25 April 2007

Paris: Izraël & le Marais

After our sushi lunch in the Japanese restaurant at Sèvre-Lecourbe last Friday, we drove over to our hotel, an Ibis at the Porte de Gentilly, to check in. We've stayed there many times since 2003, and when you are with car in Paris it's very handy and inexpensive. Not charming, I guess, but clean and comfortable. The rates: 55 euros a night on weekends — with the moribund dollar, that's $75.00. Not bad. And the parking is free, on the street.

We didn't linger at the hotel because we had told our friends Chris and Tony we'd come to their apartment in the Marais at 3:00. We drove up there and around the block a couple of times looking for a parking place. The Marais is a very densely built-up neighborhood and street parking is scarce. I was about to give up and head for an underground garage when I noticed what looked like a half-space right on the Place des Vosges.

Well-stocked shelves at Izraël, l'Epicerie du Monde, in the Marais.

The Peugeot 206 is pretty small, but this was going to be tight. I backed in and nudged backward and forward five or six times. It fit! We had about three inches between our bumpers and the bumpers of the cars in front and in back of us. We paid the meter — two hours maximum — and headed out on foot. We were only steps or so from our friends' rental apartment at the corner of the rue de Turenne and the rue des Francs-Bourgeois.

Our plan was to walk over to the shop called Izraël, which specializes in exotic products and ingredients, to look for some spices we and Chris & Tony wanted to buy. Izraël, l'Epicerie du Monde, is at 30, rue François-Miron, very close to the intersection of the rue de Rivoli and the rue Vieille-du-Temple. As you can see, everything there was beautiful and appetizing. They carry products you'd have a hard time finding elsewhere in Paris. Check out this blog for more pictures and information; it's in French.

We have walked by there a thousand times over the years and I had never noticed the Izraël shop before. Right next door to it is a wine shop, and I know I've bought wine there several times in the past — including some California wine for French friends one year.

It just goes to show you that you can walk right by a place many many times before you ever focus on it. That's the beauty of Paris — there is so much there (I almost said "there there," if you know what I mean) that you can never know it all. There's always a new discovery around the next corner. I've had friends who lived nearby and spent time in this neighborhood since the late 1970s!

Walt and I were looking for a smoked paprika from Spain to use in our cooking. We wanted hot smoked paprika (fort), but Izraël only had the mild (doux) version. Fine; we can add some hot unsmoked paprika to it, or some ground cayenne pepper. We bought a good supply of the smoky stuff.

Chris & Tony were looking for a ground hot pepper powder they had gotten as a gift from a friend who brought it back from the Ivory Coast in Africa. They didn't have a name for it. They said it had a deep, rich flavor that you don't get with ground cayenne or other hot pepper powders they've been able to find in California.

The staff at Izraël recommended the North African spice blend called harissa — in powder form, not the paste you normally eat with couscous. They bought some and will try it when they get back home.

We had walked from the Place des Vosges over to Izraël's shop, and we walked on to the Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville after that. It's not far. Walt had a specific item he was looking for, and he found it. After that success, we walked back through the rue des Rosiers, the heart of the old Jewish neighborhood that is the Marais. We noticed that Jo Goldenberg's restaurant there, a real landmark, has closed down. The storefront was empty.

Another Marais landmark, L'As du Fallafel — people queue up

Our two hours were up and we had to go move the car. We walked back up to Chris & Tony's apartment — a nice studio just one floor above street level but with double-glazed windows that closed out street noise very effectively — to drop some things off. Then we walked over to the car and went for a drive around the city.

Façade of a building on the rue des Rosiers in the Marais

We drove over to the 13th arrondissement to buy some things in a big Asian supermarket, and then drove up the Champs-Elysées and around the Arc de Triomphe on our way out to La Défense.


  1. Now, if our big sack of ground chile pepper passes the US customs, we'll be in good shape.--Chris and Tony

  2. The only thing missing from your photos of Izraël is the smell. ;) Such a wonderful mixture of smells in that shop.
    I'd never even try to park my car in Le Marais. You were really lucky that day!h


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?