29 June 2007

Copper Bowls from E. Dehillerin

The day we visited E. Dehillerin was sunny and mild with a barely perceptible mist in the air. I was a bit apprehensive, having heard how snooty the sales staff could be. Would they turn their noses up at my Wisconsin-accented French?

Founded in 1820, E. Dehillerin wears the patina of its age well. It is everything it is reputed to be: Cluttered and cramped and a bit dusty.

No matter. Here is where the serious cook finds serious tools for the kitchen.

Dehillerin is best known for its copper and our mission was to buy a copper bowl for whipping egg whites.

Egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are more stable than those beaten in a glass bowl, thanks to copper ions, which migrate from the bowl to the egg whites. It will take longer, but the result is high-quality foam.

As we entered Dehillerin, we were met by Kim, a charming man of about 45 who knows his stuff and sells it. Our conversation was half in French and half in English, as it often is in France. We talked of Julia Child and chefs and the properties of copper. My husband, whose vocabulary grows with each trip, joined in.

We explored the basement, at Kim’s suggestion, and found all manner of kettles and pans and boilers and pots that would not fit in our suitcases. But, oh, how lovely they would be in my kitchen!

The basement is a place of mystery, with a blocked off set of stairs in one corner and a dark sub-basement crawl space filled with boxes. Descending the stairs, I felt as if I were moving down through time. Imagine the hundreds of chefs, long forgotten, who had done the same!

We followed our trip to Dehillerin with a visit to the park atop the former site of Les Halles., a hop on the westbound No. 69 bus, and a shopping spree on Rue Cler.

It was the perfect Paris day.

The trick to navigating E. Dehillerin, I believe, is to know what you want and to know something about the store and its specialties.

As we left, Kim predicted we would return. Of course we will. Always.

22 comments:

Terry B said...

Great post, Mimi. One of the lovely things about Paris these days--aside from fabulous shops like this--is that if you make an effort to speak French, you will be rewarded with real warmth.

And to boost your confidence about your accent, a French colleague here in Chicago said that she felt her accent sounded ridiculous when she spoke English. I assured her that Americans find French-accented English quite charming. She replied that that's how the French feel about American-accented French. That made me feel fearless about trotting out my high school French.

katiez said...

What a lovely bowl!
When we bought this house the former owners left 3 copper saucepans with those flat lids one sees in antique shops, hanging on the old chimney front above the stove. She said they had been there for her lifetime and she didn't think they should be moved. I don't use them...but I do clean them...
I've never been to that store.... shame on me..next trip!

Mary said...

Dehillerin is a true cook's mecca, is it not? Last time I was in Paris I spied a size huge copper "bassin à confiture" and am still kicking myself for not buying it.

Mary
www.ceresandbacchus.com

Lydia said...

And did this beautiful copper bown come from Dehillerin? I have never been there, but it's on my list of places I must go on my next visit to Paris. I am so glad you went!

breadchick said...

Great post! I too was terrified to enter Dehillerin with my even less than your husband's French (Poor shop keeps in Paris must shake their heads when I leave the shop after butchering their lovely language). But like you, I found that since I know what I was after (a small sauce pan) and made the effort in French and some English, I too was rewarded with a visit to the basement where I too stood in wonder at the people who had stood stooped under the same shelf. I too will return. Thanks for making me smile with very fond memories of Paris.

Jann said...

This is a wonderful shop. I have not visited it since 1996-I guess I am due for a vist.Just wish I had a bigger suitcase when i travel~and a lot more cash!

Mimi said...

That does make me feel better, TerryB!

How lovely, Katie. I wishI'd began investing in copper things. I do have some of the copper from my parents' TV room - my father loved it - a set of mugs, a tray and some tumblers.

I saw lots of that stuff, Mary. Next trip!

Yes, Lydia, I bought the bowl along with a whip. The whip will probably be in another post. That in itself is a story...

That basement is amasing, Breadchick! Oh my. I wanted it all!

Jann, we packed a small piece of luggage inside our pullman case, but we brough so much food home, there wasn't much room. Oh, and a bottle of Calvados! Yes, more cash next time!

Kalyn said...

How lovely. If I was there I would have to buy things and have them shipped home; I just have no self control when it comes to things like that.

Mimi said...

I have no self control, either! But I was thinking about the cost....LOL.

Terri said...

That shows you what I know about cooking. Who would think the properties in copper are better than glass for whipping egg whites. Interesting.
Where abouts is this place located? I think hubby (who loves to cook!) would enjoy visiting it.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sue & I went nuts in Dehillerin but they loved us. We both had several things we were very specific about and they were very helpful. Loved the basement.

Farmgirl Cyn said...

I think I have been there, but only in my mind. The way you describe this, I feel like an intruder sometimes!

Mimi said...

Terri, it's 2-3 blocks east of the Palais Royale on Rue Couquilliere (I think that's how you spell it). A block northwest of Le Jardin des Halles, in other words.

Tanna, I think if you know what you want, the staff is terrific. The basement is incredible, almost sacerd.

I felt a bit like an intruder, Cyn! I mean, I've had two years of high school French and five semesters of college French and I still have an accent - and I know enough about copper to be dangerous.

Terri said...

Thanks so much, Mimi.
I've written down the directions for October.

Mimi said...

You will enjoy it! I wish I could join you - October woudl be lovely in Paris.

Blame It on Paris said...

I have copper bowl envy, now! May it bring you pleasure every time you use it.

Julie said...

Hi Mimi, you've just been tagged, go to my blog "Noshtalgia" to find out more.

Mimi said...

Laura, I used to haqve that, too.

Julie, I am on my way!

eileenm said...

My husband & I went to Paris last year for our 35th wedding anniversary....we had to purchase a backpack after buying a gorgeous copper pot (from the basement) at E. Dehillerin. My poor sweetheart carried it all day for me! Everyone there was warm, friendly & eager to help, even with only 2 years of French in high school! A MUST to visit while you are in Paris.

Bathsheba said...

I have just been to this fantastic shop - found it by accident. There is a lovely friendly Vietnamese-born man there, who has also lived in Texas. Am definitely going back

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Eileen and Bathsheba, I agree with you! Yes, that would be Kim!

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