26 September 2015

Parisian Patisseries

In the spirit of this week's Bake Off (don't pretend you're not into it) here's a belated post dedicated to the myriad of pastries and patisserie delights I consumed while in Paris in July. Hint: there were a lot of them.

First up were these macarons from a chocolate shop in Montmartre. I have completely forgotten the name of it but it was quite the hot spot for tourists. However, the quality of these macarons were good and I hand-picked a box to take home as a present to my mum and dad for just €16. The rose flavour caught my eye but the real winner was the passion fruit.

On my parents' recommendation I headed to Fauchon – famous for its beautifully decorated eclairs.  But these weren't just pleasing to the eye. I picked a chocolate eclair and it was the most decadent, delicious eclair I have ever eaten. Although smaller and skinnier than the ones you find in Greggs, this was filled with a rich, buttery, chocolate custard and topped with the shiniest glaze, with a sprinkling of gold because, well, it's Fauchon. Size did not matter and this was a rich little treat worth its hefty €6 price tag.
Jess had one of Fauchon's macarons – the strawberry flavour – and it was jammy, almondy deliciousness in the crispest shell. Emily from Emily's Recipes and Reviews is always making macarons – my favourite is the crunchie variety.

And as if we hadn't eaten enough, later that day we stopped at Pléiade de Saveurs in Montmartre, a beautiful little boulangerie. I chose the apple tart and it was wrapped for me in their paper in a pyramid to take away.

Have you ever eaten those biscuits that are like palmier? This pastry was as crisp, sweet and buttery as those, but topped with custard, cinnamon and sliced apples – it really doesn't get any better.
So, in case you hadn't already gathered, Paris is the place to go for pastries. On the recommendation of Poppy I also went into Paul's and got a giant chocolate macaron – which, as she said, did taste just like a brownie (but better). 

Do you have a favourite Parisian patisserie? I adored the luxuriousness of Fauchon, but nothing beats discovering an independent shop where everything is hand made with love.

15 September 2015

The Character of Change

Queuing up for coffee at Momentum this summer
Every now and again, something happens to disrupt the flow of your life. There's no reason or rhyme to the habit of change, but it happens to everyone. We all respond differently to old things ending and new things beginning, but what unsettles me – and I'm sure many others – is that moment when it suddenly hits you out of nowhere – that, oh, this really is happening.

Homemade chicken nuggets for my final meal at home
No matter how hard I try, I am never ready. I moved out of my parents' last weekend and leading up to it I planned everything to the very last tassel on my new cushion covers – ones I didn't even buy. I wrote lists of things I needed for my new home. I counted down the days until my last day at work – something I had been thinking about for a long time, and when it happened, it happened so fast that there were people to whom I didn't even say goodbye.

Banoffee pie for pudding :)
We rarely live in the moment. I said goodbye to Anna like I was going to see her next week. As soon as I walked out of the door I felt a loss. I got into my car and I thought of all the times we drove up to Tesco on our lunch break. All the times we walked to the shop, made tea, made first second and third breakfasts, talked about wanting to move on, laughed about stupid things we'd said or done, sending each other Buzzfeed links – all so banal at the time. But not now. A few minutes' break in the kitchen at work with a friend was a solace I'll now have to find elsewhere. 

All moved in and not at all unpacked.
The feeling hit me again in Ikea on the day of the move. I was eighteen, saying goodbye to my mum in halls and crying my eyes out in front of a group of strangers, but I didn't care. I had to get that sick knot out of my stomach, and crying usually does the trick. I knew the fear was irrational, but depression and anxiety are always looming, loneliness and isolation and abandonment – all triggered by change.

Peanut butter treats - the ultimate comfort food
So what's the solution to all of this? I think it's a reassurance in yourself and where you are. It's needed to keep your feet on the ground. I find that in friends and family, near and far, and, most importantly, my faith.

If you feel in your heart that what you're doing is right, that funny feeling in your tummy will pass. All the scary bits and pieces will become smaller and change won't seem so bad after all. I think, ultimately, that the more change you embrace, the easier it gets. 

What do you think? How do you cope with change? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @hello_flower


11 September 2015

Breakfast at Coquelicot – Montmartre, Paris

You know how much I love breakfast – and on a sunny Saturday morning in Montmartre, where there's a boulangerie on every street corner, I love it even more. Yes, the air was permeated with that smell of freshly baked bread, and the sun-fuelled endorphins were sky high, but Coquelicot could have won me over whatever the weather.

I don't think I could ever give up bread, there's just too much to taste in one lifetime. I wonder what's the secret of French bread? It can't be beat, I know that much. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this anywhere in the UK, have you?

Coquelicot had a breakfast deal for about €5 which included a french baguette and a bowl of whatever hot drink you want – I opted for a black coffee and Jess picked the hot chocolate.

And they were actual bowls.

Like cereal bowls. Jess' hot chocolate was the frothiest, creamiest and chocolatiest we had both ever tasted and, size-wise, perfect.

The bread came with jams and butter – blackcurrant and apricot, so, so yum.

And as if the bread wasn't enough I ordered a cravat, too. This beautiful pastry was filled with custard and chocolate chips and lasted me the whole day... and the next day, too. 

We loved Coquelicot so much that we went back on Sunday. The service was friendly although not the speediest or most consistent. However, the food and drink were fantastic and the fact that the waitresses were happy to speak to us in English made the experience one worth returning for - I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Montmartre. Find out more here.


4 September 2015

Le Cafe du Commerce – Montmartre, Paris

After a day of traveling in rising temperatures, cocktails and french fries in a down to earth bar is exactly the remedy. Jess and I had arrived in Paris and wanted to spend our first evening catching up with some good food and drink. I had done a little bit of research and read good things about Le Cafe du Commerce. We wanted something simple in a chilled-out setting and that's exactly what we got. 

First things first: mojitos and moreish salty popcorn (they know how to make their customers stay put). When it's hot and the streets show no sign of slowing down, food and drink tastes about 10 times better. We ordered fries that came piled high on a plate with a fantastic array of condiments on the side.

A few more cocktails later and I ordered some more food because the fries were gone within minutes... yummy mozzarella and tomato skewer with fresh pesto and some french bread. Oh, how I love french bread. We enjoyed all of this on the terrace where we people-watched all night. It was the perfect way to end a week at work and start an adventure in Paris.
The food and drink was really great here, and the service was good, too. The staff were so friendly – they could probably tell we were tourists so took the time to come and chat to us, something I've never seen in the UK. Jess even had a photo with one of the waiters. 

If you're in Montmartre I highly recommend a visit to Le Cafe du Commerce. It's a chilled out, unpretentious bar with lots of character and everyone is welcome – at least, that's the feeling we got.
Find out more here or read the review that persuaded me to go in the first place.

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