Unesco World Heritage inmaterial site on Gastronomy and Wines, the first and only one so far, the best experience into the country , the culture comes from the table. Enjoy France at maxim's every march on the Pierre Cardin peniche boat at Port de Suffren bottom of the Eiffel tower by the Seine. See the link for the next one, I have been coming here for the last 8 years.Just there today ::)
It is easy to confuse menu (in English) with menu (in French). They are two different words. What is referred to as a menu in English is called a "carte" in French. In French the menu is a prix fixe choice of set menu items for a specific price. (The one price is for all the items listed for that particular prix fixe menu.) Sometimes the "menu" is called a Formula or the Special du Jour. All of these are a selection of set dishes at the given price. There may be only one or you may have 3 or 4 different Menus at different prices.
First, you ask for the Carte to get a list of food offerings. Next, when you read the carte, you will see one or more menus offered at one or more prices. Each "menu" is quite specific as to what you may order, e.g. a starter, a main course and a dessert. You may have a choice of several items in each section . . . or for a very inexpensive prix fixe menu, you may have no choice at all. You take what they give you. (Don't worry, it's usually great.)
When you order a menu, you simply call it by the price, e.g. I would like the 25 euro menu. If there are choices on that menu, the waiter will then ask what you want in each section. If it's a 25 euro menu, the cost is 25 euros for whatever is listed under that menu on your carte.
You will be charged for drinks unless they are listed as part of the menu. You may ask for a carafe of tap water and no one will think you odd. Ask for a "carafe d'eau." If you just ask for water, you may get mineral water and it's expensive.
You can also order "a la carte" or off the carte. Then you may choose anything you like. If you order several courses a la carte, it can be very expensive, often nearly twice as much as a menu. The prix fixe menu choices are a great bargain. In cheaper restaurants they are often the best tasting items on the menu because that is what the locals will order and the chef knows better than to provide poor food for his bread & butter clients.
A word to the wise: You will not get your bill until you ask for it. "L'addition, s'il vous plais." The waiters will not interrupt your dinner or your conversation so you must ask for the bill. If you don't, you may sit there all night waiting for it. Its' considered rude to put it on the table while you are eating or talking . . . cultural difference.
The service charge is usually added to the bill . Check for the words "Service compris" or just "SC" to see if service is included. It is okay to round up the amount to the nearest euro.
Americans are accustomed to doing their grocery shopping at giant supermarkets and while supermarkets such as Monoprix do exist in Paris, it's refreshing to see that the traditional way of food shopping is still hanging on.
In most neighborhoods in Paris you will find shops along the street, each specializing in a different food group, one shop for fruits and vegetables, a butcher shop (boucherie), a bakery (boulangerie or patisserie), a cheese shop (fromagerie), a place selling seafood. On our most recent visit in September 2011, we decided to forego dining out one evening instead picking up a small roasted chicken (petit poulet), fried potatoes (pomme de terre) and a baguette on rue Mouffetard near our hotel, all for 12-13E for the two of us.
I read here that tourists had been drinking "French champagne" in a well known cabaret in Paris.
Actually "champagne" can only be French because no sparkling wine is allowed to call itself champagne if not produced in the area of Champagne (33.000 hectares). As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned "red wine grapes" Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
The champagne producers are very strict on their label protection. Some years ago they sued a French manufacturer of perfumes because he used the word champagne for one of his perfumes bottled in a flask copying the champagne cork!
Nevertheless it might happen that a tourist is served a glass "champagne" which is in fact another sparkling wine. Probably he will not taste the difference because they produce in France sparkling wines by the "méthode champenoise" (double fermentation process) which are called "crémants" and are often very good. The method of production is nearly the same as champagne, the grapes "cépages" are from others parts of France.
Personally I often observed that the difference in taste between a good "crémant brut" at about 10 - 12 €/bottle in the shops is much smaller than the difference in price with a champagne. Well known commercial brands of champagne are sold in France and Belgium (we are the number 1 champagne drinker per capita outside France) at about 25 - 30 €/bottle in any shop large or small. Of course there are superior types of champagne like the "milésimés" vintages whose prices start at 50 € and can reach 400 €.
My preference goes to the "Crémant d'Alsace" but that's a question of taste. The grapes are: cépage pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay or riesling.
Others might prefer a"Crémant de Bourgogne" or a "Crémant de Loire".
My philosophy is consequently champagne on the great occasions, crémant in daily life.
It probably had not occurred to many here that there is a cheese course that's served in between the entree and the dessert. The cheese plate is considered to be one of the highlights of a multi-course meal. At Le Tastevin we had brie. It was wonderful: ripe, very creamy.
The Parisians shop for their cheese as much as they shop for their bread and meats. Therefore, there are many fromageries (cheese shops) located in the city. One famous fromagerie is called Androuet. I got to visit the location on the rue Mouffetard last December. It was very crowded most likely for the holiday season. Many types of cheese abound!
The Place des Vosges in the Marais is a wonderful place to catch the Parisians in non-posing action. Amid the beautiful square are little parcs where the locals bring their bébés to play.
As I passed thru one day, I saw a young, chic maman trying to get her child to slide down a 2-foot 30º-angle slide and watched a little 3- or 4-year old expertly kicking around a soccer ball.
This is also a beautiful place to stroll when the hubbub of the Marais wears you down. Listen to the playful rush of the fountain as you admire the lovely apricot glow of the ancient buildings surrounding you.
Then stop off for un café at one of the sidewalk terrasse cafés (Ma Bourgogne or Nectarine) surrounding the square; a prime opportunity to people-watch and not nearly as touristy as the Champs-Elysées or St-Germain-des-Près.
Nearby is the Maison de Victor Hugo.
Photos: Feb 2006
In most countries a brasserie = brewery is a place supposed to brew beer. Not in France where a brasserie is a place where one can drink beer, wine, coffee, sodas all the day but also eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The difference with a restaurant lies in the fact that the food served in a brasserie is generally (with exceptions) rather simple, less elaborate. Most served are salads, omelettes, toasts and steak frites. Nothing complicated to prepare especially at noon time when the brasseries are often full because employees have lunch there as well as people doing their shopping in the centre.
Do not assimilate the food of a brasserie to that of a Fast Food; there is an ocean of difference. A cultural difference and a dietetic difference. The problem of overweight is linked here to the "Burger" type food and the Parisiennes and Parisiens are, from what I observed, keen on staying slim especially in the areas with luxury shops like around La Madeleine or Place Vendome
You will see in a brasserie that most women eat salad. There are usually a dozen different ones on the menu. But even salad is not cheap in Paris, often around 12 € for a "Salade Caesar" type.
To be slim is a necessity when eating or drinking in a brasserie because the seats and the tables are so terribly close to each other.
Inside is non smoking; outside on the terrace is for smokers.
Crepes are the ubiquitous street food of Paris. The word "crepes" refers to both the final dressed product and the thin pancake itself. Unfortunately, no one knows the Origin of Crepes.
There are literally hundreds of Dinner Crepes Recipes and Dessert Crepes. Crepes can be filled with a veritable cornucopia of ingredients, in whatever combination the heart desires. Fillings can be lacking in freshness and quality, ingredients can be too sparingly used and worst of all, the crepes can be soggy and limp.
Galettes are a type of crepe whose crepe recipe is made with sarrasin (buckwheat). They do not have a particularly different taste once everything is added in; the identifiable difference is that they have a whole-wheat color. Sweet crepes are also called sucre;
In French restaurants you don't have to order wine or bottled water. We always get a "carafe d'eau" (pitcher of tap water) for free. It is perfectly all right to ask for this; no one will think you either strange or cheap. We often get a bottle or glass of wine as well, but not always. We have noticed many people do this, especially if they are driving.
If you want to save money, there are lots of ways to do it. When you do order wine, be sure you know how much you are paying for it. The one time we didn't ask, we ended up with a 54 euro bottle of wine. It was good wine but that is way beyond what we will usually pay. We learned a lesson . . . always ask.
Café de Flore (172, Boulevard Saint Germain). If for no other reason than to sit with history, you should have at least a cafe at Café Flor.One of the rare cafès that during WW II was able to serve its customers underneath the bombs. On its chairs some of the most famous writers, philosophers and artists spent entire days dialoguing and building up a new idea of society: Picasso, Sartre, De Beavoir, Giacometti are just some of their names.
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