Cafés for the coffee purist, witnessing the Eiffel Tower’s transformation, and my favorite shops.
The last Paris installment.
Up next: Lyon, France.
Aix en Provence - here
Marseille - here
In Paris, cafés for the coffee purist.
There are two constants when I visit a new city: go to a market, and seek out a specialty coffee shop. Paris is notorious for serving what some people describe as “swill” served in the regular cafés, an afterthought meant to accompany a cigarette. Thankfully, I’ve never had a really bad cup in Paris, or all of France, come to think of it. Still, I’m excited to visit two of the specialty cafés that are part of Paris’ burgeoning third wave coffee culture. (Note: a detailed explanation about third wave coffee here).
La Caféothèque is hidden in the Marais just across the river from the Île Saint-Louis. Its name means “the coffee library” and the people here are serious about what they do. Sourcing the world’s finest beans by trading directly with small plantations is pride of place here, as is the massive yellow roaster in front. The café uses the famed La Marzocco espresso machine from Florence to brew the vast selection of beans behind the counter.
There’s no menu but they enthusiastically push the coffee of the day. When I’m here, it’s the Finca Herbazu from Costa Rica. I order it and a latte for my Bin, who drinks coffee occasionally to keep me company.
La Caféothèque is huge with several rooms, and sofas for lounging while sipping. The mid-afternoon light dapples the low tables and cushions, a chiaroscuro of sorts that makes for dramatic shots. Our coffee arrives; I’m amused by the Post-It listing our orders and am impressed by the addition of two nuggets of chocolate from master chocolatier Michel Cluizel. It makes for a nice chaser especially since a (coffee) mocha is unheard of in France.
I have an allongé, my coffee of choice in this country because I take my coffee black. Without getting into technicalities, it’s also called a lungo. The Finca Herbazu produces a clean cup with only slight acidity and a somewhat sweetish finish. Can’t complain either about my Bin’s latte, it’s creamy throughout and the art atop is pure whimsy.
Over in the 10th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from Canal Saint-Martin, is Ten Belles. Unlike La Caféothèque, it’s narrow and I almost miss it if not for the blackboard outside proclaiming (in English, at that) that “Drinking good coffee is damn sexy.” Damn right!
These chalkboard declarations are a common theme in the store apparently. Once inside, a soundtrack courtesy of Dr. Dre pumps through the room, and scribbles on another blackboard greet him a happy birthday. Standard orders given – allongé for the madame, latte for the monsieur – and what is the best financier I’ve ever had.
Apparently Ten Belles takes its food as seriously as it does its brew. Their pastry chef is English and worked in venerable London establishments. The financier, gosh how I wish I order more, is moist and dense; its crumb suffused with orange, hides caches of crumbled pistachio rounded out with breaths of almond essence.
On our way out, I guffaw at the sticker stuck on one of the coffee bins.
The Eiffel Tower: from dusk to dark.
During our stay in Paris, my Bin and I are enchanted with Eiffel, as we start calling it. It peeks unexpectedly from around street corners, looms in full view in certain parks, and on our last day in the city, we gaze at it for hours, transfixed, even though we see it daily, constantly. I think that this icon imprints itself uniquely on everyone who visits Paris.
4.56 pm: Eiffel viewed from a river cruise we take on the Seine. Can you spot the bird in the photo?
6.03 pm: Eiffel’s final blaze of glory before darkness descends.
6.37 pm: Eiffel clutched in the deep blue of an evening emerging.
7.00 pm : Every hour on the hour from dusk until 1 am, Eiffel puts on a minute-long light show. 20,000 lightbulbs shimmering excitedly, pulses of magical, scintillating splendor; or as Paris-based English author Stephen Clarke describes, “…sparkles with unfailing regularity like an explosion in a diamond factory.”
Shops for food lovers
G. Detou, a French play on words: ‘J. Detou’ meaning “I have everything”. An exhaustive supply of baking ingredients for the baker: high end European chocolate in slabs, pearls, and nibs, dragées, praline pastes, sugars in every form…I can go on. The shop really does have everything.
A cramped but super affordable place stocking everything for the food-styling-obsessed like me. I adore their selection of dessert spoons, egg cups, and items that fit into the “didn’t know I needed it until I saw it” category.
Terrific shopping in here too.
Some last tasty tidbits before leaving Paris
Crepes are street food in Paris. Slathered in Nutella, they’re the best.
Apparently, the French are bonkers for burgers. More on this in my Lyon installment. For now, I love the pronouncement: L’Atelier du hamburger (!)
Because no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Ladurée, for breakfast this time. Naturally, I’m in love with those cloth covers emblazoned with the letter “L”, no need to tell you why.
Eggs Benedict, Ladurée style, the last thing I eat before leaving Paris.
Next week: Lyon, France.
Addresses of establishments mentioned in this post:
52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4th, +33 1 5301 8384, lacafeotheque.com. Métro: Pont Marie
10 rue de la Grange aux Belles 75010 Paris
Open: Tue-Fri, 8am-6pm, Sat & Sun, 9am-7pm. Metro: Colonel Fabien/ Jacques Bonsergent
58 rue Tiquetonne (2nd arrondissement)
Tél: 01 42 36 54 67
Various branches city-wide. www.lavaissellerie.fr