Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Notes on Food (and Drink): Paris Edition

by EP

**NOTE: I found this never-before-seen Paris post that I abandoned mid-way through, and figured it was still good stuff, so I finished it and am posting it now.  A little "Springtime in Paris" in August, for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!**

While I was eating my way through Paris, I learned a few things and made a few observations, and tried unsuccessfully to blend and not be a typical "stupid American."  I won't say we successfully blended at all, but we did find that making the effort to speak French (at least a little!) went a long way with most people.  Rachel speaks French (with an African accent, admittedly) and was able to communicate on our behalf throughout the trip - and I can't thank her enough!  (Amusing side note: since I don't speak French, I didn't say much to people unless I knew they spoke some English -- I didn't want to just assume they could or would speak to me in English.  This resulted in a few instances of people saying, to Rachel, "Your friend is quiet - is she shy?"  HA.  If they only knew.)

One of my favorite pictures we took

And now for a run-down of my mostly-food-oriented observations of Parisian eating:

1. Service is slow: This is something we expected, as experienced travelers.  The American way of dining is rushed by international standards, and we knew not to expect such an expedited dining experience in Paris.  That said, we are impatient Americans, and sometimes it seemed like we were never going to eat!  But, this is something we got used to as the trip went on.

Ginormous croque monsieur

2. Having lunch as the "big meal": Rachel and I fell into a particular pattern of dining as our week in Paris progressed: coffee/tea/bread/cheese/fruit at home in the morning, followed by a morning activity (possibly more coffee at a streetside cafe), late lunch (around 1 or 2pm), afternoon activity (possibly involving alcohol at a streetside cafe), back to the house to nap/relax/research the evening's plan, late dinner (around 9pm).  Our lunches were usually our largest meal, in part because most cafes had great deals on multi-course lunches (app, main, and dessert for 10-15 euro).  Dinners were lighter fare.  This structure was great - you had a chance to walk off your large meal throughout the whole day, and you didn't go to sleep with a super-full belly of duck confit and escargots.

Breakfast at "home": bread, jam, fruit, cheese, coffee (and travel guides)

3. We take water for granted: I am accustomed to drinking A LOT of water (I aim for 100 oz a day).  I also have replaced most of my soda consumption with club soda (thanks Soda Stream!).  At restaurants in the States, we can have as much water as we want, and I've noticed that some places are now able to offer complimentary sparkling water since they have some sort of in-house carbonation system (Soda Stream strikes again).  In Paris, this was not the case.  Tap water was not automatically refilled, and bubbly water was MORE EXPENSIVE THAN BEER.  Madness, I tell you. 

4. Menu redundancies:  While there were a handful of times we strayed from French cuisine (e.g., the time we went for Spanish tapas in the Bastille, or the time we stopped for kebabs in Montmartre before our macaron-making class, or the time we had falafel in the Marais), we mostly dined at adorable cafes serving casual French fare.  And wouldn't you know it - the menus at all these different cafes were virtually identical, offering roast chicken, duck confit, salads with poached eggs on top, croque monsieur/madame, quiche, etc.  Now I'm no economist, but how can a business survive when it sells the exact same thing, at pretty much the same level of quality, as every other guy on the block and the next 10 blocks?  And, more importantly, how is a diner to choose where to go when they all seem so similar?  (#firstworldproblems)

Pate with onion jam

Apple tarte tatin (with creme fraiche)


Cousins Alexis and Rob enjoy falafel in the Marais

5. Specialty shops: Certainly one of the most charming things about Paris is the abundance of food-related shops, bakeries, epiceries, butchers, etc.  I for one love to visit these shops, snoop around, taste bits of meat or cheese, buy a box of macarons or a baguette, or apples for a picnic on the canal (which we actually did).  The idea of going from specialty shop to specialty shop to do your grocery shopping, instead of going to the supermarket, makes perfect sense.  Go to the source!  It made me wish there were more specialty shops, and fewer gigantic supermarkets filled with sub-par produce and meat/fish, in my neighborhood.

On the way home from the bakery... 

Amazing bakery in Montmartre

We got a treat!

Just a few of my random observances about eating in Paris.  I could really go for a macaron right now...



  1. I am getting hungry reading about those falafels again... :)

  2. Love this post. I want to go back!!!!!! ARGHHHHH

  3. oh and the pain au chocolat, don't forget those!

  4. such pretty pictures! when i lived in bordeaux, i always carried around a water bottle in my purse or i would get dehydrated. in paris you have to pay for water all the time where as in bordeaux as long as you order correctly they will bring you free water.


  5. I feel as if I've just taken a trip to Paris after reading this post.

  6. wow...that looks awesome. I really need to start reading your post after lunch. This is torture for my belly.

  7. i love you for this post. this is so nice. please make it update.

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