I finally decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Japan. I just booked my ticket last week to go at the end of November with two friends, and I am now in full research mode.
As it gets colder here in Paris, and I start researching about Japanese culture, customs, and (obviously) food, I can’t help but remember a favorite memory from the end of April. It came about thanks to some Japanese chefs following a Japanese tradition here in Paris and led to one of the most beautiful, if not remote, picnic spots I’ve ever experienced.
Taku Sekine, chef of Dersou, decided to organize a Hanami picnic in Parc de Sceaux. Hanami, or flower viewing, is the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. People gather under beautiful cherry blossoms trees to eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company.
Taku made massive amounts of traditional Japanese rice balls, perfectly soft boiled œuf mayo (eggs with mayo), and those beautiful, baller noodles. Oh the noodles. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
I had no idea that Parc de Sceaux, south of Paris, contained a giant secret grove filled with cherry blossom trees. Taku sent us the map and exactly where to find the group, and Raphaële and I made our way through the beautiful park, until we reached the most magical and beautiful grove I could have ever imagined.
Pink upon pink upon pink. It was like a dream.
We wandered up the rows of trees until we found our group, lounging under yet another perfectly beautiful tree.
It could not have been more picture perfect. Everyone brought food and wine for a long leisurely afternoon. But when you are invited as a civilian to a chef & sommelier dominated picnic, you know that whatever you bring will not measure up. I opted for natural wines that I had been saving for a worthy occasion, two salads and a batch of brownies. I bring you the dessert of my people.
Several Japanese chefs were invited to join, and Raphaële and I felt lucky to get to join in. With their meticulous standards of perfection and obsession with quality ingredients, many Japanese chefs are causing their Paris restaurants to rise to the top of must-eat lists in Paris. (Clown Bar, Restaurant A T, Dersou, Les Enfants Rouge, to name a few.)
Fabrice, the sommelier from La Cave à Michel, brought a number of “Hanami” magnums, which was the perfect natural wine to have for our Hanami picnic under the cherry blossom trees. The label itself has cherry blossoms creeping from the corner.
The sommelier’s tool belt was formed by Michael from Le Perchoir, who also brought along some wonderful natural wines. Michael has been hosting the “Les Endimanchés” pop-ups at Le Perchoir all year, bringing in great chefs for a unique experience at community tables. Every time I’ve gone, it has been a blast. (A couple recaps here and here).
We ate, drank, and appreciated the stunning beauty of the blossoms. I could hardly get over it.
It truly was an experience to remember. If you happen to be in Paris in the spring and don’t have a magical grove of cherry blossoms at your disposal in your home town, then I can say with confidence that this a picnic spot worth seeking out. It is a bit of trek, but easy to get to and well worth it.
How to get to the cherry blossom trees at Parc de Sceaux to experience the Hanami wonderland:
You’ll need to buy an RER ticket to this specific area because this is outside the normal metro ticket zone. Buy your aller-retour ticket (round trip) at a machine or at a ticket window going to the Bourg-la-Reine stop. Take the RER B going south and get off at “Bourg-la-Reine” or “La Croix de Berny” (see map below indicating the RER stops and the cherry blossoms).A day like that makes me all the more excited to be planning a trip to Japan. My primary activity will be eating, that’s for certain. If anyone has been and has any recommendations, I would love to know. I’ll have to chase down some of those Japanese chefs, and certainly Taku, to get some restaurant names. In the meantime, let the research continue.