Week One in France: Buffalo wings and Bordeaux
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
24/09/2019: I arrived in Paris on a rainy Tuesday, dropped my implausibly heavy bags off at my hostel in the 15th arrondissement, and headed off to The Moose, a Canadian bar in Saint-Germain-des-Près, for happy hour. Serendipitously, the day I arrived, the Northwestern Alumni Association was hosting an event for fellow Wildcats living in France. So, naturally, the first bite I had in the gastronomic giant that is Paris was a buffalo chicken wing. Is there such a thing as the opposite of home sickness?
25/09/2019: For my first real day of exploring before another slightly uncomfortable happy hour, this time with the other Fulbright France recipients, I stopped by one of my old haunts from my study abroad days – the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, or the equally chic culinary branch of the iconic Haussmanian department store. After a familiar stroll around the magical magasin, lusting over the spice shop, the inescapable truffle counter and the colorful Dolce and Gabbana cookware (one toaster would set you back €499!), I was drawn to Mavrommatis, the mediterranean mecca. I decided on a tyropita, a flaky pastry filled with cheese that brought me back to the summers I'd spent gorging on phyllo dough in Greece. Before I left, I stopped by my old friend Christophe Adam for one of his impossibly shiny éclairs – some of the best I've tried in Paris. This time, I sprung for a neon yellow, mouth-puckering passionfruit & framboise flavor. I felt powerful, walking around the luxe locale like I owned the place. Or, at least, like I'd been there before.
26/09/2019: Thanks to the unending gratitude of the State Department and the Franco-American Fulbright Commission, all of the Fulbrighters were sent off into the 16th arrondissement with 30 euros for lunch during our first day of orientation. Limping along in my new leopard print flats, I made a decision for my small group of scholars based on all the restaurant research I'd done instead of paying attention during the last presentation. Soon, we were seated outside at a cozy, cute brasserie called Café Gloriette. One glass of rosé, good conversation and a hearty salad with prosciutto, roasted vegetables, pesto, briny olives and a big ball of burrata later, I sat back in my seat and smiled a bit smugly at my perfect, classically Parisian choice – oh, and the excitement of making new friends who were going through the same experiences as I was.
27/09/2019: There was one thing, and one thing only I needed after an incredibly stressful day of travel that saw me almost miss my train from Paris to Strasbourg. A planchette. Of course I've had my fair share of charcuterie boards in my life, but here I was off the Place Gutenberg with a new friend and fellow ETA, G., discovering planchette culture at a small spot called Jeannette et les Cycleux. We tore excitedly at the crusty bread, topping our slices with various cheeses, meats and a delicious green olive spread, all washed down with a cold glass of local Riesling and a cornichon. The only thing I couldn't get behind was the side of knacks we ordered, a quintessential Alsatian sausage that, honestly, tasted just like an incredibly snappy, juicy Hebrew National. No shade!
28/09/2019: The next few days were such a blur that all I can remember putting in my body, I swear, is wine. Arriving in Mulhouse, my hometown for the next seven months, I had no idea what to expect, but my prof référent, C., and her family welcomed me with open arms. We began with lunch, and I'm absolutely sure it was delicious, but I have no recollection of what we ate. I just know we drank a tasty red, and later, after another glass at my prospective landlady and landlord's house, we had an apéritif, then more with dinner. Again, I know it was a gorgeous meal, and so were the rest of the meals we had together during the several days I spent chez elle. Despite the fact that I felt more than a bit overwhelmed, I also felt more at home than I had in a long time. The wine helped, I'm sure.
01/10/2019: After yet another long day of orientation, this time in Strasbourg, I arrived back in Mulhouse to a welcome surprise – C. was taking a group of her friends to dinner at a trendy spot in town, of which I hadn't yet seen many. Walking into NoMad, with the exposed brick, cozy chairs and industrial feel (many of the buildings in Mulhouse were factories in previous life), I felt like I'd stumbled upon the next big thing in Brooklyn. After trying to demurely devour a squid ink seafood pasta and keep up with rapid fire French at the same time, I slept soundly that night, ready to head to the lycée for the first time and move into my new flat the next day. More change was coming.