After a week of eating traditional French food like crepes, rhubarb anything, and even bulots (Belgian escargot), I was nowhere near tired of the tastes of chocolate and cream. The city of Paris, however, had other plans for me.
On a bus ride in the 15th arrondissement, on Rue des Entrepreneurs, we passed an Iranian grocery store. I got so excited I couldn’t even speak, I just pointed to James. Then, two more stores appeared on the same side of the street, followed by a Persian restaurant, Cheminée. I’d found the “Persian ghetto” of Paris.
The stores sold ingredients like rose water and saffron, alongside jars of prepared stews like bademjan (eggplant) and fesenjan (walnuts and pomegranate syrup). The Eskan shop, where I bought a bag of pistachios, was quite lively, while in the lonely Bazartche I was the only customer. We were too full to eat at Cheminée, but it smelled delicious and the staff was friendly when we peeked in.
The same bus took us east to the Bois de Boulogne, the huge park where Parisians go to bike, jog, canoe on the lake, and picnic.
We followed the sound of music and found ourselves at a Filipino Independence festival where mom-and-pop vendors were serving up halo-halo, the shaved ice dessert. It was a hot day, so I found a group of friendly ladies whose halo-halo table held more brightly colored toppings than I could count.
Into a plastic cup went spoonfuls of candied white beans, adzuki beans, ripe mango, coconut meat, and corn. Then came a thick layer of shaved ice, softened with evaporated milk. The topping was flan, purple yam, and sliced jackfruit. The ladies tole me to mix everything together with my spoon, thus the translation of the name, which means “mix, mix.” Mmm, crunchy, cooling, and sweet.
Our final day was spent in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter, which has almost completed its transformation into the Chelsea of Paris. The winding streets are packed with boutiques, cafés, and tourists. Some actual Jewish businesses still exist though, like the rival falafel restaurants across the street from each other on Rue des Rosiers, which boast some of the best falafel in the world. We went to Mi Va Mi, but others swore by competitor L’as du Fallafel.
For 5 euros, we got a pita packed with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and several tender and crisp falafel fresh from the deep fryer. Our treasure was eaten standing on the street. It’s hard to convey how happy we were. On top of it all, it was kosher!
Although stuffed, we made room for treats from the pastry shop/delicatessen Korcarz at 29 Rue des Rosiers. Their display window featured traditional French pastries as well as Eastern European style baked goods like strudel and rugelach. I opted for a hunk of poppy seed strudel, deep and dark and very sweet.
I wanted to try wagashi, the delicate and stylized pastry of Japan, available at several famous tearooms in Paris, so our last indulgence came from the pastry shop Yamazaki in the 16th: read about this place and see luscious pictures on the Paris Breakfasts blog. We opted for a surprisingly heavy pistachio cake. Although full, James valiantly shared it with me. Trooper. Thank you to all the kind people who answered our food questions, and to the undying creative spirit of the city that makes beautiful food, French and otherwise, an integral part of life here. Merci!