Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Help planning 2 weeks in Paris with a kitchen – Christmas 2012


ericeric
 Share

Recommended Posts

Christmas has never been a big thing for me. But, I hope this year will be different. Some stars aligned - cheap plane tickets, extra budget, another kid off to college next year. So we're going to Paris! Our trip theme is living like locals. Mainly we want to eat well, though not necessarily expensively. I found a nice two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen in the Fifth on Rue Val de Grace. Most of the time I would like to go to market and cook.

All of us are really excited (wife, three teenagers, one in NY and two with us in Manila). So, we're planning our itinerary early.

Would it be possible to get some advice and suggestions from the forum? Anyway so far our plans are:

1) Cooking at home - We're very close to some food markets (Port Royal, Mouffetard, Raspail) and shops (Poilane, Hugo Desnoyer). I plan to go to a market almost daily. On one day, we'll probably trek to President Wilson because I read it's the best one. Planning breakfast and one meal at home daily. My kids like good food and dessert, so they want to join the market trips.

Any suggestions for home cooked meals? I'd like to get a bresse chicken, quail or something like that and roast it. We also love sea food, so I plan to get lots of scallops, langoustines and oysters. I've not been to Paris in winter so I don't know what vegetables or fruits are seasonally available or would everything be imported. I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen (can make fresh pasta, bread, pizza, roast beef, etc. ). I'm going to bring a sharp knife and some spices.

2) Truffles at which market? - Also, would you know where I can buy winter truffles other than Maison de Truffe? Is there a seller in any of the markets?

3) Restaurant suggestions? - We'll probably eat at two 2 star restaurants and 3 good bistros (suggestions? was thinking passage 53, agape substance, epi dupin, la regalade, falafel) . To avoid french food fatigue, I've also marked a couple of good places for ramen. The rest of the time, just simple stuff (crepes, quiche, etc.)

4) Day trips from Paris? - Any worthwhile suggestions in winter? Not sure if Chambord is worth renting a car for. Giverny? I think a 2 hour drive is doable. We don't really need to go anywhere. Right now just Versailles. In paris, just the louvre. Kids want to go back because it was too short last time.

5) Christmas markets My wife likes looking around in flea markets. My kids want to go off on their own, buy souvenirs and try different kinds of food.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) Being on rue du Val-de-Grâce, the only market that's really close is Port-Royal. I mean within walking distance with bags and baskets to carry. A little more remote: marché place Monge (Wed., Fri., Sun.), place Maubert, Blanqui, Raspail. Mouffetard is not a market (it is a "market street" but it has lost much of its interest during the last 20 years).

2) Fresh truffles are not particularly found at markets, trust the specialized stores. Some butchers carry truffles in December for the holiday season. Make sure you buy Tuber melanosporum, not Tuber brumale which is also a Winter truffle. Your sense of smell should guide you. An exception: I've known truffles to be available at the Batignolles market (17th).

3) You won't have "French food fatigue" if you're staying 2 weeks. Ramen is not really interesting in Paris. But if you do get weary, try what Paris does best: the real Vietnamese (not Hmong) pho soups in the 13th arrondissement or the couscous restaurants (Chez Hamadi being the textbook hole in the wall serving scrumptious Tunisian couscous).

4. If you like markets, a day trip to Rouen would be a good idea. The Clos-Saint-Marc a.k.a. "Le Clos" (in the East side of the city) is one of the most beautiful markets within a 2-hour drive from Paris. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, 6am-6pm, and Sunday, 6am-1:30pm.The city is beautiful too. I would recommend the Marché de Lices in Rennes, but that's a little far for a day trip.

Non-market trips: Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Compiègne, Senlis... Chambord is stunning but there's the château and that's it.

5. Christmas markets are not a Parisian thing though in recent years some have appeared, but there's nothing thrilling about them. The Alsatian Christmas market in front of the gare de l'Est has some really good products. Flea markets: try Vanves and Montreuil during the weekend, right on the Eastern outskirts of Paris. And place d'Aligre every morning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now for the restaurant recommendations:

You can do far better than your current selection. You can dump all of them except La Régalade (not the Saint-Honoré, but rather the original location on avenue Jean-Moulin) and, perhaps, L'As du Falafel where I haven't been (I prefer Mi Va Mi, just across the street).

Here's a selection in Paris right now, forgetting a few, and there's certainly a lot more interesting places that I can't recommend because I haven't been there:

Left bank: Le Pré Verre (after morning shopping at the Maubert market), Dans les Landes (lunch preferably, and book your table), Terroir Parisien, Les Papilles, Christophe, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, Sola, Semilla, La Rotonde (had a very nice meal there recently), L'Auberge du 15, Afaria, Le Grand Pan, Le Casse-Noix, La Cantine du Troquet (2 locations), Le Severo and Le Bis (du Severo), Les Petits Plats, Au Dernier Métro...

Right bank: Spring, Septime, Saturne, Yam t'cha (if you can book), Les Jalles, Claude Colliot, Alain Milliat, Chez l'Ami Jean, Les Canailles, Albion, Cartouche Café, Vivant, Youpi et Voilà !, Le Châteaubriand, Pierre-Sang Boyer, Jeanne A, Les Tablettes, Le Bouchon et l'Assiette, Caïus and Zinc Caïus, Le Galvacher (for steak), Le Grand 8, le Bal Café...

We've also got a few good Chinese and Laotian places. Ask if you want a list.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ptipois! I didn't realize you are famous.

Thanks very much for response and comments and the suggestions on restaurants. Ok i believe you. I will dump all on my restaurant list and start over. I got some advice on the other food site and I guess you were the Sophie they were referring to when we were discussing what kind of chicken to roast.

I thought I did well choosing the apartment location. Maybe it's slightly far. Based on the map, it's about 1km to Monge and Raspail. I do like going to these things, so I don't mind if it is a bit out of the way. If it is too difficult, I will bring a roller bag even though it is not stylish. I just hope it's not too cold in late December. Anyway, we don't really have so much planned this trip, so we are taking it easy most of the time. I really wanted mainly to walk around, window shop, buy food from the market and cook in the apartment and eat out also.

Are there any special seasonal ingredients that I should look out for (aside from fresh truffles which seem hard to find) that are tasty? When were there during autumn a few years back, I remember the pears were very good. Will they be available in winter?

For the day trips, we've been to Chambord, Versailles, St Germain en Laye (and had a nice meal there) but without my children. Chambord is quite stunning yes. Rouen looks interesting. Any World War 2 museums near there? We've driven around a bit in previous trips (Nice to Provence to Bordeaux, which was too long but very nice when we got to Brantome, Limoge, Loire and then to Paris, and then from Paris to Provence and then to Florence on another trip).

For our break day, we like vietnamese and chinese food. I would appreciate suggestions for one or two meals. I guess you are right, vietnamese may be the best. I've not had Laotian food.

If you have other suggestions for somewhat different experiences in Paris, I would appreciate it. We have done all the touristy stuff already. Maybe go to Rungis, or watch a good baker make bread? I like to make bread actually and have a wood fired oven at home.

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I do think you chose your location well. Val-de-Grâce is an extremely pleasant area of Paris and nicely located, too. Technically you're touching the Montparnasse area and there's a few interesting restaurants around there. But you're also close to the Censier/Monge/Mouffetard area where I live, and you only need to walk along the boulevard Saint-Michel to the river to get to the actual center of the city.

(Indeed I am the one who wrote about the chickens. I love roast chicken.)

Now I feel a little guilty about telling you to dump your choices. These restaurants are not bad but it is my opinion that many other places are worth exploring these days. Passage 53 is expensive (for what it is) and the seats are incredibly uncomfortable. L'Epi Dupin suffers from a lack of taste balance (think I, but I am not the only one who reported in these terms) and I find L'Agapé Substance, for all its technical brilliance, dull and show-offy and not very delicious. The places I recommend are all yummy.

Roller bags are not expensive, get a cheap one when you get here. Don't bother with flying one overseas...

Temperature in late December is not very predictable. Paris has a damp, cool climate in Winter that may occasionally turn to dry and very cold, but around Christmas you never know. Big waves of cold weather usually arrive in January-February.

Seasonal ingredients in early Winter: yes, the pears will be there, I recommend the Comice variety. Apples as well, and all sorts of citrus. A good period for pork, fish, shellfish and root vegetables.

Rouen is interesting and really the market is gorgeous (apples, pears, farm chickens, fresh vegetables, boudins, pâtés, and genuine Neuchâtel cheeses right from the producer). Nothing about WWII there (except the fact that most of the ancient part of the city was destroyed by bombs, however there's still a lot of it left), for that you need to go to the Calvados coast, beyond Caen and Bayeux. Rouen is closer, only 125 km West of Paris. Same direction as Giverny, going towards the sea.

Vietnamese restaurants: try Pho Mui on avenue de Choisy, Pho Bida Vietnam on rue Nationale. The lower part of avenue de Choisy is more Cambodian. As for Laotian food, think Isaan food from Northeastern Thailand. They are identical. Actually many (if not all) restaurants claiming to be "Thai" in Paris are actually run by Lao people. My favorites are Lao Thai, rue de Tolbiac, and Lao Viet, boulevard Massena.

Yes, it would be a good idea to try a tour of Rungis. There are guided tours available but I don't know exactly how many people they include or how much they cost. If I find a link I'll post it here. All I know is that they're scheduled very early in the morning.

I am clueless about the bread thing. I'll give it some thinking.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't feel guilty. Honesty is always good, except sometimes when you have to tell a friend bad news. I am not in favor of expensive for what it is and show offy. Yummy is good. I think we'll try a couple of places you suggested.

Well now you have me interested in Laotian/Isaan food. I've been to Bangkok many times but never heard of Isaan food till now. I might have had it but the places my thai friends have taken me to, well, they order and the menu is in Thai. So I am clueless and just eat.

My children will be happy with the pears. When we travel they actually ask us to bring home food and fruit rather than clothes or gadgets. We can get good quality imported food in Manila, but it is still not the same. My other friend wants me to bring home lots of raw milk cheeses. On the flights home, we also pack food and arouse envy from other passengers who are stuck with airplane food.

I'm looking forward to roasting the expensive chickens. Might try the guinea hens also. But i've heard they are dry.

Thanks very much for sharing your knowledge. If you ever go to manila let me know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guinea hens are awesome when you choose the farm-raised ones. They can be fatty enough, it all depends on the way they were raised, but they're never as fatty as a fat chicken can be. It is also better to choose rather large birds than small ones. Try roasting one over a bed of choucroute. Sauerkraut that you buy at the charcuterie stalls on markets is generally very good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ptipois. I've done a bit of research on guinea hens (pintades). I will give it a try. So it's a semi dry roast over choucroute or do I braise it w the choucroute?

Also, I think we all like the Rouen idea and might pass by Giverny on the way. Would there be anything to see in Giverny during winter? Any suggested places to eat in Rouen? I think will ditch Versailles since we have all seen that. I liked biking around the gardens more for free than the actual chateau tour.

I am now fixated on the idea of trying to see the bakery of poilane or another good bakery and bringing home some starter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd start the guinea-hen in the oven with a few quartered onions and garlic, roast it as any normal fowl, then add the choucroute in the pan about 1/2 hour before the bird is ready, basting frequently, adding a little white wine or beer. Or braise everything (choucroute, bird) in a Dutch oven with some white wine, beer and onions.

Aside from the Monet house and gardens, there is a good American art museum in Giverny. But the gardens will be very bare in December. I suspect there will be far more to see in Rouen in Winter than in Giverny. La Couronne and L'Hôtel de Dieppe are two landmark restaurants serving the famous Canard à la Rouennaise (the original version of the Tour d'Argent duck), or you may try more contemporary places like Le P'tit Bec, L'Espiguette or Origines.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I'd vote for Rouen in winter also. You can while some extraordinarily interesting hours in the ironworks museum http://www.rouentour...&language=fr-FR where you can marvel at beautifully crafted practical objects made of iron: tools, locks, keys, signs, grillworks... Arte Populaire at its most sophisticated. To keep this food oriented, you could pick up a picnic to enjoy during a musee break.

eGullet member #80.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...