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.
Recently in Paris category
We’ve completely revamped and rebuilt the Paris Pastry app, starting with adding updates and the latest information about Paris pastry shops and updating my favorite addresses. But we’ve also rebuilt the app from the ground up, including a scrollable, enhanced French pastry glossary and dynamic maps searchable with a tap, to find the pastry shop nearest to wherever you are in Paris!
To celebrate the re-release, it’s being offered at a special price for $3.99 for a limited-time. Once you download the app, all future updates are free. If you already have the app, simply update it now and the new version with all the updates will be downloaded for free.
To use the app, open up the home page and you’ll find categories for everything, from delicious scoops of ice cream to where to find the best hot chocolate. There’s also an introduction by me about Paris pastries, as well as a glossary of terms you might come across in a bakery or chocolate shop. If you’re looking for a quick “Best of Paris” overview, check out my Top 25 Places in Paris for Pastry.
I first met Jacques Genin a number of years ago when he was (somewhat famously) working out of a battered storefront, on an uninteresting street deep in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.
I say “famously” because as he became quite a bit better known, many folks learning about him through Mort Rosenblum’s book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark. And subsequently, people started gathering outside his workshop door with the one-way mirror, which allowed him to decide whether he wanted to open the door or not. I think I was too timid to give it a try on my first go-around and after pacing at the end of the block for a while, I ended up leaving.
If nothing else, longevity has its rewards and eventually I made it past that mirrored door and into his workshop. It was rather tight in there, to say the least. In order for someone to walk past you, you had to back up and get out of the way while someone held a tray of just-dipped chocolates high in the air, sidestepping someone else walking the other way with a tray of hot nougat.
Like New Yorkers, Parisians swear they would never live anywhere else. But once the summer – or the weekend – rolls around, everyone can’t wait to make a sortie toward the nearest exit.
After fighting the usual traffic to get out of the périphérique, we took an exit and were shortly in the countryside, where the skies are big and clear, you’re surround by wheat fields and rows of sugar beets, and you can feel yourself unwinding as soon as you roll down your window and catch a whiff of the fresh air.
We wanted to extract every last bit from summer, before the fall weather kicked in. And figured it was our last chance to put on casual garb, sit around while watching the leaves getting ready to drop, and to catch up on some reading. And, of course, eat.
One of the great things about living in Paris is that it’s a pretty good city for bicycling. It’s relatively flat, the city has installed a network of bike paths, many one-way streets have been accommodated with a special lane off to the side for bicyclist going the other way (provided you don’t mind the terror of seeing a car coming at you full-speed, head on), and in spite of what’s between those previous parentheses, Parisians actually respect bicyclists. Even though pedestrians n’existe pas, I think that comes from the fact that a lot of drivers are actually cyclists themselves, or were in the past.
But unlike America, where people like to do things like see how close they can sideswipe cyclists, just for fun (often with a “Hey, the road is for cars!” – before speeding off, chuckling at how clever they are), bicycles are just a natural part of the streets and roads in Paris. One does need to be careful, though, because people in Paris drive like they walk, and there doesn’t always seem to be much sense of order to it and spatial relationships are…well, sometimes those n’existe pas as well.
One of the things I absolutely insisted on in my kitchen was a huge sink. Since I spend roughly 11 to 18% of my day standing over it, considering some women spend a fortunes on tall shoes, and there are men who spend a lot of money on fancy, oversized watches – and vice versa – I thought I was entitled to a big sink. However finding one was a whole ‘nother story. Long gone are the days of “French farmhouse sinks” and any that you are likely to find are either still firmly installed in French farmhouses – and aren’t for sale – or the ones that are for sale are only available in America and England.
I didn’t think it would be so hard to find a big, simple, white sink of generous proportions, but it took me two months of searching and walking past sinks with decorative curls and swoops carved into them, which are marvelous places for gunk to collect. And perhaps to hide any bits and crumbs, there were no shortage of sinks in colors like aubergine (eggplant) or citron vert (lime green), or with basins so tiny that they would barely hold a regular-sized dinner plate. I finally tracked down the one company in France that makes the one large sink that is sold here. And, as is often the case, there was a rupture de stock and no one seemed to know when they’d be available again.
My new refrigerator has an ice maker. After living in Paris for close to ten years, I’ve kind of gotten used to not having ice-on-demand. And when out and about, I’m now used to being served drinks with just one puny ice-cube bobbing sadly on the surface of a tepid drink. So now, when I go back to the states, I’m always a little overwhelmed by the oversized glasses filled to the brim with brisk, frosty, cracklin’ ice cubes. Because I’ve rounded the corner of converting to some of the European habits (although the 5hr cycle on my dishwasher still baffles me – what the heck is going on in there?) I sometimes have to slip into that “Can I have water with no ice, please?” mode, which pegs me squarely in the minds of American waitpeople as one of “those” customers.
But the glacial movement that’s spread across North America doesn’t seem to be reserved just for France; it seems that there is a European conspiracy against the chilly beasts. One I got used to no ice, I really stopped giving ice much thought. But when visitors come, they would always want me to ask the café waiter for some extra ice for their drinks. Then the glass of ice arrives, with a long spoon, which they shovel into their drinks, scraping the bottom of the glass so as not to miss one single drop of the still-cold water.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I rarely go over to the Saint Germain des Près area much. I know, it’s a popular destination for many, but if I head over there, it’s usually for one thing, and one thing only: Chocolate.
Most of the chocolatiers are clustered over there because, well, if you can afford to live over there, that’s where most of the folks are who buy boxes of chocolate. Well, except me. So I make the trek over there to get my licks in, and say hi to the folks who haven’t seen me in a while.
One such person is Jean-Charles Rochoux, whose chocolates are at the top of my list in Paris. He has just one shop, not an enterprise, and is one of the few people who makes his chocolates in Paris; real estate prices make it hard for people to set up candymaking operations. So every day, Monsieur Rochoux gets started in his basement workshop, and every few months, I go over there and see what’s new.