A silky-sweet, buttery-crisp scallop honors my tongue and I’m instantly nodding and embarrassingly “mmming” so the table next to me grows awkwardly silent. The plate in front of me is simple: Crisp and perfectly seared scallops atop a potato puree, steamed green beans and carrots, topped off with a white wine leak and butter sauce. Everything on it screams heavy; yet, the chef has some how managed to make butter taste light. This coming from a lactose intolerant belly who has to take special pills before eating anything dairy related. I eat slowly savoring each bite as if it’s my last. You know like in those significant life moments when the event you are experiencing is too heavy and overwhelming to feel all at once like your wedding or saying your vows or the birth of a baby. That’s how I eat this meal. I took care to sip my glass of syrah between bites–a tactic to slow it down and feel eat bite like it was the first. It was Friday night in Paris at La Coincidence.
Upon arrival in Paris, I knew I had to eat at four types of places: a boulangerie, a cafe, a brasserie and a bistro. La Coincidence popped up in my search for a bistro and I can’t even articulate the comfort on a plate that both N and I experienced. It’s a little understated bistro with straight up comfort food. The dinner we had was effortless and light and memorable.
When I told friends and family I was going to Paris, everyone who had every been to Paris gave me advice. Then, my world traveler cousin who has friends all over Europe, told me I had to visit her friend’s cafe: Soul Kitchen. Now, my cousin is a vegan/vegetarian and not someone I consider to possess a palate close to mine. Not that vegans don’t love good food, it’s just that this one has a very different palate than me. So I took her recommendation with a grain of salt. I remember thinking, yeah I’ll stop by but won’t have too many expectations for the cafe. It also made me feel a little connected to Paris–to know a cafe before I even got there. So on the second full day there, we decided to head out to explore the Montmartre neighborhood where Soul Kitchen sits atop a hill against the backdrop of stairs that lead up to apartment buildings and fountains from a time long ago.
Wedenesday at noon, we arrived during the lunch rush hungry as hell from walking uphill for several blocks. The menu was written in chalk on a black chalkboard displayed to the left of the door. I did my best to read the french and figure out what I wanted when the chic hostess/co-owner opened the door. “Deux personnes,” I said to her in my best french accent possible. She looked us up and down and said in English: “You speak English, yes?”
“Yes,” I replied a little disappointed.
She sat us outside on the hill and we ordered inside and met my cousin’s friend who was the other co-owner. We had to order the same thing as the other items we wanted were sold out. She recommended the veal stew over potatoes and I added two chocolate chip cookies to the order. The food came out in an Anthropologie bowl and from the first bite I was sold. The stew was in a tomato-herb sauce over perfectly baked potatoes. It was warm and cozy; soft and flavorful. Hard to forget. The cookies were not your classic American chocolate chip cookie, but were more like cake cookies–the perfect sweet note. The cafe is the epitome of what I envisioned a French cafe to be: cute, eclectic, and a menu that kills. The menu at this cafe changes daily which is a trait that makes me want to keep going back to experience more and more and more.
The Monday before we left for India and France, I caught an Anthony Bourdain Layover episode in which he was in Paris! The theme of the episode was “do nothing in Paris”. Now, if ever there was a theme that is my motto for traveling this was it. I watched the episode with a note pad and took diligent notes on every bistro, brasserie, boulangerie, and food truck he suggested. Once in Paris, we decided to do one off the list to stick with the motto of “do nothing in Paris” instead of trying to do it all. So we chose a boulangerie of his list: Du Pain et Des Idees which translates literally to of bread and of ideas! This boulangerie now has an even more special place in our hearts because it resides in the neighborhood of the recent attacks. We went here Thursday morning on our way to Notre Dame.
I ordered a pain chocolate aux amande . That’s right an almond-chocolate croissant. It sounds ordinary in English, but let me tell you this was no ordinary croissant. Each bite was layers of light flaky croissant with fresh buttery almond paste atop the bittersweet chocolate filling. Every layer, a perfect consistency not too runny, not to solid; just right. This single pastry item has changed my palate forever. I know I am the queen of hyperbole, but I speak the truth when I say I won’t be trying another almond croissant without comparing it to this one. I am also completely aware that few or none will compare to this texturally or flavor-wise.
Unfortunately we never made it to a brasserie because of the attacks, but in a way I feel this was perfect because we have a reason to go back!
While in Paris we did a two things, well maybe three: see, see, see; walk, walk, walk; and eat, eat, eat. In other words we did nothing in Paris; thank you Anthony Bourdain.
(I have no photos of all meals because they were eaten too quickly to consider a photo first. Alas, you will have to visit to see the plates yourself. However, below is a pic of where I ate that croissant!)