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Eating My Way Through Paris


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#1 ajgnet

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:45 PM

I'm going to be living in Paris for a year, with the hope of that when I return, I'll be speaking decent French and will have a better understanding of French cuisine and culture (fingers crossed, French is hard!). I've been spending the past 4 months in Buenos Aires with a similar purpose, where I started writing a little about my food-related experiences in a thread titled: Eating My Way Through Buenos Aires. As someone who is very passionate about food, specifically French cuisine, I hope to share my amateur experiences in a visually rich way with you guys throughout the year. Because of the size restrictions on eGullet with uploading images, I'm going to upload smaller photos here and full-resolution pictures on a small site I put up for this purpose: A Life Worth Eating.

I'm certainly no professional writer (I studied computer science, if you believe that) nor am I culinary expert. I'm sort of a scatterbrain; but, like everyone else here, I love food and pretty much everything about it.

A little about me: I spent the last 5 years of my life living in NYC where I had all sorts of cool food during which I probably should have been studying. I've been to over 400 documented restaurants in these past 5 years (I keep a notebook) ranging from Masa (along with a good friend of mine tupac17616 who actually inspired me to write this with his trip to italy) to scoops of gelato at Il Laboratorio, and many places in-between. My experience with food in NY has been wide-ranging; but, I have no preference for haute cuisine ... just for delicious food (in fact, I'm really turned off by pretense and the way it negatively affects my experience). My favorite restaurants in NY currently are L'Atelier and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, two places I really miss. I love the way a meal can bring together a group of totally different people to satisfy a common desire, even if they don't speak the same language or share many of the same interests. I love the feeling of spending a day in the kitchen and watching friends and family (usually) enjoying my attempt at creativity. At the risk of sounding cheesy, food is a very special glue that brings people together and, in the case of living in a foreign country, tells a lot about the culture.

I leave for Paris October 18, and right now I'm working on putting together the beginnings of what always becomes an ever evolving list of restaurants to try. I'll be in Paris for a whole year, which gives me a really nice amount of time to try different places, though even that is probably not enough. I have some ideas of restaurants I want to try, but I could use always use more. So I ask you guys, my fellow eGulleters, for some help. Any recommendations as a starting point would be incredibly appreciated. I know that's a vague question; specifically, if you have any lists of recent favorite places you've experienced (and why you like them) I'd love to check them out. Also, if any eGulleters will be in the city during this time, shoot me a message and perhaps we can share a meal!

This is going to be a lot of fun. And, most importantly, it's bound to make everyone very hungry!

#2 Felice

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 02:17 PM

Welcome Ajgnet,

I think you are about to have a remarkable year. Luckily, I am still enchanted with Paris, but when you first arrive, and everything is new, it can be really magical. I am so happy that you plan on sharing your experiences with us.
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#3 pierre45

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 03:10 PM

Ajnet.Welcome to Paris.You seem to have the right attitude and I am sure you'll have a wonderful time.A few suggestions.
-Best way to learn french is to have french friends or better still a french girl friend.
- Peruse e-gullet for the restaurants discussed and make a list of the ones that appeal to you.As you know , we all have different tastes and likes ,so that will be a good way to express what you are searching for.
-Bon voyage

#4 TarteTatin

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 06:29 PM

Come join those of us attending the Butter Tasting on November 1st!
See that recent thread...

You'll meet some egullet food lovers!
Philly Francophiles

#5 John Talbott

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 12:17 AM

Let me add my welcome to the site and to Paris. I will have to miss the butter tasting but I agree that it's a good place to start, Braden has involved many of the most active members of the society and the France Forum and his place is spectacular (at least compared to mine).

Like Pierre I would suggest you do some searching within the Forum; there is much wisdom that's been shared over the years and your question, "Where should I eat" has been asked many times in many forms (eg on a Sunday, on a terrace, near my residence, etc.).

Several resources you may find helpful:
A Pinned topic on Essentials for the First Time Visitor which looks old but is updated frequently.
Another on Eating, Shopping and Staying also updated frequently.
Yet another that lists all the restos that have been discussed since January 2006 alphabetically and by arrondissement,
And Felice posts a calendar of fairs, expositions etc that are food related.

In addition I try to "digest" the restaurant reviews appearing in the French press each week and several of us contribute to a topic that Felice initiated on chef moves and resto openings.

Finally, there's a recent topic on where some of us would tell someone visiting for the first time to go for the Paris restaurant experience.

Again welcome, you'll arrive the day of our first fall strike.

Edited by John Talbott October 3rd to correct day of the general strike.

Edited by John Talbott, 03 October 2007 - 07:30 AM.

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#6 John Talbott

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 07:28 AM

It's important enough that I want to correct my statement that

you'll arrive the day after our first fall strike.

It turns out I hadn't heard that "....the tentative strike day is no longer October 17. It’s been moved back to October 18, 2007 to respect ‘Le Refus de la Misere’ day i.e. Rufusing World Misery Day." Source Parislogue.
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#7 ajgnet

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 07:38 AM

Welcome Ajgnet,

I think you are about to have a remarkable year.  Luckily, I am still enchanted with Paris, but when you first arrive, and everything is new, it can be really magical.  I am so happy that you plan on sharing your experiences with us.

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Thanks very much! I am looking forward to a great year.

Ajnet.Welcome to Paris.You seem to have the right attitude and I am sure you'll have a wonderful time.A few suggestions.
-Best way to learn french is to have french friends or better still a french girl friend.
- Peruse e-gullet for the restaurants discussed and make a list of the ones that appeal to you.As you know , we all have different tastes and likes ,so that will be a good way to express what you are searching for.
-Bon  voyage

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I'm doing my best to arrive open-minded and without judgement. Of course, my excitement and enthusiasm helps! I will certainly do my best to find a French girlfriend -- for educational purposes, of course.

Come join those of us attending the Butter Tasting on November 1st!
See that recent thread...

You'll meet some egullet food lovers!

View Post

I would love to come! I posted something in the thread; but, I guess I'll find out more information as the date approaches? I just hope I can find something good in the two short weeks I'll have been there.

Let me add my welcome to the site and to Paris.  I will have to miss the butter tasting but I agree that it's a good place to start, Braden has involved many of the most active members of the society and the France Forum and his place is spectacular (at least compared to mine).

Like Pierre I would suggest you do some searching within the Forum; there is much wisdom that's been shared over the years and your question, "Where should I eat" has been asked many times in many forms (eg on a Sunday, on a terrace, near my residence, etc.).

Again welcome, you'll arrive the day of our first fall strike.

Edited by John Talbott October 3rd to correct day of the general strike.

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Thanks for highlighting these resources ... I'm going to check them out.

#8 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 09:35 AM

Ajgnet - Since you have a whole year Please please remember that Paris is not France. Its a wonderful and sometimes magic place, but it is not the 'real' France.

Get out and explore a bit (the TGV makes this easy) Try regional cuisines in their places of origin. See some beautiful countryside & meet wonderful people.

Do leave your camera at home when you are eating out. Yes, the French bloggers take pictures, but even they aren't comfortable doing it.

Above all, have a good time. I still have fond memories of my first visit to Paris some 45 years ago.

#9 OAKGLEN

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 11:49 AM

I second the advice of Dave Hatfield; some of my most memorable dining experiences have been outside Paris. Perhaps a historical perspective would also be enlightening. The only Parisian places which seem to have remained unchanged (not including prices, unfortunately) in my 35 plus years, are Le Rubis, a wine bar just off Place du March St. Honore, and Brasserie Balzar, on rue des Ecoles. JohnTalbott, Dave and other posters could no doubt add many more.

#10 ajgnet

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 01:10 PM

Do leave your camera at home when you are eating out. Yes, the French bloggers take pictures, but even they aren't comfortable doing it.

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Thanks so much! You have a great point, and I will be sure to explore as much of the country as possible. Regarding the camera, I'm pretty determined to bring it everywhere in the most tactful way possible (no flash, quick pictures, just of the food, etc ...). Photographing food, I've found, is really helpful for me to remember the experience. Also, it's a great way to share with others. My initial plan is to not hesitate and to respectfully photograph what I can ... let's see how that goes!

#11 Megan Blocker

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 01:30 PM

I agree with Dave! You have to check out Strasbourg, my new favorite spot in France. Ooooh, I'm so jealous!
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#12 Vinotas

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 02:31 PM

Want good food?
Beaune, baby, Beaune!
HERE are pictures of the Saturday market. Drool away. :wink:
Cheers! :cool:

#13 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 03:04 PM

Do leave your camera at home when you are eating out. Yes, the French bloggers take pictures, but even they aren't comfortable doing it.

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Thanks so much! You have a great point, and I will be sure to explore as much of the country as possible. Regarding the camera, I'm pretty determined to bring it everywhere in the most tactful way possible (no flash, quick pictures, just of the food, etc ...). Photographing food, I've found, is really helpful for me to remember the experience. Also, it's a great way to share with others. My initial plan is to not hesitate and to respectfully photograph what I can ... let's see how that goes!

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There are other options which are less intrusive and more in keeping with European manners.

You can for instance make sure you take a card for the restaurant. These are almost always available and will include basic information.

You can also ask for a copy of the menu which, again, most restaurants are pleased to provide. This can be used as both an 'aide mémoire' and after scanning an accurate record of what you ate.

Of course you can take pictures; very few places will make a fuss. But you will be regarded as an American tourist, not as a person who is a true lover of food. Face it, dining is a very personal experience. We can attempt to reproduce that experience in words to convey the sensual e4xperience. Pictures no matter how good or pretty just don't do that. I don't wish to be too harsh about this, but frankly they seem to me to be a form of bragging. Annoying to others in the restaurant no matter how discrete you attempt to be. Still do whatever makes you comfortable and have a good time enjoying it.

Good luck & (to raise another French forum hackle) Bon Appète

#14 Margaret Pilgrim

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 06:56 PM

Welcome, ajdnet, and do take heed of the excellent advice offered so far.

I, personally, agree with Dave completely. (Disclaimer/admission: I do not photograph food in restaurants.) I have never needed photographs to remind me of the great restaurant meals I have enjoyed, and don't want reminders of poor ones. However, I love photographs that evoke the people, the markets, the produce both living and dead, steps in preparing a dish, special shops and shopkeepers, all those vignettes that reflect the richness of a culture, and, yes, its food. You would do well to chronicle all of these during your extraordinary year.

To test this premise, you might pull up Dave's blog and see the photographs he has included. They imbue one with his extraordinary passion for and sensitivity of French country life. And, yes, they make me hungry!
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#15 John Talbott

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 12:42 AM

You can also ask for a copy of the menu which, again, most restaurants are pleased to provide. This can be used as both an 'aide mémoire' and after scanning an accurate record of what you ate.

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I recall just a year ago or so when Gaya Rive Gauche reopened my co-eater pondered whether to ask for a copy of the menu; I asked and got it, and realized then and subsequently that nowadays, with computers and printers everywhere, menus are tailormade each day and just this month, without asking, two restaurateurs offered me a menu after seeing me scribble notes. It's not as if you're asking for Taillevent's gigantic list of wines.
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#16 ajgnet

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 11:32 PM

Leaving in less than 24 hours ... I should probably start packing :-\.

#17 TarteTatin

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 07:19 AM

Wahoo!
See you over there at the Butter Tasting!
We're leaving in less than two weeks.
Can't wait.

But you get to be there for a year!
We only get to be there for a week.
:hmmm:

Don't forget to eat your last Jersey tomato today.
And peanut butter sandwich.
Philly Francophiles

#18 Felice

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 10:32 AM

And peanut butter sandwich.

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Nope, you can even find American brand peanut butter here (not sure that's a good thing though :wink: ). I know I've seen Jiff or Skippy in my market.
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#19 John Talbott

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 12:27 PM


And peanut butter sandwich.

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Nope, you can even find American brand peanut butter here (not sure that's a good thing though :wink: ). I know I've seen Jiff or Skippy in my market.

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Yah, I gotta walk 25 feet to get some.
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#20 ajgnet

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 04:57 AM

Alain Ducasse à l'Hôtel Plaza Athénée
25 avenue de Montaigne
Photos available here

Off the plane and into the restaurant. I began my Parisian adventure with breakfast pastries at Alain Ducasse at the famous Plaza Athénée, an old-world hotel constructed in 1911 on Avenue Montaigne. My early arrival meant that some of the pastries were still warm. What a nice way to say hello to the city of lights.

The first thing that struck me about this dining room were the stunning chandeliers. Each of the three was surrounded by a delicate flurry of suspended crystals, reflecting the morning’s sunlight in rainbows across the room. It was ethereal. The hotel’s famous “plaza red” was brought through the recently renovated lobby into the restaurant in the form of table cloths and seat backs, and even the labels on the dozen Hediard jams covering each table. The space certainly had baroque elements; but the more modern colors and carpeting prevented the dining room from feeling stale. It was incredibly warm and comfortable. The other diners were a mix of hotel guests and businessmen wearing both jeans and suits. I suppose that is the contradiction of a hotel restaurant: since many room rates include complementary breakfast, an enforced dress-code would likely raise complaints. And, I wouldn’t have been able to sample the most delicious orange brioche I’ve ever tasted.

The service here is on a different level of attentiveness and refinement than I have experienced at any other restaurant in New York. Keep in mind that this was only breakfast. I’m pretty sure I could have asked for anything, and while the object of my request may not have been available, I’d be confident that an earnest attempt would have been made to get it. After being seated, I was asked if I would like fruit juice. I was not given a selection of juices to choose from, which made sense when I noticed the woman next to me drinking strawberry juice: there was no selection because everything was available! Not yet confident to order special requests in French, I kept it simple with a glass of OJ and a café au lait. After the drinks were poured, I was brought an extensive selection of pastries. I knew right then that this was going to be a good year.

The selection of pastries included a variety of bread rolls: viennois, campagne, et complet, as well as traditional pastries including brioche au chocolat, pain aux chocolat et éclats de noisettes, pain aux chocolat et amandes de Sicile, croissant noise-citron (sweet, country, and wholewheat), (filled with almond cream and covered in lemon frosting), and a croissant plaza réalisé au beurre noisette et vrai miel d'acacia (made with hazelnut butter and acacia honey). One thing became immediately clear: I would have to go to the gym every day. Otherwise, I might die. After that thought, a second plate of pastries was brought to the table: bostock - tartiné de crème amandine (almond cream tart), a roulade aux fruits confits, and Kughelof (a brioche scented with lemon and orange blossom). Perhaps I should be going to the gym twice a day?

I started with the plain croissant, the softest and lightest croissant I have ever experienced. I used to think I liked the “shatter effect,” the aftermath of the first tear of a crispy shelled croissant that leaves flakes on the plate. Not anymore. This crust was indeed crispy; but it was so thin, that it broke silently, letting out a gentle puff of moisture. The flavor was of rich butter; it gently hovered on the fine line between sweet and savory which my jet-lagged palate appreciated very much. The equally impressive pain au chocolat, or chocolatine as they say in Paris (or at least they do here), was filled with sweet milk chocolate and sprinkled with hazelnut chips.

My eyes wondered to the panettone style chocolate brioche, then to the chocolate-pistachio bread, and last to what would be the highlight of this selection of pastries: the Kughelof. Aside from the Kughelof’s scent of lemon and orange blossom, this brioche was rife with moisture. I’m pretty sure that if I squeezed the brioche over a sink, milk would have dripped out. The gently sugared surface added a level of non-cloying sweetness that was the perfect company to a cup of coffee. Another remarkable feature of this brioche was its weight. I’m not sure how it was possible; but this was dense and light at the same time. But to the thought of this brioche possibly violating the laws of physics, my stomach simply replied, “mmm.”

Lastly, as part the “one of everything” rule, I was onto the bread. At first the bread seemed a little dull compared to the sensational pastries I’d just experienced. But then I noticed these three small cups of what appeared to be homemade spreads. They sure were. Unsure of when these were brought to the table, perhaps since I was so immersed in the flawless pastries, I asked for a description of each. I was given souvenir d’enfance en pâte à tartiner chocolat-noisette (a childhood souvenir home made chocolate and hazelnut spread), beurre de cacahuètes mélange de beurre baratte et de cacahuètes caramélisées puis concassées (churnned butter mixed with caramelized and crunched peanuts), and confit au sirop d’érable souvenir d’un voyage à Montréal, une interprétation originale d’une recette crémeuse et onctueuse à base de sirop d’érable réduit (crystallized maple syrup, a souvenir from a trip to montréal; an original interpretation of a smooth and creamy recipe with reduced maple syrup). Lord, I was glad I asked. The caramelized maple syrup was unreal, a spreadable version of the maple candy typically found in upstate New York, Vermont, and even Montréal. The sweetness and variety of these house made spreads breathed life into the bread, which no longer appeared dull.

What a spectacular way to begin my stay in Paris. While I don’t yet have a basis for comparison in France, this was certainly stronger than any pastry selection I’ve had in New York. After my meal I lingered at the table for what seemed like an hour. Not because I felt like an inflated francophile embracing “café culture;” but because I was so full I was afraid that if I got up I might knock something over. Moderation, it seems, will be one of my challenges. I look forward to returning in the near future; only next time, for dinner.

Edited by ajgnet, 20 October 2007 - 02:16 PM.


#21 julot-les-pinceaux

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 10:37 AM

The pate a tartiner chocolat/noisette is actually made by an Italian manufacturer and can be bought at Ducasse's fancy bakery called BE, along with some of the best bread in town. As far as pastries are concerned, welcome to paradise. There are many, many different kinds and it is unlikely that any favourite of yours stays so for long. The quality and diversity of pastries is one of the wonders of Paris -- so many different styles and charms for something apparently as simple and straightforward as a croissant.

#22 ajgnet

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 04:33 AM

The pate a tartiner chocolat/noisette is actually made by an Italian manufacturer and can be bought at Ducasse's fancy bakery called BE.

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hi julien -- i stopped by alain ducasse again and two separate staff members insisted that the spreads were made in house. it's very possible that they are unaware of the actual source. are you absolutely sure it comes from an outsourced manufacturer? also, would you have any more information on BE? i want to stop by and pick up some bread! thanks!

#23 Biscuits & Brioche

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 07:23 AM

The pate a tartiner chocolat/noisette is actually made by an Italian manufacturer and can be bought at Ducasse's fancy bakery called BE.

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hi julien -- i stopped by alain ducasse again and two separate staff members insisted that the spreads were made in house. it's very possible that they are unaware of the actual source. are you absolutely sure it comes from an outsourced manufacturer? also, would you have any more information on BE? i want to stop by and pick up some bread! thanks!

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Bonjour,

Here are a few suggestions: The oyster stands in the winter; Le Carré des Feuillants in the 1st for delish food & wine; Rétrodor, 42 rue Jacob, 6th for some of the best croissants in Paris; Le Marché for a cozy spot with superb seafood/sauces, Place St. Catherine, 4th; Chez Papa in many locations (my fave is the one in the 14th) for a hearty Southwestern-style meal - try the Super Papa salad (wow); and Charpentier (chocolate shop at 87 rue de Courcelles 75017) for their Caramel au Beurre Salé. Good food; pretension-free.
Julesy (Gypsy Foodist)
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"It's So Beautifully Arranged On The Plate - You Know Someone's Fingers Have Been All Over It" – Julia Child

#24 julot-les-pinceaux

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 04:28 AM

hi julien -- i stopped by alain ducasse again and two separate staff members insisted that the spreads were made in house.  it's very possible that they are unaware of the actual source.  are you absolutely sure it comes from an outsourced manufacturer?  also, would you have any more information on BE?  i want to stop by and pick up some bread!  thanks!

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Hi,

I don't like Ducasse, but I am not going to accuse them of lying. And since I don't like the place, I haven't been for a while. But my recommendation stands to buy that fancy Italian "Nutella" from BE and it tastes very similar, in my memory, to what they have at the Plaza for breakfast.

#25 tupac17616

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 06:15 PM

The pate a tartiner chocolat/noisette is actually made by an Italian manufacturer and can be bought at Ducasse's fancy bakery called BE[...]

Definitely not surprising, considering that the Piemonte region is Italy is easily the biggest hazelnut producer that is only a stone's throw from France.

**quietly sneaks out the back door to go enjoy his crema di pistacchio, Sicily's answer to Nutella**

#26 BigboyDan

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 07:24 PM

I don't like Ducasse,...


Ahhh... the truth!

Makes it easier to understand your other posts concerning Ducasse's establishments. Are you a fan of Senderens and/or Robuchon?

#27 julot-les-pinceaux

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:40 AM

I really mean that I don't like his food. Nothing personal. Just that I still have to have something really good in any Ducasse's establishment. I am open to arm twisting, though.

I am a big big fan of Senderens. Lucas Carton under Frédéric Robert is my top restaurant ever. I can remember seven totally marvellous meals there, sophisticated and brutal, eye-closing, lifechanging.

I never had the full Jamin Robuchon experience, but I am a fan of some Atelier dishes like the merlan or the ris de veau. And I was a big fan of Benoit Guichard's Jamin and I am a big fan of Briffard at Les Elysées.

To go further, my reference other than Senderens is Loiseau.

You?

#28 ajgnet

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 12:57 AM

42 rue Jacob, 6th for some of the best croissants in Paris

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I took a little trip here yesterday for breakfast. What an excellent croissant. I'm hoping to return tomorrow bright and early for some warm pastries.

Does anyone have any other pâtisserie recommendations in the 6th ?

In the meantime, I'm typing up my thoughts of my recent Alain Ducasse dinner. A bit disappointing. Thanks !!

#29 BigboyDan

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 05:36 PM

I really mean that I don't like his food. Nothing personal. Just that I still have to have something really good in any Ducasse's establishment. I am open to arm twisting, though.

Have the Cepe Risotto at Le Louis XV - the best risotto dish on the planet (although, it is Cerruti's recipe.) :biggrin: Also, the wood pidgen IS fantastic...

I am a big big fan of Senderens. Lucas Carton under Frédéric Robert is my top restaurant ever. I can remember seven totally marvellous meals there, sophisticated and brutal, eye-closing, lifechanging.

Agree completely. Senderens was my favorite Parisian chef in the 1980's.

I never had the full Jamin Robuchon experience, but I am a fan of some Atelier dishes like the merlan or the ris de veau. And I was a big fan of Benoit Guichard's Jamin and I am a big fan of Briffard at Les Elysées.

To go further, my reference other than Senderens is Loiseau.

You?


Again, agree completely. To be more specific, my joy in eating at Le Louis XV is as much due to Cerruti as Ducasse. And, the desserts, cheeses, breads, and coffees are just great.

#30 julot-les-pinceaux

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 02:22 AM

You convinced me. I'll try the Louis XV.. next time I have a chance.