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In Search of the Perfect French Oyster: Les Huîtres de Cancale

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Kate Robinson – Oysters getting ready for market

On a clear day, the ghostly meringue-like swirl of Mont Saint Michel is just barely visible across the bay from Cancale. This plucky little seaside town has been famous for its oysters since the Roman occupation of Gaul, and continues to be a top destination for ostreaphiles the world over.

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Isabel Miller-Bottome

On a painfully bright day in July, I found myself sitting on a beach littered with shards of chipped and broken oyster shells, bleached white by the sun. Balanced on my knees was a plate of nine intact oysters, fresh from the Cancale bay, deeply cupped and glistening in their own liqueur. The oyster farmer who had sold them to me five minutes earlier had cracked each one open with barely a downward glance, as he stood talking to me in the shade of the little blue and white striped hut where creuses and plats sat in jumbles designated by size (the largest was surely only meant for cooking…). In exchange for the last three euros of vacation money that still jingled in my pocket, he presented me with a sturdy white plastic plate of oysters, a half a lemon and his condolences regarding my imminent return to Paris on the afternoon train.

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Kate Robinson – Oysters on the beach!

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Posted in Food, Travel | No Comments »

Loches: A Glimpse into Historic French Countryside in the Heart of the Loire Valley

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On a hill overlooking the Indre in the heart of the Loire Valley, Loches remains one of the best-preserved medieval cities in France today. With its shadowy cobblestone streets, sweeping views of the enclosing forest landscape, and lively marketplace and cuisine, Loches has a particular authentic charm difficult to find elsewhere. A half-hour from Tours and a three-hour drive from Paris, it’s an off-the-beaten-tourist-path detour for visitors of the Loire region, as well as an easy weekend getaway for Parisians seeking a breath of fresh air.

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I find the best way to learn about French history is simply to wander and take in the historical sites themselves. Loches may be a quiet city today, but its sundry past features some of France’s most fascinating characters: Joan of Arc, Anne of Brittany, and King Charles VII and his notorious, “favorite” official mistress, Agnes Sorel.

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Posted in Travel | 1 Comment »

La Table de Cybèle: Fresh and Local Dining in Boulogne

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It’s seems that Boulogne, a relatively staid suburb of Paris, is becoming spunkier as a different breed of establishment seems to be seeping into the area. Concept stores, pizza joints with NYC aspirations, a combo cookie shop/tattoo parlor and the like are making a bit of a buzz that has caused some to liken the area to the “Brooklyn of Paris.”

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Never having lived in Brooklyn, but being very aware of its use as a trendy descriptor (one of which I’ve been guilty myself), I asked friends who have lived both in Paris and New York for their take on this latest cultural comparison. I received some interesting and enlightening responses like: “Boulogne is by no stretch of the imagination ‘The New Brooklyn.’ One might, with a little reach, say it is trying to become Williamsburg-wanna-be-sur-Seine.”

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On Becoming Parisian: 10 Signs I Belong in the City of Light

HiP Paris Blog, Becoming Parisian, meg hourihanLa Seine, meg hourihan

Falling in love with romance-infused Paris – the grandiose Haussmannian architecture, the Marais’ winding streets, and the city’s bistro scene – is easy. But if you’re not born here, living in Paris is another story. It’s a whole other lifestyle, a mentality. And although it is hard not to love Paris for its compelling beauty alone, not everyone takes to Parisian life like a duck to water. While most will relish in its temptations, others will see its grayer side. The very visible problem of homelessness, the significantly different humor, the mentality…even the party chitchat is different. The grimy metro, overflowing museums, and the onslaught of hipsters all take some getting used to as well. Paris may not be very far away from London, my hometown, but when I moved here, everything seemed far removed from what I knew. The unashamed indulgence in pleasure, the variety and standard of the food, the slower pace of life, the abundance of cultural activities, and the city’s manageable size are features I had a hard time finding elsewhere.

HiP Paris Blog, Becoming Parisian, drburtoniHiP Paris Blog, Becoming Parisian, Roseval, Didier Gauducheau PL9A3093Drburtoni/ Roseval, Didier Gauchucheau

And then one day, I woke up Parisian. In other words, living a dichotomy of loving and hating the city, yelling at people for inconsiderate behavior on public transport, eating out most days, and when the sun shines, running to the nearest grassy spot no matter how crowded are now commonplace. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 8 Comments »

Women In Food & Wine: Ladies Of the Paris Dining Scene, Part I

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Lise Kvan and Sarah Mouchot at Holybelly (Holybelly & Kim Laidlaw)

As we know well, the promise of gastronomic delights is enough to inspire travelers to explore the world, seeking out hard-fought reservations and off-the-beaten-path restaurants in the name of really good food.

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Adeline Grattard of Yam’tcha (Didier Gauducheau)

It’s easy to forget that behind these curated culinary experiences there is a team of dedicated professionals committed to using their talents and passions to improve and diversify the general landscape of food and dining. Certain events, TV shows, publications, and guidebooks spotlight some of these talented and resolute food professionals.

Ladies in Food, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by La Buvette

La Buvette

While these “foodie guides” are becoming more and more ubiquitous, they are unfortunately not always comprehensive as they far too often exclude women from their lineup. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 2 Comments »

Paris’ Small Plates Trend: Artisan, Buvette, Braisenville & Ito Delight in SoPi

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Buvette (ilovebuvette)

You can call it tapas, mezze, hors d’ouvres… But, whatever you call it, small plate dining has been big news in Paris for the past few years.

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Artisan (Fanny Twin) & Buvette 

Places like Verjus, Au Passage, Mary Celeste, l’Avant Comptoir, Bones and Frenchie Wine bar have upped the ante when it comes to these meals made up of mini-servings. With so many spots, it’s hard to choose. So, if you’re interested in partaking in this particular fad, here’s a hat trick of SoPi hotspots for an all night tapas tour.

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Braisenville

Since Artisan doesn’t take reservations, it’s best to begin your night here to guarantee a seat. This laid back location is the latest from the group behind La Maison Mère and they’ve up their game thanks to the one-two punch of barman Frederic Le Bordays and chef Vanessa Krycève. Continue Reading »

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Roseval: New Wave Gourmet In Paris’ Belleville Neighborhood

Roseval, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

On a windy night this past fall, I brought my godfather to his first proper Paris dinner. Naturally, I went with a restaurant I was dying to try: Roseval. Tucked away in the 20th, north of Pere Lachaise and just off the Rue de Menilmontant, the location was sort of perfect. I’ve come to know this off-the-tourist-path neighborhood a bit better over the past few years and love the foodie ventures it draws.

Roseval, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

The exterior of Roseval is unassuming — a beautiful and perfectly aged stone façade. The interior, a rustic-meets-industrial space with just a handful of wooden tables.

Roseval, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

Upon being seated, two menus were quickly dropped off for our review. Listing several ingredients for each course, we were given a brief glimpse into what we’d be eating that evening but no sense of the form, as is becoming increasingly common with this style of new wave, low key gastronomic bistro. I love this element of surprise though it may not be best for a pickier eater (also in part because there are no options; you get what they give you). Our ingredient list included:

Roseval, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

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Philippe Starck’s Ma Cocotte: A Perfect Sunday Lunch Inside the Paris Flea Market

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Ma Puce, mon lapin, ma biche, mon chou, ma poule, ma caille, ma cocotte…

These hidden terms of French endearment appear from the most unlikely places to surprise you inside Ma Cocotte, the restaurant designed by Philippe Starck in the heart of Paris’ enchanting antique and flea markets (aka, Les Puces).

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As you bite into your roast chicken, a little hidden love message ‘Ma Poule’ (hen) appears on your plate. Take note as you dive into your bowl of hot chocolate, ‘Mon Amour’! ‘Mon Lapin’ (my rabbit) is displayed on the wall, perhaps replacing the portrait of a loved one? Continue Reading »

Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 2 Comments »

Clamato: A New Oyster Bar From the Team Behind Septime

Clamato, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

As Europe’s largest oyster-producing country, France has a long history with the tasty bivalves. Busy brasseries boast display cases with servers who expertly shuck them for seafood platters and passing shoppers.

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The year-end provides the perfect excuse to indulge in the festive combination of oysters and champagne. And, while they’ve always been part of the country’s culinary fabric, some of the city’s new chefs have been bringing them back to the forefront of the food scene by infusing a bit more energy and creativity into their service.

Clamato, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

With seafood and shellfish playing a starring role in so many of the city’s new and popular restaurants, the team behind Septime finally unveil their own take on the trend with their third venture, Clamato.  Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 6 Comments »

La Maison des Frigos: Hidden Lunches In a Former Artist Squat

La Maison des Frigos, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Didier Gauducheau

“I don’t cook for everyone; I cook for those I love.” So says Mariko, the Osaka-born owner/chef/gallerist who helms La Maison des Frigos, the tiny café on the ground floor of the artist squat, Les Frigos, in a rejuvenated section of Paris’s 13ème. Indeed, to eat in her dining room is to be invited into her world and – word to the wise – to follow her rules.

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(No chatting on your cell, no photos, no credit cards, and – in an overheard admonishment to some fellow diners: Chez moi, we eat our main course before the melon…).

But for Mariko, a former painter and longtime Paris transplant, cooking is a labor love, inspired by the riot of color and creative chaos that defines the building she inhabits. It’s a unique place. Continue Reading »

Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 6 Comments »