Merce and the Muse, and Mary

brocolli salad straws

One of the curious things that’s happening right now in the Paris food scene is a spate of what I consider ‘anglo’-style cafés opening up in various smaller neighborhoods. There are a few that have been around for a while. But in the past year, casual restaurants that sell leafy salads, made with just-cooked fresh vegetables and greens, house made soups, hand-held desserts like individual carrot cakes and les muffins, fresh fruit juices, and coffee made with care and attention, have been giving the normal lunch of choice for harried Parisians, les sandwiches—including the good ones from the local bakeries, as well as those from the unfortunately popular Subway sandwich shops that are rapidly invading France—a run for their money.

sandwich merce muse

Places like Bob’s Juice Bar, Cococook, Bread and Roses, and Rose Bakery are all packed at lunchtime not with homesick Brits or Americans, but Parisians.


These simple cafés and take-outs are riffs on places in England like Ottolenghi that take care when selecting ingredients. Proud of their bounty, they often display (and sell) their carefully-sourced fruits and vegetables, which makes them all the more enticing. Top notch ingredients are used not because it’s trendy to be ‘biologique‘ (…or is it?), but because they actually taste better.

tea pot

This change of thinking, as evidenced by the popularity of these anglo-inspired places, is fascinating to watch, because countries like America, Australia, and England have a debatably undeserved reputation for serving not very good food. Of course, there’s good and bad food in every country. But when I think of London or Sydney or San Francisco, images of restaurants serving fresh, local cuisine comes to mind and I know quite a few Europeans who’ve made their first trip to America, and are surprised to find such good ingredients and food in the restaurants.

carrot cake flowers

Even more interesting, some of these places in Paris are owned and run by Americans or British folks. And no one is blinking an eye. My Little Paris called Merce Muse’s new place a “Coffee Shop” New Yorkais without apology, but with anticipation. A while back, I read an article about how coffee shops in New York were holding tasting seminars for their employees, and making sure they were using the proper technique for tamping and extracting espresso. And a day doesn’t pass when you don’t hear about some Seattle chef making their own sausage or a new wood-fired pizza oven blazing to life in Los Angeles.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to why this do-it-yourself movement has become so popular in America, where people are making everything from scratch, often setting up shops and restaurants to sell them. I can rattle off a long list of friends who’ve started successful businesses launching everything from homemade jams to bean-to-bar chocolate. Perhaps it’s our enterprising spirit, or maybe our drive to succeed?

waiter poppyseed cake

At Merce and the Muse in Paris’ suddenly-hip upper Marais, the young American owner, Merce Muse, orders her coffee from Denmark’s Coffee Collective and actually went up there to learn how to properly prepare and extract it. Aside from the Caféotheque, this is the only place I’ve seen in town that tamps down their coffee. (When I went to coffee school, they told us the plastic tampers attached to grinders were worthless.) Although I like mine a little more serré (tight) than they pull, it’s nice to have a place close by where I can find a café express that’s not thin or bitter.

rice krispy treat

Because her place had just recently opened, and since I arrived after the lunch rush, most of the salads and sandwiches were gone, but there were a few desserts displayed on the wooden counter. Merce had originally planned to open a cupcake shop, so you’ll likely find some small frosted cakes no matter what time of day you stop in, as well as Rice Krispie Treats made with dried cranberries. (Okay, those don’t quite fall into the “fresh” food category. But anyone who complains, I’ll take theirs.)

espresso making espresso

Given enough time, I look forward to returning for lunch in the comfy seating area, which I can imagine is going to get quite crowded once the word spreads. With the fascination for le Brunch in Paris, I think the smell of individual cups of drip coffee filtered through porcelain cones with a special swirl to brew better coffee (or so I was told), and glazed poppy seed cakes, will draw in the local bobo crowd, willing to put down their cigarettes and smartphones just long enough to duck inside for something un peu américain to eat.

hand tamping coffee rice krispie treats

Speaking of foreigners making food loved by the French, after a recent trip to Rome, and sharing pizza last night at Maria Luisa, was that I can’t think of any Italian restaurants in Paris where the cooking is done by anyone but Italians. Italian restaurants have always existed in Paris, but only in the past few years has authentic Italian food become more widespread and appreciated. Ditto with Japanese food.

But in all those places, it’s always Italians behind the stoves and manning the pizza ovens, not French cooks. (In the case of real Japanese restaurants, not the fast-food sushi places that have exploded in numbers in Paris, I’ve only seen Japanese cooks, except at Rice and Fish sushi, which has an American sushi-maker.)

mary's gelato

Perhaps it’s because Italy is so close to France they just leave it to the Italians, who are doing a great job of opening up places in Paris that become instantly popular once word gets out about them. La tête dans les Olives, La Briciola, and Olio Pane Vino are some of the places that serve terrific Italian food and are very popular.

Gelato has also taken off in Paris, too, and places like Pozzetto and Grom are serving Northern Italian-style gelato in Paris. Rich and thick, you’ll see less emphasis on lightness and more concentrated mixtures, sticky and dense with hazelnuts and chocolate. Just next door to Merce and the Muse is Mary.

peaches and apricots

Like her neighbor, Mary Quarta’s gelato shop is full of quirky charm: from the pink-handled gelato spades to the frappés (milkshakes) with your choice of flavors, I have a feeling each subsequent time that I go back, something is going to be different. I’m not sure what to expect, which is good, because that means she’s keeping things flexible.

(On a side note, I always find it odd that people complain when restaurants run out of a certain dish. You want to go to places that run out of food, which is generally a sign that it’s freshly made.)

Mary speaks little French, or English, so most of the conversation I had with her was done by mixing a a little of each…with a lot of Italian, extracting the right words and ingredients from each language, which somehow all come together like a smooth batch of her Tiramisù gelato.

tiramisu gelato mary's gelato1

When it was time to decide on which flavors I wanted, my first choice was crème à la nougatine, which brought a big smile out of her and made me assume I’d made the right choice. She pointed at a lone glass jar on the counter with crackly shards of housemade almond caramel and said those were what she used to crumble into the gelato.

After she handed my ice cream over, which was paired with chocolat extra fondant, I took a lick and immediately recognized the chocolate as Domori, which surprised her a bit since Italian chocolates aren’t well-known here. I haven’t met many chocolates I don’t like, and although all the other flavors looked interesting, in spite of my hemming and hawing at the counter, I invariably choose chocolate as one of my flavors. It’s a decision I rarely regret, and this shiny-dark chocolate gelato was no exception.

mary's flavors

When I moved to France, I was convinced that every conversation eventually led to one of two subjects: politics or food. I leave them to discuss their politics, but it’s encouraging that places like these are not just being talked about, but also packed with locals, there to enjoy the food. Last year, I took Romain into Whole Foods in New York City, with it’s extensive grocery and take-out selection. And as we were leaving, he asked, a bit rhetorically, “Why don’t we have places like that in Paris?”

I thought about it a while and said that it wasn’t really part of their culture to have places like that. But cultures change, shift, and respond. Twenty years ago, if someone told me that chains of organic supermarkets and upscale coffee shops were going to spread across America, I would’ve said they were nuts. The gastro-bistro movement that was launched a few years back in Paris was a revelation, and now it’s normal to find wonderful inexpensive bistros serving very good food at reasonable prices dotted everywhere in the city.

We all love Paris because of its past and its rich culinary history is certainly impressive. So it’s interesting to see how these places are being added, accepted, and folded into the grand menu of offerings on the Paris food scene. I hope a lot more small places like these open, with the owners working the counter as well as in the kitchen, sourcing fresh ingredients and serving them to contented customers. These are the kinds of places I like to patronize, whether or not they’re owned by French, Italians, or Americans. Good food doesn’t have any borders and I’m glad to see these places being given such a warm welcome, and are flourishing, in Paris.

UPDATE: As of November 2012, Merce and the Muse has “changed direction” and is in the process of revamping the concept and menus, under new management.

Merce and the Muse
1, rue Dupuis (3rd)
Tél: 06 42 39 04 31
(Map)

Mary
1, rue Dupuis (3rd)
No phone or fixed hours yet

Related Links and Posts

Grom

The Ice Cream Shops of Paris

Mary (Paris Notebook)

Mary-the Gelato Shop (Vingt)

White Chocolate-Candied Peanut Rice Krispie Treats

Take That, Paris Cafe (The Atlantic)

Making the Perfect Espresso at Illy

Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos

Swamped in the Marais (Serve It Forth)

Pistachio Gelato Recipe

Where to get a good cup of coffee in Paris

What is Gelato?

Gouymanat (Just on the corner from these two places)

Community Supported Agriculture in Paris



61 comments

  • Those individual carrot cakes look great. I could also do with a massive scoop of that gelato too.

  • Merce Muse is brilliant, and that waiter…

  • Entrepreneurism may have it’s roots in North America, but it’s time that Europe gets a healthy dose of it.
    I am surprised at the surge of high end Coffee shops in North America myself, having thought that in Europe every Hausfrau can pull a good shot. But there is a difference, no doubt.

  • Thank you for the beautiful update, which inspires me to visit Paris again! In Tokyo too, it’s quite fun to see Bakery-deli-cafes have been increasing in number, and Rose Bakery is coming soon :)

  • H. Peter: There’s plenty of European products that are considered the best in their fields: Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Rolex, Hermès, etc..but the complex and bureaucratic systems, and costs, in some of the countries in Europe make it difficult to do business. In many cases, countries like France didn’t have to be competitive, since most of whatever they wanted was available here already. Things change, and the world gets globalized, and you either adapt, or don’t—and deal with the consequences.

    I remember not that long ago in the states, it was highly unlikely you’d get a decent cup of coffee anywhere, unless you made it yourself. Now people complain about the spate of high-end coffee shops that have opened up everywhere; it’s interesting how times have changed!

  • Fascinating trend…Subway…really? Subway is getting big in India as well.

  • Hmm, I may be biased because I *am* Australian, but I’ve always heard overseas chefs and visitors talk about how Australia is known for good, fresh food. But I guess, it’s that we don’t have a crystal clear “Aussie” cuisine… anyway, I’d behappy with any of these cafes if they showed up here. We don’t have nearly enough rice krispie treats in Australia :P

  • Its happened before, too, with the British introducing steak and puddings to France after the Napoleonic Wars. I heard from a French chef chap I know that the French can’t get enough English style puddings, I can’t say I’ve noticed it myself.

    By the way, if you ever getto Australia, try and check out Melbourne’s food scene. Beats Sydneys hands down (and no, I’m not from Melbourne myself)

  • Belinda: Yes. The French Subway website (subwayfrance.fr) boasts they’re opened over two hundred restaurants in France. I think part of their appeal is that they’re warm, and made-to-order. (Which is somewhat of a novelty here, although one can find Italian-style panini.)

    I cringe whenever I see one, with a line snaking out the door, especially when there are very good sandwiches at a nearby bakery. But I suppose a sandwich jambon-fromage isn’t as exciting to them anymore, as it is to a foreigner, who didn’t grow up eating them.

  • Hi David!

    Greetings from the Philippines!

    I read your post on learning to do proper espresso and saw your comment about the coffee packaging from Illy’s. You said to check back in 2010. So, your verdict?

    Love love love your blog!

  • I love how you closed with this sentence:“Good food doesn’t have any borders and I’m glad to see these places being given such a warm welcome, and are flourishing, in Paris.”

    This pleases me to no end, for it is inspiring and shows just how open Paris can be to new things — to innovative things. Maybe it is an indication that newer generations, generations that Tweet and Facebook (as a verb, lol) and otherwise network online, are open to trying and accepting new things, and realizing they are *good* things. It is this borderless world that the internet has brought to us, and it is cool to watch this borderlessness in action as places like you have reviewed here open and find success in a city like Paris.

    I think you are correct in the above comment — “I think part of their [Subway's] appeal is that they’re warm, and made-to-order.”

    I think that is their appeal no matter where one exists and other sandwich places could learn from and adapt their practices to make higher quality sandwiches but with this principle of (fairly) fresh and made-to-order. I think Subway is exciting to the Frenchies as they did not grow up with it, either, just as you say a foreigner has grown up without the jambon-fromage.

    This post made me feel very optimistic, David. Thank you.

  • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hi David

    Would it be possible to include cutlines on the photos? My wife and I really enjoy your blog.

  • But still no California-style burrito joints?

  • Hey David,

    Great post. I am friends with Bryan who works at Merce and dropped in just after they opened and it has a great atmosphere, lovely décor and youthful enthusiasm. I also tried Mary’s right after she opened and LOVED how she barely spoke English or French. Authenticity reigned supreme!

    There are some excellent Italian places in Paris, run by Italians, and I’ve written up a couple on my blog. Caldo Freddo (not so much sit down but rather to go or fast dining) which I have declared the best in the city. The other place which still has me reeling is Les Cailloux in the 13th. I think you’d love it.

    http://www.lostincheeseland.com/2010/05/food-porn-vol-iv-part-ii-les-cailloux.html

    Lovely photos, as usual!

    Lindsey

  • I never saw any Domori in France. I guess when it comes to chocolate there is so much good French stuff that why bother? Of course it tastes different.
    By the way, Pralus has a limited Chuao bar out now. Haven’t tried it yet, but bought some last weekend while in Vienna (also one heck of a beautiful city). My wife says it really good though.
    And have you tried M. Cluizel’s 99 chocolate? Not the bar but the square filled with ganache. I know, you get better chocolates at J. Genin and other places, but it’s really tasty for having 99% cacao content.
    I had my first try of one right off the Bastille at a small shop.

  • David, it isn’t often that I miss Paris and I do love our new home – but every once in a while you write a post that makes me want to go back! (Please stop.)

  • “The gastro-bistro movement that was launched a few years back in Paris was a revelation, and now it’s normal to find wonderful inexpensive bistros serving very good food at reasonable prices dotted everywhere in the city.”

    You always could in the early 1970s; there were some wonderful places to eat! I am so glad to hear this is coming back – perhaps copying the British gastro-pub revolution (and we did NOT have good pub food in the 1970s!).

    That gelato looks lovely; I’ll have a nougatine and a guiandujo, please!!! (Nougat glacé is quite my favourite ice-cream of all time; so much nicer than the parfaits, cassates and mystères that were standard ices in my day!).

  • London has had a similar explosion of these kinds of cafes in the last couple of years. After 10 years of nasty coffee chains opening on every high street and in every mall, there are now more and more independent roasters, baristas and brunch shops cropping up. It’s very exciting! In most of these cafes the focus is more on extracting the perfect espresso than offering food, but the quality of all provisions is very high. A lot of inspiration for these places comes from kiwi and aussie cafes where independent coffee and brunch spots have always been the norm. Thank heavens they’ve arrived!

  • David, I noticed some pics from Tunisia on your Flickr page

  • Now even more reasons to visit Paris! The “anglo-style” places you discuss in your post reminds me of a similar place in Montreal I had the chance to visit last year… Olive et Gourmando -http://www.oliveetgourmando.com/ . Full of fresh, delicious food and beautiful, young hip staff. Not unlike the gorgeous waiter in your photo above! Have you been to Montreal? I think you would enjoy it.
    Thanks for you post.

  • I’m sure that Parisians like a bit of change once in a while, too without having to travel to indulge their whim. Maybe they’ve finally figured out that they aren’t there to only serve as host to tourists that expect French Cuisine, And..it can appease tourists as well, so everyone can spend their money right there in Paris instead of in Italy or where ever. It makes sense.

  • Re: the pour-over method of brewing drip coffee…I believe the spiral pour just to make sure that you evenly distribute the water among the grounds (rather than just dumping it in the middle) and pour it at a steady rate to get the perfect extraction. Here’s a bit from the NYT about it:

    http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/ristretto-pour-over-coffee-drips-into-new-york/

    I can tell you from experience that it absolutely does make a difference in the taste, though. And there’s something very calming about watching the process.

  • My that waiter! drooool

  • Folk can be really snooty about unbaked bars like the crispy cranberry one, but I like bars like these now and again.

    Scotland has a bad food reputation as well, deep fried Mars bars seem to go hand in hand with Scottish cuisine, but I have never tasted one, or even seen them for sale. Have seen them on the news as a novelty though. We have good and bad cafes and restaurants here, it makes me dispair to be labeled with the deep fried mars bar.

  • Kelly-Jane…the Scot’s can rest on the laurels given for their shortbread as far as I’m concerned! When you’ve had a good hunk of shortbread, that one treat trumps every other sweet, anywhere, bar none.

  • I just got back home from biking Reims and Paris. I hadn’t been to France for 8 years. The biggest difference between then and now is in how friendly the French have become! But also, service was usually quite fast and attentive. I was surprised that the wait staff came back to the table often to see if we liked our food and if we needed anything else. Perhaps this infusion of worldly food is changing how they offer service. I did notice these ‘new’ places, and good for them, their creativity, and their investment, but I gladly stuck to the French food the whole time, including some of your recommendations. I think the French need to work on promoting their beer (and not the Dutch or German brands) and offering a better selection of teas and infusions (both hot and cold). Thank you!

  • So happy to read about all these charming food shops in Paris. After seeing the HUGE ad in Sunday’s New York Times for Ralph Lauren’s new restaurant in Paris featuring a picture of a bacon cheeseburger, I was worried. David, have you been to Ralph’s? What do Parisians think of it?

  • I don’t know what looks yummier- the poppyseed bundts or the waiter!

  • I spend 5 years begging my French husband to move to Paris….and then right after he agreed, Whole Foods opened a giant flagship store 2 miles from my home. Of course I still came to Paris and never looked back, but Whole Foods made my final months in the US bearable. I would love something like that here.

  • adrian: It’s rare to find any of the small-producer chocolates from other countries here. (I’ve been thinking I should open a shop selling them, since French people are so crazy for chocolate.) Sadaharu Aoki was selling Domori in his shops; the salted milk chocolate bar is particularly good.

    annemarie: I don’t know any French person whose been there, but at €27, I’m not racing over there myself. A few American friends, Alec Lobrano and Barbra Austin, and wrote it up on their blogs and they weren’t entirely impressed.

    hag: I went to Montreal a few years ago and the food was amazing. I was at a culinary conference so got to eat at a lot of the restaurants. Schwartz’s was amazing, too!

    Linda: I do plan to write it up. The problem is I have over 75 pictures of the trip that I like and can’t figure out how to write a post that doesn’t take 87 minutes for people to scroll through : )

  • I would eat a sawdust sandwich, if it was served by such a gorgeous waiter! Cheers from the Antipodes, Karen brown..Wellington..New Zealand

  • Do you think those straws are an American influence that’s rubbed off on France or visa versa? I have them in my kitchen right now and have been wondering about them. They seem “french” to me : )

  • I think it’s less about cultural differences and more a testament to the fact that people will almost always choose fresh, flavorful food if it’s available easily and offered at a reasonable price.

    Think about why Subway is so popular (#1 franchise in the U.S., I think)–fresh bread and vegetables, you can customize your sandwich, and it’s quick and affordable. They have tapped into a real need and you can’t blame people for responding. It’s great that smaller entrepreneurs are tapping into the trend.

  • Understand your audience is willing to expend the 87 minutes scrolling through your post on Tunisia. Blog and we will read. Now! and do give us the photos. Thank you for all the enjoyment and glee you’ve provided so far…

  • Lovely post! I just rented an apartment for the holidays in that hood, which I have always loved, and am now am doubly happy I did. It has changed so much in such a short period of time and I will have much eating and exploring to do. Yeah!!

    Thanks for being our guinea pig of deliciousness David.

    Maureen in Oakland

  • As the café trend so well described by David is found all over Europe these days it is likely to signal some huge American interests investing in and enriching the character of the European café market.
    A few years ago the trend all over Paris was sandwich shops introducing the submarine phenomenon with chains such as Lina´s.

    As a millefeuille fan living near the Figaroscope favourite, La patisserie de l´Eglise on 20 rue Jourdain by rue de Belleville (20 th) and a heavenly ice cream maker as well, I shudder at the sight of these cafés because of the patisserie going with them:
    huge clumsy muffins and other cakes looking very much like loving hands at home.

    You might visit this Paris of the great heights, wonderfully lively and completely undiscovered, close to the most gorgeous park there is, the Buttes Chaumont and certainly close to the bakery “Au 140” meaning 140 rue de Belleville (20 th),another favourite of the discriminating Figaroscope for its little “chouquettes” that pretty inexpensive little extra for your everyday life, tiny creamfilled round petits choux
    with sugar petals all around.

    .

  • The dollar will need to get stronger before I can buy coffee there after seeing the menu.

  • David: I was surprised by the lack of chocolate shoppes in Paris. I was hoping to get my fill. I saw some odd bars in some grocery stores, but then mostly Cote D’Or or old brands were on the shelf. I saw only one Leonida’s and then nothing boutique-y in the local neighborhoods. I think a location next to a butcher’s shop would be prime, but I wouldn’t do just chocolates and I would make sure I had seating and served coffee/tea Belgian style (on a tray with stuff and one cookie/chocolate). The German’s have a chain of shops for retail and do the baking for hotels and other shoppes called Lindner you should look at…they are stuffy, but I think with a the new attitude in Paris you would do well with a similar model. Keeping the service friendly is essential.

  • suedoise: I haven’t seen this myself, but a friend said a Subway sandwich shop near him keeps getting vandalized, and he thinks it may be because the local ‘regular’ sandwich shop is miffed about losing so much business to the strong-armed competition.

    sheila: Those prices are normal for Paris: a café express if you sit in a café is €2.2-€2.8 (it’s half the price if you stand at the bar). And here they’re using high-quality coffee, whereas most of the cafés use inferior quality bulks beans.

    Aamy: For some reason, the French haven’t embraced the bean-to-bar or artisan chocolate movement. Perhaps because they have so many high-quality chocolate shops (the kind that make filled chocolates and fondeurs, who pour their own bars)? There are several small-scale chocolate makers, but they’re not well-known, from what I’ve seen, such as Bernachon and Pralus).

    But I do find it interesting that America is having a boon in bean-to-bar chocolates whereas in France, Côte d’Or and Lindt are mostly what’s available. Perhaps some enterprising folks here will jump on the artisan chocolate bandwagon. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a chocolate-maker in Paris?

  • Loved the post! Living in Ireland, I’ve noticed a similar trend (I’m American as well.) And oh my – THAT boy. Gorgeous! :) Thanks for lovely post, David!! Cheers, A

  • What a lovely article, informative, witty and funny as usual. One a side note…WHO is that hot guy? I saw him and my first thought was “Hmmm dieux du stade”.

  • As an American living in Germany, I can confirm that the unfortunate (and in my obviously biased opinion… completely undeserved) opinion among the locals is that there is no good food to be found in English speaking countries. The bright side seems to be that this opinion is (oh so slowly) changing.

    I’ve also had a hard time convincing them that the US produces some really good wine, probably because the only American wine to be found in Germany is Gallo. But I guess that’s a rant for another time!

  • I agree that it’s generally a good thing when a place runs through their products, and I love that Mary’s supply is in flux according to her whim or what’s available. The flavor “Caprice de Mary” pretty much sums it up (deliciously). I hope that she’s able to cope with the crowds, because you’re right: These kinds of businesses enrich cities on a very human scale, in ways that may be unquantifiable but immeasurably valuable.

    Now, if only someone would have the good business sense to open a great ice cream shop along the canal…

  • We live and work in central France and, like Rose, have a really hard time convincing local people that the English can cook. I am living proof and have amazed some of them with gorgeous (to them sometimes weird) food. No one here makes ice cream. Following your book I’ve now made 25 flavours!

    Our neighbours have only memories of school exchange holidays (unfailingly sauce à la menthe and jelly desserts that – horror! – wobbled). I’d take them to London, my birth place, and surprise them for sure. However, this isn’t Paris so nuff said.

    The worst of it, here in the sticks, is that there are no shops for foodies (do you hate this word?) so thank heaven for internet shopping, trips to other regions and dear friends who bring requests from Amsterdam, London and Germany.

  • Chrissy + Amanda (+Rose): I think one convincing argument is to watch Cuisine.tv in France, where they show programs by Nigella Lawson baking all those cakes and Jamie Oliver, who is pulling up roots in the garden and making salads and roasting meats over the fire, with some of the French offerings, like “Calorie Commando” and people making cucumber and goat cheese lollypops or…and I’m sorry that I found this, huîtres à la salad de fruits.

    (Yes, that’s Fresh Oysters with Fruit Salad.) I’ve seen some frightening things from our Food Network and other places, or maybe I’m just unsophisticated, but that doesn’t sound very good to me.

    As noted, there’s good and (unfortunately) bad food everywhere, and I used to be a bit more miffed about the attitude that American food isn’t any good. But then I realized most of the people that think that have never visited an American farmer’s market and most of what they see about American food is informed by all the imports, like cookies and our fast-food chains, so they just don’t know any better.

    Barbra: I know from your post that you had a slightly different take on her place, as did a few others. But I do agree that she’s got a few obstacles to work out. She’s likely swamped and could probably use a hand…maybe you and I should volunteer for a day or so? (Except I think we’d eat all the profits!)

  • Ooo! I would so envy you if you opened a chocolate shop in Paris! I’ve been thinking of doing that here in Munich, but the market is pretty much saturated. We have loads of chocolate from all over Europe here and some from the States too. So starting up here might present a challenge.
    But Paris sounds like it could use some Italian chocolate.

  • What a nice post! I, very very happily, live 10 minutes away from Maria Luisa and go there quite often.

    You’re totally right about this new trend towards small, anglo-style lunch cafés, and isn’t it great! However, I think back to Bagel’s and Brownies in the 6th (rue n-d des champs,) which has been open for at least 7 or 8 years now, and always has a line of Frenchies out the door at lunchtime. Seems like this trend has been coming, slowly but surely, for awhile now.

    The only thing we have left to do is petition for a Whole Foods Rivoli!

  • David,
    have you had Pimm’s? A very British (English) summer drink. Cool, refreshing, and dangerous as it tastes tame and yet is alcoholic. It occurred to me yesterday that there should be a way of making a Pimm’s sorbet. Any ideas? Would love to hear your views!

  • And what beautiful people work there! It looks like fresh, healthy food does the body good. :)

  • It made my heart melt a little that the French have embraced Rice Krispie Treats.
    I second the idea from Pepovst on the Pimm’s sorbet, Cheers!

  • Thank the lord! I am heading there now. After a year of suffering sub standard coffee in Paris…I had succumbed to McDonald’s (yes, golden arches) in the 15th that out outshines mostly all cafes on espresso… this spate of curious Anglo style cafes is a timely tonic to my dismal coffee existence here. Thanks David for the tip

  • david! thanks so much for the kind words and all of the support! glad to have you as a friend, and hope to see you soon!!
    xx m

  • deep fried Mars bars

    Maybe they don’t exist in Scotland, but they do exist at the Evergreen Presbyterian Church festival in Memphis (along with haggis, log throwing and border collie demonstrations).

    I tried one. It wasn’t that good. But don’t worry – I, too, think more of shortbread when I think of Scotland.

    the US produces some really good wine

    Ha. Show them the movie “Bottle Shock.”

  • Sydney’s food scene definitely is fresher and more hip than other cities in Australia. I’m going to have to dispute the claim made by a previous commenter about Melbourne’s food scene, it’s cheaper than Sydney’s, yes, but often stodgy, boring and unvaried. And no, I’m not from Sydney.

  • I discovered CocoCook the last day in Paris and was delighted.
    Quinoa has conquered this town.
    I did not discover Mary’s…must return sooner than planned
    *David please go to Ottolenghi and figure out his Passion Fruit meringue -not in any of the cookbooks and his secret potion #9.

  • I lived in Boston and NYC back in 2000 and being Italian I always suffered not being able to find any good espresso coffee. In the beginning I was going to Starbucks …then I got fed up and I brought my espresso coffee machine and coffee beans from Italy.
    I have been back in NYC last March and I was impressed with the beautiful coffee places and delicious espresso coffee I found. The quality was excellent and there was so much variety. I like the NYC way of taking everything very seriously and turning any little idea a big movement or business. I also like the fact that these coffee shops are independent they don’t belong to any chain…which is really the Italian style for coffee shops.

  • I used to live in Edinburgh, and you could get deep-fried mars bars, but usually only on request, and preferably with a wink to show you knew you were doing something culinarily vile. (I did this with visitors several times, and frankly, the taste isn’t worth the humiliation of asking.)

    However, Edinburgh food is generally good – there’s a good market, and lots of excellent restaurants. The problem is price – the amount I’d pay at the market was sometimes astronomical, and restaurants often put a massive dent in my student budget. (Problems of doing a PhD when most of your visiting friends are already working…) Indian food was frequently the lunchtime solution, but while the range of good cafes was great, they were too expensive.

    Anyway, it’s been years since I was in Paris – and my budget then was skimpy (thanks German government scholarship that I could visit at all!), but it’s nice to think there’s a wider range of affordable and international food there. One cannot live on crepes alone, even as a backpacker…

    Oh, and as a born-and-bred Sydneysider, I’d say Melbourne is cheaper, and easier to navigate, but I’ve had the best meals in Sydney.

  • Dear David,
    I’m sorry that my experience from Merce was a bit different from yours.
    I read this post and was quite excited about the place and so i dragged some friends there today and left a bit puzzled.
    I would say that the service was far from “american” (and not very good even by french standards although nothing terrible happened) and then i realized few hours later in the peace of my home that i’ve been charged an extravagant amount of money and had received no bill to check since the total amount was given orally.
    So i agree i am probably fully responsible for checking my bills and should not pay without seeing one (and be a better citizen), but then when I go in a coffee shop i want to feel comfortable and not wondering in the back of my mind “something was wrong here, but what ?”

    Apart from that, the coffee and pastries were very good indeed (and I love their very bo-bo taste), the salads really so-so (it was already mid-afternoon) and the table setting/atmosphere not that nice.
    It’s too bad i live close by and it could have been a regular hangout.

    PS : Sorry for my poor english, i’m too french.

  • I went to “Mary’s” yesterday and it seems that her place is permanently closed.

  • Allison: I haven’t heard that. She does keep irregular hours, however. Was all the equipment moved out or something that indicated a permanent closure? There was talk about her opening a restaurant or something in another space a while back.