Paris Notebook

Le Floréal, the best burger in Paris?

Posted in 10th Arrondissement by Phyllis Flick on January 23, 2011
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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


Le Dauphin, Inaki Aizpitarte’s new tapas place in Paris

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.

Le Dauphin
31, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris
Métro: Goncourt
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.

Olivier Roellinger’s Spice Shop Opens in Paris

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

Olivier Roellinger’s Contemporary French Cuisine: 50 Recipes Inspired by the Sea

Le Bal Café

Posted in 17th Arrondissement,Brunch Notes,Uncategorized by Phyllis Flick on November 23, 2010
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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
Paris, 18th
Métro: Place de Clichy
01 44 70 75 56

Find it on the map

Open: Wednesday-Saturday 10h-23h, Sunday 10h-21h

Buying Local Vegetables in Paris from Terroirs d’Avenir

Posted in Markets,Products by Phyllis Flick on September 24, 2010
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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
Paris 10th
Metro: Republique or Jacques Bonsergent

Caffé dei Cioppi, a delightful Italian restaurant in Paris

Posted in 11th Arrondissement,Terraces by Phyllis Flick on July 3, 2010
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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

Street Food Soirées in Paris II: 5 July at Batofar

Posted in Events by Phyllis Flick on June 9, 2010
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M.I.A.M continues its summer Street Food Soirées“, where some of Paris’s most renowned chefs serve up their renditions of “la cuisine de la rue”.

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
Batofar, Quai Francois Mauriac, 13th

A Unique Monday Night Dining Experience in Paris

Catch budding stars of the food world, one Monday night a month in Paris, at Les Lundis de Fulgurances, a unique concept created by Sophie Cornibert and Hugo Hivernat, which invites the second in command of the world’s top restaurants to break out on their own and create their own cuisine for 50 guests in Paris.

The first “second” chef was pretty impressive with Sam Miller, René Redzepi’s sous-chef at Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants. The 8 course menu, paired with wines choosen by Noma’s sommelier, was only 75 €, so quite a bargain.

Tomorrow night marks the second “Lundis de Fulgurances” with Nicolas Guiet, sous-chef at la Mare aux Oiseaux , a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Parc Naturel Régional de Brière praised for its inventive cuisine. He’ll be bringing the pastry chef of the Mare aux Oiseaux as well for what promises to be a unique Monday night in Paris.

Dinners take place at Les Combustibles, 14 rue Abel, in the 12th.
For reservations:
For more information visit Sophie Cornibert’s website

Paris: Outdoor cafés to get away from it all

Sidewalk cafés literally abound in Paris and can be found on just about every corner; since winters here can be grey and even a bit gloomy, it’s no surprise that at the first hint of Spring, Parisians come out en mass. Every terrace is overflowing, but too often these precious parcels of land are just steps from the street, with the whiz of scooters and haze of pollution as a backdrop, not exactly a refuge of calm by any means. However, if you know where to look, you can find little pockets of quietness, hidden away from the bustle of big city life.

The following are a few of my favorite outdoor spots on the right bank for some peace and quiet, a bit off the tourist track.

The first is the Place Saint Marthe, a peaceful square at the top of the rue Saint Marthe, a colourful street lined with an eclectic mix of artist’s ateliers, cheap and cheerful restaurants, associations and apartments—some of which are pretty run down but it makes for an interesting mix. The square itself is lovely, with hardly any traffic and two very nice cafés/bistros which are perfect for drinks or a casual dinner en plein air when the weather gets warmer.

Another secluded spot in the 10th is Café A, located just steps away from the Gare de l’Est. Leave the seedy surroundings of the station and step inside the grounds of what was once a convent—and is now the la Maison de l’Architecture—and you’ll find a beautiful courtyard café. It’s so calm that it’s hard to imagine that the Gare de l’Est is just outside its doorstep.

My next choice leads you to the Parc de Belleville, which is incidentally the highest park in Paris and offers a pretty amazing view. On a tranquil corner situated just in front of the park sits La Mer à Boire. The food here is nothing special and the inside in pretty non-descript but the terrace over looking the park is especially peaceful and the view of Paris below is worth the trip.

Rosa Bonheur, as I’ve written before, is another idyllic spot, so idyllic in fact that half of Paris now flocks to it on the weekends. Last weekend the slopping hill just in front was so crowded that it looked more like the beaches of Saint Tropez, than an urban park. Nevertheless, even with the crowds, the Buttes Chaumont is so lovely that it remains one of my favourite places to get a way from it all and if you go early, you’ll avoid the crowds.

The banks of the Canal Saint Martin are another great place for a lazy afternoon in the sun, although you’ll have to head more towards Place Stalingrad if you want some peace and quiet as the banks around rue de Lancry can be quite crowded. For picnic fare you can pick up a bottle of wine at the Verre Volé, order a pizza from Pink Flamingo (they’ll deliver it to the canal for you when it’s ready) or grab a sandwich from Chez Castro (which by the way has some of the best sandwiches in Paris).

There are also a few cafés along the canal which merit a detour. A few years ago, I would have included Point Ephémère, but it’s no longer a secret and the refugee camp that has blossomed a few feet away takes away from its charm unfortunately. Better to head to 25 Est on the Quai de la Loire or, better yet, to the Bar d’Ourq, where you can borrow a set of boules for a game of pétanque while you sit back with a glass of rosé.

So there you have it, a few of my picks to relax and soak up the sun on the next beautiful day in Paris.

Place Saint Marthe
Paris 10th

Café A
148-154, rue du Faubourg Saint Martin, Paris 10th

Mer à Boire
1 Rue des Envierges, Paris 20th

Rosa Bonheur
2, allée de la Cascade, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris 19th

25 Est
Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad, Paris 19th

Bar d’Ourq
68, Quai de la Loire, Paris 19th

Happy Birthday Fooding!

Drawing by Asako Masunouchi

It’s been nearly ten years since Alexandre Cammas, then writing for Libération and Nova, coined the term Fooding–a mix between food and feeling–and launched the first “Semaine de Fooding” in December of 2000.  Since then Le Fooding has been holding some of the best culinary events in France with their “Semaine de Fooding” and “Grand Fooding d’Eté, both of which invite some very big name French chefs to serve playful dishes in unusual atmospheres at very democratic prices.

I’ve been to winter carnivals where Yannick Alleno and Yves Camdeborde served up street food in the village Saint Paul, summer BBQs with Inaki Aizpitarte, Pierre Gagnaire, and Alain Passard and this year’s aptly named “Les Incorrects“, which served up some pretty politically incorrect dishes, like bunny and horsemeat, in the spectacular Piscine Molitor.  This year the Fooding gang even took on the Big Apple with Le Fooding d’Amour, which brought together some of France’s and New York’s best chefs, American and French alike.

For its 10th birthday, Le Fooding has planned ten incredible events to celebrate. As always, proceeds go to Action Contre la Faim

Val d’Isère: 25 April

Fooding à la Neige (aka Fooding in the Snow): Taste the cuisine of Christophe Aribert (Les Terrasses D’Uriage), Emmanuel Renaut (Flocons de Sel), Alain Perillat (Atmosphères) and Patrick Walker (La Fruitière) from the terrace of the Folie Douce on the summit of Val d’Isere.  Entrance 25 €

Paris: 2, 9, 16 May

Fooding à la Ville (aka Fooding in the City):

2 May: Eric Fréchon (Bristol) and Federica and Fabrizio Mancioppi (Caffé dei Cioppi)

 9 May: Giovanni Passerini (Rino) and Grégory Marchand (Frenchie)

16 May: Alberto Herraiz (Fogon) and Cédric Casanova (La tête dans les olives)

For an invitation visit their site at 10am on 29 April

Nice: 5  June

Fooding à la Mer (aka Fooding by the Sea)

 Mauro Colagreco (Le Mirazur), Mickaël and Gaël Tourteaux (Flaveur), Armand Arnal (La Chassagnette) and Mickael Gracieux (L’Aromate) will be on hand for a BBQ at Hi Beach in Nice.

For an invite, visit Le Fooding on 3 June at 10am.

More events are planned throughout the year, with events in Paris, Biarritz, Milan and NYC again.  I will be posting more information as it becomes available.

More about Le Fooding

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, April 5 2010: No Rules! Is Le Fooding, the French culinary movement, more than a feeling

Amazing videos and interviews of the Fooding d’Amour in New York

Some photos of Fooding events

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