Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where to get it (Part I)

So we'll assume you want to avoid Géant.  We've done a lot of exploring in the center of Poitiers, and after a little help from the yellow pages, and lots of walking and biking, we've got a pretty good handle on where to get what you need in our neighborhood. We offer you this guide for those in search of spicy food, a good tailor, a wind-resistant umbrella, and the perfect croissant.

You've probably noticed that we like to cook many different kinds of food, some of which are not available at the regular grocery store.  We have given up on some of these things for the time being (for instance, real, gluten-free corn tortillas are nowhere to be found, WTF?). Nonetheless, this Asian/African Grocery store is a great place to get spicy peppers (Scotch Bonnets), various kinds of lentils (we like red lentils), corn flour of varying coarseness (so you could, in theory, make your own tortillas from scratch), and a few "exotic" vegetables (ripe plantains and okra).  

Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Grocery

More importantly, it is open 7 days a week (gasp!) til 10 p.m. (impossible!!). This means that you can also get yogurt, cereal, and a few other "everyday" things on the weekend if you're desperate. We're guessing that their biggest money maker is alcohol as they are the only shop open on Sunday (not counting bars, tabacs, and restaurants) where you can get beer and wine.
Had friends over and drank up your weekend allotment of wine on Saturday night?  Now you need a bottle to go with your Sunday roast chicken?? Come on over!

When we were living in Urbana, we had two sewing machines (one each, which we got before we met each other). We used them for major projects like curtains, as well as lots of little jobs like hemming pants, adding velcro to things, reinforcing Jefe's pants for biking, and making hats. Not long after arriving in Poitiers (sans Singers), we required the services of a tailor. We found a few in the yellow pages and Jefe rode by to check them out. We settled on Arsène Couture, as the other nearby tailor seemed overtaxed (they advertised sewing-related jobs on everything from clothes and curtains to beads and accessories). However, when he dropped off the sweater with Arsene, he ended up in a political discussion with the owner that ended with her grumbling about her daughter getting pregnant by a Jew in New York (sheesh). Needless to say, the next piece that required tailoring went to Rapid Couture, scatterbrained as they might be. We were hoping that "Rapid" meant "No politics." They did a great job, hemming three pairs of pants in two days, which is pretty fast for all the tailors we've visited.

Since Poitiers doesn't get much snow, the winter precipitation comes down as rain, so you want an umbrella that can stand up to constant use and serious wind. Luckily, there is the nearby François Frères, an umbrella shop. They make and repair all sorts of umbrellas, with a few ingenious versions that I'd never even thought of. There are square umbrellas, children's umbrellas, compact umbrellas, and umbrellas with flexible ribs that don't break when the wind catches and turns it inside out. They also have a vast array of styles, sizes, and prints, so you will be sure to find an umbrella to match your outfit and your personality.

Who doesn't love that the French word for umbrella is "parapluie" (pair-uh-ploo-ey)?

Speaking of umbrellas, you can't swing one without hitting a bakery around here. The real difficulty is finding the "best" one. The trick is to look for a line that stretches out the door during weekday lunches and most of Saturday. Testing the croissants is another way to gauge a bakery. When eaten plain, this simple pastry can tell you a lot about the quality of ingredients and the amount of care taken in their baking operation. 

La Grange à Pain (The Bread Barn) satisfies both criteria. Their croissants are unbelievably delicious, with just the right amount of creamy butter flavor; their chausson aux pommes (apple turnovers) are filled with something similar to apple pie filling while many competitors merely use an applesauce-like paste. Their baguettes are good enough that people buy them by the armload, and their array of savory sandwiches and mini quiches are what make that interminable line out the door during lunch.

mmm, gluten

In other news, Rebecca's students will be taking their first semester final exams next week, but since there is no final exam in English, we are off to Bordeaux and Toulouse.  We'll be back in a week and a half.  See you then.

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