Crabs, French style.

I am from Maryland. Which inherently means I can take down a dozen or so blue crabs without batting an eye. I love the ritual: sitting for hours on some hot, sticky back porch, a perfect pile of crustaceans steaming on the newsprint in front of you and a cold beer handy for when the Old Bay spices get the best of you. I relish in the exquisite torture of pulling apart a crab piece by piece, meticulously picking and prying to retrieve the tiniest morsel of sweet meat.

Husaband, on the other hand, is from Maine. He’s used to finding the mother lode with one crack of a tail. His delicate hands can’t handle the fresh sting of red pepper and salt in all the nicks where the crab claw put up a fight. He often mistakenly eats the mustardy guts out of sheer hungry desperation. When he eats crustaceans, he’s looking for a bigger, faster payoff.

So when a friend recommended a little place up the street from us called Le Crabe Marteau (the crab hammer), we were intrigued. They promised newspaper covered tables and plenty of mallets to smash the living daylights out of your food (in Paris of all places!). But the crabs on tap were of a heartier stock than those delicate specimens from the Chesapeake: le torteau, which pretty much looks like a blue crab on steroids, and l’arraignee de mer, which is your basic spider crab. Plus they offered fresh oysters and langoustines (like crawfish) from Bretagne.

(All served, I might add, by a tanned French waiter with dreamy blue eyes, tousled blonde curls, a rustic, seafaring stubble and adorable striped shirt. Who happily obliged when I asked more than once to show me again how to crack the crabs open.)

Which means I could have my epic, messy crab picking experience (with a side of hot waiter) and Husband could get more crab meat. And a bib. That’s a win-win situation, wouldn’t you say?

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I can’t stop thinking about poussettes.

That sounds really dirty, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not. It’s just sad. I’ve been inexcusably bad at updating the old blog and teaching you vocab over the past 2 weeks, and I have nothing to blame other than uncharacteristically spectacular weather and a complete obsession with baby strollers.

Now, I hate the fact that my existence has been overtaken by poussette-mania. I wanted to be able to nonchalantly pick out the first thing on wheels that came my way. But there are so many choices! And so many factors to consider! Like will it fit in my elevator? (Nope.) Does it have a bassinet attachment so le bébé can sleep in it? (Maybe.) Will it cost more than a used car? (Probably.)

And if I ever want to leave my apartment again, it will have to be a sturdy cobblestone-proof version that’s still light enough to haul up 3 flights of stairs and maneuver on the bus. Bright colors might also make it easier for strangers to spot me stranded at the top of the metro stairs, waiting for help carrying that sucker down to the platform.

So I’ve thrown all former coolness and street cred to the wind, and devoted disgusting amounts of time to stroller gazing. I hate myself. Bébé, you better be reallllly cute or funny or something to make it all worth it.

Je suis désolée.

I went and totally skipped out on our Vocab lesson last Friday. Now I could blame the outrageously beautiful Parisian weather (sunny! warm enough for flip flops! Which means we’ll be wearing turtlenecks in July) or attribute the lapse to baby brain. But the truth is, I was just really pumped about scoring a Baby Bjorn thingy at the thrift store for 15 euro!!! CHA-CHING!

Granted, with the crappy exchange rate that’s still something like 500 USD, but no one has to rain on my parade by reminding me. I’d rather relive my glorious thrifty moment and continue patting myself on the back. You see, I just happened to be strolling through a charity thrift shop in the 16th with a friend, perusing the old books and dented silverware, when I saw it: perched on a rack between the dusty Easter hats and two old ladies trying on knockoff Chanel suits, a brand new-looking baby carrier contraption.

Not having purchased any baby items yet (other than RedSox onesies), I thought, Hey! We’re going to need something to lug around this baby human I’m growing! Because I don’t know much about babies, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to just walk on out of my hoo-hah.

So I lurked around a while to see if anyone had just misplaced this Bjorn thing with no tag. And then I grabbed it and sprinted to the cashier before anyone could say it was theirs. And thus I am now the proud proud owner of a Baby Bjorn baby holder. I cannot WAIT to strap Husband up in that thing with a watermelon for practice.

But aside from feeling ecstatic about finding a truly miraculous bon marché and setting up a precedent of not spending precious champagne dollars on my child, I am slightly saddened by what my life has come to: gloating about discount baby carriers.

And for that, I am so so sorry.

 

 

As if this city needed any help in the love department.

Walk down any Paris street and you will be sure to stumble upon at least 3 couples engaged in long, passionate, movie-star kisses that never seem to end. Old and young alike, these people certainly aren’t shy about making out in public like the world’s about to end. And apparently everyone else who’s not busy smooching en plein air is conveniently carrying on their love affairs behind closed doors between the hours of 5 and 7pm.

So I don’t think this lady gets much business. But if you did happen to find yourself having romance issues in the most romantic place on earth, I think Dr. Lovens would certainly be able to help, don’t you?

Behold!

The most American thing to come out of a French marché:

It’s an enormous egg-n-cheese, composed with hand made english muffins and eggs from the Sunday Blvd. de Raspail market. Kraft cheddar compliments of the American Embassy. And yes, I’m eating it for dinner. Cue the heartburn.

Boulevard Raspail Market
Boulevard de Raspail
Paris, France 75006
Metro: Between Rennes and Sèvres-Babylone

Bio/organic market on Sundays, 9-3pm

Regular market on Tuesdays and Fridays, 7-2:30pm (I think. I’ve never been, and there’s conflicting info about the closing time on the web!)

A perfect Sunday in the 10th.

Feeling footloose and fancy free after getting my elastic waistband pregnant lady jeans in the mail, Husband and I decided to head to the 10th arrondissement for a little adventure. And by adventure, I mean tacos and burritos.

That’s right: I wanted spicy salsa. Real guacamole. And a homemade tortilla stuffed with meat and cheese to slather it on. I wanted to test the upper limits of my new elastic waistband with a Mexican feast, and then walk it off by a scenic canal.

Now, Paris certainly has the canal thing down pat. The cute canal St. Martin in fact has paths to stroll, funky shops to browse and plenty of cool Parisians to ogle. But the Mexican food? Not so much, unless you like goat cheese in your quesadilla. But inspired by a recent David Lebovitz post, we set out for El Nopal, a tiny hole in the wall promising real, good Mexican fare.

And sweet geezus in velvet pantalones did they deliver! Perched at the 2 person counter, Husband and I pretty much ordered everything off the menu: carne asada burritos, chorizo quesadillas, pork and chicken tacos. The salsa was spicy, the guacamole lush with ripe avocado, the tortillas home-cooked fresh. I know because I watched the 2 incredibly friendly owners whip it all up right there, just 3 feet away on the other side of the counter.

It was everything a pregnant American in Paris with stretchy pants to fill could dream of. And more.

Afterwards, I resisted the urge to hug my new El Nopal friends Claudia and Alejandro and headed out into the gray afternoon with Husband. We walked along the canal, taking in all the other walkers and bikers and Sunday strollers, until a block of hot pink and neon yellow storefronts came into view. It was none other than Antoine & Lili, a Parisian outpost for housewares and clothing that can only be described as Anthropologie on speed and happy pills. That’s where I found my next granny cart:

And Husband found some new office attire:

When we’d had enough of silly accessories and pink decor, we popped back out into the blustery streets and wandered a bit. We found lots of weird shops (selling everything from organic potato juice to multicolored tights), but my favorites were the cafes and wine bars, perfect for lazy Sunday lounging.

Unless you’re feeling particularly jovial, in which case you should head directly to Le Cinquante. A mint green gem of a bar at 50 Rue de Lancry (cinquante is 50 in French), the place packs em in le Dimanche soir for an organized sing-along. There’s a guitarist, printed lyrics for every patron, and presumably a fair amount of drinking to get everyone warbling. We didn’t feel confident in our knowledge of the old French standards so we didn’t stay, but it looked like just the kind of place to wrap up a perfect Sunday in Paris. Maybe next time when I’m not so full.

El Nopal

3 rue Eugène Varlin
75010 Paris

Mon-Fri: 11:30am-3:00pm; 6-10pm (Fri.until 11pm)
Sat: 5-11pm
Sun: 11:30am-9pm non stop

Antoine & Lili

95 Quai de Valmy
75010 Paris

 

Le Cinquante

50 Rue de Lancry
75010

Vocab Friday: Earmuffs!

Image: Conde Nast Traveler

If you live in Paris and like eating out, follow the restaurant scene or, god forbid, call yourself a foodie (please don’t), then you’ve probably heard of Iñaki Aizpitarte’s super popular Le Chateaubriand over in the boho 11th. You’ve probably also tried to get a reservation. And failed.

That’s because this place is so hot right now (please say that like Mugatu). Everybody is fawning over the market fresh, 5 course plus several amuse bouche menu, offered up in a hip bistro setting for a relatively affordable price. It even clocked in at #11 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

So of course I was dying to go. And when I called last week for a reservation, they giggled and said no way. But they let me in on a secret: The last reservation is at 8:30. So if you show up after 9:30 on Saturdays, you can sit at the bar and wait for a table to open up.

And by “sit at the bar and wait for a table” they apparently meant stand in the rain for an hour and a half, wondering how all these people in line are going to fit into the restaurant. We were hoping that the doors would open and everybody would flood in. But that never happened, and at some point one of the wait staff came out and slapped his forehead in amazement. He returned a few minutes later and took a photo.

That didn’t seem promising, but he said if we stayed, we’d eat by 11pm. Several people bailed at that news, so we at least moved up under the awning. We decided to stick it out.

And promptly at 10:50 we were ushered in from the cold and offered a spot at the bar. The place was still hopping, but the staff seemed to be taking it in stride. The French guys in front of us got some champagne and started cracking jokes about people trying to cut in line. All was good.

By 11:15 we were finally sitting, ready to let the gastronomy commence. Our waiter was super friendly and pretty hilarious, which helped make the epic wait time slightly more palatable. Then we got our amuse bouche: some kind of bouillabaisse with tiny fried crab legs, a radish and parmesan salad, a tiny cooked duck heart. (Yes, duck heart. I couldn’t think about what it was as I swallowed, but it tasted like steak.)

The main courses were just as interesting, and if they didn’t blow our minds, we could at least amuse ourselves with the tables on either side: to the left, a foursome of the most uptight preppy young Americans you have ever laid eyes on, complete with navy sport coats and pearls. They complained loudly when the busy waiter wouldn’t call them a cab right away. I wanted to punch them.

On the other side was an increasingly rowdy group of French people. The ringleader seemed to be a middle aged guy who at one point pretended to pee into his carafe of wine, joking that the bathroom line was too long. Hilarious!

But somewhere around the roasted lamb dish, things took a turn for the worse. Funny French guy made a disgusted face and sent his plate back. A bit later he said in disdainful, very loud French that the place was full of Americans. At dessert time, there seemed to be some issue with the cheese plate, and all hell broke loose. Earmuffs, children:

Ce restaurant c’est merde! Absolument boulot de merde! He shouted.

Et le service? Le service! Connards!

Le chef? Il est un con!

It was kind of awesome and horrifying at the same time. The waiter refused to come back to their table. So the manager came over to appease them with discounts and desserts, to no avail. Then the guy had the nerve to order a round of digestifs, take one sip, and send them back. It was absolutely obnoxious.

So of course I leaned over to let him know that I was one of the stupid Americans in the place, and that I spoke enough French to catch his drift.

Quel est le probleme, monsieur? I asked innocently.

He blinked for a minute. “Oh I knew you were American! This place is full of them. The dinner was terrible, terrible! And we waited for hours. You know, when I eat something at a place like this that everyone is talking about, I want an orgasm in my mouth. And I didn’t have an orgasm in my mouth.”

Fair enough. So I asked him where he would recommend eating in Paris.

“Oh, I have no idea. I live in Seattle.”

Of course. Perfect proof that you don’t have to actually be Parisian to totally act like a stereotypical Parisian a**hole.

*    *    *

Today we’re going to learn some curse words, thanks to our jerkface of a table mate. I’m not totally 100% on the translations, but here’s my vague understanding of their various vulgar meanings. Enjoy!

1. merde

Pronunciation: maird

Definition: You know this one! It’s shit.

2. boulot de merde

Pronunciation: boo-loh de maird

Definition: shitty/crappy job

3. connard

Pronunciation: cohn-ard

Definition: stupid bastard, idiot, mother F*er. Not to be confused with canard, which is a duck.

4. con

Pronunciation: just make a nasally awh sound after the hard c

Definition: stupid jerk, bloody idiot, a**hole

5. BONUS! I found this one while double checking my definitions and it seemed appropriate:

Il a peté les plombs!

Definition: He blew a gasket! Flipped out! Or literally, He farted lead!