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Our Paris food experiences in late August and early September

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Our Paris food experiences in late August and early September

Watson | Sep 22, 2011 02:56 PM

Thank you to the posters on this board. From you we obtained the name of Julien Tort aka souphie and enjoyed a day long personalized culinary tour of food markets and shops, and cooking lessons in our flat. We saw a lot of Paris visiting three different outdoor markets, many shops that I cannot now name, tasted some amazing food, particularly sweets which I would not have thought to try, and learned a lot about local ingredients. We cooked at our flat as a practice run to making a birthday dinner for our daughter during our stay in Paris. I am definitely going to use Julien’s method for roasting chicken. I only hope I can get some decently fattened birds. Julien is very pleasant with a wry sense of humour and a day with him was very enlightening. His website is www.zeparisian.com. This was not our first trip to Paris, but exploring Paris food with Julien was a revelation.

Of course we also ate at a lot of restaurants during our two weeks, many of which have received detailed descriptions elsewhere on this board so I won’t go into many menu details. The best food included lunch at L’Arpege, a 4 plus hour extravaganza worthy of the 3 Michelin stars; a dinner of innovative dishes on a no choice menu at Le Chateaubriand; and great ingredients in classic bistro dishes at Christophe. The L’Arpege lunch included the best tomato dish I have ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot as tomatoes are one of my favourite things. The recipe is on the website but without being able to obtain tasty tomatoes, attempting to reproduce it seems pointless. I’m still trying to figure out what some of the things we ate at Le Chateaubriand were, which I didn’t recognize the French name and the server couldn’t think of the English translation. At Christophe, I had beef steak, something I usually don’t do because we get such great beef in my hometown, but it had an excellent flavour, albeit a bit chewy.

Also very good was dinner with some inventive dishes at Le Reminet and tasty Basque food at Chez L’Ami Jean. What I was told was sea bass at Le Reminet was unlike any sea bass I have had before. It may have been a translation issue. But the fish was delicate and nicely accompanied by asparagus. I tried a tasty rustic soup with boudin noir at Chez L’Ami Jean and the veal cheeks there were delicious. Service seemed un-French as the servers hovered a bit as if to encourage us to move finish our 7:30 reservation. At both Chez L’Ami Jean and Le Chateaubriand, there were long queues waiting for a late seating. Dinner at Benoit, Alain Ducasse’s bistro was good but fairly expensive for what is supposed to be a bistro. I had a very good dish of sautéed mixed offals. Our dinner at La Tour d’Argent was for the luxurious ambiance and great view of Notre Dame but the food was better than I was lead to expect, but way too much of it on the tasting menu.

We had reservations for all of the above except Le Reminet where we were able to get the last table on a Sunday evening.

Good and good value classic bistro dinners we had were at Le Verre Volé, and Chez Paul. We were able to secure same day reservations for Chez Paul and had earlier reserved Le Verre Volé.

Good, simple, but rather expensive, lunches were had at Restaurant du Palais Royale, Café Flore and Café Marly. At all of these we were seated without reservations.

On Ile Saint Louis, when we were looking for a lighter meal, we had reasonable dinners (although no where as good as the top places we dined) at Le Tastevin and Aux Fous de L’Ile. We also had light lunches which were acceptable but a bit pricy for what they were at Le Flore en L’Ile and St Regis, both very touristy spots by Pont Saint Louis with views of Notre Dame.

The worst food we had was at a restaurant whose name I cannot recall (Brasserie des Deux Palais?) but it is the restaurant directly across from the entrance to Sainte Chapelle. The charcuterie plate had few items, was salty and not particularly tasty. Sadder still were the stale slices of baguette, one so hard that crumbs did not chip off when I knocked it against the table top. We wanted to go into Sainte Chapelle, and ended up at this restaurant when we realized nothing else nearby looked more promising. It was another example of why one should avoid eating near major tourist attractions.

The other not good place was lunch at Café Danton near the Barbés Rochechouart metro stop in the 18th arrondissement not too far from Basilique du Sacré Coeur. Salads there were over dressed and the server had trouble getting our order correct even though there were few people in the place. The area had nothing to recommend it but we had been walking for almost two hours, the weather was very warm, and our daughter insisted we stop because she needed water and a rest.

In general, service we received was good even though we asked to converse in French and some of us speak French with English accents and occasionally mispronounce words.

Other pluses: Berthillon ice cream is a good as everyone says. We were staying on Ile Saint Louis and saw long queues in the afternoons and evenings. We stopped once in the morning to get ice cream when there were no lines at all and also bought an ice cream cake (for our birthday dinner) that we all cannot stop talking about.

We bought croissants and baguettes from a number of different boulangeries and when fresh, were delicious – much better than breads from super market types of places. We discovered many places had fresh, hot baguettes in the late afternoon; perfect to go with wine and cheese as a small afternoon repast or with dinner for the times we cooked for ourselves.

Never got to as many chocolate shops as we would have liked but we tried, and loved, Jean-Paul Hevin, Patrick Roger and Michel Cluizel.

We bought fresh fruit from a number of different little markets. If we could smell the fruit as we walked past, we would sometimes stop to pick up a few peaches or apples or strawberries to have with breakfast.

We overloaded on cheese from Fromagerie Laurent Dubois at the Maubert Mutualité market and as a result did not shop at other fromageries other than the Saint Aubin shop on Ile Saint Louis. The Laurent Dubois shop is permanent so cheese can be bought even when the rest of the street market is not operating. The choice and quality were outstanding, especially the raw milk cheeses which are illegal in Canada and the creme fraîche which I started slathering on fresh fruit because it was too good to waste. Cheese is one of the many things we miss about Paris.

La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché is worth the experience to see the amazing variety and quality of food.

We shopped at too many wine shops to recall and drank both great and expensive classed Bordeaux, some inexpensive and very palatable wines, and some small producers of wines which we cannot buy here in Canada.

On top of all the other delights of Paris, we enjoyed (for the most part) all the eating and drinking, and best of all, I actually lost weight. We can't wait to return.

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