Paris EATS – Spring 2015
Parisians were still bundled up in their coats and scarves when I was there for 5 days of cooking classes a couple weeks ago but Spring was definitely in the air! Forget jet lag – as soon as I got there I unpacked – or tried to in my tiny (but well priced!) room, and went exploring. I stayed at the Hotel de Fleurie in the 6th arrondissement (St. Germain des Pres) and though my room was indeed small I came to love the location right in the heart of one of the best parts of Paris for great shops and restaurants. I got this room for a great price on one of their promotions. Tip – when making reservations online at a hotel check to see if they have any promotions going while you’re going to be there. I had to pay in advance and couldn’t cancel but it worked out well for me.
They told me the hotel served a delicious breakfast – for an additional cost of course – and if I wanted to see the croissants (of course I did!) I could check out the place they got their pastries from which was right around the corner. What an incredible pastry shop! It’s Gerard-Mulot and it was the perfect gastronomic start to my trip! I got a couple small quiche tarts and the very sweet guy at the counter warmed them up for me – Delicious! Then I was looking at getting an eclair – they looked fabulous – but a group of Italian high school students on a field trip to Paris (lucky them!) stood by me and I started talking to them (my Italian thankfully was not too rusty) and that was so fun and interesting I forgot all about the eclair – till a few days later!
I walked around and went to the Bonnard exhibit at the Musee D’Orsay (highly recommend!) and finally ended up on the Isle Saint-Louis looking for a restaurant called Nos Ancestres les Gaulois I’d been to years ago that I’d loved the ambiance of. Believe it or not I found it – but it wasn’t yet open so I decided to check out a brasserie I saw in my guide book called La Brasserie de L’Isle Saint-Louis. Well I think it was jet lag or maybe I just ordered the wrong thing – at least I hope so – I ordered an onion tart appetizer and took one bite and it was awful! Second bite was even worse. Thankfully I hadn’t ordered anything else. Uh oh – time to go – I wasn’t going to eat a bad meal for my first dinner in Paris! I asked for the check and the waiter couldn’t believe I was leaving but c’est la vie! I decided to give the guide book one more try and ended up at a fabulous restaurant called Mon Vieil Ami. As soon as I ordered a glass of wine and settled in I was SO happy I left the other place even though it was a bit uncomfortable to get up and walk out after only 15 minutes. Tip – if you don’t like the food you get served – pay the bill, get out and cut your losses by not eating anything else there!
Next day was the first of the five days of classes with Patricia Wells at her kitchen/studio. Had a great first day but I was so tired after class, I went back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep for a couple hours. After deciding I couldn’t spend my few evenings in Paris sleeping I got out and walked to the famous Brasserie Balzar where I had dined as a student at the Sorbonne many years ago. That place never changes which I guess is a good thing as you always know what you’re getting there – pretty good food and a bit of an attitude by the waiters – but that’s fine. I was craving escargot and some pate de maison so that wish got satisfied!
After class the next day I again went back to the hotel not sure whether to go out or not as it was raining. At about 9 I couldn’t stand being in the room any longer and got in a cab and went to Willi’s Wine Bar which has been open forever (1980 I read) and is famous for their art posters. I’d loved it when I was last there and this time it did not disappoint! The lamb daube I had was outstanding as was the hazelnut mousse dessert – Superbe!
The next day the cooking class went to Astrance for lunch. Wow what a treat! Dishes so inspiring you can barely describe them. Suffice to say the food is so fabulous they don’t even need to be open on the weekends! And if you’re there Monday don’t bother – closed then too. So just Tues through Friday – that’s it. Cost is sky high but for a meal that quite possibly will never be forgotten I think it’s worth it if you can afford one splurge…I’d say skip buying clothes and jewelry in Paris and go to Astrance instead!
We visited the famous bread and pastry shop Poilane as a group and saw their underground wood burning ovens where they cook all the bread and pastries for the store. Amazing how much they put out with those ovens! Highly recommend a visit there.
Next up – more great restaurants (and my worst meal in Paris!) and some Paris shopping tips!