We’re heading to Paris in a couple of weeks and I’m already having a blast!
The most important part of a trip to France is, of course, the food. You can leave things to chance and just wander into whatever little bistro looks inviting but I’ve been disappointed in recent past trips. (When I lived in Paris in the 1980s it seemed that you couldn’t go wrong with that tack. But, hélas, things have changed.) You can reserve at favorite restaurants from the past, but that too can be disappointing–and less exciting than trying something new. My husband and I want to discover and eat well in unstuffy spots. And I don’t want to mess up; we only have four nights in Paris!
So, I’m reading “Hungry for Paris” by Alec Lobrano, a former colleague from the Paris bureau of Fairchild Publications. (I love my life in LA, but I’m still a little jealous of those friends who never left. But then again I left Paris for a reason. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some day. It has something to do with a pair of socks.) Anyway, reading his accounts of dining in some of the greatest restaurants in the city is exciting. You almost don’t need to go to Le Dome after reading his description of its sole meuniere. (You’d save a bunch, too. It’s a very expensive place. And because my husband is more of a meat guy than fish guy, I haven’t booked this place quite yet.)
I’ve bookmarked many places in the book that sound great and made a reservation at one: Le Bistro Paul Bert, which is in the 11th arrondissement, a part of town with which I’m not too familiar. There’s been a lot of chatter about the restaurant for years now, but it’s not a trendy place. Here’s what Alec says: “In the end, beyond the buzz, it’s nothing more than a well-intentioned neighborhood bistro with an able kitchen working with good produce, a happy calculus that’s accentuated by pleasant service, a charming dining room, and an excellent wine list, period.”
Here’s what got me: “eggs sunny-side up with first-of-the-season morels and a morel-flavored cream sauce.” Now, we won’t be there in spring but I’m hoping something similar will be on the menu. Maybe eggs with truffles?
One night down, two to go. Because I love doing my research, I’ve been poking around on the Internet. The New York Times does a good job with travel information and I find myself relying on yelp and Chowhound quite a bit. I’m a Parisian at heart (I lived there for almost ten years) but my French, though fluent, is tinged with an American accent. I hate to admit it, but waiters sometime still treat me like a plain old tourist. Appalling! These sites are great for their reviews from plain old (though often quite well-traveled) Americans on vacation. If the maître d’ tends to seat foreigners in the back or if the waiters are particularly nasty to people from the US, you’ll read about it.
My compatriots on these site seem to really like Chez Dumonet: “Best meal,” one wrote. “Should be declared a national monument,” said another. “A cherished memory,” I read. I booked it.
One of my favorite sites to visit, whether I’m planning a trip to Paris or just dreaming, is Paris by Mouth. It’s a site with fabulous contributors (including Alec Lobrano–and Dorie Greenspan and Clotilde Dusoulier and others) with daily posts about what’s going on in town, gorgeous photos, restaurant reviews and a discussion board. I could live on this site. It gives Le Paul Bert thumbs-up for steak-frites, which will make my husband very happy.
There are just too many places listed. I just can’t decide! Where oh where to go???
(We have just three restaurant meals in Paris. Our fourth night will be spent dining with a friend and former colleague from The Wall Street Journal Europe and his wife chez eux. Dinner a la maison, as they say, is always the best.)