Thursday, February 12, 2009

Café Noisette

Ordering a coffee in Paris should be easy but it isn't.  At least for those of us Americans addicted to this drink it isn't.  My body, as I have mentioned before, craves the endless cup or at the very least a pot in the mornings and unless you have your own coffee maker with you in Paris (no little 4 cup machines in hotel rooms my friends) you are out of luck.  So you make the grand effort of getting all ready to greet the day and run downstairs to the buffet breakfast that the hotel serves up to throw back a thimble full of coffee.  Seriously, WHAT IS THAT? Where is the vente size cup that is like carrying a full pot with you?  I love, love, love everything about Paris except their stingy sized coffee portions. 

Why a post about one type of coffee, Café Noisette in particular?  To save those of you from making the same mistake that I kept making while living in Paris.  Prior to my year abroad, I drank weak American coffee with cream.  This baffles me in the current moment, I have to say.  I must have felt that coffee was undrinkable without being a pale almond color.  When I got to Paris, my option was to order café au lait, coffee served with steamed milk...or steamed something.  Their dairy products are so very different from the ones we consume here in the states and the taste was, well, awful.  Someone told me they used unsweetened condensed milk which makes my gag reflex kick in a little just thinking about that in my coffee.  Clearly the die hard java drinker that I am found herself in a pickle.  

The girl who was teaching me French at the time saved me.  We met at Les Deux Magots for one of our weekly classes and started talking about coffee and the drinking and ordering of it (all in my pathetic new found French of course) and she was the one who enlightened me to Café Noisette--a shot of espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk in it.  "Noisette" refers to the color of the drink which is a toasty hazelnut.  Voila.  Two good things happen--the insane, intense espresso is tempered for those of us in need of tempering AND the volume of liquid is increased giving me something a bit bigger and more satisfying to drink.  

For about half the year, this was my drink of choice.  Then one day I really wanted to feel French.  Which is impossible if you are not French as it is a secret society unto itself and outsiders are clearly held at arm's length.  Yet I felt if I had enough shades of black and grey on, tucked my jeans into my boots (which American women cannot do without coming off looking like a pirate), wrapped  a big ratty scarf around my neck, not wash or comb my hair upon awakening and had a Marc Levy novel with me, for a moment, I might pass as being French. Sitting at my local café I surprised myself when asked what I wanted,  as the words " je prends un espresso" came out of my mouth.  That was my undoing.  I felt French-- I was drinking bitter coffee grounds, reading and comprehending a French novel (think Nicolas Sparks but more--I'll let the reader decide if that is a good thing ;-)), had messy hair, and would never look back.  

Steamed milk, unsweetened condensed stuff--hah!  None of that in my coffee.  I'll take it straight up, s'il vous plait.  


Taylor said...

love it!!!

Kim said...

You know what I'm talking about...