WARNING: VERY LENGTHY POST FULL OF PHOTOS OF FOOD AND WINE AHEAD. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY HUNGRY OR SUFFERING FROM A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN.
Obviously food in France was one of our primary concerns and points of excitement. It is, after all, famously one of the culinary capitals of the world! Emily spent hours researching hotspots and classic locales, and meticulously whittled down a giant list to the perfect smattering…one lunch spot and one dinner spot a day. While the list changed over time, we ended up with what we thought was the perfectly scheduled and planned meal rotation.
Um, think again.
While I had made reservations at nearly all our selected restaurants (often struggling to communicate over the phone, and once, hilariously, getting totally chewed out by an elderly French woman), we ended up going off the beaten path after several days just because we had so much fun winging things. The results? Mind-blowingly delicious.
First, and foremost: I need to get this immense source of shame confessed and out of the way before I get too far into this. We got coffee at Starbucks. Literally. Every. Morning. I’m so mortified to admit it. There was one down just two blocks from our apartment, and they had these Nutella cookies…and free WiFi…Starbucks saved us MANY times when we needed WiFi. I’m embarrassed we didn’t have a more classic French café au lait every day, but…Starbucks it was.
Moving on to a MUCH more impressive breakfast: Angelina! We grabbed a late lunch there our first day, and brunch our second-to-last, and both were absolutely lovely. The Belle-Epoque gem on the Rue du Rivoli used to be Coco Chanel’s fave hangout, and everything was delicious…the butteriest croissants, the sweetest jams, and a “chocolat chaud a l’Africain” (dark hot chocolate) that was so decadent it tasted like drinking ganache. We loved it there! Like having a tea party in a jewel box.
Classic French Cuisine
The French are known for their three-hour, three-course meals, and we tired of these pretty quickly. Our two notable stops were Café Constant and Le Petit Prince. Café Constant is an offshoot of a Michelin-starred restaurant, and we dined there our first night. Everything was amazing, from Em’s veal Cordon Bleu to my steak a l’Aquitaine with scallops to Mom’s herbed roasted chicken. We finished with mind-blowing profiteroles.
Le Petit Prince was NOT our favorite dining experience, largely as it was the first (and really, only) time we suffered the stereotypical snobby, terrible French service. My food was delicious… a pear-and-Morbier tarte I’ll remember forever for my “premier,” beef in a Roquefort sauce for my entrée. Em’s sea bass, on the other hand…we laughed our asses off at her reaction when it arrived ever-so-prettily rolled up, but with the skin and fin still attached. While the food was (mostly) delicious, I think you could do better at other classic French bistros.
We were obsessed with crêpes from about day 3 on, but had weirdly done absolutely zero research on crêpe places. I Googled “best crêpes Paris” several times to find good spots…
Our first crêpe experience was for dessert after a late-night wander through the Marais. We stopped in Suzette and had three different ones…a Nutella-and-coconut, a chocolate-and-banana, and an amazing apple-cinnamon with house-made caramel. They were fantastic!
After a particularly exhausting and stressful evening and with very low blood sugar, we headed to Crêperie Framboise very near our apartment for a late-night dinner mid-trip. The savory crêpes were much edgier and more out there…I had the “Marius,” a concoction of goat cheese, spinach, apple, walnut, and honey…and they totally hit the spot.
We headed to Montparnasse, the official “crêpe district,” for our last crêpes of the trip and checked out Crêperie Josselin. Universally heralded as the best “traditional” crêperie in Paris, the ambiance was unbeatable…as were the traditional buckwheat flour, Brittany-style crêpes. The service was also impeccable and SO friendly!
Not going to lie, several of my favorite meals in France fall into this bucket…
Café Ragueneau: Right underneath our apartment, we dined here twice because the people were so lovely and the Croque Ragueneau, with pine nuts, Serrano ham, and béchamel was so decadent.
La Palette: A to-die-for croque madame, a bar covered ever-so-atmospherically in used paint palettes, and a beautiful afternoon to eat outside. (Please also note: Emily is basically French at this point.)
Refuge des Fondus: A Montmartre hotspot where the service is bossy in a good way, wine is served out of baby bottles (supposedly to avoid the alcohol tax!), and the cheese fondue will leave all others forever inferior. We had a blast and left our name among the thousands of others in the graffiti.
The Pink Flamingo: A gourmet pizza hole-in-the-wall in the Marais, covered in neon graffiti and featuring a VW bus outside as its only advertising. We shared two…a Cuban with 72-hour marinated shredded pork, and a fig-and-gorgonzola…and they were both pretty near perfect.
Luxembourg Gardens: We lunched here one day with a bottle of wine, macarons from Gerard Mulot, and a few park-café sandwiches. The people-watching and fresh air and sunshine made an otherwise-unremarkable lunch pretty darn fun.
Galeries Lafayette: Similar to Harrod's in the UK, the food halls are endless and crazy-enticing. We got two éclairs (salted caramel-chocolate and vanilla hazelnut) and loved them.
Ladurée: Duh, iconic macarons in the prettiest pale-green shops you'll ever see. We munched them all through the trip and I got myself a "to-go" box at the Charles de Gaulle stand, too!
And of course…wine.
We knew we were in for exactly our kind of trip when Air France greeted us with this spread upon embarking in Boston…
That’s right. Free champagne AND free wine. We were in heaven.
French culture centers around wine the way American culture (supposedly) centers around 32-oz Big Gulps of soda…wine is ubiquitous, and no meal or even break in the day is considered complete without it. Our days quickly settled into a great rhythm of exploring all morning, starting with wine at lunch, taking a mid-afternoon break to rest our feet and re-up our BAC, and of course enjoying (still more) wine with dinner.
We quickly fell in love with Sancerre, a very smooth, drinkable wine similar to sauvignon blanc. We drank it everywhere...it's best served very cold and obviously we found it very refreshing...A few of our favorite stops:
Café Martini, 11 Rue du Pas de la Mule: A darling Italian wine café in the heart of the Marais, just up from the Place des Vosges. One of the first (and last) places we drank red wine on the trip.
Le Café du Musée, 17 Boulevard des Invalides: Adjacent to the beautiful Musée Rodin, I bonded with the waiter over our mutual love of the museum and we drank WAY too much wine here while waiting out a surprise rainshower.
Restaurant d'Orsay (inside the Musée d'Orsay, on the second floor): An absolutely stunning setting to feel all fancy and cultured. The waiter was so incredibly kind and funny, too...always a plus. (Please note: Emily is now more French THAN the French.)
Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés: Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald's favorite hangout. We loved the people-watching on the Boulevard Saint-Germain!
Bateau-Mouche, Quai de la Bourdonnais: A dinner cruise on the Seine to view the sights. NOT our favorite, but noteworthy purely because we were starving, the food was terrible, and we didn't get to cruise the sights because the Seine was flooding too high! That said...when you give Americans bread and wine in France, Americans get a little crazy. We don't even have to be on boats...
Like...just a little crazy. (We may or may not have had a substantial amount of wine in Paris.)
Hungry yet? Désolée que je ne suis pas désolée...sorry I'm not sorry, friends :)