The Far Eastern Side of France at Paris Baguette

When I saw a Paris Baguette going up right near my house, I got excited. After all, wasn’t this the Korean owned, French inspired bakery with things like bulgogi sandwiches? We really need more Asian food up this-a-way, so I was pretty excited.

This, however, is much more continental version of the mini chain.

20140402_141045

The minuscule shop (only 4 seats in the whole place) is pristine and filled with the scents of yeast and butter.

20140402_141054

By looking at the overflowing pastry cases, filled with loaves of fresh bread and beautiful cakes, you might as well think that you were in France.

Until you get a little closer.

20140402_141123

Curry croquettes? Franks in Danish dough?

20140402_141112

And what the hell is hash brown bread and why am I not eating it right now?

This is the Asian influence…love it!

20140402_141608

Roasted veggie and goat cheese sandwich

My decidedly un-Asian offering was finger-lickin’ good. The bread is thick enough to house the garlicky pesto and creamy goat cheese without crumbling, yet the crust is very pliant so it breaks easily under your teeth. The vegetables are super fresh – no limp lettuce or green tomatoes here. And the house roasted tomatoes are wonderful – plump and spiced with oregano and olive oil. They are so soft and juicy that they are almost confit style – really something else! The sandwich is filling and properly sized – no afternoon naps needed to recover.

20140402_143943

Pistachio macaron

Satisfies the craving but not much more. The cookie is a little soft and the ganache is a little on the sweet side. It’s still nutty and delicious, but it’s not the best in town.

Paris Baguette is a nice spot if you are in the mood for a quick pastry or sandwich, but it isn’t destination worthy. It’s pricey and the seating is so limited that it isn’t really good for a leisurely meal.

Come on, banh mi place, open up near me!

Renaissance Vendome in Paris Fits the Bill, but That’s About All

I stayed at a very nice hotel in Paris, too. It was nowhere near the level of service or beauty that the hotel in Amsterdam had, but it was serviceable, very well located, and came at a much lower price point.

The Renaissance Vendome bills itself as a boutique hotel but it is really more of a smaller, tighter chain hotel. You won’t see ultra luxe linens, a staff who will personally deliver you dinner from its own home, or a fleet of Rolls Royces to shuttle you around town. But you will find a very well run and organized hotel who, when asked, will do what you request, provides a lovely buffet breakfast, and extremely spacious (by Parisian standards) room.

The hotel is literally in the back of the extraordinary Le Meurice Hotel, a stone’s throw from the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, and the world’s best macarons. The location is safe, central, and unbelievably easy to access via foot, taxi, or metro. It’s the location that really sells this place, because from the inside, you could be anywhere in the country.

end of trip 035
The rooms are clean and modern, but they don’t scream Paris, or even whisper it. They are quiet and provide a comfy, American-king sized bed (harder to find than you might imagine), but other than that…they are a bit of a let down. You are in the city of light, is it too much to ask for a little gilt, some angels, or a couple of flourishes?

end of trip 037

Note: The bathroom is well equipped and the amenities ARE Bulgari – they couldn’t be higher end.

The hotel is very small and offers citrus scented water, jars of candy, and a coffee machine for your use at any time of the day or night.

france day 1 and 2 020
You may also check out the dark, gothic-style chinoiserie bar area – it’s tiny but has a full bar and a nice menu. Where else but Paris can you get foie gras and champagne at a Renaissance Hotel bar?

france day 1 and 2 036
The restaurant, Pinxtos, has a very thorough, if unmemorable, buffet. A cold selection of meats, cheeses, and smoked fish awaits, along with hot selections including scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, and warm breakfast meats.

france day 1 and 2 038

There is, being France, a gargantuan bread and pastry section. I wouldn’t seek out this breakfast but if you are staying at the hotel, it is both convenient and filling.

This hotel is good for the money. The location is dynamite, the rooms are clean and spacious, and the staff is accommodating. The only reason that I can’t be more thrilled about it is because it is a very American experience. There is no one who goes out of their way to remember your name, no exclusively French touches, and no really special experiences. However, a lot of people aren’t going to notice these things. They would rather have large, soft beds, plenty of pillows, air conditioning, and reliable wifi, which this hotel absolutely had. If that is what you want in a Parisian hotel, I cannot recommend this hotel enough.

 I stayed at this hotel at a media rate. I was not required to write about my experiences, and all of my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Le Violon d’Ingres – Your Special Parisian Meal

Everyone deserves one special meal in Paris.

And for us, that meal was at Le Violon d’Ingres.

This restaurant is the fanciest of those run by Christian Constant, the Parisian sensation who owns casual establishments, made his name at The Crillon, and indulges his luxurious side at his small Eiffel Tower neighborhood restaurant Le Violon d’Ingres.

end of trip 003

Le Violon d’Ingres looks to be any normal, nice restaurant. It is small, with restrained décor and a kitchen whose door is constantly opened so that the flawless servers can run food back and forth to tables. It seems like a place that you might come with business colleagues.

But don’t go there with them. Go there with family or dear, dear friends who you haven’t seen for years.

The food at this restaurant is truly unreal.

end of trip 006

Take, for example, the butter. It’s cut with a wire from a large, pale pallet, and is so creamy and soft that it can’t be formed into anything but a large, craggy mountain. It’s good enough to be what my sister calls “Dessert butter.” On the truly exemplary tangy peasant bread, it’s an ideal meal in and of itself.

end of trip 009

Don’t forget the flammekuchen either.

These miniaturized bacon, onion, and cheese pies are not too small. They are so rich and flaky, with crispy, pork lardons and gooey, tangy cheese, that more than just a bite would be too much.

end of trip 012

Poached eggs with truffles

Are you surprised that this is a specialty? Eggs poached whole, so they look hardboiled until you cut into them and a pale yellow yolk slowly spills out, made thick and rich from its gentle cooking. It’s tossed in buttered breadcrumbs, adding a crunchy element. Drag the truffle buttered toast through that rich yolk, savoring the heady, intoxicating slices of truffle that top the eggs themselves.

FOIE GRAS via

Seared foie gras

One of the best renditions of foie in Paris. Beautifully seared, with a very light, delicately crackling exterior instead of the rock-hard sheath that covers most of these delicate meats. It’s cooked with aromatics like ginger and stone fruits and then served with carrots so soft and sweet that you might not believe they are healthy for you. The foie is a perfect medium, with a barely rosy color at the interior. It is one of the lightest foies I have ever had, and it dissipates like a cloud, while the meaty, almost sugary taste resonates on your palate. This will have you wiping the plate with your finger.

Don’t worry, they let you do that here.

end of trip 013

Pig trotter and foie gras pie

It’s a pork egg roll. That’s really what it is. Juicy, salty, faintly sweet pieces of pork mixed with buttery, melting foie gras plopped inside a crispy egg roll wrapper. Instead of soy sauce there is a rich wine demiglace that is sweet and dense, complementing the meant and adding another layer of flavor. Instead of the fried wontons, expect light and buttery mashed potatoes that are perfect for sopping up the rich meaty sauce and any errant bites of foie.

That’s rather misleading. There won’t be any errant foie.

This is peasant food at its best – hearty but refined with delicate flavors like sage and thyme peeking through tender bits of meat and crispy pastry. It’s incredibly filling and entirely unforgettable.

end of trip 014

It may be the smallest cheese plate in town, but the cheese you get is sure to be special. This one was a cow’s mil that was a double crème, I think. Soft but not runny with a pleasantly ashy, bitter rind and a sweet, creamy interior. Spread it on bread for a savory end to the night.

end of trip 022

Or spread it on bread with butter.

#noshame

end of trip 015

Caramel Souffle

Or get this very sweet, nutty caramel soufflé that is both airy and so intensely sugary that it may shock you. Pour all of the accompanying buttery caramel sauce in there. Go for it.

end of trip 016

Did you notice how many times I said “buttery” in this review? That’s how all of the food felt. Luxurious. Cozy. Indulgent, yet familiar. The staff was unbelievably sweet and accommodating, telling us which dishes we should get and directing us towards a celebratory champagne.

The price is high – you pay for the lovely service and the unstuffy atmosphere. But you really pay for the outstanding food. That foie. Those eggs. That SOUFFLE.

You might have to pay your rent late one month. But it will be worth it.

After all, everyone deserves one special meal in Paris.

Da Rosa Cantine – Spanish Tapas in the City of Light

Foodie cannot live on foie gras and steak tartare alone.

Sometimes, she needs a little fatty fat fat cheese to round things out.

If you feel the need for a few raw vegetables in your life, head to Da Rosa Cantine.

end of trip 041

This Spanish tapas restaurant has a menu the length of the phone book (do they even HAVE phone books anymore?) and a laid back atmosphere. It is chic but not insanely pricey, by Parisian standards, and the service is downright friendly!

end of trip 040 Part bordello, part cafe, this is somewhere that I imagine fashion models coming to sip champagne and eat air. But that’s their mistakes…because the food is wonderful.  end of trip 042 Foie Gras pate de campagne

If you should happen to order this by mistake and think that it looks like cat food, just shut up and try a bite. You will be surprised  at how well the delicate taste of the foie and the more earthy taste of the pork liver meld;. The hints of sage and sharp black pepper bring out the woodsy, robust flavor. Spread on toast with an incendiary green pickled pepper, it has a coarse texture and a fatty, meaty mouth feel. Yes, okay, it does SLIGHLTY resemble the texture of cat food, but it doesn’t’ taste like that at all. end of trip 043 Sardines

These were the most meh of the appetizers ordered. Not for the faint of heart, these come with the guts intact. They don’t taste bad, but they do mean that the sardines have a slightly mineral-y, verging on muddy taste. Wait that sounded bad. What I meant was that the muddy taste is easily covered up by a heavy dose of lemon juice and a bit of the mustard-infused butter. end of trip 044 Pan con tomate

Yes yuh yes yes yes. Yes. Oh yes.

Peeled tomatoes chopped finely and served on garlic rubbed toast with a leaf of basil so sweet it might as well be soaked in sugar. This is filling but not heavy and it’s a very welcome dose of veggies after a week of organ meat.  Literally awesome.

end of trip 045 This side salad is also pretty awesome. It comes with most dishes and it’s just so good. Crisp romaine hearts drenched in a balsamic vinaigrette that was so acidic that it cut straight through all of the meat and olive oil of the other courses. It was the perfect accompaniment for… end of trip 046 Burrata

The Kate Middleton of cheeses – beautiful, humble, and insanely rich. This is just fabulous – a taut, pleasantly firm skin surrounding creamy, thick, rich cream. It’s drizzled with a fruity olive oil and served with pepper, salt, and a few juicy kalamata olives. Pair some of this soft, milky cheese with a piece of toast and a salty olive and wow…it’s just perfection.

Da Rosa is highly recommended. The service is excellent, extremely for Paris, the prices are fair, and the food is delicious. I would love to go back and even try a few more dishes!

Because if one thing can tear me away from steak tartare…it’s a big ole hunk of burrata.

And if one restaurant can get me to forsake escargot and

Chocolat Africain at Angelina

I am going to try not to cry as I write this blog.

I’m going to try really hard.

But it’s going to be so difficult not to break down into pathetic sobs as I am sitting here sipping lukewarm diet Coke and reminisce over this lovely Parisian lunch.

france day 1 and 2 041 Angelina has been a staple on the ritzy Rue de Rivoli since its opening in 1903.  It is a salon in the truest sense of the word – it’s long, sunlit room has beautiful turn of the century decor with a crystal chandelier, pastoral murals, and servers actually wearing French maid outfits. It hasn’t changed much since it opened – the menu is filled traditional, light food and the specialties are desserts. Pastries, cookies, cakes, ice creams, and anything sugary that you might crave around teatime. However you might, as we did, grow hungry and not want to make 2 stops for lunch. I am delighted to say that you won’t be sorry if you take your main course here.  france day 1 and 2 045 Steak Tartare

Some of my favorite in Paris. The meat is hand-cut, so it retains its toothsome, steak like texture. The meat is so rich and iron-y that it barely needs the luscious, creamy egg yolk – but don’t worry, I ate it anyway. The sharp onions, fresh parsley, and restrained seasonings compliment the meat’s natural flavor. I added a touch of Tabasco, but that’s just because I’m a glutton for punishment. This didn’t need a thing…

france day 1 and 2 046 Except, perhaps, for some textbook-perfect frites(not these frites of course, but nothing is).  Impossibly creamy inside its thin, shatteringly crisp crust. The salad served alongside is fresh and well dressed, but really…how can it stand up to raw meat and fried potatoes? france day 1 and 2 048 Gazpacho

All those who think that gazpacho is a watery diet food, prepare to be turned on your ear. This decadent version of the dish is absolutely amazing. Juicy, earthy, full of garlic strewn with a verdant pesto. Best of all – it is mixed with cream. It’s served with a lump of rich creme fraiche in the middle that makes the dish incredibly thick and rich without being heavy. The creme fraiche complements the tomatoes much the way that mozzarella does in Caprese salads. It’s served with a sliver of crunchy fried chorizo on top. It’s rich but light and totally perfect for lunch. I am surprised by how great it was – who woulda thunk it? The French really can cook anything perfectly.

france day 1 and 2 052 Chocolat Africain

The main event. The best hot chocolate in the world. No questions. Whatsoever.

Don’t get the chocolat chaud - get the chocolat africain. This one is darker, creamier, and incredibly better. It’s literally like a Cadbury bar melted and mixed with just enough super heavy cream to clot your arteries instantly.  france day 1 and 2 054 I, of course, think one can always use a little whipped cream atop chocolate liquid cream, don’t you?

france day 1 and 2 055 Just look at how thick and luscious that is. It is the best hot chocolate ever. I mean, we drank it in 90F heat and wanted more, if that tells you how insane it is. 

france day 1 and 2 059 Better than molten chocolate cake. Better than high end chocolate. Better than anything chocolate that you can even imagine.

It’s honestly the best hot chocolate on earth.

The service is, indeed, Parisian and the prices are on the high side, but for a chance to dine in a gorgeous salon and have the world’s best gazpacho and hot chocolate, it is so worth it. 

What  I wouldn’t give for just one sip of that hot chocolate now.

Ok, now I’m crying.

A Croque Monsieur at Chez Francis

When you are in Paris, don’t just eat at stately bistros and well known restaurants. Make time to drift along the banks of the Seine and walk the beautiful bridges.

end of trip 031

Stop into any riverside cafe you see (we chose Chez Francis) and gaze out at the water while the wind rustles through the trees and French school children walk by you, babbling away in french so easily that you could die of jealousy.

end of trip 030

You may catch a glimpse of the flame of liberty, our Statue of Liberty’s twin flame. You know, a huge hunk of gold sitting basically on the street. Totally normal.

end of trip 029 If you order so much as a coke light (diet coke is SO American) you get a small ramekin filled with salty, juicy herbed olives. This is a practice in many Parisian cafes and it’s much appreciated  - who doesn’t like a little nosh with their afternoon drinks?  end of trip 032 Croque monsieur

These are good almost everywhere in Paris. Thinly sliced, lightly smoked ham on tart, spongy Poilane bread. Layers of creamy, cheesy bechamel sauce that is broiled until golden and lightly crunchy on top. It’s just a ham and cheese sandwich but it’s so much more than that – just like nachos with cheese sauce are a million times better than nachos with melted cheese.

Why yes, I did just compare this croque to nachos. Now you know how much I loved it.  end of trip 033 Steak tartare

Because what is more French than inhaling others’ cigarette smoke as you eat raw beef liberally spiked with capers, onions, and Worcestershire sauce? Some very hot and tasty fries accompany on the side, of course. The steak tartare here isn’t anything out of the ordinary  just very well prepared, fresh beef whose grassy flavor is complimented by the piquant garnishes – but it’s the whole effect that makes it charming.

The service can be rather…Parisian (lengthy wait for food and you are treated as an annoyance) and the prices are high, but the experience is memorable. It’s a respite in a city so packed with must-see tourist attractions that you rarely get a chance to sit and relax. Go to Chez Francis or any of tis twins along the Seine and get lost for a n hour or two in the magic that is Paris

Foie Gras Salad and Aligot at Chez Flottes

I rarely forget a meal.

I can remember skipping to the local Chinese restaurant with my father, ordering crispy, greasless spring rolls and dishes of milk chocolate ice cream for dessert as I told him about the trials and tribulations of life as a 3-year-old.

I can remember eating poached eggs with my mother as clearly as if it happened yesterday instead of 25 years ago.

I remember sneaking Kit Kats from home into the movie theater with my sister and chomping them, layer by layer, until the sweet chocolate paste gave way to crunchy wafer cookies.

But I have already almost forgotten the meal I am about to describe.

It happened the night I got engaged, and – to sound like every sentimental schmuck on the planet – everything for the next 12 hours was a blur.

We dined at Chez Flottes – a reliable brasserie smack in the middle of the touristy and pricey 2nd arrondissement. I have been there any times before, but it appears to now be under new management. It has lost some of its beaux-arts charm, but still retains its all day service, extensive menu, and penchant for putting any and all tourists in the back room.

france day 1 and 2 029 We had these glasses of champagne, which were wonderful. Champagne is France is usually, if not always, less expensive than it is in the US, and always tastes better. More bubbly, more crisp, and more complementary to food.

Because you are in France, y’all. france day 1 and 2 031 Escargot

Not the best that I have ever had, but very tasty. Juicy and tender, with no rubbery texture or muddy taste. Bathed in a parsley garlicky buttery sauce, they are really good introduction type of escargot. My (brand new, at that point) fiance tried one and was surprised at how mild and soft the escargot was. Then he promptly used the excellent house baguette, his spoon, and eventually his fingers to get every ounce of that über garlicky sauce.

What can I say, I did the same thing.

france day 1 and 2 032 Hamburger with seared foie gras

This disappeared way too fast for me to take a bite. But one has to wonder what came first…the Parisian chicken or the Daniel Boulud egg?

france day 1 and 2 033 Salad

But not a normal NYC salad. A salad loaded with smooth, rich foie gras torchon. A salad tossed in a light, champagne vinaigrette that is only slightly acidic so it doesn’t compete with the foie. A salad that includes crispy, delightfully gamy pieces of duck confit, tart green apple slices, jewel-like cherry tomatoes, and lettuce that is so flavorful and earthy that it puts the bagged stuff I use at home to absolute shame. This is the thing about Paris…even a simple salad in a touristy part of town is made with integrity, excellent ingredients, and attention to flavor and texture.  france day 1 and 2 034 Aligot

Only the best potaotes known to humankind. Mashed with butter, garlic, and Cantal cheese, the stretch upwards at least 6 inches when you try to soon them onto your plate. I would have gotten a picture, but we were too busy eating. No, inhaling. Super creamy and smooth with a faint garlic note and a definitive cheesy tang. Rich, creamy, incredibly smooth and – shockingly – not ultra heavy.

That’s what I told myslef, anyway…”it’s a nice, LIGHT potato dish…”

 I guess I remember this meal better than I thought I did! It isn’t the greatest meal in Paris, but it is very good food with good service and fair prices. The aligot is not to be missed.

And if I can remember that awesome, meaty salad even in the haze of engagement…I guess it’s a pretty good spot, after all.

Paris Must Eats

There are a few things that I have to do in Paris.

Yes, they all revolve around food.

Yes, I am at this point using a rubber band to close the button on my jeans.

What’s your point?

france day 1 and 2 021 I must go to Pierre Herme and get my favorite dessert on the planet.
france day 1 and 2 040 I must eat a crepe that is crispy on the edges, tender in the middle, and totally smothered with nutty, chocolaty Nutella. Ice cream optional but highly recommended.

france day 1 and 2 055 I absolutely MUST go to Angelina for what is the best hot chocolate…period. No one ever disagrees with this. It’s like saying Einstein was. smart. It’s not opinion. It’s just fact. It’s so rich it comes with a side of powdered sugar in case you need to dilute all of that super rich creamy milk.

france day 1 and 2 063 And, of course, I visit Maille. Because I don’t turn my back on old friends.

Next week, some in depth reviews on the best eats of my trip!

Where in the World is Carmen Fritos Foie Gras?

What have I been up to the past few days? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?

first 2 days trip 057 I have eaten a croissant sandwich that looks positively frightening but makes an incredible midnight-early afternoon snack.
first 2 days trip 012 I drank one plastic glass of champagne and grew positively tipsy.

first 2 days trip 006 I packed carry on luggage so thoroughly that it looked more pregnant than the Octomom. And that was using those space saver bags that vacuum all of the air out of your clothes.

first 2 days trip 083 I have a bedroom that is beautiful and looks at picturesque canals…
first 2 days trip 065 And my bathroom last night had a tv in the mirror. 

A tv. In. The mirror. 

Guess I’m on vacay! Look forward to mostly pictoral reviews this week with nice, long, juicy gossip about where to eat in Amsterdam and Paris in weeks to come!

Foreign Grocery Store Finds

Foreign grocery stores are fantastic examples of how, even though we are a global society now, there are still some cultural quirks and strongholds that will just never become part of our American culture. I love feeling like an alien, and I never feel stranger than when staring at foods that, though they look somewhat familiar to me, are totally unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Ham and chutney potato chips

 In case you think this actually tastes like ham, you are wrong. Liquid smoke mixed with something that tastes like meaty bubblegum…so unnapealing, but the Brits love them.

Oaty Crumble

It’s terribly clever. A doddle…it sounds like a precocious toddler, doesn’t it?

Breaded ham

In case just eating pure pig products isn’t fatty enough for you, they like to add some carbs to make SURE it all shows up on your hips.

Water Bottle Wine

Only in France could you find wine in a plastic water bottle with a screw top. Environmentally and Happy Hour friendly.

Chef of the Century Frozen Food

While we are eating Hot Pockets and treating Stouffer’s like it’s the Messiah, French kids are eating duck casserole made by Joel Robuchon. Life is so unfair.

Mexican’t Food

Fried shrimp fajitas could really only be taken seriously in France.

The next time that you travel, please take care to visit the grocery stores! You won’t be sorry!