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In March of 2010, we made another trip to Paris.  It had been over 8 years since we’d been there last…and 8 years since we’d been to Europe together for that matter….oh, and almost 8 years since we had our first child.

Long overdue.  My focus:  Food.  Elizabeth’s: Drinking in that oh-la-la French culture.  Here’s a recap of a wonderful long weekend.  Don’t be afraid to copy completely…

Take the Wednesday night red-eye.  Check into your room at Le Meurice (if you have a good rate).  Great rooms.  Great location.  And terrific service.

Thursday: After a shower, lunch at Cafe Marly (which is basically at the Louvre).  Reminds me a bit of Fred’s at Barney’s in NYC.  Good people watching.  Decent food.

Afternoon at the Louvre.  Check out their web site…they have an awesome ‘itinerary’ that allows you to see all of the ‘grande’ works in about 2 hours…and then you can wander around.

Dinner on the left bank at a little place called Les Papilles.  This place is a gourmet food store by day…turns into an awesome neighborhood joint at night.  No menu choice.  You are IN for what they are making (although they will offer an alternative if you dislike the main course).  The kitchen is tiny…you can’t figure out how they serve the food AND wash the dishes!  Wines are on the shelves of the market….just pick a bottle and pay 7EU extra.  (Good deal).  Anyway, just loved the place. Would try it every time.  Our menu:

  • Iberian ham with baguette
  • Mushroom soup with lardons, croutons, mushrooms, sage and goat cheese (unreal…Ultimate List)
  • Seared duck breast in sauce with potatoes, carrots, pea shoots and garlic cloves
  • Simple salad with a slice of brie
  • Clementine Creme Caramel

Walk home (part of the way).  Stop for a drink near the University.

Friday:  Sleep in.  Grab breakfast (baguette with butter, jam and honey) at some cafe on Rue St. Honore.  Cruise around the shopping area checking out the latest in Parisian high fashion.  You can also check out some great historic places like Vendome, Madeleine, and then go past a few of the Ambassador’s residencies (Japan, UK, US), and the home of France’s president…and then you take a left on Montagne for another round of the same high end shops.  We grabbed a sandwich along the way somewhere…a Croque Monsieur to be exact.

Back to the hotel after lunch and then another walk down to the Isle de la Cite.  We strolled along the left bank checking out all the art/old magazine vendors, crossed the brdige to the Isle, admired Notre Dame (yes, we went inside) and then off to Isle St. Louis for my afternoon snack.  My favorite cheese shop is on a little street so we picked up a petite baguette and a chuck of cheese.  Elizabeth’s favorite ice cream shop is also to be found there…a scoop of butter salt caramel did the trick.  And then the walk back.

Dinner that night at my new favorite place in Paris Les Fables de la Fontaine.  This is one of Christian Constant’s places.  He appears to have all of them within one block on the same street within walking distance of the Eiffel tower.  This place was insanely awesome.  A small, intimate joint with a modern, yet warm atmosphere.  I hear all of Constant’s places are great, but this one has to be a cut above the others.  Seafood. Every dish.  But even a carnivore like me loved every dish:

  • Amuse: lobster & smoked eel in an asparagus foam with chili peppers served in a shot glass
  • A plate of fresh langoustines (in their shells with a mayonnaise dipping sauce
  • Eliz: Langoustines, lightly wrapped in phyllo, flash fried with a basil dipping sauce and a salad
  • Me: Grilled shrimp with a breaded, deep-fried soft-boiled egg served on barley risotto with squid ink sauce
  • Eliz: potato-encrusted dorade sole served on artichoke mousse with grilled calamari
  • Me: Grilled scallops on “macaroni & cheese” (a bed of penne covered with charred parmesan) covered with melted parmesan and wagyu beef prepared Iberian ham style
  • Eliz: pears floating in a “Juice of Love” (cinnamon flavor) with vanilla ice cream in caramel sauce and a phyllo sugar breadstick
  • Me: cheese plate with fresh wild cherry compote
  • Wines to match each course

Walk off the dinner with a short stroll to the Eiffel Tower.  Really amazing at night.

Sleep in again.  You are not in a hurry.  It is now Saturday.  We were going to check out one of the flea markets, but got lazy and opted for a breakfast at an awesome place next to the hotel called Angelina’s.  This is the place for breakfast.  And you must get a croissant and a cup of their famous hot chocolate.  And you must dip every bite of your croissant into the hot chocolate.  Don’t worry, the cups are wide enough to accomplish this with ease.

On the metro to one the the great outdoor food markets which is open on Saturdays.  It is called the Saxe de Breuxil market.  If you go on an empty stomach, you’re a goner.  It made me want to rent a nearby apartment for a year and spend my weekends cooking. Vegetable stands, butchers, seafood purveyors, cheese stands, bread stands, dairy farms, roast chickens, cassouletss, charcuteries, etc., etc., etc.  We picked up the following:

  • Baguette
  • Brie (120% creme)
  • Jamon (san daniele)
  • Pate de ferme (so smooth and flavorful)
  • Olives
  • Apples

We walked to the Luxemborg Gardens and took a seat by the fountain to start our lunch feast.  Interestingly, there was a young French couple next to us digging into a big bag of McDonald’s.

You may then want to stop at the Rodin museum, but we had been there before.  We continued to the area in the Left Bank around St. Germain.  A lot of great shops, bakeries (yes we found our dessert), chocolate shops etc.  A fun place to stroll around.  We also went to the Dellacroix studio which was a cool place.  We continued walking back to the hotel, but Elizabeth convinced me that she had to buy a few more gifts so we went to the great French department stone Printemp.  At this point I was dead, so I took a seat and watched the fanatic shoppers.

No time for rest.  Back to the hotel for a quick shower.  Short walk to the Hotel Costes for a couple of cocktails at one of the coolest (still) bars in Paris.  And then a taxi ride (in which we were rear-ended) to Restaurant Voltaire on the Left Bank just near the Louvre.  This place is classic. You want to hate it, but for some reason you can’t.  It is small.  There are regulars.  There are tourists.  It is over-priced.  The maitre’d is an asshole.  It is like some upper east side joint where rich dudes who go there every week are slipping hundies to everyone.  Or it is like Rao’s without any Italians.  But the food is classic and amazing:

  • Eliz: green salad with mushrooms
  • Me: cassoulet of escargots in green garlic sauce
  • Eliz: grilled salmon with hollandaise
  • Me: Filet de Beuf au poivre with frites, whipped potatoes and whipped carrots
  • Eliz: tarte tartin with vanilla ice cream
  • Me: profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce
  • And their famous chocolate coffee beans

Didn’t sleep in on Sunday.  Breakfast to go at Angelina’s. Walk across the river to the Musee d’Orsay.  Under constructions until March 2001, but such a great place to see some amazing impressionist and post-impressionist works.  And the building itself is just amazing.

Lunch at a nearby cafe.  Onion Soup and Steak Tartare.  Great way to fuel up for the long flight home.  Off to the airport for the 4:00 flight landing in NYC at 8:00.

My feet were tired, but my stomach was happy.  And the kids didn’t even miss us!

 

Notes from the 2001 trip:

I have always loved Italy and always hated France.  Nice, warm people generously serving wonderful food versus snobby, cold intimidators providing miniature portions of rich, heavy food.  No contest.  Italy wins every time.

The Summer of 2001 has been dubbed the Summer of France in my life, for I will be making two trips to the esteemed country.  The first trip was a long weekend in Paris for a wedding of one of my colleagues.  I have to report that France has moved a notch up on my list…maybe even two notches!  We had an absolutely wonderful trip and I am already eager to return.

Here are a few suggestions…please pardon the spelling, for French as a language is still at the bottom of the list!

Hotels

The nicest hotels in Paris are very, very expensive.  Thanks to a great corporate rate, we stayed at the Hotel Meurice which is right on the Rue de Rivoli overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries.  The location could not have been finer…perfectly situated as the starting point for our daily excursions by foot.   It is close to all of the museums, the shopping, the sights and many great restaurants.  The hotel was recently renovated and truly retained its original charm as an old world luxury hotel.  The rooms were nicely appointed and not too small.   The bathroom was one of the best.  Elizabeth told me the gym/spa was also exquisite.

Some of the other old-school luxury hotels in Paris: Hotel Georges V (Four Seasons), Hotel Ritz, Hotel Crillon, the Bristol and the Plaza Athenee.  The Ian Schraeger crowd stays at the Hotel Costes, which, as you can imagine, has a great bar scene.

Restaurants

Elizabeth did a lot of research on where to dine and it really made the trip.  We attempted to try a wide variety of restaurants from the top fancy places to local neighborhood bistros with great food.  Here was our culinary itinerary:

Thursday lunch: L’Ardoise, a great casual restaurant on the streets behind our hotel.  They offer a moderately-priced three-course lunch.   I recommend the crab tartlet as a starter, the risotto (very buttery) and the grilled whole fish for main courses, and the chocolate quenelles for dessert.  The chalkboard menu changes daily.

Thursday dinner: Guy Savoy, a two-Michelin-star dinning insanity.  Recently remodeled, this restaurant offered up on of the best meals of my life.  For details, please visit click here.

Friday lunch: with two huge meals under the belt, we decided to scale down and have a “picnic” in the Jardin de Luxembourg.  We went to the Ile St. Louis for our provisions.  The greatest baguette ever can be found at Phillipe Martin.  The best cheese shop in Paris is La Ferme Saint Aubin.   And, the finest ice cream in all of France is dispensed at Berthillon.   All of these places can be found on the main street (Rue St. Louis) on Ile St. Louis.

Friday dinner: Le Voltaire, a classic, old-school bistro in a great location on the Left Bank right on La Seine. A small, dark place with wonderful bistro-style food.  We enjoyed the green salad (with mushrooms, green beans, tomatoes, beets, carrots) and the crab salad for starters; grilled salmon and steak frites (some of the best frites ever) for the main course; and, some amazing profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce.  The kitchen sent out more frites as we finished each plate!

Saturday lunch: Bofinger, one of the oldest and most classic brasseries in the city.  A block from La Bastille, this amazing restaurant defines the brasserie, from its worn interior to the incredible tiered plats of fruits de mer.  I had onion soup to start and a charcuterie consisting of smoked bacon slabs, a frankfurter, a garlic sausage, duck confit all served alongside a mound of sizzling sauerkraut.

Saturday dinner: a wonderful French and Japanese wedding banquet at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to France.  World-class sushi and tempura paired with a variety of French classics including sliced duck breast with foie gras.   Oliver and Mari really planned a beautiful ceremony and reception!

Breakfast: each day we had a quick breakfast in a local cafe, usually standing at the car.  Cafe noir or cafe au lait, maybe with a croissant.

Shopping

The exchange rate was favorable and many of the great Paris stores were having end-of-season sales, so we spent a little time shopping…

Rue St. Honore and Rue du Faubourg St. Honore was our favorite street with a wide variety of French and other European designers, from classics like Hermes to newer places like Colette.  Another great high-end street was Avenue Montaigne.

On the Left Bank, we liked the Rue St. Peres and Rue Cherche Midi.   Also, certain sections of Boulevard Saint Germain.

Walks

Leaving from the Hotel Meurice, we embarked on a variety to walks in an effort to see the city…so many that I think my legs lost an inch in length.  A few suggestions:

Shopping walk (half day): Rue Saint Honore to Rue du Faubourg St Honore, down Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt, around the Champs Elysees, down and back Avenue Montaigne, and back down the Champs Elysees through the Jardin des Tuileries.

Sights and eating walk (full day): Through the Jardin des Tuileries past the Louvre along the Seine on Quai du louvre, crossing to Ile De La Cite at Pont Neuf past the Palais de Justice, the Hotel Dieu and Notre Dame over Pont St. Louis to Ile St. Louis, picking up your provisions on Rue St. Louis, back over the Pont St. Louis and over the Pont De L’Archeveche onto the Left Bank and in to the Latin Quarter up Rue Saint Jacques towards the Sorbonne and the Pantheon and over to the Jardin du Luxembourg for your picnic (they have lots of tables and chairs).  Leave the Jardin, go down Rue D’ Assas towards Place Deville, take a right on Rue Du Cherche Midi to Rue du Dragon to Boulevard Saint Germain all the way down to Pont de la Concorde passed the Obelisque and back to the bath in the hotel! Ugh…

Another half day walk: Up the Rue de Castiglione into the Place Vendome down Rue Danielle Casanova to the Jardin du Palais Royal towards the Bourse along Rue Berger towards Les Halles and the Pompidou down Rue du Renard towards the Hotel de Ville and along the Seine to Boulevard Henri IV to the Bastille and then stop for lunch at Bofinger for a brief rest before you continue on to the Musee Picasso.

The Museum walk: Simple and long.  Spend the required time at the Louvre and leave through the Jardin du Carrousel across the Pont Royal to the Musee d’Orsay where you make sure to check out the top floors.  Leave via Rue de Bellechasse to Rue Saint Dominique passing the Ministere de la Defence going left on Rue de Constantine until it turns into Boulevard Des Invalides and then you are at the Musee Rodin. By this time, after all these walks, treat yourself to a taxi back to the hotel.

Read about Sasha’s Nine Star Dining Experience!

That’s all for now…enjoy!