Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fermeture Annuelle (or What's Closed in Paris at Xmas)

One of the best signs I've seen in a shop in Paris is the one that roughly translates as "Closed for no good reason."
How very Parisian.
To know and love Paris is to have arrived at one of your favorite haunts only to find that it is closed for holiday in some inexplicably long way; in some way that screams the very Frenchness that is both frustrating and enchanting. This is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Berthillon, arguably the best ice cream in Paris (that's right, it's not some high-falutin' gelato, it's ice-damn-cream, the real deal), is closed for the entire month of August! When do people want ice cream? Anyone, anyone...Bueller? That's right, August.
So I have, in a purely self-serving way, listed the annual closings for Xmas of some of my favorite spots in Paris and some spots that are potential favorites of the future (I haven't yet tried them but I'm intrigued). I promise these are inaccurate so don't pull a "Bressler" and do check for yourselves on the dates and times of closings. Pulling a "Bressler" means when you rely on my statement that "you really should do the Orsay tomorrow morning, very early" and get up super early despite jet lag and rush your whole family out of the house, having mapped out an entire day around starting at the Orsay and then lunching right nearby, only to find that I was completely freakin' wrong and it's closed and you're too damn nice to yell at me so I just feel really, really guilty and you won't let me buy you dinner to assuage my guilt which, when you think about it, really makes you (not me) the bad guy, right, right? Again, I'm sorry Bresslers!

Name: L'Oudino
Address: 17, Rue Oudinot , Paris
Neighborhood: 7th
Phone: +33 1 4566 0509
Website: www.oudino.fr
Hours: Monday - Friday, 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM, 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM; Saturday, 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM. Closed Sunday.
Holiday Closure: December 24 - January 1

Woo Jung
8, Boulevard Delessert, Paris
Neighborhood: 16th
+33 1 4520 7282
Hours: Monday - Saturday, 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM, 7:00 PM - 10:30 PM. Closed Sunday.
Holiday Closure: December 18 - January 1

Name: Chez l'Ami Jean
Address: 27 Rue Malar, Paris
Neighborhood: 7th
Phone: +33 1 4705 8689
Website: www.amijean.eu
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM, 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Holiday Hours: Closed December 23 - January 3

***These people clearly weren't born in France as they're only taking off Xmas and New Year's Day -- so I'm gonna get me some of them delectable goose dumplings and Beef Tan Dinh!
Name: Tan Dinh
Address: 60, rue de Verneuil, Paris
Neighborhood: 7th
Phone: +33 1 4544-0484
Website: None
Hours: Monday - Saturday, 12:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Name: Chez Les Anges
Address: 54, Blvd de la Tour-Maubourg, Paris
Neighborhood: 7th
Phone: +33 1 4705-8986
Website: www.chezlesanges.com
Hours: Monday - Friday, 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM, 7:30 PM - 10:30 PM. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Life & Tats of Al3x Payne

I wanted to talk to Alex Payne.

Alex co-founded Simple (formerly BankSimple), the Portland-based startup that’s changing the face of banking at a time when people really want banking to change! Customers... Simple currently has 80,000+ people on a wait list to use the service -- how's that for backlog! Alex was an engineer at Twitter, who started there so early that he arrived before it was Twitter (and before it incorporated). But what did I want to talk to Alex about? His dropping out of college…a little, his departure from high school, which he almost didn't even finish, a little, his tattoos…oh yeh! His well written blog appears at: http://al3x.net/

Let me say this (in case my kids read this): Daddy doesn't necessarily want you to get a tattoo and I don't have any. That said, Alex's tattoos are so thoughtful and interesting and his insanely eloquent telling of the back-story so intriguing, that I decided that I'd do a post about them because they open a portal into this intensely intelligent and fascinating man who is one of the most engaging dinner companions I know.

Over dinner one night at Portland, Oregon's wonderful Le Pigeon (man do I love that place), Ryan Snyder, a very wine-savvy Simple exec, told me that I was asking Alex about the wrong tattoo. The right tattoo according to Ryan, was Ada. It turns out that Ada was Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, famous 18th century poet. So why would Alex have a poet's daughter on his arm (see photo below)? Alex explained that Ada may also have been the world's first computer programmer. Here's what Alex told me one recent rainy November day just after Simple's launch.

Ada Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was a friend of Charles Babbage, the man who probably originated the concept of a programmable computer. While Babbage had formalized a computational engine, he hadn't considered functionality beyond mathematics, nor had he considered how humans would interact with or speak to the machine. Alex is especially interested in the concept of human interaction with the machine. He particularly likes that Ada was thinking about the human factors "ok we have this computer, so how are we coming up with the language to interact with it? The machine alone wasn't enough," Alex told me.

Ada was Alex's fourth tattoo and he'd been thinking about inking Ada onto his arm for 4 or 5 years before Alex and Ada became one. There are, according to Alex, two extant realistic images of Ada (others seems to derive from those two). He chose the image with greater contrast because he felt it would give the artist a meatier source to tackle. He was right.

Choosing An Artist
Alex's choice of tattoo artist hadn't required much deliberation for his previous body art, but this one was different. "Many tattoos are so simple that any decent, experienced artist can handle them," said Alex, "so you default to whomever is convenient." He agonized over to whom he'd entrust Ada's likeness. "Now so many artists put their portfolios online so that you can see if you generally like how they approach their subject matter." However, tattoo artists fall into the "sailor tattoo" camp, which many people still like and those tattoos "have a very retro value," but that wasn't what Alex was chasing. "I wanted more of a portraitist and that's hard to find. While browsing through artists in Portland, I found a woman whose work drew heavily from old fairy tales and woodblock prints, with an emphasis on English and French art from the mid-1700s to the early-1900s." That artist, Melanie Nead, owns Icon Tattoo in Portland and while her online portfolio is extraordinary, now that she owns Icon, she's largely no longer doing the art herself. Alex's tattoo of Ada is the first photo of Ms. Nead's 50+ photo portfolio on the site -- the rest of the portfolio is also worth a look!

Repo Man, a movie I love, speaks of the "Universal Lattice of Coincidence" and that term came to mind when Alex told me that after he explained to Melanie the person he wanted tattooed on his arm, they realized that Melanie was in fact the perfect artist for the job -- she had written her thesis on Ada's father, Lord Byron.

Math, Poetry, Programming and Art
When I pressed Alex on his fascination with the linkage between math, poetry, programming and art, he told me: "I'm not that strong when it comes to math" -- could've fooled me! Here's where he went next:

"Programs would be more reliable if they were more like math than like language but then you discount the human involvement. The humans are writing and they need tools for expression, not just for logical rigor.
Trust the machine to do the correct thing and trust people to do the right thing."

At this point, I need to pause. Alex's comments quoted above typify his speech pattern -- his speech is unselfconscious but, honestly, this guy speaks in finely crafted prose. I know that Alex almost dropped out of high school and did drop out of college so I had to ask him how an engineer whose formal education had been stunted ended up being so darn eloquent. It turns out that his parents have PhDs in English and Alex grew up hanging out with his mom at the English Lit department at American University in Washington, DC. This is not to downplay his father's involvement, which he was quick to also note.

But back to his tattoos...
At the moment, Alex sports three other tats, the first of which inked for his 18th birthday, depicts the Japanese character indicating the process of moving from past life to future life. While it wasn't his most well executed or fully considered tattoo, he draws from it that "at any given point in time, the things I value most are transient, no matter how deeply valued at the moment."

His second tattoo, at the back of his neck, is the number 3. His twitter handle is @al3x and he's been known online as Al3x since middle school: "friends and family will occasionally type that rather than typing Alex because they're used to seeing it." In fact, when he attends conferences, people "may not know me by my first and last name, but they may recognize me from my twitter handle instead." This tattoo was more deliberate as Alex obsessively quested for the perfect "3" -- "I really like typography and when I finally found the perfect 3 I wanted to keep it permanently. Typography is about effective communication and typefaces have evolved over time to solve different communications problems. For instance, solving for mass market mailings or reading on low res screens. Typography is visual engineering." See what I mean -- he speaks better than most people write!

What he's doing at Simple has an emphasis on brand and design and he's really interested in those elements of the business. He spoke to me of his tremendous respect for the front end guys on his team and he believes that his fascination with typography has enabled him to communicate with them more easily.

His final tattoo is lambda. There are dozens of science and math disciplines that claim the lambda and use it in different contexts but Alex chose it "because of lambda calculus, which underpins key concepts in programming languages and enables us to put together logical statements as programs."

Alex has been a prolific programmer for years, starting with a job at age 12. He couldn't get a work permit and his employer's violation of child labor laws was intentional -- to hide their criminality, when clients came on site, Alex was asked to make himself scarce. That employer was among the first web-based collaboration solutions providers, handling conferencing and chat rooms.

Al3x Unemployable
When the twitter founders became regulars on TV and radio, his mom finally realized the importance of what he was doing. Previously, she'd been disappointed that he had dropped out and was "terrified that I didn't have an education and would be unemployable. I kept explaining to her that the programming world is a meritocracy - if you release open source code and go to conferences, people will see your work and want to hire you."


The Unheard Music...12x2u Pink Flag & Wire -- What Else Am I Missing!

The Unheard Music is a reference to a much loved but for decades out of print documentary about the music of X, one of the greatest American Rock Bands (okay, punk rock bands) of all time. (Here's a clip on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzat-e5YTKY) I mention it because there’s so much amazing but unplayed music that can go on right around us and if we only have some access point we can discover it and, hopefully, be enriched. This is usually not far from the top of my mind but last month and the the more recent announcement that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had inducted Guns 'N Roses (important music, though (a) you couldn't help hearing it and (b) I'm not a fan for so many reasons) brought it a notch higher and here’s why:

So I’m sitting at dinner at one of my favorite (low key) restaurants in San Francisco engaged in conversation with friends. All of a sudden, I'm taken aback by the background music because I’m pretty damn sure that I’m listening to 12x2u by Wire from their brilliant 1977 debut album, “Pink Flag”

Here’s a link to to the youtube version (under 2 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAn_T4D2kww&feature=fvsr

Now this may not sound like a big deal to you, but Wire is an incredibly influential and important band whose long career yielded just two hits in the UK and two in the US. No, they’re not my favorite band (not even top 10), nor is Pink Flag my favorite album (again, not top 10), but after this paragraph, I've provided some cut and pastes from wikipedia’s entries for the band Wire and the album Pink Flag. It's certainly one of the 10 best punk rock albums nobody bought! Check it out and let me know what you think. I’d also love to know how we go about discovering the other jewels we missed — we all know (or should know) Never Mind the Bollocks, London Calling (or really any Clash Album other than Combat Rock), All Mod Cons (the Jam), the Ramones whole catalog, and I hope many if not all of us also know a bunch of albums by X (check out Los Angelese and Wild Gift by X if you missed them the first time around). Send me the songs and albums you think we’ve missed that are unheralded classics (Richard & Linda Thompson’s “Shoot Out The Lights” is another prime example, though it sure ain't punk...more on that another time).

Oh, and here’s me earlier this year with someone I’ve idolized for 20+ years, a great founder…John Doe, Founder, song writer and amazing dude of the incredibly important rock band X and Jill Sobule, she’s not punk but she’s awesome (check out the albums “I Never Learned to Swim” or “Underdog Victorious” or “California Years”). Jill and John actually teamed up for “A Day At The Pass” which is terrific — I can’t stop listening to “Never My Love” and “Shaky Hands” — here’s a link to the Jill Sobule site at which you can check out some of this stuff and even buy a tee shirt!


Now for those cut and pastes:

“Wire’s debut album, Pink Flag (1977), ‘perhaps the most original debut album to come out of the first wave of British punk’, according to Allmusic, contains songs which are diverse in mood and style, but most use a minimalist punk approach, unorthodox structures”

“R.E.M. covered “Strange” on their Document album, and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” emulates Wire’s song “Feeling Called Love”.”

“Critic Stewart Mason writes, ‘Over their brilliant first three albums, Wire expanded the sonic boundaries of not just punk, but rock music in general.’ Wire are arguably a definitive art punk or post-punk ensemble, mostly due to their richly detailed and atmospheric sound, often obscure lyrical themes and, to a lesser extent, their Situationist political stance.”

“Pink Flag is the first album by the band Wire, released in 1977. … Trouser Press called it “a brilliant 21-song suite” in which the band “manipulated classic rock song structure by condensing them into brief, intense explosions of attitude and energy, coming up with a collection of unforgettable tunes”.[5] Although the album was released to critical acclaim,[6] it was not a big seller. Today the album is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest albums of all time.[7][8][9][10][11] Music journalist, Stuart Maconie, described it as “by the standards of the time it was extraordinary. But I now realise that by the standards of any time, it’s extraordinary”.[12] The album was listed at number 410 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Upcoming Paris Trip December 2011

My family and I return to Paris for Xmas and this time it will be different. Ironically, we relax more when in Paris than we do in NJ and there's slightly more going on in Paris than in NJ...ya think?Here's a list of some of the things I want us to do this trip -- this is a work in progress(negotiation). Love to hear adds or deletes from people.Music:--Paris is one of the great music cities of the world and my wife and I really want to listen to live music at Saint Chapelle because (a) it is one of our favorite churches -- it is reportedly among the most beautiful in the world and for us, the proportions of it (compared to more massive or modern structures like Sacre Coeur) make it very warm, sweet and ancient-feeling and (b) the thought of hearing chamber music in a chamber, as was the intent, is always appealing to us. Not sure the kids are psyched but tough, they'll thank us later (or not)--Music Appreciation -- being my kid isn't easy and that too is tough! My kids need to sit tight and both hear the music of and the life story of Miles Davis (focus on Kind of Blue) and Gershwin (focus on American in Paris -- cliche but so what -- and Rhapsody in Blue) (I may make them watch the movie) and Coltrane (focus on Love Supreme). Where better to do this than while walking down rue Dauphin, one of our favorite streets and the home of one of our favorite restaurants, Yugaraj? Why rue Dauphin? Well, that's where Miles and others first played live beebop in France as it was then home to great jazz clubs and mere steps from cafe life and the publishing district on the left bank (6eme). U2 and Dylan also seem like good calls for this trip.It feels like we should hear live Jazz. Still working on that!Museums:I love the smaller museums, especially those that enable us to better understand how the French lived at the time. One of the most touching, for me, is Nissim de Camondo. It tells an incredible story of beauty, sadness and history. Years after my first visit, I found the following blogpost, which I think does a lovely job of explaining this museum: http://nocrowds.blogspot.com/2005/11/musee-nissim-de-camando.htmlThe Louvre: Most importantly, for those of us who aren't early risers, the Louvre is open late a few nights and the crowds are apparently pretty thin at night: Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Check here for their hours (in English): http://www.louvre.fr/llv/pratique/horaires.jsp?bmLocale=enSecond, this exhibit on Alexander the Great looks cool, ends in January and will likely be a nice counterpoint to our more contemporary bent when it comes to art viewing: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/exposition/detail_exposition.jsp?pageId=0&baseIndex=1&CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198674214457&bmLocale=en This Delacroix also might be fun: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/exposition/liste_expositions.jsp?pageId=1&bmLocale=enLe Palais de la Decouverte: http://www.palais-decouverte.fr/index.php?id=accueil2 -- apparently a killer science museum with no real lines/waits! Check out this blog post: http://nocrowds.blogspot.com/2007/11/ratatouilles-paris.htmlCluny: We adore the Cluny (or the Museum of the Middle Age) http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/ang/index.html but that could have more to do with bird crap than unicorns (it's famous for unicorn tapestries). On our family's first visit, a bird shat upon my wife's hair. Every single time we pass, my kids scream (or I do) to remind my wife of the "Cluny Moment" and we all break into laughter. I'm reminded of the great quote from recently deceased French film director, Claude Chabrol (as quoted by the NYTimes): "Referring to the uneven critical reception of his work, Mr. Chabrol is said to have remarked, 'You have to accept the fact that sometimes you are the pigeon, and sometimes you are the statue.'" cite: his obit in the NYT, which is well worth the read: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/movies/13chabrol.html?pagewanted=allThat day, my lovely wife was indeed the statue!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"J'aime Plus Paris" (Paris Eats 2011 - A Work In Progress)


I love Paris, which is not what the above title means. The title comes from a song by Thomas Dutronc, who really comes from a family best described as a Royal Musical Family of France, but more on that in some future post. A close friend who is a fabulous winemaker in Chateauneuf made me buy a Thomas Dutronc disc as part of my education on the music scene in France during the last 50 years. I fell in love with this song and, courtesy of my horrific french language skills, misconstrued the lyrics to mean that the singer Loves Paris More. My poor translation amused the heck out of my French friends — “it’s an idiom you idiot” was pretty much how they reacted, after the laughter had ended. Dutronc is actually talking about all the reasons NOT to love Paris, but in the ends, he’s sort of stuck with Paris and a love of Paris (so was I really that far off?). Here’s a link to the cd on the American Amazon site (track 3 on this album): http://amzn.to/DutroncLuvParis — buy this and you will be happy.

My friends know that (a) I love Paris, (b) I’m really pretentious (see (a)) and (c) I eat a ton and often research where I eat. This has led to two things: (1) frequent requests for a list of where to eat in Paris (I actually just received a request while I was writing this post) and (2) my frequent misplacing of that list so that I must recreate the list (my own version of Sisyphus, the dude from Greek mythology condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again). So I figured I’d put the list here and then just point people to it. It will change, it is biased, it is wrong and because I’m a selfish SOB, I’m leaving out some of my favorite places because guess who doesn’t want to wait in an even longer line or be aced out of a table (this guy, right here):

Ice Cream — Berthillon

My wife and I have recommended Berthillon (http://www.berthillon.fr/) to friends for years. It’s on the Isle Saint Louis, right behind Notre Dame (both the Island and Notre Dame are worth visiting, if you can take your mind off food for a bit). This place closes for August…that’s how damn good it is — an ice cream joint that makes a fortune and is closed for the big, hot touristy month of August! The flavors are all made from the real thing and made fresh and only in season. The best place to get Berthillon is at the actual store, which has a wooden facade and wooden interior and is several blocks down into the Island (if approached from Notre Dame). Many places on the Island serve Berthillon and have various signs and awnings, but there is only one original and that’s at 29-31 rue Saint Louis en l’ile Paris 75004 — open Weds through Sunday from 10-10. Plan your trip to Paris around this place and its hours of operations (and bring cash). Salted Caramel, Fraise des Bois sorbet (in season), Nougat Au Miel, White Chocolate and anything with chestnuts (in season) are some of our favorites.

People will tell you about Amorino and Grom but I hate to say it, they’re wrong and those places aren’t even close. Pozzetto, however, is pretty cool but the flavor selection is really limited making it more appropriate for flexible grown ups than for kids.

Indian Food - Yugaraj

Yep, Indian food in Paris and it is worth the visit. It happens to be on the historic Rue Dauphin in the 6th arrondissement. I say historic because it was there that Miles Davis and Charlie Parker played beebop in the jazz clubs of Paris, just a few blocks from the Seine, blowing the minds of many Parisians. This place rocks and it ain’t cheap. The warm Nan with cheese in it is a family favorite. The ghost korma too and there’s an eggplant dish that I actually dream about. If you are in Paris for more than 3 or 4 days, give it a whirl. Really. Cool wine list too (uh oh, don’t tell people). The staff is also very nice and speaks English quite well (they all seem to have 3 or more languages, which is actually depressing if you’re a monolingual American like me). 14 rue Dauphin, Paris 75006 www.yugaraj.com Tell them “the American family with the dad who talks endlessly about wine and can’t really speak French” sent you.

French Dinner A Little Fancy, but not Michelin Starred — Chez Les Anges

Why doesn’t this place have a Michelin star? No idea. The food is made lovingly, there’s a dish with a poached egg and a bunch of ‘shrooms in it that is freakin’ fantastic. The truffled mashed potatoes that come with many of the entrees are insanely good/decadent and even the little nosh they give you when you sit down (fresh carrots and sliced saucisson) is yum-city. The welcome is warm and the location is great in the 7th (my favorite part of town) right near both Invalides (where Napoleon hung out and the site of the dreadful Dreyfus Affair) and the Seine. When you go, tell them “the bald American guy who always brings his kids (and his own wine) sent you.” www.ChezLesAnges.com (which means home of the angels and it is) 54 Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg, Paris 75007 — closed on weekends, as many great restaurants in Paris are.

Gourmet Food Store — La Grande Epicerie — www.lagrandeepicerie.fr

The tourists hit the great stores in the 8th (right bank) like Hediard and Fauchon which flank the Madeleine, and those are very, very good. They do not, however, compare to La Grande Epicerie, where the French shop and things as simple as the dazzling array of yogurts will wow you let alone the meats, the produce, the wine, the cheese, the 50 million regionally specific bottlings of sparkling and still water from all over the world, the…everything. You can also walk through the store sipping a cappucino which, in true French fashion, is served in a cup that is both small and so poorly insulated it will scorch your fingers. For those familiar with NYC, imagine if Bergdorf moved to Tribeca (and became more hip) merged with Dean & Delucca (before the PE funds infused capital and deleted some of that store’s soul) and a great wine store…that’s what we have here in the fine gourmet food supermarket/eatery that belongs too and is housed in the grandest of Parisian Department Stores, the left bank’s landmark, Le Bon Marche http://www.lebonmarche.com/ Whether you want picnic food or dinner food or gifts to bring home, this is the place and they will even deliver what you’ve put in your cart! 38 rue de Sevres, Paris 75007

Banh Mi

Switch banks and head to the right bank not far from the Pompidou (check out that museum, it is wicked cool) in the 3rd arrondissement for a cash-only hole in the wall with one table and a few hotpots for the most mouth watering sandwich in Paris, a Vietnamese pork or chicken sandwich with fresh cilantro and sauce and carrots and magic, yes magic. Sip a cold taro bubble tea and chomp away. It’s hard to spend more than $10/head for lunch here and there’s virtually no diversity on the menu. The owner is a larger than life character who is likely to provide as much life advice as she is to ask probing questions, give you an extraordinarily welcoming smile and simply put you in awe of her talents. No real phone number, no real sign, nothing much to see on that street, but damn that’s a sandwich. 7 rue Volta, Paris 75003. Monday through Saturday 11:30am-8pm and don’t even think about bringing a credit card. Also, she’s not really French, so she almost never takes vacation (one week in August around the 15th).

Avoid Like the Plague: Chez L’Ami Louis — over-hyped, overpriced, overrated, overrun by tourists and, well, just OVER… don’t begin to describe the perils of this place. I bet it was terrific before the proprietor died in 1987 (but of course, Bon Jovi and WhiteSnake were side-by-side on the top 10 hits of that year, so really, it’s a long time ago — special note: they beat U2, which didn’t crack the top 10 that year, but did make the top 30, as did Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (a sure sign of the apocalypse)). One great critic actually wrote a review and said it is was the worst restaurant in the world. I haven’t been to enough places to feel confident that I can say it is the worst restaurant in the world. What I can say, however, is that my family and I have never been treated worse by a restaurant and I’m not returning (ever and if reincarnated, I’m still not returning). Here’s what Vanity Fair wrote earlier this year (2011): “But still, it’s undeniable that L’Ami Louis really is special and apart. It has earned an epic accolade. It is, all things considered, entre nous, the worst restaurant in the world.” Here’s a link to the whole scathing review in Vanity Fair (and good for them that they had the cojones to publish it, I’ve customized the link — love that bit.ly feature): http://vnty.fr/AmiLouisSucks

Some Others That I’ll Write More About When I’m Less Lazy

—Laduree — macarons (if you don’t know what these are, google it, you need this)

—Pierre Herme — chocolate and macarons

—Sadaharu Aoki — patisserie - small and WONDERFUL, no, seriously…just shut up and go there (green tea matcha eclair and, drum roll please, the salted caramel and chocolate round thingy is ridiculous - I always take a bite of my daughter’s, much to her chagrin, okay, once there were tears, but I think she overreacted). We let a friend try the grean tea jam and now we have to bring a case of it back for her on our next trip. We won’t make that mistake again so please don’t eat that jam!

—Bio Marche on Sunday mornings at Boulevard Raspail in the 6th - an amazing outdoor organic farmer’s market right near the somewhat outdated but still worth seeing landmark hotel the Lutetia and the wonderful market street, Cherche Midi in the 6th. At the Bio Marche, I love the blueberry guy, the cocoa and chai dude, the orange juice lady and many others.

—chocolate chip cookies — hey sometimes the kids need a fix of the good old American classic and Eric Kayser (www.maison-kayser.com) is a killer baker, with a number of branches but we like the 18 rue du Bac Paris 75007 branch and we love the fact that it is open 7am to 8pm every day except Monday which means you can get great bread on Sundays! Don’t buy the Olive Toursade…we love it and they don’t make enough. Seriously, almost everything here is way above the standard “really good” for Paris and that’s saying a ton. Particularly good tip — right across the street and rarely open (very French indeed) is this wonderful cheese shop called Barthelemy, from which you should buy a big hunk of heavily salted Beurre de Baratte (the best kind of butter around) to slather on your bread, especially if you put some of Sadaharu Aoki’s jam on it. You will be tempted to phone me in the middle of the night to wake me and thank me for telling you about this. Please resist the urge and just email me. Merci beaucoup!

—Fancy Shmancy (3 star grandeur): Taillevent (not coasting on past glory, still great), the Bristol (holy cow that’s great and the hotel takes justifiable pride in having been the last stop on the underground railroad as the Resistance had a slew of rooms late in WWII and hid Jews there just before departure to more hospitable nations), Arpege (brilliant and it is amazing to see a small restaurant with a superstar chef who is actually there all the time because, guess what, this is his only restaurant!). To really enjoy Arpege, you need to love veggies. I would like to think Arpege is for everyone and Taillevent is indeed for everyone who wants to spring for a three star meal in Paris, but Arpege probably requires a little more from the diner in terms of willingness to explore, particularly to explore veggies. That said, it may well be the best eats in town. I’d put the Bristol in between the two — requires a bit from diners in terms of willingness to explore but we dined there with a “hamburger, fries and lasagna” friend and he was pretty darn happy (he’d have loved Taillevent and we’d never have taken him to Arpege).

—Fancy Shmancy and not a great idea: Tour D’Argent — this is not just a bastion of French history, it is an historic monument for the entire culinary world. Sadly, it has fallen very far below where it should be. I do hope it finds a way to reclaim greatness because with a 400+ year history, it should again become the grand dame of the Seine it once was.

More to come and do provide some feedback on these recs since I’d love to fine tune it.