Good photo by Eric Hanson. Bad photos by Jasper's phone.
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In my book, it’s hard to argue with duck confit. Unless it’s really bad, it’s good. And good duck confit (it doesn’t even have to be great) is one of my favorite things to eat.
Unsurprisingly, I ate a lot of duck in paris. Breasts, legs, livers - I am a fan of duck. I am also a fan of red wine, which is a good thing, because Paris isn’t really a place to go for beer. Handing me a plate of duck and a glass of wine is usually enough to take me to my happy place. Also good, because let me tell you: spending 14 hours on your feet while surrounded by FASHION PEOPLE is not exactly my idea of a good time. It almost made me miss Pitti. Or at least the press buffet and the constant availability of red wine and bathrooms.
Anyway. Let me paint a picture for you: Paris in winter is grey, often wet. Not often freezing cold, but it was when we arrived. 25F or so, and as it turned out I had really packed very little. My grey gym sweat, already kind of gross from the 18 hours it took to get from Colorado to France, ended up seeing much more use than I had anticipated, as did my pair of comfortable outlier pants. Turns out the holes in the knees of my worn-to-death APC jeans aren’t conducive to warmth.
But let’s forget all that. There is a palpable sense of undirected energy during fashion week - both men’s and women’s - when models descend upon the Marais, and teenagers try to sneak into shows and after-parties. At least I assume they still do that, but maybe it's all celebrities now or something. But fashion week is almost like a midwinter festival, and this weird pent-up energy wanders the city looking for release - have you read The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot? You should, because it’s like that. It's also like that, because I was often handed visions of the end-times on this trip; the whimper of smiling marketers and the forced laughter of men and women trying desperately to sell something - clothes, photos, themselves - an ever-present sign of the impending apocalypse.
Do I sound bitter? I’m not, really. Well, I am a little bit, if only because when I’m in Paris I like to do nothing. Sit in cafes, visit museums, eat. Attending mensweek (my first time as an attendee rather than a tiny, unintentionally-orbiting satellite) feels like being a tourist, except you don’t get to see anything beautiful. Oh, sure, you walk past beautiful things regularly - Hausmannian grandeur, winding alleys, the occasional flying buttress - but at the end of it all you’re denied the comfort of, say, a lovely oil painting. No, instead you get “bomber jackets" and trendy pants.
Our very first half-day in Paris was quite pleasant, really. Not the very first part, which sucked, because mine was apparently the only hotel room without a coffee maker. This meant that we had to go to one of those miserable Parisian chains (which are all that's open at 8AM) to order bad coffee and bad pastries from a lady who was just as unhappy to be there as we were.
Okay, here's something else. I am really, really grumpy before I've had my coffee. Having to be around people before I've had it is horrible. In the course of my daily life it's not an issue, because I never have to speak to anyone. But I'd like for you to imagine, if you will, Synthese in his Document bathrobe-coat, Outlier pyjama pants, and Birkenstock slippers, sitting in the back room of some fucking to-go breakfast place, trying to deal, existentially, with what the day will entail. I don't totally remember what happened, but my guess is that Fok ate ten or twelve croissants and told us about MMA while I thought about how to get more coffee.
Of course, it was all fine in the end. It always is. We visited De Bonne Facture, which you can read about here, and about which I have nothing but wonderful things to say. Eric, Fok and Jen then went off to a fancy lunch - I went on my way, and found duck confit and a glass of red wine. I went back to the hotel, changed into my Birkenstocks - because fuck it, right? - and then I walked the long walk to Colette.
Déborah's a good sport
Seriously, what else do you even need?
Colette, if you haven't visited, is a bass-line and white interiors, spare clothing racks laid out by collection, sneakers alongside books alongside accessories and a floor of clothing that's cooler than you.
Fok compared it to Luisa Via Roma in Florence, which is not inaccurate, but at the latter I’ve always gotten the feeling that you’re allowed to think the clothes are cool. By contrast, inside Colette you have the feeling that the exact opposite is true: showing excitement is exceedingly lame. If you’re cool - and you’re not, you never are; if such a thing is even possible I’m so far on the wrong side of the scale I’ve never even witnessed it - you nod knowingly at a rack or two, frown, and then you go downstairs and shake some hands because you’re just stopping by, and maybe you have a bottle of water or something.
Eric and I met Colette’s press agent downstairs in the Water Bar; at a white table where we had coffee and lightly-flavored sparkling water that had probably been curated by someone or other. Then he left to take photos of the interior - despite the “PRESS” sticker on his sweater, he was stopped and yelled at constantly. I talked about the store, which Fok will write about in detail, but the short story is that Colette believes itself to be a Taste Maker (note caps); whether or not this is true I have no idea, as I have no taste.
After Colette, we ate macarons, which I’d much rather talk about. I got an oversized chocolate ganache macaron, which was too sweet. I like macarons precisely because they’re not too sweet; this betrayal was almost too much for me, but as with all things I had only myself to blame.
Following this minor disappointment, we had a surprisingly pleasant walk back to the hotel through the tuileries. We stopped for hot wine, drank it on a bridge, Fok ate like seven or eight crepes probably, and then we were done. Day one! Completed! All that was left was dinner.
Thing is, Paris is nice
Have I mentioned that I enjoy duck? Duck is hard to come by where I live - it is not hard to come by in Paris. Eric and I wandered around our hotel for a little bit, and then ended up at a totally passable restaurant. I ordered foie gras, he ordered the terrine; we drank wine. I am a fan of generous servings of foie gras, and I am not hugely picky about the rest. Pickled onions are welcome, and toast is nice, as is warm, crusty bread.
Beef bourgignon followed the foie; a deceptively large helping, thick and rich and deeply warming. Eric ordered cassoulet; approximately five pounds of it arrived (not including the five-pound cast iron serving pot), and he managed to make an impressive amount of it disappear. We may or may not have had a second bottle of wine; I’m not sure. Dessert was a simple creme brulee - again, not a dish with which I’m inclined to take issue. Satisfaction, delivered in three courses, and accompanied by burgundy. As with all things, it’s sometimes - often, even - nice to turn your brain off, forget about your academic critique of this or that subject, and just enjoy your food.