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.