Diane Keaton’s Favorite Bistro – Le Grand Colbert

One night in Paris, when we were hungry early (by Parisian standards, 7:30 PM is INSANELY early to dine) and wanted somewhere with a huge menu full of French comfort food, we stumbled across Le Grand Colbert.
 That’s kind of like saying that we stumbled across the Plaza Hotel or Disneyland. We were just wandering around, but really, Le Grand Colbert is an incredibly well known Parisian brasserie. Some say it has the best roast chicken in Paris. 
 And by “some people”, I mean Diane Keaton’s character in Something’s Got to Give. Clearly, my sister was impressed. 
 The room, which you will recognize if you have seen the movie, is done in the grand old brasserie style, with mosaic-tiled floors, wooden chairs and white tablecloths.
 Rose Champagne
This is worth mentioning because it comes in a carafe. Like house wine. A CARAFE of champagne. This has revolutionized the way that I think about champagne. 
As in…I think I want even more of it. 
 French Onion Soup
This was the best French Onion Soup of the trip, hands down. It was so robust and complex – we could taste the round, vivid beef in the broth, so vibrant that it was almost funky. It was sort of electric tasting, in the way that really great blue cheese has a life of its own. The onions provided a counterpart that was so sweet and soft that it became jammy next to the pepper of the soup and the gentle tang of the sherry. 
The cheese was nutty, crusty and bubbling away atop of slices of sourdough bread that became soft when soaked in the soup. 
 Foie Gras de Canard
Of course, I love goose foie more, but this was an excellent duck foie. Creamy texture, mild taste that was not too gamy, just rich and fatty. The cool squares of gelee on the side paired with the plump, wine saturated raisins completed this dish. 
 Fines de Claire
Large, briny oysters, tasting more of the sea than of cream. Positively fresh, smelling faintly of seaweed and the ocean, they burst in my mouth with salt and brine. 
A side of tart mignonette sauce brought the oysters another piquant dimension. 
Steak Tartare Epice
This steak tartare was good but not great. The meat was ground too finely and was a bit mushy. The flavor of the meat was also obscured by the spices in the meat. It was all salt, sour and heat, with too many strong capers and onions hiding the natural flavor of the beef. It wasn’t bad, not by a long stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t as incredible as the beef tartare at Chez Andre
 Roast Chicken.
This dish was almost as great as I had hoped it would be. It was never going to ACTUALLY be the greatest roasted chicken on earth because, obviously, I make that. But this was dam close. Tender and juicy within, under a browned and crispy skin. The most notable thing about the chicken was the gravy. It was thick but not heavy or greasy, and was filled with the comforting taste of chicken, the bite of black pepper and the woodsy taste of thyme. The thyme was the kicker here. It was used in such abundance, and without any other competing herbs. It gave the dish such a straightforward and earthy vibe that it was reminiscent of eating outside – that sensual and startling. Definitely going to start using more thyme in my own roast chicken. 
The fries weren’t great, but they did the job. Especially soaked in some of that outstanding gravy.

Le Grand Colbert was a solid restaurant. Absolutely worthwhile for a lunch, though I can’t say for sure that I would come here for dinner again. The service was a little spotty and pretentious and the entrees were not as good as they should be. But for a quick lunch of  French onion soup and oysters, I can’t think of a more delightful spot. 

Maitre Pierre – A Piece of Italy in Paris

After a few days of eating foie and escargot…and then some more foie…I needed a little break. 
Not from fat, just from fat alone. I needed some carbs and a few raw vegetables in the mix. 
And maybe some tomatoes. 
That’s when we hit up Ristorante Maitre Pierre. Never heard of it, just walked in off the street because the menu looked great. 
 When we arrived right before noon, we were the only people in the room. By 12:20, they were turning people away, due to reservations and a flood of walk ins. We had unknowingly stumbled upon a goldmine!
 I love these plain breadsticks in the wrapper. Crunchy, floury and not much more, but I love the texture. 
If we didn’t know where we were, I would have sworn I was in a French restaurant. This baguette, with excellent hole structure and a stiff crust, was French through and through. No complaints, as the French have the bread market cornered.
Tomatoes, Arugula and Mozzarella
A new take on a caprese salad, with peppery, tender rocket replacing herbal basil. This was a strong choice, because the tomatoes, firm and juicy, supplied the brightness needed for the dish. And the mozzarella…oh the mozzarella. 
The mozzarella provided sweetness. It provided the fresh and clean taste of milk, the richness of cream and a slight tang reminiscent of sourdough bread. It was more like burrata than mozzarella, with bits of creamy cheese fairly melting on to the plate as its skin broke with the tines of my fork. It was outstanding. 
A bit of balsamic vinegar and fruity olive oil were ll necessary to make this a world class appetizer.
You might wonder what this is. It is a full leg of Pata Negra, othewise known as Iberico Ham. The most fatty, soft, delicate tasting ham in the world. It makes prosciutto look like bologna.
Sliced uber thin, these slices of ham are so fatty that they actually start to melt on the plate before you put it in your mouth. The taste is gently salty, deep and even a little funky. These do come from wild pigs, after all – it tastes similar to wild boar, but more delicate and less hearty, and that fat…
well the fat is just sublime. 
You could order the pasta sampler for lunch, with a sweet marinara sauce over penne, a creamy Alfredo sauce over rich ricotta-filled ravioli and al dente fettuccine served with beef and veal bolognese sauce. It is tasty. 
But if you want a truly breathtaking meal, you will order…
A thick layer of mozzarella cheese, stretchy in some parts and crispy at the edges, covered noodles cooked just al dente – still with a bit of bite. There was a slow cooked bolognese sauce – robust with beef, grassy with veal, a little sweet with pork, and deep with wine, sauteed vegetables and bright tomatoes. The bechamel was a thing of beauty – subtle, delicate and complimentary to the bolognese sauce instead of overpowering with richness. This lasagna was complex and layered. There were so many different components that somehow combined into a cohesive, almost ethereal taste. You might think it was heavy, but it wasn’t. It was positively light, which had to be a tribute to the chef.
Foie is great. Foie is AWESOME. But, sometimes, you want a little break. You know, for some fatty pork. And Chez Maitre Pierre is the place to take it. A bit pricey, but the food is excellent and so is the service. For Italian food in Paris, you just can’t get any better.
And now…back to the foie!

Fauchon – Foodie Fantasia

Paris isn’t just about eating. It’s also about shopping…
For food. 
 Fauchon is the foodie equivalent of Neiman  Marcus or Henri Bendel. High end, artisinal products that cost a fortune and are a once in awhile indulgence. 
 The macaron counter is a mile long. 
 Where else can you get chocolate pound cake topped with edible gold for breakfast? For BREAKFAST, I tell you!
 Let’s not ignore the gourmet eclairs with fillings like foie gras and the Mona Lisa etched on the top.
 Would you like some pate? Choose from goose, duck, pork, chicken, and any combination thereof.
You could, of course, prefer pork, rabbit, pheasant or any other number of types of rillettes.
When in doubt, why don’t you just get this whole foie gras with a gigantic black truffle. Just like what you find in your local supermarket, right?
And cheese and crackers just won’t cut it for parties here. 
If you decide to try a few treats…
 Snail Pastry
Don’t ask me what the real name of this is, just look for the brown, coiled pastry. As it breaks into croissant-like shards in your hand, notice the crunchy, sugary glaze, the warm cinnamon and the buttery layers of dough on the inside. Like a cinnamon croissant on crispy steroids. 
 Sundried Tomato, Olive and Parmesan Baguette.
Thick, crunchy crust. Slightly sweeter insides than a regular baguette, which worked well with the juicy tomatoes, salty olives and tangy Parmesan cheese. So full flavored and densely packed with the top of the line add ins. These were incredibly sweet tomatoes and plump olives. Throw some lettuce on here and it’s a full on vegetarian sandwich. 
 Pastry that Begins with a K
Get this crown-shaped dessert with a Germanic sounding name. Crunchy sugar flaked of in sheets, surrounding soft, fluffy pastry dough that was similar to challah, but with the faint alcoholic tang of rum. Nothing like a little rum for breakfast.
 Or, if you prefer, an impossibly light and flaky croissant, or a citrus-scented madeleine stuffed with sweetened condensed milk. 
 You might also prefer a chocolate croissant, with thick strips of dark, slightly bitter chocolate running through the buttery bread. 
 Green Salad with Herbs, Pine Nuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. 
Where in America can you pick up a premade salad that looks like this? Fresh greens, fragrant dill, sweet chervil, pungent chives, crunchy pine nuts and a sweet-tangy mustard vinaigrette.
 What’s more, you can even pick it up for breakfast.
 Or you could try a baguette sandwich. This one, made with cured ham, lightly salty but not at all smokey, paired with nutty Gruyere cheese and a thin schmear of sweet butter. Butter on a ham sandwich is genius. It tempers the saltiness, saves the bread from betting soggy and ads…well, it adds butteriness. 
No butter was necessary on this foie gras, arugula and raspberry jam sandwich. 
Bread, foie, vegetable, fruit. 
That’s a whole meal.
Sit at the high window-side counter and enjoy your bevvy of goodies. Fauchon is a beautiful, delicious stop on your trip – an occasional treat worth the splurge. 
Just like Paris, in general. 

Royal Madeleine Bistro – Steak Frites near the Paris Opera House

The opera area of Paris is one of the many hearts of the city. The beautiful opera house, crowned with gilded angels, is a hub of shopping and eating. Restaurants abound, but that does not mean that they are all delicious. On the contrary, many of them are tourist traps – places that serve spaghetti bolognese alongside gyros alongside martinis. A touristy lunch is okay every now and then, but let’s not make a practice of it, shall we?
Of course, if you know to turn down a tiny street called Rue du Chevalier Saint-George, you will arrive at one of the best bistros in Paris.
The Royal Madeleine is a small bistro done in the traditional French manner. Dark wood, white tablecloths, small bar and the knowledge that you will order several courses and spend a good three hours there, eating and gossiping with your friends and family.
 Rose Champagne
Rose is my favorite champagne. It always has some pinot noir or pinot meuneir grapes in there, rounding out the crisp acidity of the chardonnay grapes. It is slightly sweet, but not overly sugary at all. And it is best ordered in multiples of two – meaning, you shouldn’t have just one glass. Go for 2 or 4.
 Poppyseed Breadsticks
Crispy, buttery, flaky sticks coated in nutty, slightly bitter poppyseeds. Perfect to bring out the fruity, minerally notes of the champagne. 
Peasant bread. Tangy, pliant, wheaty, with a crisp crust.
 Amuse Bouche – Celery Root Soup
This was a perfect amuse bouche – it was a tiny shot of something creamy, rich, and hearty. The soup, tasting like a cross between celery and a baked potato, would have been far too heavy for a full sized course. As an amuse, it was decadent and whet my appetite. It left me wanting more. 
That’s what she said.
 Foie Gras d’Oie and de Canard with Raisin Chutney. 
This dish paired goose foie gras(left)with duck foie gras(right). It really showed the differences between the livers. The duck foie gras was a bit stronger in taste – more minerally and gamy. It also had less fat and more of a meaty texture. The goose foie was far fattier and smoother, with a more mild taste and the consistency of room temperature butter. 
 I preferred the goose foie gras, especially when pairing it with the sweet and tart chutney to cut through the unctuousness of the liver. 
 Charcuterie Plate with Adouillette, Salami and Rillettes.
All the items here were housemade, except for the sweet butter, the tart cornichons and the cocktail onions that burst with brine upon contact with my teeth. 
Andouillette -my first time having these intestine sausages, and likely my last time. Overpoweringly smokey with a slightly acrid taste. I could hardly taste any meat, it was more like inhaling a mouth of cigarette smoke.
Salami – peppery, porky, fragrant with what might have been juniper berries. It was far less salty or garlicky than the Italian salami I have had, and went well with the nose-searing mustard that went alongside the dish.
The rillettes – pork cooked in its own fat until it becomes tender, the consistency of pulled pork – came topped with the traditional fat cap. Some people throw away the fat cap, but it is infused with sweet porkiness that goes so well with the savory spices and meatiness of the pork meat underneath…yeah, I spread it on my bread instead of butter. 
I love pork fat. 
 Artichokes with Vinaigrette
Artichokes must be in season in France this time of year, because we found them on almost every menu we saw. I LOVE artichokes but rarely make them because they are so annoying to clean. After eating these, I realized that I will have to get over that. These were the best part of the artichokes, the crowns. Meaty, tender but not soft, with a naturally salty taste. It was filling and satisfying in the way that portobello mushrooms are – almost a meat substitute. Paired with the sharp vinaigrette, it was an example of artichokes at their finest.
 Steak Frites with Bearnaise. 
The best frites I had in Paris. Fresh, hand cut, with a thick golden crust that hid steaming, fluffy interiors. The fries were done in beef fat, that much was clear. They had a deep, round taste that only comes from cooking potatoes in animal fat. The bearnaise, one of my favorite sauces, was thick enough to coat a spoon and filled with sharp, licorice-y tarragon. And the steak…
See how blurry this picture is? That is because I was involved in a love affair at the time it was taken. A love affair with this steak. Cooked a perfect medium rare, with a thin, salty crust that surrounded a soft but not mushy center, incredibly tender and filled with pure beefy flavor. This was a perfect steak, and an exemplary example of what beef should be – wild tasting, robust and utterly satisfying.
This whole meal was utterly satisfying. As far as French prices go, it was comparable with other upscale bistros – meaning, the prices are sky high for Americans, but reasonable for Paris. The service was enthusiastic, sweet and exactly what you want out of a special meal. We were not rushed or ignored, and were treated to some of the best food we had in Paris. 

Bofinger – The Consummate Parisian Brasserie

I have showed you one of my favorite bistros, and now it’s time to take a look at a brasserie – a big, bustling Parisian restaurant with a laid back atmosphere, all day hours and a huge menu. 
Brasserie Bofinger has been around since the late 1800s, and is now run by a French restaurant company called Flo. The people there run a number of brasseries in Paris, and while some call the brasseries in the group “Disneyfied,” Flo has managed to keep up the standards of the historic buildings and a high quality of food. 
If that is Disney, let me at it!
Bofinger is large restaurant with several rooms, an upstairs area…
and a gorgeous glass cupola that dates from 1919. It lets light into the restaurant and lends a belle epoque air to the entire space. Really sets the tone, and is very Midnight in Paris
Complimentary Nibbles
The bread was among the worst we had in Paris (not bad, just not incredible like bread in the other restaurants), and the pretzels were plain as could be, but the olives blew my mind. Briny, oily and flecked with rosemary and thyme, they were meaty and they were delicious. 
Duck Foie Gras with Wine Gelee and Pear Chutney. 
This foie gras was just what it should be. Velvety, rich, slightly irony and slightly sweet with the acidic gelee and the sweet chutney. As I spread it on the warm toasted brioche, it melted slightly, forming a thick layer of fat mixed with sweet and tart. It was exceptional and the reason that i love foie. 
Escargots with Garlic and Herb Butter.
Almost as good as the escargots at Chez Andre. They were the same soft, juicy, mild escargots as before, drenched in sweet butter and grassy herbs. The only thing I was missing was a bit more garlic. I relish the pungent hit of garlic, and if I’m not kissing anyone, I want a lot of it!
Seafood Choucroute with Haddock, Salmon, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Half a Lobster atop Potatoes and Sauerkraut. 
One of the specialties of the house, choucroute is usually made with sausages, pork and other meats served with the salted cabbage, but this version used seafood in place of the traditional proteins. I was scared the sauerkraut would overpower the seafood, but it did just the opposite. The sauerkraut was not at all salty or sulfer-y, just vibrant and pleasantly sour. It worked much the way lemon does, bringing out the fattiness of the salmon, and the salty-meaty-crunchy-tender contrast of the bacon wrapped scallops. This was a fantastic and unique dish – highly recommended. 
Sole Meuniere
Flaky, delicate, incredibly mild fish – this is as close to shellfish and fish gets. Perfectly filleted, with a tart and rich sauce that was full of lemon, wine and butter. Butter, in all of it’s rich earthiness, blending with the soft but not mushy texture and almost sweet taste of the fish. This is a deceptively filling dish – all that butter has a consequence. 
A delicious consequence. 
My dish came with boiled potatoes, but come on…
When there are french fries
and a boat full of bearnaise…what do you think I am eating as my starch?
Bofinger is a winner. Beautiful, delicious and fairly priced. Though there was a service issue regarding my fish (it was not cooked properly), our server was very apologetic and replaced my dish immediately. This restaurant, with its history, huge menu and well prepared classic food, is a consummate example of a classic brasserie.

The Best Worst Lunch in Paris

You know those times on vacation when you just flew in, are in a super touristy part of town, haven’t eaten in about 12 hours and start to snap at each other?
And by snap at each other, I mean you start to fantasize about killing your entire family?
At times like that, you step into the nearest possible restaurant. 
 Even if no one else is in it, it looks like the inside of a Disneyland ride, and…
 there is a giant laminated menu. 
 You could get a boring but impeccably fresh salad, with ham and potatoes. 
 Mussels Mariniere.
You could get these traditional mussels, steamed in white wine, lemon and onions. The shocking thing is how delicious this pot of mussels were – all sweet and juicy, with nary a grain of sand nor shriveled mussel among them. This was a better pot of mussels than many I have had in NYC. 
 Chevre Chaud Salad
You would do well to order the chevre chaud salad. This is one of my FAVORITE foods on the planet – a fresh green salad, served with toasts topped with creamy, grassy goat cheese, broiled until melting and bubbling. Cool lettuce, sharp vinaigrette and piquant goat cheese make for the perfect bite.
Of cures, if you are the smartest one (as the mother always is), you will get the tartiflette. A dish popular in the French Alps, this is made with Reblechon cheese (Similar to the St. Marcellin), bacon, onions and potatoes. All sauteed and melted into a skillet. That’s right…melty cheese, salty bacon, sweet onions and tender potatoes. 
If it gets better than that, you had better email me stat and let me know what I have been missing.
Bottom line – this was not the best meal in France, but it was still so good that I would make it my favorite restaurant if ti were in the States. How is it possible that every SINGLE restaurant in France, even the crappy ones, are better than our great ones?! This was incredibly cheap, and even though the service was totally horrendous, it was still a delicious lunch. And after a little tartiflette, I barely even wanted to kill my family anymore. 

Aux Lyonnais – Rustic and Cheap Alain Ducasse

France is the birthplace of some of the most famous chefs in the world – Escoffier, Joel Robuchon and Paul Bocuse, among others, are all Frenchmen. Of course, they are all Frenchmen with incredibly expensive food at their restaurants. For your chance to try some high end French food at a relatively lower price, you can visit a fancy restaurant at lunch, or…
 You can visit Aux Lyonnais for dinner.
 Alain Ducasse’s tribute to the hearty food of Lyon is housed in a beautiful bistro that dates from the 1800’s. 
 Even though there are beautiful mosaics, velvet carpeted stairs, and waiters bustling around with glasses of champagne, the atmosphere is remarkably casual.
 Yogurt, Pickled Shallots, Herbs.
This was my favorite part of the night – and we didn’t even order it! The yogurt was incredibly thick, almost like goat cheese, and so tangy that it was almost pleasantly sour. The pickled shallots mimicked the pucker of the yogurt and the herbs were fragrant and extremely heady – chervil and I think some thyme and lavender. It was finished off with a slick of fruity, smooth olive oil. I wish I knew more what was in the dip, but all I can say was that it was delicious – flavor packed, round, punchy and interesting. It was a perfect first taste.
 Baked Eggs with Chanterelles and Country Lard.
 Oh yeah. Eggs, mushrooms and lard. I can’t begin to tell you how rich those egg yolks tasted. I would say they tasted buttery or creamy, but they didn’t. They just tasted positively EGGY. The chanterelles were like a great white wine – soft, clean, a subtle but game-changing flavor. The lard was shaved thinly, so that it melted onto the warm eggs and mushrooms, sheathing everything in a slightly gamey, porky cloak. This is my idea of a perfect dish. Simple, fresh ingredients cooked to emphasize their natural tastes and in a way that all the tastes compliment the others. 
And it’s egg yolks and lard. Fat on fat. How do you not love that?
 Pike Quenelles with Crayfish Sauce
These were quite different from the quenelles I enjoyed at Millesime. These were far more substantial and dense. They were incredibly mild – almost like soft fish meatballs. That sounds gross, but what I mean is that there was no fishy taste at ALL. No salinity, no oceanic depth. It was all about the texture. The taste came from the soft, creamy sauce that was laden with tiny crayfish that tasted of lobster. The sauce had a shellfish taste to it – buttery and subtle, complimenting the delicate quenelles. These are a must order. 
 Summer Vegetables Casserole
This is a dish that is featured on all of Ducasse’s menus this summer, at all his restaurants around the world. It is simple – just some steamed vegetables. But, once again…these vegetables are insanely delicious. Beets so sugary that they could be dessert. Potatoes so earthy and satisfying that they tasted as if they were bathed in cream. Snap peas, onions, carrots and a heavy had with sweet fennel all figured in as well. This was a bit overpriced, but was both light and delicious. I would not get it again, because it was just too pricey when compared with the other menu items, but it is one of the few vegan dishes I have ever seen in a nice restaurant in Paris. 
If you travel with vegans. That’s against my religion, personally. 
 Floating Island with Candied Rose Petals. 
A floating island is a meringue served in a pool of creme anglaise, so that it floats…like an island. Get it? This was perhaps the best version I have ever had. The meringue was so soft and sugary, like a marshmallow on steroids, with a soft glaze of raspberry melting into the creamy and rich creme anglaise. The creme anglaise was not too sweet, and countered the sugary aspect of the meringue and the tartness of the glaze. The tart alongside was filled with fresh and juicy raspberries on a flaky, buttery crust. The rose petals were detectable only in crunchy texture – thankfully. I’m not a fan of eating things that taste like perfume. 
Saint-Marcellin Cheese
Served room temperature. Gooey, creamy, melty. The texture of brie, with a butter, fully bloomed taste with just an edge of funk, like a mild Camembert. It makes butter look like weak tasting diet food. Get this if you like brie – it won’t be too strong for you. 
And Aux Lyonnais  won’t be too anything for you. Not too stuffy, not too heavy and not too pricey(except for that one vegetable dish). This sort of food, rustic and filling, is not easily found in Paris – at least, not easily found made with this skill and attention to detail. 
And that’s what you get from eating at a restaurant run by one of the most famous chefs in the world. 

Au Chien Qui Fume for Lunch in the Red Light District

Les Halles is the old market area of Paris. It has been around since the 12th century,and used to be the center of all Parisian food. You could get anything there, from meats to vegetables to any sort of bread. 
It was also the red light district. 
Suitably, to assist the hungry workers and the ladies of the night, there were many restaurants that cropped up around the area, open around the clock and serving hearty French comfort food to those that were tired after a long day’s (or night’s) work. 
Though the covered market was torn down in the 1970s and the market left with it, the restaurants of the area are still there, staples for well priced, delicious food. 
 Like that found at Au Chien Qui Fume
 The huge menu includes starters, entrees, desserts and several set menus. There really is something for everyone. 
The atmosphere is quite casual. In France, if you eat at a sit down restaurant, chances are that it will have a tablecloth and several wine glasses. Hey, in France, eating is ALWAYS an occasion, worthy of a proper table setting and enough wine to make your afternoon at work go a LOT faster. 
Many places in France serve small nibbles if you get an aperitif, but this was the only restaurant that served us olives when we ordered only water. These were good, but not outstanding – a little hard, a little bitter. Not great harbingers of things to come. 
Luckily, the bread brought it back home. Chewy, crusty, pliant, yeasty…there is nothing like French bread in France. ANY French bread in France. 
 Onion Soup
So touristy. But really…how does one go to Paris and NOT order this classic potage? This was an excellent rendition – deep, full of hearty beef and wine flavors, with long simmered onions turned sweet and positively jammy against the savory broth. It was not overly salty, as so many lesser versions of this soup are, when chefs try to substitute salt for long cooking times. 
The cheese was one of the best parts here – nutty, sharp, slightly funky Gruyere reminded me how poor most Gruyere topping French onion soup really is. This was not an afterthought, but an absolute flavor component of the dish. It added heft and a chew, stretching out to long strings and breaking off in crunchy golden bits from around the edge of the bowl. The bread inside, positively melting into the soup, was perfection. Get this dish. 
 Summer Salad with Chicken, Tomatoes and Corn
I know, I know. I wimped out at lunch. But with steak tartare the night before and foie gras the night to follow, I really needed some raw vegetables in my system. And the vegetables in Paris are some of the best I have ever had. I mean, I have had Jersey tomatoes, and the ones here beat those. The vegetables are so juicy, so fresh, so snappy and filled with sweet, salty, fresh flavors that they barely even need any dressing. And that is coming from he salad dressing queen. 
The corn was spread taut with sugars bursting from the kernels, the tomatoes were firm and juicy and the lettuce itself had a rustic flavor like beets often have. You can tell that it came from the earth. Paired with impeccably tender chicken and a light mustardy dressing, this was filling but not leaden in my stomach. 
Mackerel and Salmon Rillettes. 
Rillettes are awesome. Meat cooked in fat until it turns into a silken spread, with bits of tender fish and creamy butter ready to spread on a hot crostini. This plate of rillettes was especially delicious – salty, oceanic mackerel and mild, velvety salmon. There was a thin yogurt dressing on the side, but I didn’t want the tartness to interrupt with the pure, clean flavors of fish, butter and bread. The salmon is perfect for those who like salmon tartare, but the mackerel is for those who really love the salty, strong flavor of cured fish. I do, so I did. 
Au Chien Qui Fume is a fantastic lunch stop. Reasonably priced with delicious food and service that was (for France, mind you) not too slow, this is the place to take a respite from shopping and seeing the sites. 
It might not be the red light district any more, but a restaurant like this surely lights up the dining scene. 

Chez Andre – Beef Tartare and Escargot

The first night in France, we went straight to one of my favorite restaurants in Paris: Chez Andre
Chez Andre is a bistro located in a small stylish neighborhood on the right bank. In Paris, a bistro has a smaller menu and is slightly more formal than a brasserie, which is known for its huge menu and large dining room. This bistro in particular looks like it came right out of a movie – casual but still nice, small, with mirrored walls and dark banquetes. We sat down next to a couple chattering away in French and it aboslutely felt like a neighborhood hangout. 
*Disclaimer..all the places I went were probably touristy. Here’s the thing…everywhere I go in NYC is also touristy. That’s because, like NYC, Paris is a city whose main industry is tourism. Unless you schlep to the outskirts or – more likely – to another city altogether, you are going to hear English in the restaurant you choose. There will be an English menu and you can probably hear some other languages being spoken around you. That doesn’t mean the restaurants aren’t delicious or authentic. So relax and ENJOY. *
Bread in France is like nothing else in the world. Simple and outstanding. Crust that crackeles and releases buttery flavors upon crunching, with pliant, slighlty sour interiors. The dark bread was  tangy and dense, made all the better by…
 butter that was so yellow and so fatty it actually coated the inside of my mouth. 
I loved it. 
That’s what she said. 
 Oh no, these aren’t ancient torture devices. These are for…
 You hold the shell, slick with butter, with your tongs, and then reach your fork inside to carefully extract…
A snail. Yep, a snail, much like the ones you step on outside. I have heard they were rubbery, fishy, tough…not these. Tender as could be, with a taste similar to mussles (creamy and almost sweet), they were little delivery vehicles for mounds of butter, parsley and garlic. The mixture was so delicious, I was sticking tiny pieces of bread into the shells to absorb the herby, savory sauce long after the meat was gone. Almost criminally hot, I couldn’t even wait to eat them before they properly cooled. My mouth still has a blister. 
So worth it. 
Of course, if you aren’t into snails,you could always get the Bouillabase, salty and fresh, fragrant with saffron and filled to the brim with freshly caught fish and shellfish. 
 Be sure to float a few croutons in there to soak up the winey, delicate broth. Also throw some nutty Gruyere in there with the incredibly potent aioli, which enriches the soup and turns it creamy. By potent i mean garlicky. And by garlicky, I mean delicious. 
 Or you could get the Lentil Salad. Chewy, hearty lentils served cold in a tart and tangy vinaigrette with pickled shallots is both refreshing and satisfying. And, who knows…this may be the last time you eat a vegetarian dish in Paris. Might as well grab the chance. 
Sole Meuniere. 
Sole, lightly battered with just flour and quick sauteed in butter that is -once again-so thick and substantial it forms a sauce substantial enough to coat the back of the spoon. Delicate, incredibly rich and not at all fishy. This is fish for someone who likes fish and hcips – as in, if you don’t like fish, you will probably enjoy it. If you do like fish, you will LOVE it. It is so well made-soft but totally cooked, flaking into neat pieces, its smooth texture contrasting with the crispy, lemony, buttery skin. And if you are in the mood for meat…well, then you get what I ordered:
 Steak Tartare. 
I love steak tartare, and the steak tartarre here is one of the best in Paris. Not overly done up with vegetables or seasonings, this is truly about the meat. The sweet taste of the beef, which is less aged in France than it is in the USA, is incredibly present here. It is fresh and almost light tasting – vegetal, even. You can get the accompaniments on the side and mix it yourself, but let’s face it…you should have had a few glasses of wine by now. Just let them do it so you don’t accidentally drown it in Tabasco. This is one of the few times when I do not want too much spice. Just a bit of pepper, some salt, a few choped shallots and capers and just a DASH of hot sauce to accent the meat’s natural flavor. It is a must order for any meat lover. 
 The fries were not the best – hot and crispy, but wiht an odd coating and no discernable beef-fat flavor (I’m in France, damn it! I want my potatoes fried in animal fat!). 
But those fries were the only disappointment at Chez Andre. The rest of the meal was just exquisite. Expensive, but everything in Paris is. It is comprable in price to other bistros, but far exceeds its peers in terms of friendly service, delicious food and welcoming atmosphere. By the time we left, not a table was free, so make sure you book ahead.
And make SURE you get the beef tartare.

Pierre Herme – The Best Macaron in Paris

When you go to Paris, there are a few things you must immediately do. 
1)You must look incredibly bored and sophisticated (as many Parisians do)
2)You must find some way to become tipsy before 5 PM and then sustain that buzz throughout the night (as many Parisians do)
And…MOST importantly 
3)You must head to Rue de Cambon, a tiny alley behind the famous Ritz Hotel, for a few of the best bites in the city.

Pierre Herme crafts the best macarons in Paris. This is in no way an opinion – merely stating a fact. Macarons, which are as Parisian as Oreos are American, are almond and meringue cooies, crunchy and sweet, filled with  rich ganache. Many places make macarons, but few do them as well as Pierre. His cookies are impeccably light, crunchy but not crumbly, and airy but infused with intense flavor. His fillings are always rich, never subdued, smooth and decadent.

And the flavors. He is famous for his wacky and wonderful flavors. Green Tea, Black Licorice and Violet, Rose and Olive Oil and Vanilla flavors have all graced his counter. I like some of the more traditional ones, such as:

Salted Caramel

 Smooth, sweet but leaning towards bitter at the end of the taste, with enough salt to make the caramel flavor stand out. The lightness of the cookie contrasted with the depth of the taste.


No cafe au lait here – this is pure coffee taste. Earthy, deep, a bit savory and complex with hints of chocolate, nuts and even salt. The ganache had only a hint of cream, and was mostly that round coffee flavor. This could have been my favorite if it where not for…

Chocolate Passion Fruit(Mogodar). 

The tart and bright fruit blended with almonds and sugar for an incredibly sweet cookie. Layered with chocolate ganache so rich that it was somewhere between a melted Cadbury bar and a mocha made out of pure cream, it was the best dessert I had in Paris.

It was also the smallest. And one of the most expensive. But, if you come to Paris, you are going to be spendingmoney anyway. So why spend it on good macarons when you can get one truly GREAT macaron. Do yourself a favor. Buy the macaron. 

And then you will be well on your way to becoming Parisian.