01 March 2012

caramel from meert

We spotted it on our way to Maison de la Chasse et de la Nature one morning.

A storefront that looked like it's been there for a couple of centuries. A vintage-looking sign that says "Chocolatier" hanging inside the window. Above the door, the words "Maison Fondée en 1761."

The lights were fully on and there was someone inside, but the door was locked. So we decided to stop on the way back from the museum.

I was very pleased with myself for discovering this shop in a quiet corner of Paris 3eme, but it turns out Meert is quite well-known. It is a popular confiserie-pâtisserie in Lille, and this Paris boutique itself is actually new, opened only late last year.

When we returned after visitng the museum, the shop was open. I may have been more excited than my son was. Inside the boutique is a confectionery-lovers' sweet paradise, with beautiful jewels of candies and chocolates displayed just so. The interior of the store is scrumptious as well. I don't have sweet tooth and don't eat much candy or chocolate, but I nearly squealed in delight as I almost could not stand the cuteness of the shop.

My son and I looked around, and I was immediately drawn to the piles of caramels in various shades of brown. There were five flavors: vanilla, coffee, hazelnuts, chocolate, and of course, salted butter. We decided to get several each of vanilla, coffee, and salted butter. Oh, wait, could you add two more salted butter ones, s’il vous plaît?

These caramels aren't really sweet. They aren't rich, either. They are such simple things, nothing but small squares. They don't have the glamour and sensuality of chocolate. But they are, oh, so agreeable --  soft, gentle, and delicate. They taste of childhood daydreams.

The small bag of caramels we bought lasted for two days. I wanted to bring some back to Lyon for my husband, so we returned to the store. The young lady who helped us laughed when I asked for ten each of all five flavors, and said "Vous êtes gourmands!" Some French-English dictionaries would tell us the word "gourmand" has a negative connotation, but the way she said it was good-natured. She put them all in a bag and tied a pretty pale blue ribbon on it for us.

Many people have bought these caramels like that, to bring to someone, to take little something home with them. Ever since 1761.

What a sweet thought.


goodandbadjapan said...

This is one of the things I love about Paris - all these beautiful little shops that still have their own unique character. Of course the Gaps and Starbucks and all are there too, but you can still find great old-fashioned individual shops all over the place.

cocopuff1212 said...

Yes, there are many of them, here in Lyon, too. These stores often make me wonder how they stay in business, though. They would be quickly rotated out in the U.S. for sure, for being inefficient and unprofitable.

argone said...

Great shop for caramels !
I don't see "gourmand" as a negative word in french, on the contrary ! It qualifies someone who enjoys life !

cocopuff1212 said...

Hello Agrone,
Thank you for your comment! I think once a word enters another language and starts to live its own life apart from the original language, it aquires more meanings that may not exist in the original. Among the English speaking world, for instance, "gourmet" is not bad but "gourmand" isn't so good. So it's reassuring to hear this from a native speaker! Thank you again :)