July 29, 2011

Jerkey’s Korner: Frenchified (A Memoir)

by Jerkey

therese

My trip to France was my first international experience ever. As much as I tried to prepare, there really is just no preparing for the unknown. From walking a mile underground in between each subway line to the reality of the hotel rooms, everything seemed to be more difficult than I had anticipated. What do you mean small? Thankfully, as all reigns true, food is the international unifier regardless of barriers.

When it came to culture shock, the biggest wake-up calls I received were a Kentucky Fried Chicken amassed with obnoxious teens and Chinese-borne sandwich cart vendors. So you mean to tell me you speak Mandarin, French, AND English? I’m glad I learned all those 15 words before I traveled all the way over here.

On a cloudy, rainy day in Paris, we happened upon this easy-on-the-eyes, comfort-zone respite of a Japanese noodle house in what appeared to be an actual Japantown in Paris!

lamen-storefront
Now, I have it on good authority from TWO Japanese people that “lamen” is a phonetic corruption of “ramen”, and is not actually the French translation.

After enduring a week of ghastly humidity throughout France, the rain was welcome weather for eating lamen.

lamen-chef

The chef prepared for us a decent plate of yakisoba with calamari rings, followed by a simple but solid bowl of pork lamen.

lamen

After Paris, we ventured down south to Nice. Similar to my post on Liguria, the French Riviera is so much different than the rest of the country. From the architecture to the cuisine, it just screams quaint, romantic, seaside living. Like with this bouillabaise for starters:

bouill

It was no Joe’s Crab Shack of course, and it did not compel me to scream, “TAKE YOUR TOP OFF!” but it did the trick.

Another regional specialty, like the bouillabaise but far less recognized, is socca. Socca is a chick-pea pancake with lots of olive oil and black pepper. Other cultures have similar dishes–like farinata in Italy and besan poora in India–but socca truly is my favorite. Not just because of the flavor and consistency, but because of this particular experience.

You know how in San Francisco there’s the Tamale Lady? Well Nice has the Socca Lady and her name is Theresa. Caricatural in all her glory, she owns the crowd at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market in Old Nice.

therese

Taciturn in voice and demeanor, she glares at you while you stammer, “Socca por deux… uh… sils vous plait…” Gulp. With a nod of her head and a shoo of her hand, you stand there completely unsure of what to do next so you go sit down and sort of just wait, feeling totally insecure. Then you wait and you wait some more, and then finally, around the corner like Batman’s Robin on a runaway sidecar, comes this man with his glorified pizza warmer. Behold, the socca contraption:

socca-cart2

Not only does the entire bottom of the contraption hold a single socca that Theresa makes in her kitchen, but it also holds smaller socca-esque pies.

socca-cart1

Theresa takes the whole tray of socca and you see her start cutting it up and throwing it on paper plates, calling customers and familiar faces to come get theirs. I tried to play it cool like I’m not on the edge of my seat, feeling a little like a penniless child near an ice-cream truck, and then just as fast as she shooed me away, she brought me my very first, official plate of socca.

socca

Unfortunately, the wait continued because this thing was like 500˚F of steaming, creamy chickpea.

Back in Paris in the 5th Arrondisement, is this amazing Japanese patisserie, steps away from our little hotel called Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki.

patis4

Stuffed to the gills with French macaroons and cafe cremes, this shop was a sweet intermission.

patis1

patis3

There is nothing like learning things for the first time and, while I preferred the South of France to Paris, the diversity and unexpected finds of the city were worth learning the hard way. And when you don’t know what else to order or just have a hankering, get the soup a l’oignon.

onion
I must stress that this is the best onion soup I have ever eaten to date.

HIGUMA
32 bis Rue Sainte-Anne
75001 Paris, France
01.47.03.38.59

THERESA’S SOCCA
Tuesdays @ the Cours Saleya Market
Old Nice, France

PATISSERIE SADAHARU AOKI
35 Rue de Vaugirard
Paris, France 75006
+33.1.45.44.48.90

3 Comments

  • Sonja
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I found Higuma kind of bad…I recommend Ebisu restaurant is at Opéra and is a little off the Asian mecca that is rue Sainte Anne. They have really good “Singapore” style noodles. The price (especially at dinner) is higher but worth it! For udon, Kunitoraya at Sainte Anne is really good and has a more authentic flavor than it’s counterparts. Sadaharu Aoki is so good, I agree, except their macarons which are more on the mushy side. Their rendition of Japanese strawberry shortcake is super as well as their small packets of cookies (yuzu, matcha, earl grey etc). Another super good pastry shop just around the corner is Carl Morletti which has the best lemon curd tart I have ever tasted. I feel like I should write a guide or something but I forgot how I’m supposed to write on this blog…

  • Kayoko
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    HOLY SHIT IT IS SONJA.

  • Posted July 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    We’ve been meaning to visit Sadaharu Aoki every time we are in Paris as we’ve heard lots of good things about the patisserie. And the cakes looks incredible. I’ve also been to Higuma which I thought was so so, but it was a welcome relief from the heavy French food.

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