Verjus – Paris 2016

When you visit Paris, patient the restaurant choices are overwhelming. There are literally thousands of restaurants and they are all good. Or at least as a traveller to the city you think they are all good. Everyone you know who has visited the city will have a different list of about ten restaurants “you HAVE to try” and of course, they are in neighbourhoods that are not remotely close to you or anything you want to see. Then you foolishly think, “Ok. Let me look up restaurants with Michelin stars.” Don’t do that. It is the most futile Google search you will ever perform and you will depress yourself as you don’t have hundreds of euros to spend on lunch to go to somewhere with 1-Michelin star let alone something with 3-stars which the official definition is “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It is overwhelming, daunting and borderline annoying to plan meals in Paris.

However, one meal that was easy to plan was our dinner at Verjus. I learned about Verjus while watching The Getaway, a show by ESPN that features B-list actors and their favourite weekend getaways. Paris is the city of choice for Aisha Tyler. In the episode she eats at a few wine bars (Frenchie which was unfortunately missed on this trip) but Verjus really stood out for me. It is run by an American couple who are part of a change that is happening in Paris about how people view food and restaurants. It began as a wine bar with tasting plates or petits plats (which sounds so much daintier than tapas or sharing plates) and has expanded into a full-on restaurant with a tasting menu and a second restaurant called Ellsworth.

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To get to Verjus we entered through an alleyway called Passage de Beaujolais. We were early for our reservation so we wandered through the short alley and down the stairs that took us street level to a whole other world. From there we could see that Verjus is located in an old, 3-storey, very typically Parisian building that is across the street from the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. We felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century. We meandered through the archways of the théâtre and discovered the beautiful gardens of the Palais-Royal with its wild rose bushes and fountains. As dusk began to fall we headed back to the restaurant to enjoy our dinner.

The tasting menu was 10 courses for 76€ with wine pairings for an addition 55€. We decided to go for it with the wine pairing because who knows when you will be back in Paris eating a tasting menu at an amazing restaurant because you won a free trip? And yes, for those of you doing the math, this meal was almost $400 Canadian, making it one of the most expensive meals I have ever had.

We were seated at a small table close to the entrance and the stairway leading upstairs. I was more than ok with this because it allowed us to be surrounded by windows offering views of the streets below and an opportunity to take a peek at upcoming courses as they whipped their way upstairs.

We started with a course featuring three different appetizers that were all served with a sparkling white wine, Catherine & Pierre Breton’s Vouvray Pétillant “La Dilettante”

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Violet asparagus, with sorrel mayo and wood sorrel.

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Fava bean fritter with herb tahini.

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Trout roe, with house yogurt, on a flatbread topped with arugula.

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Squish Candies

When I moved into residence in my first year of university, the floor’s theme was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My mom turned to me and said, “I think you’ve moved into the right place.” And I had. It was the right place for a number of reasons (that are far more important and debatably life changing) but because, at the time, it captured my love of candy and that made me feel comfortable and like I was in the right place.

I absolutely love candy. Anyone who has met me for more than about 5 minutes knows how much I love candy. Here are just a few examples that illustrate my love of candy:

  1. I routinely walk down to Bulk Barn on my lunch to pick up a bag of mixed candies. This is a horrible habit, I fully acknowledge that.
  2. There is usually some sort of candy or sweet at my desk at work. Currently there is a small bag of Kraft Caramels, you know the kind that is typically given out at Halloween?
  3. Our wedding featured one of the best and most varied candy tables I have ever seen if I do say so myself. It had mini gummy cubs (which differ completely from gummy bears in texture and flavour and therefore are far superior), Whoppers, sour watermelon slices, Polish caramels, Rockets and sour gumballs. The candy table was in addition to our sweets tables, because *shockingly* I also love desserts.
  4. I group up in a town that randomly has two candy factories: Rockets and Mars Bars.
  5. I’m born in October, the month of Halloween – enough said.

So when I discovered that there was a new, high-end candy store open called Squish in the Hudson’s Bay at the Eaton’s Center, I obviously had to go and check it out.

IMG_4349 IMG_4350Squish is done by the same brilliant people behind David’s Tea. Everything is marketed and packaged in the most beautiful and simple way. They have an insane variety of candy, capturing every flavour and texture you could imagine. The flavours range from sweet to sour, to salty and they also have chocolate. They package their candy thematically and adorable containers, making it even more enticing to purchase.

This was one of the most difficult shopping decisions I have ever made. Yes, I am married and bought a wedding dress, but this shopping trip made me more anxious and was much more difficult to decide between all the options. I’m obviously exaggerating but it was a very overwhelming and daunting decision. On my first trip to Squish I bought 5 different types of candy.

  1. Cherry Watermelon Hearts1998-cherry_watermelon_heart_paint_can
  2. Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies1994-Staw_Rhu_paint_can
  3. Red Rose Gummies1995-red_roses_paint_can
  4. Pumpkin Pie Chocolates2161-Pumpkin_Pie_
  5. Tiramisu Chocolates2159-Tiramisu

These candies are what I imagine the candies and chocolates in Willy Wonka to taste like. They are the perfect balance of texture, colour and flavour. My favourite candy was the cherry watermelon gummies. They had such a fresh and summery flavour profile that I had never tasted before. The sugar coating added a bit more sweetness and a little grit to each bite. The red rose gummies had the best gummy texture I have ever eaten. They were chewy and moist, with a slight gush of juice at the center of each. They literally exploded with flavour. The strawberry rhubarb gummies are one of their most popular candies but you can skip them. There is no real rhubarb flavour or sourness and the candies taste completely like strawberries.

The chocolates are more like candy. They are silky and luscious and completely taste like the desserts they are emulating. Both were to die for but the pumpkin pie will be my go-to candy this fall. It tastes exactly like a little drop of pumpkin pie without the guilt of a slice a pie.

Now that I have discovered an amazing but expensive candy store, I need to change my approach to eating candy. No, I was not going to change my candy eating habits for health (yet) but I will for price. I have decided that from now on if I want candy, I will only buy it from Squish. The fact that it is at the Eaton’s Center will deter me from going too frequently as that mall is hell on earth. When I go, I will only buy one flavour at a time. This will restrict me from binging on this candy which will be both healthy and cost-efficient. Although they do have ordering online…

Happy munching!