Thursday, December 22, 2011

Art and Food Pairing™: Le Livre à Venir and Le Barracão

Le Livre à Venir is a bookstore located in the heart of the Oberkampf district of Paris’ 11th arrondissement. Specializing in old and rare books, it also boasts an impressive collection of African masks and statues. Some of these are placed prominently in the window at the front of the store, alerting passersby to the fact that this is not “just another bookstore.” Many more pieces are on display along both aisles and at the rear of the store.

African statuary at Le Livre à Venir
© Discover Paris!

The shop is the manifestation of owner Jean-Jacques Pankeshon’s passion for books and for African art. Pankeshon fell in love with African art at the tender age of 16, when he bought his first piece at a brocante (secondhand market) in Paris. He has been collecting ever since. The items that he displays at his bookstore represent only about a third of what he owns. He does not stock paintings because of lack of space, but he has steadily expanded the number of masks and sculptures that he displays over the years. He sells originals and copies of these works, which he sells at prices ranging from 100€ to 1000€. (He defines copies as items that have never been used for their ritualistic purposes and says that his original pieces are generally less than a century old.)

In his tiny office at the back of the store, Pankeshon has an impressive personal library of books on African art, including editions on the Dogon, Fang, and Songye traditions. Interestingly, he does not sell books on African art to the general public. The books that he does offer feature topics such as psychology, religion, and social sciences. There are even a few English-language publications for the rare Anglophone who wanders in looking for reading material.

Jean-Jacques Pankeshon
© Discover Paris!

Le Livre à Venir has been in the same location on rue Oberkampf for ten years. The boutique is only open in the afternoons – Pankeshon reserves his mornings for scouting the markets for new art to purchase and for other activities.

Just a couple of blocks up the street from Le Livre à Venir, Le Barracão serves up Brazilian cuisine. My husband Tom and I dined at this long, narrow restaurant on a Friday evening and were warmly greeted and seated by a young man who would also be our server. He took us to the back room of the dimly lit establishment so that we would not be disturbed by the merriment of a group that occupied the middle dining room. A video of a Brazilian music concert was projected on the rear wall, where a large Brazilian flag was displayed.

Le Barracão
© Discover Paris!

We ordered caipirinhas (the classic Brazilian cocktail made from cachaça, lime juice, and sugar) and sipped them as we perused the menu. I decided ahead of time that I would not order dessert because I knew that an entrée (first course) and a main dish would be too copious to allow me to enjoy a third course. Even then, Tom and I decided to split one entrée – Coxinha de Galinha – to be sure that we could finish our main courses.

Coxinha de Galinha is basically deep-fried chicken dumplings. But what tender, delicate, flavorful dumplings! The breaded crust forms a tear-shaped morsel that encases shredded chicken seasoned with parsley, coriander, and green onion. A small green salad, a mayonnaise-based condiment, and a wedge of tomato and lemon were served alongside.

Coxinha de Galinha
© Discover Paris!

For the main dish, I chose the traditional national stew called feijoada because it had been highly recommended by a colleague. I was not disappointed to receive a copious serving of black beans, morsels of sausage, and generous slices of what I believe was pork shoulder. A large mound of rice, a slice of orange, and a tomato wedge were served with the dish, while a ramekin of manioc flour and a small pot of Brazilian pepper sauce were placed on either side of my plate. There was no trace of fat in the dish. The beans and meat were perfectly cooked and the rice was the perfect accompaniment. I added a touch of pepper sauce to a couple of mouthfuls of food, but found that it was not at all necessary as flavoring – the stew was perfect on its own.

Tom chose Xinxim de Galinha as his main dish. This is a traditional Bahian recipe composed of three large pieces of chicken (dark meat) cooked in peanut sauce flavored with coconut milk and tiny shrimp. Green peppers, tomato, and green peas were served. The obligatory mound of rice also accompanied this dish. Tom cleaned his plate, endeavoring to consume every drop of the delicious sauce!

We both decided to forego having wine with our meals, ordering another round of caipirinhas and a carafe of tap water instead.

For dessert, Tom chose the Antistress du chocolat et coco, a chocolate cake flavored with coconut. He was not satisfied with this dessert, saying that it was bland and that it lacked sweetness.

Overall, we were quite satisfied with our meal. We paid only 65€ for everything, including the drinks, which made us happy as well.

Le Livre à Venir
88, rue Oberkampf
75011 Paris
Telephone: /
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday – 1 PM to 8 PM; Sunday and Monday – 2 PM to 8 PM

Le Barracão
108, rue Oberkampf
75011 Paris
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 5 PM until 2 AM. Closed Mondays.


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