I hesitated for a second as I typed the title to this post. Loot? As in pirates? Though none of it is stolen, I thought about it and I reassured myself that yes, anything I might buy in Paris and deem worthy to haul back to the States is precious to me, and it is my own version of treasure. Especially in the context of having to pay for any second bag and baggage that is overweight. They now weigh even your hand luggage, which used to never happen, and mine used to be hefty. So now, I am positively giddy every time I arrive home from France and unpack my case. No matter which corner of France I visit, I can always do some antiquing, shopping, and stock my pantry in California with whatever I find. My hand luggage is full of the most precious, in this case my soupiere blanche and Laura’s confit pot from the flea. There are certain places to go for certain things. Mom and I commented over dinner last night that we have loved and used the quilted placemats (found in certain stores I love in Arles and Antibes) daily for 20 years. They still look great, and it’s because they are good quality cotton, printed well and sewn well, and yes we have cared for them. They were not expensive but worth every centimes. This trip I didn’t go crazy, but you probably realize that if you go to Paris with a budget of $500 or $5,000 ou plus, you will have no trouble finding ways to support the French economy and fill your cases.
Remember that Eiffel Tower bottle filled with brandy? It came back empty and I immediately had my friend Akram fill it with his hand-pressed primo Northern California olive oil, which he sealed at the cap, which I appreciated, and attached his hang tag identifying the oil. I love this bottle, and wish I had bought more as I would have been happy to have it sitting in my kitchen, but this special bottle will soon go to a fellow blogger for a giveaway. The winner of this will be super happy. And I will be buying more of these next time and filling them with agave or olive oil or a flavored balsalmic.
No trip to France would be complete without buying sea salt. I know you can buy every kind of salt, coarse, fine, domestic or imported, flavored or not, in our stores stateside, but you have to believe me when I say you can taste the wild wind off the sea when you taste Brittany sea salt. This is the coarse salt, which I get for a little over a Euro in Paris and less than that in province. One bag is one kilo. When you have walked your socks off in Paris, have a cold foot bath, not a hot one, and throw in a handful of this salt. Trust me, you will instantly feel better.
I stocked up on food items at the Paris markets, which I love so much, and where you can certainly find the best of France, though often at a higher price. Here is a small sachet of powdered hazelnuts, a tablespoon or two will transform a pie crust or chocolate cake, and herbes de Provence for a blogger friend who asked me to bring them for her.
I also bought a few other salts, a special blend and one Merlot-infused, from the very colorful vendor at the President Wilson market, and a small sachet of poppy seeds. Is it just me or are our poppy seeds more black than blue? Or do they turn black when they are baked? These are really blue….I will use them raw, on top of a lemon cake.
I also brought a sachet of herbes de Provence with a little extra lavender and fennel; this is for fish and will go into the giveaway. Put this in a nice little tin or jar on your kitchen counter for a nice display, or layer it with lavender buds in a larger jar.
At the Marche Bio, the organic market on Sundays, there is a woman selling bath salts ~ Brittany sea salts which she infuses with oils and flowers and herbs. She had three formulations, but I will be making up my own version this fall, given that I am already hoarding kilos of salts, and I can think of a lot of pretty things to put in sea salts~
Two of the things I always bring back from France are powdered coconut (left) and powered almonds (right). I bring zip lock bags with me from California and carry these home; properly packaged there is no problem with customs, and you would not believe what these can do for a cake or tarte crust. My friends and family know!
Also on this trip, as it was Easter, I brought back a chocolate chicken mold. You would not believe the chocolate egg and chocolate chickens and chocolate everything on display in Paris for Easter. And next year, I don’t know how, I will be filling this two-sided mold with chocolate and since the bottom is open, stuff it with other chocolates and tissue paper, as they do in Paris. Oh goodness, the chocolates of Paris for Easter are another whole long story. In Reve I will tell you where to get these molds (would you prefer a chocolate Eiffel Tower?) and other shopping tips.
I also brought back a few ribbon samples, I am always on the hunt for that certain color of taupe that the French love, it goes great with red at Christmas. You can’t believe the quality of ribbons here; this red one is a double-faced velvet; the pale gold is shiny and fine~
You will find loads of inspiration and things to buy in Paris. I hope you can visit soon and find your own treasures!~
We are hard at work on Reve and my apologies for the delay in release; that is mostly my fault, but trust me, it will be well worth the wait. The book is shaping up well, and thicker than expected…..with lots of eye candy….