We had breakfast in America today. I guess I should say we had breakfast at Breakfast in America, a diner that could have been lifted from any small town in the States and plopped down on rue des Ecoles in the 5th arrondissement.
Last night some longtime ex-pat friends mentioned that the breakfasts there were as close to authentically American as it was possible to be in Paris. For me that meant real, crisp, bacon, something just not available here. I've tried a couple of times, buying poitrine fumée of different types, but the curing process of American bacon can't be replicated here and it never tastes the same.
So far it's the only foodstuff I really miss, particularly as one of my favorite things to do in Berkeley is to have breakfast with my girlfriends L. and C. at Bette's OceanView Diner on 4th Street, where L. always orders huevos rancheros with extra cilantro and C. invariable goes for the pancakes. For me, it's usually the bacon and eggs.
So when we overslept this morning and had to get out of the way of the femme de menage who had come to clean the apartment, Gene and I were thrilled to find a little bit of home in the Latin Quarter.
He raved over his pancakes, and my bacon was just fine. We ate it up before I remembered I should take a picture, but the very nice young Frenchman sitting next to me let me photograph his breakfast before he dug into it. I repaid him by explaining just what was meant by "Bottomless Mug o'Joe" on the menu.
American food seemed to follow us the rest of the day. After breakfast we walked over to the Musée Carnavalet to catch the final days of the exhibition about the French Revolution and found ourselves in front of Thanksgiving, a rather seedy-looking little shop that carries very expensive imported American packaged food. I suppose one day I might be desperate enough for a taste of home to pay the equivalent of ten dollars for a small jar of Skippy peanut butter, but I think that day must be many years off.
A couple of years ago finding a bagel or a cheeseburger in Paris was akin to the proverbial needle in the haystack, but suddenly they're all over the place. Not cheap, but easily available. I don't think I've seen a hamburger for under about 14 Euros (I am excepting McDo's, where I don't eat in any country), and they're more likely to be in the 20 Euros range. I finally broke down and ordered one last month in a café in Montmartre and was very happy to find it was delicious. If I'm going to stoop to burger eating in Paris, I would be really disappointed to get a bad one.
Another American comestible we've been seeing more and more is the cocktail. Every other café trumpets its "Happy Hour" and chic little bars have been opening in bobo neighborhoods like rue Montorgueil, where the Experimental Cocktail Club has been going strong for a few years now; today we found ourselves passing its offshoot in the Latin Quarter, the Curio Parlour. But the most interesting drinks purveyor we saw today wasn't one of these but rather a do-it-yourself place on rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais called the Temporary Take Away Cocktail Store. Scheduled to disappear on December 31 after being open only four weeks, this place was doing a great business.
For those unfamiliar with the mixing of cocktails (I assume they're targeting the French, who tend to drink wines and straight liquors at home) you can buy packages that include everything you need, along with a recipe. Now that they can't smoke in bars any longer, the market for drinks you can make at home must be soaring. Bloody Marys, anyone?
You have to give them credit, they're doing it right. Hendricks gin, even at 33 Euros a bottle, is the only way to go.