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Nov 4, 2010 02:28 AM

Creating tasty memories for an 11 year old...

I am traveling with my wife and daughter (born and raised in Los Angeles) for her first trip abroad to Paris next week. We will be staying near George V metro for a week and will of course venture out to see the sights, however, the point of the trip is to create memories (in the Proustian sense) of Paris that speak to the quality of refinement of taste that is quintessentially Parisian. For example, my daughter has never experienced a patisserie, a bistro, or watching the world pass by while nursing a hot chocolate and/or croque monsieur. Her idea of a garden is an organic farm...So, my question for you all is this: Can you describe a couple (or more) reenactable experiences you had as a child or had with a child in Paris related to food/eating/restaurant that had a transcendent (surpassing the ordinary; exceptional) quality? If you remember it fondly, then my daughter might as well....

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  1. First time I was in Paris. I was 9-ish (1979) and food was not as much as important as it is now, but there were some memorable moments...

    Those memories are intesecting my niece's life right now (6 1/2 y) who is living in Paris now.

    Eating "Crepe au Sucre" from food stands
    Eating "Feuilles de Palmier" and fresh Pain au Chocolat.
    Drinking diabolo-menthe (7-up and mint syrup) on a terrasse. (and getting mixed up because limonade in Quebec is not the same thing as in France!!)
    Watching roasting chickens in portable rotisserie on the side walks
    Seeing all the nice produces in street markets (meat, fish, ...)
    Eating Carambar after Carambar (or for my niece, Fraises Tagada)

    Another thing that is nicely parisian, is to find a school (with kids the same age as yours and watch them all rush to the closest patisserie to get their fix!

    I was at the President-Wilson st. market where there are very nice produces and what can impress children are the fully headed ducks and chicken and rabbits ready to be sold!!

    And at 11, as a girl, (more than a boy IMO) nothing beats being treated like a princess at Brasserie type restaurant; (We were, my niece, sister and I, at Au Pied de Cochon this tuesday and it was a blast.)

    I think the experience more than the exceptional itself (hard without a frame of reference) is what she will remember most (if she likes it)


    1. What a lovely project!
      With such delicacy of heart, you deserve the best.

      Most of the places where I gathered my best childhood memories are either gone of drastically transformed, so better stick to the present with possible dips into what remains of the past.

      1. Watch the world pass by
      For the hot chocolate I recommend sitting either at Les Deux Magots or at the Café de Flore.
      By no means should you sit outside (where the show-offs are), inside is where it really happens.
      At the Flore, there are three levels of show-offiness. The real cheap crowd (which includes people who may own a yacht or two) sits outside or in the glassed veranda, ogling around to make sure everyone is looking at them; actors, TV and media people sit in the inside room at floor level (where the owners of the café also sit occasionally), and writers, famous journalists, publishers or professors and the odd politician sit in the upstairs room, which I recommend.
      The hot chocolate at Café de Flore is delicious. I usually order it with a jug of hot water on the side for it's quite thick.

      Pâtisseries: there are two styles of pâtisserie in Paris. The old-fashioned style, which is vanishing, and the trendy, haute couture style of Pierre Hermé, Hugo et Victor, and the like. I much prefer the old style, which you can find at the Stohrer pastry shop (51 rue Montorgueil), which has been around since the 18th century. I think they have some sitting space (salon de thé). One of my very favorite pâtissiers is Carl Marletti on rue Censier, near the église Saint-Médard. Great éclairs, religieuses and millefeuille. There are four little tables with chairs in front of the shop which you should pounce upon before they're all taken by Japanese girls in bérets holding compact cameras.

      When you're done, go towards the church (16th century, you may enter it for a few minutes, it is quite interesting inside because of a clever architectural trick which is not food related so I'll just let you guess it). Past the church, walk up the rue Mouffetard. Pass the first crossing with the tiny rue Daubenton, then stop at the second crossing with the rue de l'Arbalète, and have a drink at the Café Mouffetard which is the quintessential Parisian 'bougnat' (coal vendor) café. The old rue Mouffetard with the doll houses and the market stalls will certainly make it a fond memory.

      Do take her to the Café Charbon on rue Oberkampf where she will experience a much larger version of Café Mouffetard. Impressive. If she likes great French fries (actually Belgian fries), grab a paper "cornet" at La Frite Bruxelloise on the same street, going towards boulevard de la République.

      2. Eat while the world passes by (outside)
      For the Parisian bistro experience, I am thinking of places as diverse and different as Chartier (the last surviving "bouillon", a large working-class bistrot with people's cooking like pied de cochon, cassoulet, blanquette...), Claude Colliot (modern, refined, very personal touch but no show-off), Le Bouchon et l'Assiette (modern Basque cooking with sharp, clean tastes), Chez Dumonet-Joséphine (a bit too touristy for this occasion, though), L'Ebauchoir, Le Châteaubriand (dinner) or Zinc Caïus. All different, all perfectly Parisian, all delicious.

      For ice cream, I still believe Berthillon is still unmatched. So is Christian Constant. It is difficult to say which is the best. Berthillon still does some flavors better than anyone else and so does Constant. It all depends of your itinerary.

      There is no Parisian experience without a couscous, so take her either to Chez Hamadi (rue Boutebrie, warning, hole in the wall) or to the more elegant L'Atlas, boulevard Saint-Germain.
      BUT for the ULTIMATE "see the world eat around you" experience, nothing beats the big Tunisian cantinas on boulevard de Belleville and near Ménilmontant, the likes of Chez René et Gabin - plentiful, greasy, tasty food and, well, the world. Do not miss the fricassés and the complet poisson.
      A Turkish-Kurdish variation on the theme may be found in the lower part of rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. I recommend the high-ceilinged Derya, on that street.

      Finally, I believe there is no Parisian experience without Vietnamese/Laotian/Cambodian food, so, taking in account the "see the world pass by" aspect, I warmly recommend Tricotin or Wong Heng.

      If I can think of other places to watch the world pass by, I'll add them here.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Ptipois

        Greatly enjoy this post.
        Hahaha, indeed re the Flores (1) the hot chocolate is a well kept St Germain secret, and (2) the 1st flr is the see-and-be-seen place, not downstairs, not, especially not the terrasse.
        But I doubt that children catch on to that, even Heloise.

        1. re: Parigi

          The 1st floor of Le Flore has a very, very nice atmosphere. It is one of the places where you can feel you're in the heart of the real Paris. Actually I would not describe it as the seen-and-be-seen part of the café, the ground floor is more like that. The upstairs café is where you go when you do not particularly wish to be seen. It is also generally quieter than the downstairs parts. The hot chocolate (served upstairs and downstairs) is indeed really good.
          I would also recommend not to fall into the Angelina trap, everything you may ingest there (from hot chocolate to pastries) weighs at least one ton, and so does (mentally speaking) the world that passes by and sits there.
          Costes as it may be, I prefer the Café Marly or, better, Le Fumoir.

          1. re: Ptipois

            Wonderful post. As for patisserie, I believe as does our President Obama, in teachable moments, and I believe this is an opportunity to introduce my daughter to the scientific method. We will try both styles and search out the truth...;-)
            Is Christian Constant the same as Cafe Constant mentioned on another post as being near the Eiffel Tower?
            Which of the couscous restaurants has the best food?
            Thx again...

            1. re: locmgr1

              Re. Constant : there are two Christian Constants. One is a chef-restaurateur, formerly from the Crillon, who nearly purchased the whole Eastern part of rue Saint-Dominique and runs his restaurants there, and one is a pâtissier-traiteur (caterer) who has a shop on rue du Bac and another one on rue d'Assas. This is the one I am recommending.

              Re. couscous: the two addresses are very different.
              Chez Hamadi will serve a type of proletarian Tunisian couscous - fine-grained, red from the fatty spiced broth it is mixed with before serving, and served with the broth and vegetables on the side, plus meats of your choice: lamb, chicken, grilled lamb chops, merguez, veal or lamb kebab, meatballs, oven-roasted sheep's head, osbane (offal sausage).
              L'Atlas serves the more elegant, aristocratic Moroccan couscous from Fes (fassi), fine-grained (unmixed with the broth therefore quite white), and the usual Moroccan garnishes: plenty of vegetables, stewed lamb or chicken, mechoui lamb (slow-roasted), kebabs but no osbane or sheep's head.
              I can't tell which one is the more delicious. Both places have excellent food.

          2. I'm true to my beliefs, so my little girl, going 11 (well, going 17, really, but technically still 10) had her palate trained at home and in some top restaurants. Like me, she's a regular at Le Cinq and she loves the attention there. In the past, at Bernard Loiseau or at Au Bon Accueil in Malbuisson (Doubs), she learned to appreciate what true good icecreams and purées taste like, and this experience is still available at Le Cinq, Ledoyen, Lasserre, La Table de JR (where they might take less care of her). Sorbets from Christian Constant also are the kind of things that is important in educating one's palate, if you ask me. And you should get the most classic pastries -- Pichard jumps to mind.

            Another thing: take it easy. One or two great experences are enough. Plus, one or two different croissants every morning.

            1 Reply
            1. re: souphie

              souphie: We will also attempt some of the finer restaurants --I must have my own Parisian moments as well. Thx for your suggestions.

            2. My wife and I want to bring our grandchildren with us to Paris (our children selfishly won't let them go without their parents) and think about the prospects on each trip. We notice children having much fun in the parks. Walking on Montorgueil would also be memorable.

              1. A walk in a nice market is in order.
                The market should not be too big. Something like Richard Lenoir would be overwhelming.
                The Maubert or Monge or St Eustache or Montorgueil market is smallish and user-friendly and is centrally located. From George V you can take the n°1 metro line to get to Montorgueil or St Eustache easily.
                Point out to her all the different colors of a fresh veg and fruit stand.
                Let her smell the roast chicken and roast potatoes.
                Let her choose a piece of pastry.

                You can find those markets' opening days and hours on line.
                And go to Gocce di caffé one morning. You can have a cappuccino - a good one for once- just as the Romans make it. She can have a cioccolatta. You can share a couple of mini-pastries and enjoy the passage des Panoramas, one of those fabled passages couverts of Paris. Still so Zazie dans le métro…

                Take her to a bonbonnerie. Near the Gocce di Caffé is A La Mère de Famille. Get her one of those multi-color paté de fruits.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Parigi

                  Gross. Of course I meant pâtes de fruits, not paté de fruits, duh.