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thnkart

overwhelmed in paris

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First of all, I am a foodie to the nth degree!!! I just DREAD the thought of wasting a meal on a bad restaurant. My husband and I are going to paris in June and I know so little about French food that I'm LOST when I read the menus or try to decide where to eat. I think we will would like to eat our large meal at lunch. Can you tell me what the normal lunch hours are and if the restaruants serve the same sort of food as they do at dinner? At home I eat mostly veggies and fish, and seafood. I like spicy food...thai, indian and i like sushi. I don"t like to eat much pasta, bread or potatoes. Am I going to starve in Paris????? Please help!!!!!

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You need a copy of A Food Lovers Guide to Paris by Patricia Wells ( Amazon should be able to fix you up with a copy ), if you have any worries/questions after perousing the best guide to eating in the French Capital then get back, but I seriously doubt you will have to.

Good eating

Phil

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Some might say that an nth degree foodie is omnivorous.  ;)

A sad fact of life, or at least my life, is that I've wasted a lot of meals. As long as you are adventurous and a bit daring, as well as intellectually curious, you're bound to waste meals. I'd even venture to say that if you stick to the safe, the waste may be greater. Accept the possibilities and chalk the bad meals up to education.

Lunch in Paris, and France in general, begins after noon. Restaurants open at about noon or 12:30 pm. They may stop seating diners at about 2:00 pm, or so. When we make lunch reservations, it's usually for about one o'clock. If you're having lunch without a reservation, it might be better to show up early to increase chances of a table. Note that the major starred restaurants are likely not to reuse the table even at lunch. The table is yours for the afternoon and you can show up a little late or early. We often like to have a large lunch, although as we are not night clubbers, a better argument may be made for spending our evening in a restaurant.

While the style of eating changes all the time these days and there are more and more places in which one can get a light bite, or a salad for lunch in Paris, traditional restaurants serve the same sort of food at lunch and dinner. While many restaurant have special prix fixe menus which may not offer the same food at lunch as at dinner, you can usually get that food by ordering a la carte. In many restaurants there is very little difference between lunch and dinner offerings. Sometimes the same food is a bit less expensive at lunch.

French food is not spicy, although the French seem to be developing that taste as well. Some of the food from the Mediterranean coast may be a little spicy, and so will Basque food, but most versions in Paris may be toned down for Parisian tastes anyway.

Thai, Indian and sushi are all available in Paris, but the most common non French foods would be Vietnamese and north African. the former is not spicy and the latter will not be as spicy as in north Africa. On the whole, I'd stick to French food because that's where you are and that's what they do best. I would consider a good Moroccan meal, and many Parisians have their favorite cous-cous restaurant. Cous-cous may not be what you want if you don't eat much starch and I don't really have a good recommendation for one anyway.

The French eat a lot of bread, but you may pass it up as do many diners. A starch, usually potato, is often an accompaniment or garnish to many dishes. Fish is certainly as popular as any meat or poultry in Paris and many restaurants specialize in fish and seadfood. There are probably more seafood restaurats than those specializing in meat. Most restaurants will have a good choice of both. Vegetable appetizers are not uncommon. The red Guide Michelin offers a list of restaurants recommended for fish and seafood as well as a separate list for those specializing in bouillabaisse. There seem to be more places specializing in meat dishes, but often the same place is listed under several specialties so the numbers are deceiving.

If you are used to spicier cuisines, you may have to adjust your palate to the nuances of French cuisine. French cuisine is so central to my appreciation of food in general, that it's difficult for me to offer much advice in particular.

As a sushi eater, at least you won't be offended by a plate of raw or lightly marinated fresh fish which is not an uncommon preparation in contemporary restaurants. I was once in a small neighborhood bistro when a table of American's loudly announced that they couldn't eat what they ordered because the fish was raw. I thought the waiter had done a good job of explaining that before hand, but I realize that "marinated" might not imply uncooked to every diner. I was perplexed that they had not eaten sushi or could not make the jump to cold smoked salmon or marinated herring, one of which must have crossed their palate, but there's no accounting for taste.

Good luck, and if there are more specific questions, I and others will be glad to try and put forth answers.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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You have received good advice in both of the previous replies.  I would add that you are much more likely to be overwhelmed with starches in Italy than in France.  While, as Bux said, some plates will feature a potato accompaniment, I have been served many with a vegetable or herb salad type of complement.  Also, I have noticed that since the mad cow scare of a year ago, most menues feature many more fish choices than in the past.  I would also suggest that in addition to guaranteeing yourselves a table, eating a bit earlier than the natives will provide you with the waiter's full attention, since you voice a little concern with deciphering the menu.  

Repeating what Bux said, you will probably find more delight in the unfamiliar than if you stick to what you think is safe.  If you have a copy around, you can do worse than sit and read through Julia Childs or similar cookbooks written to acquaint the American cook with French food.  At a minimum, it can make you familiar with dishes you might not want to order.  :)

Prepare to enjoy!


eGullet member #80.

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Thanks for all your helpful responses.  I will certainly look into the guide that was recommended.  I'm sure I'll have more questions as my trip draws nearer but this will give me a place to start...thanks again!

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In addition to Patricia Wells guide, I suggest Paris Bistros by Robert and Barbara Hamburger. It is a very accurate and excellent guide to the bistros and wine bars, which for my money, offer more enjoyable eating and better value than the big starred restaurants.  The guide describes dishes and makes it possible to order without anxiety.  I've used it many times and never had a bad meal.  Relax and don't get too obsessive about the choice of restaurants and foods.  That can interfere with the fun.

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