Before she moved back east, the girl from Penang set me up with one of her closest friends in Paris. It took many months but we were finally both back in town after the rentrée and got together at long last, some 4 months after our first and unfortunately aborted rendezvous. It was a good thing we met, because not only do I now have one more friend in town, I also got to visit her part of town, the area around Parc Monceau.
We first met at Riva, a cute cafe with a sun-drenched terrace at Place Rio de Janeiro, fitting because we spent at least 15 minutes talking about my trip to Brazil. The cafe fare, for her a nicely dressed beef tartare and for a juicy and pretty hefty burger, though quite plain was also delicious without distracting us from our conversation.
After lunch, and a stroll through quirky Parc Monceau, I went in search of lunch: part 2. It was not that the hamburger wasn’t filling enough, oh that was not the case at all, but my dessert-stomach, despite all the patty, buns and fries, was still calling out for something sweet. Luckily, I had a target in mind, Boulangepicier, recommended by fellow chowhounders.
Boulangepicer, as its name suggests, is part bakery and part grocery store, with a long counter on the left and some narrow shelves displaying oils and other condiments on the right. Boulangepicer has an aristocratic pedigree, being a collaboration between two French food titans, the Michelin star chef Alain Ducasse and master baker Eric Kayser.
Being a bread focused boulangerie, the shop eschews from selling fancy, cream filled cakes and choux pastries, offering only a simple selection of viennoiseries, muffins and tarts to ease the sweet tooth. A slice of tartlette aux fraises was perhaps the fanciest looking pastry in the shop, with thin, perfect slices of nectarines, figs and late season strawberries lined up above fragrant vanilla cream with military precision. A perfect crust and some oats encircling the tart provides additional texture and crunch. Being not-too-sweet, this was a relatively guilt-free dessert. And my new friend gave me a tip, sit outside and one would enjoy tea with a view of the magnificent Russian cathedral right down the street.
I also brought a loaf of walnut bread home, where it received much praise for the soft, slightly salty crumb and the large amount of walnuts inside. Now that my in-laws have taken to buying and cracking their own walnuts, I’ve seen how little yield there was for their efforts, and fully appreciate Boulangepicer’s generosity.
Walking by Boulangepicier’s modern yet modest shopfront, with nary a mention of either Ducasse or Kayser on the awnings and windows, the place looks very much like any other upscale bakery in the high-end neighborhood. As a result, one could easily pass by it everyday without ever stopping to check it out. That would be regretful, because the products are definitely quite good, and the baked goods are at least on par with those at Eric Kayser’s main chain. The savory bites are also recommended, and while I had already eaten lunch, I could still enjoy the perfume of the heavily scented truffle pasta that others were devouring. No prizes for guessing correctly what I’ll be ordering next time!
Riva: 3 place Rio de Janeiro 75008 PARIS
Boulangepicer: 73 Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris