I don't know how they do it.
Pregnant women, I mean.
Let me elaborate. In anticipation of a looming long run (some toss around silly words like "marathon" that make my imminent demise sound far more final than I can process - I prefer "long run"), I had decided to push for self-preservation and so needed to give my body every opportunity of success at not collapsing mid-race. And in addition to the weeks of training for run itself, I was advised that I should try and eat clean, meaning I should go off all sugar, caffeine, and booze for two weeks before doomsday.
Sugar. Caffeine. Booze. Two weeks.
Anyone familiar with my appetite or even this blog should note that this essentially eliminated all of my favorite things in one fell swoop. Morning coffee? No. A very necessary sunset Negroni? No. Cookie dough milkshake from Nom Nom? Double no. Granted, pregnancy allows, and probably even demands, sugar, but the other two? Yeesh. What a bleak 9 months that will be.
So let's just say that when I visited the bakery-cafe Farine, a firm Ferguson Lane favorite, it was the proverbial 'water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink' scenario. I was surrounded by everything sweet and caffeinated and downright delicious and I could look, but not touch - the only saving grace was that there was no alcohol available, which would have soothed the pain sans patisseries.
Ferguson Lane, ironically the home of many a knocked-up yummy mummy (or tai tai in the local parlance) enjoying a lazy brunch post-natal yoga or overpriced organic food shop excursion, is a lovely little lane tucked off the road that links a handful of small shops, galleries, and restaurants. On weekends it turns into a bit of a playpen for expat children running around between brunch tables, but it's a great spot nonetheless, and home to one of my favorite wine bars, Le Petit Franck, as well as Farine.
Farine is positioned at the mouth of the Lane entrance, cutting an impressive figure elevated off the main road and with a distinctly severe exterior design. The modern "BOULANGERIE" sign reveals its raison d'être: bread. But not just any bread. This is the good stuff - the flour is imported from Paris and a half-loaf will run you around 70RMB. And it truly is the best bread in the city - all crackling flour-dusted crust and a chewy crumb, the top slashed with a curling "F" more than reminiscent of Poilane's "P".
Of course it's not only bread - there are endless options both sweet and savory, and at least I could access the latter. And the latter is what we came for.
A friend, henceforth known as the Hambassador, has recently started a blog called sHAMhai, a digital shrine dedicated to ham-and-cheese sandwiches of all varieties (subtle, no?), but primarily featuring paeans to the not-so-humble Croque Madame and "it's eggless brother-in-sandwhich", the Croque Monsieur. (I don't know what to say - the kid just really loves ham). So our Farine jaunt was pure business - the business of testing the mettle of their Monsieur.
Now, I'm not sure how many "hocks" it rated (out of the Hambassador's possible scale of 5), but in my book, it was close to the ideal 'bakery Monsieur', designating those displayed and then reheated upon request. The bread base was, near needless to say, sublime in its tenacious and toothsome thickness, the bechamel rich with a nice nutmeg-y depth, the ham thinly-sliced and salty, and the crowning cap of cheese generous, although it could have been more melty. An egg would have really been the only possible improvement, as with most things, but that would change the category (/sex) of croque.
Of course, it being a bakery and all, others went ahead and sampled some sweets (don't mind me guys) while I could only look on in . Apparently both the lemon-passion fruit and banana-walnut(-caramel?) tarts were delicious. I'm sure my legs will thank me for abstaining around mile 24. Because that's likely.
So one week+ down, and a little less than one to go. As fuzzy mornings, mid-afternoon slumps, and cocktail hours come and go with little more than a bracing soda water or handful of nuts it's hard not to think about crossing that finish line... and diving directly into the trifecta.
Talk about motivation.
378 Wukang Lu, near Taian Lu