A Parisian Home Chef: Les Vivres

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A Parisian Home Chef: Les Vivres
Les Vivres is the brand new annex to the gastronomic restaurant Pétrelle. It opened two months ago, just a skip and a hop down the hill from the Sacré-Coeur. Roomy and bright, high-ceilinged, decorated with taste and a simple, modern flair, it is a multifaceted kind of place. Want wine? Les Vivres is a bar à vins (wine cellar), and offers an excellent selection of bottles. Want gourmet goodies? Les Vivres is an épicerie (grocery store), and offers an array of jams, biscuits, condiments and spices. Want produce? Les Vivres is a primeur (produce stall), and displays a strikingly beautiful selection of fruits and vegetables, which includes the so-called “forgotten” ones, not easily found in mainstream stores. Want organic bread? Les Vivres also sells fresh loaves of plain, spelt, fig or olive bread. Being the baby brother of such a fine restaurant, it also offers an excellent selection of daily homemade dishes. These are elaborated and prepared in the Pétrelle kitchen, using carefully selected ingredients bought directly from the producers. A selection of antipasti and salads, colorful and tempting, are displayed at the deli counter. Two plats du jour, inspired by the traditional French repertoire. Desserts in rustic dishes, simple and comforting like Grand-Mère used to make. All these can be bought to take away, allowing you to whip up a fantastic dinner in a heartbeat, or maybe to improvise a luscious picnic in the privacy and coziness of your hotel room. But you can also choose to eat there, sitting at one of the little wooden tables, catered to by the friendly staff. And this is exactly what I did, on a recent sunny winter day, sitting at a table with a full view of the beautiful shelves, laden with bottles and jars. I started by ordering a plate of mixed antipasti. I could have gone up to the counter and asked for specific items, but I decided instead to ask the waiter for a selection of his favorites. His assortment included marinated artichokes and beetroots, grilled eggplant and peppers, a lentil salad, a mushroom salad and a crosne salad (those little caterpillar-shaped tubers), decorated with olives and radishes and a handful of cute beetroot sprouts. Fresh organic bread was provided in a little basket. As a main dish, I went for the flamiche, the typical leek pie from the north of France, to which they had added diced ham to make a flamiche au jambon. The generous golden slice came with a rucola salad, and proved very tasty: the dough was thin and flaky, and the filling was smooth and well-seasoned, the sweet leek taste perfectly complemented by the ham. Choosing what to have for dessert is a matter to take seriously, and a little walk around was in order, just to take in and evaluate all that was available: lemon tartlets, fresh waffles, semolina cake, aniseed and almond cupcakes, two kinds of apple compote, with orange peel or with vanilla… My head was, quite understandably, spinning, but I set my heart on the fresh fromage blanc (a thick and smooth yogurt) with some quince, apple and pineapple marmalade. An excellent choice: the marmalade had a powerful fruit taste and a wonderful texture, in which you could feel the little sugar crystals. The friendly and professional staff, the general attention to detail, the welcoming décor, the selection of books available for your perusal, the careful choice of products—all of this makes Les Vivres a delightful and much recommended place.   Les Vivres 28 rue Pétrelle75009 Paris01 42 80 26 10Métro AnversMonday to Friday, 11 am to 9 pmSaturday, 11 am to 8 pm   In her column “A Parisian Home Chef,” native Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier happily shares recipes, food shopping bonnes adresses, entertaining tips and restaurant recommendations. Read more about her in her bio, and find more of her writing on her gastronomic blog, Chocolate & Zucchini. (Nominated for a 2004 Bloggie and featured in the April 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine!)
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