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Paris report -- Days 1-3 (long)

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A big thank you to all of you for your help over the past 6 months of constant questions and obsessions. It was totally worth it. Here is my food report, divided into several long chunks...enjoy!! (And I apologized in advance for misspelled words...I tried my best!)

A Week in Paris: Meal by Meal
The Gastronomical Adventures of a Foodie and Her Accommodating Husband

Day One
Breakfast -- Arrived at 6:30 a.m. and got to our B&B on Ile St. Louis around 9. Dropped off our luggage and began to explore. Went straight to Calixte -- the patisserie highly recommended by Patricia Wells. Ate our first pain au chocolat of the week. It was delicious but not mind-blowing. We had better ones every day at our B&B, but it certainly whet our appetite for all the wonderful food and treats to come.

Lunch -- Tried to go to Le Vieux Bistro near Notre Dame, but they were
closed due to a stove malfunction. It was cold and rainy and I was
really hoping for some of their boeuf bourgignon. Another time. We
walked down the street to the Cafe Esmerelda and enjoyed our first cafe
meal. I had a croque madame -the famous grilled ham and cheese sandwich
with an egg on top that I’ve been wanting to try. And a side dish of
aligot -- the mashed potatoes and cheese dish from the Auvergne region.
Both were hot and comforting to my soul. The croque madame was similar
in ingredients to breakfast sandwiches we find in the States, but far
better. And the aligot was amazing...I’d say half cheese and half
potatoes whipped together into a thick “glop” and I mean that in the
best way. So tasty and heavy and just what I needed on a cold, rainy
day. (I hate cold, rainy days!) The sandwich came with a small salad,
which was a good balance to all that richness! Husband had duck confit
which he loved and even gave me a bite which made me swoon. A very
successful first French lunch!

Dinner -- Our hosts had suggested L’Ilot Vache which was right across
the street from their apartment, and I’m glad we went there as we were
exhausted from the jet lag and our walking all day. A lovely little
place you won’t find in the guidebooks. The menu is 33e for starter,
main, cheese and dessert. My starter was a terrine of avocado with a
tomato-basil coulis, that was so fresh, I’m sure the tomatoes were
picked that day. The flavors just burst in my mouth, and I savored each
bite. I was expecting the terrine to be pureed avocado, but it had large
chunks in it so that was marvelous for both texture and flavor. Main
dish was salmon with 2 sauces -- a “sauce Americaine” which was a
lobster sauce, and the other a beurre blanc. Little slices of grilled
zucchini and boiled potatoes surrounded the dish. It was lovely to look
at and the flavors were delicate and delicious. Cheese came to each of
us on a plate -- I believe there were 3 small pieces, which were all
good, one was my new favorite -- robluchon. Can’t remember the others. I
appreciated the small servings as I was soon to discover so many places
load you up with cheese choices and it’s hard to say no! Dessert was Ile
Flottante -- “floating island” -- which I was wary of because I’m not a
huge meringue fan (unless it is fully cooked and crunchy), but I knew I
had to try it once, so it was time. As suspected, I loved everything
about it except the meringue. The creme anglaise it “floated” in was
wonderful...ate that up with a spoon. The caramel drizzled all over was
great, and the toasted almonds on top mixed well with everything. I kept
trying bites of the meringue, and just stopped eating it. I’m sure
meringue lovers would love the dish. I’m still glad I tried it. I can’t
remember hubby’s meal (failed to write it down), but he did enjoy it. He
had his first creme brulee there and we were both disappointed. It was
not silky and creamy, but more solid and custardy...but the brulee part
was great. All-in-all I would recommend this place because it’s quiet
and peaceful...lovely...not too expensive, and they have good,
traditional choices on their menu, and everything had wonderful flavor.
Visit their website at www.ilotvache.com

Day Two
Breakfast -- included in our B&B. Will be the same for the rest of the
week -- a wonderful assortment of local pastries (pain au chocolat, pain
raisin, croissants of different kinds...she changed the assortment
daily), fresh fruit (berries, melon and some of the best ruby red
grapefruit we’ve ever had!), yogurt, lovely jams, unlimited strong
coffee. A couple of days we begged off the pastries and had toast. :
)
Lunch -- A picnic on the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge over the
Seine. Carol, our hostess, gave us a lovely basket with table cloth and
blankets to sit on, glasses, plates, etc., as well as some fruit, and a
hefty slice of her husband’s homemade country pork pate and then we went
shopping at little places on Ile St. Louis for the rest of our fare.
Bought some amazing raspberries and strawberries as well as cherry
tomatoes from the green grocer on the ground floor of our building, went
to the local cremerie for cheese, but they were closed, so found a
little market and bought some robluchon and (gasp!) a Coke for my
husband and so I had to try “Coke Light” which is the French version of
Diet Coke. I also found “my” cookies that I used to eat as a little girl
in New York, but could no longer find in the states anywhere -- Paille
d’Or by the Lu company. Little crisp wafers filled with raspberry. I was
in heaven. It was a glorious day and we enjoyed our picnic...and the
homemade pate was fabulous.
Dinner -- Altitude 95 in the Eiffel Tower. This restaurant seems to
cause all manner of controversy on travel boards. Let me say this -- it
is worth going if you call 3 months in advance and get a window table on
the Trocadero side. Watching the sun go down from the Eiffel Tower while
sipping a kir royale (champagne with with cassis) is not a bad way to
spend an evening...and the food wasn’t horrible, in fact, some of it was
quite good. The seafood platter lived up to its good press. Hubby
ordered the small version, and it was HUGE. Was enough for a meal in
itself and the assortment was amazing -- a large pile tiny little snails
we had to use a metal pick to get the meat out, bigger shellfish which I
believe were winkles, and a couple of langoustines, about 6 oysters, a
pile of peel-and-eat shrimp. It came with slices of really good bread
which was not basic white French...perhaps some pain complet which has
whole grain in it. Whatever it was, it was great. My starter was a
salad of crunchy (could have been a bit crunchier) green beans with
slices of some kind of warm sausage all dressed in a delicious
vinaigrette. I was happy. Our main dishes were kind of bland. I had the
steak tartare which came with fries and salad. All the sauces and
condiments for the tartare were zippy and delicious but the meat was
totally flavorless. I only ate half of it. The salad was fine and the
fries were fine, nothing special. Hubby’s main was some kind of beef
that he liked and I thought was just OK. Desserts were far better...I
had a milk chocolate pot de creme that truly was to die for, and I am
NOT a milk chocolate fan. If it had been dark chocolate, I probably
would have been raptured on the spot, so good thing it was milk
instead. :) Smooth as silk, one of the best desserts of the week, and
we had many wonderful ones. Hubby had fabulous coffee ice cream which
was really intense in flavor, with bits of crunchy coffee candy in it.
We both ate every molecule. And they brought our desserts with candles
and little “joyeux anniversaire” signs in it for our 20th anniversary. A
lovely touch. We ended with a coffee that came with one
chocolate-covered almond. A perfect ending to a mostly-good meal, and a
fabulous romantic experience! I say GO to this place for a sunset
cocktail, appetizer and dessert and skip the main course. :) You will
save money and have a fabulous experience.

Day 3
Lunch -- After a LONG walk from the Louvre through the Tuileries and up
the entire Champs Elysees, we were tired and hungry, and had many other
things planed for the day. I was looking for Laduree to have either
lunch or high tea, but couldn’t find it. We were getting tired and
grumpy and hubby wanted something quick and before I knew it, we were in
line at (OK, get ready to gasp) McDonald’s. I stood there, and thoughts
of wasting one of our precious meals in Paris overtook me and I had my
first bratty foodie moment of the week (I only had 2...not bad!), and
said, “I’m sorry...I CAN’T do this!” I was fine with him staying there,
but I could not surrender to McD’s for lunch when there were so many
other choices to be had and we really did have plenty of time. So we
both left and went next door to a Danish place called Flora Danica and
ate outside on the Champs Elysees. That was fun...gorgeous day and
experiencing the bustle of the Champs Elysees was worth the time and
traffic noise. Food was good! They brought Danish rye bread and butter.
Hubby had reindeer quiche, a unique choice that we both liked, along
with a small salad. I had a lovely salad of marinated salmon (chunks of
gravlax) mixed with apples and dill in a light mayonnaise-based
dressing. The combo of salmon, apples and dill was new to me and I just
loved it. I’m going to try to re-create that at home. We both were happy
with our meals, and I apologized for being a brat, and we kissed and
made up, and off we went.

Dinner -- THE dinner we’d been anticipating for months at La Tour
d’Argent. I could write a novel about the magical experience we had
there. But about the food...was it the best in Paris? Probably not. But
we went for the history and the experience and the food really did not
disappoint. A kir royale (my new favorite drink!) to start, and a lovely
little silver tray of amuse bouches (small hors d’oeuvres) to keep us
interested. We ate them all...they were delish! I started with pike
quenelles (like dumplings) which were a revelation for me. They were
delicate and cooked in a light sherry sauce with mushrooms and I could
have eaten that all night. The texture, flavors, everything was perfect.
I think it was the best dish of the evening. Hubby had Scottish salmon
with a blini and sour cream-mustard sauce that was quite good. We
ordered the duck (of course) for 2 -- a l’orange style. (A favorite dish
from my youth.) First they brought the cooked duck to us on a platter
surrounded with oranges for our “approval” (has anyone ever refused
their duck and asked for another one?). Then they served us the breast
first. We’d asked for it “bien cuit” (well done) as we’re pesky
Americans who don’t like pink poultry. :) It came to us piping hot and
cooked to perfection. Still moist, tender, with crisp skin, and the
sauce!! Orange sauce can be tricky...can be far too sweet and cloying
but this was fabulous. Also on the plate was a spinach puree between
layers of puff pastry, and then we were served these amazing little
potato “pillows” -- I have no idea what they are or how they are made,
but they were light as a feather and just delicious. Second duck course
was the legs, which had been grilled and were served with a bernaise
sauce. I found the legs to be a bit tougher than the breast, but still
good flavor, great skin, and lovely sauce.
Excellent bread with the meal and the butter was soft and silky and
wonderful. By the way, for those who care, our duck was #1,031, 299. :)
They brought out a cheese tray, and I had 3 -- a bit of the best
roquefort I’d had so far, some more robluchon (of course) and some kind
of very soft cheese they needed to serve in a spoon. Fabulous! All
served with a nice raisin bread. Hubby stuck to brie. Desserts were hard
to choose, everything sounded good. Hubby had the house specialty -- a
flambéed peach with raspberry brandy on a little cake (that we hate to
say, looked like an unglazed Krispy Kreme donut), and ice cream. Loved
the theater of the flambé. A bit boozy for hubby’s taste, but it was
still good. I had the profiteroles (cream puffs) with “hot Caribbean
chocolate sauce.” I think coconut made it Caribbean. When I told our
server “j’adore chocolat” he poured just about the whole pitcher onto my
plate. It was rich and wonderful. But I couldn’t finish it...too full! A
small tray of treats came next -- the teeniest little pound cake loaves
I’ve ever seen (smaller than a madeleine), strawberry tarts the size of
a quarter, little pistachio macarons. Redefines “bite size” but just
perfect to end the meal. Coffee was tiny, too, but strong and perfect,
served with 2 more little treats -- pineapple jelly and to-die-for
chocolate truffles. Hubby wouldn’t touch them, he said he would burst. I
was going to burst, too, but cannot leave good truffles on the table. :)
A fabulous 3-hour meal, made even better by the sunset behind Notre Dame
from our window table, receiving a gift from Claude Terrail (the owner
since 1947) for our anniversary (an autographed copy of his book), and
visiting the wine cellar before rolling out the door and walking the 5
minutes back to our B&B. A magical, amazing night and meal.

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  1. Loved your lengthy report - many thanks.
    My wife and I are returning to Paris after a 20 year "hiatus" (children!). We would love to stay on Ile St Louis and wondered if you would post the contact details of your B&B, and most importantly - the cost!
    We're looking forward to your English adventures now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bjrocky

      I will send you an email about the B&B since it has nothing to do with food. :) If anyone else wants the info, please feel free to email me!

    2. Hello'
      I just now found your posting. I am working London and have five day weekend next week. could you please send me the particulars of your B&B.
      Thanks

        1. email me at wyf4lyf@wichman.org

          1. In what season did you make your trip? Grapefruit suggests winter, but truly fresh, local(?) berries and tomatoes suggests imports or summer. On the other hand the number of outdoor meals suggests early fall.

            1 Reply
            1. re: VivreManger

              June 2005. We had glorious weather all week.