Some of you may be wondering why I’ve slowed down on my blog posts lately. Well, the answer is because I haven’t been cooking as much because I’ve been in VaAaCaTiOn mOoOdE!!!! That’s right! I had been getting ready and looking forward to our upcoming vacations this year. The first one being the Foodie Mecca: Paris! We got back a few days ago, and it was everything the food-lover in me hoped for. I’ll try my hardest to give you the best run-down possible.
We were only staying 5 days in Paris. We originally decided to go because my dad and step-mom were going to France for their big yearly vacation, and my dad offered to put us up while we were there if Matt and I bought our own plane tickets. Sold! I had been to Paris once before and didn’t have that great of an experience. Probably because I was young, broke, exhausted, and staying in a sketchy area of Paris. So I was interested to try again and see if I liked it better.
The short answer is “Yes”. I absolutely loved it. It was a complete 180 from what I had experienced before. The streets were clean, the weather was perfect, and the food was wonderful. This time I actually had money to go out to eat and it made all the difference.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of French food before going there. Even though my heritage is French and I understand the basic philosophy of French cooking, it’s not something that I consider myself super familiar with. Maybe because “French food” is such a broad categorization it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly defines French food. Aside from a few key foods like crepes or croissants I have to take more time to think about a classic French dish, like Steak au Poivre or something. So needless to say this trip was certainly educational, and I feel like I have a better grasp of Parisian cuisine as a whole.
The main things that I was able to pull from the food that I was able to get is that 1.) It uses a lot of heavy ingredients like butter, cream, and cheese 2.) BUT that doesn’t mean it feels “heavy” because portions are smaller and almost always served with a side of fresh greens, and 3.) menus have an “a la carte” feel to them, 4.) and you get baguettes with everything. Just to clarify a little more, almost everything has some sort of dairy in it. The French LOVE their dairy (probably because it’s the best tasting dairy in the whole world), but usually the meal is so much smaller, yet still weirdly filling, that you don’t feel like you’re eating an entire pizza or anything. I think it’ll be clearer when I show the pictures 🙂
Matt and I got to our hotel around 3 PM on our first day. Of course we were starving and I wanted to get a late lunch at a cute little cafe to start our trip off right. Our hotel was in Les Halles which is right in the center of Paris and not far from the Louvre, so I believe that our area was probably pretty touristy and I knew that they probably weren’t the best restaurants, but nevertheless we ducked into one because we were hungry. The restaurant’s name was Au Diable des Lombards. Of course my eye got drawn to the Croque Madame, which is two pieces of bread with ham in the middle, melted cheese on the top, and also a sunny side up egg. Matt of course wanted the steak tartare immediately. So we ordered (in French!) and I got a coffee and he got a margarita.
Surprisingly, it was pretty good! I mean, “touristy” or not, how could you go wrong with an egg on cheesy bread with ham? And Matt enjoyed his steak tartare also, although you can see in the picture that the “add-ins” like the capers and onions were served on the side (I would have preferred them mixed in, but that’s just me). All in all though it was a good start to our day and kept us full for hours.
And we definitely needed the energy, because we walked about 40K steps that day. Mostly getting the touristy stuff out of the way the like Champs Elysees, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower (although I adore the Eiffel Tower). And yes, I popped into Laduree, which is the most famous French macaron spot in Paris. Although I’ve heard it’s not the best, I still had to see inside of course. So yeah, the line was way too long and we walked out, but not before I snapped a pic.
After seeing the Eiffel Tower, Matt and I bought a bottle of wine and sat on a park bench to drink it and watch the light show. Afterwards we had a major case of the drunchies, and we passed a man cooking gyros and kebabs right on the street above the river. Oh my god it smelt so good! Matt got a sandwich of sausage, pepper, and chicken stuffed in a baguette. It was SO much better than the NYC equivalent of cart food (I’m not cheating on you though, halal).
The next good meal we had was the next day for breakfast, after we met up with my sister. We went to Le Marais neighborhood (which was my favorite out of all we saw) and was full of cute cafes and adorable little shops. The narrow cobblestone streets were so quaint and the cafes were ideal for people watching. We chose the cafe Les Philosophes because it had been recommended by several people. It was about 10 AM so the menu was limited to mostly breakfast items like eggs and more Croque Madames, but I was ready to get my French on with some du fromage and croissants. Elise and Matt got scrambled eggs (and yes Matt actually asked for ketchup :-0) which were served with lightly dressed greens and baguettes, and I got the assorted cheese plate and a croissant. Service was pretty slow, but then again most places in Paris had pretty slow service; it’s part of the culture. Elise and Matt got their eggs long before me and I was wondering why, until I saw an employee running around the corner with a huge bag of that days’ croissants and baguettes! I was immediately served afterwards and it was delicious.
The cheese was so interesting! Some were very pungent, some were nutty, and others were very smooth and mellow. I gave Matt a bite of the least smelly of all of them, and he said it was “okay”, but Elise and I really enjoyed it! Smearing a great glob of soft cheese over a soft baguette was pure heaven. And let’s not forget the croissant. Croissants are delicious and buttery enough on their own, but smeared with even more über rich butter it was quite possibly one of the best baked goods i’ve ever had. By the end of my meal I was stuffed, even though I only had one baguette and few ounces of cheese.
I’m not going to talk about our dinner that night because it’s not worth mentioning and I’m still mad at Elise and Matt for making me go. Walking through the beginning of the Latin Quarter there are all these ridiculously touristy restaurants where the hosts literally try and pull you inside and lure you with deals of €19 three-course meals and all that other rubbish. I was like “no way” but they were like “but we’re hungryyyyyyy”. Ugh. And what do you know, it was god awful.
Anyways, the next day we were all nursing extreme hangovers and we had a BALLIN’ brunch at Les Deux Magots. I wasn’t aware that the place was famous, but I saw it had good reviews on Foursquare and was relatively near to the Musée D’Orsay where we were going. And the experience turned out to be wonderful. We sat outside on their sidewalk extension, which was great for people watching as well as watching the other Parisian patrons of the bistro. It was sophisticated yet relaxed, the service was prompt, and the food was delicious. I ordered the Quiche Lorraine, while Elise and Matt ordered themselves some Croque Madames. Man, it was just what we were craving. Again, it was hearty enough to help with our hangovers, but did not make us feel overly full or gross. Light and refreshing dressed greens were a flavorful accompaniment to our egg dishes.
Do you see how orange that egg yolk is? That means those chickens are eating the cleanest food and living the healthiest lives possible. All those ingredients were just so fresh it made ALL the difference. It was one of the most enjoyable meals I had there, for sure.
The next day Matt and I went back into Le Marais neighborhood again to search for a great spot to have brunch, and we found it! It was a restaurant called Benedict, and it was actually very similar to a place we would go in New York for brunch. It was modern and trendy with lots of young people and the alcohol flowing, and the entire Eggs Benedict menu was something that I imagine would be a hit in NYC. The menu was pretty American; Eggs Benedict itself is pretty American, and then it had sides of Mac and Cheese and truffle fries. So no, it wasn’t super “authentic” but it hit the spot and was pretty darn good. I ordered the Cheddar Benedict while Matt had the Reuben Benedict (shocker). The Cheddar Benedict had mushrooms and cheddar cheese, while Matts had pastrami.
Unfortunately, my eggs were a teensy bit undercooked (the whites were still clear and runny) and I HATE that. I’m usually not a picky eater but runny whites are really the only thing that grosses me out. So I had to push the majority of my eggs to the side and eat the big cheese covered pastry at the bottom. And of course we tried to dive into the mac and cheese but it was so heavy we could hardly fit it in! Also, as an American and an avid mac and cheese lover, I have to say I think the Americans can claim the win on Mac and Cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty, but the strong, unusual French cheeses don’t have the same ooey-gooey, comforting effect of good old American cheeses. Also, the macaroni noodles were teeny tiny! It was like eating orzo mac and cheese. These criticisms aside, the meal was very enjoyable and I would recommend it if you’re craving a good American meal while you’re there.
The rest of the day we spent walking around Le Marais and picking up little bites here and there. There was also a market on Rue de Rivoli that we got to check out and where I purchased a few pastries to bring home as souvenirs. The market had everything from fresh seafood to Moroccan food to paella. Aimless wandering and eating along the way is possibly my favorite thing to do in life, and I was literally in heaven.
That night we ate at a Michelin star restaurant, Benoit, with my family. I’m sorry to say I don’t have pictures of the meal, mostly because I felt like la stupide Américaine, snapping food pictures in this gorgeously sophisticated and upscale French restaurant. So just believe me when I say it was awesome, and whew it was pricey (thanks dad…). But we started off with escargot and paté, and I ordered the wild salmon that was served with steamed vegetables and a bernaise sauce. The service was incredible. It’s hard to believe that there are restaurants that have that good of service. The server was polite, calm, and dignified. And there was a separate server just for the wines! They followed the service rules down to a “t” with the rotation for which people get menus, get more wine, ordered, and get served food. In all my years of restaurant experience I still don’t know the “official” rules for the ordering of pouring wine for the table. I must say, it’s so nice and such a treat to be served in such a special and attentive way. Now if only I was rich and could eat like that all the time.
The next day was Matt and my last day. After seeing a few last minute sights, we sat down at Cafe Blanc, which is near the Louvre. Usually that area is all touristy nonsense but I was actually pretty impressed with Cafe Blanc (Matt picked it out). We had a last meal of salmon tartare and vegetable lasagne, and it was a nice finish to our wonderful vacation.
If we’re ever in France again, I’d love to see how the cuisine changes throughout the different geographic regions of France. I also wish I knew Paris well enough to be able to tell which areas to avoid eating and which ones were the best. Hopefully though, if you ever consider visiting Paris you’ll be a little more familiar after reading this post! However I know I barely skimmed the surface of what Paris holds.
Next stop, Italy! Stay tuned.