March 9, 2011
Spring is right around the corner, which makes me reminisce about last spring, when I headed to Paris and fell seriously in L-O-V-E. And not with a charming wine bar, or a crooked side street, or a crazy-flavored macaron—but this time, with a real live man. How novel!
I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I left my apartment that morning, but by evening, it was clear that I was on a first date with the soon-to-be love of my life. We had hung out a few times before, but (save for the hideous fluorescent lights that signal closing time at La Perle) always under the cover of night. It had been all moonlight and streetlamps and the dull glow of limestone against the black Parisian sky. Under those conditions, I could pretty much have fallen in love with a rabid possum.
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Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 8 Comments »
February 16, 2011
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 »
January 20, 2011
Sometimes, I’m still intimidated by Paris. If the city were a person, it would probably be your elegant-but-somewhat-terrifying grandmother. She’ll help you become more refined, but might also scare the heck out of you in the process.
This is especially true at mealtime, and when dining out in Paris, you’ll notice there’s an unspoken code that helps to keep order. If you haven’t quite cracked it yet, don’t be dismayed. Here are a few rules to get you started
Where to sit. At many cafes and brasseries, seating is a bit of a free-for-all, but there’s no need to feel like a deer in the headlights. Just walk in and greet the host (or whomever seems to be running things). This person should give you an indication of whether you should wait to be seated or whether you can “install yourself” (installez-vous) anywhere.
Dress for success. Super fancy three-star restaurants aside, most eateries in Paris are “casual.” Nonetheless, the French still manage to make casual look cool, neat and discreet. Therefore, ditch the athletic gear, sweatpants, and baseball hats. And when in doubt, layer.
L’addition s’il vous plaît! (Alex S.)
Talk softly. There’s an unspoken agreement among French diners that if everyone chats quietly, no one will need to shout. (When they want to shout, they head to New York). When in Paris, respect the sound equilibrium and do your best to keep your conversation level low.
Respect the timetable. French kitchens run on a tight schedule. While some restaurants stay open throughout the day and night (look for a “service continu” sign), many others have explicit opening hours. Lunch is generally served from 12-2:30pm and dinner from 8-10pm. Plan to walk in during these times or, better yet, reserve in advance. Once you’re there, you can generally linger as long as you like. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 9 Comments »
August 27, 2010
French apéro cafe scene, Paris. Mecredis
If there’s something the French know how to do well, it’s give themselves a break (or rather, a pause). They see downtime as a preventative measure, a means to avoiding exasperation (as opposed to an emergency response to it). Whereas many of us wear ourselves so thin that we desperately need whatever it is (a break, a drink, a vacation), in France, it’s more about “we deserve this” than “we need this.”
L’heure de l’apéro (the French equivalent of cocktail hour) is the moment when the French consciously create some space between the workday and the dinner hour, demonstrating their talent for slowing down and, somehow, miraculously expanding time. On nice days, the apéro coincides with the moment when the city is suddenly bathed in that rosy, only-in-Paris light, and you suddenly feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in the world.
Non-traditional apéro settings are also appropriate: river banks, parks, benches… Boklm
Practically speaking, though, the idea of the apéro (a colloquial form of apéritif) is to whet the appetite for the meal to come. (The word comes from the latin aperire, which means to open). When at a café or bar, it’s typical to have glass of wine or champagne, a beer, or a kir (white wine with a splash of Crème de Cassis). Old-school traditionalists go for a pastis (an anise-flavored liqueur mixed with water and ice), and among my friends, Lillet (a sweet wine infused with citrus liqueur) has taken off of late. Take note: l’heure de l’apéro is not a time to pound American-style cocktails, which makes sense, considering a whiskey sour will do little to prep your palette for any kind of serious dégustation. And while cocktail culture is on the rise in France, mixed drinks have not historically been part of the French tradition. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 13 Comments »