Paris

10 Tips for Picking a Paris Restaurant

Paris Restaurant

All photos in this post by Anne Elder.

Whether you live in Paris or you’re just visiting, chances are you spend a lot of time thinking, reading, talking, and fretting about restaurants.

It’s entirely natural. Paris is an international capital of good food and gastronomy (the birthplace of it, even) so you want to make every meal count, yet you know its 40,000 restaurants are not created equal.

This is fertile ground for FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and its sneaky cousin, FOPTWR (Fear Of Picking The Wrong Restaurant).

So before you make yourself crazy, let me offer you my Ten Paris Restaurant Tips.

Tip #1: Be clear on your wants and needs

This is the most basic thing, but many people skip that part.

Before you go down the rabbit hole of searching for “Best Restaurants in Paris”, take a moment to list (in your mind or on paper) the features you’re looking for. How many people are you eating with and what kind of diners are they? What style of cuisine are you into? What kind of ambiance do you want to spend the night in? What price level do you want to go for? Any food preferences or dietary constraints?

Keep all of those at the forefront of your mind during your search, so you can swiftly brush aside anything that looks kinda cool but isn’t the focus du jour. A huge time saver.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

Tip #2: Follow the locals

It is generally more reliable to get recommendations from people who actually live in the city, and can put a restaurant, chef, cuisine, or trend in the context of many more dining experiences. This is not to dismiss the reports of short-term visitors; I myself like to write about my forays in other cities, but I don’t claim expertise and expect my readers to double-check against local sources.

Take the time to identify a few locals (native or not) whose voice and opinions resonate with you, whose dining temperament seems to align with yours, and follow their restaurant adventures. It can be bloggers, magazine columnists, or collective websites; what matters is that there be a consistent viewpoint from one review to the next.

I like to follow friends such as Caroline Mignot, Lindsey Tramuta (author of The New Paris!), and Aaron Ayscough. I get the weekly review from Le Fooding and the My Little Paris newsletter. I use the website Paris by Mouth and keep an eye on Esterelle Payany’s reviews in Télérama and François-Régis Gaudry’s blog at L’Express (he has a TV show on Paris Première and a radio show on France Inter if you can’t get enough of him). I don’t read everything they write (hello, overwhelm!), but when I need fresh recommendations, these are my go-to’s. (For content written in French, Google Translate is your friend!)

I have no use for crowd-sourced review websites: without knowing the people writing and their background, the litany of random opinions is meaningless to me.

Planning a trip to Paris?

I am available to take you on a private walking tour to show you some of my favorite food spots. Please get in touch and I will be happy to provide more details!

Paris Restaurant

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The Best Baguette in Paris

Best Baguette in Paris

The official Meilleure Baguette de Paris competition was held last Thursday, and the 2017 winner of the Best Baguette in Paris award is (drumroll please) Sami Bouattour from Boulangerie Brun, a bakery that’s at 193 rue de Tolbiac in the 13th arrondissement (métro Tolbiac).

The competition is held every year, and it is organized by the Mairie de Paris, the mayor’s office, to spread the word about Paris as a city of fabulous bread — which it no doubt is — and to foster a healthy sense of competition between the boulangers, who strive to improve their craft in the hopes of winning that coveted distinction.

Best Baguette in Paris

How is the Best Baguette in Paris prize awarded?

The competition is held over a single day. The bakers bring in their baguettes in the morning, and the jury spends the day grading them (anonymously) for appearance, quality of the baking, smell, and flavor. About 200 bakers enter the competition every year.

The 14-person jury is made up of other bakers, chefs, journalists, and also individuals who can put their name in and hope to be selected to participate. (It sounds like fun but it is a lot of bread to taste! Your senses and your brain get fatigued quickly when it’s not your profession. But a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure.)

At the end of the day, the names of the top baguette makers are announced.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

What’s in it for the baker?

For the lucky winner, the prize is threefold:

  • First and foremost, it is excellent publicity. The bakery puts a big sign in the window, it is talked about and featured in all the local papers, and bread lovers from around the city (and the world) come in to taste the new Best Baguette in Paris. Once that effect has subsided, locals continue to think of that bakery as the best in the neighborhood, and will favor it over the competition.
  • The winner receives a cash prize of 4000€. Not enough to retire (otherwise the city has just lost its best baker) but enough to buy a new piece of equipment, paint the store front, or maybe take the entire staff to a fancy dinner. (That’s what I’d do myself; excellent for karma, excellent for PR.)
  • Finally, the winning bakery becomes the official provider of baguettes for the Palais de l’Élysée, the French White House, where the lives and works. This means that the Président de la République eats that baguette daily, but more important, it is the bread served for all the official meals with ambassadors and foreign dignitaries. It is not a very large number of baguettes (about 25 a day I am told) but bread is such a central component of the French food culture that it is a very big deal to be THE baker who makes THE baguette served to some of the most illustrious people in the world.

Best Baguette in Paris - Held

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25 Best French Songs about Paris, Old & New

Photography by Anne Elder.

As I was putting together the chapter openings for my upcoming cookbook Tasting Paris, I was inspired to illustrate each with a few lines from a beautiful French song about Paris. (I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty pleased with this idea; I hope my editor keeps it in.)

Wanting to expand beyond my own knowledge of Paris-inspired songs, I asked my Facebook friends — such a clever, resourceful bunch — to suggest their own favorites. The resulting collection was so uplifting and brought me so much joy I couldn’t keep it to myself, so here it is, for your enjoyment.

You can listen to the songs individually, or play the whole bunch using this YouTube playlist or
Spotify playlist I created for you (and for me).

Do you have one you love that’s not included here? (Note: I decided to stick to French-language songs as a theme here, but feel free to submit songs in other languages!)

Classic Songs about Paris

“J’ai deux amours”, Josephine Baker

“Les Prénoms de Paris”, Jacques Brel

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10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

Hey, Happy Valentine’s Day! Do you have something fun scheduled with your special someone, with your friends, with your kids? I want to hear all about it!

For our first Saint-Valentin as newlyweds, Maxence and I had an advance dinner at a new Italian restaurant in our neighborhood, Il Cuoco Galante (“the gallant cook,” named after an 18th-century book of Neapolitan cuisine), where I had a marvellous dish of fresh-made fusilli.

I also surprised him this morning with a cloud-shaped collage of pictures from our recent wedding on one wall of our living room, plus (going all out, people!) I’ve hand-lettered a card for him, directly inspired by one I featured in my Valentine’s Day gift guide. (Can you guess which one?)

And since I write to you from the city of love, inarguably, my gift to you is this mini-guide I put together with 10 Romantic Ideas in Paris, free to download!

PS: Short on time but still want to mark the occasion? These five last-minute recipes for Valentine’s Day are for you!

PPS: Need help getting into the spirit? Jacques can help: (He always gives me the chills.)

My Paris Wedding

All photos by Fabien Courmont.

On December 22, 2016, twenty years to the day after our first date, Maxence and I got married.

It was a small wedding — just our parents, siblings, sons, and closest friends — that we decided on and planned in just two months, because we’re crazy like that.

It was, quite suitably, the most magical, the most romantic day of my life, and I kinda want to do it again this year, and the next, and the next (with the same man, obv.).

One of the benefits of getting married when you’re thirty-seven years old and you’ve been together for twenty, is that you know yourself and the other person very, very well. You can make swift and easy decisions that feel 100% you, and you can flow through the planning in a way that is joyful and exciting and a celebration of your relationship.

In that spirit, I want to share with you some of the choices that added up to create the perfect day for us.

If you don’t give two figs about weddings, I’m not offended in the least; I was firmly in your camp up until three months ago, so click away, my friend, click away.

But for those of you who geek out on this kind of stuff, here goes. (Also, I have put together this mini-guide of 10 Romantic Ideas in Paris that is free to download!)

Bride & groom's hands

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