Monday, July 5, 2010

A Stroll down Rue de Rosiers

I didn't see or smell any roses on this street named for them in the old Marais district.

But then, I'm not sure I could have handled the sensory overload.

In this old neighborhood, the heart of Paris' Jewish quarter, ancient synagogues and crumbling delicatessens share real estate with modern fashion boutiques and industrial-mod art galleries. Soberly clad Hasidic Jews rub shoulders with tourists and the Marais' uber-trendy new denizens.

The neighborhood bustles on this overcast fall Sunday before Sukkot (the festival of the harvest). In front of the festival's traditional temporary booths, young men in yarmulkes and neatly pressed white shirts sell the four species -- willow and myrtle branches, palm fronds and puckered etrog fruits -- to families preparing for their week long religious celebration.

Parisians throng three deep around the take-out windows of the street's most popular falafel stands, desperate to get their fix before the stands shutter up for the week.

The smell of the fried chickpea-patties, eggplant and that incredible hot sauce they dress it all with is dizzying. I unwrap my prize and chow down on the spot, licking the sauce off my fingers (very discreetly because of course this is Paris not KFC) while simultaneously "licking the windows" as the French call window-shopping.

Yes, the falafel is drool-worthy, but, oh, so are the clothes -- in the season's tones of amethyst, ruby, burnt umber, charcoal and, of course, black. Even the store window mannequins here are intimidatingly chic in layered sweater dresses with low-slung belts, effortlessly draped scarves and riding boots and hobo bags.

I make myself think of those clothes, as I pass Sacha Finkelstzajan's deli and patisserie. The rich, dense cheesecake in the window looks like one my mother used to make.

Just at the end of this lovely rose-less street, I almost completely overlook the unobtrusive, adorably named salon de the, Le Loir dans la Theiere, (The Dormouse in the Teapot). With a name like that, I must to stop in.

Unlike other tearooms in Paris, which tend to be spare and Zen or gilded and baroque, this one is agreeably cluttered and cozy. People, appear to be in no rush as they nurse cups of coffee or tea in silver pots while crowded around little tables and in the corners of comfy leather couches. A chalkboard menu once filled with lunch specials, has been progressively erased until there are just two choices: a green salad with hot goat cheese and an omelet. I opt for a pot of tea.

And then I see it. The dessert I have been waiting for all my life. A tarte au citron, but not just any tarte, this, but a feat of culinary engineering. The thin, thin, tarte with its yellow custard filling, is topped by a billowing pile of light airy meringue ten inches, yes, 10 INCHES thick. The mother of all meringues. So light and fluffy it should stuff a pillow -- and oh what sweet slumber that would be.

And I weep at the knowledge that I am just too full to eat it.

Perhaps next time. For that meringue and I were meant to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment