I think a person can consider themselves pretty blessed when they have favorite places around the world, truly favorites. Count me in with the blessed! Now this one may appear trivial, afterall, butter cookies are pretty much found everywhere. Just a couple of months back I wrote about my favorite Greek butter cookie, but I may have still been under the spell of my sabbatical back then. Because my truly, absolute, favorite butter cookie AND place to buy them is at Poilâne in Paris at Rue du Cherchi Midi 6. This special bakery is famous for it's bread and punitions (butter cookies). They mark the bread with an enormous script P, branded and delicious!
The first time I visited this special place was about nine years ago, I was with a colleague who had lived in Paris and knew it well. She was able to get the ok for us to go down in the basement of the small storefront shop to see the baker and the oven where the magic happened. It was beautiful. Small space, enormous oven, and table where the dough was being kneaded and the punitions rolled out. Warmed by the oven, everything seemed to be a light golden color. That day there was only one person working there, I'm not sure there's room for two. He was busy. Afterall you have to make a lot of those bite-size cookies to satisfy.
Of course if I'm in Paris I visit Poilâne, which is not often enough. I buy a bag of cookies to sustain me during my "tough" travels, and a bag to bring home to my dear husband. Bringing these home to husbands is more common than I thought. Very shortly after the 9/11 attacks here in the United States, I was on a flight from New York back home to Portland, Oregon. Shortly after takeoff I began chatting with the woman in the seat next to me, who said she was on her final leg home from Paris. She had gone there to celebrate a milestone birthday with her girlfriends. Somehow, I brought up Poilâne... and low and behold she reached into her carryon bag and... voila a small bag of the famous cookies appeared. She was bringing them home to her dear husband.
The shock of 9/11 was still very fresh, and so when our plane began to descend less than an hour into the flight we all became nervous. It took quite sometime for the pilot to announce the reason for the sudden descent, and there was a lot of commotion in the back of plane. My new "friend" and I finished our glasses of wine, trying to stay calm. She then reached into her bag, pulled out the sealed bag of the little Poilâne treasures, looked at me and said "what the hell", and we proceeded to polish off half the bag before the pilot announced we needed to land in Detroit because of a medical emergency.
Unfortunately, not everyone had the benefit of the little treats from Paris, and 3 other passengers had to be removed from the flight because of panic related issues they experienced during the initial descent.
By the time we reached Portland 8 hours later, there were only crumbs in the bag, which was left in the seat pocket, and two very calm women walked off the plane to greet their dear husbands. Thank you Poilâne!