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Another Sweet Quartet: Spring, Paris, Chocolates, and Olive Oil

Springtime in Paris was calling, as compelling as a siren, so my husband and I acquiesced and rented an apartment for a week in the beginning of May. We visited some favorite haunts—the Maille mustard store on the Place de la Madeleine to buy some fresh mustard that spluttered from a pump to refill our stoneware crock, a Maison du Chocolat boutique for chocolate-covered candied fruit, the Caves Taillevent to replenish our supply of vieille eau de vie de prune—and we explored the apartment’s neighborhood, a new one for us. Within a short walk were award-winning baguettes, carefully selected cheeses, blocks of butter from Normandy and Brittany, white porcelain dishes filled with patés, including a specialty of the Southwest called fritons de canard au chaudron (slow-cooked duck in its own fat), fruit tarts on slivers of dark-baked crust that shattered at the touch of a fork, and an organic farmers’ market on Friday afternoon.

There were two confectioners I wanted to visit on this trip. When he started out, Jacques Genin ran a sort of underground operation above a restaurant in the fifteenth arrondissement for a few years. If you were lucky enough to know where it was and have his phone number, maybe a visit could be arranged. Five years ago, Patrick Roger made confections out in the suburbs. Now they both have shops in town.

The Genin store is light, airy, and large, with space upstairs for events. The confections are petit squares, a mere six grams each, with fanciful transfers on top that help identify what’s inside. The ganache, enrobed in a very thin layer of tempered chocolate, is subtle and refined.

Roger has five locations. I visited the tony store on the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré where a customer, interrupted by conversations on his cell phone, was hand-picking confections for a custom box while his Porsche straddled the curb with its right wheels on the sidewalk. Roger’s confections, a tad larger than Genin’s at seven grams, didn’t use as many transfers and came in different shapes—some square, some rectangular, some domed. To me the tastes were a little more assertive. Visit them both the next time your travels take you to Paris.

There was one surprise find on this trip. After arriving at one of our favorite stores, Goumanyat, only to find the shutters drawn and a sign on the door telling us it was closed for the week, we headed for Izrael, another fascinating spice store not far away. About halfway to our destination, we passed a shop no wider than its doorway and maybe twenty feet deep. The name, Corse Terroir, told us it specialized in Corsican food, so we turned around. There were cheeses, wines, honeys and cured meats. The saleswoman offered us tastes of two of the meats, lonzu, made from pork filets, and coppa. We bought thin slices of the salty, rich coppa to serve atop asparagus as a first course we were planning for some friends. Then I spotted tins of olive oil labeled L’Aliva Marina. Even though it was from the current harvest, and had won an award at a French competition, and had AOC status, I was skeptical. (Not wanting to rely on the local supply, I had brought California extra-virgin olive oil with me.) But I took a chance and bought one of the smallest-sized tins. I packed it in my suitcase, still unopened, for the trip home. One afternoon back in San Francisco I opened the tin and poured some oil into a glass. The aroma was delicate, but I detected both green olive fruit—grass, herbs, almond, spice—as well as the ripe fruit aromas of banana and butter. In the mouth, it had a medium bitterness and a more than medium pungency. It was a complex and balanced oil. A real find. The 125 millimeter tin didn’t last long; I wish I had bought a larger size.

Paris Addresses:

Boutique Maille, 6, place de la Madeleine, 8th arrondissement, 01 40 15 06 00

Maison du Chocolat, 225, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 8th arrondissement,

01 42 27 39 44 (one of nine locations)

Caves Taillevent
, 199, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 8th arrondissement,

01 45 61 14 09

Jacques Genin, 133, rue de Turenne, 3rd arrondissement, 01 45 77 29 01

Patrick Roger
, 199, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 8th arrondissement, 01 45 61 11 46 (one of five locations)

Goumanyat, 3, rue Charles-Francois Dupuis, 3rd arrondissement, 01 44 78 96 74

Izrael, 30, rue Francois Miron, 4th arrondissement, 01 42 72 66 23

Corse Terrior, 40, rue de Turenne, 3rd arrondissement, 01 42 78 08 62

L’Aliva Marina extra-virgin olive oil


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