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Nov 17, 2013 10:31 AM

Report on my first trip to Paris

I spent last week in Paris. This was my first trip so I did my best to eat around. I was based near Rue Cler but wen all around the city center. These were the best things I ate.

Cheese Shops: So many, but my favorite was Anne-Marie Cantin on Rue du Champ de Mars. They do their own aging and had some amazing stuff, including a grassy epoisse, tons of aged goat cheese, a half dozen comtes, butter and fromage blanc.

Chocolate. I liked both Patrick Roger and Maison du Chocolat for truffles (I tend to go for the plan, cocoa covered truffles). Roger's were more complex, but the butter MdC truffles were more delicious. For hot chocolate, I loved the thick, ganache at Lauduree.

Baguettes, what everyone said about French baguettes being so amazing was true. I particularly loved the cereal baguettes. Why can't American wheat bread taste as good? I didn't do a comprehensive search here, but my favorite was at Nelly Julien on Rue Sainte Dominique.

Falafel. L'As du Fallafel was probably the single most recommended place from everyone I talked to, and it was definitely worth it. The crisp little falafels, the various slaws, the sweetness of the eggplant and that addictive garlicky sauce all came together to make this probably the best falafel sandwich I've ever had. I liked eating in since they give you you're own bowl of sauce. We also tried Maoz falafel which wasn't nearly as good.

Meringues from Aux Merveilleux de Fred. These things are crazy. Layers of meringue covered in whipped cream and rolled in chocolate (or other flavored) flakes. Akin to a meringue layer cake, they come in various sizes. They are creamy, chewy, melt in your mouth miracles of taste and texture. The cream is not overly sweet and comes together with the delicate meringue to create a crunchy, creamy wonder. The whole experience is like biting into a sweet cloud. I'm not usually a fan of white chocolate but that was my favorite flavor. The dark chocolate flakes overwhelmed the subtlety of the cream whereas the white chocolate just added to the creamy richness.

Ice cream: Berthillon. Yeah, everyone suggested this and it was really good. Dark chocolate cacao, passion fruit sorbet, creamy pistachio. All great.

Fine Dining. I ate at a lot of bistros and cafes (quality varied quite a bit), but while in France, I wanted to do a splurge meal at a traditional French temple of fine dining. On a friend's recommendation, I chose Le Pre Catelan. The restaurant is located in Bois de Boulogne, a huge and beautiful (though somewhat seedy) park on the northwest outskirts of Paris. The dinner menus at this three star Michelin eatery are extravagant and extravagantly priced, but they have a lunch prix fixe for 105 Euro (140 with the wine paring). The lunch is an even better deal than it looks like as each course actually consists of two or three parts. I will resist going through each course of this meal and say only that it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. The ambiance, including the traditional French service with an army of waiters set in a beautiful dining room with a courtyard view, was of course memorable. But, as part of my three part pork entree, the meal included probably the best cooked piece of pork belly I've ever had, with cracklin' skin, a thick, toothsome but somehow not fatty layer of fat and meat that was the rich essence of all that is good and porky in this world, all bathed in a pork jus (the other two pork courses were a braised pork in tomato foam and a sort of liquid head cheese served in a martini glass and topped with mayonnaise. And of course, the cheese selection was wonderful, with a particularly well aged Mont D'Or. The wine pairings added depth to each course, and unlike in most American tasting courses, the pours were generous and bottomless.

On our one day trip to Chartres, we had an excellent sandwich at one of the kabob places near the train station. It was sort of schwarma type meat in a french roll with yogurt sauce. Great stuff to take on the train.

Thanks to all the folks who helped me with recommendations. It was an amazing trip.

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  1. Thanks for the good report. And welcome home to a fellow lover of Fred's Merveilleux!

    1. Yes thank you for the report !

      You just reminded me I need to go get one of those merveilleux again, it's been a long time you know, and my shrink says it's ok now...

      1. It is rare to see someone choose Le pre catelan for a starred meal and I havent read many reviews, althought I have seen pictures from the interior and it is great.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Giannis

          Interesting. Why do you think that is?

          1. re: sku

            I think it's because so few on the board try any of the three stars in Paris so the sample size is quite small.

            1. re: sku

              I think Le Pre Catelan is something like the outsider.

              I know that If I go to Rome I will go to La pergola, if I go to Barcelona to El celler de can roca( if i manage to find a table), Monaco, Le Louis XV and so on.

              But in Paris there are 10 three michelin star restaurants, 9 till march that Plaza Athenee reopens. So I think most tourists try restaurants like Le cinq, Taillevent or 3starred in the center that seem to have better consistency.

              Now if you live in Paris it is a different story because you have more that one opportunity to look for you perfect meal.

              The reason I did not consider Le pre catalan personally was because of Andy Hayler's review, who ranked it a lot below some other 2 or 3 star places in Paris.

              1. re: Giannis

                And of course Le Cinq and Taillevent are two star not three. Many tourists are happy for these options, especially Le Cinq, to be their top meal so the sample is even more skewed away from a broad range of three stars. Despite the fact that Le Cinq's lunch menu is the same price as a three cost is obviously not the reason for such a narrow selection.

              2. re: sku

                Pre Catelan is one of my personal favorites. I have had two wonderful all around experiences there since it got three stars and a couple of excellent meals prior. All of the two and three stars in Paris have great food and service. What sets PC apart for me is the place itself. I love the feeling of being in a beautiful room with a garden.

                Plus you get to see the trannies and hookers work the bois on the cab ride to and from. :)

            2. Les Merveilleux de Fred. Another addict here... so much so that one of my go-to restos, Chez Graff in the 7th, is a fave largely because they have Fred's merinques on the dessert menu.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Parnassien

                I could live the rest of my life without dessert, but these heavenly morsels are truly moonlight in your mouth. For these, I cross town.

                1. re: mangeur

                  You all have piqued my curiosity! Les Merveilleux de Fred is on the list for Spring. :) Where is this place?

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    There are several in Paris. I usually go to the one on St. Charles but others may be more convenient. I notice that their website is acting up, but here is a good reference.


                    1. re: mangeur

                      Milles mercis, mangeur. I am SO there!