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Playtime in Paris: Modern French Dining in the 10th Arrondissement

To celebrate Valentine’s Day four years ago, I dined at Le Grand Colbert, the restaurant made famous by Diane Keaton and her roast chicken in the film Something’s Gotta Give. For me, it will forever be famous for far different reasons. Over clangorous dining room voices and crumb-laden plates, my husband proposed to me.

The American couple seated next to us gushed as I beamed with joy and threw my arms around my new fiancé. The fullness of the moment was heightened by the Belle Epoque backdrop and the tuxedoed waiters who dashed back and forth with alacrity between the kitchen and the dining room, forging the surreal sensation of being the stars on a Hollywood film set. Unbearably prosaic but perfectly appropriate for the moment.

Since then, we’ve maintained the tradition of dining out on Valentine’s Day. Some of our choices have been memorable, some not even worth mentioning. We flirted with the idea of returning to Le Grand Colbert last month to relive our engagement but given the caliber of restaurants that have opened over the last four years, we couldn’t be bothered with average food and contrived theatrics, no matter how emotionally significant.

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Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »

My First Paris: Lindsey Discovers the Art of the Stroll

Bonnaf

I don’t think anyone would dispute that the French are the masters of leisure and purveyors of refined hedonism. Meals, apéros, discussions, and strolls are all to be conducted tranquillement – without haste and with an utmost respect for life’s little pleasures. With a vast selection of renowned terraces, parks, shops, secret passageways and charming cobblestone streets, it’s no wonder their capital city ranks highly for a laid-back kind of lifestyle.

But for Paris neophytes, particularly those accustomed to a far more hurried pace, this leisurely style is a bit of a head scratcher and is my most vivid first memory of the city. When I first arrived in Paris, my legs only functioned on two speeds – fast and faster – and this immediately perplexed my husband on our first date.

Was I in a rush? Trying to escape him? Neither, really. I was simply conditioned to stride with purpose, leaving aimless wandering for rare occasions or to aid in digestion after a heavy meal.


Couple strolling on rue Montorgueil (Lost in Cheeseland)

My feckless attempts at regulating my speed made us both chuckle and helped to abate all visible signs of first-date butterflies.  With a winsome smile and blushed cheeks, he reached for my hand and pulled me back toward him to match his gait.

Where’s the fire? We’re enjoying ourselves”, he reminded me. And that set the course for the rest of our 8-hour date.  As we walked from our rendez-vous point at Odéon, through Luxembourg Gardens, and eventually winded our way through the 2nd to rue Montorgueil for a cheese plate, I began to understand why the French have a word to describe the very act of strolling. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 23 Comments »

Septime: Friendly, Inventive and Refined Cuisine in Paris

Hake with carrots and zucchini

In April, the Paris food scene saw the grand return of creative culinary prowess with the opening of Septime, a modern bistro in a remote corner of the 11th arrondissement that breaks free from the confines of traditional French cooking. Buzz about the high-caliber restaurant was instantaneous and spoke largely of the mastermind behind the apron.

After a tenure at L’Arpège under the auspices of Alain Passard, Bertrand Grébaut went on to snag a Michelin star at Agapé at only 27 years old. Earning himself even further attention was the 10,000€ Evian-Badoit grant he was awarded to bring his own venture, Septime, to fruition.  Innovative, successful and under 30 – my friends and I were intrigued.

Chef Bertrand Grébaut

The moment we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with warm, sincere smiles and glowing enthusiasm from devilishly handsome young servers. We were seated in the entry dining room, across from the bar where the evening’s first guests chatted gleefully over a glass of wine. It features one long communal table and is slightly quieter than the larger room just beyond the glass partition that offers a view of Grébaut and his team hard at work in the open kitchen.

Before even glancing at the menu, we were transfixed by the post-industrial décor, hanging lamps (which we later learned were from Holland) and the rustic, unrefined wood tables throughout the restaurant that provided the warmth and sophistication missing from the neighborhood. Passersby must have felt similarly because most stopped in front of the restaurant, with its wide-open windows and enviable energy, to analyze the menu and get a feel for the ambiance. This stop-and-gawk continued all evening, much to our amusement.

Tables set at Septime

After fawning over the environment, it was time to dive into the deceivingly short menu and choose between three appetizers, three main dishes, and three desserts. We opted for a bit of each with the 55€ carte blanche tasting menu — by far the wisest value given the quality and artistry involved in each plate.  The chef has carte blanche and selects the combination of dishes each guest will receive, but he will accommodate food preferences and/or allergies. Following our order, a sommelier advised our wine choice, explaining its origin and why it would produce the perfect sense of balance and harmony with the dishes we would be served. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »

Le Bal Café: Amazing Food, Coffee, and Art at Place de Clichy

Having lived in Paris for five years, I have experienced a full spectrum of highs (euphoria) and lows (disillusionment) of expat life. And throughout those emotional dips I’ve observed the local evolutions – the highs and lows – of the city itself.

Kedgeree – typical British dish

Perhaps the most noticeable evolution has been in food and drink with the warmly welcomed arrival of foreign talent. Ethnic fare and American diners and burger joints aside, the Anglo food curve has largely been dominated by the reigning hipster brunch institution, Rose Bakery, which opened back in 2002. But Rose is no longer the only canteen on the Paris food scene cooking up high-quality, authentic English dishes, as evidenced by the recent spate of Anglo-inspired eateries. Continue Reading »

Posted in Coffee, Food, Restaurant Reviews | 6 Comments »

Impressing the French: Baking For the In-Laws

Lindsey Tremuta, the author of the entertaining blog Lost in Cheeseland, offers up regular musings on her life as an American expat in France. Here, she shares a couple recipes with us: a zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze that held its own during lunch with the French in-laws and a mouth-watering iced lemon buttermilk poundcake.

Hipparis: Baking for the French In-LawsDelicious ingredients: the keys for success

When I first moved to France, cooking scrambled eggs and pasta were about the extent of my kitchen capabilities. Mr. Cheeseland was understandably perplexed how I was able to nourish myself before he came along. Well a change of scenery and a couple of years to really get settled was just the push I needed to start cooking. We generally share the cooking responsibilities but I do the baking. That is, I make attempts.

One of the first things I ever successfully produced was a whole wheat zucchini bread. At that time I was always trying to find ways to make desserts healthier which usually produced a bland final product. Once I accepted that I was really only denying myself an extraordinary pleasure, I went back to basics. Zucchini, banana, pumpkin and lemon loaves without cutting corners on sugar or butter. If you’re going to eat it, might as well make it good.

Hip Paris: Baking for the French In-LawsZucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze

Every couple of months we get together with Mr. C’s parents and his sister for lunch, an occasion that usually translates to 5 hours of grazing and drinking. His sister is outstanding in the kitchen and always cooks up something inventive and filling – rarely traditional French dishes. That being said, she’s also known for her baking. Chocolate often makes an appearance in her desserts (if it isn’t the focus) and although it’s heavenly, I often feel unable to breathe or muster the energy to move out of my chair. It’s really an unpleasant situation. As a result, I started offering to bring the dessert to have a bit of control over how much and how heavy the end of the meal is. That hasn’t stopped her or my mother-in-law from making their own desserts thereby making the the problem I was trying to avoid even worse.

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Posted in Food, HiP Recipes | 5 Comments »