Here I am back in Paris visiting with my Mom. The wind is icy under a limpid sky and as I wrap her in soft woolens before stepping out (shawl, blanket, scarf, hat, gloves and mittens), I remember snowy winters long ago when she helped me bundle up my toddlers, neither of us suspecting that one day I’d be doing the same for her.
Growing older makes it much easier to distinguish patterns and cycles and I like to think this increased awareness imparts greater wisdom but I find it bittersweet too: my Mom no longer remembers helping me with the kids…
She likes to go check on the Eiffel Tower – which was built in 1889, the year her father was born. So that’s what we do: we start our tour by paying our respect to the Iron Lady (the Awful Tower as one of my grandsons, then 5, thought it was called) and then we patrol the streets. I hunt for bakeries. She doesn’t mind: as often as not she likes what she sees in the window display and we decide to go in and buy a tart or an éclair for her afternoon snack. Even though she is less and less interested in the actual act of eating, she enjoys holding on to the delicate paper dome that houses her pastry and actually looks forward to having a bite later.
I had been curious to taste Lalos’ bread ever since I heard a friend of mine, who is passionate about baking (she is in her second year of baking school in Paris), rave about it. So we went in. I bought a pavé au levain and a longuet as well as two small tarts: pistacchio-cherry and chocolate.
The longuet (currently the bread of the month) is fermented with a wheat- and dried buckwheat (sarrasin séché)- levain. It is crisp, airy, fragrant and rustic, utterly delicious, a true “signature bread”.
By contrast, the pavé au levain is a bit bland for my taste. Delicate and unassuming with no hint of acidity, probably the perfect foil to a subtle dish, it wouldn’t be my first choice but then, you know me, I don’t really look for shy in a bread…
It will be a pleasure. Le Quartier du pain is one of these blessed bakeries where the customer peeking beyond the shelves can actually see the mixing, the shaping and the baking. Also it features something which is a first for me, i.e. a machine with a big slot into which the customer inserts coins for payment. Change is automatically dispensed. Since most people use coins to pay for their baguettes, I suspect that, hygiene-wise, this is a big step-up and I like the fact that it matters so much to Lalos that he went to the trouble.