Sunday, March 20, 2016

Jet lag and Parisian Pizza

The effects of my jet lag really kicked in the last couple days, and I’ve been keeping very odd hours. This has resulted in me devoting less time than I would like exploring Paris. I haven’t had the energy. Instead, I’ve spent my some time doing small errands. I have, nevertheless, taken several exploratory walks around my general area, but none of the lengthier hikes I’d rather go on.

Some of the highlights of these smaller explorations have been a local Greek bakery where I got some spanakopita:

Full disclosure: I might have bought more than just spanakopita
And an antique store where I bought old camera to decorate my flat:

Yes, that is a can of smoked rattlesnake
I didn’t sleep well last night, but I wasn’t willing to spend most of the rest of another day moping around trying to recover from another unintentional unit blanche. I decided I’d do whatever I would have otherwise done until I was spent.

Alsatians have something called a flammekueche, or tarte flambée. A delicious flatbread topped with fromage blanc, onions and cured pork belly, it’s the closest thing France’s culinary tradition has to a pizza. It’s not a pizza, though. The French simply aren’t known for their pizzas. They are quite fond, unfortunately, of the kind you defrost in a microwave. Pizzaiolos, the French most certainly are not. Finding a good slice of pizza in Paris is no easy task, especially when you haven’t slept much.

I’m also difficult to please, both in general, and especially when it comes to Pizza. I have eaten hundreds (literally) of slices of Chez Panisse’s pizza. I have eaten pizza in the Midwest, and indulged in plenty of slices in New York. Purely for professional purposes, last year, I avidly sampled countless different types of Roman pizzas (sorry, Doc!). I ate plenty more in Napoli. I’ve made my fair share of pizzas too. Pizza is far from my favorite thing to eat, but I’d like to think I know a thing or two about it and its consumption.

My goal for today—finding a good slice of comfort food—to make up for my sleep deprivation was not nearly as complicated a task as I make it out to be. I already knew how I was going to go about it.

I think I first heard about Nick’s Pizza thanks to David Leibovitz, and I’ve been excited about it since I did. I was not disappointed; it was well-worth my 8-mile round trip walk.

Nick is a New Yorker who has spent most of his life in France. About two years ago he decided it was time to give Parisian pizza an upgrade, so he opened Nick’s Pizza. Chatting with him was like talking to someone I had known for years. He’s one of the most affable people I’ve ever met. We spent the better part of an hour talking about pizza, politics and why he decided to move to Paris (he’s an incurable lefty and he delights in the idea that the French are all guaranteed a standard of living that isn’t disgusting).

Some of Nick’s slices
I really appreciated how much pride he takes in his pizza. His secret is probably the dough, which he lets ferment for three days. His sourdough is delightfully tangy and crisp. The slice I had was Margherita dotted with pesto. It was daringly garlicky; it was almost dangerously garlicky. I loved it. The other thing I liked were his cheekily named house sodas like “Nick’s not-Red Bull,” which are good and can be refilled as much as you’d like for 1 Euro (he cheekily explains that he doesn’t think sugar-water should cost more than that). All in all Nick made my day into a good one. I can’t wait to go back!

My walk home took me, yet again, past Notre Dame and then along the Seine. This time, at night, it was all the more magical. The magic didn’t end with my walk, either. Perhaps a bit delirious from fatigue, but certainly awed by how gorgeous Paris is at night, I arrived home to music. My neighbor practices piano. I’m not sure who she is, but she’s good and it’s because she practices all the time. It’s never intrusive and when I want to listen better, I open the door and latch it with the safety chain. I’m writing this as I listen to my very own piano concert.