Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Wed 14 May 08 17:29
Many of you have asked about breakfast in Paris. Here are few ideas: 1) Buy good organic yogurt (much better in France than the US with the notable exception of the sublime maple-syrup flavored water-buffalo's milk yogurt made in Vermont, my all-time favorite) and order some hot water from room service. I always travel with a cup and tea bags, and I've never been charged for a pot of hot water. This may sound chintzy, but why waste $15-$20 on a dead ordinary hotel breakfast. 2) For something more special, go to the original Laduree on the rue Royale for breakfast. Early morning is the best time to really revel in the sumptuous 19th century decor of this place, and the genteel crowd who come in for breakfast are an intriguing mixture of countesses and con men. 3) If I have an early meeting on the Left Bank, I buy a croissant at Gerard Mulot and then order tea at the kiosk in the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens, perhaps my favorite place in Paris, are magical in the morning. 4) If you need to "do" breakfast for business reasons, the buffet at the Hotel Bristol is the best in town, a really sublime and very generous feed that will impress any client and which also costs much less than lunch.
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Wed 14 May 08 17:35
Re La Grille, which is in the 10th arrondissement and one of my favorite old-fashioned bistros in Paris, the other one that I'm crazy about is Le Quincy, which is not far from the Gare de Lyon. Both of these places are written up in my book HUNGRY FOR PARIS. Does anyone have a favorite old-fashioned (as opposed to modern, i.e. Ze Kitchen Galerie) bistro that they'd like to share? As someone who has lived in Paris for over 20 years, I know that these places are becoming as rare as hen's teeth. So share!
kayili! (kayo) Wed 14 May 08 18:06
Alec, have you been to Le Bougnat, 28 rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd? I had an awesome lunch there a couple years ago with brady and... reet? More than a couple years! Tiny bistro, traditional menu. Hmmm, I see lefooding.com says ... well, I don't know what it says: C'est quand meme drole de voir les riverains lookes de la rue Charlot dibouler en nombre dans ce troquet popu,...
Barbara Sewart Thomas (barst) Wed 14 May 08 20:48
Alec, you mentioned how you love going to the organic market and buying food to cook at home. Having only made short trips to Paris (no longer than a week) and staying in hotels, one of my fantasies is to go for a longer time some day, rent an apartment and be able to pick up all kinds of wonderful food you see at at the markets and cook them myself.
Barbara Sewart Thomas (barst) Wed 14 May 08 20:50
Though living in the Midwest, I often feel the same way when I'm in San Francisco and see all of the lovely things at the farmer's market at the Ferry Building. The choices are so much more limited here.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 May 08 01:45
Alec, would you say your expertise is limited to Paris, or are there other cities you know well? Selfish reason behind question is that I'm about to go on a trip that'll take me to Aix (never been before), Marseille (ditto) and Montpellier, where I'll be moving in July, and know a bit more about. I'd be happy to hear your takes on any or all of them.
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 07:05
Hi Kayo, I love Le Bougnant, which is exactly the kind of unpretentious, solid, good-value bistro that I crave. I worry that it won't be around much longer, too, since as you rightly point out, this neighborhood is going upmarket very, very quickly. Real old-fashioned bistros with plats mijotees (simmered dishes, like blanquette de veau, boeuf bourguignon, etc.) are becoming rarer and rarer. Alec
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 07:07
To Barbara Stewart Thomas The next time you come to Paris you really should think about renting an apartment. A great place to look for short-term rentals is www.fusac.com (France-USA Contacts, an all classifieds site). I think that shopping and cooking in Paris is a brilliant way of deepening one's knowledge of the city's food culture. Alec
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 07:15
To Ed Ward, I know both Montpellier and Marseilles quite well. Montpellier is a delightful city, and it constantly comes out at the top of the list when surveyors ask the French where they'd live in France if they could. I also have a soft spot for Marseilles, which, with Chicago, was one of the fastest growing cities in the world during the 19th century (The Suez canal caused the city to boom) and has such poignantly grandiose architecture. Between the two, Marseilles is the more interesting food city, and it's in the midst of a real restaurant boom right now. My favorite restaurant there is L'Epuisette, which has a stunning setting overlooking the sea and a kitchen that does terrific seafood, including bouillabaise. I also like Lauracee, Pizzeria Etienne, and Le Cafe des Epices. Alec
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 May 08 07:37
Thanks, Alec. I was rather astonished that there's no signature dish or collection of dishes in Montpellier, but I do like the city, and figure that if I've got to starve to death, I'll do it in a city with good food, which Berlin really isn't. One thing about France is that the cooking implements, from pots and pans right down to gadgets, are first-rate. Do you have any suggestions for visitors to Paris who are looking for a good cookware store?
Barbara Sewart Thomas (barst) Thu 15 May 08 07:39
Thanks for the tip, Alec.
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 12:22
Ed, Aside from such famous old-line shops at E. Dehillerin in the rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement, I also like Eurotra, 119 boulevard Richard Lenoir, 11th, which has lower prices and a very good selection of cookware. It's also worth browsing the housewares sections of the larger branches of the MONOPRIX discount store chain and the BHV department store in the Marais. The one place that's not worth bothering with is Maison Lafayette, the house/cookware annex of the Galeries Lafayette department store--prices high, selection limited. Alec
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 12:24
And I have a question for all of you--do you think that Paris is still the world's gastronomic capital? Did you eat well the last time you visited the city? Is there another city that you think is giving Paris a run for the money? Do tell!
La plus nouvelle poubelle (stet) Thu 15 May 08 12:25
Alec -- any good cookware Brocante places you know of?
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 12:34
Chere Poubelle, Check out the flea-market at the Porte de Vanves in the 15th. It's hit and miss, but I've found some great stuff there. The classic antique cookware sellers at the Porte de Clignacourt have become much, much too expensive. And for anyone heading to southwestern France, my all-time favorite antique town is Figeac--have found some amazing stuff there, and so reasonable.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 15 May 08 12:40
Hi, Alec, and a slightly belated welcome from me. I'm a relatively regular visitor to Paris, and two trips ago (2005) I had the chance to meet a bunch of friends from the Well for dinner, most of whom have checked in here, and we ate at the lovely Chez Paul in the 11th, near Opera Bastille. Lots of questions and comments for you to come, of course, but to take a stab at your own question, I think that Paris may still be the overall leader, but that its greatest strength is perhaps in the second or third tier of restaurants -- not necessarily the places in your book, but the neighborhood places, with moderate prices, that people eat out at more regularly. If you imagine the quality of a city's restaurants on a hypothetical bell curve, I think Paris's curve would be higher in the direction of good food than any other place I can think of. There may be other world cities with as many top-end, cutting-edge places -- New York, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, San Francisco, Tokyo -- but I don't think any of those necessarily have the same "bench strength" as Paris. That said, I think Paris's weakness, if any, is diversity of international cuisines, compared to some of the cities mentioned above. That seems to be changing, but only perhaps in the last few years.
La plus nouvelle poubelle (stet) Thu 15 May 08 12:51
I agree with <mcb> but would add one other advantage Paris (and France) has: raw material. A dish is only as good as its ingredients, and despite progress everywhere, France is still so, so good at this. The regional thing is such a strength. You have people in hundreds of different places concentrating on making a speciality of their place really, really special. If it is, it gets to Paris. And people come from Paris to get it. Italy does this too, to an extent, and Spain, but it's really the ace in the hole for French cooking.
Barbara Stewart-Thoma (barst) Thu 15 May 08 13:06
<scribbled by barst Thu 15 May 08 13:08>
Barbara Thomas (barst) Thu 15 May 08 13:08
Another great thing about Paris: When I was there last year, we stopped off for a drink at the cafe across from our hotel and were then going to go someplace for dinner. A big downpour made us reconsider and we had dinner at the cafe. We had nice prix fixe meal, which might not have won any awards, but was tasty and filling. It sure beats typical bar food in the U.S. and pub food in the U.K.
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 14:39
Hi MCB and Nouvelle Poubelle, I agree with both of you re Paris restaurants. One precision, though--there are lots of 2nd and 3rd tier restaurants in my book--check out the 11th and 12th arrondissements, which are the best places to look for honest and affordable French food today. The real strength of Paris dining is definitely the quality of the city's neighborhood eating, which can included new bistros like L'Epigramme in Saint Germain, or a good cafe like Le Nemrod on the rue Saint Placide. It's also true that the produce in France is superb. The biggest and most impt. difference for me between what's available in the US and France is in terms of the dairy goods. Aside from Kate's Organic Butter made in Kennebunkport, Maine I've never found really good butter in the U.S., and the milk and cream products are all disappointing, too. Paris also has the best seafood in Europe. I ate a dozen Gillardeau oysters for lunch in the tiny oyster bar at Restaurant Garnier in front of the Gare Saint Lazare and they were so sweet and succulent that I sometimes believe that nature itself is the perfect cook. Alec
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Thu 15 May 08 14:42
P.S. I agree that Paris doesn't have the same diversity of ethnic restaurants found in most US cities, but we still have some stand-outs. Liza, which I mention in HUNGRY IN PARIS, is the best Lebanese food I've ever had outside of Lebanon, and Paris's North African food is terrific, too. What disappoints, however, is the city's Italian food--expensive and generally ordinary, and the paucity of restaurants from other European countries. The French like tapas and paella, but I've always from the highly rated Fogon to be disappointing ever since it moved from its original location in the 5th arrondissement.
La plus nouvelle poubelle (stet) Thu 15 May 08 14:54
You might check out Hamaika, 11 Rue JJ Rousseau. "Hamaika" means 11 in Basque, which is the regionality spin on the tapas, which were good when we there; and they had some really agreable house wines.
Eric Gower (gower) Thu 15 May 08 14:59
Hello Alex, welcome to the Well! I would make a case for Tokyo as the world's gastrocapital over Paris, in terms of variety, quality (especially regarding seafood, but meat too, dairy definitely not) and ethnic consideration. Part of that of course is sheer size: there are some 80,000 restaurants in Tokyo, a truly astounding number, especially when contrasted with Paris's roughly 3,700 (at least according to Michelin), with only a little more than double the population (12 million versus 5 million). There is some crappy food in food in Tokyo, but not a lot. I regrettably have had more crappy meals in Paris than I would like, so many that last year I unwittingly took Alex's advice and bought picnic food almost everyday, which was sublime. Granted, I was there in August, a truly horrible time to be eating in Paris!
Alexander Lobrano (aleclobrano) Fri 16 May 08 00:50
HI Eric, I agree that Tokyo is a superb food city, but can't help thinking that comparing it to Paris is like comparing an apple to an orange. Both fruits, but very different and delicious in different ways. The only thing I don't usually like in Tokyo are the western restaurants (but then that's not what you're there to eat anyway). What I love is the aesthetic approach, the courtesy, the subtlety of Japanese food. You also raise an interesting idea about eating well in Paris, which is what is the best season to come chomp your way through the city. My preference would be for winter, since so many of the most glorious traditional French dishes--cassoulet, choucroute garni, blanquette de veau, etc.--are perfect food on a cold, wet day. I address this issue of the seasons in HUNGRY FOR PARIS, too. Finally, I agree tha August is the nadir of the Paris dining calender, and usually urge friends visiting in August to rent apartments, since so many restaurants are closed but there are wonderful things to be had in the markets. Alec
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 16 May 08 04:43
Re ethnic eats, I asked earlier about Senegalese food, which I had many years ago in the Barbes district. Have you tried any places along those lines you'd recommend? I've also seen "Afro-Caribbean" places with dishes from the former French colonies there. Tried any of those?
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