9 December 2017

Paris: A Food Guide

I'm a planner. Rarely do my ideas ever pan out exactly as I imagine, but I like the idea of organisation. A huge part of exploring somewhere new is having one or two fail-safe spots to visit if nothing in the area takes my fancy. Not only does it save time, it means I don’t leave feeling like I've wasted my money on food/drink that wasn’t exquisite.

So, I arrived in Paris armed with a fresh list of patisseries, boulangeries and coffee shops to visit. My source was this article, Dominique Ansel’s Favourite Bakeries in Paris, written over a year ago but with spot-on recommendations – Emily and I visited (and loved) three out of the eight on the list.

And along with the planned jaunts were some discoveries of our own, including Liberte Boulangerie, Gilles Marchal and Chez Casimir – possibly our favourites of the trip.

You can really get to know a place through the food it has on offer. Here is my list of favourite spots from my recent trip, through which I discovered even more of Paris...

In the quaint and cobbled Montmartre we ate the city's best pain au chocolat on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, which is a must-see, by the way, if only for the incredible views.

L’éclair de genie 

For elevenses, in the spectacular Galeries Lafayette, we devoured eclairs. These treats are elevated to a whole new level in Paris. Unlike the puffed up tubes, half filled with cream and dipped in cheap chocolate, we're used to in England, French eclairs are petite, symmetrical, mirror-glazed and filled with decadent, thick chocolate or caramel cream. There are a thousand other flavours, obviously, but the classics are exactly that – classic.

Jacques Genin

If sweets are your thing (and why wouldn’t they be), you’ve got to go to Jacques Genin. I’ve never really liked fruit pastilles, and I guessed the pâte de fruits on offer here would be similar, but something about Donminique Ansel’s review compelled me to spend 12 euros on a box of these jelly jewels, and I have no regrets.

With flavours such as kiwi, blood orange, pineapple and fennel tucked into a patchwork assortment just for me, it was a treat like no other. I felt like a child again, and after I had picked all my flavours the woman serving us gave us one to try each. The flavours are, indeed, pure, but red pepper isn’t one I’d be in a rush to sample again.

As well as the pâte de fruits there is an immaculate array of chocolates – all square, all smooth and shining perfection – and the caramels, which I left for my next visit.
I picked 12 chocolates to take back for my parents, which included classics such as coffee, raspberry and orange and more unusual flavours like basil, cinnamon and grapefruit.

Gilles Marchal 

We found Gilles Marchal on our way to Gontran Cherrier in Montmartre. Here I picked up another éclair – this time a chocolate one (omg) and some chocolate coffee beans for my mum.

Café Craft 

A favourite among local freelancers, with a designated area at the back of the cafe for workers to tap away at their projects. Delicious coffee, a quiet space, nice décor, and time to sneak one of those sweets I had picked up from Jacques Genin.

Liberte Boulangerie 

Bread, pastries, tarts and a clean-white aesthetic, Liberte was a surprise find on our way to Craft Café. Obviously we went back the next morning for a few take-home treats.

Chez Casimir 

We wanted to go to a restaurant I can’t even remember the name of now, and it turned out to be closed for a private event anyway, but as we hovered at the door the owner invited us to join him and his friends at the bar.

These men were so French it hurt – all Parisian and had lived in the city their whole lives. They were drunk, and filled up our glasses without charging a penny. Charmed, we agreed to follow one of the men to his restaurant around the corner. We didn’t die, but had ourselves a great 4-course meal at Chez Casimir for just 32 euros each. The sweet waitress translated the menu for us and we left feeling so stuffed, I can’t even tell you. It was worth it, though – to fully immerse ourselves in an unprecedented evening of French food and company.

Sea bream (I think!) on pureed butternut squash
The most incredible cheese course I've ever had

One last thing - eat at least one ham and cheese baguette when you're in Paris. Le Grenier à Pain was on my list but we didn’t have time to go – however, there is no such thing as a bad baguette in France, so eat as many as you can. Ham and cheese are optional, but they're pretty good fillings.

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Paris? Let me know your recommendations so I can start planning my next trip!

12 November 2017

Katie & Kim's Kitchen – Bristol

A weekend void of brunch is a sad weekend indeed. Whether you're a stay-at-home, breakfast-in-bed kinda gal/guy, or, like me, long to get out into the fresh morning and find a new place to absorb, starting the weekend with delicious food is just the best.

A few doors down from my absolute favourite burger joint, Oowee Diner, is Katie & Kim's Kitchen, a gorgeous little cafe in Picton Street with the most delightful aesthetic. Walking inside to an enormous wooden table, which takes up most of the space of the cafe, gives this place a really welcoming atmosphere. It's lovely, sitting next to strangers who have a sliver of something in common with you.

Fresh orange and grapefruit juice made from the fruit in the bowl on our table – just yes.

Side note: ain't this girl a dream? If you're not already following Emily, go and check out her Instagram now – her blog is a must-read, too. We're going to Paris next week and this breakfast was supposed to be a time for us to make a plan for our trip. There were too many distractions, though, namely the food.

Em ordered the sardines on toast and I had the cheddar and rosemary scone with poached eggs and greens. This was confirmation (if it were even needed) that the best food is simple. Good quality, small quantities (sometimes), prepared and assembled with thought and care. Slow eating, real plates, like sitting in a friend's kitchen and eating their signature dish. I can't wait to go back.

26 October 2017

A speck of dust

During a season of change it's easy to forget about everyone else. There are 7.6 billion beating hearts in this world and all I can think about is my own.

Perspective is one of my favourite words because it is one that cropped up four years ago when I was first getting treatment for my anxiety and depression. Perspective is the word I go back to every time I stumble, every time there is change.

Even when the change is good, it can be hard. I started a new job a few weeks ago and I love it. It's what I've wanted to do ever since I figured out what I wanted to do (this has been the year of, like, realising stuff) but it is bloody terrifying.

I think I will always feel like this – fear will always manifest itself in my experiences, following me as I venture down different avenues. Today, however, I am finding my groove and I am staying put. I feel useful. I am contributing to something I care about, finally. I am placed exactly where I need to be. I am a cog in this magnificent mechanism that is life – something I will never be able to fathom.

I don't know why, but writing and rewriting a sentence to grammatical perfection makes my soul sing. And I know I don't always get it right. There are probably mistakes in this blog post, but I'm in my flow, I'm feeling it. It might be different for you. Whatever it is that gives you a buzz - feeling needed, feeling new, feeling like you can change something in this gigantic world. It's the same feeling I get when I finish my to-do list, when I cook my favourite dinner, bake a delicious cake, when I finished an essay in school, nailed that point I had floating around in my head, speak up when I'm scared, find a fiver in my pocket.

It is these moments that bring me to the surface of my own suffering. My head bobs up and sees the potential in everything else. It asks someone else how they are. It gives someone a compliment. It sees a sliver of your life.

Because it's not just me and my problems. There are 7.6 billion others feeling this, feeling more, feeling less. I am just, in the words of Kimya Dawson, a speck of dust inside a giant's eye. And, while my purpose is solely grounded in God, my time on earth is limited. So, steeping in my millennial self-indulgence I will not. There is work to be done and I'm getting on with it.
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