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
), 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
), 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
), 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
), 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
), 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
), 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
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!
<message edited by quijote on Wed, 07/28/10 10:09 AM>