Dispatch from Paris Fashion Week
While fashion is certainly the main draw during Paris buying trips - it seems that the food is all anyone wants to talk about when we return. Perhaps it is because I am so meticulous about every morsel that goes into my mouth over there - hoping not even a crumb will be for naught. This trip we hit our regular faves, a few new places and also stumbled upon a wonderful bakery.
Au Moulin A Vent: Every Saturday night we spend in Paris includes dinner at this not to be missed spot in the Latin Quarter. Opened in the 1940s, little has changed in the classic neighborhood gem. The crusty waiter's apron's are well starched and the menu is full of all the classics which brought you Paris in the first place. And as you are tucked shoulder to shoulder into one of their long banquettes it's fairly certain that someone beside you will be Parisian - a welcome endorsement. This trip it was a chic mother celebrating her 50th birthday with her husband and three twenty-something daughters. However do not fret - the restaurant also has a healthy population of in-the-know tourists and English is freely spoken here. Classics like Escargot in Garlic Butter and Salad Lyonnaise are a great place to start. But it is the restaurant's signature Chateaubriand which is not to be missed. Served with your choice of sauces (I love the Brandy Mustard version in the picture) and to-die-for fried cubed potatoes (I'm still dreaming of them) it is a plat-de-force. Wine is affordable and if you're lucky the Maître D' will send you on your way with an apple brandy "for your warmth." Reservations Required.
Allard: We have been coming here on and off for the past ten years - it was first recommended by an ex-pat friend who lived around the corner in Saint Germain de Pres. Recently Alain Ducasse took the helm of this 80 year French Neighborhood Gourmet Bistro - tuning it up without ruining any of it's cozy charm. Also drawing a mix of tourists and locals alike, Allard is all about french comfort food - with a menu which began with a mother's family recipes later passed down to her daughter in-law. The spot also holds a tradition of female head chefs which continues to this day. The Duck with Green Olives is a stand-out - as is the Roasted Chicken - both of which are served for two in copper roasting pans. I am particularly obsessed with the bread service where hardy slices are served up from a cart with mounds of room temp butter. Also the seasonal vegetable starters are a great bet - this last visit it was perfectly trimmed Asparagus served with Bernaise. The prices on the wine list seem out of step with the well-priced menu. Don't be steered into a $100+ bottle - instead opt for a lesser priced Bordeaux and you can't miss. Reservations can me made via their web site.
Kunitoraya Bistro Udon: Sunday nights can be hard in Paris as most restaurants are closed - many of them on Saturdays as well. Also after a few days of eating rich French Classics, by day four we are ready for a pallet change. This is why after finishing up a long day of buying appointments we happily cue up for a casual Japanese meal at Kunitoraya. Some might scoff at eating Asian food in Paris - but then they are missing the point. All food is taken very seriously by Parisians - including that found in small ethnic enclaves like the Japanese area adjacent to the Palais-Royalle. At this spot the Udon is made by hand daily and dropped into a silky smooth stock which simmers for days. But the stand out here is the Shrimp Tempura. While waiting in line for a table you can observe the magic of the Japanese chefs tenderly filleting shrimp, lightly battering them, and then frying just so. Get an order, served with seasonal tempura veggies, as a starter. It is not to be missed. Kirin draft is the way to go here - service is brisk and effective. For sure ask for an English Menu and point - as the servers here only speak Japanese and French and it is easy to get confused (i.e. all the soups can be ordered hot or chilled). We try to get there before the line forms for the 7:00 pm dinner opening. But even if the cue is long, don't be deterred - it moves quickly. It was in fact the line which initially attracted me to this place. Lines are generally terrific casual restaurant barometers. No reservations - open for lunch and dinner.
Le Servan: This trip we visited this spot in the mostly residential Voltaire. It was our first time there after seeing it show up on many top Paris Foodie lists. I always love to go where the locals go and we were for sure the only Americans in the lively dining room that night. The restaurant is a co-creation of two sisters - Tatiana (chef from L'Arpege & L'Astrance) and Katia (sommelier and hostess) Levha. The menu is farm to table French with light Asian influences. We enjoyed a delicious starter salad featuring Jerusalem Artichokes and another with a perfect soft boiled Scotch Egg. Our shared entree was a Whole Sole which was masterfully cooked, presented to us, and then filleted in the kitchen and finished with small golden potatoes and a light lemon butter sauce. The freshness the ingredients was readily apparent in every bite. Desserts were also well executed - especially memorable a Salted Camel Custard Tart. The wine list is all organic. The friendly co-proprietor steered us to a crisp Appellation Savennieres which was perfectly suited for the meal. As we crawled into the uber back to hotel we for sure felt like we'd had a terrifically authentic Parisian night-out. Reservations Recommended - Counter/Bar Seats Available.
Du Pain et Des Idees: As often is magically the case in Paris - in a hungry moment you stumble upon a tiny neighborhood gem. It's one of life's wonderful cliches. This time we were famished - exiting a trade show late in the afternoon. And then, miraculously in front of us - almost like a hunger induced mirage, was this Bakery. The outside looked like it had been created by Walt Disney for a 1920s movie set. And inside it was just as charming. As we waited in the line we chose the sweet and savory baked goods which would compose our lunch. Sadly, places like this make you yearn to be a Parisian so you could buy bread there every day. The huge loaves all stacked in bins by the register. But as tourists we were happy to settle for still warm Yeast Rolls filled with Cheddar and Bacon or Fresh Herbs and Goat Cheese. A bright green Pistachio Croissant was also a part of the mix - every ingredient in perfect proportion. As was the case with the "Escargot" or snail shaped pastry filled with sweet cheese. There is no spot to dine in - but happily there is a large communal picnic table outside for those who can't quite make it all the way home. Since coming back to the states I have learned that the bakery uses only organic flour. And that the perfect mise-en-scene is likely the result of the fact that the founding baker is a former fashion executive. Trust me - this place is well worth a trip up near The Republic. If you need a tide me over until your visit be sure to check out their web site - where the soundtrack is a feed of people being helped at the counter. And note well - they are closed on the Weekend.