Christmas in Paris: Food

Holiday Food

No one needs to be reminded that food is an essential part of the holiday celebrations, and for this second part of our tri-city series, let me recommend a few places to eat some of the delicacies that epitomize Christmas in Paris.

[New York Food] [London Food]

Oysters!

A traditional treat to open a holiday feast is the platter of oysters, freshly delivered from the ocean and freshly opened by whoever is brave enough to risk slashing his left palm open. Oysters are most often served in the shell on a bed of crushed ice — although some purists argue that this dulls their flavor — with thin slices of rye bread, salted butter, and lemon juice. Besides the many classic Parisian brasseries which proudly display their selection on sidewalk stands, a good place to eat oysters is L’Ecaille de la Fontaine in the 2nd. It is owned by the über-famous actor Depardieu, who also operates La Fontaine Gaillon, just a few steps away. L’Ecaille is the marine annex to this pricier venue, and offers a daily selection of ultrafresh shellfish and related dishes. Their oysters can be tasted in the 19€ formula (9 oysters, a dessert and a glass of wine) or in the larger variety platter (62€ for 2). The restaurant is closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, but they will be open for New Year’s Eve with an 80€ menu (make your reservation asap).

L’Ecaille de la Fontaine
15 rue Gaillon, 75002 Paris
01 47 42 02 99
Closed on Sat-Sun.

Game!

The hunting season officially opens in early September and closes in late February. Regardless of how you feel about hunting — a higly controversial topic, I know — the discerning palate will appreciate the unique flavors that game provides, whether it’s deer (daim or biche), boar (sanglier or marcassin), wild ducks (col-vert or sauvageon) or other birds (palombes or cailles). Two excellent restaurants feature those animals prominently on their seasonal menus: Chez Michel in the 10th, which mainly focuses on Brittany-inspired cuisine, and L’Ami Jean in the 7th, a South-West gastro-bistro.

Chez Michel
10 rue de Belzunce, 75010 Paris
01 44 53 06 20
Closed on Sat-Sun and Mon. for lunch.
L’Ami Jean
27 rue Malar, 75007 Paris
01 47 05 86 89
Closed between Dec. 24 to Jan. 3.

Bûches de Noël!

“Christmas logs” are the typical dessert to end a holiday meal. Traditionally topped with super-kitsch plastic decorations that children will noisily fight over — little Santas, dwarves or raindeers, tiny sleds or saws — they are either made of ice-cream (bûche glacée) or with sponge cake and buttercream. Any corner pâtisserie will offer a selection over the holiday season, but if you want to go the haute-couture route, you can opt for one of the six different bûches that will be available from Pierre Hermé boutiques starting on Dec. 19: Azur (chocolate and yuzu), Dune (praline and pistachio), Envie (blackcurrant, violet and almonds), Ispahan (raspberry, rose and litchi), Plénitude (chocolate and caramel) or Sarah (chestnuts, green tea and passionfruit), these are log versions of some of the delicious cakes from his fall/winter collection. I recommend the Vaugirard location, much less crowded than its Bonaparte counterpart — and while you’re at it, try the new chestnut and dog-rose macaron which will make its appearance on Dec. 10.

Pierre Hermé
185 rue de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris
01 47 83 89 96
or 72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
01 43 54 47 77
(The bûches cost 30€ for 3/4 people, 52€ for 6/8.)

Chocolate!

If you ask me, the whole point of the holidays is to guiltlessly eat large amounts of quality chocolate bites. Patrick Roger is not the best known chocolate maker in Paris — probably because his first shop was in Sceaux and he didn’t open his Paris location until recently — yet true connoisseurs include him without hesitation in their list of top chocolate artists. He is a talented chocolate sculptor, and he likes to offer a new take on classics by playing with unexpected flavor combinations, which earned him the distinguished title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2000. In his Saint-Germain-des-Prés boutique, where the staff is very friendly and the heady scents will knock you right over, you’ll likely have trouble deciding what to get — ganaches, pralines, orangettes, truffles or simply tablettes — but whatever you choose you will be pleased with your selection, neatly arranged in the signature green ballotin. Over the holiday season, starting on Dec. 10, don’t miss his delicious fir-trees made of chocolate, caramelized almonds and orange rind.

Patrick Roger
108 bd St-Germain, 75006 Paris
01 43 29 38 42

Chestnuts!

Few smells evoke Christmas to me like that of roasted chestnuts, bought from sidewalk stands. Paris is not really a city of streetfood — Parisians like to sit down for their meals — but crepes and roasted chestnuts are a notable exception. While the former are available year-round, the latter sprout up as soon as the weather gets chilly, especially on busy boulevards in the vicinity of department stores. The chestnuts are roasted on crude metal drums until tender, and for a euro or two you will get a nice serving — piping hot — in a paper cone, which you can peal messily and gobble up while you resume your shopping. And if you prefer glazed chestnuts, the above-mentioned Patrick Roger and Pierre Hermé offer superior ones, freshly-made and heavenly.

Note: For more restaurant choices, Le Guide du Fooding — to which I contributed with the 4th arrondissement reviews is now available online (in French).

  • http://www.negrito.net Negrito

    hi that is really a goiod idea.. I thought about doing the same but you do it better than I would have done it so… bravo and thanks..; and what a pity we never met !!

  • margot

    I am looking for a wonderful restaurant for dinner on Dec. 25. suggestions?

  • margot

    correction of e mail from question regarding Christmas dinner in Paris

  • lucy

    where can I buy a real Virginia ham ?

  • Leslie

    Lucy, you can get a real (what you call “Virginia Ham”) from the link below:

    http://www.virginiatraditions.com/ShowView/product/6/3

    or

    http://www.apptrav.com/meats.html

    Sometimes these hams are called “Smithfield” or “Country” hams. They are traditionally salted and hung in smoke houses for months to cure and are hard as bricks when you receive them from the smokehouse. Also, they are completely impregnated with salt, so salty something like salted cod but much more. Cooking them is very tricky as you must first scrub them clean with a strong bristle brush because they become grimey and sometimes moldy during the smoke process, soak them in water for days changing water every day, remove the skin, boil them slowly for hours, then, traditionally they are, covered in a brown sugar mustard glaze with pineapples, cherries and studded with cloves – baked in an oven slowly for several hours. Occassionally, these hams are stuffed with field greens, served with cornbread or spoonbread. The resulting meat is sliced tissue paper thin and served with Southern homemade biscuits. I think this is something a novice should not attempt unless they have an older experienced Southern American at hand who knows how to cook this type of ham; it takes generations of cooks teaching the babies at their knees this technique. These hams are very expensive and you might easily ruin it with no way to salvage the meat; or worse, not get all the salt out and have a mass of unpalatable saline smoke. Better for you to get a regular ham (called a sweet ham), enjoy and Cheers!

  • sarah

    Myself and some of my Australian friends are looking for a restaurant to celebrate the day of the 25th December. We’re going to Le Petit Marche for dinner but are looking for a restaurant, or alternatively a festive activity/brunch/lunch or bar to spend the day. Any thoughts?

  • karena

    I used your chocolate reference (Patrick Roger) to buy gifts for my family recently and they loved it! Thanks. Do you have any other lesser-known chocolate shop recommendations? I’d love to send some from a few different places.

    Thanks!

  • Ann

    Does anyone know where to buy a Smithfield ham in Paris ??

  • Angelina

    My family and I are looking for a place to have christmas eve/day lunch or dinner in Paris…any suggestions?

  • deborah

    We are arriving in Paris 24 December 2009 and staying in marais district; we are vegetarian; any suggestions for cafes/restaurants that would be open xmas day?
    merci!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Deborah – In France, Christmas is very much a family gathering held at home, and most restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and often until the new year), so eating out on that night and the next day can be a challenge. There is no master list of open/closed restaurants, unfortunately — you sort of have to call them one by one — but you will likely find some brasseries open on Christmas Day. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can ask the person at the desk to recommend places in your neighborhood.

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