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People ask if my eating habits have changed since moving to France, assuming that Americans live off processed junk and shop in giant supermarkets. Thankfully my upbringing was nothing like that and not all that different from how I eat in France.
My mother worked full time, but managed to make a home-cooked dinner for four kids every night. We had a milk man who left fresh milk and eggs on our porch and a butcher named Tony who wrapped my mom’s packages in brown paper, tied up with string. My parents weren’t foodies, but for some reason we never bought meat from the supermarket, only from the butcher. I remember one night my father asking with suspicion if my mom had bought that night’s steak at the Acme, and you knew from the tone of his voice that this was not something you wanted to do. Produce came from the Amish farmers market up the street and we had a vegetable garden in the summer. We had all sorts of tomatoes in that garden and I have never tasted better tomatoes than the one’s my father grew. I learned that eating fresh local food was better. No one told me it was better, but it certainly tasted better.
There’s a myth that everyone in France shops at outdoor markets or their neighbourhood butcher, cheesemonger and baker. Sadly this isn’t always the case. While many still shop at family run shops, more and more people are opting for the ease and convenience of hypermarchés or giant supermarkets just like Americans. And even if you do shop at outdoor markets in France, it is by no means a guarantee that what you’re buying is from a local farm and may very well be from some industrial farm in Spain. Click Here To Keep Reading
What was once a non-descript spacious corner café, the kind where you go to buy cigarettes and men spend their day playing PMU, has been taken over by the team who turned Chez Jeanette in the 10th into one of the most talked about cafes in Paris.
They’ve kept much of the décor the same (although Figaro reports that they’ll be getting a facelift in March) except for a few disco balls and a retro juke box which turns out some pretty good music. With its long bar, 1950-style furnishings, and red banquettes it has an unintentional diner-like feel. I stopped by for a coffee and cheesecake shortly after the change of hands and wasn’t impressed. The coffee wasn’t great, the cheesecake too sweet, leaving me in no hurry to return. So it wasn’t with great expectations that I did return last week, wanting something quick and easy in the neighbourhood. Click Here To Keep Reading
Inaki Aizpitarte is not a chef whose cooking leaves you indifferent. To some he’s a culinary genius and one of Paris’s most interesting chefs, to others his reputation is overrated, inflated by adoring fans*.
I’m not sure that I would consider myself a fan, but I do like Aizpitarte’s cooking.
Aizpitarte got started in the restaurant business late in life while travelling in Israel of all places, where he worked as a dishwasher and then later behind the line. It was enough to get him hooked on cooking and learn the basics before returning to Paris where he worked in Gilles Choukroun’s popular Café des Delices on the rue d’Assas.
He eventually branched out on his own as chef of La Famille, which is where I first heard of him and tried his cooking. He then moved for a short stint at Le Transversal, the restaurant within the MAC/VAL modern art museum in Vitry-sur-Seine. I still remember my dinner there, a ten-course set menu for 38 €, which was my first introduction to modernist cuisine and very different from most of what was going on in Paris at the time. The first course was a lone apple seed on a large white plate, followed by a succession of interesting small plates like a cod-liver macaron, calamari with a « chorizo » foam, and a playful deconstructed pot au feu. I went with a group of French friends who absolutely hated it, but I was delighted to try such remarkable flavours, some delicious, some not so delicious, but interesting nonetheless (I wrote up the experience on eGullet at the time and was happy to see that the account, including other’s impressions, can still be found here.
Transversal didn’t last long however and Inaki had already moved on to open Chateaubriand some 6 months later. I have eaten at Chateaubriand a handful of times and some of the dishes I have had there have been startling, while others were less memorable which explains why it gets such mixed reviews. Placing 11th in Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, ahead of Gagnaire, Robuchon, Barbot and Troisgros, didn’t help as Chateaubriand became a dining destination attracting culinary globetrotters with high expectations. But for 45 €, I think it is worth the gamble, as when his food is good, it is very good.
Aizpitarte recently took over Le Dauphin, a non-descript café a few doors down from Le Chateaubriand. He kept the name, called in Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas who gutted the place, transforming it into a modern white cube carved from Carrara marble, and serves small tapas-like plates and natural wines. It may be tapas, but it is definitely French.
The menu, which seems to change often, includes Inaki’s modern and playful take on traditional French dishes like brandade, bœuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau, oxtail with carrots, oysters, steak tartare, and pig’s feet. The steak tartare, with hand-cut steak, capers, fresh herbs, deep purple greens and crosnes, was outstanding and showed what good ingredients can do for a dish. The delicate ceviche with cucumber water was another standout, along with the crisp pig’s feet with oysters and seared pluma with radicchio. Each original, potent bite had us trying to guess what a particular herb or flavour was and my only complaint is that there wasn’t more. Desserts included Aizpitarte’s take on French classics like apple tart, chocolate mousse, and a Saint Honoré.
I loved Le Dauphin but can already see the naysayers coming and imagine that some people who travel great distances to taste Aizpitarte’s cuisine will wonder what the fuss is about. With such high expectations, it’s easy to be let down. I understand the criticism but even when Aizpitarte misses, I like what he’s trying to do. After all the media buzz that Chateaubriand has gotten, clearly he could have set his ambitions on a more well-heeled crowd, but I’m happy he chose to stay in the still-somewhat-scruffy part of the 11th, turning out his own style of inventive cooking, using exceptional ingredients, at affordable prices. In doing so, he makes avant-guard cooking, a little more accessible to all.
31, avenue Parmentier
01 48 06 58 41
Prices: small plates for 8-12 Euros, reasonable wine list with natural wine
*For some reason if you’re a woman and you like Aizpitarte’s cooking, you’re a groupie or fan–If you’re a man, well you just like his food. Go figure.
I was craving udon soup this weekend and headed towards one of my favourite noodle places on rue Sainte Anne, a street where you’ll find a plethora of restaurants serving ramen and other noodle dishes. After lunch, as I headed north on rue Sainte-Anne, I discovered that in addition to Japanese noodle bars and grocers you can now buy top-notch spices on rue Sainte-Anne. Olivier Roellinger, it seems, the French chef known for his use of spices who made headlines in 2008 for giving up his three Michelin stars, has recently opened a chic spice boutique in this Asian-centric neighbourhood.
The handsome, though somewhat austere, shop houses an impressive array of unusual spices. You’ll find Roellinger’s own blends, each labelled according to how you might use them. There’s a mixture of nutmeg, coriander, green anis, cardamom and other spices to be used with marinated fish or cold vegetables; nutmeg flower, lemon zest, and cinnamon is recommended for soups and broths; sesame, sumac, cinnamon, and thyme for lentils and cauliflower. There’s even a spice mixture to add to hot chocolate and another to sprinkle over strawberries. For purists you’ll find unadulterated “brute spices”, including some 17 different rare peppers with suggestions on how to serve them, several kinds of salt blends, 12 different vanilla beans, and a nice selection of oils, mustards and vinegars.
Roellinger’s is, of course, not the only spice shop in town. Another shop I like for spices is L’Epicerie de Bruno, a tiny store bursting with a remarkable selection of spices, chillies, specialty sugars, rice and unusual condiments. This is one of the only places I know of in Paris where you can find whole dried chilli peppers like anchos and chilpotles. They even carry cute ready-to-make bags filled with all of the ingredients you’ll need to make a spicy bean dish, risotto or even caramel rice pudding.
Another favorite is Goumanyat, a gourmet shop not far from Republique, where I could spend hours looking through the unusual ingredients and cooking utensils. The shop is owned by the Thiercelin family, who have been in the spice business since 1809 and are especially known for their saffron. It’s rumoured that Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Ducasse buy their spices here.
I’ve also gone to Izrael Le Monde des Epices, a shop crammed from floor to ceiling with spices and various products from around the world—I even remember seeing Domino’s brown sugar once, albeit it was rock hard. However I can’t recommend it whole-heartedly because on several occasions it’s been closed when I’ve gone, so I gave up and now go elsewhere, but I think it’s a shop worth visiting if you catch them when they’re open.
Lastly, if you’re looking for Indian spices head towards La Chapelle where you’ll find many Indian Grocers (Manikandan, V.S.& Co., and Cash and Carry to name a few). A bit farther south is Velan, a great shop filled with exotic spices, located in the colourful Passage Brady, which is worth visiting in itself.
Epices Roellinger, 51 bis rue Sainte-Anne, Paris 2nd; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10h00-19h00
L’Epicerie de Bruno, 30 rue de la Tiquetonne, Paris 2nd ; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10h30-14h30 and 15h30-19h30
Goumanyat & Son Royaume, 3 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis, Paris 3rd; 01 44 78 96 74; open Tuesday-Saturday 11h00-19h00
Velan , 83 Passage Brady, Paris 10th, 01 42 46 06 06
With two women in the kitchen, an Irishman in the dining room and an American barrista, it’s clear from the onset that this former 1920’s cabaret turned art space is anything but typical.
Located just a short walk from the Place de Clichy, on a surprisingly charming impasse, it turned out to be the perfect place for Sunday brunch. Warm scones, fresh squeezed OJ, eggs over easy, real bacon (and not what usually passes for bacon in Paris) and undoubtedly some of the best coffee in Paris, made for one of the better brunches in Paris.
However, there’s more to the menu than just brunch and from all reports, Alice Quillet and Anna Trattles’s simple, British-influenced cuisine is more than satisfying with dishes like Welsh rabbit, cauliflower and cheddar soup, pork chops with roasted endive, and woodpigeon with beets. The wines get noticed as well, which is not surprising since two of those involved used to work at Willi’s Wine Bar, which also explains the charming bilingual service. You can finish up with a plate of Neal’s Yard’s Stichelton with Carr’s biscuits and chutney, a delicious looking Eton’s mess, or an excellent cheesecake, which is what we opted for.
While the restaurant itself is reason enough to cross town, I wouldn’t miss the first-rate photography and film exhibits, shown downstairs from the café. At the moment you can see Anonymes: L’Amerique Sans Nom, a depressing, albeit fascinating, look at the lives of ordinary Americans through film and photography from the 1930s till present times.
Be warned however that this address, which is barely a few months old, was swarming with middle-aged intellectual types by 13h00 who had just gotten out of the nearby Cinema des Cineastes, so if you want to enjoy your brunch, go early.
Le Bal Café
6 Impasse de la Défense
Métro: Place de Clichy
01 44 70 75 56
Open: Wednesday-Saturday 10h-23h, Sunday 10h-21h
Cooking has become very popular in Paris in the past few years and the number of classes has increased tenfold since I’ve been here, leaving a dizzying number of courses to choose from. I’ve taken several classes and love to cook, so when invited to attend a cooking class at Guy Martin’s Atelier with a group of bloggers in Paris, I immediately said yes.
The class began at 12h30 sharp in a beautiful hôtel particulier in the 8th. We grabbed our aprons, washed-up and took our places in Guy Martin’s state-of-the-art kitchen, ready to make the first dish—a tri-colored tomato carpaccio topped with arugula, basil granita, and grilled bread with crisp bacon. Click Here To Keep Reading
Alexandre Drouard and Samuel Nahon of Terroirs d’Avenir, are back selling their beautiful local vegetables, this time in front of my favorite neighborhood bakery-Du Pain et Des Ideés, who makes one of the best baguettes in Paris.
Terroirs d’Avenir is a Paris- based company which sources artisan products in France–often local and hard to find. Normally they sell to Paris’s big-name chefs but from time to time you’ll find them setting up a pop-up market, or marché éphémère as they say in French. Unfortunately it’s difficult to know where and when as they don’t seem to announce anything and have no website. Somehow I have been lucky enough to stumble upon them at the 104, Spring Boutique and now Du Pain et Des Idées.
Last week I bought Jackie Mercier’s incredible tomatoes, gorgeous purple eggplants, green beans, butter beans, peppers, yellow squash, champignon de Paris, wild plums, raspberries and blackberries. All of them local and many organic.
For now they say they will be at Du Pain et Des Ideés until further notice every Friday from 13H00-18h00 (or I suppose until they run out of produce). I will try to post back here when the market closes.
Update 27 September: I went to the market again on Friday and bought delicious fresh picked corn on the cob which is a rarity in Paris. It rivaled the corn I used to buy from the Amish farmer’s market back home. They still had Jacky Mercier’s tomatoes as well.
Terroir d’Avenir at Du Pain et Des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic
Metro: Republique or Jacques Bonsergent
Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne have taken the concept of cave à manger to a new level with Saturne, a beautiful, spacious wine bar and restaurant located steps from the Bourse in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement. Both were most recently at Racines, a wine bar in the Passage de Panorama known for its almost militant adherence to natural wines and impeccable products. Saturne offers much of the same, but in a much grander setting. Click Here To Keep Reading
Le Fooding celebrates their 10th anniversary this October with an incredible lineup of 18 of Paris’s best chefs who will take turns cooking for 72 hours non-stop in homage to ‘La Marmite Perpetuelle” –the continuously bubbling pot– a reference to Madame De Marme’s 18th century establishment on what is now the rue des Grands Augustins, where she sold capons simmered in a large pot over a fire that never went out. Legion says that the fire lasted nearly 100 years and more than 300,000 capons were cooked, one after another, in the same stock.
Here is the schedule:
00h00- 4h00 : Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand) ; 4h – 8h : Yves Camdeborde (Le Comptoir du Relais) ; 8h – 12h : Christian Etchebest (La Cantine du Troquet) ; 12h – 16h : Alberto Herraiz (Fogon) ; 16h – 20h : Stéphane Jégo (L’Ami Jean) ; 20h – 00h : William Ledeuil (Ze Kitchen Galerie)
00h – 4h : Christophe Pelé (La Bigarrade) ; 4h – 8h : Waiting to be confirmed ; 8h – 12h: Rose Carrarrini (Rose Bakery) ; 2h – 16h : Federica & Fabrizio Mancioppi (Caffé dei Cioppi) and Cédric Casanova (La Tête dans les olives) ; 16h – 20h : Christophe Michalak (Pastry Chef) ; 20h – 00h: Jean-François Piège (Thoumieux)
00h – 4h : Petter Nilsson (La Gazzetta) ; 4h – 8h: Waiting to be confirmed ; 8h – 12h : Grégory Marchand (Frenchie) ; 12h – 16h : Christophe Beaufront (L’Avant Goût) ;
16h – 20h : Guillaume Delage (Jadis) ; 20h – 00h : Adeline Grattard (Yam’Tcha)
Les Ebullitions Perpétuelles
44 rue Lepic
1-3 October, non-stop
To reserve you will need to wait for details on Le Fooding website : www.lefooding.com