Monday 7 January 2013

Paris, My Sweet

Is it wrong to buy a book as a gift fully intending to read it yourself before you give it away? Probably. I'm sure it's wrong to blog about it before you do. So this post will have to wait a while, until after Christmas. Mind you, I do have a few good reasons for reading Paris, My Sweet- I need to make sure that it's a book my mother will like. Right? And also if I'm going to give it to my mother to read to get some ideas before our trip to Paris next this year, then I should know about those places too. Right? Right. Just so I know what she recommends.

It was a bit of a no-brainer that I would like this book actually. I first met Amy Thomas via her Sweet Freak blog, and then followed her God, I love Paris blog too. In the real world Amy got to move to Paris, to slip effortlessly into a job working on the Champs Elysee for Louis Vuitton, effectively transferred to Paris from New York. Her company helped her with paperwork, finding an apartment and even a French tutor. Naturally, I'm not jealous, not one bit.

Paris, My Sweet is a memoir of Amy's move from New York to Paris. The insecurities and uncertainties of swapping your mother tongue for a new, difficult and yet beguiling new language. Of moving to a new city in a new country where you don't really know anyone. Amy had been to Paris twice before, once in college, and once the year before for a week, which she had cleverly documented for a column in the New York Times on the best chocolate shops in Paris. Amy had spent her week riding Paris's Velib bikes to the sample the best delights of the city.

After moving to Paris Amy finds it hard to break into French society and ends up as most people do- living an expat lifestyle with other anglophones- American, Aussies and Brits- and never quite assimilating.

She and I still commiserated about how being an expat in Paris was like living inside a bubble. We could be seated at a dinner party, witnessing a confrontation on the Metro, shopping at a crowded street market- doing anything in the middle of this huge, international city- and remain utterly alone, trapped inside our heads. In your head, you could understand the voices; in the real world, words and conversations were just indecipherable background noise- beautiful, but meaningless all the same.

But more than that Paris, My Sweet is an homage to the wonderful cakes and pastries of Paris, surely the best in the world. Amy has certainly managed to eat her way around the city, and it's interesting to hear her opinions of the best of the best.

At the back of the book Amy lists her top 10 for Paris.

1. A good, old oozin' Nutella street crepe.

2. La Folie at Patisserie des Reves.

3. The insanely addictive Praluline from Pralulus Chocolatier in the Marais.

4. The sweet little strawberry Coeur from Coquelicot in Montmartre.

5. A chocolate eclair from Stohrer.

6. Angelina's stick-to-your-teeth chocolat chaud.

Also the day of my citron presse experiment
It's just straight lemon juice in a glass
Sometimes curiosity does kill the cat

7. Jean Paul Hevin's truffles are le mieux. And his mendiants. And his cakes.

8. The rice pudding at Chez l'Ami Jean.

9. The Plenitude Individuel from Pierre Herme.

10. An almond croissant from Boulangerie Julien.

I think I've just found myself a tour! I've only done Angelina's chocolat chaud. Twice. The first day was the weather was warm and it didn't bowl me over all that much. We returned for breakfast on a cool, rainy morning and I was completely won over by this amazing unctuous delight. It's extraordinary. I have been to JPH many, many times, but don't remember having the truffles before, I've certainly had his mendiants, and cakes, his macarons, and chocolates.  I'll be there several times at least next year, and looking forward to the truffles. The only one that will be harder to achieve is the meal at Chez l'Ami Jean I suspect.

Other top Paris tips from within the pages:

Ble Sucre has the best madeleines.

Nicolas Stohrer invented the baba au rhum. It would seem only fitting to try one.

Other chocolat chaud picks- Les Deux Magot, Jacques Genin, JPH.

La cuisine anglais has become quite popular- carrot cake from Rose Bakery in the 9th, cupcakes from Synie's Cupcakes in Saint Germain, Cupcakes and Co in the 11th, and Berko (Marais and Montmartre). Whilst on cupcakes, I'd never realised that the third series Sex and the City was essentially responsible for the world wide cup cake pandemic, and the meteoric rise of Magnolia Bakery in New York. Perhaps if I'd ever watched any episode of Sex in the City, maybe, I might know that.

And as for who makes the best of that Parisian sweet superstar of the moment, the macaron, Amy tells us that it is Pierre Herme or Laduree. I've certainly had macarons from Pierre Herme, I don't remember that I've had any from Laduree, another reason to return.

What I wasn't expecting was that so much of the book would be about the delicacies that abound in her native New York. Information that is less useful to me at the moment, but when I go to New York next I'll be certain to look up some of her suggestion there too.


Anonymous said...

congratulations, I think you are the 1st to finish a book related to France. don't forget to link your review on the challenge page using mr Linky #2.
I read this book at the beg of 2012 and loved it as well

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

A book about Paris and sweets? Perfect!

Amy said...

Wow - wonderful review. Merci, Louise! I hope one day the NY side of the story is just as useful as the Paris... and I hope your mom enjoys Paris, My Sweet! xo

Vicki said...

I see nothing wrong with making sure someone will like a book before gifting it to them! LOL!

This sounds like a great read for me, I've always dreamed of a Paris vacation, and I love chocolate!

Marg said...

I may have done that with the cookbook I reviewed on the weekend!

I read this book last year and thought it was a lot of fun. Of course, I am not going to Paris any time soon I may just have to reread it again at some point!

Paulita said...

Louise, I've read this book before, but I'm so jealous that you read it as you are preparing to go to Paris. I think that would put a whole new spin on it. I also think that I love almost all chocolate in France, so I'm not discerning enough to distinguish between the best and also very good. I have decided I'm not crazy about macarons, but it's always worth a visit to Laduree, to sit and drink tea or espresso. Thanks for playing along. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Jackie McGuinness said...

I will definitely read this book before my next trip to Paris!!
I'm your latest follower!!

Thanks for dropping by and visiting and you MUST have crepes on your next trip!!

Esme said...

I really enjoyed this book.

Dianne said...

I've not read the book but I can certainly identify with some of the recommendations .... having spent a few weeks recently within 5 minutes walking distance to Stohrer's ... Their Rhum Barba is a must taste when in Paris.... Angelina's chocolat chaud us everything you dream it would be ... rich, creamy chocolately heaven in a cup. I would add to the list French Onion Soup at Café de la Paix near the magnificent Opera House ....a treat not to be missed.

Anonymous said...

This one's been on my list for a while - it seems that no matter how many bakeries and chocolate shops one visits in Paris, there are always a few more to try!

Joy said...

Popped over from the Books on France challenge. I'll be in Paris in June -- this looks perfect!

Joy's Book Blog