Cringe-Tastic Candidates

March 25th, 2015

meerkatWho says the French have no humor? Don’t answer that because I already know (#everybody). But here’s something hilarious, if unwittingly so. Posters for candidates in the local municipal elections taking place right now across the country. From the BCBG boy who wouldn’t hurt a…meerkat? to the duo who fancy themselves on the cover of Voici magazine, the hopefuls may not do much to change France’s turgid political system but they will bring a smile to your face. As the French say: MDR. Thanks to my pal Charlie Sputnik for spotting this round-up of even more cringe-tastic examples.


New Girls in Town

March 18th, 2015

madeleinesMany new gourmet shops have opened on rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement; it seems as though a new one pops up every few weeks. I stumbled upon a most adorable pastry shop, Mesdemoiselles Madeleines.

A recent trend in pastry shops in Paris is taking a classic pastry, such as éclairs and cream puffs, and ramping them up with unusual flavors and fillings and also creating mini versions of them.

Mesdemoiselles Madeleines takes the beloved Madeleine and gives them bursts of new flavors including salted caramel, hazelnut, grapefruit/pistachio, raspberry/rose, and chocolate/mint.

I’m a pushover for anything with salted caramel, so I sampled the mini version. It was moist and chewy and the caramel was subtle.


For Map Maniacs!

March 12th, 2015

foret noireThe first foret noire I ever ate was outside a patisserie in the 9th arrondissement. In typical American fashion, I tore into it right on the sidewalk outside the shop. Something remarkable happened that spring day on rue des Martyrs. I FORGOT WHERE I WAS. The experience of eating this fluffy delight of chocolate, cherry and cream enveloped me for a long, luscious moment to a place beyond time and geography. I don’t know how long I was standing there before I came to with chocolate all over my hands and mouth.

What does that have to do with the new book Paris Les Boulevards (Rizzoli)? Everything. Like my street-side taste-treat, this slim hardcover offers a delectable nugget that has the power to transport you into a bubble of Gallic magic. It will be short, sweet trip, as the book is comprised of just 11 gate-folded illustrated maps.

paris les blvds 2The card-stock pages each open out into six-panel panoramas of the center of people-watching in the late 1800s: the wide boulevards in the center of the city. Boulevard des Italiens, rue de la Paix, and Avenue de l’Opera are among those grand spaces, whose facades ushered in a new era of glamor and uniformity, and whose wide sidewalks invited flaneurs and dragueurs. If these map illustrations of the main 9th arrondissement thoroughfares look vintage, it is because this book is actually a rare find of a 19th century volume that Rizzoli has re-published.

paris les boulevards partial

The book isn’t comprehensive; you won’t even find Boulevard Haussmann in it. And the texts, written by museum curator Pamela Golbin, are less satisfying than Wikipedia entries. But Paris les Boulevards is a snack—an unusual one–not a meal. Eat up, map maniacs.

Southern Comfort in the North of Paris

March 9th, 2015


baton rouge cocktail bar parisPigalle continues its play for one of Paris’ best bar destinations with its latest addition, Baton Rouge. This opening brings some fresh Creole flavor to the neighborhood with a voodoo bar and Louisiana-inspired menu.

The team behind Baton Rouge includes a couple of topnotch industry personalities with Julien Escot (Papa Doble, Montpellier) and Joseph Biolatto (Bols Ambassador & previously of Bar le Forvm). Inspired in part by the Stanley Clisby Arthur’s 1937 book Famous New Orleans Drinks and how to Mix ’em, the boys have created a cocktail menu of New Orleans classics that includes Highballs from the Bayou, Egg & Milk Punches, Bottled Aged cocktails and a few other NOLA-inspired surprises at 13 euros each.

baton rouge 2I stopped in for a pre-opening apero of their namesake cocktail and taste-tested some muffaletta and garlicky cilantro dip. The dip/Baton Rouge cocktail is a great combo with the garlic working it nicely against the sweet & sour cherry of the guignolet in the drink. A few nights later I caught up with some of my favorite drinking partners to taste more of the menu. After a sazarac, manhattan and a special concoction by Joseph, I am convinced that the boys have created a most excellent selection.


Your Own Parisian Dinner Party

March 6th, 2015

dinner 2If you’d like to really “eat like a local,” nothing beats dining in a Parisian home. And if you don’t have any Parisian friends, you can simply sign up to join a dinner through meal-sharing websites. Vizeat has hosts in 18 cities, including Paris, Nice, Marseille and Lyon, where each meal (regularly scheduled or on request) is listed with the location, price, description of the meal and a description of your hosts, along with photographs and ratings. These tend to be smaller, meaning it may just be you and your hosts. You can also sign up to become a host yourself. Voulez-Vous Dîner is a similar site with hosts in Paris, Marseille and Lyon, but generally involves bigger groups, so you would be booking one of the seats at a set table for 6-14 people. This could be interesting if you’d like to practice your French in a group setting. The descriptions are written in French first, then English beneath that. Sometimes there is even entertainment with some meals. My host Sacha was a concert pianist who played us Mozart pieces; another host, Adrian, is also a professional illusionist who does a Mystery Dinner Show.


Aussies Do Paris

March 5th, 2015

paris tragics book“You can get ripped off, you can have your pockets picked, some places smell awful, some of the people are rude and arrogant, the whole place is busy, noisy and full of traffic and even some of the food is crap,” write Oleh Butchatsky and Graham Jones in the new book Paris Tragics. “But you can say that about any metropolis. What you won’t find easily elsewhere is the sheer richness of human experience that represents some of the best things ever created by humanity.”

Written by two retired Australian menthe kind of guys who watch sports and don’t typically go in for girly stuff like macarons and Mariage Freres afternoon tea, Paris Tragics is the latest entrant into the crowded field of the anecdotal guidebook to Paris. The title of the book uses Australian slang for what we Americans might card a ‘tard–someone ridiculously into something. The book doesn’t take you far off the beaten track but rather offers you an armchair visit with humorous and quick-paced, to-the-point narration.

graham and olehIf you, like me, enjoy the self-effacing humility and directness so refreshing chez les Australiens, you will enjoy this preamble through the city with observations such as this: “This contrast between external restraint and internal opulence continues to be a definitive feature of French ornamental design.” There are useful tips, too, such as why the seemingly cheap Paris taxi fares are, well, not so much. “when you add the cost of the many tricks (and outright refusals) used by Parisian cab drivers on tourists (indeed on fellow Parisians) it usually works out to be more expensive.”

Graham Jones’s sketches of landmarks are delightfully simple and will undoubtedly remind you of the drawings you may have made on your own trips to the city.

Lanvin in the Limelight

March 2nd, 2015

lanvinCelebrating the oldest French fashion house still in existence, the Musee Palais Galliera has put together Jeanne Lanvin, the first full-scale exhibition of the designer. It has more than 100 garments from its own archives and from Lanvin. Alber Elbaz, the current artistic director of Lanvin, has worked closely the with museum to curate the show, which opens March 8.



February 25th, 2015

pirouette 1Pirouette is in a free standing building, very unusual for Paris, and is an open loft like space with double height ceilings and windows and a simple décor with warm wood floors, chairs, and tables.

The 20-euro formule, entrée and plat, offered only one starter and a choice of beef or fish for main course. The business/trendy/artsy crowd was mostly French and the dining room filled up quickly. The noise level was high but not unbearable and our table next to the window was a good choice for avoiding some of the noise.

pirouette 2Pumpkin soup with chestnuts is a popular winter staple in Parisian bistros, and my friend Lynn and I agreed it was one of the best versions we’ve ever had: so buttery and creamy we sopped up every last drop and we each could have had at least three more bowls full.

Lynn had the fish, egelfin (haddock) with grapefruit and fennel, and she thought it was superb. I had the onglet (steak) garnished with wonderful, succulent Grenaille potatoes. The artful presentation made our dishes even more appetizing and they tasted as good as they looked. Even though we thoroughly loved our two courses, we were still a tad hungry and decided to share dessert.

pirouette3Even though menus put the cheese course in the dessert menu, I disagree with this concept: cheese is cheese and dessert is dessert and there is no blurring the lines. I wanted to be easy and a gentleman and told Lynn to order whatever she wanted. I was a bit disappointed when she ordered the Ossau-Iraty cheese with a black cherry sauce because I wanted a real dessert, not a wannabe cheese course dressed as dessert. Even the presentation was a dessert wannabe- the cheese was sliced like a wedge of pie and the sauce smoothed over on top, more or less like a cheese cake, with an odd dash of red pepper on the side. Disappointment turned into high approval as the dish turned out to be excellent and equally as good as dessert.


5 rue Mondetour, 75001

Where’s the Burrito?

February 19th, 2015

death by butrrito 2One of the things we’ve seen a bit of in Paris – which I think will become more prevalent – is bars focusing on a single spirit. A few years back Sherry Butt opened with a leaning towards whisky. And more recently there’s Mabel, the self proclaimed Cocktail Den and Rum Empire, as well as Lulu White with a list of cocktails, each with a touch of Absinthe. And we also have the subject of today’s post: Death by Burrito. After a string of successful London pop-ups and residencies, chef Shay Ola brought his popular Death by Burrito concept to Paris late last year to set up a more permanent space in the 11th arrondissement (also known as “DBB Paris”). DBB Paris is the city’s latest taqueria/cocktail combo and is getting plenty of press for both its food and drinks. I like tacos. I like cocktails. I like London. So it seemed like a no-brainer choice when I was looking for a spot to take a group of 5 or so for some fun and food last month. death by burritoNow, with a name like Death by Burrito, you might think you’ll be getting burritos that are so effin’ big that you’ll choke under their weight. But what you’ll actually find on the menu are 5 pairs of small tacos and 5 small sharing plates like guacamole or trout gravlax with mezcal. Although I do have to admire the server’s attempt to explain the concept as “small, open-face burritos” Uh…in other words…tacos? You know what else makes me think they are tacos? They’re called “tacos” on the menu. Contrary to how it might sound, I’m not here to talk smack about the food. Whatever they’re calling it, it’s good. They go beyond the basics without going bonkers and offer up solid fusions like braised pork and kimchi or beef tartare tacos. Ingredients are fresh, tortillas are made onsite, and they don’t shy away from putting a little spice into the mix. [Update: since posting this DBB Paris assures us that burritos are coming soon, so we’ll be back for those.] Now that we have that out of the way, lets dish on the drinks… >more

A New Anthology

February 16th, 2015
That's ParisWe talk with author Vicki Lesage about the making of the just-released anthology: That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light.  
What brought you to Paris?
Newly single and fresh out of a job, I figured—as the French say—why not? So I booked a flight to Paris, planning to stay for just the summer. Ten years, one husband, and two kids later, I’m still here!
What gave you the idea for this project?
After submitting to a few anthologies I thought, “Hey, why not do my own anthology?” This was right around the time fellow author Adria J. Cimino and I started our boutique publishing house, Velvet Morning Press, so we decided to make it our first project. VMP’s goal is to discover new writing talent and launch their careers, and an anthology is a great way to find new talent!
The authors write about Paris—how do they know Paris? Do they live here? Are they from here? Have they visited?


The 24 authors in this collection are extremely varied: American, French, Canadian, and British. Some live in France currently, some previously lived in Paris for a summer or a study abroad trip. Some are native Parisians, some have only been here on vacation. And some have never set foot on French soil! We think this gives the book a wide variety of perspectives so that no two stories are alike.
What types of stories does this collection include?
We have fiction and non-fiction. Stories about love and heartbreak, loss and hope. Sarcastic takes on Parisian life, glowing commentary on the wonders of the City of Light. Lessons learned, dreams dashed. Funny and dramatic. A little bit of everything!