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Nov 27, 2013 09:49 AM

November trip report and Small Bites

My husband and I recently spent a week in Paris and after reading these posts (thank you, thank you), factoring in our preferences and making some reservations, had wonderful eating experiences. We found the second week in November to be a perfect week to be visitors – a lull in tourist crowds and still pleasant weather to walk around. In no way were we overwhelmed by pesky Yankees. Everyday, relaxed atmosphere pervaded most everywhere we went.

We are older (it was my 65th –ugh -birthday trip), like more traditional and unpretentious places. We end up cramming a lot into a day (don’t want 5 hour meals) and are not particularly interested in Michelin starred restaurants. I am an architect and while I am interested in seeing new spaces, like the living wall by Musee Branly, am not drawn to eat in modern, minimalist settings. My husband speaks French (me just a little) so that helps with menus and not being shunned.
I like to try new food as well as old standards. My husband thinks of food as fuel, and would be just as happy to have a Crocque Monsieur every meal. He has nicknamed Yelp “Squelch” and Trip Advisor “Trap Advisor”. Highlights as follows –

First night dinner at L’Atmopshere. We joined up with some friends living in Paris, teaching architecture and went to this local place near Gare de L’Est/Canal St Martin. (Nearby La Verre Vole is another of their favorites). It has a neighborhood feel, complete with a lively crowd celebrating someone’s retirement. Everything was just right from the Coquilles St Jacques to the chocolate mousse. Later in week, we found ourselves hungry and came in from the rain around 2:30 for a late lunch and chatted with the owner, daughter, granddaughter and enjoyed Steak tartar, which we had heard was one of their specialties and was great.

An excellent lunch at Les Papilles on the big birthday. Saturday Loved (let me count the ways) the fixed menu, the tile floor, the energy of the three hard working and friendly wait staff, the fabulous food coming out of a kitchen the size of a bathtub, and the atmosphere - there was large multigenerational birthday party in lower floor and table of burly middle aged Rugby guy friends on way to game afterwards - though how they would stay awake after consuming the food and drink that they did gave one pause. Only one other table of Americans. Fun and delicious.

Dinner at L’Astier. Lovely atmosphere in all ways and very welcoming on a rainy night, when it gets dark so early and coming into an place like this seems perfect. There was more of an international mix of patrons, as this place gets a lot of kudos from various foodie groups. All items on their daily special were delicious and their special chocolate dessert is to die for. Service perfect.

Dinner at Le Gorille Blanc. We had a studio rental in the Marais and chose several local places. Nice, warm atmosphere. Filled with all French folks enjoying an excellent food and service. Except for Les Papilles, this and other restaurants, came to about 80 Euros with a couple of glasses of wine for dinner.

Dinner at Breizh Café. This was a little bit of a disappointment. Were told we had to be there by 7 and were rushed in and out before we knew it. The tables are small and very close together (like an inch). Being at a communal table would have been better, as at least you are expected to interact with your neighbors (which can be fun) rather than pretend you are not hearing the conversation next to you, which in our case was two 30 something American women talking loudly about working for their Deans and attending conferences for Elite US colleges with programs in Europe, who was in whose “wheelhouse”, etc. An insight why US colleges cost what they do. My Husband even stopped on way home to get a Nutella Crepe from the nice man at corner of Rue de Rosiers and Rue Vieille de Temple.

Had eaten before at Little Breizh which we had liked a lot!

Two lunches (liked so much we went back) at Le Loir Dans la Theiere. At 3 Rue de Rosiers. We felt we had discovered a little gem of a place – so funky, busy, and full of colorful characters. Loved their daily special, omelets and Lemon Meringue tart to die for.

Was doing a small photo project on markets (L’Enfants Rouge, President Wilson, Raspail on Sunday, Rue de L’Aligre) and enjoyed buying some food to sample and snack – quiches, cheeses, cured meats. I don’t know enough about all the types, so found a strategy was to see what the person ahead of me was getting and ask for “la meme” which my husband said was not even the right thing to say, but it worked. Loved the potato, onion, cheese pancakes at Raspail on Sunday, as well as crepes. Got Oysters from some street vendors, but was a little underwhelmed and missed having horseradish to go along. Liked helpful suggestions at cheese shop, Trotte Pascal (and many other wonderful neighborhood places to get food) by St Paul Metro /rue St Antoine was a favorite .

Made St Regis Café on Ile St Louise a habit for morning coffee, croissants, newspapers, Brasserie Ile St Louis for late night hot chocolate, mulled wine and very old time ambiance (think beverages are a better bet than food), L’As Fallafel, Au Petit Fer Au Cheval, Café des Philosophes for people watching and pot of green tea or wine. We needed a place to meet near Grand Palais before Photo Paris and loved the very Parisian, sophisticated atmosphere at Brasserie de la Grande Palais and enjoyed terrific salade Nicoise. Stop for that macaroon or pastry – you’ll walk it off. Had to cancel a reservation at Youpe et Voila as timing wasn’t going to work out. Wanted to eat of Chez Ami Jean, where we had been before and couldn't squeeze in. Lots to look forward to on a return trip, as well as new ideas from this Board of Experts!

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  1. What a delightful report. You hit all the right notes and have the right attitude about enjoying being a traveler and not a tourist. Saying "la même" is the key to eating well all over the world (well, with the languages adapted of course). I do that in restaurants in Indochina, going around the room and asking people - in pantomime - what they are eating and whether they recommend. We eat well and make a room full of friends.
    "Le Loir Dans la Theiere"
    Of course you would smell out this funky warm homey place.
    Years ago I was there with a French friend, and we were asked by a lovely Japanese photojournalist if she could photograph us for her Paris guide !
    Yes, Paris, backed up by good food, is one friendly international place, pesky Yankees nonobstant… A moveable feast, quoi.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Glad you found and enjoyed Le Loir Dans la Theiere - but have to struggle with mixed feelings when one of these little gems crops up on a board like this. It's unchanged for decades and the chairs look and feel as if they came from grandmother's house clearing.
      Long may it stay this way - and please don't tell too many people or they may all arrive and not want to go away!

      1. re: kerriar

        Found ? I live here and have known it since the late 80s. :)

        1. re: kerriar

          It is indeed a sweet place ... but, um, I think the secret is out... judging from the lines of tourists here (and many other places on the well-trodden rue des Rosiers) in peak season, I suspect every guide book in every language lists Le Loir dans la Théière.

          1. re: Parnassien

            Before I posted I thought about that issue (and would not
            /did not post a small neighborhood place that was off the beaten track for that very reason). This place was definitely reviewed and not always favorably (long lines, cranky waiters, slow service) and it is also on a main thoroughfare in a popular area. As I said, enjoy Paris off season if you can.

            1. re: dogood

              Um, and when is off season?
              (This is a real question.)

              1. re: Ptipois

                "when is off season?"
                Trick question. Ans: July 14th.