Just returned last nite from a fantastic four day trip to Paris. USAirways lost my luggage and was not found until 8 hours before we were to leave! But even that couldn't dampen my spirits in what I think is the most beautiful city in the world.
Like most people on this board, I had done exhaustive research on where to eat. For the most part, I was thrilled with the reservations I had made. But after our first day, I realized that we couldn't possible eat full lunches and dinners on the same day and gave up on that idea. I also came to the realization that it's ok to have a misstep here and there and to give up worrying about whether every snack, drink, lunch is perfect and in the perfect spot. We were just as happy stopping when we felt tired from walking to eat at a cafe that was loaded with tourists and did not have the best food. It's still Paris, and it's glorious sitting and enjoying wine with a view wherever you are.
We had lunch at L'Ami Jean on our first day. Perhaps it was because we had just arrived and hadn't been able to check in yet and were tired. It was fun and enjoyable but not quite the experience I had thought it would be. Worth the trip there, however, for the much talked about and much touted rice pudding. Incredible!
Our dinner the next evening was at Les Ambassadeurs in the Hotel de Crillon. It was glorious. From the minute we walked into the room, we felt like royalty, and the food matched the ambience. We had the tasting menu that included a pot roasted foie gras - a texture unlike seared foie gras and was amazing. The meat course was a breast of chicken with morels and preserved leg. I was not immediately thrilled with the choice, but it was perhaps my favorite dish of the evening. Incredibly moist and juicy and bursting with flavors that worked in tandem with the crispy potatoes. Cheese course. two desserts - all of which defied any description worthy, one of them being a strawberry rhubarb tart that made me cry. We put ourselves in the hands of the sommelier and asked him to pair wine with each course. It was the smartest decision we could have made. It seemed silly to be eating that food and not have the perfect wine pairings. The experience was one my boyfriend and I will never forget. Once the bill is paid, we'll forget about the expense, but not about our four hour evening.
Dinner the next evening was at Les Papilles. I had high expectations based on these boards. This was one of most delightful and fun experiences I have ever had travelling. Bertrand, the properietor, is delightful and chose amazing, well priced wine. The first course of green pea soup with radishes tasted like the garden, the braised lamb shank was tender and flavorful, the blue cheese with wine poached prune made made me see stars, and the apricot pudding was so rich we thought we couldn't consider finishing and yet couldn't stop eating. I'm not sure if this was truly the best food I've eaten in Paris, but the combination of the atmosphere, the service and the food was glorious.
We wandered all day Sunday - our final day and gave up on sticking to any plans. We spent two hours drinking wine at Deux Maggots. Yes, it's touristy, but I think the worry about being surrounded by tourists can really impede on the enjoyment of your trip. I don't care what the wine cost - again, the experience was one of building memories. There were certainly French people scattered amongst the "tourists", and the tourists were international and fairly fabulous to look at . The church bells of St. Germain de Pres were ringing. The skies were blue, and there was a procession of children making Holy Communion coming from the church. It felt great to relax and give it all up about whether we were in the "right" place.
In our vein of not caring anymore about having the best reservations, we decided to forego our dinner res at Terroir Parisienne and just stroll around the corner to Relais de L'Entrecote. What fun having your server approach you with nothing more than "how would you like it cooked". It was not the best steak I have ever had - but again, the whole picture of the experience was marvelous. Reallly fun to have her come around with seconds and a platter of more frites. We are foodies who eat well daily, and the bigger picture was more fun than worrying about whether each piece of food was the best. I loved the sauce that the Frenchman sitting next to me said is "secret' - was apparently heavy on tarragon. Don't know whether it was marvelous wine, the great day or what - but once the beef, fries and sauce became like one, we were swooning. Topped off with profiteroles.....hate to keep repeating myself, but we were too high on life at that point to analyze them. We just loved them.
So my advice is: make some great ressies. Lose the pressure of it all being fabulous and give in to not caring. Lose all caring about being around tourists - people watching and speaking with travellers from all over the world is just as much fun as being proud of being the only non-French speaking person.
Yes, I bought a fabulous outfit for my blowout dinner at Les Ambassadeurs. The rest? I just laundered my pants and shirt every day and refused to spend one more minute worrying about it or one less minute sitting in a cafe.