How on earth do French women not get fat?

One of my favourite things about writing books is that I can think of things I’d really like to do in real life and then make my characters do them – and I get to go along for the ride.  For example, in my third novel, The Dish (just being finished now, out in spring 2015, hurrah!) – the heroine, food critic Laura Parker, takes herself off to Paris for a month to research the perfect croissant.  So off I went for research – only for 12 hours sadly… And I can now report, unequivocally that there are some very fine baked goods in Paris…  but some of the very best can be found at Du Pain et Des Ideeés.

It’s in the rather lovely, super-hipster Canal St Martin area

a fifteen minute walk from Gare Du Nord, tucked off a side street from the main canal.  Inside it is fairy-tale pretty…

But let’s be honest – it’s really never about the decor, is it?

It’s about a simple croissant…

Elevated to a thing of beauty – golden, paper thin, super crispy flaky exterior, lush, ultra-buttery, multi-layered insides…

and then a chocolate pistachio swirl, warm from the oven…

Bad photo, I know – but try to imagine melting chocolate, soft, light, buttery pastry and creamy, mild, pistachios swirled throughout, being held warm in your hand, then rammed, gracefully into your mouth…

The bakery does other, fabulous flavoured swirls – praline, rum and raisin, lemon and nougat…  Also a host of other extraordinary treats – rosewater croissants, chocolate bread, amazing regular bread, etc….

Now Paris is obviously about more than just croissants.  It is also about les sandwiches…so one of the other things on my hit list for Laura was finding a place where she might go to for lunch – somewhere not necessarily obvious, but brilliant nonetheless…

Le Marais is probably my favourite area of the city – it’s less snobby than other parts, has exceptional falafel, and is home to a vibrant gay and Jewish community.  It also has a lively food market, Le Marcheé des Enfants Rouges, which is home to many delicious smelling lunchtime treats – but most importantly – this man:

His name is Alain, he’s on facebook and stuff…

He basically makes sandwiches and crepes, but, like, he is a Master.  I’ve put a character inspired by him in The Dish and called him Le Bowski – because basically this gentleman is a dude of the highest order.

He takes rather a long time to make the food

but this is because the man does not cut corners

He is a craftsman

very generous with his fillings (loads and loads of avocado and cheese).

And he’s also a performer…

and an artist…

and also a dancer though I didn’t get a photo of him dancing

but anyway, the point is, the end result is totally worth the wait (be warned: 56 minutes for a sandwich, but like I say –  WORTH IT!)

Phew…

So yes, waiting for that sandwich and watching Alain at work was possibly the happiest 56 minute wait for a cheese sarnie that I’ve ever had.

What else did I do on my day trip… Ah yes, found the only Parisian woman with cellulite…

She does not look dissimilar to me, apart from the bird poop on her head.  She lives in this beautiful park.

Wherein also lives this statue, who seems to be saying: Oui, naturellement Paris is superior to all other cities, and that is why j’habite ici, innit:

But, like, he has got a point because this is a city where if you want stuffed pasta, you can go and browse these stuffed pastas – 14 types, including Tortelloni stuffed with Ossobucco, or with four Provencal vegetables…

Or if you fancy a strawberry tart, you can choose one of these beauties…

Or if you just want some asparagus with a buttery Mousseline sauce (Hollandaise + cream…)

and some decent bread

and some sort of auberginey deliciousness

and some wine, because really you haven’t had enough treats for one day – then no one will judge you or think you’re greedy.  Anyway, like I said, it was all in the name of research.

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