It’s “la rentrée,” or French New Year, as I like to call it. The American term “back to school” is the closest translation I can find for the phenomenon that has been sweeping Paris for the past week. It’s a poor translation because “la rentrée” isn’t just for kids and college students; it’s for… well… everyone.
Our “new year” is off to a good start so far – back to work, back to sports, back to reading in the metro (I’m nearly finished with Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and can’t wait to take the metro to dance class tonight to get back to reading it – that says something if I’m actually looking forward to taking the metro!)… back to cooking up storms in the kitchen, to Sunday farmers’ market, to fresh raw milk from the local cheese shop… yep, summer’s over… it’s back to daily life in Paris, including the customary new discoveries.
Yesterday, I was on my way home from work – and I was hungry (I feel like I’ve started many a mischievous story this way). I’ll cut to the chase: I fell in love with Paris in the “fall time” and street crepes all over again. Why? Under the late afternoon, fading sunlight of autumn, I had my first crepe smothered in Speculoos spread – wow! I have two favorite crepe stands in Paris (well, three – but the third is a whole category of its own, see below): the one on boulevard Montparnasse (north-side of the street, just before rue de Rennes) and the one on boulevard Saint Germain (north-east corner of the boulevard and rue Bonaparte).
I’d asked for a simple sugar crepe and watched as Mr. Crepe Man poured a ladle full of thick batter onto the pan. Then, my eyes began wandering as I waited. That’s when I spotted THE jar.
“Is the Speculoos good?” I inquired.
“Of course, a little bit, as long as you don’t abuse it.”
Next I know I’m about to sample what looks like peanut butter on the end of a small plastic spoon.
“I’ll have that instead. That’s more fun than sugar.” And to myself: “That’s all it is, is sugar! But, it’s fabulous. Kind of nutty, smooth, probably addicting.”
“You might be able to find this in the grocery store,” the man continues as he holds up the jar. “But that might be a bad idea,” he laughs.
“Yes, probably.” By now, I’m in crepe heaven.
So, yes, autumn has come to Paris. The leaves are changing from green to subtle tones of orange and brown. The air is that much brisker and the slower-paced rhythm of summer has faded away. The days are getting short (I’m getting up with the sunrise now – soon to be before the sunrise)… Wait, wait… not yet… I haven’t mentioned the best parts of summer:
I FINALLY GOT MY FRENCH DRIVER’S LICENSE!!!!!!
We also had two fun culinary adventures:
The first was L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Saint-Germain) with some good friends from the States. What a neat experience to sit up on high stools and watch the cooking (instead of sitting at an ordinary table in an ordinary restaurant away from the action). What was also neat about this restaurant was that you could choose from an array of mini-starters or “petites portions dégustation”. We chose two each, so ended up with eight different entrées! The marinated anchovies with grilled red peppers was my favorite, but one of our friends was raving about the “pieds de cochon” for the entire next week. Did I just mention pigs feet on THIS blog?!
The next was La Creperie du Comptoir (3, carrefour de l’Odéon, 6e). This is essentially a take-away place, but you can stand up at the bar and eat there. A friend had already mentioned this creperie, saying the galettes were “gourmet”. Of course I believed her but it took actually going to really understand what her enthusiasm was all about. I had a buckwheat crepe with tomato confit (dried, marinated tomatoes) and artichoke spread – you just don’t get that at any old crepe stand. Also, you can enjoy a glass of wine (the Languedoc was especially nice) and tapas starters (which are advertised on signs hanging from the ceiling). A very cool place to get a quick bite before heading to whatever other fun you have planned.
Yay! It’s almost time to go take the metro – and get back to my book.