Well, let me just start by saying out trip to Europe this summer was not really about the food. We didn’t have the funds, nor the time, to really explore European cuisine. Fine French dining runs upwards of 60-200 Euro a plate, which is currently about $84- $277. Additionally, Europeans have a different view of service. They consider fast service “rude,” while we Americans are generally very pleased to get a meal lickety split. So in Europe you have to have TIME and MONEY to eat really well. We had neither. Does that mean we had terrible food? Not at all. In fact, even though we ate on the run we managed to have delicious and fresh food. I managed to travel for nearly two weeks without ever having that gross feeling you get when eating out so much.
When eating on the run in Paris the fast food that seems to be available everywhere are long, thin baguettes filled with a variety of cheese and meat fillings. There are also crepe stands sprinkled everywhere, but oddly (in my mind at least), they were not open until AFTER 11 AM. Apparently they don’t consider crepes breakfast food. Of course, there are plenty of American fast food options, but why would you eat American Fast Food in Paris? Gross! I mean, I don’t eat it at home….so why would I eat it there? I was not interested in getting “Traveling Gut” so I avoided this kind of eating establishment like the plague.
We were lucky enough to have a lovely market right in the street outside our hotel. It was amazing to watch them set up shop! Piles of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meats were stacked up on tables. Several vendors had these gargantuan skillets and were making scrumptious concoctions with bacon and tiny red potatoes. There was also a little market around the corner, as well as a bakery. Most mornings we had Pan Chocolate, fruit, and yogurt. Oh my word I am not sure if there is anything better than French Yogurt and Pan Chocolate. French yogurt is thinner and not as sweet as American yogurt. And Pan Chocolate is like a chocolate croissant but 1 million times better.
We had a lovely French lunch on the day we rode the train out to Chartres. What a beautiful little town, with the bonus, of course, of seeing one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. It seriously is in this tiny little town with a stunning cathedral right in the middle of it. After spending about three hours in the cathedral, PapaChef and I decided it was time for some refreshment. Dotted around the cathedral are little cafes with Plate d’jours (Plates of the Day) that are reasonably priced. It was such an experience to dine, literally, in the shadow of the cathedral.
Here is the little cafe across the street. See the shadow in the back? That is from the Cathedral.
I was happy because I recognized something on the menu: Quiche Lorraine. Not being a French speaker, and not having yet delved much into French cuisine, the menu was largely incomprehensible. PapaChef was feeling brave and ordered without having any idea what he was ordering. The waiter tried to explain, but our French skills are non-existent and his English was so heavily accented there was really no hope. So, when PapaChef got his order he was surprised to see this:
The first question we had: what was it???? We were really not sure. Then he just went for it. Turns out it was a savory pressed meat aspic of some kind, called a Terrine. Savory Jell-O. And it was surprisingly good! My quiche, on the other hand, was very recognizable as quiche. And exquisite!
Another fun place to visit, also in the shadow of a cathedral, is the Latin Quarter right in Paris. This is the area of Paris where the first universities were in the Middle Ages, and where everyone spoke Latin…hence, the “Latin” quarter. It is right around the corner from the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Here the roads are ancient and tiny–for pedestrian traffic only. This is still a popular student hang out today, and is still vibrant and full of life, even late at night. This is a great place to go to get cheap but yummy food! Every few steps there is another restaurant, of all ethnicities. We had a Greek sandwich one night for just under 6 Euro a piece (so cheap for Paris). I would love to visit this area of Paris again.
This is an unusual place to visit while in Paris. It is called Flunch, and is a hybrid all-you-can-eat restaurant. It is very close to the Pompidou Center.
You start by selecting a main dish–mostly meat dishes or quiche, then you can add salads and desserts. You pay, then in the back is the “all-you can-eat” area where they have unlimited veggies, potatoes, and a few other sides. One of the most wonderful aspects of Flunch is the unlimited ICE WATER. Let me tell you, as an American, ICE WATER seems nigh on impossible to find. It was hot and muggy in Paris, and we were constantly trying to quench our thirst with warm water and tepid sodas. Boy were we happy to see ICE!!!!!
You can’t mention Paris without mentioning sweet delicacies as well! I really did want to try a REAL French pastry and a REAL French Macaroon. And I managed to do it.
One of the most famous streets in the world is the Avenue des Champs d’Elysees. It starts at the Arc de Triomphe and then proceeds downhill for about a mile. The street is crowded with shops and places to eat. This is where we found Laduree.
This is possibly the most exquisite shop I have ever seen. The pastries are arranged so beautifully, and everything you buy is wrapped in such a way that they become a work of art. This is where I was able to purchase French Macaroons. Take a look at these little yummies:
I can’t take credit for this picture. I gobbled up my little macaroons before I even thought of taking a close-up picture. Papachef and I shared four flavors: Rose, Salt Caramel, Pistachio, and Coconut. Oh my word, but eating these is a little heaven on earth. Looks how beautiful their line-up is:
The last place I will tell you about is right by the Louvre. The Louvre closed at six, so we strolled down the street to find Angelina’s, which is right across from the Tuileries garden. For some exquisite pictures, visit their lovely website.
Angelina’s is famous for their hot chocolate, called Chocolat L’Africain. It is almost like drinking warm pudding. It is thick, rich, and delicious. We also ordered pastries which were delicious. This is on my list if (when!) we go to Paris again.
Well, we may not have “eaten in style” while in Paris, but we still had delicious food that was fresh and made from real ingredients. In Paris you can eat on the run and never have to stoop to McDonald’s (but they are still ever present–even in Paris!) I look forward to sampling some more French cuisine in the future. I think I will try some French recipes in the future. I can cook Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Greek, and German, but I have not yet delved much into French food. Add it to the list!
I will be in Paris in October – can’t wait! Thanks for the temptations.
I got a quick picture of the pastries and macaroons at Laduree’s too before I got scolded. The food is as pretty as it is delicious. We couldn’t afford to eat there, but had heard about the macaroons from people in our neighborhood in Phoenix. We had to try it.
Loved Angelina’s too.
Favorite meal in paris was crepes from a street vendor and eaten on the steps of Notre Dame.
We just simply weren’t in Paris long enough. I would love to go back and try some of the other places you wrote about.
Oh…we also had a delicious crepe in the same area. We didn’t eat it on the steps of Notre Dame, but that grand church was in the background. I had a a crepe with chestnut filling, and Bryce had one with nutella and banana. Loved it. And can you really stay in Paris long enough? I think I might need to live there for a while.
You had me at Pan Chocolate.
I know, huh? Sounds so good right now.