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Parisian Fashion: French Women Remain Timeless, Chic and Elegant

Chic and Elegant Paris fashion – Paris in Pink

What is it about Parisian women that always leaves me staring as they ever so briskly pass by, thinking, how do they always manage to look so (for lack of a better word), chic? They appear to be dressed with a casual confidence, never looking out of place and drawing just enough attention. Each detail and accessory is carefully chosen, creating a color palette of distinctive greys, blacks and neutrals, with just a touch of color. Timeless. Elegant. And always classy. This ‘dress-code’ is most creatively displayed in the ‘bobo’ parts of Paris where ‘bourgeois’ meets ‘boheme’. The result is a never-ending fashion show on the streets of the Marais, Saint Germain, and often in between.

Longing for Paris summer fashion – Paris in Pink

What’s their secret? I have a few theories.

Timeless. Parisians are avid shoppers but not necessarily considered consumers. They choose quality over quantity and when the Soldes hit Paris, they spend the time necessary to find that one signature piece to add to their collection, which will naturally work with all the other pieces. Shopping becomes a curatorial experience. Thus, there is no end to the possibilities and no need to follow the latest trends. Rather than mimic a mannequin, a Parisian woman will simply use this model for inspiration. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Shopping | 20 Comments »

Chateau de Raissac: A Long Weekend in the South of France

Chateau Raissac, Beziers, FranceEntrance to Chateau Raissac, Beziers, France

It’s still cold in New England and we’ve managed to get another light coating of snow this week. When it’s this cold, there’s really nothing else to do but daydream of warmer times… in France. Remember when I did that last month? I shared my little trip to Mont Saint Michel, where I was amazed by the towering abbey on the ocean.

This time around, my thoughts are drifting further south, way south, down to a tiny town near the coastline. This time, I didn’t just SEE the towering almost-other-worldly structure in the distance. This time, I got to LIVE there. Erica, the founder of this very blog and my very favorite company (where I also work), whisked her team away to the Chateau de Raissac in the small city of Beziers, just a short drive to the Mediterranean, to unwind, do a bit of brainstorming and meet the fabulous couple who own the chateau and run a local vineyard of the same name.

What do I remember?

I remember getting to know the friendliest little dogs who stood watch over their enormous home. The structure was astounding and unlike anything I had ever seen. I’m typically not a chateau sort of lady, but as I kept whispering all week to my colleagues, “I could adjust to this.”

Chateau Raissac, Beziers, FranceEntrance to Chateau Raissac
Chateau Raissac, Beziers, FranceThe tower that was home to my blue bedroom at Chateau Raissac

Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Homes, Travel | 15 Comments »

Underground Restaurants in Paris: Three Hidden Kitchens

Hip Paris first wrote about underground dining back in March 2009, when we experienced  Hidden Kitchen for the first time. Since then, we’ve gathered around private tables with the likes of David Lebovitz, interviewed chefs like Rachel Khoo, and searched high and low for these special, discreet, private experiences. Forest Collins has sorted through the (now abundant) options on the Paris scene to brings us today her top 3 Clandestine Paris dining experiences — Geneviève.

A private dinner (Leo Farrell from Rachel Khoo)

Groucho Marx said it best: “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Sometimes the harder something is to get, the more we want it. This seems to hold especially true with eating out in Paris as the capital catches up with the extensive network of already established ‘private dining clubs’ in other major cities.

Not your usual restaurant, private dining clubs are a different kind of eating experience where food-minded folks gather in under-the-radar locations to share a meal.  They range from closely guarded secret rendezvous to more publicized, well-known gatherings. Because they exist outside of the usual commercial restaurant mold, they’re often hard to find and sometimes even harder to get into.

So are the added hindrances to underground dining worth it?  Last week, I checked out three clandestine Paris Kitchens to find out.

Cookies and Tatie, the house dog at Hidden Kitchen

Hidden Kitchen: where sophisticated palates converge with the gastro-curious to indulge in Paris’ finest of clandestine cuisines

This was not my first visit to the brainchild of American ex-pats Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian. I first ate there when they opened with a near immediate fan base in 2007.  Since then, they’ve accrued a substantial following and attracted enough media attention that they had to move to a larger location where they now serve a communal table of 16.

Elegant ten course dinners take place in their enviable Parisian apartment. Braden brings his special touch to fresh local ingredients, creating dishes that rival the best of restaurants for both flavor and presentation. He still finds time to step away from the stove to talk guests through each course while Laura selects and pours wine for the pairings and takes over in the kitchen when it’s time for the sweets.

Hidden Kitchen, which was originally intended as a yearlong project, is still in action after more than four years. Over this time, they have stayed consistently booked up while developing their culinary and wine expertise.  They also keep things fresh by inviting occasional guest chefs – on my latest visit, Nicholas Calcott created an impressive 9 course Szechuan dinner.

If the topnotch food, service and setting aren’t enough for you, the communal table adds a convivial element not found in your run of the mill eateries that I was truly able to enjoy during my latest solo visit.

Suggested donation: 70 to 80 Euros

Two vibrant green dishes at Hidden Kitchen

Soul Kitchen Supper Club: where the un-ironically hip rub elbows and bump knees over flavor-packed world dishes in art-infused surroundings

For a change of pace, American duo Christian Guerrero and Alexa Wisnoski casually cater to a global-minded eclectic community of wanderers, wonderers and food ponderers who appreciate a seriously good nosh. An evening at the relatively new Soul Kitchen Supper Club begins with a genial cocktail apéro in the couple’s cozy apartment with up to 32 guests.

After mingling, diners slide around the multiple low glass-top tables and await delights from the kitchen as pitchers of wine appear.  Christian and Alexa create origina and well thought-out 4-5 course menus focusing on fusion flavors that are hard to find in Paris like Non-Tex Mexican and New Jersey Style Italian American Cuisine. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 12 Comments »

Paris Fashion: Staying Chic in the Rain

Chic Fashion in the Rain in ParisFashionable shoes on rainy Paris streets (Christophe Hue)

I spent most of November in Paris, and while it was a delight, I think I can count the number of times I saw the sun on one hand. Soon after my arrival, an out-of-nowhere hail storm reminded me of how fickle Parisian weather can be. (It was kind of awesome, but my Repetto’s were not amused).

Nonetheless, Parisians don’t let a little precipitation put a damper on their preening. On the contrary, a little inclement weather affords them the opportunity to show off their slick rainy-day style. So while we may dream of owning various classic wardrobe staples, it makes sense to start with some good-looking rain gear. If you’re spending the winter in Paris, you’ll need it.

Chic Fashion in the Rain - ParisLadies waiting in the rain, with red umbrellas (John Oxley)

The umbrella. Absolutely non-negotiable—do not leave home without it. Cheap models can be found at any Monoprix, and department stores like Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, BHV and Bon Marché offer a wide range. If you’re feeling super fancy, splurge on a gorgeous artisan umbrella from Michel Heurtault.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Shopping | 15 Comments »

Bistrot du Peintre: A Legit Restaurant on Paris’ Right Bank

Zinc bar at Bistrot du Peintre (Julien Hausherr)

The trouble with dating someone who always thinks he’s right is that, sometimes, he actually is. On my most recent visit to Paris, my BF and I got into a lot of food-related debates, and I have to admit, he knows his stuff. While I tend to keep my ear to the ground for news about new restaurants, emerging chefs, and more concept-driven eateries, he has quietly and discerningly been working his way through old-school establishments that offer exquisite traditional cuisine in pretension-free (and mostly tourist-free) settings. He pays very little attention to reviews or buzz, so when he labels a place “legit,” I’ve learned to take note.

He recently introduced me to the Bistrot du Peintre, a two-story Art Nouveau eatery that’s been around since 1902. It’s located in the 11th, a short walk from the Bastille and the Marais, but slightly out of the fray. Upon entering, I noticed the place was busy but calm, the tables full of relaxed French people who work in the quartier or who have probably been coming here for years, because they know what we now know: this place is legit.

Bistrot du Peintre (Julien Hausherr)

We settled into a cozy banquette on the upper level and—like most of the other diners—ordered the day’s featured dishes: a silky mushroom soup with a secret ball of mozzarella at the bottom (sneaky! delicious!), braised pork on a mountain of velvety French lentils, and a not-too-creamy brandade de Cabillaud. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 17 Comments »

A Perfect Parisian Love Story: The Fairytale

Kasia Dietz is an American dreamer who fell in love with her Italian prince and moved to the city of light to be with him. She writes all about her travels and Parisian adventures on her blog, and sweetly offered to share her personal fairytale with us for our Valentine’s Day post. On this February 14, a holiday that seems especially significant to Parisians, Francophiles and Americans alike, we celebrate her love, your love and wish each of you a very happy Valentine’s Day. xoxo, Maggie

Hearts and love around Paris for Valentine’s Day (clockwise from top left, Paris in Pink, Elisa Dudkinova, Paris in Pink, Phil Moore)

The dream of every girl, particularly on Valentine’s Day, is to be swept away by a Prince Charming, into a setting of eternal sunsets and romantic interludes. Does such a fairytale really exist? Not exactly. But for everyone there does exist a unique love story. It’s simply a matter of time. And meeting the right Prince.

Needless to say, I never stopped believing in fairytales.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 11 Comments »

Finding Love in Paris: How This American Guy Got his French Gal

Charlie Almond met a French girl two years ago at his housewarming party back in the states. Now he’s living in Paris and trying to sort the rest out. Here he shares a couple tips to help the average Joe pull one on the Jean-Pierres…

Finding love with a French woman – make sure she’s smiling before you set off after her though (Dave Bloom)

I try to fight it, but I sometimes feel like having a Parisian girlfriend has turned me into a bit of a cliché.  Really though, it’s not my fault.  Parisian girls are cute.  Something about the way the corners of their mouths curl up when they speak French drives me wild.  It’s an inviting half-smile even if they’re talking about how much they hate Belgians.  So when one fell into my lap, the chase was inevitable.  Now that I’m here, what have I learned?

Parisian guys are the reason why I could get a Parisian girl. Sorry messieurs, but when you look like the pilot cast for a European Jersey Shore, you’re not going to bag a classy Parisian lady.  Yes, your chest hair is nice and you can carry on a conversation about hair products, but that’s not enough. Parisiennes do not like competing with their men over who’s prettier, especially if that also means fighting for shelf space in the bathroom.

Romantic evenings in Paris often start with wine, end in a blur… (Dave Bloom)

What Americans bring to the table. Let’s face it: if you’re spending time abroad, you’re probably not too stereotypical.  You’re adventurous, worldly, and probably just fashionable enough to please a discerning French eye (on your good days). To the benefit of our oft-stuffy counterparts and despite our prudish national reputation, Americans are also more open and jovial socially.  What’s more? We’re funny, and we all know humor goes a long way in defeating the rich, successful, over-groomed square in hand-to-hand combat. Right? Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 19 Comments »

Mont Saint Michel: A French Tourist Destination That Still Inspires

Mont Saint Michel (Jean-Christophe Dichant)

With four feet of snow piling up around my New England home, it’s no wonder I’m dreaming of Paris. This happens a lot. New England snowstorms are perfect for daydreams about somewhere else. Anywhere else, really.

France just so happened to be my last trip, so I keep drifting back to a little rendezvous just two hours north of Paris. We were three ladies in a rental car, armed with iPod, rain boots and a destination: a little-known spot called Mont Saint Michel. I knew virtually nothing about the cultural significance of this big pile of granite on the ocean. I just wanted one night in the country, in the dark, away from the dazzling Paris lights. (Sometimes we need a break from all the dazzle; it makes us miss it and eventually appreciate it more upon our return.)

The view from the top of Mont Saint Michel (Maggie Battista)

Two hours later, glowing from a cidre and mille feuille tasting (though both didn’t occur in the same place because that would just be too dreamy), a chance encounter with the sweetest apple orchard puppy, and barrels of rain falling around us, we came upon this rock with its abbey and elegant spire in the far-off landscape. My mouth went permanently agape and I just snap, snap, snapped photos. Continue Reading »

Posted in Travel | 19 Comments »

Au Revoir Paris, Bonjour NYC: What I’ll Miss and What I’ll Embrace

Jenny and David enjoying l’heure bleue in An Education

Once you’re familiar with the sweet life in Paris, it’s no easy thing to leave. After all, when every day is filled with arresting beauty, when all five senses get worked over like nowhere else in the world, when you’ve mastered the art of lingering for hours at the dinner table, the lunch table, on the river bank, beside the canal… well, where do you go from here?

Lucky for me, the answer is New York. And as loath as I am to leave some things behind (I’m talking to you, pain au chocolat), I’m equally excited to get back to certain creature comforts.

A stroll along the Seine and a vintage Tabac sign (pkabz, slimjim)

What I’ll Miss

Boulangeries

More specifically, the smell of boulangeries; of butter getting baked into millions of flaky croissant layers in the morning and of baguettes being pulled fresh from the oven each night. Getting smacked in the face with those delicious aromas is almost better than eating the warm, yeasty treats. Almost.

Velibs

It’s like being part of a symphony, riding around Paris on a Velib. You weave around delivery trucks, buzz past monuments, zip across bridges, and coast beneath dancing trees; your heart and legs pumping, spirits soaring, and then, the finale: you park outside Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées and reward yourself with un petit gateau.

L’Heure Bleue

What is it about this “hour” in Paris? Walking in the quiet side streets or staring out the window in the evening is nothing short of magic. It just doesn’t exist as beautifully, or linger as teasingly, anywhere else in the world.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Travel | 15 Comments »