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The neighborhood I live in is scrappy and still a little rough around the edges. It’s transitioning quickly. The scrappiness is becoming vintage and doubling in price. Affordability is a concern, but for now, it’s the urban existence I crave. I can walk to my favorite wine bar, grab a package of sliced meats from a real butcher and pick up produce at the farmer’s market my friends manage. I bike on side streets past vibrant graffiti on abandoned warehouses, destined to become expensive lofts someday soon. I am greeted with nods of the “good to see you again” nature by people I pass. I smile and nod in return.
Down from my apartment, past a cemetery and gas station, La Gourmandine Bakery is nestled between two floral shops. A line snakes across the front of the store by 10 am and continues until they lock the door in the afternoon. Everything in this establishment is delectable. Fresh fruit tarts twinkle like jewels; long baguettes jut from a tall wicker basket like a bouquet of flowers and gooey almond croissants beg to be dismembered. The ladies behind the counter, with delicate features and calming patience, help me forget the push and pull of the line as I scan the case.
On the days when I have time to let my mind wander, I ride my bike before the sun has awakened the city. The first stop is often La Gourmandine for a petite baguette with prosciutto, butter and pickles. I throw it in my bag and head across the river to a park with a bike trail that leads along the river’s edge to the city. Chilled in the bakery case, the time it takes to find a bench at the park allows the butter to meld into the bread, drawing out the saltiness of the prosciutto.
I sit and munch, barbarically tearing bits of the crust with my teeth. A biker in a green shirt passes, crunching the semi-compacted limestone with each heave forward. The river is calm until a rower slices past. Ripples continue to linger long after he has disappeared from view.
The last bite is savored and I continue on my way. This is my urban existence.
- 1 petite baguette, sliced lengthwise
- 3 tbsp. quality butter, room temperature
- 6-8 sweet gherkin pickles, sliced lengthwise
- 3-5 thin slices of prosciutto
- Slather the bread on each interior side of the baguette. Layer the prosciutto and pickles on top of the butter. Close the baguette, wrap in parchment paper and head to your favorite park. People watch.