Gather 'round children and let me tell you a story.
It's a tale as old as time.
Girl goes to Paris. Girl is surrounded by endless opportunities to stuff her face with profiteroles, macarons, eclairs, butter, cheese, brioche, etc….Girl becomes fluent in the language of food, beginning with how to say waffle in French (gaufré). Girl eats everything in sight. Girl can't fit into pants anymore. Girl gets depressed and has clandestine meetings in fromageries with decadent triple cream truffle bries whispering seductively "Who needs abs or clear skin?" in her ear. Girl has a personal epiphany, accepts her love handles and buys a closet full of muumuus. Girl stays in Paris. Girl claims it's because she cannot bear to leave the charming city of lights when in reality, she can't afford to pay for two plane seats – a seat for each butt cheek – back home. Girl's life is turned into a predictable rom-com featuring Diane Lane, leading girls all over the world to embark on their own Parisian love affair with food à la Eat, Pray, Love (but without the Pray and Love).
Maybe not the oldest love story ever told but the romance with food in Paris for me was real, especially when it came to all things pastry and covered in cheese and/or butter.
Here are the most delicious conquests from my trip to Paris:
01/ Les Choux from Odette
Delicate works of art with colourful little hats on top, the choux à la crème or cream puffs from Odette Paris are fluffy, hollow pastries filled with light and flavourful cream in a range of flavours from coffee and lemon to the classic vanilla and chocolate. The miniature size means you don't need to feel guilty about indulging in a box of 6 or 12 (always get 12).
ODETTE PARIS | 77 Rue Galande
02/ Brioche Burgers from Le Ruisseau
Conveniently up the street from the abode I was overstaying my welcome at, Le Ruisseau is home of some of the best burgers in Paris. You can't get more français than a beef tartare burger on brioche-style buns! More dessert than bread, the brioche was light and fluffy, while the tartare was tender and high quality. The bbq cheddar burger, while less typical French, was even better, in my opinion.
LE RUISSEAU | 65 Rue du Ruisseau
03/ Gaufré Sandwich from Buvette
By now you must know how passionately I feel about breakfast. What you may NOT know is that I'm not crazy about sweet and savoury combos in general but Le Sandwich at Buvette changed my mind (and my life! Dramatic? Mais oui but when in France…). Deep wells of syrup fill the gaufrés or waffles containing a plump egg, bacon and perfectly melted cheese.
BUVETTE GASTROTHÈQUE | 28 Rue Henry Monnier
04/ Chocolate Chaud from Cafe de Flore
There are few activities more French than lounging on a café terrace, sipping a warm drink and where better to do that than the iconic Cafe de Flore? Get settled on a woven seat in the middle of the action and get nice and toasty with a thick, just-sweet-enough Chocolat Chaud, arriving steaming in a stainless steel milk jug.
CAFÉ DE FLORE | 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain
05/ Escagots from L'Escargot Montorgueil
Not for the faint-of-heart, escargots or snails are a well-known French delicacy so it's not a hard dish to find. Armed with tongs and a mini two-pronged fork, I attacked the traditional dozen snails (still in the shell) and smothered in a garlic parsley butter with a side of a juicy bone marrow on the heated indoor patio of L'Escargot Montorgueil, located in the district of Les Halles.
L'ESCARGOT MONTORGUEIL | 38 Rue Montorgueil
06/ Macarons from Christophe Roussel
Everyone has a different opinion on where the best macaron – the quintessential French dessert – can be found. I couldn't say for sure which is the best but the uniquely flavoured lavender apricot macaron from Christophe Roussel's shop in Montmartre was delicate and the perfect texture! Naturally the caramel is must-try since no matter where you get it, it's always amazeballs.
CHRISTOPHE ROUSSEL | 5 Rue Tardieu
07/ L’oeuf Christian Dior from Prunier
The most extravagant dish I ever had in Paris was at Prunier, a beautiful art deco style establishment surviving from the French Belle Époque period. L'oeuf Christian Dior is comprised of soft-boiled egg is set in jelly with a quenelle of caviar, originating from a dinner hosted by Mr. Christian Dior himself, where Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were guests.
PRUNIER | 16 Avenue Victor Hugo
08/ Roasted Mushrooms from Hardware Societé
Being adamant meat eaters, we almost didn't order MY FAVOURITE dish of my most recent visit to Paris – the Roasted Mushrooms from Hardware Societé. Roasted hazelnuts are artfully crumbled around corpulent poached eggs that sit atop an array of mushrooms, olive bread and a smear of white bean purée.
THE HARDWARE SOCIÉTÉ | 10 Rue Lamarck
09/ Marron from Monsieur Benjamin
From the cozy interior to the expertly-crafted desserts to the packaging of the products for sale, Monsieur Benjamin's Art Pastry Shop exemplifies a high level of artistry. I noticed that chestnut cream was a popular flavour in Paris so I opted for the Marron "Street Tarte" – so-called as it's “easy to enjoy with fingertips in the street “– with chestnut cream and foam and a chocolate pie-crust pastry.
MONSIEUR BENJAMIN | 63 Rue Saint-Martin
10/ Iberico Jamon from Pink Mamma
Free things always taste better. That’s a fact. We were fortunate that a errant plate of Jambon di Parma landed in front of us. We thought that accidentally ordered it in our mangled French and devoured the melt-in-your-mouth ribbons of ham without a second thought.
PINK MAMMA | 20bis Rue de Douai
11/ Tagine from Au P’tit Cahoua
After discovering that Paris was home to a sizeable North African population, I knew that I had to satisfy my Moroccan cuisine craving. My new friends took me to Au P'tit Cahoua where we sipped on sweet mint tea, poured from a great height as is tradition. I ordered the Lamb Eggplant and Cheese Tagine that arrived at the table sizzling and fragrant in the conical, clay pot.
AU P'TIT CAHOUA | 39 Boulevard Saint-Marcel
12/ Fromage Blanc from Soul Kitchen
Even with my limited French I knew that the dessert of the day, fromage blanc, translated to white cheese and that’s not the first thing I think of when it comes to dessert. The arrived at our table in the cozy Soul Kitchen in a hipster mini-mason jar and I had my first spoonful of the marscapone/Greek yogurt consistency, the tartness balanced by the sweet blueberry compote.
SOUL KITCHEN | 33 Rue Lamarck
13/ Mussels from Brasseries Barbes
On a suggestion from a friend, we dropped by the refurbished Brasserie Barbès, a polished, trendy haven in the midst of a gritty neighbourhood in Paris. Seated in a room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the city with plants cascading down around us, we tucked into a massive bowl of mussels, fragrant with shallots and spices, served with a side of perfectly crispy frites.
BRASSERIE BARBÈS | 2 Boulevard Barbès
14/ Brillat Savarin with Truffles
When people ask me what the absolute best things I ate during my trip, I respond definitively with the Brillat Savarin with truffles – a triple cream truffle brie. France is renowned for it's cheese and for good reason since it's just creamier and more nuanced in flavour. No lie, it made me get teary-eyed. Grab a wheel of it from nearby fromagerie in Paris, and a crusty baguette and enjoy in the park for an impromptu picnic!