Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Birthday with Nicolas Flamel & Pierre Marcolini

I spent my first birthday in Paris eating in a National Monument!

Nicolas Flamel translated manuscripts and made his fortune as an alchemist turning lead to gold. Yes, literally. He also literally shared his wealth by building homeless shelters, and the last one still standing is L'Auberge de Nicolas Flamel

The charm and history of the original building lends to the elegantly understated decor. The amuse bouche of the two cheese puffs were a savory welcome. The lunch menu includes either starter and main or starter, main and dessert, ether way you also get a drink (wine) and espresso, all for under 25 ($33 US).
The next table was having the shrimp with zucchini cream and it looked so good that I chose that as my starter. It was a wonderfully creamy soup with delicately sautéed shrimp that was presented with an artistic flourish as the waiter poured the zucchini cream in three moves to fill the spaces in between the shrimp.
I chose the Dorade Royale, or gilt head sea bream, which is probably my favorite fish in Europe. If anyone believes they don't like fish, I would suggest they try this one. The dish was served with an assortment of fresh green vegetables and a purée of eggplant. The fish was remarkably tender and the green vegetables as fresh as they were pretty. I didn't care for the eggplant purée, mostly because it was bland. 
I did not get the menu with dessert since I wanted to get my dessert elsewhere, but just as they welcomed me with an amuse bouche when I arrived, they also presented me with two pâte des fruits at the end of my meal that were just the right amount of sweetness and apricot fruit. 
I may be a year older, but I'm not as old as the Auberge :)
I wanted chocolate for dessert, and since it's been awhile since I've had Pierre Marcolini, I headed over to one of their stores.
Every shop is slightly different, and this one on Rue Scribe offers not only his chocolates, but also his macarons.
This 34 piece box for 30 ($40 US) was my introduction to this chocolatier and I discovered I loved his intense dark single origin chocolates, so I picked a few of my favorites as my birthday dessert.
The raspberry heart added just the right amount of bright flavor and color to my selection.
My birthday cake was Pain des Amis because my life is already sweet and filled with joy:)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Swimming Along the Seine

The Seine is literally the aqua artery of Paris and the scenery changes depending on where you are along the river. The Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand (National Library) is only two blocks from the Seine and if you are lucky enough to have a blue sky day, the waterfront is a much nicer place to read.
The sights include barges and tugboats which have been converted to cafes, clubs, and special event spaces.
Parisians live with beauty as a part of life. So having a snack on a barge
with a view like this is normal:)
It is still August, so the roads are eerily empty, even around the Gare de Lyon and
the view from the bike lanes underneath the roadway looks like a futuristic movie.
Yes you can swim in a pool ON the Seine! Piscine Josephine Baker is a converted barge which is completely handicap accessible and costs only 3 Euros ($5 US) to enter. They have classes and activities for all ages and levels, so if you want to come back on a regular basis you can buy a carnet  of ten passes (like metro tickets) for a discount.
I prefer walking to swimming, and with the clouds looming, it looks like it's time to walk to the nearest metro station:)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Superb Sur Le Fil

Summer in Paris means closed stores, restaurants, and lots of building and transport maintenance, but it also means my friends come here for their vacation :) Yes, it is possible to find a non touristy restaurant open, and sometimes venturing out of my normal neighborhood yields delicious results like Sur Le Fil.
All my friends love to eat, so of course they passed their genes on to their children. The 11 year old ordered this fresh burrata with tomato mousse, garnished with fresh basil and declared it delicious.
The adults all ordered the sardines layered with roasted red pepper on a tomato wafer and it was as beautiful on our palates as it was on our plates.
I chose the grilled octopus on a bed of citron pasta decorated with zucchini. The octopus was perfectly grilled, tender in the center, and the delicate pasta, made with a lemony sauce was a bright light accompaniment. 
Everyone else ordered the lamb, and they all agreed it was the best lamb they had ever eaten:) I taste traded and it was a succulent, meltingly tender, and very generous portion. In fact both main plates were quite large portions, so keep that in mind if you wish to order appetizers or desserts.
After waiting a bit and sipping our Pinot Noir (28 for the bottle or $35 US), everyone except me found room for dessert. One of the girls got a trio of home made ice cream/sorbet, with classic vanilla, chocolate, and a lemon basil that she said was very refreshing.
The dessert hit of the night were the two choux pastries filled with chocolate mousse which was literally fought over (I suggested that they order another one so that everyone who wanted a dessert could have their own, but they decided to share).
With two kirs, four sodas, a bottle of wine, three appetizers, five main courses and three desserts, our total was still less than 35 ($48 US) per person for excellent food, friendly service, and a charmingly small place that opens out to the street. I think I may have found my new favorite restaurant:)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Paris Plage Part 2

Paris Plages stretches out from the Louvre to Pont Sully as well as around Bassin de la Villette, so you can literally be on the sand in the middle of Paris; they even moved the mini Eiffel Tower made of chairs to a spot near Pont Neuf.
Dances are held during the late afternoons, and the relatively small crowds on the sand are because the crowd is gathered around the music further to the back.
It was a relatively cool day, so people walking by got the fine spray of the misters meant to cool off beach goers on the wooden platforms.
I preferred strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg with more natural beauty
even if some of the art is man made.
Now that it's August, it seems Parisians have all left for Les Vacances (vacation); it's not a bad thing to have plenty of seats to choose from in the metro :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Royal View

The King of France most Americans can name is Louis XIV, who ruled for 72 years, and who built and lived in Versailles. What most Americans don't know is that he was born in another Château, in St. Germain-en-laye, which is about 8 miles away. St. Germain-en-laye is only 30 minutes from Paris, but it is a very green suburb, boasting a forest that is approximately 14 square miles, and immaculately manicured gardens along the Seine. 

This was the last town my friend saw before her flight back to the US. After all the hustle and bustle of Paris, this was a nice respite, with charming pedestrian streets, friendly English speaking shops used to international visitors (there is an international school in town), and lush lawns with plenty of benches in the shade. If you are visiting for more than a few weeks or you have been to Paris numerous times, you might want to visit during the Sunday Marché when Parisians flock to the town square for the largest open air market in Western Paris.

She spent a day wandering the streets, tasting the pastries, visiting the Château, and peering through the gates of the wealthy residents. I joined her in the evening for dinner at the Brasserie du Theatre. A three course dinner for 30-40 ($40-50US) with a view of the Château and very generous servings makes this a reliable stop, especially if the weather is nice enough to sit outside on the terrace (it was drizzling, so we ate inside). I chose the 30 menu which included a dessert, but since I knew there was no way I would be able to eat three courses, my friend would get her sweet tooth satisfied. I started with oysters, which always make me smile, and segued to a steak in peppercorn sauce. Since I forgot my camera (which happens when you carry a small purse and wear a skirt with no pockets), you'll have to take my word for it that the steak was very large by Parisian standards.

My friend ordered the whole grilled bar (European sea bass) with vegetables. She was shocked that the fish arrived with head and tail intact, but after a little coaching, she enjoyed performing "surgery" to get to the tender filets. I finished up the surgery by switching plates with her and coaxing the last morsels from the bones :)
Dessert was a variation on profiteroles, done with whipped Chantilly cream in a caramel sauce, my friend said she was too full to finish this, but with slowly and surely, she managed to accomplish the task.
Even though they speak English, it was wonderful to be the only English speakers in the restaurant. It seemed that all the other tables were local residents enjoying the pleasure of living with a royal view.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Paris Plages La Villette

It's much more fun to experience an event than to read about it, and I've been reading about Paris Plages since they started in 2001. I lived near the beach or at the beach in Los Angeles and only went when visitors came, so it's not unusual for me to avoid crowded beaches, and somehow I just never came in the summer weeks when it was here, but now that I live here, I finally made it to the beach :) 
I went to the beach by Bassin de La Villette (Metro Stalingrad) with all the nautical amusements (instead of the one by the Louvre/Pont Sully) on a 90 degree weekday morning and it was perfectly peaceful.
There are numerous big boats, some of which offer rides/drinks/tours/meals.
There are small leg powered boats you can rent.
If you prefer to stay on land, plenty of pétanque areas.
Kids can play pirates or ride a carousel (which had a HUGE line).
Adults and kids alike can cool down with misters
or ice cream
and drinking water spouts dot the area so you can refill your water bottles (free).
Most of the chairs and picnic areas were claimed, but you could stroll along the waterfront
and lots of kids were doing that in their matching outfits.
You have numerous options to eat or drink along the water, including restaurants and bars in the Holiday Inn.

Instead of an American brand, I chose this place :)
The canal was my view on one side, and on the other this colorful artwork.
There is an association called Tous A Table which is founded on the principles of providing good food to those who may not normally be able to afford it, allowing them to pay only 10% of the cost of a meal, so they may have a good dining experience. This year they are here at Paris Plages, so I was very happy to support them; as you can see the menu is very inexpensive and basic, but there are options for vegans and meat eaters.
After you order, you are given a pager which alerts you to go upstairs to pick up your meal. In my case it was a can of sardines in excellent olive oil with a small salad and delectable butter on the side. I had some wine with my snack and my bill was still less than 12 € ($15 US).
The views of the water
have a cooling effect
no matter how hot and humid life is in the city :)