cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Restaurant & The Sandwich Shop

Le Fournil de Versailles and Le Laurier
When, in the near future, you are standing on a long winding boulevard in Paris, eyes glued to the map searching for a real place to eat, elbows of passing cattle (tourists) jabbing into your sides, and restaurant hawkers assaulting you at every turn with their English language menus--take a breath, and stop fooling around! Pull out your Salty Cod Travel Guide jammed into the bottom of your Felix bag and get your arses to the best (biased yet correct) restaurant and sandwicherie in the big city of lights. If you do venture forth to Paris, and have the gall to visit neither of these establishments, we will first dub you the fool, and second disown you from our hearts and minds for a great deal of time. On y va.

There are places where we eat, then there are places where we eat. Any human with the ability to sit up and chew knows that while taste is the number one ingredient of a good dining experience, it is not the only one. Presentation and ambiance play crucial roles in determining whether a meal was good, great, or enlightening (if the food itself falls under the level of "good" then there is nothing a setting and scene can do to recoup their failure.) What then do you have when the food is not only undeniably fantastic, but the ambiance and setting are so friendly and welcoming it feels as if one is dining with family--well, you never have to fear the dreaded "eating alone," for your friends are already there.

Abdel, the master boulanger on the premises of Le Fournil de Versailles, runs a team of three others along with his wife who often appears alongside him at the baguette counter in the evening hours after her workday hours are complete. Le Fournil de Versailles, at first glance is just the seemingly "average" corner boulangerie and midday lunch hub for the nearby schools and local business workers, but on closer inspection and trial, one discovers this place to be truly owned and operated by the most genuinely friendly people one could ever expect to find on the planet. Why? Well, this is not a tourist district. The interior (and exterior) is nothing special, nothing glamorous, nothing to make you sigh "oh très jolie!" this is one of those situations where the lunch time line snaking out the door speaks for itself.

Le Fournil offers breakfast to dinner baguette service, baked fresh right there (you can see the ovens) along with the fare of any standard boulangerie; croissants, tarts, cookies, cakes, meringues, macaroons, etc. At lunch time, on the other side of the round-about counter is a lunch window full of crisp fresh baguette sandwiches, hot paninis, quiche, and salads available alongside a dessert and beverage for emporter (takeout) or sur place (seated at one of the tables, the window bar, or outside at one of the terrace tables). A good deal too--do not expect to pay more than 7euros for the whole meal. 7, yes that is what I said.

Me--I have been eating a salad for lunch at this corner shop 2 to 3, to sometimes 4 times a week. It is less than a minutes walk down the street from me, and a second home. If you are a friend of mine in Paris, you have eaten there. If you have visited me in Paris, you have eaten there. Even Flo and C, my little French children, have enjoyed a few lunches seated at the tables inside Fournil. Though it took a while to convince Abdel and the others that I wasn't the only person in the world who didn't eat wheat, and after many questionable looks and comments of "oh American diets" the usual slowly became "salut mallory my little flea (sounds better in French), what salad today, poulet ou thon?" The chicken and the tuna salad are my particular favorites, though ham and salmon are also available.

Nicoise olives, hardboiled eggs, cheese, and tomatoes have been my midday companions--though I never take the sauce--Abdel here is my secret I never would tell you: take it home, add 21 haricots verts, salt, balsalmic vinaigre, anise seeds, and two crushed bay leaves. That is what I do to your salads. Though they are darling on their own none the less. For dessert--who chould shed a tear over missing the apple crumble, pain au chocolat, and brownie when there is fromage blanc; a sour yogurt style cheese taken naturel, with strawberry jam, or a bit of creme de marrons. All that is then missing is the perrier.

Going to Fournil de Versailles? Tell them you have a very good friend who recommended you to them--then casually drop my name, and report back to me. Avoid 12h30 if you can--before noon and after 1h00 will give you more room to breath and more attention. French is always smiled upon if you try--but fear not here the use of your English, you will be welcomed and quite well understood. And don't cut and run afterwards, stick around for a cafe, and then perhaps a walk to the Roland Garros, or the Greenhouse of Auteuil, or perhaps the bois de boulogne. See what the southern 16th has to offer.

metro line 10 Eglise d'Auteul--take left metro exit and walk straight down rue Chardon Lagache, turn left at rue Jouvenet and continue straight until Ave de Versailles, it is on the corner. Or line 9 Exelmans--take boulevard Exelmans direction toward the Seine, turn left onto Ave de Versailles, and continue straight until 136 on the left hand side.

Din din time. Stay clear of the Champs Elysees, and get the hell out of montmartre. Where am I sending you? Where few tourists have gone before--but oh how they will have wished they had. The 14th--south of Montparnasse. Never thought you would make it south of that big boy did ya. Make your way down the charming, diverse, more "oh this is where normal people live" part of Paris to the little restaurant on the corner, Le Laurier. Laurier means bay leaf, and it is fitting, for this small restaurant of traditional French cuisine is so god-awfully gifted in the usage of spices and flavors that I can not imagine ever eating French style cooking without making a form of comparison in my mind. This place had the goods. You want French? You belong here. You want real waiters that don't wear berets and suspenders? You belong here. You want an ambiance and quiet charm fancy yet laid back and as French as it can get? You belong here.

As with Fournil de Versailles, I am a frequent visitor of Le Laurier; 1 to 2 times per week. As with Fournil, if you are a friend of mine in Paris you have either dined there or we became friends there. As with Fournil, the waiters and chefs have become some of my greatest friends in Paris, a Parisian family if you will, after hours as well. I grew to love the Laurier team-- weekend picnics and sunday night poker parties, the Parisian philosophy on food has taught me a great deal about food, and foods place in life and culture. Life is around the table, whether they are seated next to you or running around like mad men--if you don't eat with people you love and care about around, why bother eating at all.

I have had everything on the menu at least once. And it changes with the season. C'est vrai. Except many of the desserts. Those I have just observed. There are a few permanent residents of the menu--the classic gouts that never change; the tartar du boeuf which is in the end my favorite main plate, served with seasoned potatoes and a delicately dressed salad. The duck--always excellent. Fillet mignon, scallops with fois gras, steak, lamb, roasted chicken--and of course there is always the daily special. The salads are impeccable as well; the salad Laurier comprises of shrimp, mango, avocado, and a plethora of flavors and sauce all above a bed of fresh maché, there is the antipasta, and the smoked salmon salad which is moreover smoked salmon and sautéed potatoes accompanied by a few leaves of lettuce.

The entrees--fluffy and light terrine of blue cheese over a tomato red sauce, fois gras, mozzarela and tomato salad, tuna tartar, pumpkin soup with craw fish, and my particular favorite--pureed lentil soup with a creme sauce topped by a drizzle of raspberry syrup.

Desert--hands down the creme brulée is my recommendation, three small rounds of variant flavored cremes sometimes a chocolate, or a berry, or a nut, depending on the season--caramelized to that near blackish and crackling state of perfection. The nougat glacée, the rice pudding melded with a caramel sauce (a bit Portuguese do you not agree?) and of course there is the ever changing tare du jour.

Laurier is a bar à vin, and as such i have had much, much from its store. Glass, carafe, bottle--they boast an impressive stock, and it is there where I have indeed found my favorite flavor. The boys can also offer a classy aperitif if you desire--a cocktail bien sûr, and Antoine, I must say, mixes quite a nice caipirinha, a result from his joyous travels abroad. However, I will say, and I do boast this with pride, I was the first customer at Le Laurier, to ever ask for one--the virgin bottle of cachaça retrieved from the cellar and opened just for me. What can I say. Just, what can I say.

when to go? any day of the week except sunday, lunch or diner. Dinner after 8h00 is best, but remember there is no special on saturday. Metro line 13 Pernety, exit metro and walk straight forward down rue Pernety until the end, Le Laurier is on the left hand corner.

What is so outstandingly brilliant about these two places that I would send you trekking west and south all around the city just for a meal--what you ask. So what if you are friends with the baker and the waiters--so what, perhaps his bread is as good as any of the hundreds of others that line the Parisian streets, so what. Well, so plenty. These establishments are dear to me, I recommend them with a heart to do you good. When I return to Paris, I will eat no where else before I have sat down at these tables again. Getting there is half of the adventure, find the other pockets in the city, get out of the line at the Louvre, your photo at the Eiffel Tower is lovely, but that crepe you ate on the Champs was pre-cooked. What you will remember in ten years is the 3 hour meal you ate in a charming restaurant you went on a treasure hunt to find, surrounded by laughing locals, sleeping dogs, and friendly, charming, and high-on-life waiters. You will remember how you could not stop pouring the wine, and that though there were three courses, you felt satisfied but never full. You will remember the meal. Everyone remembers the meal. And by remembering the meal, you remember the people, and you remember Paris. I will miss my friends dearly, thank you for your friendship, we will meet again soon, ça, c'est sûr.

à bientôt

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

C'est Vrai! -- It's the Hilton in Paris!

The regal meal in Paris I've been waiting for What would you do if every cocktail on the menu was a 10euro minimum, the entrées list for no less than 15 euro each, the main plats abound environ 35 to 40 euros a pop, a 3 course wine rainbow that no, you cannot find at the supermarché, bottled water with the restaurants own name on it, waiters that pour the water and bring you unordered appetizers--what would you do? Cut and run? Hopefully. What would I do? Bring it! this one is on the house! You see--I am a very important food writer and restaurant critic, I am called in all over the city and begged to come and dine in 5 stars every week for free just as Anthony is, they say to me, we would have thought of calling Monsieur Bourdain, but when we heard you were available...

Get your head out of the clouds. But then how did you? How did? Easy. Get to know a chef.

Perhaps, moreover hopefully, some of you remember months back my invitation as "photographer" to a friends big culinary school graduation final dinner. Non? pas grave, you can go there now. The post was Vive Le Mexique--the story of culinary student g-mo, a friend and (obviously) fellow foodie who studied culinary arts earlier in the year at Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres de l' académie de Versailles after culinary school in Mexico, and has since held an intern position in the kitchen at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe Hotel. Chouette. It all makes sense now eh?

Finishing his internship this upcoming week, g-mo as an employee was invited to dine in the restaurant where he had never eaten, never even been into the dining room of--all in the accompaniment of a little friend. And therefore when we the doomed singles of the culinary world (note: I say we, not that this wanna-be is claiming to be a chef, not at all, but food writers and side-line bakers manage to weasel their way into the cooks class. if they try hard enough) cannot enjoy a romantic dinner setting, well, romantically--we turn to the next best thing (better even?) a fellow foodie. That is where I enter. Let's lock and load.

Meeting up for dinner at 7, we sit in the the hotel's front patio, what i call the "cocktail terrace." It is nice to have the bar tender know you--by default he knows who i'm with so I get the glow too--as well as the waiters and waitresses. I order a Rose, because well, I'm a wine-o. Fantastique! is all I have to say after my customary pallet of under 10euro bottles from Nicholas'. The Safran restaurant at the Hilton is a somewhat under-cover (French style) of Asian fusion--pretty much they attempt to incorporate saffron into every dish, but they do try to put a little "international" twist on things.

The waitress, in bright floral "tropical" dress returns to offer more drinks, "our special cocktail tonight is a caiperina," she urges, "and you can choose what fruit flavor you would like--and even hand select the berries." Caiperina? How did she know my favorite cocktail. I'll have the red berries please madame. Sitting on the cocktail terrace we discussed "the biz" like i was a part of it for nearly two hours. And I take biographical notes like a reporter. Caipirinas drained, and hunger rising, we snake our way through the restaurant and out onto the central dinner patio adorned in crisp white linens, shade umbrellas, ice buckets of chilled champaign, and a lovely lady playing a colossal blue harp. chouette!

The waiter comes--hey man! (hand clap shake, thing, only the French equivalent) and hands us the menu. Now, as the very proud and hot headed person I am, I never let anyone order for me. I know what I like, and what do you know of it? But, if you happen to be eating with someone who intimately knows most of the dishes, sauces, plate, cremes that come tearing out of the kitchen door--order what they tell you to order. The recommendation: the duck. Cooked in red wine, turnip, and pear reduction. Ok, sold. For entree our waiter recommends for my "fondness of fish" the salmon in a sweet cream sauce. The wine--the man appeared double time as sommelier--French white for entree to fuse well with the fish, and for main an Argentinian red. Argentinian red? I questioned him, Argentinian? You don't want Argentine wine? he asks, well, I start as I search my head for why an automatic 'oh come on Argentina?' response would ever pop into my it's not that--for some reason I feel, hey well don't you have anything French? This one is the best to go with your duck. Argentinian wine it is then monsieur!

The salmon was impeccable rubbed in the sweet creme sauce. Atop the creme, you will notice, is a long thin tuille sprinkled with chili powder, a recent addition to the dish since the employment of a certain new intern, bravo! that's his tuille! his tuille, a lasting impression that after one "experiment dish" was sent out--the rest were asking for it. I will tell you now that g-mo's passion is not exactly a station master in a kitchen--but rather the pastry arts.

The duck was cooked perfectly. Everything was cooked perfectly--despite both tables unhappiness with it to our right and our left, ungrateful snobbish americans and brits whose extensive knowledge on the matters of the culinary arts sent lectures of "this is how its done" with the belittled waiter back into the kitchen. "My steak should arrive with the rest, i don't care if i was the only one with an appetizer, that's how i want it, not three minutes after everyone else, take it back i want nothing!" listening to my country men blundering around me in english, disrespecting not only the wait staff, the food, but also the chef, is enough for me to want to get up and strangle the fat bastard. Do you know how hard they are working back there!

And then to your right you have "my son doesn't like sugar. Bring him a juice without sugar" and "This is not how sole is cooked, let me tell you how this fish should be cooked, I am a bleeding expert." Witnessing such embarrassment only makes one feel even more patriotic for the kitchen staff. The nerve! the nerve! I whisper in French, as we discuss how the customer has no say on how fish, chicken, and pork dishes are cooked--beef is your only say. So shut your mouth you carp! But nothing can be done--the customer is always right, and that beautiful piece of perfectly cooked fish is sent back and tossed, so Sir Winston can have a piece of boiled rubber. The waiter may grind his teeth and send curses and plagues on the schmuck and his family after work hours--but during them, during them is to bow, to apologize, and to please. People are people, and in the end--all that should matter to me is that I severely enjoyed the meal.

The meal ended with the new summer desesrt menu--and hands down what was chosen (by both of us) was the coconut milk and mango creme brulee. That is an intenational flavor fusion which sends me to bed happy as a clam. When everything was cleared and lo and behold where did the last 4 and a half hours go! we thank the waiter, and ask if I can go into the kitchen. The kitchen. Eh, oui, but no photos---put that thing away. Yes sir. A meal is not complete unless you venture back to see from whence it came! And was it complete? Yes. It was excellent. I recommend anyone not on a budget dine there.

Restaurant reviews are a tricky thing to grasp. Who cares about what someone thinks eh? I used to think so myself. However, I find myself more often than not in a restaurant analyzing everything, from the size of the room, the type of diners seated around me, the estimated heads per night, the envisioned goings on in the kitchen, what is the chefs favorite thing on the menu to produce, the correlation between prices and how good i can actually expect this fish to taste, the waiters attitude toward their connection with the establishment, do i have a knife and a fork, and after the meal, after all of this i can then say if I had a good experience or not, and if I would take you there. That's all that matters, would I take you there. That is a restaurant review.

To say it plain, I am very honored by my friend to have been invited to such an evening as someone who understands food life. It is quite the compliment, and finally a reassurance. While perhaps, to some well-off readers out there who are used to dining in upscale black-tie joints this one may appear slightly too casual--but for me, for me it was a little magic. Thank you friend. And we here at the Salty Cod wish your culinary career every possible success, to your own restaurant, and your dream of travel and becoming a grand pâtissier! Wherever it may be, know that the Salty Cod Bakery will always be a sister pâtisserie to yours.

à bientôt

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Let's Go Down to China Town

Snack Attack in BellevilleIt appears that in nearly every major city in Europe and in the Americas there is to be found a Chinatown, a Little Tokyo--maybe a Petite Hanoi? a bitty Bangkok, a Seoul-ville? Mini-countries, one inside the other. Of all the world cultures found transplanted into another through immigration, it is the cultures of the East (for me a western-centric egoist) more often than not who profoundly establish a replication of their old world in their new.

Not to imply Asian cultures are the sole builders of ethnic districts-- there are grandiose Jewish quarters found around the world, central European and middle-eastern burrows in small and big towns, and of course (particularly in the southern US) Spanish districts in which foreign culture is streamed in through restaurants, markets, goods, language, entertainment, and society. All of these aspects join together to form not just a "Little Stalingrad" or a "Taco Town" inside a Seattle, LA, Munich, or Paris, but rather a true part of the city's identity, part of the culture, the countries culture, the peoples culture. That is what a cities cultural identity is; there is only one Paris, one that is French, Chinese, Arab, African, Jewish, Muslim, America(s)n; whether you like it or not everyone is affected, the city is affected, the city is made. The world is not big anymore, we all share with each other now. What is New York City without Little Italy, San Fran without Chinatown, and where would the whole world be, for that matter, without that damn street kabob!

But why does it seem that there are more established pockets of Asian cultures in cities around the world than of any other ethnicity? There are many reasons, and I will try a few of them as I sit here munching on a white rabbit (it's a Japanese candy, not an actual rodent lagomorpha, you may rest-assured Alice's pocket watch carrying bunny is not in danger. for tonight at least.) Are the Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese just more organized? maybe. But there is more to it. I think.

One word, you are thinking, mallory kick it with the annalysis--all you need to say is immigration. True, I suppose. Immigration explains how one group of peoples ends up living among another group of peoples. Immigration is quite the interesting subject don't you agree, the United States would not exist without it. Australia-- same as the US. France's immigrant population markedly consists of North Africans and Muslims, which has had a major impact on Parisian culture, food, and even language. Right now Brasil is celebrating its 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration, as we all know, Brasil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. Spokane--Spokane houses a huge number of Ukranian and Russian immigrants. Speaking of Ukraine, Ireland has recently experienced a Ukranian influx of migrant workers. Each community is made different, made better, made itself by the variant cultural makeup of historical and current immigration. But immigration in itself does not explain why there is a Chinatown and not a Ukrainiatown.

Hypothetical (yet evident) reasons: western and eastern cultures are markedly different from one another (no way!) and therefore any "setup" in the other is much more noticeable. China is the most populated country in the world (no way!) and therefore numerically there has, and continues to be more immigrants establishing themselves around the world. The earliest Chinatowns in America, and around the world for that matter, emerged from both need and availability. We don't need to hide our imperfect history, our human historical error of racism--it's a fact. What do people do when faced with racism? They learn to cope, they institute familiarity to bring comfort and a sense of community into their new lives. Often times, centered around food. For the availability--with large communities it is possible to have the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker.

But let's face it, most modern Chinatowns are there nowadays for us, the tourist and visitor. We like the stuff, we want the stuff. Chinatowns are huge attractions for foreigners, as well as nearby locals. Imports and wholesales often times make the markets quite the bargain, and the international charm of the whole experience is enough to pull you down town and over to the international district to buy candy instead of just popping down the road to the supermarket. And besides, who wouldn't rather eat some szechuan chicken and some kimchi cooked by real people who know the food they are actually cooking, who know how to pronounce it, know its history, know its purpose, than say that sticky orange sweet and sour crap smoldering under a hot glass at the deli take away counter at the supermarket. That's what I thought.

There are two Chinatowns--quartiers chinoises--in Paris, the largest and older is in the 13e arrondissement in the southeast of Paris near the porte d'Italie. The second is in the 19e at Belleville, the quartier chinois we will pay a visit to right now.

A bit on Chinese immigration to France: the first major waves hit the country during and after the first World War as Chinese immigrants were welcomed as manual laborers. The Chinese population remained in Paris during and after the second war, briefly taking over the wholesale market in the Jewish district le marais. Through the years the locations of the Chinatowns have changed, leaving only traces of there previous installments. The modern locations have been in establishment since the early 1970's.

What makes a Chinatown? First, a large number of Chinese residents. Second: markets, stores, and stalls that sell Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and or Thai products, oftentimes for very low prices. Third: restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. Fourth: Video, book, magazine, newspapers available in Chinese and other Asian languages. And fifth: street signs are almost always in the the countries language as well as Chinese. A mini country inside of another.

What does Paris Chinatown have? I'll tell you. Many supermarkets selling everyday products you'll find everywhere for lower prices, but located on a shelf next to myriad rice crackers and packets of dried powders and spices. Paris Store is a large chain that is quite popular and found throughout France. Produce markets, restaurants, patisseries where next to the croissants are sesame and wasabi cakes, hair salons and travel agencies , it is really in the end just two cultures smashed up against each other to form a new, better one.

Personally--I was thrilled to find the beloved sweet rice cake snacks available at the markets back home in Poulsbo--not to mention the white rabbits, banana chips fried in sesame oil, and a Thai tapioca pudding whose ingredients consisted of coconut milk, tapioca, green beans, red dates, garbanzo beans, lotus leaves, and algae--- it was quite good.

Chinatown at Belleville--good name, it is quite a belle ville. On the side of an apartment building you will find a mural and the words, Il faut se mefier des mots--be wary of words, but in Chinatown, you do not need to be wary of words, whether you understand them or not, they are welcoming you, as long as you can taste the melon, you don't need to be able to pronounce it, words will come when they come, whether your language or not, you just have to let them.

à bientôt

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Little Rome Before I Go Home

The only real Gelato in Roma
Ancient Rome, It's Not Like Home-- COLOSSEUM!

This post is dedicated to the Ratburns out there and all the brilliant Arthur Read fans (girl Ryan, and boy Ryan). You know, I do think I may have seen Julius Cesar deliver pizza to the Senate on a Hang glider, that is, before he met up with Russell Crowe.

Flying into Ciampino airport, I ceremoniously noted in my little tete that this was indeed my last trip whilst still living in Paris. Not to say that every passing day in Paris is not a potential candidate for an adventure, but the Euro-hoping, my friends, has come to an end, at least for now. And where better to mark a finale than the epicenter of our ancient western civilization--not to mention a possible Pope sighting. Eh eh? Vatican City! Rome and Paris they sing of, but a three days visit, let me just give you a taste.

I met up with an ancienne amie from my University in the US (my freshman roommate) while she was on a little mother-daughter summer tour of Italy. We will call my friend Tittlywinks, and note now that our rendezvous was at the hotel at n'importe lequel hour. I was the first to arrive, and awaited the rest of the party to show slumped over unconscious on a lobby leather couch due to the previous nights one hour of sleep (you were all there, Salty's birthday, he parties hard that little poisson) Our meeting was wonderful--it truly is great to know that true friends are still there for you, as if nothing has happened, even after an entire year of separation. Our first order of business: food.

Why yes Italian food is pasta pasta pasta. But I didn't have a problem. Antipasta is an understatement. Put cheese, ham, olives, eggplants, tomatoes, and artichokes in front of me and i'm a happy little bubbly girl ready to clap. While every restaurant did in fact incorporate the word "pizza" into the name, i was able to find much more. Beef dishes, veal dishes, anchovies and risottos. Anything swimming in olive oil, such as baked zucchini in Parmesan and a tomato red sauce and all thoughts of lasagna fade. Coming from a french red wine lover--Italian reds are amazingly sweet and surprisingly refreshing. Italy may be known for the lemoncello, but the wine industry, let us hope, is continuing to rise. A bottle between two did make for fun conversation seated at night on the warm crowded steps of the Trevi Fountain--you know, the one she swims in--in la dolce vita.

Enough talk of food--where is the ice cream. The first day after visiting myriad churches, shopping alleys, and oh look the Pantheon, we search out gelato--real gelato. On any one street in Italy there may be up to as many as 10 gelatarias, bright, bubbly, illuminated by flashing neon lights and plastic ice cream cones screaming "Ice cream ice cream here!" Any sign that ever assaults the eyes not only with such colors, but in English is a joint to be avoided. The gelato in these cafes is piled high in mounds that appear to almost ooze into the compartment next door. Your lemon sorbet has been french kissing the hazelnut chocolate crunch.

The colors of many sorbets and gelatos in these displays are putrid--bright, artificial, nothing that is grown organically should be that color. And a cone--my friends, say no to the cone. Gelato is taken in a little cup, with a little spoon, never, never on a cone. You say avoid all the gelato mallory? Well where are we supposed to eat! There are 2---TWO establishments in Rome for you to taste--they are the same, but two different locations for your convenience. But once you do try real gelato, you too as well will snub your nose at the carnival freezer mounds of slush. The name to remember: Gelato di San Crispino, the real gelataria of Rome.

Walking into San Crispino I gasped--holy shit i'm in Mora. What!? The metal bins, the smooth counter, the baskets of colorful gelato spoons, the crisp looking ice cream server (was I crisp looking?) the white, professional, flaalvor-speaks for itself no-nonsense ambiance of the little ice creamery on Bainbridge Island (near Seattle) was present in this little cafe on a tiny street in Rome. Hmmm, I toss around in my head, I think the bosses must have eaten here. Either way--influence comes from somewhere, and reading the list of flavors and "mission statement" at San Crispino, i knew that this, in fact, was real, natural, pure gelato. Crispinos creed: use only the best natural ingredients, nothing artificial, experiment with new flavors while still maintaining the classical charm of the old, and, surprise the taste buds. Sounds an awful lot like the older brother of dear Mora.

One would then imagine the creamery to be packed, lines queuing out the door down the cobblestones, and snacking all the way to the Pantheon's front gate. But there was never a line. 3 times, and there was never a line. Rome in the summer and there is no line? I will tell you, bright neon signs DO in fact attract mosquitoes. So, trip advisory: don't be a mosquito. While the flavor selection is no where near 45, they are still quite diverse and sure to spark some hidden scent of curiosity. They range from walnut and fig (no goat cheese) to ricotta, whiskey, pistachio, hazelnut, cocoa, Italian liqueurs, and many others.

Their signature flavor is the San Crispino, which is made with honey (Tittlywinks' favorite). However, for me I was drawn like a fly to 5: licorice root, ginger and cinnamon, armagnac, chocolate with meringue, and caramel with meringue. Those flavors, those are the ones worth dying for. Meringue incorporated into a gelato is a cry short from genius--crispy and soft, Mora, you must take this into note. Their sorbets also take advantage of the regional flavors--melon, lemon, grapefruit, peach, Isabella grape, Seville orange, and others. Needless to say, going to Rome? Go to San Crispino.

Two locations: Via Acaia 56 Roma, Via della Panetteria 42 Roma.

We visited both locations. The second day was a full day strolling through the ruins of ancient Rome-- the Palentino, Circo Massimo, the Colosseum--through the hot hot heat with dust blowing everywhere, hills covered in poppies, and ancient piles of rubble just...there. Rome transports you to another time, causing one to think, hey where's Russel Crowe! Of course, hot archaeological work must be followed by a gelato.

The last day in Rome was spent at the Vatican. Yes. The Popes palace. No Pope sighting on this trip. But the imense awe and grandeur of St Peters Basilica can not be given full effect through words. The 500 some step climb through the narrowing spiral stairs to the cupola of the Basilica started the journey--through Saint Peters, down into the crypt, around into the Vatican museum, and then, finally, into the Sistine Chapel. Amazing? Yes. 500 steps? hmm. Let's go back to San Crispino. Poor scooper though--made him scoop during the Italy France game and answer my silly questions. I left by sadly shouting, allez les bleues! But gazie for the gelato!

Paris and Rome, Paris and Rome, but it really is almost time to go home. Next airport: Charles de Gaulle.

à bientôt