From architecture to museums, Paris is a city of art, and the food is no exception. French food is fine art in itself. I find goat cheese on a bed of arugula just as aesthetically pleasing as the Arc de Triomphe centered between lines of thin, manicured trees; the flavors of cheese are just as bold as Picasso’s racy renditions of the human body; the wine is as smooth as the marble pieces that form naked bodies in the Lourve; and macaroons are served in all the same mellow colors as a landscape by Monet. Art can take one on introspective journey; similarly, Parisian food had me reevaluating my existing schemas of cheese.
Let’s go on a food journey: here are 10 of my noteworthy food and drink experiences in Paris. I’ve included restaurant names, streets, prices, and a few money-saving tips if you’re on a budget.
Wow, that is a cute café. That’s perhaps what I thought when walking past every café in Paris. If I sat at every café that charmed me, I’d be drinking café all day.
But would that really be so horrible? Red awnings capture swirling cigarette smoke as Parisians leisurely sip on tiny, potent cups of coffee and render the French café stereotype amusingly true. Watching a Parisian make dixie cup sized coffee last for over an hour is the best reminder that you have all the time in the world.
Paris is also a city of bread: flaky croissants, baguettes tucked under the arms of passerby’s, and never-ending baskets of bread on restaurant tables. I couldn’t stay away from the local boulangeries (bread stores) where I often got a crusty baguette sandwich with chunks of Brie, cucumber, and tomato- the perfect, cheap breakfast! There are many combos, including a simple baguette with butter and jam.
Ahh, that legendary, French entrée of cooked snails. As a foodie who take huge pride in eating eccentric dishes, I couldn’t pass up Escargot while in Paris. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to choke these guys down. Bathing in a delicious buttery green sauce with parsley, they were especially edible and, dare I say… enjoyable.
When in Paris, one learns that crepes are not just for dessert! Sweet and savory crepes compliment each other like the perfect couple. Try a ham and gruyère crepe followed by a sweet citrus crepe drizzled with honey or a ratatouille crepe followed by a simple banana and nutella crepe.
Of course, there’s moments when you’ll skip the savory and go straight for the sweet. On Rue Montparnasse, a street where the creperies are abundant, I tried La Creperie de Josselin. Surrounded by dark wood walls and dim lamps under lacey shades, I had a chocolately, coconut ice-cream filled crepe soaked in enough rum to give me a small buzz.
I ordered the terrine de chèvre frais, essentially a loaf of fresh goat cheese, and salade. The menu was not lying; I got a mountain of goat cheese (this is Paris after all) on a few springs of arugula, but I was not disappointed. Baguette slices slathered with fresh goat cheese is bliss.
I’m also a huge fan of melted cheese. My sister and I proudly ate a whole pot of Fondue Savoyarde- a decadent mix of Emmental, Beaufort, and Comté cheese, white wine, and spices at Pain, Vin, Fromages (bread, wine, cheese). Pain, Vin Fromages, aka the essential trio of Parisian food, takes the cake for my favorite dinner.
Who knew that I would have the best falafel of my life while in Paris? Rue de Rosiers in the area of Le Marais- a hip, gay-friendly area- is packed with people on cobblestone streets waiting in line at tiny dives for a taste of the middle east. Although L’As Du Falafel is apparently THE place to go, the falafel I had blew my mind.
Beef (or steak) Tartare is a popular Parisian dish, which at first sight warrants a double take- that hamburger isn’t cooked! It comes- non preparé– with an egg yolk on top, and capers, onions, chives, and other seasonings and spices on the side. I found it somewhat flavorless and much too raw, but this dish speaks highly about the quality of meat that restaurants serve.
This DIY meal was so fun and memorable. After grabbing baguettes from a boulangerie, and picking out fresh fruits and vegetables from one of the produce markets spilling out onto the street, we settled in the grass at Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden) and feasted!
Paris was made for picnics; there are many grassy spots by lush, beautiful gardens. Half the fun is enjoying the outdoors amidst hundreds of other picnicking families and sprawling groups of teens.
Just when you thought your stomach couldn’t get any happier, there are tiny shops with decadent chocolates, eclairs, fruit tarts, colorful, airy macaroons, and darling citrus cakes adorned with berries and glaze, like the treat from Huré (above). As if Paris couldn’t get any cooler, cheese also appears on the dessert menus.
I love wine- not that I can tell a decent wine from an excellent one, but I enjoyed sampling wines in Paris, and I love a country that pretty much requires wine with dinner.
Overall, I was expecting to spend an arm and a leg on food in Paris, but I found it to be reasonable especially when using a few money-saving tricks. Even with a few splurges here and there, I managed to stay on budget.
Let the food take you on a journey- there are amazing places along every path in Paris. Let your senses lead the way; little treats from Boulangeries will call your name, and open chairs at cafes will call to you, so stop and savor. Even though I hardly made a dent in the food world of Paris, I left with my tastebuds tingly and delighted.
A BIG thanks to my sister, Alexis, for taking us to some amazing spots, giving us a wealth of information about food in Paris, and for translating between English and French!