Recently in France category

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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Philou

Philou

I always want to put Philou in my Paris favorites list. It’s got so much going for it; a friendly staff, it’s just enough out-of-the way that it attracts a good mix of mostly people who live in the neighborhood with others who come from other parts of the city, their menu features game and wild birds when in season, and when I look at the handwritten chalkboard, everything on it looks good. Plus the prices are gentle, at just €25 for a 2-course menu, or €30 if you choose three courses*. It’s what I would like to call an eminently likeable restaurant, but I’m always afraid I’m going to spell ‘likeable’ wrong and get in trouble for it. So let’s just say that it’s the kind of place that I really like.

wine sardines and semoule philou

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Agen

I recently had lunch with someone who’d just moved to Paris. I gave her some places to check out and a few tips about living in her newly adopted city, including navigating some of the ups and downs, and what to do when city life became overwhelming.

paris train station poilane

But shortly after we parted, I realized that I’d forgotten to tell her my most important piece of advice for living in Paris: Whenever you see an available bathroom, use it.

my favorite thing in the world

Another vital piece of advice that I give to folks who arrive in Paris to live is that it’s important to get out of the city and see the rest of the country. Cities are great places but when you visit the smaller cities and towns in France, you see life that hasn’t changed so quickly. Paris is not France, it’s part of it – and there’s a huge, diverse country once you wheel yourself out of the city.

pears and peaches

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