This morning we got up and made it out to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris. The subway brought us 2 blocks away from the school and it was so quick we were there half an hour early. We walked the streets around the school and found a farmers market. Both sides of this street were lined with market vendors. There were florists, shoe salesmen, meat vendors, fresh produce and seafood mongers. At this market you could buy sweaters and scarves, pots and pans and carpets, there was even one guy with furniture for sale. The market was about 6 blocks in length and we had only gone a few blocks when we had to turn back so we could make it to Le Cordon Bleu on time.
Catherine walked us through the school, each floor was a different kitchen, pastry on the 3rd floor, demonstration kitchens on another level. We stood and watched a class making madeleines, then up to a pastry class making croissant. We tasted and talked, I took notes and Jon took pictures.
The history of Le Cordon Bleu dates back quite far to Marthe Distel who was a food journalist who began giving a few culinary classes by some of Paris best chefs around the late 1800’s. After Marthe, Madam Brassard bought the school and took it to the next level. This is when Julia Child took a class and it is true that under Brassard’s rule, she was very tough on the students – Julia included. Brassard ran the school for 45 years and retired at the age of 87, selling the school to the present owner, André Cointreau, a descendant of both the Cointreau and Rémy Martin dynasties. It was André that expanded the school into what is today an international school that teaches the highest standard of French cuisine around the world.
There are a few schools in The USA but there is only one in Canada and that is Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa. After that inspiring experience, we went right back to the market. I bought another 6 escargot for dinner and a beautiful bouquet of holly and evergreen boughs.
We met Jordan back at the apartment and went on a hunt for Christmas lights. We took the subway to the Eiffel Tower and walked down the streets we became familiar with last year when we rented an apartment on Rue Sufferen. We walked into my favourite boulangerie, sure enough, a few of my favourite cheese buns were left and I quickly bought one for my evening escargot. We went into a department store and found some Christmas tree decorations; gold balls and red stars.
We walked around the Eiffel Tower electronic cigarette comparison and over to Rue Clare, the street famous for the food shops that spill into the pedestrian cobblestone street. Our friends rented an apartment here last year and we used to walk this way when we would rendezvous with them. We walked through the street and up La Montte Picquet. It was a beautiful street with quaint little shops. One in particular caught my attention, it was a bread and chocolate shop or, Pain & Chocolat. Outside were chocolate brown bistro tables with whicker chairs. Over each chair was a blanket to keep outdoor customers warm. The blankets were in alternating colours of red and white – how beautifully festive and tasteful. We couldn’t resist, we went in; the tiny little place had rich brown wooden furniture against antiqued walls with small tables, glass and brass accents that gave it a feel of a parlor of the 1800’s. We ordered hot chocolate and drank it outside – holey cow! It was pure chocolate. It was a pure drink of thick chocolate topped with foamed milk. It luxuriated across our palate like decadent velvet with a rich flavour. I’m beginning to fall in love with Paris’ version of hot chocolate.
Christmas decorations are not nearly as obvious in Paris as anywhere in North America but what they do have is stunning. Rue Domonique had beautiful lights that resembled long icicles. The lights streamed from the top to the bottom of these 3-foot icicles that were draped across the street. There were hundreds of them and the white lights of each of them fell from top to bottom – in the dark they looked like snow falling – the Eiffel Tower was in the distance and the scene was one of pure Parisian magic.
We walked over to the Christmas Market on the Champs Elyse. It was dark and the Champs Elyse was it up like an elaborate Christmas wonderland. The modern lights circled the street lights in brilliant blue and others in bright white. The hundreds of little cabins that make up the Christmas market were all decorated in white lights. There were thousands of people at the market and as Jordan put it, we were walking through “a sea of people”. At times it was impossible to make your way through. Some people were eating churros from large paper cones. Churros are a sweet dough piped into oil, deep fried and rolled in sugar. I bought a few Boules, they are the size and shape of a short fat candle. They’re some kind of individual cake covered in chocolate with different flavours; I got the mint chocolate one and dark chocolate with nuts. We’ll have them for dessert tonight.
Jordan is getting tired and I have to admit, so am I. Jon is taking hundreds of pictures and we’ve just walked about 10 miles this afternoon. Jordan and I headed back to the apartment through the mile long promenade along Rue Rivoli.