26.1.12

Playing Tourist in Paris

La Tremoille Hotel balcony

It has been six years since I was a legitimate tourist in Paris. Impressionable young eyes, tennis shoes and far too much color in my wardrobe to blend in with locals - I set off for six weeks of discovery. Three days after my arrival, I met Mr. C and headed right into a routine of seeing Paris as a local. This meant I did very little of traditional newbie visiting - map reading, monument hopping or macaron tasting.

I still saw the major attractions, took long walks along the Seine, picnicked under the summer stars and battled locals for terrace-side seating at forgettable cafés but I did so without following guide books or blogs.  The trip opened my eyes to the possibility of a future in Paris with a Frenchman rather than to the city's best bakery or wine bar. I was staying in an all-female dormitory and never had the hostel/hotel experience which offers a vastly different perspective of the city.

Since that summer, I've been living in a cozy (operative word for crowded) apartment in the increasingly gentrified 11th arrondissement and, as you can tell if you've been following me, have become more selective in where I eat and more interested in the people behind my favorite haunts. The only time I do remotely-touristic things is when friends visit and even then, nothing we do is very novel.

La Trémoille Hotel

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I spent a gourmand weekend in the capital, complete with a stay in the posh La Trémoille Hotel followed by Context Travel's culinary walking tour, 'Baguette to Bistro'- led by none other than Meg Zimbeck. An opportunity to see the city through impressionable eyes again and a weekend en amoureux? Not much coercing needed.

La Tremoille Hotel
Molton Brown

{LA TREMOILLE}

What I loved most about the demure hotel, aside from its coveted location just off of avenue George V in the Golden Triangle, was that despite modern fixtures and a trendy lounge bar and restaurant (Louis²), La Trémoille really retained an air of old chic. I felt its rich history immediately upon entering the lobby where I was greeted by two fantastic black and white photos - on the left, a shot of the hotel from the 1920's with its former entrance and on the right, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong waving to fans in the street from their balcony. The decor was charming and unpretentious, luxurious but accessible and we were treated famously throughout our stay.

Tip of the Eiffel Tower
La Trémoille suite

Isolated from the bustle of the Champs-Elysées, La Trémoille provides a zen-like escape. In fact, I was most looking forward to the quiet. Our balcony gave us a stellar view of the Eiffel Tower sparkling each hour and a glimpse of the breathtaking lofts across the way. As much as I feel like I'm beyond the point of falling for her charms, Paris still has the ability to stop me in my tracks. A view like this, though just a taste, reminds me how lucky I am to live in this city.

Ladurée Macarons

In addition to the Ladurée macarons that were kindly left on our nightstand, we were offered two glasses of champagne and a tasting of Maison Kaviari’s l’en-K de Caviar©. Little details in the Food Lovers package that made us feel pampered. In all of our travels, this stay offered by far the best service, attention, quality and comfort.

{BAGUETTE TO BISTRO}

Eric Kayser Baguette

After a hot shower, a good night's sleep and a morning feast, I embarked on the Baguette to Bistro tour with my docent, Meg. To really know a city, its values and its history, it's rarely necessary to look further than its food. Culinary tours have always struck me as a natural extension of getting a feel (and) taste for a city on foot but as a local, I've never been inclined to sign up. What more could I possibly learn about Paris and food? Loads, it turns out.

Our indulgent and informative tasting tour on the left bank began at Eric Kayser, a bakery that has received countless accolades both locally and abroad, where we discussed the difference between various baguettes. What may strike you as insignificant between breads - soft and light-colored, dark and packed with crunch, little holes on the inside - is actually the result of a very controlled process and largely a question of yeast. Kayser is perhaps best known for having invented the Fermentolevain machine which maintains natural liquid leaven at just the right temperature.

Androuet
Cheese tasting at Androuet
Cheeses: goat, comté, brie de meaux, brie de melun, truffled brillat-savarin, roquefort, munster & ossau-irraty

We talked about the requirements for a bakery to call itself "artisanal" as we strolled down the street a few steps to Androuet to add some cheese to our bread.  An outstanding selection of cheeses lay before us and I immediately felt overwhelmed. I'm generally not a fan of the ultra-creamy and pungent variety but Meg assured me that a proper tasting - moving from mild to strong - might surprise me. She was right. I confess it was my first, official cheese tasting and certainly not my last.

I left having learned that goat cheese isn't currently in season (who knew?) and that I am, in fact, fond of the truffled Brillat-Savarin, a 75% fat, triple cream brie created by Henri Androuet and named after 18th century French epicurean, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. I almost preferred it to the sweets that followed on our tour.

A full belly and a greater understanding of why the French hold cheese so close to their hearts and it was time to leave the savory behind.

Armagnac

The next stop was Ryst-Dupeyron for a tasting of Armagnac. While my amateur throat may have felt ravaged by those first drops of brandy, I simply adored the owner's enthusiastic stories and explanations. Her warmth and genuine passion confirmed why I prefer to shop with small businesses and artisans and her little dog Vergule (comma) added even more charm to the experience.

Chapon hot chocolate
Chapon traditional macarons
Chapon chocolate mousse cone

Feeling slightly more digested, we made our way to the last two stops of our tour: the mousse bar at Chapon chocolatier and La Patisserie des Rêves. Some of the most exceptional chocolates I've tasted came from Chapon that evening but nothing compared to the mousse-cone you see above. Tubs of five varieties of sinful chocolate mousse line the window display and stop passersby in their tracks. It was decadent, excessive and absolutely fantastic. A must for any chocolate lover in Paris.

La Patisserie des Rêves
Tarte au Citron, La Patisserie des Rêves

I had my misgivings about La Patisserie des Rêves (literally, the pastry shop of dreams). Widely hyped since its opening in 2009, Philippe Conticini's whimsical space breaks with traditional codes both in decor and dessert. I had seen photos of his immaculate creations enclosed in temperature-controlled glass domes suspended from the ceiling like protected jewels and I wasn't convinced I'd appreciate the experience. The shop felt impersonal and chilly at first but I was willing to give it a chance. One bite of Kouign Aman and my perspective changed. But it was really a slice of tarte au citron, perfectly tart, that hooked me. A delicious end to an incredible 24 hours.

La Trémoille Hotel has partnered with Context Travel to offer guests a mini culinary getaway . For more information and availability, click here

For more photos from my hotel stay and walking tour, click HERE and HERE


La Trémoille
14 rue de la Trémoille
75008, Paris
          +33 (0)1 56 52 14 00     


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