Thursday, January 24, 2013

Research with a Kick

The lovely Clemence, my cohort in caffeine
The deadline for my second book, Moon Metro Paris, is in just two short months. Eek! (My first book, Moon Living Abroad in France, was published in 2012.) The fun part of researching a travel guidebook falls under the overarching theme of "first-hand reporting," which means if I'm writing about how good the coffee is at a specific cafe, I darn well better have tasted a steamy cup of the stuff with my own lips.

Inside Coutume Cafe
Last week, I met up with Clemence at Coutume Cafe, one of the new drinking-and-dining additions to the "Invalides" section of the book. (For those who don't know Paris well, "Invalides" relates to the neighborhood, which is named after the giant military hospital/museum complex that dominates the quartier. Napoleon is buried therein.) We came for coffee and conversation (and research), and even though I wasn't hungry, I gave the menu a good once-over. 

The daily salad looked great on paper, and even better when I saw it served to the woman sitting next to me. Colorful and almost too-fresh for mid-winter. The Toasts aux Champignons sounded mouthwatering, too: Whole-grain toast topped with sauteed shiitake (spelled incorrectly on the menu--oops!), oyster, and button mushrooms and served with a mesclun salad. Vegan, so far as I could tell. (But I'd always ask before ordering.)

I already knew Coutume Cafe offered soymilk for hot drinks, but today, when I asked, they were all out, and the manager, Nico, explained that they're in the middle of sourcing a new brand, since the one they were using had a tendency to curdle when blended into chai, cafes au lait, and other drinks that call for a milk of some sort.

This is what a €4.20 chai latte looks like up close.
I ordered a simple, rather innocuous-sounding "cafe noir," which was described as a double espresso with a bit of hot water added to it. It was tasty. What I wasn't expecting was the intoxicating buzz that followed immediately after polishing off that diminutive cupful. So intense was my coffee high that I had to cut the visit short to go burn off some of that brain-sizzling energy. It wasn't a horrible feeling--I wasn't jittery or queasy as can sometimes happen after a potent cup--but I was a little too wired, mentally, for comfortable conversation.

I can't wait to go back for another cup!

Warning: May cause extreme brain activity!


  1. Hi Aurelia, I stayed in the Invalides area , for two weeks, whilst I CAT SAT for friends who went on a cruise ... It was wonderful ...

    It was only my second visit to Paris , and such a super area. That is when I met Jennifer and Brigitte .. I already knew Barbara ..

    You are finding some great places to go, even if I am not a Vegetarian or a Vegan, I would give them a try .. :-)

    1. Hi, Anne! I like this area, too, though it's probably the part of town I know least. I should be looking to you for recommendations!

  2. This is perfect, I needed something to read with my cup of coffee.
    I don't even know if I can still drink espresso, I might fly out of my skin! Thanks for your lovely photos and good luck on that deadline! I'm sure you'll be fine, in about 2 months and one day!

    1. Thanks, Beth! French espressos aren't the same as American versions, at least as far as I can tell; that's why people here can sip them after a late-night dinner and not stay up all night with coffeemania. This place was different, though. They must've imported their beans from San Francisco!

  3. How cool! Looks great and it must be a blast to have a caffeine cohort. Good luck on your second book!

    1. Paul, it is definitely a "blast"! Which reminds me--I should go back for refueling this week. Merci bien pour vos mots gentils. (I don't know how to say "encouraging" in french yet!)


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