After an almost all night flight from Yaoundé, I awoke last Sunday to find Paris still sleeping–as was I. Charles de Gaulle Airport was uncannily warm to my New York sensibilities in March and I dozed in and out of lines and immigration and trains until at last, I tumbled out of an almost empty Gare du Nord into the heart of the sleepy city. Spring had already found Paris and I stood exhausted on a silent street while the soft morning light warmed my tired cheeks. Not a cloud in the sky. A car drove past. A bird swooped down from the side of a building and then the gentle silence settled down again. I took a moment to find my bearings on my trusty smartphone and with an overall sigh of contentment, set off on foot to find my hotel and my much missed boyfriend.
We did Paris well. Two people and roughly 48 hours resulted in a tally of four hamburgers, two steaks, one duck, a couple of terrines, a pack of pastries, a variety of potatoes, more cheese than we could carry and bread by the loaf, ahem, I mean loaves. We drank wine like it was going out of style and still made time for a few beers and an aperitif or two. In short, our trip was delightfully delicious. The fact that my pants still fit when I left seemed an altogether astounding stroke of good luck.
As you’ve probably guessed from our food tally, we weren’t standing in line at the Louvre or taking selfies atop the Eiffel Tower. Rather we did what we like to do best, we ate. Being our first holiday together and our first time together in a country that neither of us can claim to know particularly well, it was also an adventure that had us both generally tasting in the dark. There was plenty of hit or miss, but fortunately, far more hit than miss. Coffee was our one major miss. The coffee in the cafes in Paris is super expensive and our substantial and regular investment in 4 euro cups never tasted quite up to par.
But let’s focus on the hits. The burgers in Paris are good, real good and the burger joint Blend is at the top of my hit list. Although as an American I did have to come to terms with the fact that my burger was cut in half like a sandwich (!?) which eliminates the best burger bite of all, the center. But once I accepted this perversion and took my first bite, I never looked back. That’s the Signature Blend burger in the photo above which is made with beef, onion compote with balsamic vinegar, bacon and blue cheese, emmental cheese and baby spinach. But I think I preferred my boyfriend’s Smoke burger with beef, smoked cheddar, homemade ketchup, honey mustard and iceberg lettuce. The burgers also scored high on two of my essential burger criteria: the buns were sturdy enough to support the meat and all its toppings and the burger was the perfect size, not too small, but more importantly, not too big.
The strong and adorable French beer I washed it down with was also a hit. The Triple Cauwe brewed by Brasserie de Silly was golden, herb rich and mighty! An 8.5% alcohol beer for lunch can and did knock my socks off. The restaurant itself is very tiny, a little shoe box of a place with a clean minimalist design in black, white and wood. It filled up fast, but should I ever be in Paris again, I will be back.
Like all good tourists in Paris, we dutifully hit up a boulangerie or two (or three) and filled our pockets with fresh loaves and golden flakey treats. On our first morning, we followed a lead from Anthony Bourdain’s own short layover in Paris to the boulangerie Du Pain Et Des Idees. We sat outside under a bright and cloudless blue sky with a flaky l’escargot chocolat pistache for me and l’escargot rhum raisins for him. We also bought some herbed bread to nibble on which was salty and rich with the taste of olive oil and pleasingly dense.
I’m hop, skipping and jumping over a lot of the in between wine and mountains of cheese we consumed–at least some of the obscenity that is eaten in Paris should probably stay in Paris. My boyfriend is still raving about his foie gras and fig sauce burger at the French Beer Factory (yes, we really like burgers), but the last meal I want to note here we found in a random guidebook. Hungry for dinner and for something on the traditional side, we heeded our guidebook’s advice and hopped on the Metro heading south to the restaurant Le Petit Pascal where we deftly (and proudly) managed to eek our way through our order entirely in French as English wasn’t an option here. Two friendly women with cropped grey hair, thick round glasses and comfy clothes made from the likes of a New England wardrobe in denim, plaid and wool, single-handedly manned a no frills dining room full of Parisians of all ages.
We ordered a bottle of Medoc and shared a plate of cheese and meat while nibbling on cornichons and lavishly spreading hot mustard onto slices of bread. For our main courses, we blindly ordered two cuts of beef, entrecôte with roquefort sauce for me and pavés de rumsteak with roquefort sauce for him. We were not disappointed–steak awash in cheese? Yep, ‘nough said. The steak was cooked to perfection, the sauce enchantingly rich, the potatoes crisp and buttery and the green beans hot with garlic. I typically eat my steaks bare, but I was delighted to make this exception and so full when it was said and done that I was impressed I could still walk out of the restaurant. Needless to say, we skipped dessert.
I’ll leave this post now with one piece of traveling advice we hadn’t really prepared for when planning our trip. Paris is basically closed on Sunday and still substantially closed on Monday, at least in terms of restaurants. There were still plenty of options as we obviously didn’t go hungry, but they were notably limited. Fortunately, as this post attests, this didn’t stop us from eating like kings in Paris.