Recently in France category

Change

change

One of the things that you need to have when shopping for food in France is a big, sturdy shopping basket. You also need to have a bit of patience because the lines can be long, and lines in Paris are like airplane restrooms; when it’s your turn, everyone behind you disappears and suddenly, you seem to have all the time in the world. But more important in Paris than having a big pannier, and an even bigger bladder (because few markets have a place to, uh, “go”), is that you also need to have plenty of change.

France and America have a curious relationship. Each is fascinated with each other and have a camaraderie that’s built on admiration, a little of frustration, and a soupçon of envy. For every American that rattles on about “free health care” (no matter that it’s not free, it’s paid for by – or from – a percentage of your earnings) there is a French person exclaiming how much they would love to live in New York City because of l’energie.

(No matter that if you walked right into someone as if they weren’t there, as happens in Paris, they’d certainly get a real “New York Experience” from a real New Yorker.)

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Verjus Sandwiches

pulled pork sandwich

A friend who’s been living here quite long time once wondered aloud to me, why Parisians sandwich-makers weren’t more creative. I never really thought about it; because I buy sandwiches so infrequently, I’m really happy to have a simple, classic jambon-fromage with a smear of butter on a baguette. But I suppose if I ate sandwiches daily, like so many people now do, that I’d also want a little diversity between the slices. (In my defense, I’ll sometimes see if I can get goat cheese on my sandwich, rather than the usual Emmenthal.)

That probably explains in popularity of the Subway chain in France, who offers something different from the French classics. According to their website, they now have around 66 outlets in Paris. But I’m not joining the lines, though, because it’s where I had one of the worst sandwiches of my life back in the states. You’d think it’s pretty hard to f-up a sandwich. Thankfully, things have taken a turn for the better.

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Champagne, Reims, and Veuve Clicquot

Champagne cave

I was perched on the fence, whether to say yes to staying home to work, and no to Champagne. And, well, I guess I don’t need to tell you that I simply could not fight the battle of the bubbly. And so I headed out for a quick day and night in Reims, where Champagne is made.

Demi-sec Champagne
Veuve Clicquot riddling rack

Fortunately the city of Reims is just a quick 45 minutes from Paris and I was invited to the region to eat, drink, and, well…I won’t tell you what else I did. But it involved a long, hot, much-appreciated bath, and a rest on the adjacent canapé.

Nothing like a couch in your bathroom

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Le 6 Paul Bert

mulet, red currants, beets

It’s rare I find a restaurant where I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t consider myself picky or a tough customer (others might say otherwise); it’s just my idea of a perfect restaurant is a nice welcome, servers that are nearby when I need them – and I don’t need to be besties with them – and good, uncomplicated food made with well-sourced ingredients. I tend to think those things are fairly easy to accomplish, but I’m often dismayed when I order something and it arrives at the table underseasoned, or the presentation takes precedence over flavor.

While I appreciate chefs wanting to fuss over every teensy little thing on the plate, I kind of wish they would focus on the food and the flavor rather than making sure the singular poached scallion blossom is draped just-so over the artfully placed crescent of beet alongside the smear of white chocolate-cumin emulsion with a poof of salmon cheek foam balanced on top. Just put the food on a plate and send it out, folks! So after a few dud dinners at highly touted restaurants, I was happy to hit pay-dirt at Le 6 Paul Bert.

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East Side Burgers: Vegetarian Burgers in Paris

burgers

Two trends have swept across Paris over the past few years, which, paradoxically, are somewhat at odds with each other. Who would have predicted a decade ago that hamburgers and vegetarianism would both be buzzwords on the Paris food scene? One of the good things about the burger movement is that instead of the wan, overpriced (€15 and up) burgers that had been served in Paris cafés, people have seen that a good hamburger made with freshly ground beef of good quality, handmade buns, isn’t just industrial, fast-food fare.

(A third trend in Paris has been la cuisine mexicaine, or Mexican food, with a homemade tortilla shop on the way. ¡Ay, caramba!)

But when made with quality ingredients, it’s a treat worthy of the adulation it gets on its home turf. It’s like comparing the canned cassoulet made with hot dogs to the incomparable real cassoulet of the Southwest, or the rubbery supermarket camemberts to a sublime, oozingly ripe Camembert du Normandie.

eastside vegetarian hamburger in Paris

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Shang Palace

bbq pork at Shang Palace in Paris

Quite a while back, I worked at an Asian restaurant in San Francisco. The food was amazing. Fresh shrimp were cooked up, chopped, then smeared on bread, then deep-fried for shrimp toast. All the dumplings had freshly cooked ingredients in them – no canned peas or frozen shrimp. And each one was hand-rolled. All the meats were well-sourced and cooked daily, then shredded for fillings and claypot dishes. And the seafood was sparkling fresh.

The restaurant hobbled along for a few years then, sadly, closed. There were number of factors, but the one that I heard from most people is that they balked at paying regular restaurant prices for Chinese food.

For some reason, people think that Asian food needs to be cheap. (Last time I was in New York City, I went to a place that is famous for serving dumplings that could be had five for $1. It was recommended by a lot of people and they were so awful I threw them away, mainly because I was concerned about the meat – or whatever was inside – that I was eating.) I don’t know why people will easily pay $20 for roast duck at a regular restaurant but scoff if it’s more than $8 at an “ethnic” restaurant, especially if the ingredients are sourced with the same care at both.

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Noglu, Gluten-Free Restaurant in Paris

poulet fermier rôti

A long-lost acquaintance of mine got in touch with me a few months back. And I don’t know if there is a French name for phone-tag, or playing the game via e-mail, but we finally fixed a date once the long summer of vacations, closures, and hectic schedules of the rentrée (the annual September return to Paris) were all finally behind us.

Laurent, who runs Grom gelato in Paris, suggested we meet up at Noglu, a gluten-free restaurant that recently opened in the lovely Passage des Panoramas. As a performance cyclist, he avoids gluten for a variety of reasons. And as fans of food trucks, we invited Kristin, owner of the hugely popular Le Camion qui fume, the first hamburger truck in Paris, along for lunch as well. Like both of the places where they scoop and grill, respectively, the buzz at Noglu was obviously good because when we arrived, they were turning away a steady flow of walk-ins; the news had evidently traveled fast.

Noglu menu gluten-free bread at Noglu restaurant

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Disneyland Paris

Disney castle

I’ve lived in Paris for nearly ten years, which some folks think is a magic kingdom in itself. And although I’ve been to the Louvre, Rungis, the Musée d’Orsay, and the crazy-giant Tati store at Barbès, I’ve not been to Disneyland Paris – until now. I’d been to the one in southern California as a kid, back when Disneyland featured things we never dreamed of even seeing. Although my memory doesn’t go all that far back, things like telephones that didn’t have cords (or dials!) and home computers, (like mine, with a broken iiiiiiiiiiiiii key) were just nuggets in someone’s imagination.

Back then, at Disneyland, IIIIIIIIII was toting an instamatic cameras with 4-sided flashcubes and if you accidentially dropped a gum wrapper, someone was right behind you to sweep it up. And way-back-when, there really were “E tickets”. Now if you say to someone that something is an e-ticket, whereas it used to mean that you were in for an interesting, thrilling, or expensive experience, nowadays it likely means you’re going to be stuck in a grim airport for a few hours.

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