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Jul 1, 2011 10:42 AM

Avoiding Food Overload in Paris?

Does anyone have any good tips on avoiding food overload in Paris?

Here is my problem; both my wife and I love food, but tend to burn out quickly when eating out in restaurants night after night (as you would on a vacation). For example, if we go to dinner on Friday night, we try to eat at home on Saturday. As it sometimes happens, our social life calls for more intense weekends--think dinner and drinks on Friday, dinner with friends on Saturday, and brunch with other friends on Sunday. By the end of the weekend like that, I just don't want to eat anymore. What a shame it would be to experience food burnout in the culinary capital of the world?!

We've tried to spread out our more intense reservations, i.e., 3+ courses, by a day or so to prevent such burnout. But what do we do in between? Does anyone have good recommendations for interesting places to grab lighter fare? Our perfect "in between" meal would be, for example, a nice cheese plate, some oysters and good wine. Now, we've found places like this in our hometown (Wash, DC) but they are far and few between.


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  1. This thread may neatly answers many of your questions.

    In general, the best way not to overeat when travelling in Paris is to rent an apartment, instead of staying in a hotel and having all your meals out.
    Even if budget is no problem, it is oppressively tiresome to eat out several times a day.
    Renting an apartment also gives you that major enjoyment of Paris: shopping in its marvelous markets and knowing its in-season ingredients.

    Lastly, eliminate brunches. They offer not much difference from one country to another. The food itself is singularly lacking in dimension, unless you are in Asia. And the way brunches are done in the big cities in France, they are a pale imitation of American brunches which are already pale enough.

    If you have a rental, you go out only for a good meal, a real meal (read: ≠ brunch). Between two good meals out, you are eating at home and have total control of your food intake.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thanks! That list looks great, as does John Talbott's description of his meal at Les 36 Corneil.

      We rented an apartment (near the Saint-Sulpice metro) already so it looks like we are on the right track. Out last trip was to Rome and we rented an apartment there too. I agree that it worked out fantastically. She'd typically take longer to get ready in the morning than I would. So, I'd run down to the corner bakery and grab two espressos "dar portar via" along with some baked goods for a quick breakfast. It's hard to beat that!

      The problem though is that by eating in the apartment too often you lose the experience that dining offers.

      1. re: zildjain79

        "The problem though is that by eating in the apartment too often you lose the experience that dining offers."
        I beg to differ. Making your own food at home with the best market ingredients is a pleasure. And pacing your meals is a way to increase, not reduce, your pleasure, as you seem to be guessing...
        Saint Sulpice is a great location. Don't miss the wonderful bld Raspail market.

        1. re: zildjain79

          I understand what you mean by losing the experience that dining offers. I also like to rent an apartment so that I can shop and cook and eat a bit lighter a few days during my holiday, but to ameliorate the "dining scene" issue, we often have a drink at a cafe around 7 or so on the nights we are eating in, then return to the apartment and cook. (Sometimes, while my family sleeps in the morning, I begin preparations if the dinner will be complex so that my tasks are eased when we return.)

          1. re: zildjain79

            I think your strategy is good. Space the big meals, and cook at home some days. The best advice is variety and to leave time for spontaneity.

            So book-up the key restaurants, book a few more modest ones, but leave time free to either cook at home or wander out and take pot-luck. I know the general advice is to reserve and this is sound advice else you may miss some of the top spots. But that doesn't mean you need to book breakfast, lunch and dinner. My general plan for visits to new cities it to have one or two big meals planned, then have a list of options. As the holiday evolves simply book the options, in many Paris restaurants a 24 hour advance booking will suffice especially early in the week.

          2. re: Parigi

            I can't say enough how fun it was to cook at home in Paris. My wife and I are wrapping up a month long trip, and we had so many memorable meals at home and live shopping at the market three days a week an in the Mouffetard shops. And it IS an experience. Talking to re butcher, boulanger, or fish fellow is one of the best ways to practice you French, and there is so much delicious stuff. Mussels for two costs €5! And my wife cooks them better than any restaurant. Twice I picked up gorgeous entrecôte and pomme de terre and made a steak and potatoes dinner worthy of Peter Luger for about €12. And don't forget those rotisserie chickens. Hell, even the canned cassoulet is pretty good. We just had some for lunch. Saves money for dinner tonight at Fenchie.

          3. For me the key is to have one big meal per day (usually lunch) and you need to do a lot of exercise to burn off all of the carbs. We generally start the day with a run around the Luxembourg gardens and we try to walk as much as we can during the day. With all of the exercise comes hunger and hunger is a great thing to have in Paris.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jeremyholmes

              Same, except my meal is dinner. The 5 mile jog every morning is indeed an essential component of my plan.

            2. One thing to consider re apartment cooking is to bring something appropriate to wear while cooking. I have hated trying to cook in a strange and usually limited kitchen while trying to keep my city clothes unspattered. A smock or apron or....

              7 Replies
              1. re: mangeur

                I do this as well. I also bring a proper knife.

                1. re: Nancy S.

                  LOL, me 3. Plus, don't laugh, a very thin, light-weight chopping board.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    And for me, my Peugeot pepper mill.

                    1. re: Nancy S.

                      And me a knife, apron, and my antique Maille mustard pot

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        I often do the knife(s) and pepper mill, but have also been known to take a potato ricer, sharp peeler and good bottle opener and then head to my nearest Ikea/Habitat to buy some big (thin) wine glasses. When we toured France (in a car) and stayed in a lot of self catering places we had a cardboard box with lots of things including oil, vinegar, tea etc.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Just returned from the Grange Rouge brocante where I scored a 500gr Maille pot with good cork, label intact. Woohoo! Saved myself the price of a cheap lunch. :)

                          1. re: mangeur

                            Do you mean the 'bean-pot ' looking one, current issue about 7-8 inches tall ? Sells at Maille store for @ 5 euros empty. Just got a set of three colored ones, (yellow, copper, and teal) from the 50's on French Ebay with carved wooden stand for 12 euros. l have waaay too many.

                2. One possibility for avoiding burnout is going to traiteurs or epiceries that do small plates or lunches. When staying in the 9th recently, my wife and I had a very nice nibble at Terra Corsa (42 Rue de Martyrs): a choice of four quiches with salad, non-alcoholic drink, and dessert was 12 euros, a very generous mixed plate of charcuterie and cheeses (two different hams, one paté, five different sausages, four cheeses ranging from sweet and creamy to soulfully stinky, with good local bread and cornichons) was 15 euros. All Corsican products, naturally, and different from what you get in every cafe.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: confitdoie

                    Second Kunitoraya, which was mentioned in one of the llnks higher up. Also coucous with mergez, though I've not found an exceptional place for it.

                  2. This may be a little unconventional--but.....when we are in Paris we alternate dining out with eating at "home" (fiance's family). Also, for breakfast, we keep it extremely light i.e., I eat fruit with my coffee, he has croissant with his coffee. Also...we never eat lunch. Only on the rare occassion do we have lunch when we are dining out with family. We "save" ourselves for dinner. I know it sounds weird, but I've spent too much time and effort to lose a lot of weight. We stop for a mid-afternoon Citron Presse and that is enough to tide over till dinner.
                    Our dinners, even at 'home" are an elaborate process so it works.
                    Hope this helps a bit.