Sunday, October 14, 2012

Food Heaven: Paris

I'm just now finally sorting through the hundreds of photos taken in twelve days and I'll do my best to update this blog before the giddiness over the Europe trip slips away and real life takes over.

Paris, being one of the culinary capitals of the world (among other things), is obviously an amazing place for gourmands.  Do fish live in the water?  Is the earth round?  It's just one of those things that bear truth that cannot be challenged.  And although I am not, by any means, a food critic, j'adore eating fresh, quality, food, especially when it's simple and accessible.  

I am fascinated that in Paris (and actually, the European cities I've seen this trip), eating good food is a way of life, a culture, a passion.  On Saturday morning, while my clothes were in the wash in the laverie on rue d'Orsel, I passed by a small marche where the guy is setting up a fruit stand outside.  I asked for directions to a boulangerie and he pointed me to the next block where already, there was a small line forming.  I grabbed a quiche to eat outside the laverie.  I sat outside fronting a small, hole-in-the-wall boucherie and watched two butchers get the shop ready.  Another fifteen minutes and another butcher came in.  If it takes three people to run a teeny shop, I think I get an idea of what the demand for fresh meat in this neighborhood is like.  

Here are my favorite Parisian eats.  I acknowledge that it's not exhaustive and there are probably at least a few hundred more excellent places to eat, but from a tourist who's on foot, my food options are somewhat defined by which museum or attraction I happened to be in that day.  I said yes to foie gras and pate pretty much every night, but passed on escargot.  They said French wine doesn't compare to California wine, but hmmm... I think my non-expert self will have to beg to differ on this one.  The sweets are divine, but, um, where are the fresh bowls of fruit on the menu?


After gawking at Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame again, I crossed the Pont au Doble to Cafe Panis on Quai de Montebello.  The night before, the English guy behind the counter at Shakespeare and Company recommended it as a place not entirely touristy serving tasty food, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I was not disappointed. 
Dejeuner: a salad topped with tartine and frites, with a side of bread and French onion soup
If you get one of the tables facing the Seine, this is your view.


Cafe Madeleine on rue Tronchet, behind the beautiful L'eglise de la Madeleine was very urban and modern compared to the other cafes and brasseries we've been in.  As we were leaving, a group of middle aged French women were settling in their reserved table so I guess it must be a local hang out, too.  

Cafe Madeleine for a dusk pick-me-up after walking all day and more walking that evening
Around the corner, on either side of the Pinacotheque is Fauchon.  Actually, two Fauchons. It's a glammed up pattisserie with a teahouse serving haute macarons, chocolates, and such.  It had closed by the time we had coffee, but it is a very interesting place that I would not mind checking out.  If anything, it would be a great place to buy presents to take home!


The best food I've had in Paris is at Restaurant Jadis in Montparnasse.  This place is the very embodiment of French cuisine - rich but not overwhelming flavor, everything cooked just perfectly, with beautiful presentation, of course.  I have no pictures - only memories.  :)

If you'd like to hear what the experts say, check out David Lebowitz' blog post about Jadis which I discovered after the fact here!


After four hours of walking inside the Louvre, I was famished.  Earlier that day, in my search for a place to have cappuccino, I ran into this small Japanese restaurant that serves ramen.  Bookmark!

Higuma on rue Saint-Anne is on the street parallel to the Carrousel entrance of the Louvre.  This is my ninth or so day in Europe and I have not had any Asian food.  I, of course, ordered a big lunch - Combo C, to be precise.  Curry and rice AND shoyu ramen.  The Frenchman sitting next to me at the sushi bar couldn't help exclaiming laughingly, "Vouz avez faim?!"  To which I responded without a trace of shame, "J'ai tres tres tres faim!"  

Next to Katana-ya in San Francisco, this is my ultimate ramen of all time.  Just thinking about it makes me drool.


Coffee at Les Deux Musees is convenient but expensive. It's nothing to write home about, but if you're just wanting to caffeinate before heading to Musee d'Orsay, this just might be one of those things that can be considered forgivable.

I spotted Boulangerie Patisserie Gosselin on my way to Musee d'Orsay.  After three hours in the museum, I was famished again.  I retraced my steps back to the metro stop and indulged.

I saved this fruit tarte with pistachios to eat at Jardin des Tuilleries.  It had been raining all day, but I found a completely dry spot under a thick canopy of trees facing a small lake.  I put my feet up and ate.  Ahhh...Paradise in Paris.


Like in the Latin Quarter, I found it a bit dubious to eat in Montmartre, just because it's so touristy it's difficult to decipher which places serve authentic and fresh food.  That's why I think Le Troubadour was such a rare find.  Tucked away on a dead-end of a street, this place has surprisingly good food served in a very cozy and quiet location.  If you end up hungry in the Sacre Couer area, you can count on this little find for great French food!

Un Zebra a Montmartre is where we had such a great time with friends on our last night in Paris.  A Dutch, a Filipino-American, two Brazilians, two French, two bottles of wine (and uhm.. some cocktails) equal an absolutely wonderful way to celebrate the end end of our Paris trip.  The restaurant itself was intimate and young and fresh.  Our Parisian friends chose the location so I suppose I can say that it's a place locals hang.  I have no pictures so you'd have to take my word that the food is absolutely wonderful with a price tag that won't break the bank.  Must bookmark!

A more sober Montmartre is what you'll see during the day.  This boulangerie, Le Flute de Pain, as you can tell, is a blockbuster hit.

But a few blocks down on rue de Abbesses, Coqueliecot looks more like a Montmartre institution.  We got front row seats next to the cash register and I was just amazed at how the French LOVE their bread.  The lines were very long and endless.  The smell of incessantly baking bread was intoxicating. This is the heart of Paris, in my view.

My fascination must have been apparent because this lady working the counter bagged a few madeleines and gave them to me - gratuit!  Merci beaucoup!

The boulangerie is testament that French cuisine is not all haute couture.  The paradox is that the highest and most universal French craving I've seen lives in something so simple as the bread.  If there's anything I can take away from the boulangerie, it's the lesson that not everything needs to be expensive nor extravagant.  It just needs to be made with an abundance of passion.  Maybe that's all there is to joie de vivre.

Bon appetit!

No comments:

Post a Comment