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Paris on my mind…

1 Mar

Paris…who hasn’t daydreamed of Paris? There are many reasons why this city, the City of Lights, gets under people’s skin. For me, Paris has the perfect blend of beauty, food, art, architecture, and an appreciation of the finer things in life.

I don’t claim to know Paris well. I’ve been there a number of times but only twice recently – so I’m no expert. But thankfully, I don’t need to be, as there are many experts out there sharing info with us. Whilst I was researching our trip, I came across many blogs, articles, and books written about Paris so we ended up with quite an ambitious list of food stops for our limited time in the French capital.

The streets of Paris

If you don’t enjoy spending hours researching and cross-referencing your list, like I do, then you are in luck! Below, I am sharing my list of places that I had hoped to visit on our trip. I can’t vouch for most of them as we simply did not have the time to visit them all but I’ve put a star next to the ones that we actually made it to. As you can see, there are lots left for us to try next time we go. In the meantime, I will continue to daydream about our next trip to Paris…

Restaurants & Bistros:

Verjus – 52 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 – LOVED this place! I highly recommend a visit. Very quaint and romantic and the food was incredible.*

L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon – 5 Rue de Montalembert, 75007 – Whilst our overall experience wasn’t what I had hoped it to be, there was no denying that the food was flawless.*

Le Chateaubriand – 129 Avenue de Parmentier, 75011 – Although the Le Chateaubriand menu was a little adventurous for this dull foodie, it is highly rated on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant List (#18).*

Septime – 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 – I really wanted to visit as it is ranked 49th on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant List and has a lot of buzz, but we missed out – book in advance!

L’Ami Jean – 27 Rue Malar, 75007 – I like that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously but the food is highly rated. The rice pudding dessert is a speciality.

L’auberge du 15 – 15 Rue de la Sante, 75013 – Disappointed to have not made it to this one. Reviews are extremely positive and the food sounds and looks incredible, albeit pricey.

Le Grand Vefour – 17 Rue de Beaujolas, 75001 – This would only be for a splurge as prices start at about €80! I’ve heard that the lunch special (€98) is better value for money and, with its opulent decor, it would make a perfect location for a romantic dinner. This post should whet your appetite – look at that cheese plate!!

Les Ombres – At the top of the Quai Branly museum – I was more keen to visit for the spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower than the food, which got pretty average reviews.

Le Timbre – 3 Rue Sainte Beuve, 75006. Lots of great reviews about this small bistro. Open for lunch and dinner.

Chez Paul – 13 Rue de Charonne, 75011 – Recommended by resident Paris foodie, David Lebovitz. Popular with locals for its well-made bistro fare.

Bistrot Paul-Bert – 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 – Another traditional bistrot. The steak frites and the desserts come highly recommended by David Lebovitz. This review, with pictures, should get you interested.

Cafe Constant: 135 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 – No reservations accepted, looks cute and very reasonably priced at €23 for a 3 course dinner.

Wine Bars:

Septime Cave  – 3 Rue Basfroi, 75011 – A wine bar brought to you by the same people that run well-known and popular, Septime (restaurant).

Verjus – 47 Rue Montpensier, 75001 – If you can’t get into Verjus the restaurant, try their bar instead. Apparently the fried chicken is a must-order (not very French, but who cares?! It is fried chicken!!

O Chateau – If you are new to French wines and would like to sample some different varieties, or maybe you’d like to partake in a wine course, perhaps try this place. Their wine bar has over 40 wines by the glass, which allows for a lot of sampling.

Patisseries, Chocolatiers & Boulangeries:

Gerard Mulotmultiple locations – Our hotel was charging €15 pp for breakfast, we said screw that, and walked to Gerard and picked up freshly baked buttery croissants with coffees for about €7 for the two of us. Gerard’s cabinets are lined with food porn (see pic below). I challenge you to walk out with just one thing! You can also pick up some supplies for picnics here (salads, quiches, sandwiches, fresh bread, pastries). Yum! *

Eric Kayser – multiple locations – A popular chain of boulangerie that makes bread worth lining up for. Stock up here for supplies for picnics (breads and pastries). *

Pierre Herme – 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 – If it is macarons that you want, then this is one of the places you should try whilst in Paris. Expect to queue but also expect incredibly interesting flavours, such as white truffle with hazelnut. *

Jean-Paul Hévin – multiple locations – Perhaps pastries and breads don’t float your boat? If you are a chocolate fiend, get your butt to Jean-Paul Hévin. Everything is exquisitely presented like only the French can do.*

Le Grenier a Pain – 38 Rue des Abbesses, 75018 – Gourmet Fury, another passionate foodie, highly recommends Le Grenier as the best croissant in Paris. I didn’t make it out that far but I must admit it looks pretty good. Certainly on my list for next time. 

Gerard Mulot – Loved this place!

Coffee

Telescope – 5 Rue Villedo, 75001 – We really liked this place. Cute, small, tucked away on a side street – definitely worth the trek for the fabulous coffee.*

La Cafeotheque – 52 Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 75004

Coutume Café – 47 Rue de Babylone, 75007

Telescope coffee – worth hunting down

Cheese & Markets:

Rue Mouffetard Market – an open air market in the 5th arrondissement.

Fromagerie Sanders: 4 Rue Lobineau, 75006(inside Marche Saint Germain)

If you are too intimidated to go to an actual cheese store, try to find a small supermarket (we stumbled upon them every now and then) and raid their cheese fridges. These aren’t the same pitiful cheese selections that you’ll find in your North American supermarket. We walked out with huge wedges of cheese, and bottles of wine and Champagne for a fraction of what it would cost in the restaurants (and back home).

Great sources of information:

www.parisbymouth.com

www.lostincheeseland.com

www.godiloveparis.blogspot.ca – This blog and the author’s book “Paris, My Sweet” are must-reads for those travellers with a sweet tooth.

www.davidlebovitz.com/paris/ – David is a wealth of knowledge on the Paris food scene and he shares it all on his blog. I found this post of his particularly helpful at building anticipation for the trip.

www.smokysweet.com/roaming/paris/ – Vancouver-based foodie who has some great suggestions for Paris foodie experiences.

Article by Mark Bittman of the New York Times

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Verjus, Paris

9 Nov

52 Rue de Richelieu
75001, Paris

www.hkmenus.com

Even though I had heard many great things about Verjus, after our slightly disappointing meal at L’Ateiler Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon we had been keeping our expectations low for Verjus. There was no need – our experience at Verjus was impressive and we left there absolutely raving about our evening there.

Although I love a good “fancy” meal, such as a dinner at The French Laundry or Eleven Madison Park, the value still has to be there. I don’t mind dropping some serious cash on food so long as I leave the restaurant feeling as though I got value for my money. In my opinion, we definitely got value for our money at Verjus, and the service was better than what we had received the night before at the 2 Michelin-starred L’Ateiler.

Verjus’ upstairs restaurants was quaint and cozy, with a spiral staircase descending into the more casual bar of the same name (apparently the bar serves incredible fried chicken). I found the atmosphere in the restaurant to be welcoming and unhurried. The food was unexpectedly impressive. We both ordered the tasting menu, which was €60/$85CAD for 7 courses (we added on the cheese course for another €14) and the wine pairing €40/$56CAD. I highly recommend opting for the wine pairing because it gives you the opportunity to sample French wines that perhaps you wouldn’t have access to at home. 

Sea bass, heirloom radishes, nasturtium flowers, scallions, lime, grapefruit, crispy chicken skin. The crispy chicken skin elevated this dish. The texture and the saltiness balanced the fish.

Cappellettis of roast pumpkin, buffalo milk ricotta, nettle pesto, pine nuts, pickled pumpkin, wood sorrel. Simply perfect.

P1070884Cherrystone clams, roast sunchoke soup, garlic crouton, harissa, celery root, thyme oil. The spicy heat of the harissa was what really made this dish. It took a delicious, but fairly uninteresting soup, and pow! Made it memorable.

P1070887Skillet cooked duck, smoked celery root, orange, rye, red cabbage sauerkraut. The duck was cooked so well and with a strong smokey flavour, that it tasted more like elk than duck. Delish!

P1070892Grilled hanger steak with roasted chanterelle mushrooms, pickled onions, and pepper cress. Who can say no to a well-cooked steak with in-season chanterelles?

P1070900Selection of French cheese (€14 supplement)

P1070902Roast mission figs, dark chocolate sauce, praline, buckwheat ice cream. Once again, texture played a bit part in this dish with the praline adding a slight crunch.

P1070905Honey and cardamom panna cotta, poached pears, walnut shortbread, plums.

There was not a dish on our menu that I didn’t like. All of them were well-executed with obvious thought going into the importance of texture and flavours in each dish. The dishes were also a good size so you certainly didn’t leave hungry.

It seems pointless to say, but I highly recommend a meal at Verjus if you are in Paris. For me, it was the most memorable of the meals that we ate whilst in Europe because it hit it out of the park in every element; service, quality of food, ambience, and value for money. Make sure that you reserve ahead of time as this is a popular spot (I found them to be extremely helpful over email). If you are unable to get a reservation, you could try to drop in to the bar for a bite to eat and a drink (no reservations required).

L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon, Paris

7 Nov

When I was planning our recent trip to Paris and Italy, I admit that I was much more excited about the food scene in Paris than I was about the food scene in Rome and Florence. Having indulged in so much good food the last time I was in Paris and having done extensive research of the city’s must-visit restaurants, I was more than ready to tackle Paris with my eating partner-in-crime, B. With limited time, we wanted to aim high so we booked ourselves dinner at L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon. According to Wikipedia, Chef Joel Robuchon has 28 Michelin stars – the most of any chef in the world – and this particular restaurant is rated the 24th best restaurant in the world, according to San Pellegrino. It was a no-brainer to book dinner here.

P1070816L’Atelier Saint-Germain takes a less formal approach to fine-dining with an open-plan kitchen and wrap-around seating (although there are a few dining tables available). Whilst I was curious about this take on fine-dining, I must say that it didn’t enhance the experience for me, in fact, I think it distracted us from the experience.

When I am visiting a fine-dining restaurant and ordering a tasting menu, a vital part of the experience (for me) is the attention that you get from the server (one-on-one service, small chats), but also the surprise upon the arrival of each dish. When you are sitting side-by-side next to other diners, you (for better or worse) get to peek at their dishes when they arrive. If you are experiencing a tasting menu, like we were, then you may see the dishes being presented to other diners before you get yours, which inevitably ruins the surprise when you finally reach that dish on your tasting menu. This happened to us. We were also able to view dishes that were being presented to diners that hadn’t ordered the tasting menu, which also takes away a small part of the pleasure that you are experiencing because you may start comparing your dishes to theirs (particularly when their dishes are covered in freshly shaved truffles).

My other complaint was that I felt like I was on an airplane as I was sandwiched between two people. When you are cutting your dinner and your elbow is digging into the stranger next to you, things get awkward. Personally, I am not a fan of the communal, sit-next-to-your-fellow-diners. Give me a private table any day.

Thankfully, and more importantly, the food was flawless and beautifully presented. My favourite dishes of the night were: the tomato gazpacho, the St Pierre fish, the Black Angus steak and the lamb chops, which were served with the most heavenly truffled potato puree. The truffled potatoes alone are worth a return visit. Please note that the menu was in French so I’ve tried my best to describe the dishes with the limited information that I have.

P1070818Tomato gazpacho with croutons in golden mustard sorbet. Many flavours came through in this dish; particularly garlic and basil.

P1070820Crab with thin slices of spicy kale.

P1070823Caviar and sour cream on potato with olive oil. Delicious, but hard to scoop onto the spoon.

P1070824Egg with mushroom cream foam (yes, there is an egg hidden in there): the oddest dish of the night.

P1070828Foie gras with hibiscus jus and coco di Paimpol (a type of bean).

P1070830Chicken gyoza in broth.

P1070832St. Pierre fish with capers and pistachio oil.

P1070833Black Angus steak.

P1070836Lamb chops with an incredible truffled potato purée.

P1070838Coconut cream with passionfruit and banana and rum granite.

P1070840Creamy chocolate ganache with cocoa nibs and Oreo cookie. Extremely rich and chocolatey, in other words, sinfully good.

The oddest dish of the night goes to the egg and mushroom dish (served in the cocktail glass). The runniness of the egg was off-putting at first but thankfully there were mushroom pieces to add some texture. Texture was also very important for the foie gras dish, which was paired with beans which provided some firmness to balance the softness of the foie gras. There is no doubt that the food was the highlight, as it should be. However, I also expect good service when eating out, particularly when the restaurant is as highly-rated and as expensive (the tasting menu was €175pp/$245CAD) as this one is. Unfortunately, we found the service wasn’t as good as the food.

In the beginning, there appeared to be only one server for everyone seated at the bar (about 20 people) and the poor thing was over-worked and appeared to be unable to keep up with all of the orders. Because of this the service started out sloppy; lack of attentive service, forgotten wine menus, wines showing up late into the meal, etc. We also noticed that the French diners in the restaurant seemed to receive far more attentive service than the North American diners (there were three Americans seated next to us that seemed to have even slower service than we did).

I know that nitpicking over such small things at a wonderful restaurant makes me sound like an asshole (it is certainly a first world problem) but I stand by it because the restaurant has set customers up to expect a certain quality (by charging the prices it does and by having two Michelin stars). I can’t help but think that the slow/inattentive service and the claustrophobic seating could possibly be the reason that L’Atelier Saint-Germain dropped from #12 to #24 in a year on the San Pellegrino list. By no means was it a bad meal, it was a pleasant evening and the food was outstanding, however for the price, I was expecting better service and a better overall experience. Having said that, I would likely go back but I would most certainly request a table, rather than dine at the bar.

Le Chateaubriand – Paris

20 Dec

129, Avenue de Parmentier
75011, Paris
France

+33 1 43 57 45 95
www.lechateaubriand.net

When the company that I work for decided to send me to the UK for 10 days, I made the decision to also visit Paris for the weekend. I haven’t travelled solo in a number of years, so I was admittedly a little nervous. Even though I was travelling by myself I am still a dedicated foodie and so whilst the scared part of me was in favour of staying in the hotel for my only dinner in Paris, the majority of me was like “Are you CRAZY?! Get out there, girl!” So get out there, I did. I had my heart set on visiting Le Chateaubriand because:

1/ It is #15 on the San Pellegrino “Best Restaurants in the World” list.
2/ It was listed as being quite casual, rather than high-end.
3/ It was quite affordable at €60 for the set menu (wine pairings make it €120).

As I didn’t have much time to pre-plan or book ahead, I was thankful that the restaurant has a “no reservations required” policy after 9.30pm. I ended up getting there incredibly early and hung around the doorway for about an hour and a half, waiting for a table. Luckily, I was third in line and ended up with a seat at the bar. Perched at the bar, I got to watch all of the comings and goings.

What struck me as interesting was that the restaurant is very casual, which was not at all what I was expecting from what has been deemed one of the best restaurants in the world. The waiters weren’t in fancy suits and conversations weren’t stuffy (I even saw many of the waiters taking shots of booze at the bar). The decor was very simple in its approach; cream walls, warm lighting, and bare-bones furniture, but it still had a feeling of warmth and comfort without the formalities.

You will have to excuse my very limited knowledge about what I ate that night. Firstly, the menu doesn’t include the names or descriptions of the amuses bouche, my French is non-existent, and whilst they tried to tell me the dishes in English, the accents were incredibly strong so I couldn’t always understand what I was eating. It made for a very unusual meal as I’m used to knowing what I’m putting in my mouth, however, it was enjoyable.

P1060624

Fried shrimp, sprinkled with raspberry dust.P1060626

P1060629Foie gras

Saint jacques, moules (mussles), verdure (greens)

P1060635 Barbue (a type of fish), champignons (mushrooms), agrumes (citrus)

P1060640

Bouef (beef), racines (roots), raifort (horseradish)

P1060642 Coing (quince), topinambour (artichoke), amande (almond)

P1060646Tocino del cielo.

This was probably the most unusual dessert I’ve ever eaten. I think the waiter said the yellow thing on top was a yolk and when it burst in my mouth, it was an incredibly unusual sensation.

I’m definitely glad that I made the effort to visit Le Chateaubriand, even if some of the dishes were lost on me. How would I rate it against the likes of other “best restaurants in the world” such as The French Laundry, Per Se, or Eleven Madison Park? Well, those restaurants are quite different so it is a little unfair to judge them side-by-side, however, I didn’t think that Le Chateaubriand was at the same scale as the aforementioned restaurants. Yet, I can admire how innovative the dishes are, and I think the value for money was certainly there.

Paris – the city of the expanding waistline

12 Dec

What do you do when you have only 30 hours to spend in Paris? If you are like me then you make an itinerary of must-see food places and spend your time sniffing them out and gorging on the bounty that you manage to acquire.

I was recently in London for work and, as a treat to myself, I jumped on the Eurostar and found myself in Paris for a 30 hour jaunt. Having been to Paris numerous times before, this trip was completely and utterly about over-indulging.

In preparation for the trip, I recently read “Paris, my Sweet” by Amy Thomas, and used the suggestions in the book to plan my itinerary. I based myself close to Notre Dame so that I could walk to most places (a small gesture to burn off some of the calories I would be consuming).

It was only seconds after stepping out of the Metro that I found myself surrounded by a small farmers market, and as a result, completely captivated by the food. Jars of foie gras, poultry birds with their heads and feathers still on, sausages, and cheese – everywhere I looked there was food! This was my kinda city!

The one thing that I noticed this time around more so than on previous trips, was the aroma of food. I know that it is a cliché to talk about the smells of the city, but in Paris you truly do notice hunger-inducing scents as you walk through the city. On more than one occasion I was guided by the smell of warm baked bread wafting down the street, and fromageries were just as enticing, with their pungent smells creeping out to greet you.

Here is a list of places that I visited on my short trip. Please note that I have not included my dinner at Le Chateaubriand (post coming soon!).

Eric Kayser – I definitely recommend a visit to Eric Kayser. I was lucky enough to be staying around the corner from one and there was constant queue throughout the day – folks hoping to snag fresh, warm bread. I wasted no time jumping in the line myself and sat on a park bench beside Notre Dame and stuffed myself with the still-warm, crunchy baguette, salty French butter, and some cheese. And I finished it all off with a framboise tarte. Yum! I’m not ashamed to admit that I returned the next day – twice – once for a butter croissant, and another time for a baguette and some madelines for the train ride home.

Gerard Mulor – If you are pressed for time, then I’d recommend a visit to this store more than all of the others that I visited. The Gerard Mulor store that I visited was everything a quintessential viennoiserie store should be. Beautiful towers of macarons in the windows, delicate pastries and cakes tantalizing from glass cabinets, and the air was filled with the smell of a mix of buttery pastries and yeasty baked bread. The croissant was crunchy, with a darker bottom than others that I’d tried, and was more chewy than flaky. The café crème that I ordered was robust but milky and the berry pastry (I didn’t catch the French name) was delectable. Everything was picture perfect.

Regis Chocolates – I had three croissants in one morning and one was from Regis. It was very good – this is Paris, of course it’s going to be good – but I preferred the croissants from Eric Kayser and Gerard Mulor more.

Angelina – I had to visit Angelina for one of their famous chocolat chaud. Unfortunately, it was far too rich and chocolate-y for me. I barely finished even a quarter of it and at €4.90 for a small cup, I wanted to! Here’s a tip, there is a huge line-up but that is for the tea-rooms. If you want your hot chocolate to go, then skip past the line (I didn’t know this until I reached the end of the queue – doh!).

Jean-Paul Hevin – I was overwhelmed walking into the beautiful (and slightly posh) Jean-Paul store. There were beautiful, elegant chocolates all over the store and I wanted them all! However, I am just one person with one stomach, so I ended up ordering the mousse chocolat traditionnelle for €4.70 and it was exquisite. I believe there are tea-rooms upstairs, so I’d recommend sitting in to eat. Not cheap, but absolutely worth it for the chocolate lovers.

Pierre Hermé – The Parisians take their macarons seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you aren’t allowed to take photos inside their stores. I felt like I spent a lot of my trip lining up for delectable treats and Pierre Hermé was no exception. These were my favourite macarons that I tried whilst in Paris. My favourite was the white truffle with hazelnut (such an interesting flavour) and the crème brulee was good too. Not badly priced at €1.95 each.

Ladurée – Even though I was completely disappointed with the macarons from Ladurée in London, I had to try them again. Unfortunately, they didn’t gain back any ground and I was left completely disappointed with the macarons at Ladurée. They seemed flat to me – less airy than the ones from Pierre Hermé. Also, the flavours were very standard and not very interesting. I’m still scratching my head, wondering what all the fuss is about.

Even though I was alone in the “City of Love”, I was with one of my loves the whole time – food. I can’t think of a more suitable city for someone who loves baked goods of all types. It was a blessing in disguise that I was only able spend a limited time in Paris or I would have come back the size of a (happy) house.