Le Siffleur de Ballons

terrine d'oie

It wouldn’t be the first time, but I almost had an accident on my bike when I was heading to yet another tile store (who knew is was going to be so hard to find plain, white tiles?), and raced past a new place on my list. I had the usual 4 second debate in my head whether I should stop and grab a bite and a glass of wine, before I made the decision to grind myself to a halt and hitch my bike to a signpost.

Fortunately no one else was injured, but let’s just say that I think I need to lower my bike seat a little in case I have to brake unexpectedly in the future. (Well, at least if I ever want to have children, that is.) However I did manage to save the baguette and the croissant in my bike basket, so I think it was a decent trade-off.

basket of wineriz au lait (rice pudding)
Parmesanwine and water glasses

It was actually my third visit to Le Siffleur de Ballons this month. My first was when I was planning to meet my friend Theresa for drinks and a snack and due to an e-mail misunderstanding (you would think someone would have come up with a snappy name for that by now, a mash-up, like ‘spendy’ or ‘bromance’…I tried to come up with something but have other things on my mind at the present) but while I waited for her, I had a few glasses of Cheverny while I balanced myself on one of the metal stools, which I eyed for my new apartment, and talked to the counter woman.

“She’ll be here. Parisians are always late”, she said as she waved away my concern that I would be going solo that night, until I explained that my friend wasn’t Parisian. And although all the food coming out from behind the counter that everyone else was enjoying looked terrific – wooden boards heaped with charcuterie, including slices of chorizo, rosette sausage – which gets its name because the tightly wadded ends resemble the backside of a pig, or the, um, rosette – and a meaty terrine accompanied with baskets of baguette slices, as well as les croques chauds, and happily nibbling on sandwiches grilled in a press, served toasty and warm. But after my two glasses of wine, on an empty stomach, I decided to saddle up and head back home.

chorizoJars at Le Siffleur de Ballons
baguetteswine list at Le Siffleur de Ballons

Cue forward to me and my friend having a good laugh and each blaming ourselves (which isn’t very Parisian either..) for the misunderstanding and making a definitive date, and including a date for confirming the new date as well.

So when the date at long-last arrived, we were both happy – and a little surprised – to see that each of us had actually made it, and we immediately scanned the wines on the chalkboard to decide what to drink. Most of them being vins naturels, I was really looking forward to trying a few. We went vegetarian and were happy to dip our crusts of bread in the sauce surrounding the potatoes roasted with bleu d’Auvergne cheese, and our sandwich, although I didn’t get to sample the sausages. But we certainly didn’t leave hungry, and it gave me an excuse to go back.

lomole Siffleur de ballons
salted butter caramel sauceDolin vermouth

There were lots of great things in the épicerie adjacent to the wine bar; salted butter caramel sauce, mackerel filets packed in olive oil and sardines de Saint Gur (I have no idea where that is — heck, I can’t even find plain white tiles. But those sardines looked really good, wherever they were caught…), a few good French chocolates, and beautiful jars of Terrine d’oie aux cèpes (goose and mushroom). Bottles of wine, of course, took up a good amount of the shelf space and like some of the wine bars in Paris, you can pick something from the shelf and they’ll serve it to you.

I was pretty surprised to find Dolin French vermouth, which I’d read about because of the cocktail craze in America, but have never seen in France. And even though it was invented not far from the border, I’ve never seen anyone drinking vermouth in France. Well, except in the martini I had for my birthday last month, although I had to explain to the waiter what a martini was, even though the place was a hip cocktail bar. Fortunately I sidestepped the server and the bartender fixed me up.

Le Siffleur de Ballons
apple crumble

They told me at Le Siffleur de Ballons that they finally just got in a case, so I guess it really is as hard to find as plain white tiles. And speaking of which, it was time to get back on my bike and continue my search. But for now, this is one place that is firmly on my radar, and next time I whiz by on my bike, I hope it’s during mealtime so I can pull up to the bar again for a glass of wine – and something to eat, either with a friend, or without.

Le Siffleur de Ballons
34, rue de Citeaux (12th)
Tél: 01 58 51 14 04

Other Paris Wine Bars & Restaurants


Frenchie Wine Bar

Le Baron Rouge

Ô Chateau

Le Rubis

Le Verre Volé

Les Fines Gueules



Le Garde Robe

red wine

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  • Phil
    January 19, 2012 8:53am

    I sympathize with your renovation blues; I had similar “why the hell don’t they have…” problems while redoing a bedroom in Poitiers.
    I didn’t read your sink post early enough to be able to comment, but having worked in bâtiment, a lavabo is a bathroom sink with naked pipes underneath, a vasque is a bathroom sink built into the top of a cupboard.

  • January 19, 2012 9:01am

    Any building project can be a pain trying to find all the bits that fit the image in your head. Then one day it will all come together and you’ll be taking photos of the finished product with great pride. If your apartment looks anything like your food, it will be fantastic!

    • January 19, 2012 9:19am
      David Lebovitz

      It will all eventually come together (well, I hope…), it’s just very time-consuming trying to find all the elements and I’m spending three weeks looking for “ordinary” things, like towel bars and plain white tiles, which shouldn’t be all that hard to find.

      But a lot of stuff seems to have useless embellishments and design elements on them, and many things are made cheaply or are made of plastic and I know from experience (and being a professional cook), that better-made things last a lot longer and invariably usually worth it in the long-run. It’s just that you really need to search. And search. And search…

  • Shannon
    January 19, 2012 1:56pm

    Huge alcoholic. Mainly Manhattans (and wine). Arrived in Paris and barely avoided a good wrist slitting after searching without success for vermouth (really wanted Carpano Antica, having never heard of Dolin, but finally would have been grateful for Martini & Rossi which I did try, only to discover, it’s different here. Why is that?). I finally happened into Lavinia on Blvd de la Madeleine. There it was. Dolin. Readily available. I wept (once I bought it, tasted it and realized that unlike Martini & Rossi, it really was vermouth as I know it. Yummy vermouth too!).

  • Kathy
    January 19, 2012 2:06pm

    Hi David…I know it is frustrating to find exactly what you want, even though it may seem the most obvious thing. If you were in the US, you would know exactly where to look, but here in France the logic is not always the same. You will find what you want eventually. It was always so funny that when I would describe to a workman what I wanted (windows that open, e.g.), the response would be “Ah! c’est pratique ça!” and I wanted to say…”Of course it is!! Why don’t have it?” Here in the center of the country, it seems that kitchens are some kind of afterthought….like bathrooms. They seem to put them in closet-like spaces…..mais bon!

  • Cindy
    January 19, 2012 2:22pm

    Trust me, it’s not always easy to find things for rennovation in the US!!! Towel bars are the stuff of nightmares. The internet reviews are a wonderful thing. Brand name towel bars, supposedly stainless steel, that rust??? Who would know? Really nice-looking ones for . . . over 200 dollars each??? And I’ll bet you can get a nice-looking laundry sink in Paris. I don’t think such a thing exists in the US. Yes, it’s great to run to Lowes and get one with all the hardware, ready to install, for a hundred bucks. It works but U-G-L-Y.

  • January 19, 2012 3:24pm
    David Lebovitz

    Shannon: It’s very hard to find those apéritifs and liqueurs here because people just don’t drink them anymore. They’re more used nowadays, I image, in cocktail bars in the states and so forth. But there are stores now that specialize in liquors appropriate for cocktails in Paris. I like Lavinia but I once went there for Marsala which I use in cooking, and no one knew what it was – and they have 5000 kinds of wine. They did try to sell me Madiera, which I had to explain wasn’t quite the same thing.

    Kathy: A French friend’s father suggested that I put the kitchen in the windowless cave, in the basement. Which baffled me until Romain explained that to a lot of people, the kitchen is a private area (like bedrooms) and aren’t meant to be public or shared spaces. Plus traditionally in Paris, the kitchen was separate (if you had the room), likely for the domestique or because people aren’t so keen on cooking smells in Paris. But that’s changing and lofts and cuisines américains (open kitchens) are becoming more popular.

  • Maureen
    January 19, 2012 4:01pm

    When we lived abroad (granted, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Kenya and not France), we adopted the tactic of “not-looking” when we wanted something. We carried a list of the things we wanted for whatever project (e.g. real wool yarn for knitting in a country overrun by sheep and alpacas or good mushrooms) in our wallets and would pounce on it whenever we found it, instead of purposely hunting for it. So, I feel your pain. Maybe it is like romance, where the less you look the more likely you are to find?

  • Jen L.
    January 19, 2012 4:20pm

    Love your stories of life in Paris!

    If it helps, I nearly pitched myself off the front of a bike once, and ever after I have only used the back brakes. Lowering your seat below where it should be will make your biking less efficient and more physically taxing.

  • Sharon T
    January 19, 2012 6:10pm

    Congratulations on your new place and best of luck with the renovation! I just finished my kitchen and it was totally worth all the hassle. Le Siffleur looks lovely and I’m glad you didn’t seriously injure yourself. Thanks for the post!

  • suedoise
    January 19, 2012 6:11pm

    Le Siffleur de Ballons has a great deal of products from that gorgeous region of .
    Ardèche judging from the list of its épicerie.
    Let alone an extraordinary variety of mousse de l´ail ( crushed garlic)
    Warmly recommend taking the TGV train from Paris to Montélimar where you rent a car and drive straight into Ardèche. It is absolutely magic. Undiscovered.
    Great little hotels with fantastic food reasonable prices and here and there breathtaking scenery. Fine small wine cooperatives. A rare pleasure

  • January 19, 2012 6:15pm

    Your trade-offs look very delish like that riz au lait top right…
    I don’t know how you managed to just drink and not eat surrounded by these delectibles.
    preoccupation with tiles must be thinning..
    I must focus on white tiles!!

  • Sam
    January 19, 2012 6:43pm

    Zounds. I’ll probably bump into you. That’s becoming a neighbourhood stop for me as well. Now I just don’t have to douse myself at the Baron Rouge anymore. Isn’t the 11th just becoming so much fun! Between Rino, Septime, Le Siffleur… so much has happened. And, if you’re need of a fancy schmancy cocktail, the guy at the Red House (1 bis rue forge royale), does all sorts of nutty things. He’s from Texas, makes Sazeracs and all sorts of other good things.

  • January 19, 2012 6:50pm

    I was expecting a mishap on your ride home after a few glasses of something divine. maybe by then you were riding in a more sedate fashion. Reading through your comments I thought that i would add that I am actually building a cave in my basement this winter. Not as a kitchen though more to age the cheeses and storage for the farm honey, wine and preserves, vinegars… It will be all barn timber and I am already more in love with it that my own sunny kitchen off the verandah! We will call it the cave though, as a dear french friend of mine suggested. So in the absence of gorgeous bars like the above, I shall retire to my Cave.. c

  • Joshua
    January 19, 2012 6:51pm

    David, you were so close. In case you haven’t found your plain white tiles, we are in the 12th. So stop by. 12 – 14 rue Saint Nicolas. It would be great to meet you….and I will give you a good deal. Pastry for tiles…..

  • January 19, 2012 6:58pm

    Want me to load a suitcase up with plain white tiles for when I come to Paris in three weeks? Probably would weigh the same as my luggage for clothes :)

  • Norine
    January 19, 2012 7:17pm

    Thanks again for my morning chuckle. You know women make that final choice of croissants over children around age 40… Will any of your favorite local restaurants tell you the source of their commercial products? They do use white tiles and decent stainless in them? Your boundless energy astounds me. Blogging, bicycling and remodeling, oh my.

  • Susan Marcus
    January 19, 2012 8:03pm

    just wish to note that my favorite apero (first encountered in the 80’s in Paris) is Martini Rouge straight up with a twist. Whenever I request it in Paris, the server knows what it is and has plenty.

  • January 19, 2012 8:46pm

    3 things: 1) Blaming yourselves which isn’t very parisien – that made me laugh out loud. I remember a French student (well…English student, who is French) expressing her confusion over why she should apologize for an error which was not technically her fault. The very suggestion of saying simply, “I apologize for the situation you are in as a result of delayed delivery” was mind-boggling to her. Perhaps it just isn’t very “French”. ;) 2) We recently moved into a place that needed to replace two grey kitchen tiles. We could ONLY find white tiles. Isn’t that just the way things go? and 3) Those individual apple crumbles look to die for!

  • AnnaZed
    January 19, 2012 8:47pm

    As a cycling professional I can tell you that (depending on what style of bike you have) generally your saddle should be parallel with your handlebars, but for city riding it is ok to adjust to somewhat below as long as you aren’t bending your legs too much. You should be in a soft flex at the farthest extension of your leg (pedal down). You could post a pic of your bike. I would like to see that. Ride safe, have fun!

  • AnnaZed
    January 19, 2012 8:49pm

    Still worried about your bike and wondering if you are on the right size, given that you are a tall person. Hummm … Jen L is right. Could you check on that? Also, wear a helmet!

  • January 19, 2012 8:59pm

    My friend Marsha (Paris Style) and I have been friends for ever. Our husbands worked together years ago. Marsha makes THE best fudge at Christmas time you’ve ever tasted. My husband rode his bike to work (night shift) Marsha sent in a batch of fudge with her husband…..and my husband rode home (in the dark) on his bike….holding the fudge up with one hand….the other on the handle bar. He hit something and took a terrible tumble off his bike….had scratches and bruises every where……BUT STILL HELD THE FUDGE PLATE IN HIS HAND. My hero!

  • jay
    January 19, 2012 10:00pm

    David, you won’t remember meeting me eons ago at Sur La Table while teaching one of your fabulous classes, but I love your e-letters, books, and your personality. Having moved to Seattle from Paris, which I still bemoan, I understand your frustrations. Try to stop at a building site and ask one of the ‘supers’ for a tile recommendation.
    Could you possibly duplicate that wonderful rice pudding at Siffleur des Ballons?
    p.s. Am moving to Montevideo in March – want to know what it’s like?

  • Jenny
    January 19, 2012 11:48pm

    When we lived in France and needed a place for home improvement supplies we frequented a DIY hardware/decor store called Castorama. It is a chain with stores throughout France. http://www.castorama.fr/store/

  • January 20, 2012 2:08am


    Dear David,

    Check out the tiles made by Rairies Montrieux. I’ve came across some of their old-fashioned, glazed earth tiles, and they looked just fabulous – amazing materials with a human feel. Otherwise there is a place called Sacaro in the 13th arrondissement (my dad got all his white tiles from there – these are just plain simple, 15×15 cm)

    Good luck with renovation! Z

  • January 20, 2012 6:12am

    Oh heaven…I’m ready to move to France.

  • January 20, 2012 3:42pm

    hi, Do you know where can I check the recipe this rice pudding? http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidlebovitz/6720061615/
    image is from this article…

    There’s a recipe for it in my book, Ready for Dessert. -dl

  • January 20, 2012 8:20pm

    Beautiful pictures. What’s distinguishes this type of vermouth? Been using Rivata lately for Manhattans.

  • Joan
    January 20, 2012 9:57pm

    Regarding the tiles, another place to check is Promo’ Carreau (86 bvd Richard Lenoir).

    It’s a small shop with mostly basic tiles – not all the trendy colors and designs. That’s where I found some perfectly simple white ones as well as a classic b&w mosiac tile for the WC floor. The (very!) young guys who work at Promo’ Carreau are sweet and helpful … almost as hard to find in Paris as plain white tiles. Their prices are reasonable too.

    Good luck with les travaux.

    • January 21, 2012 1:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      That is a good place and they’re really nice. Because it’s “Fin de series”, there’s not much of a selection – and the prices really aren’t much cheaper than other places, but I like what they have. I just discovered CMR (46, rue Berger) near Les Halles, which has a great selection and the clerks are great. The prices are moderate, too.

  • January 20, 2012 11:47pm

    We moved just one month ago in our new home, just … 1 year after visiting it for the first time. 6 months to buy. 6 months for renovation. I know how you feel !
    I guess you already tried the BHV carrelage, and Surface (in the 7eme, good thing is it’s very close to the patisserie des reves!). We went a little further from Paris, the shop is called boursier, in sannois, but we are very happy with our choice. Good luck!

  • January 21, 2012 3:09am

    wow, look at that place. look at that CHEESE! i am jealous. thanks for sharing it.

  • Renee Nozaki
    January 21, 2012 8:55am

    Hi David! Greetings from California! I recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading it as well as drooling over your beautiful photos. I read your “Food Photography Gear” article and wondered if you have since upgraded your camera and to what? Thanks!

    • January 21, 2012 1:23pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I have the same gear listed in that post. I do update that post as I update what I use.

  • megan
    January 21, 2012 7:23pm

    David Lebovitz, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for so long, and this post is yet another example of what I love about your blog. I so appreciate/love/admire what you do here. You cook yummy things, you are a wonderful storyteller, and you are an excellent resource for what is good in your beautiful city. Best of all, you have taste!!! Next time I go to Paris, you will be my tour guide (and you don’t even have to show up)! I would love to provide such an important service for the food loving people of my, much smaller, city.
    Carry on!

  • Sarah
    January 22, 2012 2:46am

    My favorite story ever is about the shop in a small town in northern Scotland. When I asked the shopkeeper why he had no white candles, he proceeded to lecture me that he could not keep white candles in the store, they sold out much too quickly. It wasn’t worth his time to even try to stock them. I have laughed about that for years. Perhaps there is a similar problem in Paris.

  • January 23, 2012 12:34pm

    Hey there. I’m in Paris – or rather Montmartre – until March 1st. Would love to meet you. There’s a great little restaurant around the corner – SW French cooking – I could introduce you to, except that it’s only open in the evenings.
    Send me an e-mail and I’ll give you the phone number.

  • liz
    January 25, 2012 7:11am

    i don’t know if they are the same, but the pretty little stacked glasses in your first photo quad look like some i got here in the states at costco, of all places. the box i got had six of the small, six medium, and six large, all for $25. they are called duralex picardie tempered glass and made in france.