A Taste Of Paris

Everyone knows Paris is a food lover’s paradise. The spices and flavours of the world all converge on Paris to be manipulated into one endless feast. Everyone who goes there, for a few days, a few weeks or a few years, has their own favourites, so I am only going to tell you the things you should not miss, whether you consider yourself a food critic or a sidewalk diner.

If you eat nothing else in Paris you must simply buy a baguette from just about any Boulangerie or street vendor throughout the city. After stopping for your morning cafe and a flaky buttery croissant (another must have in the city that invented them), check out the display of baguettes, usually filled simply. My personal favourite is creamy brie and thinly sliced ham or smoked salmon. Just pack it into your backpack to pull out as you explore Paris’ hidden treasures. You can feel like a true Parisienne when you stop at a park bench and pull out your baguette for a mid day snack
So you’ve had your croissant, and nibbled on your baguette… what you need now is a sugar fix and you can’t turn around in Paris without being tempted by every kind of pastry, cake, cookie, candy you can imagine. Stop into one of the thousands of Boulangeries along any of the city’s thoroughfares and sidestreets… feed your temptation, it’s all there for the eating. But don’t return home from Paris without tasting one of the infamous Macarons. That’s MACARON not macaroon! Believe me there is a world of difference. They can best be described as almond flavoured meringue cookies with a creamy sandwich filling. And the number of colours and flavours is mindboggling. The grand-daddy of the Macaron is Laduree.  There are a number of stores in Paris selling not only macarons but some of the most tempting pastries you will ever see. The main flagship shop is on the Champs Elysee, with a covered outdoor patio to allow diners to sample its famous fare sitting beside one of the world’s most famous thoroughfares. For dessert I had the Ispahan (roses, raspberries on a giant macaron). But beware the pricetag… I bought a few boxes of Macarons to take home with me and ended up paying 120 euros and the meringues didn’t travel well. By the time I got home many were broken and dried out. Best to eat them fresh, unfortunately few places make them outside Paris.
As famous as Paris is for the Macarons, one of its’ lesser known achievements is ice cream. It makes sense that they would be able to turn something so simple into something so amazingly decadent. And probably the king of Parisien ice cream is Berthillon. It’s sorbets and luxury creme glace’s are known the world over… consider some of their flavours: lemon praline with coriander, cafe with whisky, or rum raisin and whisky, nougat and honey or caramel ginger. Of course they have all the old standbys, and always encourage you to mix and match. One word of advice, you don’t have to line-up (sometimes for over a block) outside the main Berthillon shop on Ile Saint Louis. Stores sell most, if not all the Berthillon flavours throughout Paris, some even right across the street from the Berthillon shop. And you can always pick up a pint of your favourite in a Paris market.
After a day of shopping the fashionable streets of Paris, stop off at any of the sidewalk cafes that are set up across the city, you can’t beat those in Le Marais. Just pull up a seat, turn it out so you face the street, you don’t want to miss any of the action, and order a glass of beaujolais, or be a little adventurous. I got my first taste of a Parisien Mohito, usually made with rum and mint and lime… try it with champagne sometime!
Don’t ignore the street fairs that seem to pop up everywhere. One was even held in Notre Dame square. There was a beach volleyball court set up in front of the Cathedral…. with a giant red and white tent for the Fete du Pain- only in Paris would they have a festival celebrating bread and pastry. I had a baguette with Brie that melted in your mouth like butter, I washed it down with a glass of ice cold milk and menthe syrup – delicious. I finished it off with a piece of chocolate with dried fruit that was heaven… then a pastry with small apricots roasted on top!
I found another street fair in the Latin Quartier, as local merchants set up their wares along the sidewalks, mingling with residents who were selling their own things, like a big yard street sale. And there was lots to eat too. I grabbed a bag of almonds roasted and caramelized at a street side stall, and then had a triple chocolate ice cream cone that made me weak in the knees from Jeff des Bruges Mouffetard, a chocolatier who knows what he’s doing. (incidentally THIS was my favourite Parisien ice cream… sorry Berthillon) . Then just after polishing that off, I decided I needed something savoury and more substantial, so I stopped for a chicken shwarma and frites with a homemade spicy ketchup… hours later I was still reliving my gastronomic adventure.
Now I do have to share a few of my favourite restaurants. And number one on my list is not a place you will find on any other lists. It’s a tiny little middle eastern restaurant in the Latin Quartier. Savannah Café– is just around the corner from Ste. Etienne de Mont. We had 2 plates of various hors d’oevres – hummus, baba ganouch, tabbuleh salad, pickled carrots, and lots of wine. Then for dessert we had a spectacular cream with orange perfume and cinnamon… absolutely amazing. The owner was friendly and helpful as well very friendly, chatting to us in English.
One restaurant that is a Paris institution (in this city that is filled with them) is Les Deux Magots – a world famous hangout for artists and writers, like Picasso, Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre, on Saint Germain des Pres. But, while this once legendary cafe/restaurant was a hangout for the literary elite, it is now a tourist hotspot. Nevertheless, the people watching at this busy intersection is worth the higher than average prices.

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