All posts by Meg Zimbeck

Meg Zimbeck has written more than 600 reviews of Paris restaurants, bars, hotels and shops. She's served as the Paris editor for both Budget Travel and BlackBook, and has contributed articles for SAVEUR, the Wall Street Journal, Gridskipper, the BBC’s Olive magazine, and the seat-pocket magazines of United, Virgin Trains, and Gulf Air. Meg's food photography has been featured in T Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, and Libération. She is currently writing the "Dining" and "After Dark" chapters for the 2012 Frommer's Guide to Paris. Meg is the Editor of Paris by Mouth.

Now open: Porte 12

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Naturalité by Ducasse


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Ledoyen under Alleno

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reading photo by Nicolas Portnoï via Flickr

Delicious Reading for Summer 2014

Hungry for France: Adventures for the Cook & Food Lover

by Alexander Lobrano

For those of you traveling around the countryside this summer, Alexander Lobrano’s new book is an indispensable guide to the fascinating food ways and favored restaurants that you’ll find in the many different regions of France. Every chapter shares the author’s personal connection with a corner of the country and provides a meaningful context for understanding the people and flavors you’ll encounter there. It matters because Lobrano isn’t someone who decided to write a memoir after a handful of meals in France. He’s been eating and thoughtfully writing about food in France for decades, and for the very best publications. It’s also a great book for armchair travelers and home cooks, with tantalizing photography from Steven Rothfeld and regional recipes from longtime Food & Wine contributor Jane Sigal. On summer days when I can’t escape work and the city, I can turn to the Normandy chapter recipe for dorade with lettuce cream, radishes and cockles (a recipe from Alexandre Bourdas of SaQuaNa in Honfleur) and feel like I’ve escaped to the shore.

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories

by David Lebovitz

As Paris bistros continue to evolve and send out modern dishes that are more often marked by smears and shavings than long simmering, I continue to jones for classic fare like céleri rémoulade and cassoulet. Considering how hard it has become to find these dishes done correctly in restaurants, and given how easy (and relatively inexpensive) it is to find the necessary ingredients in Paris, I’ve been trying to master the classics at home. This project started with the 2010 publication of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and has now been reinvigorated by this, David Lebovitz’ first significant foray into savory cooking. Widely celebrated for his sweet recipes and sharp wit, Lebovitz is an obsessive guy with a test kitchen in his east Paris apartment… the kind of guy who will repeat and refine a recipe for Coq au Vin until it’s perfect. That’s what you want. The accompanying stories (debating, for example, the inclusion of cocoa powder instead of chicken blood in that very Coq au Vin) invite you into his kitchen, into his thought process, into the question of what it means to be cooking in Paris today.

The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris: The Best Restaurants, Bistros, Cafés, Markets, Bakeries, and More

by Patricia Wells

When Patricia Wells published the first edition of this book 30 years ago, it quickly became a bible for food loving travelers to Paris. Before this effort, no one had compiled a collection of addresses, recipes and advice in such a useful way. By carrying a single tome, travelers had an insider’s list of tables to try, a food glossary and practical pages about etiquette, plus hundreds of black and white photos documenting the fabulous fashion and feathered hair of the 1980s. The world has changed a lot since 1984 and the internet (including our little corner of it) has become a plentiful source of free milk, a sometimes overwhelming provider of information about where and how to eat. Why stick with Wells? Because the lady knows what she’s talking about (how rare that has become!), and has personally tested on her own dime each of the restaurants included in this book and its associated app. Many of the tables she celebrated thirty years ago are still here, but a huge number have been necessarily culled and replaced with restaurants that appeal to today’s appetites. Wells loves Japanese food and light and healthy fare, so there are plenty of spots for noodles and sushi to compliment her recommendations for hearty bistro classics. This will be the source that other people continue to rip off for years.

 

Lead image by Nicolas Portnoï via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Real Munster

Much Ado About Munster: Cheese Names Do Matter

There are a lot of inflammatory stories in the media about how Europe is trying to bully the US in trade talks into “giving back” its cheese names. Should producers in Vermont be able to name their cheese after a French or Italian village? Are these names about civic pride, or do they indicate something more? As someone who regularly encounters Americans’ confusion about names during my weekly French cheese tours in Paris, I have some thoughts. First of all: this isn’t new.

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Best Baguette in Paris

2014 Winner for Paris’ Best Baguette

For the second year in a row, the winner of the Best Baguette in Paris competition comes from the 14th arrondissement. Congratulations to Antonio Teixeira from the Délices du Palais for placing first in the annual Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris!

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speedo only

Yannick Alleno to Cook in Swimming Pool

Well, not exactly… but the Michelin starred chef will moving in when the Molitor swimming pool reopens next Spring as a splashy (sorry) new hotel.

The Art Deco landmark near the Bois de Boulogne will be transformed into a hotel with all 124 rooms (hopefully not the size of changing cabins) overlooking the pool. There will be a restaurant – this is where Alleno comes in – and a rooftop bar overlooking the city.

It is unclear whether, as with all Paris pools, guests will be required to wear a swim cap and (for men) a Speedo.

Molitor hotel restaurant Alleno Paris

Read more from the City of Paris – Piscine Molitor: le “Paquebot blanc” bientôt remis à flots

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Photo by Gustavo Devito via Flickr

Eating & Drinking the Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter gets a bad rap from those who only know the tourist-clogged rues de la Huchette or Pot de Fer. If you haven’t been back in a few years, you’ve missed the food and wine renaissance that’s taken place amid the Roman and Medieval monuments.

Best for Breakfast or Afternoon Coffee

Eric Kayser baguettes

Eric Kayser – his original bakery can be found at 8 rue Monge (closed Tuesday). A few doors south at #14 is another outpost with bar seating and tables outside – a better option if you’d like to stay and have coffee with your croissant. They sell sandwiches at lunchtime, too. Closed Monday.

DSC00653

Coutume Instituutti – coffee and other beverages in a bright and airy space with reliable wifi. A few Scandi-inspired nibbles (it’s inside the Finnish institute) are served for breakfast and lunch. Closed Monday.

sugarplum cake shop

Sugarplum Cake Shop – carrot cake and other American sweets, along with refillable drip coffee from Café Lomi and sometimes-working wifi. Open 12-7pm (afternoon only) Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.

Best for Lunch

Café Le Papillon – this one is a dive, but has great charm. It has for years been the cheap lunch spot of choice for many of the merchants who work on the rue Mouffetard. The only change in recent times has been the addition of a framed photo of Joel Robuchon and Eric Ripert dining here during filming for an episode for Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations (video above).

Terroir Parisien

Terroir Parisien – dinner is also great, but you can’t beat this place for the price/quality/efficiency ratio at lunch. Get in and out with a plat du jour or haute croque monsieur without needing a reservation or  two hours to devote to lunch. Open every day.

Best for Apéro

Brewberry

Brewberry – beer fans will want to pay a visit this haven where Cécile Delorme sells hundreds of different brews, ranging from traditional Belgian to cult Norwegian. A rotating selection is stocked cold for immediate consumption, and there are a few tables outside for sipping on the sidewalk. Closed Monday.

Café de la Nouvelle Mairie – this feel-good bistro is also worth a visit for lunch or dinner (or breakfast, for that matter – they open at 8am), but it is hands down our favorite spot in the ‘hood for apéro. Owner Benjamin Forty is a great fan of natural wine, and his list will please novices and industry types alike. Plenty of options at this hour for nibbling from their long list of charcuterie, cheese and other snack options. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Maison Claudel

Maison Claudel Vin et Whisky – this neighborhood newcomer is both a shop and tasting space for their dual obsessions, wine and whiskey. The shop sells 300 references for each, and those who want to sip on the spot can choose between 24 wines and 80 whiskeys by the glass. Leather club chairs and a selection of small bites make this a great stop before dinner. Closed Monday.

Best for Dinner

Dans les Landes

Dans les Landes – small plates from the Landes and Basque regions with well-priced wine and plenty of seating for larger groups. A few tables on the terrasse if the weather is nice. Open every day. Note: Julien Duboué sold Dans les Landes in July 2014 to open a new place near the Bourse. We haven’t yet returned to try it under the new management. 

Les Papilles

Les Papilles – over by the Luxembourg Gardens, this is a popular spot for those who want to drink great wine at caviste prices and share simple family-style cooking. Closed Sunday and Monday.

sola

Sola – a special place near Notre Dame that marries French and Japanese influences. Topped many critics’ lists when it opened in 2010, and they accept bookings online. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Best for Cocktails

curio parlour

Curio Parlour – a tiny cave filled with dead animals and intricate cocktails, from the team behind Experimental Cocktail Club.

Exceptional Shops

For Cheese

Androuet

Androuet – the rue Mouffetard location of this historic maison is by far the best of four fromageries on a small stretch of street. Managed by the bearded and knowledgable Guillaume, who speaks good English if you’re struggling with your cheese vocab. Special mention for their tunnel-aged Bethmale du chèvre and (in Spring) their selection of young, fresh goats’ cheeses, including Le Bambois. Closed Monday.

laurent dubois

Laurent Dubois – one of the most expensive and exceptional cheese shops in the city, which is what we’d expect from a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). Special mention for their long-aged Comté, the Camembert stuffed with Calvodos-soaked apples and marscapone, and their boundary-pushing exceptionally long aging of cheeses like Fourme d’Ambert, Charolais, and Sainte-Maure de Touraine. Closed Monday.

For Chocolate

Mococha

Mococha – chocolate fanatic Marie-Hélène Gantois is selling the creations from not one but three master chocolatiers, including Fabrice Gillot (an MOF from Dijon), Jacques Bellanger (an MOF from Le Mans) and Patrice Chapon (who twice won the prize for the best chocolate in Paris). You can fill a box with chocolates from all three if you want, or take a sachet to nibble on the go. Follow her on Facebook to keep up with her wonderful schedule of seminars, ateliers and tastings. Closed Monday.

Let me help you with that, Franck.

Franck Kestener – it doesn’t hurt that he’s young and handsome, but that’s not why we’re in love with this shop from the Lorraine-based MOF chocolatier Franck Kestener. No, the primary reason is his L’Atlantique bar with its buttery sablé base, bitter dark chocolate and salty caramel. There are plenty of other bonbons to love, but don’t leave without buying this bar. Open every day.

For Pastry

Gregory Renard

Gregory Rénard – this small shop near the Censier-Daubenton metro might not look like much from the outside, but this is my underdog favorite for macarons in Paris. His version of caramel beurre salé is extra salé and, to my taste, the best in the city. Salt lovers will also like the chocolat-fleur de sel. Be sure to also taste the punchy cassis-violette and the weirdo groseille-coquelicot (gooseberry poppy flower). Prices are so low (one euro a piece) that you don’t need to hold back. Closed Sunday.

carl marletti

Carl Marletti – if you can get past his exuberant use of decorative silver leaf, Carl Marletti makes very good pastries. Closed Monday.

For Wine

fontaine aux vin

La Fontaine aux Vins – hand-written signs, small production growers’ wines, and a wonderfully sweet staff to advise you – this is the only wine shop on the rue Mouffetard that’s worth your time. Closed Monday.

Caves du Panthéon – an impressive selection near the Panthéon and Café de la Nouvelle Mairie. Closed Sunday.

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Lead photo by Gustavo Devito via Flickr

 

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Michelin guide 2014 France

2014 Michelin Results for Paris

The Michelin Guide has just released its 2014 designations. Here’s a quick summary, for those who are still following the Red Guide, plus links to the reactions from local and foreign critics.

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foie gras Zinc Caius

Foie Gras in its Many Forms

foie gras au fil des saisons

Foie gras melting into duck confit at Au Fil des Saisons (photo Meg Zimbeck)

Foie gras may be banned in California and 14 other European nations, but in France the tradition is still going strong. In fact, the fattened livers of ducks and geese are protected by law as part of the country’s cultural and gastronomic heritage, and the French ate more than 8,000 tons of foie gras last year.

Duck, Duck, Goose

The vast majority of foie gras is made from duck (canard), and it’s considerably more affordable than the small amount (less than 10%) made from goose (oie). That’s because geese take longer to mature and require more feed to fatten their livers. Duck foie gras is considered to be more robustly flavored and less refined than goose, but it’s better suited to high temperature preparations like searing because it contains less fat.

Foie gras de Landes from L’Ami Louis (photo- Julien Tort)

Terrine of foie gras from L’Ami Louis (photo Julien Tort)

Various Foie Gras Forms

Foie gras is most commonly cooked at a very low temperature to make a spreadable terrine or pâté, but it can take many other forms. The organ, for that is what it most basically is, can be flash seared and served alone with a condiment or as an enhancement to other ingredients.

Seared foie gras with strawberries, red onion & basil from Vivant (photo- Meg Zimbeck)

Seared foie gras with strawberries at Vivant Table (photo Meg Zimbeck)

The raw and the cooked: Foie gras that is raw (cru) can be seared and served warm. Semi-cooked (mi-cuit) foie gras has been poached at a low temperature and is prized for its silky texture. It has a short shelf-life of three months compared to fully cooked (cuit) and pasteurized foie gras, which can be kept in tins or jars for years.

Foie gras torchon with boozy cherries from Frenchie photo Barbra Austin

Foie gras torchon with boozy cherries from Frenchie (photo Barbra Austin)

Composition: Foie gras entier contains one or two whole lobes of liver, whether cooked in a jar or in a towel (au torchon). A bloc of foie gras contains many smaller livers molded together. Both are cooked (if not cru) with only salt, pepper and a “noble” alcohol like Cognac or Armagnac. A bloc of foie gras with morceaux (bits) contains many pieces of liver pureed together and emulsified with water. It must contain only 50% actual foie gras if goose and only 30% if duck.

Accompaniments

Foie gras with beet and green apple from Kei (photo- Meg Zimbeck)

Foie gras with shaved beets, radish & green apple at Kei (photo Meg Zimbeck)

Foie gras is intensely fatty and perked up by any accompaniment that offers sweetness or acidity. Green apple, which brings both of these, is a pairing that we’ve seen in a lot of restaurants lately. Red fruits like cherry and fig are common. Also delicious are savory accompaniments that add both saltiness and sweetness. Along these lines, restaurants are pairing eel (smoked or not) with foie gras, but onion jam (confit d’oignons) is a little easier to pull off for those indulging at home.

If you’re serving a jam or fruit with some sweetness, plain toasted brioche is the best bread option. If you’re forgoing any accompaniments, serve your foie gras with bread that has some sweetness like pain d’epices (honeyed spice bread) or a bread stuffed with raisins or figs. Serving both a sweet bread and jam could be considered overkill.

That sweet accompaniment can also take a liquid form: the classic pairing is of course Sauternes, but the sweet fortified wines of Banyuls and Coteaux du Layon are also nice, and considerably cheaper. I also like a Jurançon or late harvest Gewurtztraminer.

Foie gras and eel Septime

Foie gras and eel at Septime (photo Meg Zimbeck)

Where to Buy in Paris

La Grande Èpicerie has an entire case dedicated to foie gras during the holidays. So does Franprix (a cheap supermarket), for that matter.

If you prefer to patronize the little(r) guys, a few options for homemade include:

  • Le Garde Manger – a shop near the marché d’Aligre selling foie gras from a small-production farm in Alsace
  • Gilles Verot – near Saint-Placide in Saint-Germain, selling slices of foie gras terrine layered with truffles or figs
  • Maison Guyard – a traiteur at 42 rue Verneuil in the posh 7th selling homemade terrines alongside jars and tins
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Champagne on the Eiffel Tower, photo by Alexander Kachkaev via Flickr

Paris Restaurants for Ringing in the New Year

New Year’s Eve (December 31)

Staggeringly Expensive

  • Le Meurice – for 980€ not including drinks, the menu includes sea scallops with white Alba truffles, duck foie gras with black truffles, langoustines, turbot with caviar, lobster with pumpkin and black truffle, poularde with truffles, Brie de Meaux with truffles (are you sensing a theme?) and desserts. 
  • L’Abeille – for 700€ per person (down from 900€ in 2012), the nine-course menu will feature wild Belon oysters with an emulsion of vintage Champagne, sea urchins, smoked truffles, turbot, Bresse goose, cheese and two desserts. Wine pairings are included for each course. If you’re going to splurge on this level (which we probably never would), the deal at L’Abeille is far more interesting than the apparent rip-offs at Le Meurice at La Tour d’Argent. Reservation and prepayment via La Fourchette is required.
  • Les Ombres – for 430€ per person including Champagne, the multi-course menu includes a velouté of sunchokes and artichokes, a wild mushroom and black truffle tart, a “bonbon” of caviar, cabbage and Menton lemon with quail egg mimosa, smoked and grilled steak and several desserts. Unlimited Champagne, plus mineral water, coffee, and an Eiffel Tower view. Reservations via La Fourchette.
  • Senderens – for 400€ with wine pairings or 330€ without wine, the menu includes a beetroot meringue with black truffle, carpaccio of langoustines, sea scallop soufflé with black truffles, steamed duck foie gras in cabbage leaf with black truffles, a demi-deuil Bresse chicken suprême, French toast with orange & spices & truffle ice cream, coffee & petits fours.
  • Ciel de Paris – for 395€ (including Champagne throughout the meal) this panoramic restaurant will be serving foie gras, lobster, filet and ris de veau in pastry crust, plus dessert.

Very Expensive (more than 175€ without wine)

  • L’Agapé – for 220€ (not including wine), the “Black Diamond” eleven-course menu includes potatoes with caviar, sea scallops with black truffles, tempuras with truffle sauce, Brittany lobster with chestnuts and celery root, foie gras pot au feu with truffle, Bresse poulette with girolles, cheese and several desserts. Reservation via La Fourchette is required.
  • Qui Plume la Lune – for 200€ (not including drinks), the chef will be serving an 8-10 course tasting menu. Reservations via La Fourchette here.

Expensive (more than 90€ without wine)

  • Verjus is serving a festive tasting menu (think truffles, caviar, lobster, etc.) with Champagne and wine pairings. There will host two services, 18h30 to 21h30 and 22h to 1h. The first service is 150€ per person and the second service is 200€ per person (extra Champagne with the second service) including all drinks (coffee, water, wine).
  • Bar le Passage – for 115€ (not including drinks), the menu includes sea scallop soufflé with black truffle, Bresse chicken fricassée with creamy truffle sauce, Saint-Honoré cake with praline, coffee & petits fours. This is the more casual bar above the restaurant Senderens (described above).
  • Chamarré Montmartre – for 159€ (not including drinks), the menu includes shrimp with citrus caviar, warm oysters and clams with a sabayon of yuzu and herring caviar, a marbré of quail, foie gras and smoked eel with beetroot jus, lobster with squid in squid ink, duck breast with anchovies and orange, cheese and two desserts. Reservations via La Fourchette.
  • L’Auberge du 15 – for 120€ (not including wine), the multi-course menu will include chestnut soup with truffles and toasted almonds, sea scallops with buttered and truffled scallops, suprême de volaille fermière (farm-raised chicken) with roasted foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes, and dessert. 
Vegetarian starter at Macéo
Vegetarian starter at Macéo
  • Macéo – for 98€ (not including wine), the multi-course menu includes vegetarian options, beginning with chestnut carpaccio with truffle emulsion and a choice between starters (octopus cannelloni stuffed with lobster and crab, or pencil leeks with black truffle, or consommé of Bresse chicken with foie gras ravioli), and mains (sea scallops with caviar in a clam broth or baby cabbages stuffed with artichokes and mushrooms or filet of Aubrac beef with confit shallots and pumpkin purée), plus a choice of desserts.
  • Chez Géraud – for 110€ (including a glass of Champagne), the menu includes lobster ravioli with artichoke bisque, sauteed sea scallops with avocado and Granny Smiths, truffled poularde with a pot au feu of vegetables, plus dessert.
  • À La Marguerite for 150€ they are serving a nine-course dégustation menu (it’s unclear whether any drinks are included).
  • Miroir will be serving a six course menu for 150€ (reservations required). 
  • Also open, but not necessarily doing a special holiday meal: L’Ateliers de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain & Etoile

Moderate (less than 90€)

  • Juveniles will be open for dinner on the 31st with a special menu, as yet undecided, and a special selection of wines, sold at retail price. There are still a few places left. 
  • Verjus Bar à Vin – the wine bar below the restaurant will be open and serving small plates (no holiday menu) and of course wine, and we expect it to be packed (really, really packed) and fun.
  • Willi’s Wine Bar – for 68€ (not including drinks) the menu will include house made gnocchi with parmesan and sage, a choice between starters (Thai shrimp salad or foie gras terrine) mains (sea bass or venison) and desserts (baba au rhum or chocolate). 
  • Au Clocher de Montmartre – for 89€ (including drinks) the menu includes a starter of foie gras with seasonal vegetables or velouté of pumpkin, Comté ravioli & truffle emulsion, followed by a main of sea bass or guinea hen, plus dessert.
  • Aux Verres de Contact – for 70€ (not including drinks), the menu will include a tartare of sea scallops, foie gras with homemade chutney, celery root raviolis with truffle in truffled beef broth, roasted sea bass, oysters, veal and veal sweetbreads, Mont d’Or cheese, chocolate cake.
  • Le Pharamond will be serving two different menus at 88€ or 98€ each with a glass of Champagne.
  • Le Dodin will be open and serving their usual menu but with a few festive suggestions (truffles, foie gras, caviar…)
  • La Buvette wine bar will remain open.
  • Brasseries and bouillons open 365 days/year: Le Pied de CochonChez Jenny and all of the Flo brasseries (Bofinger, La Coupole, Julien, Le Vaudeville, Terminus Nord, Brasserie Balzar, Le Boeuf sur le Toit), and Chartier (very inexpensive).

Open but Undecided

New Year’s Day (January 1)

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Christmas in Paris, photo by Bob Hall via Flickr

What’s Open around Christmas & New Year’s?

Holiday alert! The vast majority of Paris restaurants will be closed from before Christmas until after the New Year, with many reopening on January 2nd, 2014. To help you navigate this tricky period, we’ve contacted the restaurants in Our Paris Guide and have compiled the following calendar of restaurant closures. We’ll continue to update this post as we learn new information, and we offer more detailed descriptions of holiday options in our posts about Paris restaurants for celebrating Christmas and for ringing in the New Year.

What’s Open by Date

Saturday December 21, 2013

À La MargueriteAgapé SubstanceArtisanAstierAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Au Passage (dinner only), Aux Lyonnais (dinner only), Beef ClubCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez Grenouille (dinner only), ClamatoCoutume, Desvouges, El Nopal, Frenchie To Go, Guy Savoy (dinner only), JajaJuvenilesL’AssietteL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Maison MereLe Coq RicoLe Garde Temps (dinner only), Les BouquinistesLes PapillesMacéo (dinner only), MiroirNübaPink FlamingoRestaurant Pierre Sang Boyer (dinner only), The Sunken ChipWilli’s Wine Bar

Sunday December 22, 2013

À La MargueriteArtisanAstierAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Café PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteClamatoCoutumeEl NopalJajaL’AssietteL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonLa BuvetteLe Coq RicoLes BouquinistesPink FlamingoThe Sunken Chip

Monday December 23, 2013

À La Marguerite, AstierAu PassageCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez GrenouilleJajaJuveniles (dinner only), L’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’ArpègeLe Coq RicoLe MeuriceLes BouquinistesMacéoPink Flamingo (Marais location only), Willi’s Wine Bar

Tuesday December 24, 2013

Café Pinson (lunch only), Juveniles (lunch only), L’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’ArpègeL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLe Coq RicoLe Meurice (dinner only)

Wednesday December 25, 2013

L’ArpègeL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonLa BuvetteLe Coq Rico

Thursday December 26, 2013

Agapé SubstanceArtisanAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Beef Club, Café PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteClamatoChez GrenouilleCoutumeEl NopalGuy Savoy (dinner only), Jaja, L’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’ArpègeL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Maison MereLa Régalade & La Régalade Saint HonoréLe Coq RicoLe Garde TempsLe MeuriceLes BouquinistesMacéoMiroirPink FlamingoWilli’s Wine Bar

Friday December 27, 2013

Agapé SubstanceÀ La MargueriteArtisanAstierAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Beef ClubCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez GrenouilleClamatoCoutumeEl NopalGuy SavoyL’ArpègeL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Maison MereLa Régalade & La Régalade Saint HonoréLe Coq RicoLe Garde TempsLe MeuriceLes BouquinistesMacéoMiroirPink FlamingoWilli’s Wine Bar

Saturday December 28, 2013

Agapé SubstanceÀ La MargueriteArtisanAstierAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Beef ClubCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez Grenouille (dinner only), ClamatoCoutumeEl NopalGuy Savoy (dinner only) JajaL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Maison MereLe Coq RicoLe Garde Temps (dinner only), Les BouquinistesMacéo (dinner only), MiroirPink FlamingoWilli’s Wine Bar

Sunday December 29, 2013

À La MargueriteArtisanAstierAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Café PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteClamatoCoutumeEl NopalJajaL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonLa BuvetteLe Coq RicoLes BouquinistesPink Flamingo

Monday December 30, 2013

À La MargueriteAstierCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez GéraudChez GrenouilleCoutumeJajaJuvenilesL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’ArpègeLa Régalade ConservatoireLe Coq RicoLe MeuriceLes BouquinistesMacéoPink Flamingo (Marais location only), Verjus and Verjus Bar à VinsWilli’s Wine Bar

Tuesday December 31, 2013

Agapé SubstanceÀ La Marguerite, AstierBeef ClubCafé Pinson (lunch only), Chez GéraudJuvenilesL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’ArpègeL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Régalade ConservatoireLe Coq RicoLe Meurice (dinner only) MacéoMiroirSeptime (fully booked), Verjus and Verjus Bar à VinsWilli’s Wine Bar

Wednesday January 1, 2014

Agapé SubstanceAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Beef ClubChez GéraudJuvenilesL’ArpègeL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Régalade ConservatoirePink Flamingo (dinner only), Septime

Thursday January 2, 2014

Agapé SubstanceArtisanAu Comptoir de Brice (lunch only), Aux Lyonnais (dinner only), Beef ClubCafé PinsonCandelaria and Le Mary CelesteChez GéraudChez GrenouilleClamatoCoutumeChez GeorgesEl NopalGuy Savoy (dinner only), JajaJuveniles, L’ArpègeL’AssietteL’Atelier Etoile de Joël RobuchonL’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël RobuchonL’Auberge du XVLa BuvetteLa Maison MereLa Régalade ConservatoireLe Coq RicoLe Garde TempsLe MeuriceMacéoNübaSeptimeThe Sunken ChipVerjus and Verjus Bar à VinsWilli’s Wine Bar

What’s Open (or Closed) by Neighborhood

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  • À La Marguerite will be closed December 24-26 and January 1-2 (usually open every day). Open December 31.
  • Juveniles will be closed after lunch on December 24 and will reopen on December 30. Open for dinner on December 31 with a special menu and selection of wines sold at retail price (they are usually closed all day on Sundays and Monday at lunch)
  • Beef Club will be closed on December 24 & 25, and also on January 1st (plus regular closure on Sundays and Mondays). Open for dinner on December 31 but haven’t yet decided upon a special menu or price.
  • La Régalade Saint Honoré will close for dinner on December 24 and all day on December 25, plus December 28 through January 5, reopening for dinner on January 6 (regular closure on Saturdays & Sundays). 
  • Le Meurice will be closed for lunch but open for dinner on December 24, closed all day on December 25, closed for lunch but open for dinner on December 31, closed all day on January 1 (plus their regular closure on Saturday and Sundays). 
  • Macéo will be closed December 24 & 25 plus January 1st (plus their regular closure for lunch on Saturdays and all day on Sundays). Open December 31. 
  • Willi’s Wine Bar will be closed December 24 & 25 plus January 1st (plus their regular closure on Sundays). Open December 31. 
  • Verjus and Verjus Bar à Vins will be closed from December 23rd through December 27th. They will also be closed on January 1st (plus regular closure on Saturdays & Sundays) but open on December 31.
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  • Aux Lyonnais will be closed from December 22 and will reopen for dinner on January 2 (regularly closed on Saturdays for lunch and all day Sundays and Mondays).
  • Chez Georges will be closed from December 21 through January 1 (regularly closed Saturdays and Sundays).
  • Frenchie and Frenchie Bar à Vins will be closed from December 21 through January 2. Frenchie To Go will be closed from December 22 through January 2.

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  • Pink Flamingo will be closed December 24-25 & 31 and will reopen for dinner on January 1 (regularly closed on Monday, except Marais location which is open every day).
  • Café Pinson will be closed for dinner on December 24 and all day December 25. Closed for dinner on December 31 and all day January 1 (otherwise open every day).
  • Candelaria and Le Mary Celeste will be closed December 24, 25, 31 & January 1 (otherwise open every day)

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  • Jaja will be closed on December 24-25 and December 31 & January 1 (regularly open every day).

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  • Desvouges will be open on December 21 (normally closed all day Saturdays & Sundays plus dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays), but closed December 22-January 5.
  • Les Papilles will be closed from December 22 through January 2 (regularly closed on Sundays and Mondays).

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  • Agapé Substance will be closed December 24-25 (plus their regular closure on Sundays and Mondays). It’s not yet clear if they will be open for NYE. 
  • L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon will be closed on December 24 and open every other day, including December 25 & 31 and January 31. 
  • Les Bouquinistes will be closed from December 24-26 and December 31-January 2 (otherwise open every day). 

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  • Coutume will be closed December 23-25. On Monday December 30, they will open at 10am and will serve brunch from 11am-4pm without reservations (they are otherwise closed on Mondays). They will also be closed December 31 & January 1.
  • L’Arpège will not be closed during the holidays (other than their regular closure on Saturdays & Sundays). Open December 24 & 25 plus December 31 & January 1. 

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  • Artisan will be closed December 23-25 and December 30-January 1 (plus their regular closure on Mondays).
  • Big Fernand will be closed December 23-25 and December 30-January 1 (plus regular closure on Sundays).
  • Chez Grenouille will be closed on December 24 & 25 and December 31 & January 1 (plus their regular closure for Saturday lunch and all day Sunday).
  • La Maison Mere will be closed December 23-25 and December 30-January 1 (plus their regular closure for Sunday dinner and all day Monday).
  • La Régalade Conservatoire will be closed from December 21-29 and will reopen for lunch on the 30th. Open December 31 and January 1st (regularly closed for lunch on Saturdays and all day Sundays). 
  • Le Garde Temps will be closed December 23-25 and December 29-January 1 (plus their regular closure for lunch on Saturdays and all day Sundays).

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  • Au Comptoir de Brice will be closed from December 23-25. Doors will be open on December 24 but only to sell their “kits de Noel” (Christmas dinner to go, order at contact@aucomptoirdebrice.com) – no regular lunch service. Closed December 30 and open December 31 only to pick up “kits de nouvel an” (regularly closed at night and all day on Mondays).
  • El Nopal will be closed December 24 & 25 and December 31 & January 1 (plus regular closure on Mondays).
  • Pink Flamingo will be closed December 24-25 & 31 (plus their regular Monday closure) and will reopen for dinner on January 1.
  • The Sunken Chip will be closed from December 25 through January 1st (plus their regular closure on Mondays and Tuesdays), reopening on January 2. 
  • Youpi et Voila! will be closed all day on December 24 & 25 and from December 31 through January 2 (plus regular closure on Sundays & Mondays)
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  • Astier will be closed from December 24-26 and from January 1-5. Open on December 31 with a special NYE menu (details not yet decided).
  • Au Passage will be closed from December 24-January 4 (plus regular closure for lunch on Saturdays and all day Sundays).
  • Caffè dei Cioppi will be closed from December 21 through January 6.
  • Clamato will be closed on December 25 and January 1 (plus their regular closure on Mondays and Tuesdays).
  • La Buvette will not be closing between Christmas and New Year’s (except their regular closure on Mondays). Open December 24, 25 & 31 plus January 1. 
  • Le Chemise will be closed from December 22 through January 5.
  • Restaurant Pierre Sang Boyer will be closed from December 22 through January 8 (regular closure on Saturdays for lunch and all day Sundays and Mondays)
  • Septime will be closed from December 21-29. Open December 31 but already fully booked (regular closure on Sundays and Mondays). Their wine shop Septime Cave (where you can drink & nibble) will be closed on December 25 and January 1 (plus regular closure Sundays and Mondays).
  • Soya will be closed from December 23 through December 26 and also January 1st (plus regular closure on Saturday and Sunday nights). Open on December 31 with a special (but as of yet undecided) menu.
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  • Pink Flamingo will be closed December 24-25 & 31 (plus their regular Monday closure) and will reopen for dinner on January 1.
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  • L’Auberge du XV will be closed on December 25 (plus their regular closure on Sundays and Mondays). Open December 24 & 31.
  • Nüba will be closed from December 22-January 2 (regularly closed on Mondays).
  • Simone will be closed from December 21-January 5 (regularly closed on Saturdays and Sundays). 
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  • L’Assiette will be closed from December 23 through January 1 (regular closure on Mondays and Tuesdays). 
  • La Régalade will close for dinner on December 24 and all day on December 25, plus December 28 through January 5, reopening for dinner on January 6 (regularly closed all day Saturdays and Sundays, plus lunch on Mondays). 
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  • Le Grand Pan will be closed during “the week of Christmas” (exact dates unknown).
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  • Chez Géraud will be closed from December 21-28 (plus their regular closure on Saturdays and Sundays). Open for dinner on December 31 and serving a brunch buffet on January 1st.
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  • Comme Chez Maman will be closed from December 24-26 and for lunch on January 1st (regularly open every day). Open on December 31 with their usual (not holiday) menu.  
  • Guy Savoy will served dinner (only) on December 21 and then close from December 22-25. Open for dinner on December 26, then closed from December 27 through January 1, reopening for dinner on January 2 (regular closure on Saturdays at lunch and all day Sundays and Mondays).
  • Le Dodin will be closed for dinner on December 24 and all day December 25, plus all day on January 1st (plus regular closure for Saturday lunch plus all day Sundays & Mondays). Open December 31. 

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  • Le Coq Rico will be closed on January 1st (usually open every day of the week). Open December 24, 25 & 31. 
  • Miroir will be closed from December 22-25 and January 1-7 (plus their regular closure on Sundays and Mondays). Open December 31. 
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  • Chatomat will be closed December 24 & 25 & 31st (plus their regular closure on Sundays and Mondays, except for the first Sunday of every month).

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Christmas restaurant, photo by Julian Stallabrass via Flickr

Celebrating Christmas in Paris Restaurants

As is true almost everywhere, Christmas is a holiday that locals celebrate en famille, preparing meals at home that feature seasonal treats like Champagne, sea scallops, roasted birds, truffles (if they can find one), foie gras, and the traditional bûche de Noël. The vast majority of Paris restaurants will be closed for Christmas (see our calendar of holiday closures), but a few will be open and serving holiday meals. We’ve rounded up the best options below and will continue to update this post in the weeks before Christmas.

Christmas Eve (Le Réveillon de Noël)

Expensive

  • Le Meurice – for 550€ not including drinks, the menu includes sea scallops, truffled sea bass, lobster, warm game pie, and desserts.
  • Senderens – for 308€ with wine or 223€ without wine, the menu includes carpaccio of sea scallops, duck foie gras with pears & toasted brioche, lobster wrapped in cabbage leaves with vanilla butter, pheasant suprême with truffle cream and pommes soufflées, plus several desserts.

Moderately Priced

  • L’Auberge du 15 – for 100€ (not including wine), the multi-course menu will include chestnut soup with truffles and toasted almonds, sea scallops with buttered and truffled scallops, suprême de volaille fermière (farm-raised chicken) with roasted foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes, and dessert.
  • Bar le Passage – for 95€ (not including drinks), the menu includes an amuse-bouche, lobster wrapped in cabbage leaves with vanilla butter, pheasant suprême with truffle cream and sunchokes, plus several desserts.starter of foie gras followed by pheasant with pear and spinach, a pumpkin dish, and several desserts.  This is the more casual bar above the restaurant Senderens (described above).
  • Chamarré Montmartre – for 85€ (not including drinks), the menu includes an oyster amuse-bouche, a first starter of wild mushroom velouté with truffle jus and foie gras raviolis, a tourte of wild duck, steamed sea bass with dashi and citrus caviar, poularde de Bresse, and a buche de Noël. Reservations via La Fourchette.
  • Au Clocher de Montmartre – for 65€ (including drinks) the menu includes a starter of foie gras with seasonal vegetables or velouté of pumpkin, Comté ravioli & truffle emulsion, followed by a main of sea bass or guinea hen, plus dessert.
  • Les Ombres – for 130€ per person including Champagne (but no other wine), the menu includes amuses bouche, starters of foie gras and sea bass, filet of beef with truffle sauce and several desserts, plus coffee, mineral water and an Eiffel Tower view. Reservations via La Fourchette.
  • Ciel de Paris – for 145€ (including Champagne throughout the meal) this panoramic restaurant will be serving foie gras, sea scallops, filet of beef, and dessert.
  • Les Cocottes will be open. No reservations.

Christmas Day (le jour de Noël)

  • Chamarré Montmartre – for 85€ (not including drinks), the menu includes an oyster amuse-bouche, a first starter of wild mushroom velouté with truffle jus and foie gras raviolis, a tourte of wild duck, steamed sea bass with dashi and citrus caviar, poularde de Bresse, and a buche de Noël. Reservations via La Fourchette.
  • L’Ateliers de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain & Etoile will be open, but are not necessarily doing a special holiday meal. No reservations*.

* The Ateliers de Joël Robuchon accept reservations only for the first and last seatings, and these are surely already booked. Everything else is first come, first served.

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Frites at Maison F

First Look: Monsieur F

P1320132 The “F” in Maison F does not stand, as I previous thought, for frites. It stands for “fuh?”, as in “what the… “, which is what we all said when this plate arrived.

Why I Went: I heard that this new place, which opened at the end of October, was serving great cocktails, aged beef and, according to My Little Paris, “Les meilleures frites de Paris.”

My Experience: If you’re going to build your brand around fried potatoes, those frites had better be damn near perfect. In fact, they were fine, but not more than fine..

The main issue wasn’t quality, though, it was quantity. I hate to sound like a greedy American, but thirteen sticks are not enough to accompany a steak, and lining them up this way looks either fashionable or frugal. I crave neither when it comes to fries.

We tried three varieties in total, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the polenta fries were excellent. Our table was divided regarding the quality of the beef (matured 3-5 weeks) – I liked mine a lot and would be happy to pay more than the 27€ charged if it were accompanied by a less laughable lineup of starch.

On the bright side: all of the staff with whom we interacted were extremely friendly (and young, and beautiful). The cocktails were good, especially when Charlie Brock (ex-Ballroom) was making them. The space was lovely – we four occupied a large and comfortable booth for several hours (did I mention the cocktails were good?).

Would I Go Back? Absolutely. The manager seemed genuinely interested in our experience and that of the other clients, and he acknowledged that there are some kinks to work out. It’s not there yet, but I think that in a few weeks this place will have improved dramatically. They seem sincere. For those who are looking for a place with a lot of style, and who care a touch more about scene than sustenance, this will be a good launching pad for a big night out.

A Few More Details: The menu includes plenty of beef (pièce de boucher, côte de boeuf for 2, tartare), plus andouillette and several seafood options (mussels, squid, steamed cod). Plats range in price from 16-27€. Vegetables are available instead of fries. Cocktails are classic – negronis & old-fashioneds, bucks & mules, juleps & smashes – and range from 11-14€. Our bill, excluding all alcohol, came to around 30€ per person without any starters and sharing 2 desserts among four people. 

For additional details, including address & hours see our guide page to Maison F.

A Few More Photos: 

Frites at Maison F in Paris

Three varieties of frites (la Rustique, la Bourgeoise, polenta)

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Pièce de boucher with sauce au poivre

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Kingston Negroni, Englishman’s Old-Fashioned

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Tartelette au citron

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Soufflé au chocolat

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Lazare annex

First Look: Lazare

Why I Went: Lazare was the biggest opening of the rentrée 2013 – a splashy restaurant from a three-star chef inside the Gare Saint-Lazare. Eric Fréchon, who has been branching out from his home base of L’Epicure (formerly Le Bristol) ever since he opened Le Mini Palais in 2010, was purportedly serving Normandy-inflected comfort food to travelers en route to that region or arriving from the other side of Paris. Reviews had been ecstatic, praising the menu as “glorieusement française,” (Gaudry), noting the “friendly, professional service” (Moore) and celebrating the casual openness of the place (Rubin).

Lazare dining room

My Experience: In nine years of dining in Paris and writing about its restaurants, this was the worst service I have ever experienced. It was shockingly, almost comically bad. So terrible, in fact, that I have decided to overcome my reluctance to ever report on the service shortcomings of a restaurant. The tendency among readers (including me) is to assume that anyone offended by service doesn’t know how to behave. So let me be clear: I booked for dinner two weeks in advance and called to confirm my reservation on the day of our dinner. I was wearing a dress, my guest was wearing a suit. We speak French and know what to expect from French-style service. The restaurant had been open for more than a month.

Lazare - decorative dishware

The beautiful main dining room at Lazare

When I arrived at Lazare, I was immediately struck by the high-ceilinged dining room from Karine Lewkowicz with its soft lighting and built-in shelves of decorative dishware. This appreciation made what followed all the more depressing: we were seated in a dark annex at a tiny café table looking out into the night-time corridor (weary commuters, drunks) of the subway station. Because I spend hours every day in the Métro and don’t wish to dine there, I gently asked our hostess if we might be seated in the main room which had at least ten open tables. She told me curtly that they were all booked. I asked if they were booked by people who had specifically reserved the main room and she said no. I pressed on, still smiling, and asked if we couldn’t take one of those open tables since we, too, had reserved, and were actually here in the restaurant, and were very interested in sitting there. She took a step back and gave me an exaggerated up-and-down look, performing her role of bitchy gatekeeper to perfection. “Wait here,” she sighed, and so we sat. After twenty minutes spent in the dark corner without anyone returning to offer news or take a drink order, I returned to the hostess station. “Oui madame, I have not forgotten about you,” she said, and literally waved her hand to dismiss me. After another 20 minutes (40 minutes in total) she returned and begrudgingly offered a table in the main dining room.

Lazare annex

The annex, with child-sized tables bathed in neon light

As ridiculous as this opening act had been, all was forgiven when we were seated at a big boy table in the main room. Menus arrived immediately and we were prepared to have a great time. We selected our dishes and waited for another twenty minutes, trying in the meantime to flag someone down for a wine list. “J’arrive! J’arrive!” When our server Sébastien did arrive, he took our order but sighed dramatically when we asked for the wine list. Slapped it on the table. I quickly chose a bottle and he returned twenty minutes later to say they didn’t have it. I asked if I could see the list again. Instead, to save time, he told me the name of a bottle that I should order. “Chardonnay,” he added (gee, thanks). I asked if I could please see the list. He stood bouncing up and down at my side and tapping his foot while I took twenty seconds to select another bottle of white. It arrived shortly after, unchilled. He poured two warm glasses and put the bottle in an ice bucket, not commenting or apologizing in any way. At this point, we had been inside Lazare for almost an hour and half and the first drop to pass our lips was warm Pouilly Fumé.

Again, please let me assure you, I am not an asshole. I have seen diners behave atrociously in restaurants and have giggled when their servers have responded with disdain. That’s not what was happening at Lazare. What was happening is that they did not deem us to be important. Lazare is not an open and friendly haven for travelers or gastronomes. It is a club masquerading as a restaurant, employing the sort of velvet rope snobbery that one expects to find at Le Montana or a Costes establishment. Certain tables at Lazare, those helmed by 60 year-old PDGs and their 22 year-old Louboutin hooved escorts, received lavish attention. We and the elderly couple who were penned in to our right (we actually had to stand and move in order for them to be served), were consistently degraded.

Lazare - filets de sole Dieppoise, sauté d'épinards à cru

Filets de sole Dieppoise, sauté d’épinards à cru

So what about the food? Apart from some minor notes (the céleri rémoulade lacked any bite), I was absolutely delighted. The filets de sole Dieppoise was one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. The bitterness of the spinach married beautifully with the sweetness of cream and tiny shrimp and I didn’t want the dish to end. Amid all of the naked naturaliste cooking of the moment, I’m thrilled to find this quality of traditional French cooking on any menu. For dessert, the sautéed mirabelles with verveine were both seasonal and original.

Lazare - Poêlée de mirabelles à la verveine

Dessert: poêlée de mirabelles à la verveine (mirabelles with verbeena)

The evening as a whole, however, was shameful. There is nothing Eric Fréchon’s kitchen could have produced which could have salvaged the experience. In the weeks that followed our night at Lazare, I’ve heard similar reports about the service (particularly the dark-haired hostess) from other friends, all of whom know how to behave in restaurants. I have no doubt that if I had booked under my own name, reserved through their press office, or told them I write for the Wall Street Journal, my experience would have been different. And that’s precisely why we pay for every meal and dine inconspicuously – so that we know how the average diner might be treated. At Lazare, we are treated like dirt.

Would I Go Back? Obviously, no. If I want traditional French cooking in a polished setting, I’ll go to Terroir Parisien, which is opening a second annex at the Palais Brongniart next week.

A Few More Details: There is no formule at Lazare and lunch and dinner are priced equally. Entrées range from 7€ (soup) to 26€ (pot-au-feu de foie gras aux lentilles). Mains range from 16€ (moules de bouchot) to 39€ (entrecôte de veau). A different plat du jour is offered every day for 16€ and was sold out on the night of our visit (foie de veau rôti au vieux vinaigre). Our dinner for two, including a starter, main and dessert for each person, plus a bottle of Perrier and a 42€ bottle Pouilly Fumé came to 146€.

For breakfast most drinks are priced at 6€ and a croissant or pain chocolat is 3.50€.

On Sunday, Lazare offers a “Déjeuner de Grand-Mère” for 38€ where you’ll be welcomed “comme chez mamie.” The success of this may require putting someone else at the door and giving their usual bitch-face hostess the day off.

For additional details, including address & hours see our guide page to Lazare restaurant.

A Few More Photos:

Lazare - céleri rémoulade à la pomme verte

Céleri rémoulade à la pomme verte

Lazare - Salade de haricots verts, artichauts à l'huile de noisette

Salade de haricots verts, artichauts à l’huile de noisette

Lazare - Cabillaud rôti, suace vierge, salade de tétragone mi-cuite

Cabillaud rôti, sauce vierge, salade de tétragone mi-cuite

Lazare - Paris-Deauville

Dessert: the Paris-Deauville

 

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Danny Rose Bistrot Americain

Daniel vs. Danny Rose: the battle for America-in-Paris

Danny Rose Bistro Americain

Appearing on Charlie Rose last week, the chef of Spring Restaurant joked with his interviewer about hosting a dinner for people who share the name, or a connection with the name Daniel Rose.

At the time, the American chef was unaware that a new restaurant had just opened in Paris bearing the improbable name of Danny Rose Bistrot AmericainIs it possible that the owners of this new place near the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont were unaware of another Daniel Rose in Paris, one who happened to be American and to have one of the most popular restaurants (and web searches) in town? After speaking on the phone with the owners of Danny Rose, the Spring chef Daniel Rose is persuaded that they just liked the Woody Allen film and were completely unaware of his existence. Still, lawyers are involved, since the original D-Rose spent thousands of euros to protect his name and doesn’t want it attached to a place that’s serving “American” specialties like gooseberry-slathered pork ribs.

——

p.s. is Le Fooding writing about just anything these days? http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-danny-rose-paris.html

 

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Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris

Behind the Scenes at Paris’ Best Baguette Competition

I’m what you might call a bread enthusiast. Not as bonkers as Steven Kaplan, the bread professor who showed Conan O’Brien how bread-making could be a “sexual act,” but a serious enthusiast nonetheless. I have Kaplan’s book, along with Nancy Silverton’s tome, on my nightstand. I teach tourists how to tell good baguette from bad. And I’ve been following the annual competition to name Paris’ Best Baguette with great interest for many years.

Imagine, then, how excited I was to receive an email from the Mayor’s office, inviting me to be a jury member for the 2013 competition. I confirmed my presence faster than you can say Grand prix de la baguette de tradition française de la Ville de Paris. I took the mission seriously and prepared myself (by eating a lot of bread) to help select France’s next champion baker. Here’s how it went down.

Baguettes await their judgement

On the morning of April 25, 204 participating bakers dropped off two baguettes each at 7 quai d’Anjou on the Ile-Saint-Louis. Only 152 bakers were accepted into competition. The rest were thrown out because they didn’t meet the strict size guidelines for a traditional French baguette (between 55-65cm and 250-300g).

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There were three jury panels composed of professional bakers, prize-winning apprentices, bakers’ union bureaucrats, a few journalists, and previous winners. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Pascal Barillon who won the 2011 competition and whose bakery we visit on one of our Paris food tours. I felt confident in evaluating the baguettes according to aspect (appearance), cuisson (cooking), mie-alveolage (texture), odeur (smell) and gout (taste), but Barillon was able to explain the technical failures that might have been responsible when the crumb was “comme le chewing-gum.”

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So what were we looking for? A good crumb should be elastic, with plenty of irregular sized and unevenly spaced holes, like the example on the right. The crust should be crunchy, not a wimpy millimeter like the example on the left.

Good crumb, bad crumb

The degree of cooking is more subject to personal taste. Parisians often indicate their preferred cuisson when ordering – pas trop cuit for a blonde and doughy baguette, or bien cuit for something well-cooked. I know bakers who privately seethe when their customers order under-cooked baguettes because the cereal notes haven’t yet had a chance to develop. But as you can see form the range of colors below, there’s no gold standard for coloration.

A wave of baguettes

Each jury tasted more than fifty baguettes – swallowing, not spitting – before the scores were tallied. The top ten baguettes from each panel advanced to a final tasting round and the extra loaves (each baker delivered two) were tasted and ranked by the other panels. In the final round, I tasted a loaf that I really loved, number 187, and had the foresight to snap its picture. It turned out to be the winning baguette. This is what delicious looks like:

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As soon as the final results were tallied, the President of the jury tore open an envelope marked with the winning number 187. Inside, a small hand-written paper contained the following information: Ridha Khadher, Au Paradis du Gourmand – 156 Rue Raymond Losserand, 75014. She immediately placed a phone call to Mr. Khadher to share the good news. He responded by repeating “vraiment? vraiment!?” while the jury members applauded in the background. Our Assistant Editor Catherine Down raced over there as soon as I shared the address and found him fighting back tears, watching the line of customers grow down the sidewalk, telling her that he’d  been baking since the age of fourteen but never imagined that something like this could happen to him.

Ridha Khadher winner Best Baguette in Paris

Khadher will receive a cash prize and trophy, along with the contract to supply the Élysée Presidential Palace with their bread for the coming year. The resulting media coverage will guarantee a line of customers down the block for the foreseeable future.

Top 10 winners of the Best Baguette in Paris competition

As I write this, the other winners after Khadher haven’t yet been formerly announced. But I was able to snag a photo of the results, decipher the handwriting, and create this top ten list of the best baguettes for 2013. The #1 spot, which has been occupied by bakers from Montmartre for the past six years, no longer belongs to the 75018. However, a bakery near Chateau Rouge came in second this year, and there are two more top ten bakeries clustered between Place du Clichy and Blanche. A pretty strong showing for the Butte, even if the winning bakery is on the opposite side of town.

All in all, I’m thrilled to have dedicated three hours and three thousand calories to today’s tasting. The chance to talk about technique with Pascal Barillon was more than I could have hoped for, and the peek behind the scenes at this venerable competition was a dream come true. Thanks to the City of Paris for inviting me, and for continuing to support and celebrate artisanal bread-making with this annual event.

In closing, a few more pictures…

Bakers on break

Baguettes waiting to be tasted

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Pork belly at La Regalade Conservatoire restaurant in Paris | parisbymouth.com

First Look: La Régalade Conservatoire

La Regalade Conservatoire

Moments before walking into this newest member of La Régalade family, I read the following lines from a review by Alexander Lobrano:

Ever since he took over the original La Régalade in the 14th arrondissement from founding chef Yves Camdeborde in 2004, Bruno Doucet has continued to delight bistro-loving Parisians with his shrewd and technically impeccable modern French bistro cooking.

“Shrewd?” I wondered. “What’s he mean by that?” Then I sat down and saw the menu.

Is it shrewd for Doucet to hedge his bets, especially during an opening month, by serving a small number of his greatest hits? The marinated sea scallop starter, the cod and sea bream, the steak with beef cheeks, the pork belly – these are all things that the chef clearly loves to cook. I’ve enjoyed them at previous visits to his other restaurants La Régalade (2009) and La Régalade Saint Honoré (2010). Along with stalwart desserts like rice pudding, pot de crème and the Grand-Marnier soufflé, these repeats make up the bulk of Doucet’s menu at the new restaurant.

Pork belly 2013

Pork belly with lentils in 2013. Also on the menu in 2010 and 2009.

Dorade with fennel 2009

Dorade with fennel in 2009. Also on the menu in 2013.

Terrine at La Regalade Conservatoire

House-made terrine at every visit (and thank goodness for that).

I’m not sure that Lobrano was referring to any of this when he uttered the word. Nor do I mean to say that shrewd is bad. Doucet is serving a product I like – updated bistro fare based on fresh seasonal products – to an increasing number of people. If he’s consistent in his cooking, he’s also steady with his prices. The tally for a three-course prix-fixe meal has only risen by two euros from 33€ in 2009.

There are, however, disappointingly few surprises for someone who has previously enjoyed the Régalade bistro brand. The decor may vary dramatically with each new opening (the worn original is still my favorite), but there’s no detectable difference in Doucet’s cooking from one address or year to another.

Will I continue to recommend Les Régalades to visitors in search of good bistro food? Absolutely. Will I be back again myself? Probably. There aren’t many restaurants open on a Monday night, and it’s hard to argue with their prices, their precision, or that welcoming crock of house-made terrine. Perhaps in April, with the hope that Doucet might recycle one of my favorite morel mushroom dishes? Repetition may not be such a bad thing, after all.

Asparagus morels 2009

Morels mushrooms with aspargus, 2009

Morels and cream, 2010

Morel mushrooms in cream, 2010

For more details, including address and hours, see the page for La Régalade Conservatoire in Our Guide to Paris Restaurants.

 

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Le Mary Celeste in Paris - Chinese crepes with beef knuckle, peanuts, sesame, celery

First Look: Le Mary Celeste

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - oysters

Le Mary Celeste is a new restaurant from the people behind Candelaria and Glass. Accordingly, there’s a solid cocktail program and two Brooklyn beers on tap. Another creative and beautiful (now nautical) interior from David Rager, Cheri Messerli and Gilles Tombeur. These will get a lot of attention, as will the rotating cast of mostly wild oysters sold by the piece for 2-5€. But the real story here is Haan Palcu-Chang.

Haan is a Canadian of Romanian and Chinese descent whose most recent professional gigs were in Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen. However skilled he may now be in the art of making foams and gels, he’s equally passionate about time spent learning how to cook from “real Asians” in New Zealand and about the ethnic food scene in his native Toronto. He’s a food nerd, and this is the first time that he’s been given control over a kitchen.

When you mix together the technique, the respect for ingredient and the ethos of everything-from-scratch, the result is a small plates menu that’s so much better than it needs to be. In the same spirit as Paris’ Au Passage or Copenhagen’s Fiskebar – this is a place where serious Food is being transmitted through a small plates medium to unshaven people in skinny jeans.

Examples

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - pickled topinambour

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - beef jerky

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - kimchi

Bar snacks of (all housemade) pickled topimambour, beef jerky, kimchi

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - Chinese crepes with beef knuckle, peanuts, sesame, celery

Crêpes Chinoises: beef shin, celery, sesame, peanuts

 There’s also a respect for vegetables here that one doesn’t often find in Paris. While we were tempted by the poitrine de veau (veal breast) with coconut milk or the pintade (guineau hen) with tare sauce, we surrendered instead to a vegetarian dish with two kinds of cabbage, black beans and a roasted carrot that was so deeply savory it could have been meat. The two dishes I’ll return for are also meat-free: steamed oysters with chili, black vinegar, and crispy shallots, plus endives with tamarind and mint. Tamarind also flavors a chocolate creme dessert with Maldon salt. When’s the last time anyone saw tamarind in Paris?

Le Mary Celeste cocktails - Judy Blue Eyes and Rain Dog

I opted instead for a dessert cocktail (or two). My favorite was the Rain Dog, made with small batch bourbon, bitters, mint, lemon and sirop de capillaire. That last ingredient is a house-made infusion of simple syrup, orange flower water, and dried maidenhair fern. It’s what makes the drink more than a mint julep, and it’s what makes the drink 12 euros.

Practical Advice

It’s possible to reserve (only by email at reservations@lemaryceleste.com), and I would recommend doing so. The dining room was absolutely packed at 8pm on a Thursday with no place to sit besides our two reserved seats.

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It’s also possible to order sequentially, another something I would recommend. Nearly all of the five dishes we ordered arrived at one time, along with a giant oyster platter, and these didn’t fit on the tiny little table. My friend and I took turns holding plates in the air above the platter to let the other person take a few bites. The result: a stream of fatty jus dribbling from the crêpe chinois onto an unsuspecting kumamoto oyster below. Delicious, actually. We then had to stack the demolished plates under my chair to free up our hands for oyster play. It made the waitress giggle, and we thought it was fun. However, other eaters may have different standards, and they should order sequentially.

The best move would be to arrive early for a first round during the 5-7 pm Happy Hour when oysters (one special per day) are sold at only 1€ a piece. Wash them down with a good bottle of Muscadet from Marc Olivier for 22€ or an even better Muscadet from Guy Bossard for 34€.  Then order everything on Haan’s food menu, and as many drinks  as you can stand from Carlos (ex-L’Hotel) Madriz’ cocktail menu. You will float out very full and, like the namesake sea vessel, on your way to wandering lost.

For more details, including address and hours, see the page for Le Mary Celeste in Our Guide to Paris Restaurants.

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lemon tart from Jacques Genin

Jacques Genin has stopped making pastry

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Today at Jacques Genin, atop the glass case which previously held his precious desserts, there was a sign. It read (I paraphrase) “chocolate is my first love… I want to give it my full attention… from this day forward, no more pastry.”

I had a visceral reaction to this news. My mouth went dry. My brain started rewinding through all of the desserts I had enjoyed in this room. A long-forgotten Sara McLachlan song crept up to provide the soundtrack as I considered: no more tarte tatin with the crackly burnt sugar top. No staggeringly priced wild strawberry tart to save up for in late Spring. Tarts with honey walnut, chocolate ganache, perfect raspberry, and LEMON. Oh God, that lemon tart, with variations like rosemary, tarragon and basil! And what about that towering, almost too-tall Paris-Brest with whole toasted hazelnuts spackled on top? Or his éclairs, shiny as a mirror and a different species altogether from the soggy grocery store éclairs of my youth?

Practically speaking, all is not lost. It will still be possible to have a made-to-order millefeuille in the salon. One can order larger desserts (for four or more people) in advance. And of course, the chocolates, caramels and pâtes des fruits will carry on.

However, the individual pastries that I have hysterically mourned are now on hold. Why? Word on the street is that Genin lost his sous-chef and many other hands on his pastry-making team. Rather than put out inferior pastry, he’s narrowing the focus for a time. And this breakup (because that’s what it feels like) may not be permanent, according to the last lines of his letter:

“Que les aficianados ne désespèrent pas ! La pâtisserie n’a pas dit son dernier mot. Gageons qu’elle saura, comme les rêves, réapparaître.”

“But do not despair! The pastry has not uttered its last word. I’m betting that she, like other dreams, will someday reappear.”

Update January 27, 2013: Genin is throwing us a bone, making one daily pastry in addition to the millefeuille. Phyllis Flick reported that she spotted the lemon tart last week.

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Spring Boutique

RIP: Spring Boutique closes its doors

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Photos from the opening party for Spring Boutique, January 2010

Spring Boutique, the little shop run by Spring Restaurant, has effectively closed. The space at 52 rue de l’Arbre Sec opened in January 2010 and took various forms throughout its three years of existence: a wine shop featuring regular tastings, a wine club with bottle delivery service, a high-end epicerie, a lunch spot serving a bouillon that many of our readers still crave, and a place for the community gatherings, including the launch party for Paris by Mouth in 2010.

Chef/owner Daniel Rose sent an email today with the following explanation:

“In 2013 we hope to concentrate all our efforts on the restaurant. After some renovations, expect something new at the boutique space. We have always used it as a place to play and this trend will continue. As usual, we have more ideas than time to implement them! It is a Spring tradition. New arrival Johnathan Bauer-Ronneret (Best Young sommelier of France 2009) and his team, are happy to welcome you and advise you on the same selection of great wines at the restaurant.

Nearly all of our wines are available for take away at 50% off the restaurant list price, but it is as a service to customers. If they like something that they may want to bring home with them we can accommodate a bottle or two depending availability.”

Staffing challenges may be partially to blame for the closure of Spring Boutique. Two long-time employees departed in the second half of 2012 (one to open his own wine export business, the other to make wine in the Loire Valley), then their replacement left abruptly  in December. As a result, the Boutique was obliged to close just before the (potential) holiday rush. It never reopened.

Given my affection for their wine selections, I think it’s great that Spring will continue to let customers purchase the bottles they’ve enjoyed at the restaurant. I wish them luck in whatever they decide to do with that space and hope to return there to play again soon.

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Photos from the Paris by Mouth launch party at Spring Boutique in June 2010

 

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Who's looking after the urchins?

Agapé Substance now a little light in the kitchen

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David Toutain, the chef star of Agapé Substance‘s open kitchen show, has left the restaurant. Contrary to an earlier report about the restaurant still “doing great,” we’ve heard that nearly the entire kitchen staff has left in the wake of Toutain’s departure.

The restaurant website is still promising Toutain and the prices haven’t dropped. They may very well rebound with a different chef, but in its current configuration, Agapé Substance is no longer among our picks for a place to drop serious money for food.

We wish them luck and look forward to the news.

UPDATE: Agapé Substance closed for good during the summer of 2014.

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Pierre Jancou at Vivant in September 2012

Pierre Jancou spanks magazine for “fradulent” free meal request


Pierre Jancou is many things: a lover of food, an ambassador of natural wine, and (as we learned this week) a former male model. He is also (as we learned from last year’s exchange with F-R Gaudry) a man with a temper.

On October 19, Jancou received an email from the secretary to Jean-Paul Ludot, the Directeur Général of Marie-Claire, announcing that Vivant had been selected to feature as his favorite restaurant of the month. This was paired with a request for the boss man (and a guest) to eat for free.

Jancou replied that he had never in 24 years invited a journalist to eat for free and that he found such a request to be “louche et frauduleuse.” Ludot himself responded that this was a “very classic approach to test restaurant menus and write articles.” He then cited the number of Marie-Claire readers and told Jancou that he would remove Vivant from their selection. “You are the only one to react this way… and as aggressively,” he continued in a follow-up reply. He went on to say that Jancou was “stingy.”

How do I know all this? Because Jancou forwarded the email chain to me (and many others) on October 21. I giggled and emailed him my reply, but another recipient, Bruno Verjus, published the entire correspondence on his blog Food Intelligence. That gave rise to stories in Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro, L’Express and other major media outlets.

In response, Marie-Claire has issued an official apology for Ludot’s “personal error.” Ludot himself has apologized for his “clumsiness” and assured us that his “attitude has been shifted.”

The greater shifts, however, are in the balance of power between old and new media, and between restaurants and journalists. Ludot’s boast to Jancou that “others have understood that it was an opportunity to put forward their establishment in a major magazine… with 500,000 readers” reveals an (unsurprising) unawareness of the fact that Jancou doesn’t need him.

Restaurants, if they are any good, have already been written and written about. Journalists have little to offer in the way of “exposure” to restaurants that are already full every night. The days of free meals, for the writer (and their bosses) are surely coming to an end. Maybe even for Pudlo.

 

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James Henry

James Henry to show his Bones

The rumors are true: James Henry, who made a name for himself at Au Passage, will be opening a new restaurant in early December.

Bones – the name was decided upon last night – will combine wine bar and restaurant in a single space at 43 rue Godefroy Caviagnac, enriching what is already a gastronomically blessed corner of the 11th (see also RinoSeptimeCheZ alineRetro’bottegaLa Pulperia and Bistrot Paul Bert).

The wine bar up front will be a no-reservations space featuring elevated snacks and small plates: oysters shucked before your eyes, fish carpaccio sliced to order, and mounds of charcuterie. Beyond a few window seats, Henry envisions this as a casual and standing-room only space.

The restaurant, on an elevated platform in the back, has room for around 25 seats. The precise menu format and pricing are still evolving, but a few things are clear: it will be affordable (35-45 euros), and it will be offal. Not exclusively offal, mind you, but Henry’s long fascination with the odd bits will be given free reign to flourish here at Bones. He wants the freedom to challenge himself and his diners with more adventurous fare – poached brain, horse heart, etc. – but will likely have options for timid eaters, too.

Another aspect which may set Bones apart from the pack is their desire to produce in-house as many ingredients as possible. Like he did at a previous restaurant in Tasmania, Henry plans to churn his own butter, produce his own vinegar, and bake bread from his own sourdough starter. He looks at the cellar and sees a space for curing meats. A cold-smoker is going into the courtyard.

The wine, unsurprisingly, will be on the “extreme” side of the natural wine spectrum. Henry cites Pierre Jancou and his list at Vivant Cave as inspiration, and hopes to bring in wines from beyond the hexagon.  The white marble covering the walls at Jancou’s bar will also be seen on the bar at Bones, along with polished concrete on the floors and vintage (cracked) white tiles on the walls.

Stay tuned for updates, and we’ll let you know closer to time when they announce an opening date.

 

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fat radish

Fashionistas get Fat (Radish) in Paris

With Paris chefs now competing to out-Brooklyn eachother, it was only a matter of time before New York returned the favor. Toward that end, chefs from The Fat Radish, a “hipstervore haunt” on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, will be cooking a series of pop-up dinners from September 26 to October 2.

Organized by The Sporting Project, a pair of recent arrivals who used to work in fashion, the pop-up series will take place at Bob’s Kitchen and feature a five-course vegetarian friendly menu with wine pairing and aperitif for 85€.

The series was scheduled to coincide with Fashion Week and the majority of tickets have already been snagged by people working in that industry. A few spots remain on Wednesday and Thursday.

What to expect?

According to The Sporting Project, “The Fat Radish cuisine does not fall into a particular category rather returns to a way of eating before food was constantly classified. The menu is bound by one philosophy: simple, healthy, delicious dishes created with well-sourced, seasonal ingredients.” That could be anything.

My hope is that these dinners will transport us to another place and show us something new. My fear is that they will be very much like eating at Bob’s Kitchen (plus style hounds and wine) for a price that’s greater than the menu at La Dame de Pic.

I applaud The Sporting Project for having the courage to launch a food series (another pop-up is planned for Men’s Fashion Week in January) in city that’s so serious about its food. Let’s just hope they came ready to play.

Game on!

 

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kale

Kale make its Paris debut

If Kristen Beddard has her way, kale will soon be widely available in Parisian markets and restaurants. The American transplant is working hard to deliver seeds sourced from England to French farmers who are willing to grow them. She’s like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, but with better hair. She’s also recruiting chefs to transform a vegetable that their French clients have experienced only as a decorative plant.

This Thursday, September 20th marks kale’s “official” coming out party at Verjus. Chef Braden Perkins will be using the leafy green (sourced from Terroirs d’Avenir) in a dish for the wine bar. Kristen will be bringing her own composition using kale grown by Joël Thibault.

What’s next for the self-described leader of the Paris “kale army”? After this one-off at Verjus, Kristen wants to inspire more local chefs to try working with kale. She says that Septime, Frenchie and Au Passage have already expressed interest if they could only get their hands on the chewy, curly green. Considering that Terroirs d’Avenir (a produce distributor they all use) has just added kale to their daily ingredient text blasts, the vegetable that Clotilde Dusoulier named “the most elusive ingredient of 2011” may soon be turning up in some of the trendiest restaurants in Paris.

This would make Kristen very happy, indeed. “I didn’t want to just make kale available to me, my husband, and the expat community. I want to fill the white space and introduce French people to this vegetable that’s so popular in America and in the countries surrounding France,” she says. Toward that end, she still has some organic seeds to share with any curious and willing local farmers.

Related links:

 

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Frenchie reservations

Frenchie opens online reservations

Until now, scoring a reservation at Frenchie has been, as François Simon so eloquently put it, “simply hell. The gates of prison must be more welcoming.”

The difficulty has stemmed from their (rather understandable) inability to attend to the hundreds of phone calls they receive every hour. To ameliorate the situation, Frenchie has just opened online reservations.

This doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy time getting in. Reservations in the near-future have already been snapped up, and the online system won’t accept reservations more than one month in advance. As soon as more people know about the online option, the only way to score a table on October 24 will be to book on September 24 as soon as reservations open for the day.

The result of all this may be a dining room full of traveling Americans. Who else, besides New Yorkers who have already mastered the ritual for Momofuku Ko, are going to get up early (or, because of the time difference, stay up late) to try and be the first to book online exactly one month in advance?

Related links:

 

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Eric Kayser baguettes

Eric Kayser opens bakery in New York

The rumors are true: Eric Kayser has opened up a bakery in New York City. Joining Ladurée on the city’s Upper East Side, the newest Kayser outpost boasts 370 square meters of space and 104 places to sit. This first location will soon be joined by two others in Midtown and the Flatiron district.

Beyond baguettes and croissants to go, Kayser in New York is attempting restauration rapide. The response, summarized by Eater, is predictable: Yelpers complaining about forgotten appetizers and inattentive hostesses. In Paris, I’m thrilled to find a bakery that offers any place to sit and am unbothered by asking several times for forgotten items. New Yorkers may prove to be a more demanding audience.

But what of the baguette? Kayser’s Paris version – the crispy crackly baguette Monge – was ranked #1 in our list of five great baguettes. Will the New York version differ? Serious Eats reports that Kayser sent a team of NYC bakers and chefs to Paris for 6-12 months to master the methods and recipes. However, instead of making the dough and baking on site at each location, as is legally required in France, Kayser NYC will produce all bread dough at the Upper East Side location and then deliver it daily to be baked fresh at the other locations.

Another key (and very American) difference: Kayser’s NYC locations will be open 7 days per week and until 11pm. I think we can also assume that they won’t close for the month of August.

Have you tried it? We’re terribly curious about Kayser’s NYC baguette (and other products) and would love to hear from any readers who have visited the new location. What’s your reaction?

Additional Links:

  • Eric Kayser à la conquête de l’Amérique [Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.net]
  • The Early Word on Maison Kayser’s First US Location [Eater]
  • A Taste of Maison Kayser, Eric Kayser’s New Bakery on the Upper East Side [Serious Eats]
Our Map of Paris, New York:


View Paris, New York in a larger map

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Les FG

Readers revolt against Les Fines Gueules

In a city with hundreds of new restaurants to explore every year, we food writers rarely get a chance to revisit our old favorites. Take, for example, Les Fines Gueules. I visited four times between 2007-2010. I loved the veal carpaccio, the hand-cut tartare, and the burrata with toasted almonds. I praised it here and in several guides, then I floated away. The same is true for many others who wrote early and positive reviews.

In the meantime, our readers have continued going, and they are increasingly and vocally disgruntled. A flurry of comments within the last month highlight worsening service and segregation of English speakers. We’re posting them here as a caution, and also as an invitation to add your own comments about Les Fines Gueules or any other place in Our Guide to Paris Restaurants. Your words of praise and criticism are incredibly important in helping us to understand how these restaurants are performing year-round, not just during the press-heavy months after opening.

Recent Criticism of Les Fines Gueules
(comments in July & August 2012)

  • “I’ve been here three times: the first two times were great (back in 2011) but this past time was just awful. Having been seated in the “American ghetto” in the back of the restaurant (which is stuffy and hot), I was pretty adamant this time that we wanted to sit by the windows in the front. I speak good French and politely inquired, only to be made to wait for 10 minutes and then be led into the stuffy back room anyways; I protested and then we were finally seated in the front of the resto, which was full of French speakers… Bad service, bad food; will not be returning.”
  • “I have to say, I was extremely unimpressed with my meal tonight… The room was hot and stuffy and we felt very ignored and treated as detested August tourists. All the french speakers were downstairs in the lovely windows and street and all the Japanese and Americans were up by the toilet with the incompetent waitress who couldn’t even tell us if they had dessert wines. I don’t know if it was because we were Americans, if it was because its August and they just don’t care but I won’t go back. Last year I was treated well, this year was horrible.”
  • “It was suggested to me that things have slipped here because the owners opened a higher-end place and perhaps weren’t paying attention here anymore… I’ve been back a few times since I initially wrote my post about the place and found them less-attentive than in the past as well, and the food fine, but not necessarily as exceptional as it once was… It’s too bad that people are experiencing less-than-favorable welcome at the restaurant, since it was good in the past.”
  • “I went on Saturday evening, mostly because every other option in the city was shut and I can’t say I was overly impressed with the food or the service. While I wasn’t relegated to the ‘American Ghetto’ of the resto and I spoke to the staff in French, they treated my friends and I with barely concealed disdain. The service was slow and the food passable. I will not be recommending this to anyone.”

 

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Greg Marchand in front of Frenchie Wine Bar

Frenchie Wine Bar to double in size

The rue du Nil, when Greg Marchand set up Frenchie restaurant, was nowheresville. Three years later, it’s a scene. Lines form before 7pm outside Frenchie Bar à Vins, which Marchand opened across the street in June 2011. Some have arrived with the deluded hope that there might be a cancellation at the restaurant. Most are there for the wine bar itself, which serves small plates and charcuterie. They scribble their names on a clipboard waiting list, spill wine on the cobblestones, and bring life to what was previously a dark little street.

In a few days, Marchand will complete work on an expansion of Frenchie Bar à Vins. The wine bar will reopen in the rentrée (after closing from July 28-August 22) with twenty-two additional seats, two new chefs from Denmark and Sweden, and a much larger kitchen. The former prep area, where 100 plates per night were created in a space that was smaller than la toilette, will be re-purposed for cold wine storage and cured meats.

Beneath the surface, Marchand has doubled the size of the cave to permit better storage and increased wine sales. He’s added another prep area, anticipating a future in which Frenchie Wine Bar might make produce in-house everything that’s on the menu. That will certainly include the house-made pasta he plans to add to the wine bar menu.

With this expansion, it’s clear that Marchand plans to stay in the Sentier and not relocate to a more central and larger location. He considered the latter, but says he loves the community that’s growing up around the rue du Nil. In the not-so-distant-future, that community will include a retail space for Terroirs d’Avenir (7, rue du Nil), the distributors of pristine produce that supply Frenchie, Saturne, Au Passage, Verjus, and many other ingredient-driven restaurants.

 

 

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