Eating Your Way Through Paris
I’ve actually heard a few travel bloggers claim that food isn’t that important to them. What? Could that be? Is it possible that some people don’t travel to eat? That’s seriously hard for us to believe.
For Thomas and me, food is a BIG part of the experience. For Thomas, it is the BIGGEST part of the experience. He travels primarily to eat. Architecture is what he sees in the background while he is stuffing his face. And if you travel to eat, France is definitely on the short list of must-eat destinations.
True, French food doesn’t usually come cheap; nobody comes to Paris for bargain-basement prices. But whether you are indulging in a luxurious splurge or sticking to a strict round-the-world budget, the city should leave any food-venturer more than thrilled. To even begin to describe the city, we would have to write a 24-volume food-cyclopedia. Rather than documenting every detail, this post is meant more to inspire the culinary quest.
Eat in Palatial Surroundings
Paris offers plenty of opportunities to eat like a king (or queen) with opulent dining options throughout the city. In the picture above, we are having lunch in the magnificent restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay. When we walked in, I stupidly blurted out, “Wow, it feels like we are eating in a museum!” before I suddenly realized that we were indeed eating in a museum. Duh.
Interestingly, playing Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette for a day doesn’t have to break the bank. Their prices for French cuisine were actually quite comparable to more conventional restaurants. And after lunch, you can take in the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world.
Or Create Your Own Luxurious Meal
But luxury is in the eye (and the wallet) of the beholder. Even if you have to keep to a strict budget while you’re in Paris, you can still experience great French food. If you are self-catering in a rented apartment or friend’s house, Parisian markets are packed with extraordinary seafood and picture-perfect produce. And if you’re in a little hotel or hostel, the vast selection of breads, pastries, cheeses, hams, sausages, pâtés and more could keep you eating for months. Some of the patisseries have creations that can literally reduce a grown man to happy tears.
Try a Family-Run French Boutique Restaurant
Paris is overflowing with brasseries and atmospheric boutique restaurants. I have no idea how the city can support such a huge number of eateries. To celebrate my step-sister Joely’s wedding dinner, she booked a whole floor at Le Pharamond, an extremely cool family-run boutique restaurant near Les Halles. The restaurant was the very definition of Parisian stylish-cool-funky-retro-edgy-chic, and served traditional French food. In the meantime, the ownership has changed and the restaurant has been renamed. You can still check out their private dining rooms – where else would you have a feather chandelier?
The restaurant literally had the best service I have ever seen ANYWHERE in Europe. Nobody paid me to say that. When we returned a few days later for a second dinner, the waitress actually rushed up and hugged us at the door. Or maybe that had to do with a room full of double-tipping Americans. 😉
Or Dig into Paris’ Amazing Ethnic Food
France’s complex history and colonial past ensures that Paris has one of the most international food scenes on the planet. The range of north African and sub-Saraharan African cuisine is unparalleled in any western nation. The Southeast Asian food is perhaps the best in Europe. You could spend a lifetime here and never eat the same food twice. Yes, French food is not just one thing.
On this trip, we focused on the restaurants in the Marais’ Jewish quarter. In a city famed for its food, Parisians were lining for hours to get into both L’As du Falafel and Chez Marianne. The lines were so long at both restaurants we felt we simply had to perform our own falafel challenge for ourselves. Honestly, either restaurant could hold its own with Jerusalem’s best, but I have to say that the falafel and köfte sandwich topped with eggplant at Chez Marianne qualified as one of the most delicious things I ate in Paris. (Full disclosure: I really love falafel.)
Push Your Limits
Hardcore travel foodies may feel that Europe isn’t quite challenging enough for their exotic needs. The French beg to differ. Calf’s head anyone? What about that calf’s pancreas or heart? In the mood for frog legs, blood sausage, or escargot? We are – those are three of our favorites. Pig’s foot, pig’s snout, pig’s cheek, pig parts in general? Tripe or andouillette (a pungeant sausage made of intestines, wine and onions). France will keep you guessing. If that isn’t your culinary style, start boning up on your French food vocabulary, so you don’t end up with a plate full of marrow.
Or Just Go for the Desserts!!!
And the desserts. Well, those speak for themselves. What’s a French food extravaganza without those sweet treats? We should point out that one of the few true bargains in Paris is the city’s selection of pastries. One Euro will often buy you a quality pastry that would cost far more in other countries.