July 9, 2010
Life used to be so easy. At least my lunch choices were. I’d saunter over to the Haut Marais, into le Marché des Enfants Rouges, and hit up Alain, “my” sandwich guy. It started one day when I ordered the delicious organic smoked salmon sandwich that he made on ciabatta and slowly, patiently toasted up to crunchy perfection on his crepe burner. I quickly became addicted. Then he introduced the Cornet Vegetarien, and suddenly all bets were off. Inside a savory crepe, he’d combine gobs of delicious ingredients (“tout bio!” he’d proudly point out) such as fresh greens and mushrooms, grated carrots and fennel, marinated onions, sliced avocado and chèvre, olive oil, chives, sea salt, diced parsley, lemon juice, lime zest, and, à la fin, honey—or, ”the French touch!” in Alain’s words. In my own words, the best sandwich in the city.
But suddenly, my choices are a lot more plentiful. Casual eateries keep popping up, making me feel a little torn about sampling the new goods versus sticking to what I know and love. But let’s be honest: a girl can’t live on sandwiches alone. And as much as I’d like to eat several lunches a day, I must make my choices wisely. So, while I still visit Alain as often as possible, I’ve also been eating up the other fresh dishes put forth in the Haut Marais these days.
Say it’s a nice, sunny day and I’m heading to Square du Temple or Square Georges Cain, craving something beyond a sandwich for lunch. I exit the back of the Marché des Enfants Rouges, on rue Charlot, to the brilliant Cococook. Open for nearly a year now, it’s the kind of fresh and simple take-out food that has been perfected in U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco: a simple spinach salad, studded with sesame seeds, for example, or quinoa with coriander chicken and butternut squash. There are healthy drinks (carrot-ginger-orange juice) and naughty desserts (chocolate caramel tarte). But maybe the best thing is that the cute and clean operation is open every day and every night and even delivers—a true rarity in this city.
Instead of sitting in a park, sometimes I want a quiet oasis where I can enjoy my food—in which case I hit up Tartes Kluger. Tucked a block beyond the neighborhood’s sceniest intersection (rues Charlot and Bretagne), this serene spot is friendly and comfortable, with two communal tables, Anglo magazines (Bon Appetit and Jamie—yay) and zero pretension. The tartes are available across town at different restaurants such as Colette, and change depending on seasonal inspiration. What I especially like about them—aside from the giant salads they’re served along with—is that there’s usually at least one unexpected ingredient. The salmon tarte, for example, is paired with dill, oui, but also asparagus, rather than spinach. While the spinach tarte is made with ricotta instead of goat cheese. And don’t even get me started on the beautiful and delicious fruit tartes, to say nothing of the killer chocolate tarte.
Speaking of amazing desserts, when Rose Bakery descended from rue des Martyrs and opened in the Haut Marais in ’08, it brought its celebrated scones, cheesecake and carrot cake with it. These English baked goods and other veggie-friendly menu items, like potato salad, scrambled eggs and pizzettes, were much more novel—but no less appreciated—than when the original bakery opened in 2002.
Even today, every visit to the rue Debelleyme outpost inspires gasps of excitement (tofu and dashi—in gay Paris!) and sighs of contentment (hel-lo, lemon pound cake), whether I cram myself at one of the tables in the long, narrow restaurant so I can inhale the delightful smells coming from the open kitchen, or take my goods to enjoy outside.
And then there’s the new girl in town. Opening next door to the new gelateria, Mary (Nutella gelato for le gouter??), Merce and the Muse is another welcome taste of home. A DC native, Merce (pronounced “Mer-cy”) was always jonesing for a good cup of coffee that could be enjoyed in a casual, friendly hangout. After running her own baking company, and journeying to Denmark’s Coffee Collective to get schooled in proper preparation, she recently opened her coffee shop/café on rue Dupuis. With do-whop on the phonograph, and beet, granny smith and chèvre salad served from big terracotta picnic bowls, you’d swear you were on the East Coast, not the Haut Marias. At least I do. Which is why you’re almost guaranteed to find me there every weekend this summer.
- Cococook, 30 Rue Charlot, 3e, 01 42 74 80 00
- Tartes Kluger, 6 rue du Forez, 3e, 01 53 01 53 53
- Merce and the Muse, 1 bis rue Dupuis, 3e
- Amy’s list of places to score American foods in Paris
- Richard Nahem’s favorite spots in the Marais
- Parisien Salon on cantine-dining in Paris
- Meg Zimbeck on Tartes Kluger
- David Lebovitz on Merce and the Muse, and Mary
Written by Amy Thomas for the HiP Paris Blog. Julien Hausherr is a photographer based in Paris, specializing in architecture, still-life and reporting. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
Written by Amy Thomas
Amy Thomas is a sweets-obssessed writer based between New York and Paris. She penned the Sweet Freak column for Metro newspaper and has written about Paris' best chocolatiers (New York Times), desserts for two (Time Out New York), chocolate for guys (Rachel Ray) and the best hot chocolate in the city (Metro). Check for updates from Amy on her blog, God I Love Paris.
Website: God I Love Paris
Tags: Amy Thomas, Bistrot Marais, Cococook, Julien Hausherr, Marais Dining, Marais Eateries, Marais Restaurants, Mary, Merce and the Muse, rose bakery, Tartes Kluger
Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 5 Comments »