Memere Paulette: A la Rechere du Temps Perdu, B-

October 31, 2008

A crisp October day and a brisk walk down the rue du Faubourg Montmartre, one of my favorite streets in Paris for its being so guilessly eclectic. This ancient rue presents a classic Parisian cityscape before gentrification and luxury brand names disrupted so much urban turf. First, the wonderfully gemutlich windows of A la Mere de Famille, a first-rate confiserie, or candy and sweets shop that first hung out a shingle in 1761 and which sells the best marrons glace in the world, and then Les Pates Vivantes, a wonderful Chinese noodle shop. I notice a HALAL crepe maker—now there’s some fusion food for you—and stop to read the chalkboard menu at a very good wine bar, le Zinc des Cavistes at No. 5. This street, which always makes me think of New York with its density and vitality, offers up a lot of great eating.

Finally I reach the rue Paul Lelong (a name that would be perfect for a detective or a marathoner) and Memere Paulette, the tiny bistro where I’m meeting a friend for lunch.

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Chardenoux’s New Incarnation

October 24, 2008

For many years, Chardenoux was one of my favorite restaurants in Paris. This stunningly beautiful bistro in the 11th was opened by an Auvergnat couple of the same name at the turn of the last century, and they went all out on the decor with some of the most magnificent wedding cake moldings to be found anywhere in France, a dining room divided in half by a handsome beveled glass partition, and a long zinc bar posed on a stand of polychrome marble.

During what I now consider to be the restaurant’s hay day, chef Bernard Passavant was in the kitchen, and his superb market cooking pre-saged a major renewal of the bistro idiom as indicated by the one dish that I still desperately miss at his table: gigot de sept heures, or lamb cooked for seven hours until it fell off the bone, served with aligot, or that sublime Auvergnat elixir of potatoes whipped with Cantal cheese curds and garlic.

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Ozu: Good Food but Bad Vocabulary

October 17, 2008

Having come across several glowing reports of chef Thierry Marx’s new menu at Ozu, a Japanese restaurant tucked away in the aquarium at the Jardins du Trocadero, I went to dinner on Saturday with the blessedly indefatigible Bruno. For those who don’t know Marx, he’s the chef at Cordeillan Bages in Paulliac just north of Bordeaux, and he has two stars as one of the stars of the portentously and pretentiously named “molecular” cooking espoused by Ferran Adria, the grand priest of the movement. Oh–and what is molecular cooking? A lot of things, but mostly a cooking style that explores and highlights the chemical reactions that take place when food is cooked, which, of course, sounds more like NASA than Escoffier.

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Bonne Nouvelle in Bellechasse

October 8, 2008

For fifteen years I lived in the 7th arrondissement, first in the rue Monsieur and then in the rue du Bac right next door to the Couvent de la Medaille Miraculeuse. During this improbable stint in one of Paris’s swankiest arrondissements, I very rarely dined locally, which is to say within a five minute walk of my front door.

To be sure, there were a few good places nearby, notably L’Epi Dupin when it first opened and before it became so hopelessly overcrowded and manic. But as the nice woman in the now vanished bakery which used to fill the courtyard with wonderful buttery vapors every morning explained to me, my neighbors were more “gratte sou and Picard.”

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Back to Benoit

October 1, 2008


The first time I ever went to Benoit was one of the happiest meals I’ve had in 22 years of living in Paris. Three friends surprised me with dinner here as a birthday present, and I instantly feel in love with this mink-coat of a bistro in an ancient side street, the rue Saint Martin, not far from the Hotel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou. We ate terrine de foie gras, sauteed wild mushrooms, and cassoulet, all washed down with one of the best Pomerol I’ve ever had in my life.

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Great Food in the Marais

September 19, 2008

The Marais, the 4th arrondissement and part of the 3rd, has always been one of my favorite parts of Paris. I think the Place des Vosges is the perfect urban square a la francaise, I love the neighborhood’s architecture, and, most of all its diversity. The Marais was the original Jewish quarter in Paris, later became the center of Gay life in the city, and today is a deliciously overlapping mix of smart, tolerant, liberal-minded people who love to read (they’re lots of good book stores) and talk (great cafes abound).

Curiously, though, this part of the city has always been sort of a letdown for anyone who loves good food. To be sure, there’s the wonderful L’As du Falafel (world’s best as far as I’m concerned) in the rue de Rosiers, and a few other decent spots, like Chez Omar in the rue de Bretagne, but over-all, it’s never been a great food neighborhood.

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