Today isn't about food I've made. Rather, it is about food that I will spend my whole life trying to replicate but most likely never quite recreate. These are the delicacies of the lands I have been privileged enough to visit; they are the secret gastro-gems of the tiny cafes in Paris, the culinary-creations of the dimly lit pubs in Prague, the cuisine-art of the pizza shop on the edge of a cliff in Italy. Every once in a while I will share one of these with you as a way of begging you to visit these places, to consume these treasures. I hope I will have a lifetime's worth of these discoveries to share with you, and I am on my way to a pretty good stockpile of suggestions.
Let's start in Paris. It ain't chronological, but it's necessary.
When my husband and I were heading to Paris for an eight night dream-come-true, we were coming off a period of four months in Italy and a week in Prague. Needless to say, our stomachs had been satisfied for that preceding period. We'd reveled in the gnocchi and spaetzle, but we were moving on to the city that created Julia Child and has defined culinary skill for generations. We were very lucky to have specific food suggestions going into our stay in Le Marais, Paris (Thanks, Ruth!) and I couldn't wait to try everything.
I can easily talk about the croissants for hours.
I can discuss the duck and the crème brûlée until I am blue in the face.
But, I was prepared for all those things. I knew their reputations and, of course, I was not disappointed. The surprises are the best, though. I had never heard of (never mind eaten) the Parisian "Macaron" cookie. I hate the American cookie of the same name, so I probably wouldn't have tried it if it weren't for our friend Ruth's emphatic suggestion. It is nothing like the American version, she insisted. Not even related!
Boy was she right.
We didn't find one of these green piles of joy until later in our trip. We were headed up to Montmartre to see the open air art market and Moulin Rouge, since we had exhausted most everything else down in our neighborhood. We took the Metro most of the way, but had to climb a good little hill to get from the night club section to the quiet hilltop neighborhood. We stopped for baguettes along the way at a tiny bakery situated on a 45º angled road up to Sacre-Coeur and the marketplace. That's when I noticed a small hand-written sign for "Macarons"! We scraped together enough Euro coins to get lunch and dessert and mustered-up enough self-control to finish our long, HOT climb up to a bench overlooking the entire city. We even managed to eat our baguettes before allowing ourselves a bite of Paris's hidden treasure. Right up until the moment I took my first bite, I was skeptical about just how much this thing could offer me. Then my teeth sunk into the most perfectly-textured cookie and most-perfectly whipped center cream. I can't and won't even try to tell you how delicious it was. I'll just beg you to try one.
Go to Paris. Take a long, sweaty walk. Find a little bakery. Buy out their supply of Macarons. Find a bench. Stare at the Eiffel Tower. Eat.