mercredi, avril 18, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 5: Belgian Beer, Food Shopping, modern art, La Brasserie du Dôme

After sleeping in to a reasonable hour, Carla and I got up and headed over to the Panthéon for an early lunch. We went to La Gueuze (previously here and here), where we each got a big salad and some beer. Carla tried the framboise / Frambozenbier, which is a tart lambic beer flavored with raspberries. Although Carla's not a big beer drinker, she really enjoyed this one (probably because it tastes like slightly alcoholic fruit juice). I had some gueuze to begin with, and followed it with faro (essentially, lambic beer sweetened with sugar).

After that, we headed to the ice cream stands next to the Luxembourg gardens for their violet ice cream, which was delicious and not soapy, which is a common problem with violet flavouring. After snapping a few pictures of me looking nonplussed (for Carla's co-workers, who demanded pictures), we headed off in the direction of the Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marché.

At La Grande Epicerie, Carla did a bunch of gift-food shopping, especially of the chocolate kind. It seems that she has a group of co-workers that competitively compare the gifts they receive from her, so she had to make her selections carefully, lest she upset their hierarchy. Afterwards, we went by La Maison du Chocolat nearby for another few boxes of chocolates.

From there, we wandered over to Saint-Sulpice and headed to the store of candy store / bakery of Pierre Hermé to buy a box of his famous macarons. While La Durée may be the final word on "classic" macarons, Hermé features more adventurous flavor combinations, such as olive oil and vanilla, jasmine, lychee and rose petals, and apricot / pistachio. Hermé also seems to have a policy of only employing unbearably pretentious gay men, but they're mostly so over the top that they become part of the entertainment.

From there, we hopped on the subway over to the Opéra Garnier (the impossibly fancy opera house that is probably best known in North America as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately, the main auditorium was closed for rehearsals, so we decided to come back on Friday and try our luck then.

I knew that the museum of contemporary art kept extended hours on Wednesdays, so hoofed it over there. We took a moment to drink a coffee and eat our Hermé macarons on the patio at the Palais de Tokyo, and then headed into the contemporary art museum. There was a special exhibit of Fischli & Weiss (more complete entry in German), whose works went from beautiful multiple-exposure photography to hilarious and cute raw clay miniatures. One of the clay sculptures was called (roughly translated) "Mr. Spock looks out the window upon his home planet of Vulcan and, for a moment, feels a bit sad about not feeling anything." There was also this amazing, 30-minute video loop called "The way things go" (Der Laufe der Dinge), which is like a crazy combination of falling dominoes, Mousetrap (the game), Chemistry 101 and a carpentry class (see here for video). Carla and I both loved this picture, called "Masturbine", of women's shoes arranged into a spiky wheel (the real thing is in colour):

There was also an exposition for Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, called Expodrome, which we both liked less. A couple of the installations were interesting, such as Promenade, which involved an empty hallway filled with the sounds of outdoors. On the other hand, there was this other installation called Cosmodrome that involved a pitch-black room, filled ankle-deep with black sand, where you would sit through a sort of minimalist light show and a vaguely techno-y musical soundtrack. The lights and music were actually quite nice (if a bit reminiscent of "Pink Floyd laser show at the planetarium!!"), but there was this male-voiced spoken word thingy over top that was unbelievably pretentious and condescending toward the spectators. Meh, overall.

From there, we headed home and took a break, before putting on our nice clothes (yes, I actually wore a suit) and heading over to La Brasserie du Dôme, near Montparnasse. This place was recommended to me as the best place in Paris for seafood, and it did not disappoint. Well, actually, their smoked salmon hors d'oeuvre was a bit lackluster, but I think that's because we've been spoiled by BC pacific salmon in Canada. Nonetheless, the appetizers were delicious (green asparagus from Saint Vincent with mousseline sauce for Carla, salmon and sea bream tartare for me), and we ordered bouillabaisse marseillaise for our main dish. This is a colossal fish stew, usually made by cooking several different kinds of fish for a long time over low heat, with a complex mixture of herbs, spices, orange peels and saffron. The fish and the broth are usually served separately, although in this case they brought both to the table separately, then ladled some of the stew over the freshly filleted fish. Either way, the fish was delicious (if loaded with pin bones) and the broth was fantastic. This, combined with the spicy rouille sauce (bread crumbs, olive oil and chili peppers) is the sort of thing I could eat all day. My only complaint--and this is a common one for me here in France--is that they didn't need to put so much salt in it. In many ways, this reminded us of Peruvian chupe, but without the cream (recipe here).

When I ordered the wine, Carla and I had decided on having an Alsatian white, because it had been a long time since either of us had enjoyed its strongly perfumed flavour. However, when I tried to order the Gewürztraminer from the waiter, he said "Really? With the bouillabaisse? I don't know..." He was of the opinion that the flavor would overpower the fish, so he made a few other suggestions, including a white Châteauneuf du Pape (Côtes du Rhone region). I didn't even know that Châteauneuf du Pape made white wines, so we gave it a go. It was like a milder version of a Burgundian white, with the perfumed overtones of a Riesling grape. It went really well with the bouillabaisse, so I'm glad the waiter intervened in our wine selections.

After a bit of sorbet to cleanse the palate, Carla and I trotted out of the brasserie and out into the open air.

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