I think it will be just as nice to have cafe-sitters livening up these last days of August, when Paris is so calm you could call it sleepy and no one would say otherwise.
You can tell how empty the city is by looking at the non line here at the Friday market on the Boulevard Raspail. Normally, the market runs the length of the Boulevard from rue de Rennes to rue du Cherche-Midi and you’ve got to use your New Yorker elbows to get down the center aisle, but the last street or two at the Cherche-Midi end weren’t set up and there were so few buyers that I didn’t hear a single I-was-ahead-of-you complaint.
There may not have been many vendors, but those that were at the market had a full assortment of peak-of-summer fruits. There were big (really big) figs, peaches, yellow and white, that you could smell from 5 feet away, apricots with cheeks so rosy you’d have thought some out-of-work artist was hired to touch them up with blush, and my favorite here-for-a-minute-then-gone fruit, mirabelles. They’re the small yellow fruits in the picture. Mirabelles are plums the size of cherries — in fact, their pits look a little like cherry pits — and they’ve got a deep, almost heavy sweetness, more like honey than sugar. Mirabelles are great for jam and out of this world in a tart filled with either almond cream or the kind of custard you’d use in a clafoutis. The American fruit that comes closest to mirabelles is sugar-baby plums — close, but not as sweet or as soft textured. (I’ve used sugar-babies instead of pears in the French Pear Tart recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours, page 368, and been very happy.)
While the rest of Paris might be on vacation and not due back for a couple of weeks, the inventive chocolatier, Patrick Roger, is ready for ‘la rentree’ with the best back-to-school treats I’ve ever seen: chocolate pencils. (Sorry for the bad picture — it’s a through-the-window-in-the-sun shot.) I can’t think of a sweeter way to hit the books.
It’s terrific to be back. I know, I know, I was only gone a couple of months, but it felt like too long.