This is probably the most delayed dining report ever to appear on eGullet. We went to Paris in May of 2011 and I am just now getting to the point of this report. What can I say – life intervened. But some folks are still PM’ing me with hints about this report, so I thought I’d go ahead for anyone who is interested. We got lots of help and advice on the trip before going from eG folks, especially Forest who we were fortunate enough to meet and have dinner with. If you want to see the England part of our trip you can start here: http://forums.egulle...nd-trip-report/
That morning we took the train from St. Pancras station in London to Gard de Nord in Paris. We left so early that we didn’t have time to stop for a last English breakfast and had to make do on the train with a Crunchy, an apple and a pain au chocolat. Train food being train food, the Crunchy was the best part!
Arriving in Paris was otherworldly. Everywhere we went in England felt like my natural home, but Paris was ‘foreign’ in a very special and wonderful way. You must remember that this was the first time I’d ever been anywhere that English wasn’t spoken. It was exciting and scary all at once. My Mary Tyler Moore moment as the fact of actually being in Paris really washed over me:
Our hotel was the Familia in the Latin Quarter on rue des Ecoles. Family owned, small and charming with a wonderful, welcoming and helpful staff. When the young lady who served us coffee and croissants in the mornings realized that I didn’t like coffee, she brought me (unasked) fabulous hot chocolate every morning.
After checking in and hurriedly dumping our luggage we hit the street. We were still ravenous after our train snack, hour long taxi wait at the station and open mouthed drive through Paris so we stopped at the first place that smelled good and bought two quiches to eat as we walked:
A mushroom for Mr. Kim and a Lorraine for me:
Not fabulous, but perfectly good and much better than any street food that we are used to.
We took a bus to the Eiffel Tour area. And, as an aside, we found the Paris bus and Metro system incredibly easy to use. Mr. Kim has a little French and I can say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” and recognize lots of menu French, but even so I think that I could have gotten around on my own fairly well, I think. I was raised in Washington DC and that Metro is supposedly based on the Paris one. I think it must be true because I found the maps very familiar.
We walked and gawped and grinned for some time. I loved finding the food stores and wished I had a kitchen:
And, of course, the bakeries:
Some of the canned goods gave us a bit of a giggle:
The food that French people don’t want us to know about!
And, dear Lord, the cheese shops:
Since we were taking an evening Seine cruise, we had an early dinner at Café Constant:
I’m sorry that I can’t remember who recommended this to us, but thank you! Every single dish was excellent. And the restaurant itself
was charming with a nice mix of old and modern:
We had a nice chat with the waitress and bartender while we were waiting for our table and it turned out that the waitress had worked in
NYC for some time. Again, as I noted in my England report, folks on my side of the ocean don’t do near as much traveling as the British and French folks that we met.
I started out with Bisque de crustaces aux queues d’ecrevisses a la crème legere:
Creamy shellfish bisque with crayfish tails. Perfect. So light and intensely flavored with the shellfish.
Mr. Kim’s starter was Terrine of ‘Kako’, pressed foie gras and pork shin, lentil salad:
No idea what ‘Kako’ is, but this was stellar. Albeit a tad scary looking to a fellow raised on middle class American food, but he bravely tucked in and cleaned his plate!
Mr. Kim’s main was duck and potato pie with crispy apples:
Perfect pairing and really good.
My main was veal cutlets from the Basque country with white Tarbais beans:
Just gorgeous. Tender and flavorful and the beans were so perfectly cooked firm, tender and each one separate. And that little wedge of lightly grilled romaine on top:
was just astonishing in its simplicity. I’d love to know how that was done. Of course, I couldn’t possibly find such perfect little lettuces in Richmond VA, so I’ll just have to make do with the memory. More than a year later, I can still feel the texture and taste it.
The cruise was wonderful. One of those things that seem slightly too touristy before you go, but something that I’d recommend to anyone visiting Paris for the first time. Especially if you only have 2 and a half days there. Since it was an evening cruise, we got to see Paris light up for the night. Breathtaking!
After the cruise, we walked along the Seine and took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and wandered down the Champ-Elysees. I ended up having a head cold for most of the trip (irritating, but not bad) and was hoping to find something like Sudafed. Just down from the Arc is the Pharmacie du Drugstore des Champs-Elysées. The sign indicated that this was an ‘American Drugstore’. Translation is everything. This was NOTHING like an American drugstore. Gorgeous place with little specialty shop-type areas, amazing confections, Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier in the freaking basement. Tres posh. But alas, no Sudafed. At least not that we could find.
One of the travel guides that we read said that when in Europe resistance to McDonald’s was futile. That, no matter what we thought ahead of time, no matter how lofty our culinary standards, we’d end up in a McDonald’s. Primarily because of the bathrooms. Once inside, it posited, we’d succumb to the familiar fragrance and the cheap food. Well, we didn’t eat there, but strolling along the Champs-Elysées, we DID need a bathroom and lo and behold there was McD’s. So, we’ve been into a McD’s in Paris. But not even a cup of coffee passed our lips. We felt like we’d passed some arcane test. Cab ride back to the hotel – around the Place de la Concorde, past the Louvre, across the Pont Marie and into the Latin Quarter. To our first view of Paris at night from the balcony of our room:
Coming up - first full day in Paris and my favorite meal.