To Do: If I Were in Paris (Eastside)

Paris Eastside/Michelle Strub Paris Eastside on Captiol Hill

I would say oh la la la la la la la. Fans of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will get that reference.

A few blocks west of Quinn’s and Poquitos on Capitol Hill sits an unassuming French cooking school and lifestyle boutique in a renovated building once home to an area architect and art gallery. Eastside, with its stark white fixtures, stands out in contrast against the building’s dark iron and brick exterior. On this particular evening it serves as the building’s only light source; its overhead lights illuminating the sidewalk outside through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Paris Eastside/Michelle Strub
Paris Eastside on Captiol Hill

The cooking school and boutique, named after owner Muriel-Marguerite Foucher’s homes in Paris and Redmond, Wash. (what we Seattleites know as the eastside), has been open a mere two months since December 2012. I’ve happily come upon this “little piece of France in Seattle” after being invited to a crepe-making class in honor of La Chandeleur on Feb. 2.

As I walk in the door I’m greeted with a smile and a “bonjour” from Foucher. She is quick to begin telling me about La Chandeleur, excited for the night’s proceedings. Foucher explains La Chandeleur as a much revered celebration in France  – one which is honored by making crepes, though she says crepe-making isn’t abnormal for any other day anyway. “Oh yes, everyone eats crepes in Paris. All the time!” she exclaims in her French accent that is 45-years deep.

“Le Chandeleur is like … uhh … what is it in America? Oh yes, Hedgehog Day.”

The group of us in the class look at each other with raised eyebrows. And then we start to giggle.

“I think you mean Groundhog Day?” we all pipe up simultaneously.

Paris Eastside/Michelle Strub
Owner Muriel-Marguerite Foucher

Laughter ensues and I see that Foucher is just as charming and authentic as the shop itself which is full of colored kitchen accessories and shelves on shelves of Paris-inspired curios. Foucher was born and raised in the City of Lights and only moved to Seattle four years ago when her husband transferred here for his job with a well-known software company. When she arrived to this city of ours she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. One day she stumbled into the Capitol Hill neighborhood and was instantly attracted to its eclectic vibe which reminded her of her own Paris. And then it hit her.  Why not bring her experiences from Paris to Seattle? She had been managing a cooking school (Rick Steves approved, no less) for English speaking tourists out of her house in Paris for the past decade – why couldn’t she do that here too? And so began Paris Eastside.

As the crepe-making (and luck-flipping) gets underway I ask her what the traditional crepe filling is in France, embarrassed that all I had tried when I was there just a few months ago was banana with Nutella. She says, “lemon and sugar,” and I know I have to have my crepe this way, despite the lesson plan which includes making chocolate ganache filling via the microwave.

9 ounces of flour, 3 cups of milk, 3 eggs, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of melted butter – Kerrygold Irish to be specific, an important detail for taste reasons which we discussed in length – some mixing and a lot of luck-flipping later and voila! The crepes were ready. The group’s lively conversations about Paris, Seattle, La Chandeleur, and everything in between all but stopped as we gorged on the delicate brittle-edged crepes. The lemon and sugar, by the way? Divine.

If crepes aren’t your thing, don’t let that dissuade you from visiting Paris Eastside. The cooking school offers plenty of other classes featuring a mix of French cuisine from the classic to the modern. Foucher has designed several class series including some just for kids, some that you can take during the lunch hour, and some perfect for corporate team building events or as groups with an option for private parties.

Even if you never opt into a cooking class, the boutique part of Paris Eastside is worth a peruse for its chic finds imported direct from Paris.  Foucher says she chooses what to put on her shelves by the season. Many of the items are one-of-a-kind, like contemporary photographic prints made by Parisian artists living in Seattle or handmade pillows by a friend of hers still living in France. There is wine, of course, and even dog bowls with delightful French sayings. And, she says with a nod, she will always have her favorites in stock. Things that “bring back memories from childhood” like Haribo Tagada for instance, marshmallow-like confections dipped in strawberry-flavored red sugar.

Paris Eastside/Michelle Strub
The cooking classroom at Paris Eastside

And if nothing else, stop in Paris Eastside to be make-believe whisked away to the streets of St. Germain des-Prés. One step inside and you’ll soon forget that you’ve actually just walked off the streets of Seattle. Oh la la.

For more information on Paris Eastside and cooking class schedules visit their website.

Paris Eastside | 816 East Pike, between Broadway and Harvard, Seattle | (206) 452-3622