April 10, 2012
Being vegetarian anywhere requires extra effort and planning when it comes to dining out. Being a vegetarian in a place that eats pigeon, adores offal, and extols a head to tail philosophy (that is, Paris) requires Napoleonic strategizing.
At least it used to. In recent years, the dining scene in the City of Light has been opening up to alternative styles and menus, making it easier than ever to go veg (although you can still expect the occasional eye-roll from a waiter who simply doesn’t understand les végétariens). But whether you chalk it up to Anglo and ethnic infiltration, acceptance of new ingredients and spices, or simple ennui with traditional French cooking, it’s a great time to embrace your inner green goddess and take this meat-eating city by storm. Here are four delicious strategies to help.
Merce and the Muse (Julien Hausherr)
Strategy 1: Eat a big lunch
When Rose Carrarini (who’s British) and her French husband Jean-Charles opened Rose Bakery in 2002, their focus on fresh market salads—think: grilled tofu and tomatoes, and artichokes mixed with millet and chickpeas—was shockingly different from the staple of steak frites that many Parisians ate for lunch. Ten years and two additional outposts later, it’s hard to imagine Paris without Rose’s organic market salads, fresh quiches and famous carrot and pound cakes.
Similarly, when Marc Grossman opened Bob’s Juice Bar in 2006, the smoothies and bagel sandwiches the native New Yorker served up were wildly novel. Since then Grossman has not only spawned another café, Bob’s Kitchen, which serves additional goodies like pancakes and muesli, but a whole wave of casual cantines have followed suit. Hypercool concept stores Merci and Colette both have veg-friendly subterranean eateries; take-out lunch spots like Lemoni and Cojean always offer beautiful soups, sandwiches and salads; and lovely little cafes and bakeries such as SuperNature, Merce and the Muse, Tartes Kluger and Bread and Roses all offer outstanding veg fare.
Strategy 2: Eat ethnic
Another way to sate yourself without a bite of bifteck is by taking advantage of Paris’ ethnic restaurants. In the first arrondissement, Rue Saint-Anne is an oasis of Japanese dining options including hearty udon soups (try Kunitoraya or Higuma) and “okonomiyaki,” Japanese pancakes made of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage. Or you can get stuffed on Indian lentils and curries (Saravanna Bhavan, Krishna Bhavan) and Moroccan couscous and tagines (Chez Omar). Decent pizza (Pizza Chic, La Briciola), and Italian (Caffe dei Cioppi, Olio Pane Vino) abounds and, with last year’s arrival of Candelaria, Mexican is firmly on the ethnic eating map of Paris. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »
August 12, 2010
Rosa Jackson, the fabulous food writer and chef, is based in Nice where she conducts market tours and succulent Provençal cooking classes. She travels to Paris frequently (as one must) in order to keep up with the restaurant scene. Here she checks out Tien Hang, a true haven for Parisian vegetarians!
Rosa Jackson’s vegetarian son Sam in Zen restaurant
A few months ago, my son Sam declared himself a vegetarian. Now, if we lived in California this might not sound unusual, but this is France, proud land of steak-frites and saucisson, andouillette and tête de veau. What made his decision even more surprising is that both of his parents are meat-eaters. If much of my cooking relies on fresh vegetables from the market, I also can’t deny having a passion for steak tartare.
At first I wasn’t sure how to react. He had been making noises about becoming vegetarian ever since watching a cooking show on the television channel Arte in which a group of 12 to 14 year-olds visited a rabbit farm to see where meat came from. Picture the poor bunnies dangling from hooks, then cut to the skinned rabbits a few seconds later, ready to be chopped up for lapin à la moutarde. Who could really blame Sam?
For two years (he saw the show when he was five) I persuaded him that eating a little meat and fish is not a bad thing if you choose it carefully. But, as he got older, he became convinced that anything with a heart and a brain shouldn’t die in order to feed him. When he started to categorically refuse meat and fish, I decided not to fight it.
Rosa Jackson’s Stuffed Tofu – Tien Hang
I quickly discovered, though, that becoming vegetarian in France isn’t so simple. First, there was the school’s reaction. The teacher and canteen supervisors came to me saying, “Is he serious?” When I assured them that he was, they frowned and shook their heads. In France, school canteens operate on the principle that every child should eat everything, or at least try everything, unless they have a religious or health reason not to. The upside of this is that France is a nation of unfussy eaters. The downside is that la différence is not welcomed.
I went to see the économe, the woman in charge of collecting money for the canteen, and explained the “problem.” She gave me a sympathetic yet puzzled look.
“Vegetarianism is not a recognized diet in France,” she said. “We’ll have to put everything on the plate even if he doesn’t eat it.”
Thus, my son who doesn’t want to animals to die for his sake still gets served meat or fish every day at school, and has to eat around it.
As any vegetarian who has travelled to France knows, eating in restaurants is also a challenge. Fortunately, I live in Nice where the Italian influence means that gnocchi and fresh pasta with pistou or tomato sauce are nearly always on the menu. Nice also has one of the best vegetarian restaurants in France, La Zucca Magica, where children under 12 eat for free. Paris bistros are a bit more problematic, but since Sam is not fussy in other ways he will settle for almost anything that doesn’t contain animal protein (as long as goat cheese is not involved). He is also thrilled to eat miso soup and vegetable maki at my favorite Japanese restaurant, Zen.
Last night, as we were meeting a friend who has also gone off meat (or at least non-organic meat) after reading Eating Animals, I decided to see if we could find a good vegetarian restaurant in Paris. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 27 Comments »