreates this phenomenon with two very simple things: corn flakes and chocolate.

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 1

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 4

Madame Zouzou gives her recipe for both dark chocolate Roses des Sables, and white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables. I used Lindt’s 70% Cocoa chocolate for the dark chocolate Roses des Sables, which made for a very intense flavour. Delicious, but intense. If you like your treats a bit sweeter I’d recommend a lower cocoa content, or perhaps even use milk chocolate (I believe the ones Madame Zouzou served us at La Petite Rose des Sables itself were made with milk chocolate). Or, simply opt for the white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables. They are divine, and became the hands-down hit when I made a batch of each over the weekend for a family gathering. Seriously, they are good.

I experimented with Madame Zouzou’s quantities a little, mostly in terms of chocolate to corn flake ratio. Feel free to do the same yourself, but the following recipe gave me the best consistencies. And best of all: they’re incredibly easy to make. In a way they’re kind of like chocolate Honey Joys, or grown-up Chocolate Crackles. Except with these, you get to be all fancy and introduce them as ‘little French corn flake treats’!

Enjoy! x

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 3

Little Wanderings - Roses des Sables Recipe 2

Roses des Sables
Yields 16
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Dark Chocolate Roses des Sables
  1. 250g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  2. 50g butter
  3. 50g icing sugar
  4. 150g corn flakes
White Chocolate and Orange Roses des Sables
  1. 250g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  2. 30g butter
  3. zest of 1 orange
  4. 150g corn flakes
Instructions
  1. 1. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the underside of bowl). Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.
  2. 2. Stir in the icing sugar (if making dark chocolate Roses des Sables) or orange zest (if making white chocolate and orange Roses des Sables).
  3. 3. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in all of the corn flakes. Do this at about a handful at a time to ensure you get a good coating of chocolate over all the corn flakes.
  4. 4. Set a piece of baking paper over a baking tray. Madame Zouzou suggests using two spoons to form small heaps, but I found it easier (though a lot messier!) using my hands. You could also use individual paper liners.
  5. 5. Allow to harden in the fridge. They will not take long to set completely! Enjoy x
Adapted from Madame Zouzou, La Petite Rose des Sables (Paris)
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...