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
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.