A Taste of Paris
“It’s a rainy night in Paris, and I’m sitting by the Seine. It's a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain”; the opening verse of Billy Joel’s song “Somewhere along the line”. And every time I hear it, I’m reminded of my favorite city. And who cares if it’s raining? You have your parapluie, you’re walking along deserted, glimmering cobblestone streets on the Left Bank, and there’s always a warm welcoming café to duck into for a coffee or a glass of wine.A word about French dining:
There are over 8,000 restaurants, bistros, cafes and bars to choose in Paris, with new ones popping up every day. So be adventurous and find your favorite haunt. Even good bistros come and go, as their owners retire. La Coulee d' Or and the Clown Bar, our favorite Corsican eatery and coolest wine bar; may they RIP.
In Paris, there is no shortage of places to dine, ranging from small bistros to Michelin star restaurants. Yes, you can dine at La Tour d'Argent, the cuisine is superb, ambiance stunning, plus they'll give you an English menu. You'll most likely enjoy a memorable dining experience. And afterwards, you will be presented with a bill for $$$$. I've actually got this place on my to do list...just as soon as I hit the lottery. We prefer the smaller bistros, and so does my wallet.
The French Menu; a potential challenge to the American tourist, especially at smaller bistros or cafes. I like carrying a small menu dictionary, preferably French to English, where you can usually quickly identify the item; beef, chicken, fish, rabbit, or well...let's just say they like to utilize every part of the food source. Pre-fixe menus, generally ranging from 30-60 euros per person, and are a veritable bargain. They can be three courses; appetizer, entree, and dessert. Sometimes four if they add a amuse bouche, which is usually a bite sized starter, a custard, or perhaps a soup served as a “shot”.
The chalkboard. You're all prepared; food dictionary in hand, and instead of handing you a menu, the waiter points to the chalkboard, where tonight's menu is written in script. And I mean written and not printed. And trying to decipher anything, it may as well be sans script. But don't be afraid to ask questions, even with just very limited French. The wait staff is normally very helpful when they see you're struggling. When I wasn't sure about an item, I asked; “C'est poission”? “Is it fish”? “Non monsieur” he replied, “C'est cabri”, and then quickly added in English, “it's goat”. And you know what? It was terrific.
When asking for tap water when dining, just say “une carafe d’eau (sounds like dough) sil vous plait”. If you want sparkling water, ask for a bottle of Badoit (baa-dwa).
A recent survey revealed that the France's most popular dishes were, in order:
- Magret de canard (Grilled duck breast)
- Moulles frites (Stewed mussels with side order of fries)
- Couscous (A North African dish...who knew?)
And there you have it, a quick rundown on French dining!