Dining & Drinking, Paris
Good tip for backpackers: forget about spending too much in restaurants. Ask around for the best Baguette, buy some. Then, go to a local fromageries to step up your sandwich and don't forget to top it with a nice mustard.
Try: different kinds of cheese and specially the terrines! They don't have the best appearance, but are the best!
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 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. It's considered rude to put it on the table while you are eating or talking . . . cultural difference. This is unfortunately slowly changing but is still the norm.
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.
This is all over France, and it is something we follow religiously.
Tradition has it that it is the opportunity to 'shoot the Kings' to the epiphany: a bean is hidden in the cake and the person who gets the bean becomes the King of the day and has the right to wear a Crown of fantasy. In the commercial circuit, in the second half of the 20th century, bakers provide with the galette a golden crown in recyclable paper carton.Traditionally we keep the small porcelain stone figurines from year to year to hide in the galette and given to the baker to do so for us. It is the youngest of the guests, hidden under the table, which decides on the distribution of the shares.
In our private life the French, Legrand writing as early as 1311, it questioned a pastry cake in a Charter of Robert II de Fouilloy, Bishop of Amiens. Often, it was paid seigneurial dues with a cake of this kind. Thus, annually, at Fontainebleau, may 1, forest officers gathered at a place called «the table of the King», and there, all officers or vassals who could take to the forest for wood , and there to graze their flocks, came to pay tribute and pay their fees. The newlyweds of the year, residents of some districts of the city and those of a whole Parish were all for a cake. Similarly, when the King was in their city, the Burghers of Amiens were required to submit a cake.
The origins of this goes back during the Saturnalia (Roman festivals on the end of the month of December and the beginning of January), the Romans selected a slave as "King for a day". The Saturnalia were indeed a celebration of role reversal in order to thwart the adverse days of Saturn, Chthonic deity. During the banquet (at the beginning or at the end of the Saturnalia, according to different eras of ancient Rome) in each grand family, the Romans used the bean in a cake as "voting rights" to elect the "Saturnalicius princesses" (master of the Saturnalia or King of the disorder). This allowed to strengthen the domestic affections and empowered the "King for a day" to fulfill all his desires during the day (as to give orders to his master) before being put to death, or more probably to return to his servile life at the end of it. To ensure a random distribution of parts of the cake or galette, it was the custom that the youngest is placed under the table and named the beneficiary of the share which was designated by the person responsible for the service (which is the use still today of the reversal of the roles or "draw the Kings".
In the kingdom of France, that was then divided in language of oc where always was a cake of the Kings (varied dough recipe following regions: flamusse of Bresse, the Périgord patissous, hull of Kings stew, Kingdom of the cevennes, garfou of Bearn, goumeau of Franche Comté, etc.) and language of oïl where is preparing as early as the 15th century a shortbread dessert stuffed with almond cream which later became a named yeast gorenflot dough.It took a push during the reign of Louix XIV, and what we have today its the galette (more frangipane cream puff pastry) appeared in the 17C, Anne of Austria and her young son Louis XIV in shared a la eve of Epiphany of 1650.
marmiton is one of our favorite sites for cuisine done at home, its in French but it can be translated elsewhere in Google or bing.
it goes well with a sweet or semi sweet wine from Monbazillac, Bergerac, as with us, followed by a good chicoree, coffee or tea.
This is an event I try not to miss any year. Now living a bit far from Paris is a challenge but luckily they do expos like it in several places even Le Mans.
While in Versailles for almost 10 years I never missed the event of the vignerons indépendants. this year there are at Lille, Lyon, Reims ,and Paris. Every year the venus change except Paris.
All those winegrowers not attached to a big house, or many connected to export houses comes here. This is the crème de la crème of famliy owned independant winegrowers and producers. If you like wines, than you must like French wines, and in conséquences you will love these bottles.
I have Paris here, for info
on from November 28 to December 2nd 2013; open Thursday, Friday,Saturday, and Sunday from 10h to 20h and December 2 a monday last day from 10h to 18h.
It is held at the pavillion or complex 7/1 at the expo center of Porte de Versailles
I started going when it was held at the Porte de Champerret and it became too small!!!! it was packed and the French like me took the cases in trolley carts into our cars. Then after the last couple of years it is held at the much bigger Porte de Versailles.
Admission is 6€ for the general public, I always got invitations for free from the winegrowers I always purchase. The carts are free you just deposit your identification like your passport,and upon returning it you get the passport back.
Every time there are tasting classes for the novice or not experience, it changes with the year but this one will be from 11h-13h-15h-17h,every day at the special counter call salle d’initiation, where the pros will guide you. The présentations lasts about 45 minutes and there is a question/answers session afterward. The tastings is at no additional charge from admission. This time the ones doing it are Olivier Thiénot and his team of the Ecole du vin de Paris
and Yann Rousselin of the organism COAM
The easiest ways to get there is by metro line 12 direction mairie d'Issy stop porte de versailles. then there is the tramway T2 from La Defense, or the RER B to cité universitaire and then change to Tramway T3 to porte de versailles. A nice trip would be by bus no 39 from louvre museum direction Freres Voisin to stop Lycee Louis Armand, and walk about 8 minutes to parc des exposition which is porte de versailles.
enjoy the wines of France from the real hard working local producers.
This is a nice way to lively up the Saint lazare area, a village de printemps or spring village market with all the goodies of chocolates, macarons, artifacts,gifts,and clothing also fruits and veggies, real nice; it will become a fixture changing with the seasons.
I went for spring,and got me some macarons,and chocolates from home made French entrepreneurs. Rather good ones indeed.
no web no phone just be there and have fun; I was told this will be a different setting per season and it will be on weekdays.
Stand by for a dissertation... No, but seriously. It's not that hard.
You can drink it at the bar. You can sit at a table inside. Most places will have outside tables as a 3rd option. That is where the smokers will be, so it may not be an option for all.
At the bar is cheapest. Outside most expensive.
More generally, prices can vary enormously between (say) a top notch hangout like Les Deux Magots and a basic street corner joint.
"Café simple" is the French version of an espresso - see photo. That's what you'll just get if you ask for a coffee. "Café au lait" is an old fashioned white coffee, made with milk. "Café crême" is the same idea, made with cream. A "grand crême" is getting towards a large cappuccino.
If you need a skinny latte or other such abominations, Starbucks is for you - not a traditional French place.
If you want a croissant, just ask. They may be left in front of you before you have to ask. You just help yourself.
The pre-dinner drink (or pre-lunch drink, if so desired). Indeed it may develop into several drinks...
A pastis or a kir royale are typical examples, but there are many.
Pastis is almost compulsory in the south of the country, but folks in Paris are more catholic in their tastes. Pernod is the best known pastis outside France. My favourite (in common with most in the rugby fraternity) is Ricard 51. Casanis is more popular in the Marseilles area.
You add ice and water. The raw version will remove the lining of your stomach and put hairs on your liver. Some folk add grenadine - then it's a perroquet (parrot). Some add menthe (mint cordial). That's called cough medicine.
Ordinary kir can be made with sparkling wine. A kir royale is made with champagne.
Along many streets in Paris one will find restaurants that also sell seafood displayed in front of the restaurant. This one by Place Bastille is very typical. Of course this creates a conflict whether to buy fresh seafood and cook it up inside your apartment or enjoy dinner out.
It is always fun while in Paris to walk down the Champs Elysses just to see all the people that are out day and night. We walked down the street on a Sunday night during our first trip and were amazed by the number of couples, singles, groups, moms and dads, grandparents, and tourists just strolling. We only walked on one side last time. This trip we also ventured over to the other side and went to one of the places we missed on our first trip - Laduree.
When we visited toward the end of April, 2012 they were renovating their store and set up a tent just a few steps away on the other side of the sidewalk toward the street. The French do everything with sophistication and beauty and their makeshift store was no exception. We were enamored with their pastel colors in Marie Antoinette-esque 19th century decor and of course all their choices inside.
You weren't suppose to take pictures and I was actually stopped inside with my camera. But somehow Sue snuck in a few and I did take one from the outside.
Take a peak at the offerings from our hurried snapshots.
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 ::)
the vinyards close to it are Champagne,and Burgundy. So the car is always better, but you can take the train to Reims/Epernay and Beaune for example and stay on the city.
Better to rent a car and drive there easy drive, viamichelin can guide you with good estimates. Yes I am a wine collector so been to many of them over the years.
Two easy ones are Moet & Chandon at Epernay or Mumm near the train station in Reims,
then on Beaune, try Maison Bouchard Ainé & Fils,
Caves Patriarche Père & Fils
on the wines you pay a small tasting fee, but get to do so with at least five diff wines.
In Paris you can taste at the musée du vin near Trocadéro at
For things to do in the greater Paris region or ile de France you have a huge amount of choices, you can check destination above right or the region tourist office at
and Paris proper tourist office at
Hope it helps your planning choices.
After walking through the Jardin des Tuileries and noticing that not a soul was sitting in the grass, I was a little nervous about the VT planned picnic later that week. But the Champ de Mars is not one of the places where you will see signs saying "Pelouse interdite", no sitting on the grass. It was the perfect place to have a picnic, we found a nice shady spot with a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower.
Here's a nice list of places to have a picnic in the grass including the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower where we had our picnic, other spots are Parc Monceau, Place de Vosges, Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the garden at the Musee Rodin.
Spots recommended for a non grassy picnic are the Ile St. Louis along the banks of the Seine, Pont des Arts, Canal St. Martin, Place de Dauphine and Jardin des Tuileries & Jardin du Luxembourg. At the Jardin des Tuileries we saw green metallic chairs throughout the garden that are free for you to use for your picnic.
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.
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!