Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paris, part one: Dehillerin.

On my first day in Paris, I spent the morning walking all over the place, ending up at the Louvre for a couple of hours. Once I felt like I'd paid enough cultural homage, I headed north towards the Bourse du Commerce to pay a visit to my own personal Mecca, otherwise known as E. Dehillerin. I'd visited once before, back on my 2006 Europe trip (details here), so I knew what my targets were.

Ready to spring into action, I opened the door and was confronted by a teeming sea of Parisians (and a few American tourists). When Louisa and I stopped by in 2006, it was a Monday or Tuesday afternoon; this was Saturday afternoon at 1:00, and all bets were off. Nothing, though, could really bust through the very Zen I'm-in-Paris-so-everything-is-OK-by-me attitude I'd adopted since landing at Charles de Gaulle, so I just sat back, snapped a few pictures, then set about finding the salad servers, charlotte molds and top-secret holiday-related purchases from my list.

In what was to be the first of a couple of deja-vu moments, the first salesman to come up to me was the same one who waited on us two years ago; this time, instead of adorably belligerent, he was belligerently flirtatious, and seemed frustrated that I wasn't really in the mood to banter. He disappeared into the office a few minutes later, and didn't reemerge.

Dehillerin is a wonderland for people who like to cook or bake. Tart pans, springforms, copper cookware, crepe pans and whisks are stacked three and five deep on rickety shelves that stretch all the way up to the 15-foot ceilings. The glare cast by the bare bulbs overhead grows dim as you enter the rabbits' warren of the store's outer aisles, and the overall atmosphere is that of your crazy aunt's attic.

But the passion and enthusiasm of the staff for their products, and of the clientele for their chosen hobby (and, in many cases, profession), is palpable. This is no Williams-Sonoma, with gorgeous displays created to lure in unsuspecting customers who can't tell a saucier from a skillet. This is a store for serious cooks, where you have to know what you need to find what you want.

And what did I want? Well, I'd been entrusted with a mission to replace Louisa's gorgeous salad fork, which broke earlier this year. Check! And me? Well, I've been wanting small charlotte molds for my collection - I will use them to make individual cakes, sticky toffee puddings, and cups of chocolate mousse. Check!

Coming up...Paris, part two

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