Category Archives: Paris dining

Paris In Winter

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Well bonjour!! Thanks for taking my call after I so rudely ghosted you. I seem to be spending a lot more time on Instagram (@maihem)  than I do on this blog, which I suppose is a sign of the times. However, my husband asked that I post about our recent week in Paris, and it seemed the least I could do. This one’s for you, mon amour!

Paris calls to me in all seasons, but I have a particular weakness for her in winter, when the days and queues are short. The light, though elusive, is especially golden, and reveals the silhouettes of the trees normally clothed in foliage. The beauty is more austere than in other seasons, but no less compelling.

When I lived in Paris, the one inquiry I dreaded from friends was where they should stay. I was ill-equipped to answer, as we spent very few nights in hotels  before we moved into  our apartment. I have returned several times since we moved, however, and can now recommend several hotels, all of which I have stayed on more than one occasion and found to be consistently good.

The Marriott Renaissance Arc de Triomphe is short on atmosphere but was a great hotel for us the times we were there on business. It is surrounded by fun shops and is conveniently located in the 16th.

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I have loved Hotel Le Saint both times I stayed there. This is a small boutique hotel located in the swank neighborhood of Saint -Germain -Des -Pres in the 7th. The quiet street is a short walk from the lively Boulevard St. Germain, lined with stores and cafes and bars. The rooms are generously sized and very comfortable.

Who wouldn’t love staying in a boutique hotel just off of the picture-perfect Place des Voges in the Marais? La Pavillon de la Reine is a lovely 17th century building with fifty-six rooms, a quiet bar, and an enchanting terrace perfect for tea or cocktails. I love the calm, unstuffy elegance of this place. An added bonus is that you will never have trouble  finding your way back to the hotel because of the frequent signs pointing to the famous Place des Voges.

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This was taken when I was there in August- not quite as verdant in winter!

None of these hotels are inexpensive; however, we were always able to use credit card points or to find special deals on travel sites. Obviously there are many less- spendy places to stay in Paris- I am just sharing my experiences, which were all wonderful.

It’s always tempting to return to old favorite restaurants in Paris, but this time we made a concerted effort to try some new (or new to us) places to eat. Our favorite discovery was Le Rigmarole, a tiny place in the 11th opened in October by a French-American chef. The tasting menu was original and vibrant and crazy delicious. I am sure it will quickly get harder to book, and will also become more expensive than the reasonable 49 euros currently charged for the tasting menu. Go toute suite!

Another exciting find was Le Grand Bain, tucked away in the (sort of) gritty Belleville neighborhood. Despite our early 8:00 reservation, the place was packed with (mostly French) people enjoying the creative small plates. Two dishes we wanted were already sold out, which happens in these small restaurants that cook their food fresh and in limited quantities. Our waiter was most helpful in steering us toward other choices, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.

For some reason we rarely ate Asian food when we lived in Paris, despite the abundance of good Asian offerings. This time we popped into a very popular Japanese restaurant in Saint Germain called Ippudo. Ramen and pork buns were the perfect antidote to the cold weather and to our empty bellies.

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I was even able to find a spicy one, which is not easy to do in Paris!

We did make the required return visit to one of our enduring favorites, Ellsworth, where we have dined many times and never been disappointed. Americans Braden Perkins and his wife Laura Adrian moved to Paris in 2007 and soon opened Verjus (another of our darlings) and then Ellsworth, both of which were received  with much approval by Parisians and tourists alike. The Ellsworth menu is shared plates from a fairly limited menu that packs a lot of flavor and food into a small space. The only savory to remain a constant on the changing menu is the fried chicken with pickles, and we wouldn’t dream of not ordering it. This time the raw scallops made my eyes roll back in my head.

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Hey- looks aren’t everything.

The malt ice cream with crispy bits is a regular among the desserts and for good reason.

I understand that the owners are in the process of opening a third restaurant, so we will have another place to add to our rotation. This reporter looks forward to giving you the scoop on it as soon as she possibly can. I’m here for you. mes amis.

We only had six days, but we hit several museums, a few parks, walked our Fit Bits into ecstasy, saw some old friends, and drank way too much vin rouge. It was glorious.

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Don’t go changin’, Paris. I”ll be back.

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Filed under Arc de Triomphe, Belleville, Paris, Paris dining, Paris hotels, Paris in winter, Paris photos, Place de Vosges, Saint Germain des Pres, Uncategorized

Sola

imageWe arrived in Paris later than we had originally planned, and when I turned on my French phone I had two messages from Sola trying to confirm our reservation for that night. I was afraid they might have given away our spot, but when I called them back they assured me we were still welcome. I am so happy it worked out, because this was an amazing dining experience, even for Paris!

Sola is a Japanese- French restaurant just across the river from Notre Dame. We had never been there before, but I had been intrigued by the reviews raving about the inventive cuisine and beautiful presentation.

Upon entering the dining room, we were led down some wooden steps into a gorgeous cellar. There we were asked to relinquish our coats, scarves, and…our shoes! We were assigned little cubbies containing slippers and asked to exchange our shoes for the slippers. We then stepped up on an elevated wooden floor that had tables built down into it.

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Mark was a bit skeptical about the whole thing.

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But he loved my slippers.

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The servers were all young enough to be able to step up onto the platform and then smoothly kneel to their knees in order to deliver or pick up plates. My knees hurt just watching them.

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The menu was a “surprise” set menu- we were never given a written menu. I am pretty sure we got the same thing everyone around us got, and all eight courses were amazing. Most of the courses were fish, although there was at least one that was veal. The juxtaposition of different textures and temperatures within the same dish was brilliant, and the flavors all melded beautifully. Sorry I cannot recall what each dish was- I wasn’t even sure what some of them were when I was eating them!

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Sola was definitely a memorable dining experience! Not cheap and not quick. Not for one with a limited palate. But if you are ok with all that, book a table!

Just don’t wear a short, tight skirt that might make climbing up and down from the table awkward.

 

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Happy New Year, Paris!

Mark and I took the mid-afternoon train on Thursday from London to Paris, arriving just as the City of Light was getting dark. Mark has some business here (hooray!), so we thanked London for her hospitality, kissed her goodbye, and returned to this place that holds so many wonderful memories.

Can I just tell you how happy I am to be back in my favorite city??? I don’t think I have stopped smiling in the two days we have been here. Paris in January is divine-the big winter light is everywhere and the crowds have disappeared. Restaurants that usually require reservations days in advance are happy to offer us a table on short notice. PLUS it’s SALE TIME again! I have virtually no room in my suitcase but I am not opposed to jettisoning all of the clothes I have been wearing non-stop for four months to make space for bargains. Or even for “not quite bargains”. For the first time in several years I don’t know when my next trip to Paris will be, so I might need to take some Paris home with me. And compared with London, everything is a bargain. I think you can see where this is going.

I covered some serious ground yesterday.

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breakfast!

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It’s King Cake time again!

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I stopped by Merci, hoping for bargains.

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Of course I had to go say “bonjour” to the Place des Vosges. It looked a tad woebegone without its leafy green canopies, but still managed to be elegant.

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My favorite fancy hot chocolate spot was sparkly and beautiful.

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With some quick steps I managed to just catch the pink of the sun on the tops of Notre Dame.

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That evening I met Mark and some co-workers at the Mini Palais, one of our favorite places for drinks or dinner. I took the metro, and when I popped up I was pleasantly surprised to find the Champs Elysees still wearing her Christmas best.

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The Christmas vendors were still hawking their wares.

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The Mini Palais sits in a corner of the Grand Palais, and has one of the best terraces in town.

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The food looked almost too pretty to eat.

pumpkin soup with chestnuts

pumpkin soup with chestnuts

the BEST scallops

the BEST scallops

Not a bad day at all.

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Filed under Champs Elysees, Christmas, Grand Palais, Marais, Notre Dame, Paris, Paris dining, Paris in winter, Place de Vosges, Uncategorized

Paris Peninsula- Bar Kléber

Mark and I recently found ourselves back in Paris for two nights on either end of a quick trip to Normandy. It was a tad bittersweet to be in the city that felt like home but no longer was home. We stayed in the apartment of some good friends, the next best thing to being in our old place, which we both miss very much. But our friends’ apartment has this, which ours definitely did not, so….

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Our first night in Paris we were happy to find ourselves in the cozy Bar Kléber of the Peninsula Hotel. The hotel had thanked me for my glowing account of our visits to the rooftop bar and restaurant in July, and were gracious enough to invite us to try out the bar on the lobby level of that incredible property. How could we say non?

The evening had been rainy, so we opted to sit inside the bar rather than on the lovely, covered terrace that stretches along the imposing entrance to the hotel.
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The interior felt cozy on that damp and cool night.

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We were shown to a table for two that would have been quite romantic had our chairs not wrapped around us at shoulder level, making even holding hands a challenge. I guess they could tell we were too old for romantic. But if you’re into that kind of thing, don’t sit in the wrap-around chairs.

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Mark chose the hotel’s signature cocktail, the Kléber, while I decided on the Ramos fizz. They were as delicious as they were pretty. Mark’s donned a jaunty white feather, while mine wore a flirty purple pansy.

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Although we had  just eaten dinner at Ellsworth, we didn’t turn down the nuts and olives they brought with our drinks.

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The atmosphere of the Bar Kléber was sophisticated without being pretentious. Quiet music played in the background, never obtrusive, and adding a note of elegance. The dim lighting, although making photographs difficult, lent an atmosphere that was both discreet and inviting.  The gold gilt so prevalent throughout the elegant hotel decorated the wood paneling like frosting on a fancy wedding cake.

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Obviously there is not a ground floor bar on the planet that can compete with a rooftop view of the City of Light, but the Bar Kléber provided a warm and cozy venue for a delicious fancy cocktail on a misty night in Paris.

Merci, Peninsula, for wrapping up our day in Paris in such elegance.

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Filed under dining with a view, Paris, Paris dining, Paris Peninsula Hotel, Uncategorized

Top Of The Paris Peninsula

Mark and I had to move out of our apartment on a Friday so we had a lot of time to say goodbye to Paris before our flight home on Monday.

I had been a little bit obsessed with the Peninsula Hotel since it opened after its four-year restoration a year ago. Check out this video to see why I was so enamored of this gorgeous hotel that was restored with such attention to detail and authenticity. Even my obsession, however, could not allow me to justify the cost of a night there. We did, however, venture to the rooftop bar one afternoon, and then to the enclosed rooftop restaurant the next day for lunch.

It doesn’t cost a centime to walk into the lobby and admire the stunning glass sculpture entitled “Dancing Leaves”. The 800 hand-blown glass leaves represent the sycamore leaves that shade so many Paris streets. They appear to be blowing in the breeze and landing in the lobby, and the effect is breath-taking.

The flower arrangements were understated in a towering kind of way.

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The downstairs Bar Kleber looked so cozy. I totally kicked myself for not ever meeting Mark there. His office was just a short walk up the street.

We headed up to the roof bar on a Saturday afternoon, where the view was mighty fine but the sun was mighty hot.

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The terrace is part of the lovely l’Oiseau Blanc, a restaurant with a retractable roof, where we enjoyed an elegant lunch the following day. L’Oiseau Blanc was named after a French bi-plane that disappeared in 1927 while attempting to make the first non-stop flight between Paris and New York. The aviation theme of the restaurant is classy and not at all over-the-top.

Even making our reservation only the day before, we scored a very nice table (number 25). In face, according to a recent article in Conde-Naste, we enjoyed the nicest view of any of the tables for two. It was next to the most coveted four-person table, Table 17, in the corner. Now you can ask for them by number when you make your own reservation!

Table 17

Table 17

I loved the plates even before they had any food on them.

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When I was looking up the hotel information for this post I noticed that Google describes this restaurant as “Down Home Cooking”. Hmmmm- not at my home, Google.

Here were the “Down Home Desserts”:

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I loved the little propeller on the left!

The bathroom, though keeping with the aviation theme, was nicer than any one I have ever used on Air France.

and yes, smoking

and yes, smoking “in the toilets” was strictly forbidden, just like on a real plane

Just outside the window on the far side of the restaurant was this model of l’Oiseau Blanc.

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And just off its left wing was this excellent view of the Eiffel Tower.

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If you are in the mood for some Down Home Cooking, head on over to the Peninsula Hotel and ask for Table 25. It will be a meal to write down home about.

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Filed under dining with a view, Eiffel Tower, Paris, Paris dining, Paris Peninsula Hotel

Fun Night Out At Frenchie Wine Bar

I hope you all had a nice weekend and that your week is off to a smashing start. We finally got a little cleansing rain here in Paris yesterday, and today the sun and cool breeze have returned. If this month has been typical of Paris in June, I highly recommend a June vacation to Paris. The crowds are thinner than they will be next month, and the weather has been ideal.

My college roommate and long-time good friend is on her way to me right this minute, having the good sense to flee Texas in summer and be rejuvenated in Paris. We will have a fun week of walking, shopping, and (of course) dining and drinking.

Speaking of dining and drinking, Mark and I recently had a spontaneous and thoroughly enjoyable Friday evening at one of our favorite spots, Frenchie Wine Bar. You may have heard of her older and harder-to-get sister,Frenchie, who is just across the street. Frenchie has been a hot dining spot here for several years. We tried unsuccessfully to get reservations there for months before the Wine Bar opened across the street. The Wine Bar doesn’t take reservations, and once we  experienced its delicious food and lively atmosphere I decided I didn’t care if I never went to Frenchie. Since then we have returned many times, often with visitors from home, and have never been disappointed. The Wine Bar opens at 7:00 PM every night, and we have always gone an hour early in order to be at the front of the line. The place is small and people tend to linger, because the food is served in small plates and people order at a leisurely pace. This last time, however, we didn’t plan ahead and showed up closer to 8:45. We had to wait for an hour but did it inside at the bar, providing me with ample time and material for taking pictures. Enjoy.

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This lobster roll was probably the best thing we ate all night. Divine.

This lobster roll was probably the best thing we ate all night. Divine.

This couple was also waiting and I thought she was so chic. He- not so much.

This couple was also waiting and I thought she was so chic. He- not so much.

Enjoy your day, mes amis.

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Filed under Paris, Paris dining

Walking Around Belleville

I spent a lovely day last week wandering around the Belleville neighborhood, which felt like a world away from the eighth. Back in the mid-19th century, Baron Haussmann’s makeover of Paris left many slum residents homeless. Throngs of these displaced people fled to Belleville, and today the area is home to many working-class people of all ethnic backgrounds. This is the place to look for those exotic ingredients or spicy peppers, or for authentic ethnic restaurants. Belleville also offers beautiful vistas of Paris without the crowds and tacky souvenir shops surrounding Sacre Coeur.

My first stop was Parc de Belleville. This relatively new park (I think it was opened in 1988) is built into a hillside and is a series of shady paths traversing the hill and stairs going up and down. It was serene on that late morning, with only a few people occupying shady benches and a small group of sun-worshippers having lunch in an open yard. IMG_2397 IMG_2395 IMG_2399 The park was nestled right up against apartment buildings, whose residents no doubt enjoy the view as well as the prime picnic opportunities. IMG_2398 IMG_2400 IMG_2401 And the view!! IMG_2402 Just outside a park exit was this inviting little cafe with a shady terrace. IMG_2407 I took a seat at one of the colorful tables and ordered the cheese and tomato tart. IMG_2403 IMG_2404 And then this happened. Don’t judge. I was climbing hills. I needed my strength. IMG_2405 Just across the street was this adorable building anchored by a boulangerie. I fantasized about living on the top floor. Yes, I would have been able to touch both sides of the apartment at the same time, and my bed would have to be placed diagonally. But I could rig a basket onto a rope pulley and send my money down and then pull a warm baguette or croissant back up through my window! And then I could eat them while admiring my view of the Eiffel Tower. How sweet would that be? IMG_2406 After that lunch, I had some walking to do. IMG_2409 IMG_2410 IMG_2413 I walked a long way up Rue Gambetta, which begins with this gorgeous Art Deco metro station. IMG_2414 IMG_2415 This street borders one side of the Pere Lachaise cemetery and offers a beautiful shady walk. IMG_2416 IMG_2396 IMG_2417 IMG_2419 IMG_2420 The street is also home to many elementary schools like this one. Each has a marble plaque commemorating the Jewish children who were removed from the schools and taken to camps with the cooperation of the Vichy government. It is difficult to visualize those scenes, how terrified and confused those poor children had to have been. IMG_2418 IMG_2424 IMG_2425 IMG_2427 I did not go to Place Sainte-Marthe on this trip to Belleville, but one of our very favorite restaurants is found there, Le Galopin. It’s well worth a trip off the beaten path the next time you are in Paris.

Thanks for visiting!

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Filed under Belleville, Le Galopin, Paris, Paris dining