December 31, 2009
Sacha Finkelsztayn for a Yiddish Gastronomic WonderI ran across legendary Sacha Finkelsztayn in Paris earlier this month. On a mission to find dark chocolate, my tastebuds found taramasalata, mini baguette-like pastries with poppy seeds and some wondrous looking dumpling instead.
Imagine trying to get a shot of the place without 6,000 people coming in and out of its regularly visited door on a Saturday afternoon close to Christmas. As I stood there with frozen fingers trying to shoot -- and waiting to shoot -- more than one Parisian shouted the word "Impossible" at me.
Progress at last.
The area is old, so this incredibly quaint and adorable shop along Rue Des Rosiers isn't your only surprise, but it's so memorable that it had me longing for another visit days later.
Taglined La Gastronomie Yiddish D'Europe Centrale et Russie, it's a Yiddish gastronomic wonderland.
They have their own beautiful description: "On y retrouve les saveurs et les senteurs qui ont charmé l'enfance de Chagall, Soutine, Freud, ou Woody Allen. On y entend tous les accents des langues d'Europe de l'Est, des Balkans aux pays Baltes, et l'on y croise bien des célébrités du spectacle ou des Arts et Lettres."
It's been standing tall through three generations of Finkelsztajn. The colors, its heritage and the smells bring you in.
The collective experience, including the people who show up -- and stay -- are what keep you there.
It was far too busy to shoot video or do an interview despite the urge to do so. Instead, I hung out in the corner and observed for a long time, while sampling one thing after another.
And, each and every time, I was greeted by this man at the end of the shop who took my money and grinned, because clearly I was a newbie.....clearly I wasn't a local. It was not just the camera that gave it away. The must would have been my awe-stricken face in the corner oohing and aahhing after every bite and then again before the next one.
It's shocking to me that I had never entered its walls, despite my countless visits to Paris over the years, which often included a stroll up and down Rue Des Rosiers. All I can think of is that my priorities must have been different in the past. It's like trying to see the color green on shop signs when you are only looking for blue.
After more than a decade living back in the states, where food is not honored and worshipped as it is in Europe, particularly Paris, I now seek out the best of the best on every trip with a goal of having a gastronomic breakthrough each time. Indeed, a fabulous find.
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