Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Paris- Right Bank

Trip date: September 2014

Although I had loads of fun on the Left Bank, Paris' Right Bank is hard to compete against. There is so much to do, see, eat, and drink! Let's start with the eating and drinking.

I'd heard about the kouign amman at Ble Sucre for years but hadn't made my way to the patisserie in the 12th. On a lovely, sunny morning I rectified that, getting both an absolutely outstanding kouign amman and some of the best madelines I've ever had. There are a few tables and chairs outside which is unusual for most patisseries, and I enjoyed my treats with a view of the quaint square that the shop is in. They looked to have nice lunch selections as well. Get there!
I happened to find myself in the 11th one afternoon, quite close to Bistrot Paul Bert , so I popped in and requested a table for one. I've had an absolutely outstanding lunch at their next door restaurant L'Ecailler, but hadn't been to this city favorite before. It's a wonderful old-school bistrot with very traditional dishes. I chose a 3-course lunch prix fixe for 29E and thoroughly enjoyed my oeufs d'mayonnaise, beef tartare with frites, and superb cheese plate. I did have one small issue when I heard the bartender tell the waitress that the wine she was pouring me was old and he would open a new bottle. She assured him it was fine and brought me the glass which I tasted and sent back. The bartender opened a new bottle and brought it to me with a big smile and knowing nod.

Le Regalade has three locations now, I was excited to try the one in St Honore with a girlfriend for lunch one afternoon. It's a prix fixe menu that also incorporates each table getting a terrine of their beautiful house-made pate. The problem was we never got a terrine. The service was down right bad. What's up with service in Paris these days? I'm not referring to gruff or snotty attitude, I'm talking about not knowing what the hell is going on! Anyway the food was actually stellar, like I'd-go-back-and-eat-there-again-even-though-the-service-was-crap stellar. And I finished lunch with this AMAZING rice pudding with caramel sauce, supposedly that is a single serving!

We left the dim waitstaff and continued catching up over a bottle (or two) of rosé at the very old school Le Fumoir Cafe, right behind the Louvre. A great stop when you need a little break and are in the area.

Perhaps my favorite meal of the trip was lunch at the Michelin starred Passage53. The interior of the restaurant is pretty much a blank canvas of white and it is very small, making it impossible for groups more than 6. The food and service were both stellar; finally some good service in Paris during a visit that was sorely lacking in it. Forest and I chose the smaller 4-course tasting menu with wine pairings. You don't actually get a menu, you just chose how many courses, and they ask about allergies, etc. Nothing makes me happier than some surprises! Also our waiter went out of his way to pair different wines for each of us so that we had some good shared tastes. In France 4-courses really means 5 as you are going to get an amuse bouche. Additionally, we chose to share a caviar course which was this amazing potato gnocchi, biscuit, and mascarpone.
I will absolutely be returning, for either a longer lunch or a posh dinner, count me in!

Forest runs a group called The Chamber and they put on really fun and unique events on an ongoing basis. While I was in town, there was an afternoon of Tea & Tipples, held in a gorgeous private residence, and catered by a very talented baker. A small group of us enjoyed cocktails, snacks, and conversation. Very fun to meet other French people and also some expats. If you are going to be visiting the city and are looking to interact with some friendly folks, doing some fun things, inquire on their site.

One night Forest and I did a very enjoyable little cocktail crawl where the 3rd arrondissement meets the 10th. We started the night at The Little Red Door, which is aptly named.  I had a bar snack of their version of chicken and waffles (savory waffle with duck rillettes, yum!) and a Paper Anniversary Cocktail which included paper syrup. Very nice and really interesting. They had special guest bartenders that night, the folks from 69 Colebrook Row in London were presenting their own menu. We were handed escargot shells and were told to shoot the tiny cocktail inside, which turned out to taste exactly like a french onion soup. All very fun.
Next up was Le Mary Celeste. The place was packed, as is usual I am told, and the vibe was really fun and lively. I liked that the bar is set up in the middle, a bar-in-the-round. Lots of good drinks and people watching.

We finished our cocktails and made our way to the soft opening of Copper Bay in the 10th for our last crawl stop. What a gorgeous interior! Most everything is copper (natch), and the room is very spacious with high ceilings and huge front windows. Our cocktails were good but they hadn't really had time to work out the kinks, I'd suggest going in now that they've been around for two years!

Another night we went to Dirty Dick in the Pigall area, it had not been open the last time I had been in town. This rivals some of the best tiki bars in the states, no surprise as it is owned by an American. Both the drinks, the decor, and the staff were all top notch! Super fun and especially perfect for when the weather calls for a serious refresher.

Forest and I met a couple of girls at the (then) newly opened Lockwood, a very cool multi-level cocktail bar which I hear also has great coffee. We weren't there long as we were on our way to dinner at the highly lauded restaurant Yam'tcha. Forest and I both had talked of going here for a few years so we were excited. Unfortunately we were both disappointed with our meal.

The combination of French and Chinese sounds great to me, add to that a tiny jewel box space that only holds 20 and I'm on board. But everything from the flavors to the service were just not great. It started off good, with a couple of delicious bites, and then turned boring, and then just bad for me. The famed bun (bao) filled with stilton and cherry is not a flavor combo I ever want to have again. So 6-courses of ok to bad dishes for 136Euro. And all that is fine but on top of things we were stopped as we got into our cab by our waiter who realized they had under charged us. They actually requested another 50Euro from us in the cab! Not the actions of a Michelin starred restaurant and one that I won't be going back to.

For dinner one night some of us headed to Verjus Wine Bar. This little cave is separated from its bigger sibling restaurant of the same name, and serves a more casual menu along with wines by the glass. There are no reservations taken and we had to wait a bit at a bar down the street before there was room for the five of us. It's a great bar, and the meatballs, fried chicken bites, and cepes were all delicious.

Having friends who live in Paris also means that sometimes I get invited to their house for dinner. Beef Bourginon, made by my Parisian girlfriend in her and her husband's cute apartment in the 12th. With fabulous cheeses for dessert. Anytime thank you very much!

And one afternoon I went to the Musee de l'Orangerie. It had been closed for renovations all the years I had been visiting Paris, finally reopening a few years ago. The museum is best known for housing the huge works of Monet, Les Nymphes. I've seen Monet's works, I've been to Monet's museum housed in his old house. I get it. But these absolutely took my jaded breath away. Go. (No photos allowed)

Also at the museum was a special exhibit of Emile Bernard. I totally enjoyed learning about this artist, and the layout of the show gave a great complete look into his career. I also felt that he was the original "selfie" guy although again, no photos were allowed.

It was Fashion Week so after I browsed the collection of Paul Guillaume I left the museum, passing by many of the events, models, show goers, and stunning windows like this one, on my way to meet a girlfriend for some outdoor rosé.
Good luck fitting into that dress if you've eaten and drunk even half of what I've outlined here!


My Paris map is here and all photos are here.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Paris- Left Bank

Trip date: September 2014

After a wonderful week spent in Lyon and Beaune , Forest and I drove back up to Paris. Unfortunately, what should have been a 3 ½ hour drive ended up taking over 4 ½ as traffic was an absolute mess and rain storms did not help the situation.

We lucked out and found a parking spot right in front of her and Thibault's apartment in the 15th, or Vaugirard, hurriedly hauled up our bags and wine purchases, and got changed for dinner. We were meeting friends at Terroir Parisian, the newer of the two locations, in the 5th.

The space here is great, super convivial, energetic, and modern. The menu is made up of traditional French dishes with a little new world twist added in, for the most part. All of our food was good, nothing was a super stand out for me though, and our service was bad. Not snotty bad, just kindof dumb bad! But it was a fun dinner with friends and sometimes that is what counts for the most! And I'd probably try it again, or even the other location as well.

I stayed at Forest and Thibault's apartment that week, it was my first time since they had moved in. Their apartment is very traditional Parisian, with crown molding, gorgeous leaded windows, a (non-working) fireplace in each the dining and living rooms, and great peak-a-boo views of the Eiffel Tower. I hadn't spent much time in the 15th before so it was fun to check out a new 'hood.

I had a whole week to run around on that visit, and I covered a lot of ground. I'll start with all the fun I had on the Left Bank.

I headed out my first full day to have lunch at my absolutely favorite restaurant, Le Comptoir Relais. At lunch they don't take reservations (they do for dinner but they book up 3 months in advance so unless you are staying at the Relais hotel call wayyyyy in advance!) so I got there right when they opened and still had to queue up. Finally seated at a sidewalk table, I had the most amazing pied aux porc with sinful potatoes along with a couple glasses of white Burgundy.
It all comes with a healthy dose of Parisian attitude, but I don't mind. People watching, outside table, decadent lunch... this is why I love Paris!

I also had a list of some new-to-me places I wanted to check out on this trip and first up would be my dessert. Just a short walk away is La Tarte Tropezienne, with their specialty tarts. They offer a variety of sizes of the delicious treat, layers of brioche cake filled with an amazing pastry cream, looks like a macaron but is completely different. I had a Baby Trop with a cup of espresso and some free wifi.

I needed to walk off lunch so I went on one of my favorite strolls thru the Saint Germain area, along the Seine, and over to the Pont d'Arts (which many of you know as the Love Lock Bridge).

Can I just take a moment to point out that these locks have damaged the bridge so badly, parts of it were completely boarded up when I was there. In 2015 the walls and locks had to be removed in order to save the bridge from further collapse. Here's a little thought, if you love someone so much just tell them, do nice things for them, be with them, don't put your ugly lock on a piece of architecture. Ok, rant over. But the walk is lovely.

From here I continued down to the Berges du Seine, a mixed-use area right on the left bank of the Seine, towards Pont Alexander III. I passed outdoor gym setups for both adults and kids, lots of seating areas, stages for events, food kiosks, and casual cafe/bars. I grabbed a lounge chair and a drink at Flow "Beach" Bar and enjoyed the Fall sun.
Another day I stopped into La Patisserie des Reves on Rue du Bac, starting my day off with one of their amazing brioche. Brioche doesn't get much better than this! The shop has a revolving table in the middle, showcasing all sorts of deliciousness; best to go with a few friends and get a selection to sample!
And in all the (eleven!) trips I've taken to Paris I had yet to shop on the famed Rue Cler. I made time for it on this trip, wandering the produce, fish, meat, and sweet shops. It isn't that much different from other market streets (and maybe isn't even quite as good as some) but right near the south end of the street there is an amazing cheese shop- Griffon Fromagerie. I had a hard time not buying (and tasting) everything inside! Highly recommended if you are in the vicinity.
Whisky Live happened to be going on when I was in town so we headed to The Maison de la Mutualité conference center and checked out a ton of booze. We started and ended downstairs with cocktails made by the bartenders at Mabel and Syndicat.

I wandered the show tasting interesting spirits that were either newly released or not available in the States yet. Then we found the Collectors rooms where you could purchase tastes of incredibly old and rare whiskeys or rums; we chose the rum room.

After going over the menu we decided to purchase tastes of both Rhum Clemant 1976 and Bally 1975. It was an incredible treat to try both of them, it would have been really interesting to try them next to modern day equivalents just to highlight the differences that all those years can make.
Someone with deeper pockets than us had a taste of this Saint James 1939 which was uncorked right in front of us. Amazing.
An afternoon at a big, boozy, convention? Who wouldn't like that? Even this little guy was in on the action.

Of course I spent some time shopping with Forest in her neighborhood shops. As with most Parisians she's got it all just a few blocks from her front door. A lovely florist, a meat shop with great sausages, a fantastic bakery, wine merchant, a snail shop (bien sûr!), etc. And there is the lovely home of the arrondissement's Mairie.
One night we stopped at a random corner cafe just across from the Mairie and had some absolutely delicious aligot. If you haven't had this dish before it is similar to Robuchon potatoes but incorporates Gruyere cheese giving the potatoes a really good stringy consistency.

The 15th also has a spectacular terrace bar where the views are pretty much unbeatable, on top of the Novotel. Girlfriends and I had aperos, caught up, and took in the city views before heading back to Forest's for a little girl's dinner night. Go for dusk when the Eiffel Tower lights up, order a bottle of champagne, and viola! Paris je t'aime!

I've got a little map of places I love and places to try here.

Next up, the Right Bank. You guessed that right?

All Paris photos here.