Sunday, March 28, 2010

Purses and cookies

I really do not like to shop.  It just hasn't ever been my thing.  Maybe if I had unlimited funds it might be more interesting, but I doubt it.  Of course, market browsing and food shopping are in a different category.  Those I love!
Part of the legend of the annual 8th grade trip to France, passed down from class to class, is the shopping trip to Galeries Lafayette.  This doesn't really affect the boys unless they have been ordered by an older sister or mom to bring home something specific, in most cases a Longchamp purse.  They tolerate this stop by usually finding the café on the top floor.  There was a boy in my group last year, though, whose older sister had gone on the trip with me two years earlier.  He had money and direct orders to buy a certain purse in a certain color.  He did (he is no dummy) and then carried the famous green bag with him all the way home.  He wasn't about to let that purse out of his sight or to trust it to the baggage handlers.  So, I always carve out a couple of hours for the trip to Galeries Lafayette.  Le Printemps, another Parisian grand magasin, is right next door.  The windows at Printemps were done up for Alice aux pays des merveilles film that was coming to Parisian cinémas very soon...
This is the closest I've come to running into Johnny Depp in Paris...  Would I even recognize him sans make-up?
If you check out Carol's Paris Breakfasts blog, you can see much better photos of Alice.  (It just so happens Carol was in Paris the same time I was.  I wish we could've met.  She was busy chasing after fashion models and designers since she'd been invited over for fashion week by Sonia Rykiel.) 
Anyway, back to the subject(s) at hand.  I did hit the Longchamp shop at GL, looking for gifts for my sons' girlfriends.
They both got these cute little bags, one in pink for college-age girlfriend, and one in black for high school-age girlfriend.  I admit... I did not want to give them up.  They are so cool.  I could cram a bunch of stuff in one of those before I cram it in the larger purse.  The one that is a bottomless pit.  Things go in there and are never seen again.
Ok, once again I am rambling.  Revenons à nos moutons, as the saying goes, Let's get back to our sheep.
Since I have become addicted to the Paris Breakfasts website in the past year, I often use it in class.  Therefore, several of my students are also addicted.  Carol is addicted to macarons, wonderful little almond cookies.  They come in every color imaginable and so many flavors it is impossible to choose.  I found Pierre Hermé in Galeries Lafayette and ordered up a little box of assorted flavors.
I then noticed the Ladurée kiosk just inside the door at Printemps.  (I did not do thorough research before heading to Paris, I confess.  But the trip isn't about me.  It's about my students.)  I dashed in with three 8th graders who were anxious to taste the macarons.  They can buy only one and savor it right there on the spot.  Pas moi... I buy the assorted box, lug them around, smash them up a bit, and love looking at them, not daring to actually open the box right then and there and eat one.  How silly of me.  Because this is what happens--
But they are still beautiful, aren't they?  And broken ones do taste just as good.  I've heard that they contain no calories, too.  The calories magically escape when they are broken.  (Eating that pink one was probably even negative calories, don't you think?)
Before leaving for France, one of my already well-trained students in 7th grade brought in an article from the New York Times about McDonald's macarons.  Gasp, n'est-ce pas?  So, I just had to dash into the McDo's on the Champs-Elysées and snap a photo.  Some of the girlies admitted to trying them.  They approved.
I also took a picture of the McCafé menu.  Notice the lait chaud.  I do now, now that I have discovered what it is and have fallen totally in love with it.  (I hear that Bed, Bath & Beyond has a cute little truc that froths the milk.  Must check that out soon.)
I also tried macarons at the Louvre.  After viewing Mona and Venus, we ate lunch there and I sampled three.
It wasn't the first time I'd had macarons, though.  Betty, of the Arles 6 gang, loves Ladurée and brought a lovely box of them to me when she and her fabulous boys visited me in Arles for Thanksgiving 2008.

(Time out here... a little while later...)
Google got me once again.  I decided to do a quick search and see if there is a Pierre Hermé recipe just sitting there waiting for me in cyberspace.  I came across a recipe from Pierre Hermé for pickle and ketchup flavored ones at David Lebovitz' blog... intéressant.  Then I found a new blog... he-eats, with a recipe that sounds divine - salted caramel macarons.  I will check this out further, perhaps even making some in the very near future.
After leaving Paris and heading to Arles with my kiddies, I walked into Chef Érick's kitchen one day and found him and his friend Noémie in the middle of macaron making.  Well, a common theme these days, it seems.  She was not happy with her macarons as they came out of the oven.  They did look the same as my first and only attempt- flat.  That did not stop my co-chaperone, Chappell, from scarfing down a few, though.  He didn't care that they had no filling in them yet or that they were flat, not cute and puffy.  He just knew they were warm and good.  My kind of eater!  Later that day, I got a text message, an SMS  or texto, from Érick asking Chappell and me to stop by because he was saving some macarons for us.  (I just love getting any kind of message in French-- voice mails, emails, texts... I am such a French addict.  I will NOT be looking for a 12-step program, however, to cure me, just for the record, so keep those messages coming, mes amis.)
Here is what was waiting for us--
The missing ones are the ones Chappell ate.  Ok, I did eat at least one.  Look at that cute little one.  And the messed up one-- yipee!  No calories!  I ate one, with the coffee that I prepared in the Italian coffee pot.  I did remember how to do it!
They were pistachio flavored.  I asked Érick how he got them to puff up this time.  The secret is in letting them sit on the pan for a while before putting them in the oven, he says.  They were délicieux!  I also asked him how to get the almonds ground so finely if one has to use the nuts if one cannot find almond flour.  A coffee grinder does the trick.  More handy tips for my next attempt!
The final macaron chapter for the time being-- last Wednesday night I received an email from one of my 6th graders (I teach a class of beginning babies who are new students to Durham Academy).  It seems that this young lady had made a trip to Trader Joe's with her parents and she discovered they have macarons.  We had already heard this rumor from a boy in the class.  His mom sent along that info.  Anyway, young lady was quite thrilled that her parents bought some for her and she said she would bring me one if there were any left.  Next morning, voilà!
I enjoyed them tremendously with a cup of Foster's coffee.  A very nice treat for a Thursday morning.  I must get myself to Trader Joe's over in Chapel Hill and check this out.  So much to do, so little time...

Bon appétit, macarons!

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