Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009

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quijote
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2010/07/27 13:43:07 (permalink)

Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009

Oh, how time flies.... This time last year (late July and early August 2009) John and I took a trip to France, specifically the Paris area….
 

 
….and the Champagne region:
 


 
Unfortunately, after we got back to the States, I was too tired and then too busy to sort through the photos and build a cohesive narrative about our trip…. Now, one year later, I’m still nowhere near anything cohesive, but I figured I’d pay homage to the trip and throw out some pictures and recommendations for anyone who cares to see them. I thank everyone (including respondents to this thread: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/tm.aspx?m=526647&high=paris ) who gave me good pointers: advance advice as well as serendipity combined to make this a very memorable trip. Because the trip took place a year ago, and because our culinary experiences don’t quite reflect the geographical focus and mission of Roadfood (North American byways and highways), I figured I’d just mention a few good restaurants and markets in Paris, with some food porn thrown in for good measure. If anyone wants more info on the trip, including sites seen, I’ll be happy to oblige.
 
Also: For the most part, especially when sitting cheek-to-jowl with other diners in close quarters, we refrained from photographing restaurant meals. The practice is widely accepted in the States, but not so much in Europe.
 
One of our favorite places to kick off an evening was Au Doux Raisin (http://www.douxraisin.com/ ), a wine bar at 29 rue Descartes in the Latin Quarter. The pâtés and terrines hit the right notes, and the wine list showcases some great finds from Champagne and Burgundy:
 


 
More than a couple of times, our evenings ended at Mouff’tôt Mouff’tard—one of our favorite restaurants (71 rue Mouffetard, also in the Latin Quarter). On one night, we had: foie gras with armagnac; parsleyed escargots; lamb chops with white wine sauce; seafood in tomato-saffron sauce; a tasty apple tart; an outstandingly mouth-bursting trio of sorbets (mango, lemon, berry); and delicious Brouilly wine. The seafood was a bit overcooked, but the lamb was juicy and saucy and perfectly pink inside. The foie gras was decadently good (served with toasts and fig preserves), and the escargots were tender. Here’s a picture of those buttery and herbed snails:
 

 
Another favorite restaurant was Ribouldingue (http://www.restaurant-ribouldingue.com/), on 10 rue St. Julien le Pauvre (in the Latin Quarter, just steps away from the Seine):
 

 
This place specializes in offal—something we don’t eat much of, but we decided to give this a whirl. Our dinner included: braised pig’s knuckle; pig’s snout with lentils; cow’s tongue marinated in vinegar; beef cheeks with tagliatelle; sauced veal head; melon soup and pot de crème for dessert; and, of course, delicious local red wine. My favorite dish was the beef cheeks—they had been braised in wine and herbs, then shredded and tossed with the pasta. the result was a rich—almost caramalized—rib-sticking and lip-smacking (or cheeky?) ragu. The cow’s tongue was also a hit, as were the creamy veal brains. But I wasn’t too fond of the snout—it tasted like….snout!  
 
One of the great things about Paris is the diversity of cuisines available, including cuisines from different regions of France and neighboring countries. A case in point is Les Montagnards (http://www.lesmontagnardsparis.fr/ ), located at 58 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau (near Les Halles). This is a surprisingly inexpensive restaurant specializing in the cuisine of the mountainous Savoy region and nearby western Switzerland:
 

 
We had the Tartiflette Lardons (a hearty, creamy casserole of potatoes, lardons, and reblochon cheese) and Croute Montagnards (a rich potato, cheese, onion, and mushroom tart). Both were absolutely delicious, and it’s a good thing we ate these things for lunch: we were able to walk off those calories the rest of the day.
 
As France’s largest city, most powerful economic engine, tourist magnet, educational center, political capital and administrative headquarters for the country’s former global empire, Paris is as worldly and multilingual as it is quintessentially Gallic. John and I enjoyed many of the foods commonly associated with France (snails, crepes, croissants, epi, baguettes, cheese, charcuterie, wine, etc.), but we also enjoyed meals at African, Caribbean, Asian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. One of our favorites was La Villa du Poulbot (10 rue Dancourt, in Montmartre), a cozy and friendly North African place:
 

 
We arrived between the usual lunch and dinner hours, so we had the tiny place pretty much to ourselves. This allowed us to photograph our meal without disrupting other patrons:
 


 
We ordered a traditional Moroccan meal for two: succulent lamb, juicy chicken, and spicy merguez (lamb) sausages served with vegetables (carrots, onions, chickpeas, etc.) in a savory-spicy sauce alongside couscous. This was incredibly tasty, and a bargain at 10 euro each. With some red wine from Burgundy thrown in, this was the perfect meal.
 
Other memorable restaurants include:
 
Le Vin Qui Danse (http://pantheon.vqd.fr ), a (surprise!) wine bar-restaurant on 4 rue des fossés Saint-Jacques, in the Latin Quarter near the Panthéon (and near our hotel). The highlights were foie gras with Armagnac, pan-seared salmon with sesame, fennel salad, and a lusty red wine from the southerly region Pays d’Oc.
 
Cap99 (http://cap99resto.com ), a tiny Afro-Caribbean place on 5 rue de Pot de Fer, in the Latin Quarter. We enjoyed the beef turnovers (samoussas du chasseur), but really loved the beef brochettes (grilled and served with plantain) and the peanut chicken (maffé du lion—very similar to an Indonesian satay). Dessert was a tasty rum-pineapple cake, and the friendly and talkative owners treated us to a delicious, housemade French-Caribbean cinnamon liqueur. This place is a real treat.
 
Not all of our restaurant meals were outstanding…. Many, particularly those consumed on day trips and during the Champagne excursion, were solid but unremarkable: The worst meal of the trip was in Chartres, at a tourist-trap (but convenient) restaurant called Le Marceau: the menu’s promised roast pork turned out to be a perfectly circular and overprocessed slab of ham. With so much truly great food in France, why bother with this?
 
At Le Procope (http://www.procope.com ), a restaurant on 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie (in the Saint Germain district), we had a good meal, but the service was eye-rollingly stuffy and unpleasantly pushy. The place is quite historic—it was founded in 1686 and became a meeting place for artists, literati, and politicos after the French Revolution—so perhaps it deserves to be snooty…. In any case, we loved the fennel vichyssoise with lardons; the trout meunière, a house specialty, was buttery and flaky; and the ox cheek stew was rich in a bold-red-wine kind of way, but a tad salty. The food was good, but unless you really want to eat at a historic restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend this place.
 
We had many good restaurant meals, but almost every day we enjoyed a picnic of charcuterie, cheese, fruit, olives, bread, and wine at the hotel or on the road. Paris can be rather expensive, and the rest of France isn’t cheap, so picnics are a good way to keep expenses in line. They’re also a great way to try local ingredients and regional specialties. Even though American-style supermarkets and convenience markets have sprouted up all over Paris, the best places for the freshest and most compelling groceries are small markets, including the many outdoor markets scattered throughout the city. One of our favorites was the Barbès Market near Montmartre, in the neighborhood favored by North Africans and Middle Easterners:
 



 
In Paris we stayed at the Hôtel Cujas Panthéon (http://www.cujas-pantheon-paris-hotel.com ), a comfortable and reasonably priced place in the Latin Quarter (18 rue Cujas). Our proximity to the lively Rue Mouffetard afforded us easy access to the outdoor Mouffetard Market, which took place nearly every day of the week. We never tired of strolling this place, and next time we’ll consider renting an apartment with a kitchen so we can more thoroughly enjoy the flavors of France:
 


 
Fortunately, the butchers and fishmongers sold some ready-to-eat items, so we tried lots of sausages, pâtés, smoked fish, and other delights. But other foods were more accessible to us, and we didn’t go hungry:
 



 
Nor did we go thirsty. In addition to various bottles of champagne snagged during our excursion from Reims to Troyes, we enjoyed sampling wines from all parts of the country:
 


Our trips to the market didn’t break the bank, so we always had some cash left over for savory snacks and sweet (but rarely cloying) desserts:
 



 
My favorites were the Opéra cakes and fruit mousses; I highly recommend the pâtisserie at Dalloyau (http://www.dalloyau.fr/Anglais/histoire.html), near the Parc de Luxembourg.or at any of their other locations.

Here's an extra bit I've edited in: There's a place in Paris with phenomenal ice cream and sorbet-- Berthillon, on 31 rue St. Louis-en-Ile (on St. Louis Island, in the Seine). The lines can get long, but justifiably so: this place serves some of the best ice cream I've ever had. Flavors we enjoyed include glazed chestnut, blackberry, and salted caramel. The sorbets are equally delicious--apricot, blood orange, grapefruit, rhubarb (!), and other great flavors: http://www.berthillon.fr/mag/fr/page-112732.htm  Very highly recommended.
 
And that, in brief, is a sampling of my trip. Thanks for reading and viewing!
 

post edited by quijote - 2010/07/28 10:09:21
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22 Replies Related Threads

    kland01s
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 13:58:56 (permalink)
    It was worth the wait for us! What wonderful pictures! Thank you!
    #2
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 15:09:43 (permalink)
    quijote-
    Those pastries just about did me in!  Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful photos and experiences.
    #3
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 15:11:18 (permalink)
    Absolutely gorgeous quijote!  And I think it's great you didn't insist on taking pictures of your meals in places where it was clearly not OK.  But that North African dinner looks insanely good, and I do not understand what it is specifically about the French that all their food is so much prettier than anybody else's.  :)  Merci beaucoup!
    #4
    plb
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 15:36:26 (permalink)
    Do you speak or read French?  If not, how much of a problem is it in ordering in restaurants, shops, and just getting around?  Iv'e heard it’s next to impossible and not worth the trouble, to hardly any trouble at all, and everything in between.
    #5
    joerogo
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 16:23:11 (permalink)
    quijote, What a great trip report.  Better than any TV food show!


    I am surprised at how cheap everything was.  Especially the pre-fix prices.  Although when you were there you were still getting hammered by the weak dollar
    #6
    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 16:27:09 (permalink)
    Yeah, the French really have an artistic approach to presenting their food: luscious, colorburst pastries; cheeses in all shapes and sizes; fish and shellfish with heads and tails intact; chickens in rotisseries with juice dripping onto potatoes below.... It's all quite sensational and celebrates food as food, not as "product" or merchandise or "nutritional value." And it tastes so good, too....

    plb, yes, I do speak and read French. It definitely enhanced the experience, especially in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the markets, and places outside of Paris. But many French do speak some English, and a lot of restaurants (mostly in the tourist areas, but in other places, too) have menus in English and other languages. The French appreciate it when tourists make the effort to speak some French, and others are very eager to practice their English. I don't think English-only speakers would have significant problems in most parts of Paris.
    #7
    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 16:34:09 (permalink)
    joe, if we wanted to spend more money we certainly could have done so--there are scores of high-end and just plain moderate-expensive places in town. But for the most part, we chose well--lunches tend to be less expensive overall, so that's when we did most of our dining out. But in spite of all of the press about how expensive Paris is, there really are good deals if you avoid the touristy spots--winebars and ethnic restaurants off the beaten path really have great food and are usually inexpensive.
    #8
    tcrouzer
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 16:59:24 (permalink)
    Ohhhh, the cheese!
    #9
    irisarbor
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 17:23:54 (permalink)
    Incroyable! c'est magnifique, votre travelogue! merci beaucoup!
    Your photos, especially of the market were wonderful!
    It really took me back.
    We also stayed in the Latin Quarter the last time we visited Paris in 2001.
    The Rue Mouffetard is such a fun place to shop and eat.
    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful trip report.
    #10
    leethebard
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 17:38:18 (permalink)
    My sister and God daughter are currently in paris for a few weeks...e-mailed this thread to them.  Perhaps they'd like to try the restaurants.  Already recommended the Religeous pastry to them!!!
    #11
    X1
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 17:58:10 (permalink)
    Nicely done, Q.
    #12
    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 19:38:37 (permalink)
    Q - no mention of tacos?!  Seriously, when you mentioned at Smoke Day that this report was coming, i had no idea it would be this good!  Great job!
    #13
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/27 23:53:16 (permalink)
    Jon, excellent report and mouth watering pix.  Thanks a bunch!  See ya Saturday in NW Indiana.

    Buddy
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    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 10:00:46 (permalink)
    I forgot to mention a place in Paris with phenomenal ice cream and sorbet-- Berthillon, on 31 rue St. Louis-en-Ile (on St. Louis Island, in the Seine). The lines can get long, but justifiably so: this place serves some of the best ice cream I've ever had. Flavors we enjoyed include glazed chestnut, blackberry, and salted caramel. The sorbets are equally delicious--apricot, blood orange, grapefruit, rhubarb (!), and other great flavors.

    http://www.berthillon.fr/mag/fr/page-112732.htm

    I've decided to add this to the original post: this place really is that good.

    post edited by quijote - 2010/07/28 10:10:41
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    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 10:04:08 (permalink)
    CTD, I can't believe I didn't mention those tacos! Or were those crêpes? I don't remember seeing tacos in Paris, but there must be some place with les taqueaux.
    #16
    TnTinCT
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 10:52:08 (permalink)
    I also was very struck by how beautiful all the presentations were - even the fish laid out to their best advantage. We could learn a few things here from their approach to food. Thanks so much for sharing!
    #17
    TacoDrew
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 11:46:30 (permalink)
    Man... all I can say is 'wow'.  Thanks for the wonderful (and envy-inducing) post!
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    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 21:47:37 (permalink)
    Thanks for the feedback, folks. Tonight I got nostalgic for the trip, so made a tomato clafoutis and opened a bottle of Brouilly!
    #19
    Foodbme
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/28 23:58:02 (permalink)
    quijote

    Thanks for the feedback, folks. Tonight I got nostalgic for the trip, so made a tomato clafoutis and opened a bottle of Brouilly!


    Sounds Delicious! I found this recipe. Is it Close?
    Servings: 4 Servings

    Preparation Remove stems from tomatoes. Arrange in single layer in shallow 6-cup (1.5L) baking dish. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with thyme, garlic, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast in 400F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until skin shrivels slightly. In blender, blend cream, eggs and flour until smooth; pour over tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce temperature to 350F; bake for about 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Makes 4 servings.
    #20
    quijote
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/29 01:27:56 (permalink)
    That recipe's pretty close, foodbme. I used the Patricia Wells At Home in Provence version, which calls for:

    2 lbs. tomatoes (I used Romas), peeled and quartered
    fine sea salt
    2 eggs
    2 egg yolks
    1/3 c. cream
    1/2 c. parmesan
    fresh thyme (I used Herbes de Provence)
    (I threw in some caramelized onion--why not)

    It's all pretty much arrange-and-bake, like the recipe you found: First salt the tomatoes for a few minutes to remove a bit of liquid, then arrange at bottom of casserole dish. Mix rest of ingredients, except for half the herbs and half the cheese, then pour on top of tomatoes. Sprinkle rest of herbs and cheese on top, then bake for about 30 minutes.

    It's a great way to use garden tomatoes.
    #21
    agnesrob
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/29 07:49:28 (permalink)
    Wonderful report! The pictures are fantastic! Thanks for posting.
    #22
    Greymo
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    Re:Finally! A Brief Retrospective of Paris, July/August 2009 2010/07/29 08:34:17 (permalink)
    I so enjoyed  your report...........brought back some great memories.  Your  pictures are stunning................I loved the cluster of grapes!
    #23
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