Ah, Paris! This city means so much to me, and to the countless other visual artists, writers, photographers, dancers, playwrights, composers, designers, antique lovers, and gourmands who have basked in its glory. I don’t know where to begin. I’ve been lucky to be able to live near and work in the city on several occasions, and I visit the city at least every couple of years. In that sense, I’m extremely lucky. You’d think I’d know the city fairly well, but things always change between each séjour. There are always new restaurants to visit, new people to see, and so little time to do it all!
This past visit was busy, but I was on my own, as M. Cheesemonger was working in London. During my short 4 days in the city, I hit up my favorite shopping corners (like the Galeries Lafayette, the Kookaï shop at 82 rue de Réamur, the small shops in the Marais, the Bercy Village/Cour St. Emilion), visited some free museums (such as the Musée Carnavalet, which focuses on the history of the city. There are several excellent free museums operated by the city of Paris.), and met with friends and family. I even got to meet with the alum club of my alma mater!
M. Cheesemonger and I had a few hours together before he had to leave for London, so we decided to explore La Butte Aux Cailles, a small neighborhood around a hill in the 13e arrondissement. There, we found quirky antique and knick-knack shops, charming restaurants, and lots of street art. Lunch was a small, casual Basque restaurant called Chez Gladines (There are a couple around the city.). The exterior was covered with street art as much as the interior was covered in stickers. Our dishes, served in what looked like metal mixing bowls—a salade complète brimming with cantal, ham, egg, and the tastiest fried potato rounds ever, and chipirons à la Bascaïna with calamari and a pepper and tomato sauce with those same delicious fried potatoes—were scrumptious. It was a low-key, locals-only kind of place offering pure deliciousness for the hungry. It’s no surprise that the restaurant filled up completely only minutes after we arrived.
Happily, after M. Cheesemonger left me for work, I made several other gourmand discoveries during this trip! They included:
Pinxo: Pinxo is located near the tourist-heavy area of the Tuileries gardens, but on a relatively quiet side street. There is hardly any signage outside to indicate the gastronomical goodness within. The décor is simple, but there’s an open kitchen, relatively rare in French restaurants. Pinxo’s cuisine is inspired by Basque cuisine and southern French cuisine generally, so there was lots of pistou, tomatoes, peppers, and seafood. The best part of all is that they have small tasting plate portions, so my dining buddy and I could order 6 dishes and 2 desserts to share. It was all so we could make our recommendations to you! Every dish we ordered was beautifully prepared. I don’t think you can go wrong with this menu. That said, we couldn’t get enough of some dishes in particular: Chipirons fricassés minute, pâtes à l’encre (fricasseed calamari with squid ink pasta), Queues de gambas à la plancha (grilled Gambas tails), Tartare Rossini (beef carpaccio with truffle coulis and foie gras), and Noix de St. Jacques émincés à cru (thin slices of raw scallops with a sort of leek chutney). Dessert was the Tourtière landaise chaude, a warm apple tart with prune ice cream and a drizzle of Armagnac sauce; and Les fraises de chez nous . . . , a fantastic confection of meringue, strawberry and verbena sorbet, sauce, and near mythic goodness. Of the wines we ordered, their Givry by the glass was exquisite! I highly recommend this place for a romantic evening, business meal, or celebratory night for a small group. Over all, prepare yourself for an excellent evening.
Chalet Savoyard: On my last night in Paris, a group of girl friends and I went out for a blowout, cheese-laden meal. The Chalet Savoyard came recommended by a colleague of my main Parisian dining buddy. THIS was just what I needed. The Chalet Savoyard specializes in hearty dishes featuring loads of alpine cheeses, potatoes, and lardons. They offer tartiflettes, or sliced potatoes loaded with cream, cheese, and lardons all baked together; many fondues, mainly of cheese, but also fondue bourgignonne, which is where the diner dips chunks of raw meat into hot oil to cook the meat; and raclettes, where the server brings to the table an entire half-wheel of raclette cheese, which is then melted on the traditional, red-hot raclette melter. Fondues and raclettes are accompanied with soft bread and boiled potatoes. We polished off just about everything that came our way. The French certainly know how to finish their plates, and this evening was no exception! If you’re up for a casual, noisy, copious evening filled with melted cheese, this is a great option! I want to take M. Cheesemonger back here for a raclette or fondue!
Mamie Tevennec: Here, I met up with two friends, including a woman who runs a crêperie in California. When I learned that she had never eaten traditional Breton crêpes or galettes, I knew we had to remedy that. The décor was simple and country-inspired, the galettes tasted authentic, and they served Corsican charcuterie and cheeses as well! I ordered myself a Brocciu (pillowy-soft Corsican fresh sheep’s milk cheese) and Corsican ham galette, while my companions ordered more traditional fare (with ham, egg, cheese, mushrooms). A bowl of cidre brut in the mix made it a very worthwhile meal! All that was missing was a traditional music band and some dancing! Next time I need a Breton galette fix in this part of town, I know Mamie Tevennec’s got me covered.
L’As du Fallafel: There is good, even excellent, falafel to be had in Paris, in the Marais District. This institution was introduced to me by a high school friend many years ago, but passing by the shop, I thought it was worth another whirl. The team of falafel makers are true experts here. The bread is perfectly fluffy. The sauce is perfectly seasoned. The falafel is perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft inside. Meats, if you order them, are juicy, flavorful, and tender. And it’s cheap. Yum. It’s not a fluke that there’s always a line snaking down the street outside.
Farmers markets: Never underestimate farmers markets, especially French ones! During my last weekend in Paris, I scored some very respectable paella, specialty cheeses and pâtés from the Auvergne region (right in the middle of the country), and found a seller of Portuguese pastries called natas, a sort of custard tart. M. Cheesemonger, missing French cuts of meat, brought home 4 beef onglets for that evening’s dinner. Markets are everywhere. You can use this website to find one near you.
Phew, this post is getting long. I’ll get to the sweet side of life in my next one!
Chez Gladines: 30 Rue des Cinq Diamants, 75013 Paris, France. They’ve got other locations, but I can only speak to this one!
Pinxo: 9 Rue d’Alger, 75001 Paris, France. +33 1 40 20 72 00. I’d recommend making a reservation beforehand.
Le Chalet Savoyard: 58 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France. Again, they have some other locations, but this is the one I dined at. +33 1 48 05 13 13. It gets crowded; you might want to reserve in advance.
Mamie Tevennec: 41 Rue Faidherbe, 75011 Paris, France. +33 1 44 93 92 42 I don’t think reservations are required, but if you can, it doesn’t hurt.
L’As de Fallafel: 32-34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France. +33 1 48 87 63 60. Usually, you just order and go, so no need to reserve!
Need more photos? Here’s a little slide show!