This post will be quick and simple. With it, I'll highlight some of my favorite food and drink experiences from my last trip to Paris. The journey begins on Rue Daguerre, in the Montparnasse district in Paris' 14th Arrondissement. This street is a foodie's dream, with its cafes, bistros, restaurants, boulangeries, and plenty of specialty food and wine shops.
I LOVE cheese. This is a simple fact. There are several fromagerie's (cheese shops) along Rue Daguerre, and I happily sampled products from each. The US is getting better about offering some of the enormous variety of cheeses that are available and respecting the fact that cheese is a living, breathing product that responds actively to the environmental conditions in which it finds itself. The French have always known and respected these qualities of cheese. Analogous to the beautiful mosaic of human cultures worldwide, cheese comes in a delicious spectrum of different shapes, textures, flavors, scents, and colors. Any good French fromagerie embraces that and showcases it, whetting the customer's appetite to explore the wondrous world of cheese.
I LOVE wine. This is another simple fact. Rue Daguerre also boasts several quaint but very well stocked wine shops. If you speak some French, it is a pleasure to go in and discuss the different options with the folks working in the shops. It is immediately clear that the contents of the shop are carefully curated, much like the pieces on show in a fine art gallery. Wine and cheese: with a couple not-so-quick stops in the specialty shops along Rue Daguerre, you are well on your way to a highly pleasurable evening.
What else might be needed for that wine and cheese social you're planning for this evening? Ah, yes, some nice fresh baked bread. This is France, and there, one is never far from fresh and perfectly baked bread. As the picture above depicts, often boulangeries (bakeries) share facilities with patisseries (pastry and dessert shops). So, if you need some tortes or cakes or pies for your evening social, you can pick those up along with your bread.
How about dinner? Well, you can stop by the local butchers shop for some fresh cuts or cured and aged delicacies. Are you catching the theme here? Unlike in North America, food and drink in Paris come from a variety of small, local, specialty shops, not a huge, impersonal, one-stop, grocery mega-store. People take their food and drink more personally in France. They want to know where it is all coming from, who has prepared it, and confidence in its quality. They want a friendly relationship with each shopkeep, who gets to know their customer's particular tastes and often will custom recommend or even order products for particular individuals. Of course, this system takes more time for the individual customer, but that is part of the experience. It is one of the things I love about French culture, rushing is not the norm there. One takes their time with the important aspects of their life and the decisions they make in it.
Viennese cafe? Sure thing... Rue Daguerre has it too.
This was one of my favorite meals of the trip. It was a delicious brunch at a little bistro in Montparnasse. The fruit was fresh, the bacon and cheese were salty and savory and delicious, the eggs were paradoxically both creamy and fluffy at the same time, and the big pile of beef tartar was just sheer perfection.
Beyond Montparnasse, the wonders of the French culinary scene continue. There are plenty of wine bars around the city, but the best I found was Le Baron Rouge near the 11th Arrondissement. It was easy to watch an afternoon dissolve over fine wine and conversation with a couple good friends in this charming little bar.
Like cheese, wine is also a living, breathing product, and there are seemingly endless options to sample.
The bars in Paris are not just limited to wine... this cider bar in the Marais district had some fine selections from Normandy and Brittany in house. This is yet another great place to spend some time sampling France's fine beverage options.
Another foodie paradise, the Alegre Market stalls, offering up more options for boucheries, fromageries, and more.
Something I learned on this trip: cervelas = bologna
Unfortunately, there are plenty of not so good food options in Paris too. Case and point shown here. I include this picture only because I love the irony of the gym just upstairs from the fast food restaurant.
Now onto some real food...
Marinated octopus in olive oil with a lightly pickled salad. Yes, yes please. I don't think I've ever had octopus so tender. I tend to avoid eating octopus, since it is a very intelligent animal, but this dish was shared and impossible to avoid going for a second bite.
Asparagus soup with crème fraîche. Rich, creamy, silky, asparagusy... delicious.
Trout with fresh sautéed garden vegetables and a white wine sauce? Yes... yes please.
Being one of the world's great metropolitan centers, Paris also offers some fine options for other world cuisines too. I love to partake in the ones that are particularly hard to find elsewhere, such as West African (ever eaten at a Togolese restaurant?!?), Malagasi (from Madagascar) and Indian Ocean island, or South Pacific options. Also along Rue Daguerre (of course!) is this wonderful little restaurant specializing in the cuisine from the Isle of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. The food was insanely good, with light, coconut based curries and gently spiced sauces, fluffy spiced coconut rice, and perfectly delicate seafood options.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Paris is quite simply a wonderful place to take your time and enjoy the many pleasures of food and drink.