It’s August, which means like most Parisians I’m en vacances and writing from the sunny Côte Vermeille along the Mediterranean. When I first arrived in France, I felt no need to flee the city in the summer months, however, I soon tired of explaining to literally everyone—from the bus driver to the baker—that no, I wasn’t going en vacances. I now head south in the summer like everyone else to avoid the bemused looks from Parisians who can’t understand how anyone could possibly stay in Paris over the summer.
While heading to the coast this year, we crossed the Viaduc de Millau, the highest bridge in the world at a stunning 1,125 feet high. Should you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop for lunch at the rest stop which lies just at the foot of the bridge. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. You see, this is not your average rest stop, but is overseen by none other than 3-Star Michelin Chef Michel Bras, one of the greatest chefs of his generation.
Bras, along with his brother André and son Sébastien, serve their own version of fast food, using only the best of local ingredients. They invented an interesting device which makes warm, crisp crepe-like cones called capucins to order and then fill them with ingredients like truffle and potatoes, aligot and sausage, foie gras with mushrooms, Laguiole cheese with apricots, Roquefort and pears, smoked trout, and Bernard Greffeuille’s Allaiton lamb, the same lamb used at Michel Bras’ restaurant. They’re delicious and a welcome change from the plastic containers of jambon beurre sandwiches you normally find along the highways of France.
Even the drinks are local with an amazing cherry nectar, local cola, lemonade and sparkling grape juice.
We finished up with an espresso topped with salted butter caramel whipped cream for dessert, but they also have homemade ice creams made from local ingredients. You won’t find vanilla, which isn’t native to the Aveyron, but instead can try hazelnut, salted caramel and honey gingerbread ice cream topped with fresh berries, Bonneval Abbey chocolate, caramel or whipped cream.
Our lunch with 3 capucines, 2 salted butter caramel coffees, chips with Roquefort cheese and 2 drinks was about 30 € ,so more than we would have spent at an ordinary rest stop, but considering the quality, it was worth it.
With the Aire de Millau, Michel Bras has shown that fast food doesn’t have to mean junk and has created a wonderful place to showcase the region’s products which he clearly loves. As the locavore movement picks up speed and chefs become more focused on ingredient-driven food foods, I hope we will see more of such places all over France. For now, just hope you find yourself crossing the Viaduc de Millau in the near future.
Millau Viaduct Service Area
Open 7 days a week
Photo: Meg Zimbeck, Paris by Mouth
To say that the reopening of Daniel Rose’s Spring, in its bigger, more upscale location, has been getting a lot of attention would be a definite understatement. The pre-opening press was a feeding frenzy as journalists, bloggers (myself included) and food forums all wondered when Spring II would finally open and more importantly how they would get a reservation.
That day finally came on 14 July, or Bastille Day as Americans call it, and ever since there has been no shortage of press, including a thorough accounting by Meg Zimbeck for Blackbook and a piece by Alexander Lobrano in the New York Times blog The Moment.
This second coming of Spring is more polished than the original—the pocket-sized restaurant on the rue de la Tour d ‘Auvergne in Paris’s 9th arrondissement where Daniel Rose, the young chef from Chicago, working alone in his tiny open kitchen, charmed French critics with his modern take on French cooking. Click Here To Keep Reading
I’ve wanted to go to Le Kolo, Asafumi Yamashita’s vegetable garden and table d’hôte, located about 45 minutes from Paris in the Yvelines, ever since I read about it in Wasabi, sometime last year. For someone who goes out of their way to find interesting local products, Yamashita’s garden sounded fascinating.
He grows remarkable Japanese vegetables like Kabu (white turnips), hinona (long purple turnips), komatsuma (similar to spinach), beautiful white and purple eggplants, snap peas, micro tomatoes and other unusual vegetables in his garden in Chapet and hand delivers them twice a week to a very select group of chefs in Paris. The group is so exclusive that you can count its members on two hands and they include three-star chefs like Pascal Barbot, Pierre Gagnaire, and Eric Briffard.
His vegetables are highly sought after and his waiting list includes Paris’s top chefs. But rather than expand, Yamashita prefers to work his small parcel of land alone with his wife, which means production is kept low. The small space enables him to work by hand and use minimal chemical interventions. He uses his knowledge of Bonsai gardening, which he learned from his father and grew commercially before turning to vegetables, to carefully trim each vine, checking the roots to determine when to water and treating each plant according to its unique needs. The seeds are brought directly from Japan and, unlike industrial growers, are chosen for flavour rather than durability.
The result? Beautiful, intensely flavoured vegetables. click here to keep reading
Walking down the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, past the discount shoe shops and banal looking cafés, looking for number 159, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to eat outside in this neighborhood. This stretch of road, like many busy thoroughfares, doesn’t have much to recommend. But turn left or right on a good number of streets and you’ll find a likable neighborhood, often overlooked by visitors.
And so it is with the Caffé dei Cioppi. Enter the doorway of number 159 and instead of a storefront you’ll find a secluded alleyway lined with cobblestones and clinging vines. The unexpected loveliness of it all in contrast to the street you left behind makes it all the more appealing.
The voices overheard from the open kitchen on a recent spring night were Italian and the handwritten chalk board menu suggested market-driven Italian cuisine that changes often. Click Here to Keep Reading
I never intended to write about ice cream. As summer approaches, everyone writes about ice cream in Paris, but aside from Grom, the Italian gelato maker who moved on to the rue de Seine earlier this year, the ice cream scene hasn’t changed all that much in years. With nothing new to add, I didn’t feel very inspired.
That is, until @thatparisguy announced that @tavallai (this all took place on Twitter in case you aren’t following) had uncovered a new gelato place in the 3rd and was claiming that it was the best in Paris. I should confess, I know very little about gelato, except that it’s Italian for ice cream, but @tavalli sounded like he knew what he was talking about and so right before dinner, to my boyfriend’s dismay, I took our dog for a walk in search of Mary, who, as @tavalli claimed, was making the best gelato in Paris. Click Here to Keep Reading
Sometimes you find a little bit of happiness in the strangest of places and yesterday I found my happiness on the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, at Urfa Dürüm, a tiny hole in the wall serving marvellous sandwiches.
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly charmed by my first encounter with this neighbourhood when I arrived in Paris nearly ten years ago. It seemed a long way from the Paris I knew and loved (think the touristy 5th and 6th) and struck me as dirty and run down. The neighbourhood has undeniably changed in the last few years as more and more bobos move in, but perhaps my view of Paris has changed as well. The more I visit this neighbourhood, the more appealing it becomes. Sex shops and sleaze still abound on the rue Saint Denis, but there are pockets of charm to be found everywhere, like this lovely little passage way just off the rue du château d’eau.
Or, the picturesque Cour des Petites-Ecuries, where the King’s coaches were made and repaired in the late 18th Century and where you’ll find the celebrated Belle Epoque Brasserie Flo, one of the original brasseries of Paris.
And I’ve always loved the bustling Passage Brady with its restaurant hawkers, beauty salons and exotic aromas which make you feel like you’ve left Paris for some medina in a faraway land.
This is a vibrant immigrant neighbourhood, home to a myriad of ethnicities and their cuisines. Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Malagasy, Eastern Europeans, Turks, and Kurds can all find something from their native land in this quartier.
Not surprisingly the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis has more of its fair share of kebab shops. But how many kebab shops make their own flat bread right before your eyes?
They don’t serve much here, in fact the owner proudly told me that they only serve lahmacun, a sort of Kurdish pizza and urfa dürüm, these rolled traditional Kurdish sandwiches. No chips, no fries, no sauce, hardly any spices—just simple goodness rolled up in freshly baked flat bread. You can choose between grilled chicken, beef, lamb, lamb liver or, if you must, vegetarian. The meat is grilled to order and strangely they use a hair dryer to finish things off. No matter, the result was heaven. They add a bit of arugula, red onion, tomato, no more, all very fresh and crisp, which was the perfect contrast to the warm bread and perfectly grilled lamb.
You can take away but I would recommend having a seat in the quirky, but comfortable, wooden chairs out front; it’s the perfect place to watch the daily hum of this eclectic neighbourhood pass by.
56 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
Métro: Château d’Eau
The next soirée has been announced for the 5th of July and the theme this time around is Fish and Chips, the beloved British take-away dish which incidently turns 150 years old this year.
The chefs themselves have yet to be announced, but I promise to update this post as soon as they are. Stay tuned for more…
When: July 5, 18h-2h
Where: Batofar, Quai Francois Mauriac, 13th
It seems that yogurt bars are becoming quite trendy in Paris with a newly opened yogurt bar in Saint Germain and pop-up yogurt bars appearing at both Colette and the Bon Marché just in time for summer.
It Mylk, a cute boutique recently opened by two young fashionistas on the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, serves fresh and frozen yogurt with a nice selection of toppings, all made with first-rate ingredients including local farm-fresh milk from la ferme de Viltain, seasonal fruit, granola, homemade compotes, crumble, chocolate and more.
They also serve homemade cakes made by award-winning pastry chef Gabrielle Jones. I had a taste of the vanilla frozen yogurt sweeten with agave nector and can attest that it was creamy and delicious.
Fans of the French yogurt Mamie Nova will want to reserve a spot at Colette, the hyper-branchée Parisian concept store, on 16 June for the release of Mamie’s latest flavours: green apple and kiwi, prune, and pistachio. To animate the festivities, they’ve invited starred chef Hélène Darroze to be on hand to reinterpret some of their most popular flavours.
And finally, Michel and Augustin, who you might know from their line of gourmet boxed cookies, are getting into the yogurt business as well and have set up shop until 3 July in the Grande Epicierie at la Bon Marché with an impressive ephemeral yogurt bar where you can create your own flavours from a base of plain, vanilla or raspberry blueberry yogurt with a possibility of 21 different combinations.
Where to find them:
It Mylk, 15 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, Paris 6th
Colette, 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris 1st
La Grande Epicerie de Paris, 38 rue de Sèvres, Paris 7th.
For those of you who didn’t get into Frenchie on your last Paris trip, you might be able try Gregory Marchand’s cooking this coming weekend as Omnivore is bringing a team of young, talented French chefs to New York for two nights of cooking, master classes and a street party on 4-5 June.
Gregory Marchand of Frenchie, Peter Nilsson of La Gazetta, Gilles Choukroun of MBC (all from Paris), Eric Guérin of La Mare aux Oiseaux in Saint Joachim, Philippe Hardy of Le Mascaret in Blainville-sur-mer, and Jean-Luc Tartarin from Le Havre will be cooking along side American chefs like David Kinch, Dan Barber and Paul Liebrandt.
The five French chefs will then team up for a special night of “live cooking” for 500 lucky guests at a Brooklyn block party at the Invisible Dog complete with food truck, DJ and more that is sure to be a blast.
For more information and reservations head to www.omnivore.fr
More in the Press
Last year, just before Christmas, a colleague asked me to join her at a tasting at the nearby Byzance, the Boulogne Bilancourt branch of the company that also brings us Bellota Bellota in the 7th and Jaburgo Iberico Co in the 8th. I happily went having no idea what to expect and was certainly glad I did.
Like Bellota-Bellota, Byzance offers very high-end products, including, of course, some of the best Spanish ham you can find. There’s a counter where you can also sit and eat, but on this day they had stands throughout the shop where you could sample just about everything.
This weekend Byzance will open its doors again for their 24th “Rendez-Vous Gourmands” and if it is anything like the event last December, it’s definitely worth attending.
Here’s a list of just some of what they will be serving in their two story shop during the next three days: seared and raw Obsiblue shrimp, a rare, slightly blue shrimp, farmed in a protected lagoon in New Caledonia and served in some of Paris’s best restaurants; Naccarii caviar; Iberian pork loin à la plancha from Pata Negra pigs; fresh “Medjoul “ dates from Israel; all sorts of luxury smoked fish like smoked salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines, tuna belly; foie gras and Spanish cheeses; and incredible aged Bellota-Bellota ham. At the last event they also had pastries and chocolates by Sadaharu Aoki and were serving Spanish wine.
It was a very fun event, and amazingly completely free, although after trying such incredible products it’s very hard to resist and not buy, so I ended up spending at least 100 €.
You may need an invitation to attend, so be sure to visit their website to print one out (www.bellota-bellota.com)
Rendez Vous Gourmands
27-30 May, Friday 28 May until 23h00, Saturday 29 May 12h00-22h00, Sunday30 May 11h00-18h00
27 rue Yves Kermen
Boulogne Billancourt (which is a suburb just outside Paris and served by the Paris metro)
Metro: Pont de Sevres