No, there is no Williams-Sonoma in Paris. It would be a little funny to see one considering the purpose of Williams-Sonoma is to bring the best of French cooking to the U.S. And besides a few crazy items like peanut-butter-and-jelly-spreaders, they do a very nice job.
But my path today led to the cooking and baking mecca of Paris: Les Halles. Les Halles used to be a gigantic food and supply market for restauranteurs and other professionals in the industry. While the market is no longer, the area is sprinkled with cookware stores and food finds. Taking the time to see them all would be a multi-day affair. But I had my sight set on three.
Being that I am now used to having a delicious baked good or jolt of sugar somewhere during my run should have resulted in my eating a better breakfast. I knew that would come back to bite me.
The Les Halles area is about four miles from the school which is where I parted ways with kids and Tom (he was not feeling great and I found him and Chili napping on the couch when I returned and asking for the fuzzy grey blanket).
The streets are crowded at this time of day and I routed myself down a few narrow ones. This meant watching every footfall with regard to puddles, people and poo.
My first stop was G. Detou which is a fun play on words as G. Detou sounds like “J’ai de tout“, meaning “I have everything.” And, boy, does it. A professional baker may head straight for the 5 and 10-kilo bags of every kind of flour and sugar. Or perhaps the brick-sized blocks of chocolate. You certainly can’t miss the vat of caramel. But I loved the bags and bags of dried fruit like kiwi and the wall of every type of chocolate bar you would want. I loved the shelves of dragees, mostly silver but other colors in the rainbow, too. It went well beyond just goods for a baker (although that’s what caught my attention). There were mustards and sauces and other culinary delights as well. These places aren’t big like their American counterparts (I overheard Elizabeth trying to explain to a friend the other day about Target; she was struggling because there is nothing here to compare it with), but they fill their space from the floor to the rafters. I walked out with a few goodies for a couple February birthday gals I know.
My second stop was in view from the first: Mora. Rows and rows of spatulas make me smile and this place had ’em. The wall of silicone molds was like artwork and I guess I didn’t realize how many sizes of cake and loaf pans existed. Well, they do and they are here. They also sold electronics like mixers and immersion blenders as well as another room dedicated to decorations for those bakers out there that are able to make things look good (I am not one of them). There was a lot of Wilton brand which you can get anywhere, so I avoided that. And some of the decorations did not fit my Valentine Day cookie decorating budget. But I did walk out with some red food coloring, rose colored sprinkles that resemble pink rock candy and my one and only silicone spatula, something I have missed so much this year.
I actually ran past my final destination on the way to the first two so you would think it would have been simple to find. Alas, I found myself turned around and finally spotted it when I stepped inside a wind-protected bus stop to check my map. There it was behind me; I had already passed it.
E. Dehillerin. This was my second visit but it’s such an adventure you can’t absorb it in just one visit. This is a store for professionals and if you’re not one, you better act like it or at least have a sense that you know exactly what you are doing. As if that weren’t daunting enough, there are no prices. So in order to determine how many euros you are about to shell out, you need to determine your row, shelf and item number and consult one of a a handful of binders in the store. These “binders” are actually product lists on that green and white-stripped computer paper from the 80’s and 90’s with the old raster fonts. You know what I’m talking about, especially those of you that loaded reams of this stuff into printers (I’m talking to you, Mary).
When you step downstairs it’s as if you’ve had a swig of Alice’s Drink Me bottle because you have immediately become dwarfed by things like lasagna pans that could feed 70. The ladle would have made a great cap but I didn’t dare put it on my head. I did not check the price on the copper pot that I could have used as a tub.
Back upstairs, I had fun checking out all the whisks, bread pans, and regular people-sized cookware. And if you’re in the market for a knife this is the place. But rumor has it, if you aren’t planning to purchase a knife meant for the exact purpose of that knife they may not sell it to you. If you’re looking for a paring knife, don’t walk up to the counter with a chef’s knife just because it’s a similar size and you actually like it best. Be prepared to be marched right back to the actual paring knives. Despite the rumors, they were all very nice to me when I purchased a couple goodies, including a small Eiffel Tower cookie cutter that will join the hearts on Valentine’s Day.
By the time I was ready to head out, my backpack was stuffed, but my stomach was not. It growled all the way home.
Lesson learned? Get back to running to actual food.