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Paris Report - way long

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Paris Report - way long

Andy Jacob | Jun 2, 2002 11:15 AM

Just returned from 9 days in Paris. I did my homework in Chowhound's search engine, Patricia Wells' "The Food Lover's Guide to Paris" and "Bistros of Paris" by Robert and Barbara Hamburger. I made reservations 1 month in advance (per the board wisdom) at Les Amognes (243 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 0 33 1 43 72 73 05) and also at La Regalade (49 Ave Jean Moulin in the 14th 0 33 1 45 45 68 58). I liked these equally, my wife preferred Les Amognes - I think it was the chocolate tartine. I made the mistake of ordering the cheese course(unremarkable) over the dessert at Les Amognes, which I would not do again (1st day, eager to try the cheese, must remember in future to pace myself).

Our best meal experience was at La Truffiere (accent on the 1st e) adjacent to the Place de la Contrescarpe in the 5th (4, rue Blainville 0 33 1 46 33 29 82). www.latruffiere.com Ask to be seated downstairs in the cavern. While I could eat at bistros forever and be wildly satisfied, this was a step up in service and and a slight step up in menu. Also, the chef would send out a petit cup of lobster bisque or other interesting appetizers for us to taste. Ironically, this is about 200 yards from my favorite Paris hotel "Hotel des Grandes Ecoles" at 75 rue Cardinal Lemoine - and I thought the Place de la Contrescarpe was just for drinking.

Our companions had their best bistro experiences at Le Vieux Bistro which Burke and Wells recently wrote up.

Other meals we liked were at Le Procope (13, rue de l'Ancienne-Comedie (accent on the 1st e) in the 6th). www.procope.com Beautiful atmosphere - the oldest restaurant in Paris, go upstairs to see the library.

While the meal and 18th Century atmosphere at Julien (16 rue Fauborg St-Denis in the 10th) were very good, the service was spotty (too slow at times).

We dined also at Fish la Boissonnerie and enjoyed it, though less than Les Amognes and La Regalade, still good for the Latin Quarter.

Our hotel was the very pleasant two star Hotel Muguet in the 7th (11, rue Chevert 0 33 1 47 05 05 93) www.hotelmuguet.com 92 Euros for a double. A block from the Metro, a half block from an ATM, a half block from Le Florimond, 5-10 minutes walk from the Champ du Mars (the greenbelt adjacent to the Eiffel Tower). Ask for a big room, I think any room number ending in a 5 or above can be a little small. The owner Catherine indicated to me that her hotel would be a 3 star but for the small size of the rooms in the back. Initially, I only had the Muguet for the 1st weekend, my wife's company put us up at Le Meridian Etoile "Le Dump" during the week and upon previewing our 2nd weekend's hotel I was dissatisfied. Things could have quickly gone down hill trying to get a hotel in Paris the last weekend in May, but I discovered that there are cancellations you just need to be persistent. Anyway, I thought I had put us into a nice 3 star in the 16th, 133 Euros (Hotel Trocadero in the 16th - to be avoided at all costs) and arrived to find a dirty bedspread, stained cloth headboard, smelly room. The alternate room they insisted on showing us had a broken window, sagging bed and urine-smelling bathroom. After persistent negotiation, we got out of there without being charged and we were able to secure a smaller, but cleaner room, happily, at the Muguet due to a cancellation.

Shopping:

The Farmer's market adjacent to the Place de la Bastille is not to be missed on Sunday mornings, I picked up a Laguiole corkscrew for 32 Euros, a nice Pinot Noir for 9 (with plastic cups), a Epoisses for 7 Euros as well as a Petit Basque and a Chevre sec - 2 baguettes and we had a nice picnic in the park across town adjacent to the Marmottan (Monet) museum in the 16th (I went there twice - it was that good).

A humorous anecdote: The companions were not adventuresome enough for the Epoisses so I saved it in the hotel mini bar for a few days. Needless to say, the wife was not pleased (to put it mildly). Countering her ultimatum to get rid of it, I said "Love me, love my cheese!" I ended up eating a good portion on bread, loving it, and reluctantly giving the rest to a female attendant at the business level lounge of Le Meridian. Female, I point out as 1 of them was better than three of the men downstairs at the concierge desk. I tipped the concierge after making a dinner reservation and he looked as if I had spit in his hand, whereas the women/girls upstairs were extremely appreciative of tips for their assistance.

Also noteworthy as far as markets go, is the Rue Moufftard (starts at the Place de la Contrescarpe) this is on Saturday. The produce displays make a great opportunity for photos.

Wine bars -

I hit two Le Rubis (10 rue du Marche-St. Honore) in the 1st and Cafe de La Nouvelle Marie in the 5th (1 block South of the Pantheon - 19-21 rue des Fosses-St. Jacques). Totally different from each other in atmosphere and clientele. I like them both. Le Rubis is more cramped, blue collar, (infiltrated by white collar at lunch) but with different food options (bread, cheese, sandwiches and specials). Cafe de la Nouvelle Marie is more relaxed, catering to students and academics with pleasant outside seating in addition to inside seating. A lasting memory of this trip will be four of us sipping our VDT Cheverny (an organic dry white that was delicious) outside the cafe, protected by an awning, in the rain. A side note - they'll sell you a bottle at a cheaper takeaway rate (I think between 9-15 euros) and the brother-in-law's wines are sold at La Derniere Goutte (same owner as Fish - 6 rue de Bourbon la Chateau in the 6th). Food options are somewhat limited (I believe they serve dinners on Tuesday and Thursday when they are open until midnight. There is a great bakery across the street, however. Mon, Wed and Fri they are open until 8pm. Most Paris wine bars, including these, are closed on the weekend.

Shopping:

Le Gran Epicerie - not to be missed (like Peck in Milan) (Severes-Babylon metro stop). We were fortunate to have some of our best wine tasting here and it wasn't the wine that they were marketing but the Severes Crystal (a la Riedel) glasses. My companion for the day ended up buying the Pinot Noir. The Champagne I tasted, at 55 Euros, was the best I've ever had (like a sultry white wine). They also had a lovely Magnum of Spanish white along the lines of Sancerre.

My wife preferred Samaritane (go to the top for the view) over Galleries LaFayette. It is also centrally located (across the Pont Neuf from Notre Dame) and has water coolers on every floor and clean bathrooms.

This was my longest tour of Paris, lessons learned include:

Shop like a Russian, if it's available and you want it, buy it. We missed out on some lovely table clothes at the Bastille market fearing the schlep factor and thinking we could get back the next Sunday (our flight was too early, however).

Pace yourself, my wife and her co-workers quickly grew tired of the rich food. A thin pizza in the latin quarter, or a soup / salad make a nice change. I was grateful for a Vapolicella for a nice change from inconsistent French reds in my price range (though I did like the Sancerre Rouge (I was told it is a Pinot Noir) and another Pinot Noir we had at the picnic.

Seating is more cramped at Paris restaurants (at 3 or 4 restaurants they had to move the table to let half the table in, before sliding the table back).

Smoking, depending on where you are from, you may be accustomed to dining in smoke free environments. We had this pleasure on only 1 occasion (La Truffiere). We didn't want to say anything (to each other at the table) as we feared jinxing ourselves. At Les Amognes, the table next to us smoked not less than 6 cigarettes each in 1 hour - still we liked the meal.

Wine - ask the server/bartender what is good. Our experience was spotty going on our own and we would spend up to about 40 Euros a bottle at a restaurant. While the French insist that their wine is best, their concept of wine is a little different (IMO). We were drinking cheap, young (unstructured, non-complex) wines all trip (with the exception of the wines at Le Gran Epicerie). In that price range in Sonoma County, I would easily be satisfied. I bought six bottles and had La Derniere Goutte package it in a shipping box complete with twine and a foam covered handle (9.20 Euro) and had no issues clearing customs (in addition to a bottle of blackberry liquer as a gift to the wife's boss who raved over the Kir made with it at La Truffiere).

Spend more time in the Marais (3-4 arrondisements).

I hope you find useful information in this, sorry I did not note who ordered what where, but my advice regarding that would be to take a mini-tape recorder as there is hardly room for the meal on the table, much less a place to write, and specifics are soon forgotten (by this chowhound, at least).

Bistros that I nearly went to and will hit next time:

Le Vieux Bistro (4th)
Le Florimond (7th)
Le Fontaine de Mars (7th)
Le Pamphlet (3rd)

Chow4now,

AJ

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