Paris trip report, 2011 holidays
For Christmas this year, we chose to leave the US behind and stay in Paris, which was a fantastic decision. The city was alive and bustling, and it was just magical to be there. We ate as much as we possibly could in our few days there...and I was ready to stay another month.
We arrived on the 23rd, and after a really fantastic Christmas concert at Saint-Chapelle, we took a taxi to Le Chateaubriand. We were shocked to be seated, reservation-less, in about 20 minutes. The meal was great -- some of the courses were not terribly tasty, but wonderfully imaginative, and other courses were delicious; in particular, the cod in a smoked mozzarella foam with spinach sauce, and a dessert of Chinese mushrooms with chantilly cream and tangerine slices. Heavenly. It was the last night the restaurant was open before they closed for the holidays, so it got kind of rowdy, the music edged up pretty loud and the servers were running around -- but it was good fun. I would say the only misstep was ordering the wine pairings. The prix fixe menu is quite reasonable at 55 euro/person, and the wine pairings about double that. However, I felt the the selections did not particularly compliment the dishes and they came out so haphazardly we did not know what went with what. If we returned, I think we would be much happier ordering a bottle of wine or two of our own choice.
On Christmas Eve, we got provisions for the next day on Rue de Bretagne. We went to dinner at Huiterie Regis. I feel a little sheepish saying I prefer the tiny, briny, oysters of the US east coast to Fines de Claires and Spéciales de Claires. Those oysters were positively enormous, with a very velvety delicate flavor. A great revelation was how much we liked the shrimp! The restaurant is cozy and lovely, and we stumbled out to happen upon Christmas mass at Saint-Germain, which made for a really terrific night.
Christmas Day, we wandered around all parts of the city, which felt really alive; lots of people out with their families. We had an extremely rich and delicious dinner at Les Cocottes. The place was full of mainly English speakers. We began with the fois gras terrine, which we could have easily consumed another plate of. We then shared the potatoes with pigs feet, and the Christmas special of the chicken stuffed with fois gras. Both were truly amazing, sumptuous, buttery. My only quibbles was that the chicken was a bit dry, and the food came out literally immediately, within a matter of minutes; suggesting to me that they were expecting hordes so prepared quite a lot of food in advance. That was a little disappointing. We ended with the famous chocolate tart and the coffee buche de noel. Service was casual and lively.
The next day we stuffed our little faces with a selection of pastries from a lovely patisserie on Rue de Bretagne. We had a chocolate eclair, dark chocolate and raspberry croissant, and a "tarte tropizenne," which was basically a sandwich of sponge cake with bavarian cream in the middle. Never seen it in the US, and it was amazing. Our afternoon snack was snails at L'Escargot Montorgueil. We've only had sea snails in Barcelona before, so this was our first foray into escargot-dom. We had the snails classically done (the idea of curry and roquefort turned my stomach a bit), with a really wonderful country terrine with onion jam. Snails, terrine and white wine made for a terrific snack that we're not really privy to in the US. We weren't really hungry till 10:30pm or so, when we wandered into Le Verre Vole, right near the apartment we rented. The place was packed and we were grateful they were still serving. We started with Utah oysters; which we far preferred to the Claires we had at HR. I got the confit de canard and my husband got the boudin noir. Both were really incredible. I must say, the presentation is reminiscent of so much cuisine in Brooklyn/NYC right now, but it was still delicious and wonderfully executed. We ended with a pot of chocolate with tangerines on top. Our server was knowledgeable and cordial, and by the end of the night, treated us to several glasses of wine...no complaints from us.
On our final day, Pain de Sucre was finally open after the Christmas holiday. We spent about 20 minutes deciding what to get before settling on a seasonal pastry of pistachios, chocolate, pralines and mint. It was extraordinary, and the piece was truly a work of art. The precision in the presentation was breathtaking. Upon my return to NYC I went to Eataly and looked at the pastries which looked just sloppy after Pain de Sucre. We bought a few rich mini sandwiches at their savory shop and hit the road. Our last meal was a crepe at a serviceable place in Montmarte; my husband was tired and cranky, and we were about to get on the Eurostar, so it was the best we could do.
Though plenty of places were closed for the holiday season, plenty were open too. That might have been a blessing as it limited our surfeit of choices for our precious few days.
Seriously can't wait to return. Bonne année!