Lo, the shiny brass comptoir! In any bar in Paris it is the cheapest place to get a drink. Go to the bar, order a drink, pay cheaper & drink it there. Prices go a bit higher if you go to a table & even higher on le terrasse, which affords fab people-watching.
This one is located at Tabac le Marly - 252 rue de Rivoli.
Back in Montmartre’s cabaret heyday in the late 19th century, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his fellow gang of merry artists and writers spent many an evening swimming in a hallucinogenic sea of absinthe.
Also known as the 'Green Fairy' , absinthe was an anisette-based liqueur with a bit of poisonous herbs that didn’t just get people drunk, but also apparently turned them mad.
So absinthe was banned and the party ended.
A few years ago it re-emerged in a legal version that tastes the same (a bit like pastis, which was the original absinthe alternative), minus the poisonous bits.
Of course, the new versions have different names, such as 'Versinthe'.
You can purchase it in most liquor stores in France, although it’s still sort of a novelty so don’t expect to see it served in the corner café.
There’s a method to serving it that involves a water tank with a spout, a flat silver spoon with holes in it, and sugar cubes.
If you’re interested in an introduction to the whole tradition, stop into the Hotel Royal Fromentin (11 rue Fromentin, 9th; right around the corner from Pigalle), a former cabaret known as Le Don Juan with a lovely bar specializing in absinthe.
Try popping in after dinner when the night staff aren’t too busy and can give you the full presentation. (And guests at the hotel even get a little color booklet about the history of the beverage)...see website below for more info.
I am going to include (in my Paris tips) some recipes of the foods I enjoyed most while here.
This is as much for my own record (because I tend to lose recipes) as it is for those of you who like GREAT FOOD...cooking and/or eating it!!!
1 2/3 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1/2 t. salt
10 TBS cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1/2 t. vanilla ext.
2 1/4 C sugar
4 Bosc pears, peeled
2/3 C blanched sliced almonds
1/3 C icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
2 1/3 C milk
3 eggs, ltly beaten
1/2 C flour
2 TBS cold butter
1/2 cup crushed amaretti or macaroons
1. Sift flour, sugar, salt in large bowl.
Cut in butter.
Stir together egg yolk & vanilla, then work into flour mixture until resembles coarse cornmeal.
Add 3 TBS. ice water, 1 TBS. at a time, mix 'til dough holds together.
Form into ball, cover with plastic wrap, & refrigerate for 1 hr.
2. Heat oven to 400°.
Roll out dough to 14'' round on a floured surface; ease into 12'' tart pan (removable bottom). Prick all over with a fork.
Cover with foil, fill with pie weights (dried beans) & bake for 20 mins.
Remove foil, weights & cool. Keep oven ON.
Bring 4 C water & 1 1/2 C sugar to boil in a large pan over med-high heat.
Reduce to low, halve pears, & poach until tender, 20 mins.
Remove, cool, then cut out cores.
4. Grind 1/3 C almonds & icing sugar in a food processor until fine.
Scrape seeds from vanilla into milk & bring to boil in a small pan over med heat.
Combine eggs, rest of sugar, & flour in a large pan. Slowly whisk in hot milk, & cook, whisking until thick, 3–6 minutes.
Transfer to a mixing bowl, add almond meal & butter. Stir until butter melts.
5. Spoon cooled custard into tart shell.
Lay pears, stem end inward, in custard & bake until crust is golden brown, about 30 mins.
Sprinkle amaretti & remaining almonds on top, dust with icing sugar, & broil until brown, about 2 minutes.
Serve warm, with crème anglaise if desired.
(d) Fancy a coffee, newspaper and mingling with the chic Parisians? Then head to the world famous Café Flore (172 Bv. St. Germaine) or Deux Magots (170 Bv. St. Germaine) and...you WILL find a lot of singles (Parisians and foreigners) who don't mind chatting and getting to know you better. It's just like what you would see in the once-popular HBO TV series "Sex In The City" i.e. the kind of fabulous places the gals from SITC would hang-out. And don't worry... this is not some cheap pick-up joint. Many are habitués (regulars) but these two 'literary' (and very expensive) cafes attract tourists from all over the world.... from New York to Tokyo, Berlin to Singapore and Australia. :-)) Hey, some of them would even be thrilled to join forces with you to explore a bit of Paris or simply take a walk. My best friend and I have had some great moments at these cafés. Ah, c'est la vie...
So, go ahead and order a petit crème (that's - coffee with piping hot milk, baby).
(e) Sushi bars are another fun way to meet nice, cool and chic single diners. The current 'in' sushi hangout must surely be Lo Sushi (8, rue de Berri 75008). It has a revolving sushi bar where diners help themselves to the delectable sushi et sashimi that catches their fancy. I like it this way... The decor is better than the sushi, but amazingly this restaurant is a BIG hit with locals and foreigners alike.
Who recommended us this place?
A sales assistant from Chanel (the branch located along the Champs Elysees) highly recommended this joint to us. 100 brownie points to her.
(f) If you're interested to meet interesting people living in Paris, you should also consider popping into a wine bar (only the chic wine bars, pur-leeese!) where people have the same taste preferences or share a sense of sipping adventure. Food and wine in France tend to be the bond that binds like-minded people together!
(g) And finally, chill out at a cybercafe in Paris. Wait. Not just any other cyber cafe. The latest 'in' spot is The Web Bar (32 rue de Picardie 75003 ). Head there if you want to surf the Net, check your email, meet cool dudes (French and foreigners). Do I look like I'm kidding you? Go, see and you'd know what I mean. Not only will you find computers here but also a full schedule of poetry reading nights... concerts....art exhibits.... ooh la la! You'd also probably notice 'Hm, who is that cute guy at the next terminal (er.. PC, I mean. Not the airport terminal, you twit!). This, my friend, presents the PERFECT opportunity for you to exchange e-mail addresses! I said - EMAIL addresses. So, don't go having any other wild thoughts, guys! Our favorite joint (without our boyfriends and husbands). Shhh!
(h) O.K., this is the absolutely final-final tip for the day: Shakespeare and Company (37, rue de la Bucherie) is one place you shouldn't miss. It is located just down by the River Seine. You can find used books, a really kewl atmosphere bursting with mind-expanding 'reads.' A perfect hang-out for geeks.... er, I mean... chic folks like us.
... We were enjoying it, people watching when two of our neighbours stood up. One man in a shirt & pants with paints on it (probably an artist), the other in a clean but equally casual attire. They asked whether we were Malagasy. To the question, we replied "Yes". From that, a conversation started. The presumably artist was drunk & very volubile about his Malagasy connection whilst the other one was more quiet. The latter was, in fact, a keen lover of Madagascar. He also owns a pharmaceutical company. His business requires frequent travels to my island. These two guys happened to know a Malagasy writer who was very active in fighting for Madagascar's Independence. We talked about Madagascar's situation. Inevitably as there was a time in 2001-2002, the country had experienced a political crisis ensuing the 2001 presidential elections.
Funny to talk to strangers about this great man (the Malagasy writer, not the drunk man) who joined his efforts to others (me included) during the crisis. Despite the fact that the writer could read what I wrote about the crisis, to raise awareness about the situation (as an activist within an online community) & that he had sent an encouragement to me via a common friend, I felt it weird to talk to strangers about a cause dear to me. Even if I had the feeling those two guys shared the same opinions as mine (we all wanted the dictator to step down as he lost those elections). Even if they know where the writer lives (he & the drunken man are 14ème arr. locals) & that I was dying to enter in contact with him again [during the crisis, an error made me mistaking his e-mail address for another one. My e-mails never got across]... despite all those favorable signs, I felt only to close ones I'd talk about such thing... but that's Paris effect. Can be a cosmopolitan city but out of the places & areas tourists use to rush & flock in, people still take some time to talk to each other at a brasserie terrace, watching the world going by, sipping the nth pint of beer, glass of kir...
While enjoying our long luxurious Parisian dinner, the host seated a husband and wife with two children next to us. As the evening progressed, my 17 year old daughter and I were acutely draw to observe the children’s “dining style.” With perfect posture the siblings were passionately conversing with their parents as they dined on an adult meal complete with appetizers, veal, vegetables, potatoes, and dessert. The children were lustfully savoring and contemplating each and every bite. I was prepared for the French food habits, but I had no idea French children were so different from their American counterparts. This love and respect for food in Paris seems to be keeping everyone fit and beautiful, including the children.
I should not have been surprised to see wine tasting offered in the street market, but I was. We went with GUYON to rue Mouffetard for a stroll through the Sunday market which is wonderful. I don't know why anyone in this quartier cooks - you can just get everything you would want here. We did see some people doing serious wine tastings with appropriate reactions - "yum" or "yuck." I missed getting an actual taste, but the man in the photo is ready when you are. This little street has so many delightful shops you could spend all day just looking and eating. Even the buildings are artistically appealing. At the lower end of the street is the Church of St. Medard and graveyard where, in the 18th Century, miracles were reported years ago involving the 'miraculous' healing associated with a leader buried there. Eventually a sign was erected forbidding God from performing miracles here by order of the king. It was probably not official but there is now an official sign denoting the history.
The French, it seems, are great for having a few morsels to eat and drink in their local park and taking their time over such delights. I stayed in the Latin Quarter which didn't appear to have many such places but I was surprised at the number of people taking up space in the many small parks. When I did a walking tour of the Marais I found a much larger spot for these activities at Place Des Vosges which had quite a few people sitting on the grass and enjoying some food while chatting.
With the large number of bakeries and easy supply of wine, beer (if you prefer) and food at almost any dairy (7/11 or whatever you call it in your home town) it's easy to take part in this cultural icon.
Window-shopping in Paris, or as the French call it "lecher les vitrines" [literally "lick the windows"] is a rewarding pursuit -- the windows in Paris are as chic as the residents:)
I looked at this window in the 6th near St. Germain very quickly and couldn't understand why I was seeing "fur" -- then I looked carefully and voilà -- tiny goats among the beautiful little goat cheeses!
On my most recent trip I ran across these window displays also showing the French style and wit.
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