Category Archives: Travel

Shiny Fruit

The quality of the produce in Paris is fantastic, but these jewel-like fruits on display at Hediard just cannot be natural.  Do they polish each berry?  Do they have a food stylist come in and spray them with magic shiny stuff?

Hediard, for all things luxurious and delicious.

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Good Butter

A ham and cheese on a baguette is elevated to heavenly status with a big healthy swipe of butter.  I have to admit, the French have excellent, excellent butter.  The best.  Here, the butter on the bar at Petit Fer a Cheval, my favorite bar in the Marais.


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Pierre Herme Croissant

Eaten in the sunshine.  In the background, my favorite leopard print Dieppa Restrepo loafers.

The verdict: ridiculously good.  Super flaky, light, good butter. I bought macarons here too, for which they are famous.

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At the Market

The Sunday morning market is AWESOME.  I had all these plans to go to these markets all over the city, but the fact is, the one right behind my friend Annic’s apartment is perfect, and I can be certain I am the only American there.  It’s little, just two little streets that cross each other like an X.  The boulangeries, fromageries, caves du vin, seafood markets, butchers, vegetable guys and florists all open up their doors and expand into stands in the street.  Rotisseries set up on the street fill the air with the smell of roast chicken.  The fruits and vegetables are artfully arranged, as if someone was going to take the whole arrangement of haricot vert and use it as a decorative piece.  We have Annic’s big straw bag, and we pop in and out of each store, only buying one or two things at each.  The street is filled with families doing the same, and a relaxed happiness pervades, as if the tradition of Sunday market brings not just good food but incredible comfort. People greet each other and share kisses and jokes.  The street vendors offer you a taste of their produce before you buy, confident that once you have a bite, you will buy from them.  There is intense pride in the products shown.


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Everyday Life

The reason I have not yet stepped foot into any of the incredible museums of Paris after almost two weeks of living here is that I have been deeply engrossed in a study of everyday Parisian life.  This kind of research requires on-the-ground presence.  To understand the Parisian species I must act as one of them.  Here are some of my findings, to be published in a complete work at a later date:

1) To be French, you really shouldn’t work.  Don’t work past 5.  Don’t work during a strike. Definitely don’t work at lunchtime, because lunch requires at least 1.5 hours if you are to do it properly, in the French tradition.  And there will be hellfire if anyone breaks French tradition.  Try not to work around 3pm, so you can have a cafe at the bar and read the paper.  In fact, try not to work between 1-4, so you can properly fit in time for lunch and the cafe.

2) Speak French.  They will never, ever admit that they kinda sorta like that sweet, round American drawl infiltrating and inevitably screwing up their beautiful language.  It makes them giggle inside, and it makes them like you.  Even if your French is limited to adjectives that can go with C’est, such as:

C’est bon.

Or if you really think it’s good:

C’est tres bon.

Or the perfect answer to almost anything:

C’est possible.

Or not:

Ce n’est pas possible.

And in restaurants:

Je voudrais (whatever it is you want) followed by s’il vous plait.

And always, always, always, say Bonjour, Bon Soir and Merci, and Pardon, not excuse me.

3) Eat baguettes and croissants as much as you want, whenever you want.  It doesn’t matter.  You don’t gain weight if you are within French borders*.  Boulangeries and patisseries are as commonplace as Starbucks in Manhattan.  It is expected.  Upon buying a baguette to bring home, automatically break off the top piece and eat it, to make sure it’s edible.

4)  Sitting at a cafe for an hour and only drinking a Coca-Cola Light is fine.  Maybe even encouraged.  Oh and that green drink?  Not absinthe.  It’s a minty syrup water thing.  Very refreshing, apparently.  Upon further research I hope to answer why Coca-Cola Light tastes so much better than Diet Coke.  But I really like that it’s served in a glass bottle, with a glass of ice, a round of lemon, and a tall spoon for stirring it as if it is a cocktail.

5) Horse butcher shops.  Yes, they eat horse meat.  To be further assessed when I show you all the fun pictures from the local butcher shop.

6) Finish your plate.  It’s insulting when you don’t finish everything they give you (and it seems French portions have grown)

7) Don’t work, but try to make a lot of money.  Living in Paris is expensive.  Buying fresh produce and fresh meat and fresh cheese and fresh milk and fresh baked baguette is going to cost you.  You can spend a $100 euros at the market for ONE MEAL.  Getting a second job is out of the question, but perhaps the French people can figure out a reason to strike for more money.

8) Take the bus.  You live in Paris, it’s one of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world, with more architectural eye-candy than should be alloted to one place.  Why the hell would you go underground?  Who cares if the bus takes longer.  When your ride takes you through the Place de la Concorde, over the Seine, past Les Invalides and St. Sulpice, you’ve basically just taken a city tour for $1.80 euro.

9) Eat eclairs on the street.  It feels SO GOOD.

10) Take plant pills.  You’re going to be eating alot, and the food is rich, and can occasionally make you feel like a dead weight of lard.  Oddibil is saving my life.


*awaiting scientific analysis


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Spring It

In doing my Paris research, all everyone talked about is a little place run by an American chef, a place called Spring.  The chef is Daniel Rose (he writes a column for the Off-Duty section of WSJ, a section I have worked for), and almost every night he creates market dinners from scratch for people lucky enough to score a reservation.  For the unlucky, or spontaneous, there is the wine bar, the buvette, downstairs.


Our Stallion wine at Spring



I’m one of the unlucky, or spontaneous, ones, which is why I found myself downstairs with Soufien, the curly-haired, bespectacled French sommelier/bartender/waiter/foodrunner/fromage arranger/bread slicer/oyster-shucker.  Daniel may rule the open kitchen upstairs, but in the basement, Soufien is THE MAN.  And Soufien knows it.  He speaks in a tone that wavers delicately, perhaps sneakily, between arrogant and confident.  He tells you what you want if you display any sort of uncertainty. He does not suffer fools, but he nurtures people who respect the wine bar (even if they don’t know which wine they want).


cep salad, bottom. top, veal en croute.



My favorite thing about Soufien (besides the fact that he chose our two bottles of wine, and our cheese, and our tasting plates) is the way he described a particularly fine, earthy, mysterious, red wine.  In heavily accented English, he looked at me and said,

“Zees wine is like a horse.  A big horse that must run, and it runs through the forest.  Eet ees powerful (gesturing with his hands), and the forest changes around him.  Earth, soil, dirt, champignons.  Eet ees very, how you say, strong.  Eet changes.”

I don’t know any sommelier that has spun a story of a horse running through a forest to describe a wine to me, but the story worked.  The smells and taste of the wine rush back when I think of this story.

In other notes, we had a completely fantastic salad of cepes, squash, pomegranate and mache, a veal cooked en croute, and cheese, including a goat’s cheese that had been drizzled with truffled honey (oh my).

It was so good I came back two nights later.  The place was packed (it was a Saturday night) and Soufien was orchestrating the floor a little bit like a madman.  I had a beautiful wine that night, but he had no time for stories.

Read more about Spring on their blog.

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One More Reason to Love the 80s

On night 2 of my Parisian life, I found myself at a private wine dinner with a bunch of French people where not only were we tasting vintages from the 1980s, there was a quiz, too.  I was the only American at the dinner, held in a restaurant in a suburb just outside Paris. Obviously, I was the only person who did not speak French. In a touching gesture, one of the hosts (knowing my language limitations in advance) had translated the test into English.

Not that it helped me.

I scored 11.5 points out of 20, and I was proud.  I think everyone was happy that I hadn’t blown it completely, and had shown a bit of knowledge about the great traditions of French wine.


The first course, and my quiz



Check out these bottles.  Pretty cool, right?  I was building tree forts and playing with Barbies when some of these wines were bottled.



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