Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spice Boy

I had been to Galeries La Fayette before. But it wasn't until my last trip that I noticed this wonderful spice shop on the second floor of the Por Homme building. It is a feast for your senses.. the colors and scents of familiar and not so familiar herbs, spices, and seasonings will  your catch your eyes, seduce your nostrils, and stir up your imagination. The labels even have flavor profiles and cooking suggestions on them. 

Fresh Nutmeg (lower portion) is the best. But what piqued my interest was the item above the whole nutmegs.
It is called "Macis" or "Mace" and it is the bright red, lacy covering of the nutmeg seed shell. It has a warm, sharp aromatic flavor which is more intense and slightly sweeter than nutmeg. Like nutmeg, it is great for milk dishes like custards and cream sauces, and also works well with sweets. Perfect for mashed potatoes. :)

All of these ready made spice mixes made me wish I had brought a larger suitcase.

A whole section for pepper. There were more than a dozen varieties of pepper and pepper mixes.

It's ironic how I live in Asia and have been looking for Sichuan Pepper corns for the past several months. Only to find them in Europe. 

Another section dedicated to Salt. There were roasted salts, smoked salts, a hawaiian black salt, fleur de sel, truffle infused salt, herb salts, and himalayan pink salt. 
I ended up buying a jar of pink Himalayan salt--perfect pasalubong for my brother in law.

This was the last picture i took before the security on duty put their hand in front of my iPhone
and warned me about taking pictures.
La Route des Indes is located at the second floor of the Por Homme building of Galeries La Fayette. It is near  the escalators. Just follow your nose.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Last Minute Shopping = Last Minute Surprises

During my last few hours in Paris, I decided to make one last run through the Galeries La Fayette for some last minute pasalubong* shopping. You can find nearly every brand of watch, bag, fragrance, and clothing there. During the summer sale (usually from August 1-31), even designer brands and signature labels can be bought at 30-70% off. The place can get really crowded during tourist season, so hold on to your wallets...literally.

The Galeries La Fayette is divided into two major buildings--one for Men and one for Women. Both buildings are 4 stories high and filled with anything and everything you would and would not expect from a department store--including a champagne bar/cafe and a food court full of gourmet/artisan goods.

Need a break from the crowds? There is a bridge that connects the two buildings of Galeries La Fayette on the fourth floor. It is a nice place to take a breather and to get a nice view of the backside of the Opera house, which not many people notice. 

Galeries La Fayette is located at 40 Boulevard Haussmann 75009 PARIS. You can take the Metro and get off at the Chaussée d'Antin La Fayette station. Or if you want a more scenic route, I suggest getting off at the Opera station, and taking a short 3 minute walk there. You will get a great view of the front of the National Academy of Music (Academie National de Musique).

For more information about Galeries La Fayette, you may visit: 

* Pasalubong: (noun) gifts from travel. It has long been a Filipino tradition to bring back a souvenir, keepsake or food item from a place you visit. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Best Espresso in Paris

I love coffee. And while I am no expert on the subject, I believe that I know what good coffee tastes like. 

My first 8 days in Europe were spent travelling all around Italy--from the well known cities of Rome, Milan, & Venice  to the lesser known towns of Bagnaia in Tuscany and Castiglione del Lago in Umbria. All along the way, I had caffe every chance I got--in gas stations, in restaurants, in the bars, and even from the occasional vendo machine. In fact, I had more than 30 cups in those 8 days.

Caffe (no one calls it 'espresso' in Italy) became an integral part of my day. If i didn't start and end my day with a cup, it felt so wrong. Over the following 6 weeks, my travels took me to 6 other European countries which all had their own version of coffee (the French have cafe au lait, the Austrians have the melange, Switzerland has cafe creme, etc.). My coffee addiction demanded that I have at least one cup a day. But after each cup, I would walk away quite disappointed. After about 6 weeks, I had given up all hope of finding a good macchiato outside of Italy until I stumbled upon Alto Cafe in Paris

If I were a Transformer, this is what I would be--a small, red truck that turns into a Coffee Cart.
This mobile-state-of-the-art-coffee-cart served up the BEST caffe macchiato outside of Italy.
In fact, it ranks as one of the BEST caffe macchiato's I've
 ever had. And I've had a lot. 
The shot of espresso was PERFECT--it had wonderful body, a nutty-almost chocolatey aroma,
and was not the least bit bitter. They used a French roasted blend of Arabica-Robusta (i'm guessing about 70-30).

The milk was expertly executed--velvety smooth, extremely creamy & slightly sweet.
It was so good, I had to have another one.
This was my second macchiato, which I excitedly took a sip of before taking this picture.
The second was even better than the first. (Caffe Macchiato: € 2.20)

In between my shots, the barista had recalibrated the grinder. (This is one tell-tale sign of a good barista. Good cafe's will recalibrate their grinder 2-3 times a day.) Alto Cafe gets extra points in my book for recalibrating their grinder the old fashioned way: by watching how the espresso shot comes out.

I also appreciated how friendly the barista was and how fluent she was in English, making Alto Cafe very tourist-friendly. 

The next time I'm in Paris, I know exactly where to go for my caffe fix.

Alto Cafe is located outside the Homme Building of Galeries Lafayette.
(40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris | Metro Station: Chaussee d'Antin-La Fayette)
For more information, visit and

[photo credits: aRj taken with Apple iPhone]