Destinations / JOURNEY
and overindulged appropriately, walking out with a box of
sweet delicacies including lemon tarts, macarons, profiter-
oles and more — all in the name of research.
In Paris there is a famous kitchenware shop called
E.Dehillerin; it’s nearly 200 years old. I was introduced to
it when I worked for Thomas Keller and he returned from a
trip with palette knives from this shop for all his chefs. “This
knife,” he instructed, “must be our hands.” No tongs or sharp
implements could respect the ingredient as would this tool. I
was keen to pay it for ward with oyster shuckers and the same
palette knives for my chefs back at Murray Circle. We spent
over an hour exploring rows and rows of hanging copper pots,
narrow aisles and basement nooks and a few hidden passages
the staff alerted us to. Considering they sang “If you’re going
to San Francisco …” in unison when we finally left, I’m thinking our enthusiasm was appreciated.
Dinner that night was at our hotel’s restaurant, aptly
named Restaurant in Saint James Paris and led by Virginie
Basselot, who was awarded her first Michelin star this year.
She was trained by chefs such as Dominique Bouchet at the
Crillon, Guy Martin at the Grand Véfour and Eric Frechon at
the Bristol. Continuing the quest for learning, we observed
the kitchen before dinner. We didn’t need to understand the
language and could happily have slipped into any of the roles.
The front of the house was like an English gentlemen’s
club, with wood paneling, bronze-colored fabrics and
high trompe l’oeil ceilings. Each dish was a tribute to the
revered techniques French chefs have handed down over
the centuries. A black lace of truffles decorated many of
our dishes, foie gras flourished and Pithiviers were so
intricate that I was inspired to revisit some of my less-used French repertoire.
The following day began with the last lemon tart from
our Pierre Hermé stash and a full itinerary, starting with
a tour of markets.
The outdoor market, Marché d’Aligre, is in the 12th
arrondissement behind the Bastille. It combined several
markets; a street market that runs along rue d’Aligre; a historic covered market, the Beauvau Covered Food Market
in the center; and a flea market that spreads out behind the
square. We watched prawns scramble across the ice, so you
knew they weren’t transported from oceans afar, and we
exchanged stories with the farmers who had brought their
freshly harvested produce to market. An elderly woman
selling antiques drew my attention. It was lunchtime and
she had a plate of oysters that she was slowly shucking and
swallowing between nibbles of cheese and sips of wine — a
very different scene from the hastily consumed work lunch
we are used to in the U. S. Ethan had similar thoughts as he
watched a bereted man standing at a stall enjoying steak
and red wine. No cellphones to be seen here. These lifestyle
glimpses are some of my richest memories from this trip —
seeing people celebrate each meal as an occasion, and just
life in general, whether at a cafe, restaurant or street stall.
Next to cross off the list was Bistrot Paul Bert, one
of Paris’s most acclaimed bistros. We marveled as
we walked through the doors at how accurately chef
Thomas Keller had reinterpreted such a classic look and
feel in his own Bouchon Bistro in Yountville — wicker
chairs, huge potted palms, marble tables and a relaxed
yet refined free-flowing feel.
Ethan’s beet salad emerged from the kitchen, a plump,
moist poached egg wobbling on top of lightly wilted
mache, surrounded by a rainbow of thinly sliced beets.
My venison carpaccio was simple and delicious — venison,
truffle and sour berries, freckled with Maldon salt. Lunch
rolled on with seared cod and forest mushrooms and then
steak. We left with a renewed passion and appreciation
for Keller’s bistro and what it represents, transporting
the diner to the streets of Paris.
This page, left to
for kitchenware at
E. Dehillerin; enjoying
pastries at Pierre
Hermé; the Saint