The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. La seule façon de se débarrasser de la tentation, c’est d’y céder. —OSCAR WILDE
aris is not generally a producer—it is where products from all over the world converge. It is here that the respective qualities of every type of food are most appreciated, and put to the best use, to satisfy Parisians’ sensuality.
French haute cuisine is a cooking style that became famous in the 1900s. It is primarily a Parisian phenomenon and is best described as the meticulous preparation and presentation of food and wine. Nouvelle cuisine, also a Parisian cooking trend, emerged in the 1960s and emphasizes natural flavors—using the best possible ingredients and creating inventive pairings in the dishes that are served. Cuisine bourgeois is home-style cooking, with a focus on fresh ingredients and integrity in each taste, and it can be found at many local bistros in Paris.
Le marché, the market, is a typical Parisian experience. At the marchés, the buyers inspect the merchandise, gauging its quality and freshness while looking through the vast selection of foods to choose from the baskets and mountains of vegetables. Parisians love le marché. They offer simple versions of a Paris wonderland—discreet perfection. Parisians enjoy the charms of their local marché with its characteristic colors, smells, textures, and sounds. Le marché evokes a form of timeless simplicity, and going is a treat that allows one to connect with simple pleasures.
While some Parisians shop for food at the supermarket, they prefer to go to the marchés early in the morning to get the best groceries, even though the best prices are to be had when the markets are closing. Supermarkets, or supermarchés in French, are small by American standards, and are convenient, practical, and utilitarian. Shopping carts are small. Service is minimal, with shoppers having to move around crates of stacked merchandise in the middle of the aisles. Checking out can be a nightmare; you have to bag your own groceries and they can get mixed up with those of other customers. Parisians do not seem to mind, though; the supermarkets are this way because Parisians more often go to the outdoor markets and small shops for their food needs, and do not give too much thought to the supermarket experience.
Discerning chefs visit the open-air marché near the Trocadero in the 16th arrondissement twice weekly. This marvelous market is situated on Avenue du Président Wilson surrounded by Acacia trees and beautiful residential buildings with mansard roofs and wrought iron balconies. The aromas draw you into the market stalls, abounding with the freshest produce, meats, fish, poultry, cheese, bakeries, pastries, nuts, spices and crepes prepared any way you like. It’s heavenly! Perhaps the most visually striking stalls are those overflowing with beautifully displayed stacks and stacks of fresh flowers releasing wonderful scents.
A perfectly delightful place to both buy and experience food is at La Grande Épicerie de Paris at Le Bon Marché in the 7th arrondissement. The abundant selection of products are fresh and the displays exceptional. Walking through the aisles is a delight to the eyes as well as the palette. Filled with luxury and specialty items it is a playground “extraordinaire” for “ foodies”. Bring a large bag!
In Paris, dining together is a ritual. It offers the combined opportunity for good food and good conversation. Everything connected with dinner parties in Paris takes on an almost sacred importance. The quality of cooking comes first, and then comes the quality of the guests and conversation. The meal consists of the best and truest ingredients one can afford, and dining consists of the best each party can bring to the experience—from the food to the talk. In addition to the carefully chosen guests are the carefully selected wines, breads, cheeses, coffees, desserts, and table decorations. Parisians know how to do more with less and know there is a right moment for all things.
A meal should delight the senses, and to be enjoyed it must be both pleasing to the eye and thrilling to the palate. Restaurants are like theaters; they have their stage and their backstage.
Alain Ducasse is a star chef and the epitome of Parisian excellence. He has probably done more to promote Parisian cooking around the world than any other living chef. He chooses the best ingredients, hires the best staff, and creates a magnificent décor that is reflected in the restaurant of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Ducasse’s attention to detail makes the dining experience unforgettable. In 1998, he opened Spoon Food & Wine, a smart-casual bistro that allows guests to mix and match dishes. The concept, a trend that actually began in Los Angeles with Wolfgang Puck, was a hit with the fashionable jet-set crowd. parisian cuisine
Paris cafés, bistros, brasseries, and restaurants breathe so much history. These are places where Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Pablo Picasso came to eat and think. Many of these bistros remain in the Art Deco or Art Nouveau style, like Café de Flore, Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots, Brasserie Balzar, and La Coupole. Large mirrors line the upper half of walls, dark wood paneling wraps the bottom half, and white and green tiles line the doors. They are best known for their classical French cuisine: foie gras, escargots, salade au chèvre chaud, choucroute, steak frites, sole meunière, plateaux de fruits de mer, poulet rôti, mille-feuille, and mœlleux au chocolat. The meal is always accompanied by fresh, daily-made baguettes; the perfect accompaniment for any dish on the menu.
Perhaps best at marrying the old with the new is Café Marly, one of the Costes brothers’ many Parisian hospitality success stories. The terrace of the café offers a spectacular view of I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid at the Louvre. The restaurant features fashionable cuisine that is light and healthy. Another Costes creation, L’Avenue, is located on the celebrated Avenue Montaigne. It is frequented by celebrities, as it’s the perfect hideaway, just off the Champs-Élysées. The interiors of both are trendy and chic. Both are places to see and be seen. In a Parisian restaurant, the table to which the guest is shown is sometimes important—it can say everything about his or her social status.
Dining in a restaurant that has a stunning view of the city is an added attraction to the dining out experience. Located on the sixth floor of the Centre Pompidou is Le Georges, which has a breathtaking view of the rooftops and skyline of Paris. If you can reserve a table at sunset, you won’t bat an eye at the final check. And then there is the legendary Le Jules Verne, in the Eiffel Tower, for those who want to experience the ultimate in luxury. Not a single detail is missed at Le Jules Verne, lifting the bar of service higher than La Tour Eiffel itself. parisian cuisine
Parisians love sucreries (sweet things), and the window displays at the pastry shops are truly irresistible. Ladurée is the most decadent of the Parisian pâtisseries, known best for its invention of the macaron, a traditional light-as-air almond- and sugar-based sandwich cookie flavored with ingredients du jour. Parisians visit the salon de thé (tearoom), but also purchase them to go. Ladurée macarons are a delicious treat as gifts, and they not only delight the recipient but also assert the giver’s social value. Ladurée delivers with limited-edition and one-of-a-kind collectible packaging to keep long after the incomparable macarons are gone. parisian cuisine
Parisians stand in line for a cône de glace or sorbet at Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis, where they believe the best ice cream in the world is made. Standing in line is good—it gives Parisians a chance to decide which flavor and how many boules (scoops) they want.
Burgers are now flourishing on the menus of many Paris bistros and restaurants, and are considered to be hip and cool. It is interesting that in a city devoted to fine dining, gourmet burgers have caught on in such a big way. One of the best burgers in Paris is at Café Louise, a charming place on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Also in the 6th arrondissement is Coffee Parisien. But don’t let its name fool you—it’s less known for its great coffee than it is for its incredible burgers and lively setting. The 9th arrondissement features Big Fernand, an “atelier du hamburger” (hamburger workshop) where you can design your own burger. parisian cuisine
Food trucks, a very LA concept –gourmet style– are just becoming popular in Paris. “Best-Wheeled Restos” as they are referred to include: Camion Qui Fume, Le Cantine California, Le Refectoire, Mozza & CO (like LA?), Glaces Glazed, Le Camion Gourmet for people who love good food and Eat My Truck featuring gourmet “Hot- Dogs”. Monitored by the city of Paris, the food trucks are Facebook and Twitter savvy targeting a young hipster clientele. parisian cuisine
The level of service in a café, bistro, or restaurant is very important to Parisians, and the standards are very high and often difficult to live up to. The waiters in Paris are professional, serious about what they do, most often dressed formally in tuxedos, and carry themselves with pride. Yet they don’t always like being ordered around and can find themselves getting too easily frustrated when little things do not live up to their incredibly high standards. This passive-aggressiveness many times translates to the customer, and Parisians are often caught up in a whirlwind of reciprocal passive aggression. But, on a good day, the interaction can be fun, especially if the waiter or client tells a dirty joke. Waiters in Paris do joke around, in spite of how serious they are about their service. parisian cuisine
When you think Paris, think wine and cheese. Parisians love their cheese, and over 500 varieties are available in the many fromageries (cheese shops) in the city. The cheese course is an option on nearly every menu in every eatery, and every home is stocked with several varieties. French cheeses are truly special. Each cheese is distinct and appealing in its own particular way, whether aged and earthy or ripe and runny. It is not possible to pass a cheese shop in Paris without smelling the pungent air outside the door. And coupled with the fantastic selection of local wines available, it is possible to experience a match made in heaven every day. Parisian table wine, though inexpensive, is perhaps the worst quality of all Parisian wines—yet still absolutely fantastic. Most restaurants hire a sommelier to pick the wines, help customers choose, and find the perfect pairings of delightful flavors that continue to linger in your mind. For Parisians, these are de rigueur. parisian cuisine
By becoming immersed in the Parisian experience of food and dining out, one can feel the energy of life that covers a range of moods and experiences. Indulging in Parisian cuisine, in all of its rich and decadent glory, is a must. One of life’s greatest pleasures is taking a table at a Paris café for a morning café noir and croissants just watching the people and city moving around you. parisian cuisine