Paris – good taste, good taste, bad.

La Grande Epicerie in Le Bon Marche, makes me want to move to Paris.  That, Pierre Herme’s praline millefuille, and a million other reasons.

I think it might be my favourite food hall.  Dean and Deluca in New York is great but always too crowded at the front.  Eataly is spaghetti Disneyland, but you could lose your mind in there.  Harrods is full of people who shop at Harrods.  Besides, I’ve never seen a purple eclair at any of the aforementioned: jolie, or what? 

This cake looked a little Blue Peter, but I admired the lack of restraint nonetheless:

But really it’s the produce that dazzles:

The produce and the wall of butter.

You know I’m partial to a little too much butter

Other things Paris does with some style – flowers:

Stairs:

Staircase up to the gazebo in the new Mandarin Oriental hotel

Parks:

Jardin du Luxembourg

But strangely not handbags.

I have a lot of time for ironic cats, truly I do.  Nonetheless this monstrosity is a bridge too far / too fur.  (Can I get away with that pun?)  And it costs over 750 euros. 

Makes sense when I tell you that it comes from Colette.  I’ve said everything that needs to be said about Colette in Pear-shaped.  Emperors-new-clothes, except the emperor couldn’t afford them.

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The Pierre Herme Praline Millefeuille – worth the remortgage

 The absolute best cake in the world – mythical, ridiculous, the stuff of dreams.  I once had a two day migraine and the only thing that cured it was one of these:

This slice of super-awesomeness is worth walking an hour across Paris for, it is worth queueing round the corner when you get there for, and it is worth the money: 6 euros and 90 cents.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that small cake is nearly £7, so I do not say the above lightly, yet it is true.  He is joined here today by his compadre, the Infinitely Vanilla Millefeuille – who is perhaps better looking:

and certainly none too shabby in the eating:

Regardez – his luscious, vanilla pod-flecked cream.

Nonetheless it is the Praline Millefeuille (aka 2000 Feuilles) that has the edge: super flaky, crisp, golden-to-the-point-of-caramelisation thin pastry, trying to keep in check the world’s most rampantly divine praline cream, scattered with feuilletine – crunchy little shards that cut through the thickness and offer up a holy trinity of texture – flaky, creamy and crunchy. 

Don’t these two make a pretty pair?

So good we tried to eat the cardboard PH on top, even after we realised it was cardboard.

The best house in the world

Just got back from a short trip to France, staying in the loveliest house in the world.

This is the house that features in Pear-shaped, when Sophie and James go to France.   It belongs to my friends Sophie and Sean who very generously let me stay there and make up all sorts of rude shennanigans*. The house has this cool window onto the swimming pool that I am a bit obsessed with.

It’s in a tiny village on the river Aude, in the Languedoc – very pretty:

But more importantly home of some exceptional wine, like this bone dry pale rose Pinot Gris from Gerard Bertrand.   Bertrand is an ex international rugby player, looks like super-fox Vincent Cassel and is one of France’s best wine-makers, working in an area called La Clape (insert cheap joke here.)

We went to his vineyard and restaurant, L’Hospitalet, in the hills above Narbonne, for lunch.

The chef there sure likes to gussy up a tomato:

But not as much as the chef at the place we went to for dinner, La Distellerie (both meals excellent.)

But here’s what I like to do best with a tomato:

Sprinkle salt on it and eat alongside a piece of still warm freshly baked baguette, a thin spread of butter and a slightly thicker spread of Boursin style garlicky cream cheese.   Then retire to the pool with a Kate Atkinson, a cold glass of wine and the anticipation of The Thick of It on DVD for when the sun goes down.  Simple pleasures.  Simple pleasures with butter and Malcolm Tucker.

*When my mother found out I was returning to this house, she asked if I was going to be gallivanting around naked and getting involved in weird Barbie doll role play, as per the book.  Aside from the fact that last time I went to the house was with my mate Mavis, with whom there was zero nudity, my mother seems convinced that everything I write is true.   I’m not sure whether to be insulted or flattered: does my mum think I’m entirely lacking in the powers of imagination, or is it some sort of backhanded compliment – my writing is so vivid she cannot BELIEVE it is not real.  Hmmm.  Wait till she reads the scene I’ve cooked up with Vincent Cassel, Alec Baldwin and me in a hot tub, in book two. Then I’m really going to get an earful…