How to eat (in) Paris

Or how I ate in Paris.

This post is about a trip to Paris in 2009, travelling for the joy of it, not dictated by work, not a family trip, just my ‘friend’ and I.

*****

I dream of food in Paris – soft, flaky croissants with shells that rain confetti on your clothes, flaking soft, crunch with every bite. I dream of both the brown crunch (does crunch have colour, does colour make a difference to crunch?) and the chewy creamy, buttery core that I like especially when it’s laced with almond paste. Laced, stuffed, full. Not till bursting, and not merely a lick, like a scant tablespoon or so, sitting soft and fragrant, nutty in the centre.

*****

Many years ago, I went to Paris on a 4-day girls trip with a lady who for many reasons I can no longer call friend. It was my first non-work, holiday, choosing-to-go-away-mum’s trip away from my young children at that time and I’ll never forget it. I missed them and I loved Paris – two realities :).

Me, coloured

I first visited Paris in 1999 as a university student, from Liverpool. My greatest triumph re food was that the French fries at MacDonald’s were truly French – better than I’d ever had, but then I was not the discerning food lover that I happened to be on this mom-alone trip.

This time, I was ready to eat Paris proper, like the guide books recommended, 10 years not-too-late.

Every morning of our stay, my travel partner and I left the Hotel de Nesle, our 1-star home away from home in the heart of St Germain. Its appeal apart from the location was the decor from hanging flowers at the reception to wall murals and everything else but it was basic. Super basic – shared bathrooms, no food but we loved it, absolutely loved it. It is walking distance to all the sights – the Louvre, Notre Dame (RIP), Forum les Halles and almost everywhere we had plans to see, save for the Arc d’Triomphe and the Eiffel tower, which we could see from everywhere, almost every hour of the day.

Eiffel tower, full on

Staying at a hotel that didn’t serve food gave us the freedom to discover all the deliciousness there was to be had on the streets of Paris.

Le Petit Dejeuner – Breakfast

I was a bit shocked at the breakfast offerings. I expected continental spreads and greasy fry-ups in the cafes we chose but that was not the case though had we chosen to dine at the Ritz; it would have been a markedly different story, I dare say. One thing we did find in abundance was croissants and other patisserie delights and that’s what we settled for. On day one it seemed like making do but by the day 2, we were so into it and ended up enjoying the leisure of simple choices to begin the day. I say simple but…simply delicious.

Croissant
Pain de chocolat

The great thing though was the fact that we drank loads and loads of tea. And that suited us to a T. My surprise then to discover the ‘café au bar’ principle. We found that a lot of cafes we stopped at had various prices and the cheapest cup of coffee or tea to be had was au comptoir or au bar.

Tea

Dejeuner – Lunch

Can you go to Paris and not have Baguettes or Moules Frites for Lunch?

Parissien Chic 707
Baguette
Moules frites
With bread

In Betweens and Betwixts

Of course, you can’t also be in Paris and not think street food  – a la Crepes. It was so much fun watching these thin ‘pancakes’ being made. 

Crepes in progress (1)
Crepe stacks
Spread it
Almost ready
Crepe toppings again

We also encounted Canneles – my first real life view, after reading about them at C&Z.

Cannele

I found them delicious, caramelly, chewy, moist – a delightful taste and texture experience, not to mention the shapes.

Mini Cannele

Choquettes too. I tasted. Nice, light airy. Whatever you do, don’t leave them at the bottom of your bag, any bag or you’ll be having squashettes which are not terribly interesting, I tell you.

Chouquettes
Chouquette

Dinner

We grew to love the Café Pont Neuf – a cafe near the Pont Neuf, where I had my best meal in Paris – Confit de Canard.

It was lovely.

And mind you, I’m not saying that is the best preserved duck to be had in Paris but it was the best I’d ever had.

Par excellence
Confit de canard

So there, my favourite Paris eats from ages ago. I can’t wait to go back. Do you have memories of Parisien deliciousness? Share them so I can build that list for the next visit x

5 Comments

  1. Eating in Paris is great. Its the immediate aftermath that you have to get through. I’m generally not a breakfast person in the morning. When I am working I am usually busy getting on with whatever is needing done. I certainly don’t have time for morning strolls. Of course when in Pars why not take to enjoy the city streets and neighbourhoods. Watch as the locals choose their everyday boulangerie favourites and choose your own based on the foot traffic. Doing just that is the Parisian version of choosing a food truck by the size of the queue. The days of enjoying local bakers in many London neighbourhoods have long since gone, not so in France where tradition is thankfully stubbornly clung on to. Of course I was going to take advantage of being in France with all those bouloungeries available. With no work to do I had the chance to start the day early with a nice walk, before long the smell of bread and pastries is getting to me and I succumb to my first baguette. Carry on walking, trying to familiar myself with one arrondissment with another trying to channel the Paris jigsaw I used to do as a kid, I would ultimately get pulled along the way with boulangerie after boulangerie. Practising my French see, after 17 years of no use I was conversing with a baguette or pastry or two. In just two mornings I had ate as much bread as I had the previous couple of months. Two days in Paris was great, even if it did rain more than in London. It was the next two weeks at work that I was getting hunger pains throughout the morning that I had never had before.

    • Ha ha – Paris, the city that can lead to a change in lifelong habits! Yes, I love the morning theatre of Paris’s streets – from seeing the pastry shops open to watching people walk around with baguettes half exposed to the vagaries of French weather. Paris mornings do have a life of their own. How are mornings now?

      • Mornings are definitely not the same….more time for breakfast, not so much work after….its not the same feeling as when it’s in Paris 🙂 Maybe need another trip after this ends. I actually definitely need another trip, just maybe not Paris. I would say Mexico City but there is not enough good Mexican food in this country, one two week trip really would spoil me for life. I’ve got time to put some thought into this, where to go to enjoy the food, and still enjoy it to fashion upon returning.

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