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Asparagus Rock in Paris
One of the things that always fascinates me about Paris is how different worlds coexist here, even on the same street. Earlier this week, I was at the Plaza Athénée (see my Paris hotels page) in Avenue Montaigne – Paris's dressiest street famed for its glamorous fashion houses – for Alain Ducasse's Marché des Producteurs, a meet-the-producers tribute to the people behind the fine produce that Ducasse says is "90% of great cuisine". The Plaza's famous creeper-hung courtyard (restaurant in summer, ice rink in winter) is thronged with eager Parisian foodies, tasting and talking food. On one stall someone is preparing lobsters and oysters, on another, goat's cheese is being sliced up to spear with a stick. There are wine producers, artichoke growers, Bresse hens, strange knobbly citrus fruit.
At the press lunch in the Alain Ducasse restaurant, amid a rarefied atmosphere of white linen, silver cloches and clouds of exploded crystal chandeliers, the talk is all food as we feast on a spider crab concoction, sea bass and asparagus, the new Ducasse Cookpot®, an individual white porcelain casserole (veal with mushroom duxelles, morels and seasonal veg), five different wines, a deconstructed wild strawberry vacherin. Across the table is Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, the "Boucher Bohème", from the suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine. All the great chefs want my meat, he tells us. He doesn't let them have it; he sells to particuliers (individuals). Yves-Marie supplies Mick Jagger when he's in Paris, or delivers to his château in the Loire (a capon at Christmas), and lets us in on the secret of what the New York Times has voted the best burger in the world – three different cuts of beef, hand-chopped.
A few minutes later, laden with Noirmoutier potatoes, olive oil and a bundle of Monsieur Blanc’s asparagus, I leave the hotel, past the numerous doormen, and into a different world. Lined up along the pavement are at least 200 young girls, a look of best clothes (this is Avenue Montaigne, after all), brandishing photos. A bubble of anticipation in the air. I linger for a while to see if anyone appears. "Who are you waiting for?", I ask the girl next to me, "Tokio Hotel, of course." Of course. Tokio Hotel are playing Bercy tomorrow and always stay at the Plaza Athénée. I didn't get to see the group but I did see their groupies.
That's multi-layered Paris for you.
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