May issue, Budget Travel magazine — When I left Paris to live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area at the height of the Internet euphoria, there were some things that I expected—sunshine, freeways, a cool job in a start-up company—and some that I didn’t. Among the latter was that I’d develop a passionate interest in food and cooking, discovering at age 21 how much fun could be had in the kitchen and how much pleasure at the table.
It was also from this new perspective, one continent and one ocean away, that I really saw the beauty, charm, and wealth of my birth city, which had all but eluded me when they were my daily bread.
I came home after two years in California, and my love for Paris and gastronomy only burned brighter as I settled in again with intense happiness, hungrily catching up with the City of Light (and Good Food), this time with fresh eyes and alert taste buds. This passion prompted me to create a food blog, Chocolate & Zucchini (chocolateandzucchini.com), where I could share my culinary joys with like-minded readers.
I enjoy nothing more than spreading the word about the gems I find, recommending them excitedly and relishing the description of this shop or that restaurant. Of course, there’s always a measure of risk in directing someone to go somewhere. When they come back to tell me about it I always get a flutter in my stomach (did they like it?), usually replaced by a sweet tide of relief (the food was fabulous and the service super-kind).
What follows is a reflection of my Paris, the one I love so dearly. I can only hope you’ll make it yours.
One of my greatest pleasures is to walk around with no particular purpose, breezing into shops, exploring little streets, and going just a step farther to see what’s beyond the next corner. A welcome side effect of all this walking is that you build up quite an appetite, and it is of utmost importance to know where to stop for a quick and tasty lunch.
Cojean is the epitome of hip and healthy fast food in Paris. The tempting menu at the six Paris locations features the three S’s (sandwiches, salads, and soups) and changes seasonally, to focus on the freshest products. The toasted veggie and provolone sandwich ($7.75) is bound to win you over.
Rose Bakery is owned by an English/French couple, and it offers fabulous salads, cute square quiches, and quality goods from the U.K., including sumptuous cheese. It’s enough to make you change your mind about British food. This is the ideal spot for tea and a dessert; I say try the sticky toffee pudding ($5).
While you’re shopping at Le Bon Marché department store, take a look at Delicabar and its bubblegum interior design on the second floor. The creative menu features savory twists on standard French patisseries (vegetable mille-feuilles with salad, $16) and hard-to-resist pastries.
The concept of brunch has taken off here only in recent years. The first to get it right was Le Pain Quotidien . At wooden communal tables, barely awake Parisians are served café au lait, soft-boiled eggs, cheese, and charcuterie (from $25.50). Large trays carry the signature chocolate and praline spreads, to be sampled on artisanal bread. More upscale, A Priori Thé is nested in the Galerie Vivienne, one of the 19th-century shopping passages that drill through whole blocks. This salon de thé, or tea salon, serves a weekend brunch of warm sandwiches, egg dishes, and fruit tarts (from $30). Sit at the indoor terrace and bask in the sunlight shining through the glass arcade.
Although frequented mostly during the day, R’Aliment is where I go for dinner with the girls. The menu leans toward organic products and always offers at least one vegetarian option. I recently delighted in a beet and lime soup ($8) followed by a mushroom and chestnut tart ($15.75).
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La Cave de l’Os à Moëlle started out as an annex to L’Os à Moëlle, across the street, but the wine bar has surpassed the restaurant in popularity. Pick a bottle from the wall compartments and sit with other diners to share a family-style meal of delicious country food. It’s as close to an all-you-can-eat buffet as Parisian style will allow and one of the best deals around ($26.25).
If you haven’t yet explored the Butte-aux-Cailles and its quiet hilltop streets, Café Fusion is the perfect excuse. The bright, modern bistro serves French classics side by side with Asian or Mediterranean dishes—and the beef tartare ($15.75) cohabits beautifully with the salmon grilled in a banana leaf ($14.50). It also boasts an exquisite terrace for warm summer nights.
Almost a century after Henri Androuët opened his first cheese shop, his name is emblazoned on some 10 fromageries and, more recently, two casual restaurants named Androuët Sur le Pouce (eating on the run—literally, on the thumb). In addition to marvelous tartines (from $13.75), these cheese bars serve tasting platters (also from $13.75). At dinner, it’s quieter, and the knowledgeable staff is more available.
Bistros and gastronomy have been a happy couple for more than a decade, and a new adjective—bistronomique—has been coined for restaurants offering expert dishes in a casual atmosphere at a reasonable price. Among the newer ones, perhaps the most interesting is L’Ourcine, joining L’Avant-Goût in the oft-neglected 13th arrondissement. Other favorites are Bistro Vivienne and the bustling Velly.
If you’re willing to climb a notch on the gastronomical (and price) scale, I recommend the authentic Aux Lyonnais, for its brilliant take on Lyon specialties, and Chez Jean, for the creative simplicity of its dishes and its warm ambience.
- Cojean 6 rue de Sèze, 9th arr., 011-33/1-40-06-08-80
- Boulangépicier 73 bd de Courcelles, 8th arr., 011-33/1-46-22-20-20
- Les Vivres 28 rue Pétrelle, 9th arr., 011-33/1-42-80-26-10, lamb $18
- Rose Bakery 46 rue des Martyrs, 9th arr., 011-33/1-42-82-12-80
- Delicabar 26-38 rue de Sèvres, 7th arr., 011-33/1-42-22-10-12
- Le Pain Quotidien 18 place du Marché St-Honoré, 1st arr., 011-33/1-42-96-31-70
- A Priori Thé 35-37 Galerie Vivienne, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-42-97-48-75
- R’Aliment 57 rue Charlot, 3rd arr., 011-33/1-48-04-88-28
- La Cave de l’Os à Moëlle 181 rue de Lourmel, 15th arr., 011-33/1-45-57-28-28
- Café Fusion 12 rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles, 13th arr., 011-33/1-45-80-12-02
- Androuët sur le Pouce 49 rue St-Roch, 1st arr., 011-33/1-42-97-57-39
- L’Ourcine 92 rue Broca, 13th arr., 011-33/1-47-07-13-65, prix fixe $37
- L’Avant-Goût 26 rue Bobillot, 13th arr., 011-33/1-53-80-24-00, prix fixe $41
- Bistro Vivienne 4 rue des Petits Champs, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-49-27-00-50, veal blanquette $20
- Velly 52 rue Lamartine, 9th arr., 011-33/1-48-78-60-05, prix fixe $41
- Aux Lyonnais 32 rue St-Marc, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-42-96-65-04, prix fixe $37
- Chez Jean 8 rue St-Lazare, 9th arr., 011-33/1-48-78-62-73, prix fixe $45
If the idea of purchasing professional-quality pots and pans sends your heart aflutter, an expedition to Les Halles is in order. It was historically Paris’s main food market (before it was moved to the outskirts in 1969), and a few age-old stores remain, selling cooking gear at reasonable prices to professionals and amateurs alike. The renowned E. Dehillerin is a must, but so are A. Simon, a block away (the restaurant tableware is simple and affordable) and Mora, selling more baking tools than you and I will ever know how to use. Everyone needs a chocolate-dipping fork, no?
Once your kitchen is fully re-equipped, hop to the nearby G. Detou for supplies. The small shop, which my grandmother recommended to me, has shelves upon shelves of bargain-priced cooking ingredients in bulk (nuts, chocolate, spices— some impossible to find anywhere else) and a number of gourmet items (jams, condiments, and did I mention chocolate?) that make great gifts for the foodies you love—including yourself.
For more of these fine products (and a few more euros), the two temples for the fancy-food hunter are Lafayette Gourmet and La Grande Epicerie de Paris, which carry a dizzying array of the latest in fine- food fashions. If you prefer small stores with someone to advise you, check out the spices and exotic products at Izrael in the Marais and Le Comptoir Colonial in Montmartre.
Open-air markets are certainly the most uplifting and fun places for food shopping. Saturday mornings often find me walking happily around the organic Marché des Batignolles, filling my basket with lush and uncommon fruits and veggies, not to mention terrific cheeses. It’s in the 17th arrondissement, on the Boulevard des Batignolles, outside the Métro Rome. Just one district to the east, but on the opposite end of the social spectrum, the super-crowded Marché de Barbès is held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings (on Boulevard de la Chapelle, outside the Métro Barbès). Elbow through the colorful throngs and buy produce for a steal. You can even haggle if you’re so inclined.
The roundup of my favorite food shops wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention chocolate. I’d need countless pages to cover this subject, but let me share three current favorites: Jadis et Gourmande, for the tresse, a specialty chocolate with nuts and candied orange peel ($7 for 22 ounces); Cacao et Chocolat, for the hot chocolate bar, pastries, and Impériale line of ganaches ($9.75 for 22 ounces); and L’Atelier du Chocolat de Bayonne, for the rippled sheets of chocolate sold in pretty bouquets ($14.50 for 7.75 ounces).
Of course, once you’ve welcomed all those goodies into your home, you’ll need the proper accessories to present them. Head to Habitat for classy and modern tableware, then to Sentou Galerie for a look at the latest trends and designer items. If you yearn for previously loved country-house plates and bowls instead, L’Objet qui Parle, a tiny attic of a shop on rue des Martyrs, will be just your thing. And for a change of pace, consider the beautiful African tableware at L’Arbre du Voyageur . The handmade dishes and cutlery, as well as a wealth of other decorative objects, jewelry, and food products, were purchased under fair trade conditions directly from the artisans.
There’s no such thing as too many cookbooks—just too little shelf space. Located on the up-and-coming rue Charlot, a gallery and bookstore called Food carries a smart selection of titles in French, English, and Japanese. Didn’t think a whole recipe book could be written about vegetable peelings? Think again!
- E. Dehillerin 18 rue Coquillière, 1st arr., 011-33/1-42-36-53-13
- Simon 48 rue Montmartre, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-42-33-71-65
- Mora 13 rue Montmartre, 1st arr., 011-33/1-45-08-19-24
- G. Detou 58 rue Tiquetonne, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-42-36-54-67
- Lafayette Gourmet 48 bd Haussmann, 9th arr., 011-33/1-40-23-52-25
- La Grande Epicerie 38 rue de Sèvres, 7th arr., 011-33/1-44-39-81-00
- Izrael 30 rue François Miron, 4th arr., 011-33/1-42-72-66-23
- Le Comptoir Colonial 22 rue Lepic, 18th arr., 011-33/1-42-58-44-84
- Le Palais des Thés 64 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd arr., 011-33/1-48-87-80-60
- Les Abeilles 21 rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles, 13th arr., 011-33/1-45-81-43-48
- Jadis et Gourmande 27 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8th arr., 011-33/1-42-65-23-23
- Cacao et Chocolat 36 rue Vieille du Temple, 4th arr., 011-33/1-42-71-50-06
- L’Atelier du Chocolat de Bayonne 109 rue St-Lazare, 9th arr., 011-33/1-40-16-09-13
- Habitat 10 place de la République, 11th arr., 011-33/1-48-07-13-14
- Sentou Galerie 24 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 4th arr., 011-33/1-42-71-00-01
- L’Objet qui Parle 86 rue des Martyrs, 18th arr., 011-33/6-09-67-05-30
- L’Arbre du Voyageur 32 rue de l’Espérance, 13th arr., 011-33/1-53-80-16-10
- Food 58 rue Charlot, 3rd arr., 011-33/1-42-72-68-97
If you’re at all like me, you’re much happier if there’s a food aspect to the things you do and the places you visit. Luckily, a number of cultural establishments in Paris have made sure to feed your stomach as well as your mind.
The Musée Jacquemart-André is a luxurious 19th-century mansion that presents the art collection of its former owners. The dining room is now a salon de thé, serving tea, lunch, and pastries. At the Palais de Tokyo, the controversial contemporary arts center, the Tokyo Eat restaurant and its postmodern decor is as much a part of the experience as the edgy gift shop and the art itself.
The Théâtre Edouard VII kindly solves the dilemma of whether to eat before or after a play. The owner’s wife, a best-selling cookbook author, recently opened Café Guitry inside the theater. Her cooking (featuring specialties like lamb tajine with prunes and grilled almonds, or lemon and rosemary roasted chicken) is so good that people eat there even when they’re not staying for the performance.
Selling food and drinks inside a movie theater isn’t unusual, but no one does it with as much style as Studio 28 in Montmartre. This tiny cinema (just one auditorium, decorated by Jean Cocteau no less) has a small bar that serves refreshments—soft drinks, cocktails, and tarts—that you can enjoy in the winter garden.
The Opéra Bastille has launched a series of events that it calls Casse-Croûte à l’Opéra (a snack at the opera). Every Thursday at lunchtime, stop in and listen to a concert by the orchestra or a talk/debate with an opera professional, and perhaps enjoy a light lunch from the bar. Entrance is free; the cost of a sandwich, drink, and dessert is about $9.25.
The mix of food and art naturally leads us to Galerie Fraîch’Attitude, which specializes in “Eat Art,” art that uses food as its inspiration, subject, or material. Some of the exhibitions are actually edible and are meant to disappear into visitors’ stomachs, to be re-created the next day.
Paris is rediscovering a pleasure in cooking, prompting the creation of a number of classes that adopt a modern approach: The goal is to give you the basics so you can have fun in your kitchen and entertain without stress. Fred Chesneau, founder of L’Atelier de Fred, teaches small groups of up to six in a darling neo-rococo kitchen. The Bergerault brothers at L’Atelier des Chefs do it on a larger scale in a lofty glass-roof workshop, complete with bookstore and boutique. In both cases, you cook your meal and eat it, too.
If it’s wine you’d like to learn about, Lavinia has a free tasting every Saturday and gives tasting classes for all levels. (Prices range from $38 to $177.) At Legrand Filles et Fils, a wine store constructed in 1880, you can sign up for a series of courses or attend a single session to discover one region or producer. (All classes will work to accommodate English-speaking students upon request.)
Le Fooding is a Parisian movement that promotes new ways to eat, cook, and even think about food (lefooding.com). Events are either free or very inexpensive and involve the hottest chefs and the trendiest locations: wandering wine tastings with nibbles, market stands serving delectable soups, giant picnics on the banks of the Seine.
Paris is also home to a number of food shows, unique opportunities to meet producers, taste products, and possibly bring something home. The Salon Saveurs (held in May and December) showcases a great array of artisanal foods, while independent French vintners present their wines at the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants (held in April and November). As for the Salon du Chocolat (in October), it is a chocoholic’s dream come true.
- Musée Jacquemart-André 158 bd Haussmann, 8th arr., 011-33/1-45-62-11-59, musee-jacquemart-andre.com, admission $12, lunch $19
- Palais de Tokyo 13 av du Président Wilson, 16th arr., 011-33/1-47-23-38-86, palaisdetokyo.com, exhibit admission $8, sea bream $23
- Théâtre Edouard VII 10 place Edouard VII, 9th arr., tickets 011-33/1-47-42-59-92; Café Guitry, 011-33/1-40-07-00-77, theatreedouard7.com, lamb tajine $26
- Studio 28 10 rue Tholozé, 18th arr., 011-33/1-46-06-36-07, cinemastudio28.com, tart $9.25
- Opéra Bastille 120 rue de Lyon, 12th arr., 011-33/1-72-29-35-35, operadeparis.fr
- Galerie Fraîch’Attitude 60 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 10th arr., 011-33/1-49-49-15-15, fraichattitude.com
- L’Atelier de Fred 6 rue des Vertus, 3rd arr., 011-33/1-40-29-46-04, latelierdefred.com, two-hour classes $79
- L’Atelier des Chefs 10 rue Penthièvre, 8th arr., 011-33/1-53-30-05-82, latelierdeschefs.com, classes from $20
- Legrand Filles et Fils 1 rue de la Banque, 2nd arr., 011-33/1-42-60-07-12, caves-legrand.com, events from $13
- Salon Saveurs 011-33/1-46-05-80-77, email@example.com, admission $10.50
- Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants 011-33/1-53-02-05-10, vigneron-independant.com, admission $8
- Salon du Chocolat chocoland.com, admission $15.75
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