Food to taste and other things to buy in Paris

This past week my sister was in Paris to visit and explore the city. It was the first time she was in Europe, let alone Paris, and so it was an exciting time showing her all the food I have come to know and love during my stay here. So here is a basic list of things I think are must-buys if you find yourself in Paris at some point in the near future:

1. A delicious croissant

You’re in Paris and you’re surrounded by viennoiseries and patisseries, so getting a taste of the flaky goodness that is synonymous with Paris is a must. Keep in mind though that all croissants are not made equal. While even the worst croissant is better than an average croissant back home, you don’t want to waste a single calorie or euro on a subpar croissant while in Paris. There’s no need. Just do a little research- every arrondissement bosats at least one or two viennoiseries serving croissants au beurre that probably have won some prize.

 

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2. Hot chocolate or coffee

There’s one name that comes to mind when you think of hot chocolate in Pairs, and while I don’t particularly advocate going there for the [overpriced] hot chocolate, I think a visit to Paris merits a cup of chocolatey goodness. I would avoid getting hot chocolate in touristy cafés as they tend to be overly sugary. But a quick google search can lead you to a good, small café serving hot chocolate for less than 4 euros. For coffee, check out the new “hipster” cafés in Paris normally run by expats from Australia, Brazil, Italy, ..well anywhere but France.

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3. Gelato / ice cream /sorbet. There’s the classic, Berthillon founded in 1954, as well as plenty of other newer spots. Check out Grom or Pozzetto.

caramel and pistacchio ice cream from Berthillon

caramel and pistacchio ice cream from Berthillon

4. Buy a book at Shakespeare & Co. and get it stamped at the register. I haven’t done it yet, but I plan on it!

5. Tea from Mariage Frères. Honey or confiture. A jar of caramel beurre salé to  recreate the crepe experience back home.

6. Be adventures: Try some escargot, foie gras, oysters or lamb!

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7. Explore the yogurt aisle at any supermarket (especially the one at Le Grand Epicerie). The name ‘Yogurt’ doesn’t give it justice. The French have transformed this once plain and boring breakfast sub-category into a food that could easily become a substitue for a guilt-free dessert.

8. Eat real dessert and try macarons from Pierre Hermé, a chausson aux cassis et violet or aux pommes (sort of a knish-shaped pastry filled with a fruit flavoring), or Opera cake for example.

creme brûlée made with maple syrup

creme brûlée made with maple syrup

9. Sandwiches are a great option to sample some of the best French products: bread, cheese, meat, spreads, butter, pickles…. all for under 5 euros. If you love cheese, make it your mission to try as many different varieties as you can every time you order a salad, sandwich, crepe or quiche.

10. Buy some Roger & Gallet products for yourself or as gifts. My favorites are the rose and the green tea scented lotions.

11. Buy a Nespresso machine. Because all the French people have them. Throw in some Repetto ballet flats and some fur for the full effect.

The City of Light, The City That Sleeps

The day before Valentine’s day I celebrated my 21st birthday in Paris. During the week I had been searching for a French restaurant that offered great quality food but wasn’t incredibly expensive. I found two restaurants in Paris that looked very promising menu wise, but were both unfortunately no gos- one restaurant had thoughtfully closed during Valentines day week for renovations and the other restaurant’s days of ouverture conflicted with when I would want to have my birthday dinner- Wednesday night.

The night before my brithday I had finally found the perfect dining location: Cafe Constant. This restaurant is one component of the trifecta owned by Chef Christian Constant located in the 7th and  a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The menu was full of French-inspired innovated dishes and it would actually be open on Wednesday. When I arrived there that night I found that Cafe Constant was closed for renovations!

Luckily the night was not spoiled. My dinner companion and I wasted little time finding a substitute:  Les Cocottes– the second of Chonstant’s restaurants on Rue Saint Dominique whose price range falls right in between Cafe Constant and his 3rd and most ritzy restaurant Le Vilolon d’Ingres.

 

 ImageThe not so classic “Classic Cesar Salad” at Les Cocottes 

 

One thing that I spend little time worrying about when living in New York is the opening and closing hours of stores. While chain stores are virtually always open, even smaller shops are usually open 7, maybe 6 days a week, and if so the day of rest for businesses is usually on Sunday. In Paris, the ‘day of rest’ can equally affect business Saturday, Sunday, Monday or  Wednesdays. Good luck trying to find a lunch spot that’s open after 2 :30 and before 6 :30pm in case you’re in need of a late lunch- that’s when the workers are taking their break and preparing for dinner. In additional to that there are always fermeteures exceptionelles that you won’t know about until you arrive at the store front.  

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Moral of the story. If you’re in Paris and plan to go to a specific museum restaurant or store Always have a plan b

French Winter Dishes

Last month, when the temperature in Paris began its descent below 50 degrees, I saw the first appearance of “fondu” for dinner. Since then, I’ve had it just once more as, according to my host mother, one should really only eat this dish once a month lest your arteries clog and you can’t fit into your Moncler winter coat.

Raclette is a traditional Swiss/French regional dish, and also the name of the cheese that can be used. Legend has it that it’s high-caloric value would keep you warm, which is necessary in the French Alps from where this dish originated. In other words, from a nutritional perspective, if you don’t live in the mountains you really have no business eating this. But from a culinary and hedonistic point of view, why the heck not. 

The dish I had started with with Mont d’Or (advertised as “the authentic cheese of the mountain”) that comes wrapped in a “belt of bark” and will go into the oven to be melted. The melted cheese will be spooned over a sliced open baked potato, accompanied by some charcuterie (sliced meat) and maybe some small pickles on the side.

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http://www.thailandtatler.com/wine-and-raclette-at-amari-atrium/

 

If it sounds familiar that’s because it bears close ressemblance to its unrefined American cousin the bacon and cheese potato chez Wendy’s. Of course, every ingredient that composes the traditional Raclette is superior in quality than those found at in a fast food joint, but that still didn’t stop me from thinking I had definitely eaten this “dish” a few times before, despite a different presentation (a steaming potato cradled in a styrofoam and plastic container, inside a brown paper bag and handed to me from a drive-thru window.)

I was also a bit surprised to hear that a dish I had been eager to eat and as well as recreate, boeuf bourguignon, did not live up to my expectations. Maybe if I tried it in a top notch restaurant or cooked it following Julia Child’s recipe down to every last detail, including boiling bacon, I would find that I actually love it. I had no idea until recently that this dish was made with “noix [de joue] de boeuf” (as in the cheek of the cow). After my initially incredulousness, I didn’t even mind that the meat came from such an unlikely source. My problem was that this cut of beef closely resembles a slice of marble cake in which the meat and fat alternate to create a maze, making it difficult to cut, consume and enjoy.

I also had a fig and foie gras macaron yesterday from Pierre Herme. It’s only out for the holiday season, and not a complete waste of money if you want to try a unique combination flavors.

 

xx

S.