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A formula for avoiding sitting next to those pesky fellow Yankees who whoop it up and disturb your meal in Paris and finding good food in “secret places.”.

John Talbott Jan 24, 2014 08:16 AM

OK. Based on two meals, yesterday and today, in very different places (Le BAT on the Grands Boulevards sited amongst the Hard Rocks and McDo’s and the Cercle Rouge in the 17th isolated among boring residential buildings and utilitarian shops) I have hit upon a strategy for those Americans who long to find places their fellow New York Times’ readers have not, where English is not spoken (especially loudly and nasally), has good food and where they will walk out texting their 1,000 best “friends” that they found a place no one else knows about.
What is it?:
1.Don’t just go back to the places you liked/loved last time, 10 or the Gods forbid, 50 years ago. I know, I know, “a bird in the hand is worth two you’ve never tried,” and I respect folks who use this method; it’s just that when I started considering Paris my home (much to one daughter’s amusement), I felt liberated, unshackled and free to try new, untried places.
2.Eat at lunch when the French not the Anglos eat.
3.Go outside the inner snail circle of Arrondissements 1-8.
So, “how John, how do you find these places?” I’m asked.
You listen to the tom-toms – X is rumored to be moving to Y Street to open a place. You read the blogs – in French (come on, you took it 40 years ago, some words are obvious) and English, written by people who aren’t New York Times/Travel & Leisure/Food & Wine reporters or stringers. You become a flaneur and listen to others who are flaneurs – “Hey, I saw this new place over near the VVV, check it out.” You enter places with fresh paint, look at the menu (posted by law) and setup, ask for a card and check it out with other nosy food-types. And, going against the grain of many folks, you eat with a diverse group of food-nuts, who let slip “secret information” known only to them (yah, sure.)
I guarantee this formula works, but only if you’re willing to take risks, encounter some odd lemons and be there when the wait-folks are having bad days or their first days.

  1. Parigi Jan 24, 2014 08:23 AM

    And don't go to any of the places you think John Talbott may go. He and his dining companions are known to have a good time and laugh their head off, and they don't laugh in French !

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi
      John Talbott Jan 24, 2014 08:30 AM

      Cantonese is the preferred laugh language.

      1. re: John Talbott
        Steve R Feb 20, 2014 02:26 PM

        I will be the one laughing in Brooklynese. And not the new Brooklyn, the trendy one, but the old Brooklyn. Gottaproblemwiddat?

    2. j
      jock Jan 24, 2014 08:24 AM

      Eat late. Works almost everywhere.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jock
        Parigi Jan 24, 2014 09:13 AM

        Or lunch, when all the tourists are sightseeing.

      2. mangeur Jan 24, 2014 09:52 AM

        All great advice, John.

        re "pesky fellow Yankees who whoop it up and disturb your meal“, remember Gandhi's mandate, "You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

        5 Replies
        1. re: mangeur
          John Talbott Jan 24, 2014 10:15 AM

          Because I eat at lunch I've never heard a single whoop. My inner Gandhi is calm, cool, zen-zen as the Guignols said about Sarko.

          1. re: John Talbott
            mangeur Jan 24, 2014 10:26 AM

            Not speaking of you, J, just noting a self-reminder. Every one of us is a potential whooper.

            1. re: mangeur
              John Talbott Jan 24, 2014 10:38 AM

              Only at 49'ers games.

              1. re: mangeur
                Parigi Jan 24, 2014 11:30 AM

                I strive to be one.

                1. re: Parigi
                  mangeur Jan 24, 2014 11:56 AM

                  You are good at all you do.

          2. John Talbott Feb 2, 2014 06:42 AM

            My rule breaks down when eating where our fellow Americans live - for instance the 16th or around the Parc Monceau where I ate today -10 feet from pesky Yankee parents meeting their daughter's French BF and 100 feet from (American) football-throwing Dads.

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Talbott
              mangeur Feb 2, 2014 07:05 AM

              I think you would not normally choose that or similar area, John. Sometimes you take one for the team; sometimes you take one because a friend chooses the venue.

            2. John Talbott Feb 20, 2014 07:17 AM

              A fine new addition to the list of places wherein there are no pesky fellow Yankees is Le Petit Matieu in the 10th - and it has a great price quality ratio too - two three-course meals and a bottle and glass of wine and one coffee for 72.90 E. More at http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

              7 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott
                Parigi Feb 20, 2014 09:00 AM

                JT dude, you know I am your N°1 groupie, but why o why anyone would try to find restaurants where no English would be heard, based on the recommendations of someone whose reviews - in English - are followed by thousands is beyond me.

                1. re: Parigi
                  John Talbott Feb 20, 2014 09:48 AM

                  One of the great paradoxes of life.

                  1. re: John Talbott
                    mangeur Feb 20, 2014 10:51 AM

                    Or egnimas.

                    1. re: mangeur
                      bcc Feb 20, 2014 11:20 AM


                      your response terrifies me!

                      1. re: bcc
                        Parigi Feb 20, 2014 11:23 AM

                        bcc !
                        (screaming laughing)

                        1. re: bcc
                          mangeur Feb 20, 2014 11:52 AM

                          Moral: never post while trying to keep up with your 2 1/2 year old granddaughter who is racing through the house in her first tutu!

                          1. re: mangeur
                            bcc Feb 20, 2014 02:06 PM

                            Last November my wife and I stayed in La Cour St. Cathrine in Honfleur as per your recommendation. We thought it was a wonderful place to stay. I'm sure it would have been fantastic in June or July. Thanks for the posting!

                2. c
                  collioure Feb 20, 2014 12:51 PM

                  Go to the countryside - to the provinces ugly Americans hardly know about - the Auvergne, Charentes, Alsace, Jura, Savoie, and Roussillon (where I live).

                  You'll be glad you did.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: collioure
                    John Talbott Feb 20, 2014 01:13 PM

                    Agreed, do as much as we can.

                    1. re: John Talbott
                      Parigi Feb 20, 2014 01:17 PM

                      Of course "we" are not ugly, says Sartre.

                  2. b
                    bronwen Feb 28, 2014 08:03 AM

                    It has been said that the French "lean in" when they talk whereas Americans sit back which makes their conversation loud. I live in America and love it but I must say I do wince when I see alot of Americans using their knives and forks in strange ways, they grip them very peculiarly!

                    74 Replies
                    1. re: bronwen
                      mangeur Feb 28, 2014 08:31 AM

                      LOL. But those peculiar ways look and work far better than when they try to reverse the process and dine in the French manner.

                      1. re: bronwen
                        jock Feb 28, 2014 08:57 AM

                        Born and raised in the USA but I have always, repeat, always used my knife and fork as the French do. I am sure I learned that from my parents, both American born.

                        IMO switching hands as the Americans do is cumbersome and silly.

                        1. re: bronwen
                          Parnassien Feb 28, 2014 09:14 AM

                          Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy.

                          Re eating habits. The American way mesmerizes me. Like watching an accident. How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?

                          1. re: Parnassien
                            jock Feb 28, 2014 09:27 AM

                            " How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"

                            Probably to slow down the pace and prevent another less than admirable American habit of "shoveling it in."

                            1. re: Parnassien
                              John Talbott Feb 28, 2014 09:27 AM

                              "How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"
                              We must have a historian here who can answer this, it's an interesting question.
                              I eat "norrnally" because my parents were Canadian in origin and of French stock long ago.
                              As for voice levels, a big problem is that the restaurateurs notion in the US and here that "young people like it lively" aka loud US music, no sound baffling, 90 degree wall/floor/ceilings, byebye velvet cushions, drapes and baffles. Once you pour some alcohol on 16 people's heads and turn up the music, you've got noise.

                              1. re: John Talbott
                                francaise Feb 28, 2014 11:14 AM

                                Actually, the "cut and switch" or "zigzag" method of eating originated in France since the early 18th c., so the historians tell us. It was a pretension to put the knife down after cutting your meat, and then switch your fork to your right hand, usually the dominant one, which would offer more stability to transfer food delicately to your mouth. This style was adopted by the British and made its way to North America, who were also eager to adopt the French manners of style and grace.

                                In the mid 1800's, it became trendy "not" to cut and switch
                                in France, as convenience and efficiency were favoured, and this "European" style became the norm throughout the Continent.

                                Globilization is probably increasing the European method of eating, as it is arguably a simpler and more elegant style.

                                1. re: francaise
                                  francaise Mar 2, 2014 11:18 AM

                                  To further this conversation with the goal to finally end this conversation that continues to crop up here, which answers the often asked question:

                                  "How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve?"

                                  The answer which I have already provided - It was the French who introduced this style to the world. So, for all those that delight in ridiculing this style, now you know the origin, and the why it evolved. I am Canadian, and eat Continental style, and although most other Canadians eat this way as well, I do observe both styles, including hybrid styles, which may be due to so many different cultures here.

                                  I guess it surprises me that this question keeps coming up because I assumed that food lovers/gastronomes, and those experienced or educated in culinary arts would already know the origin. Myself, I learned this in first year Gastronomy.

                                  Here is a recent article for additional reference:


                                  1. re: francaise
                                    John Talbott Mar 2, 2014 01:08 PM

                                    "I guess it surprises me that this question keeps coming up because I assumed that food lovers/gastronomes, and those experienced or educated in culinary arts would already know the origin. Myself, I learned this in first year Gastronomy."
                                    Why do you want to end the conversation?
                                    This is what keeps CH alive.
                                    Can you give us a reference as to how this is French and not German or Central Europiean (I suspect my Romanian buddy might have another opinion?)
                                    BTW I'm Canadian in origin, and French before that (a few centuries ago) and in Toronto, no one said it was French.

                                    1. re: francaise
                                      Parigi Mar 2, 2014 01:12 PM

                                      "first year Gastronomy."
                                      There are years to capitalized gastronomy ? Wow.
                                      When are you graduating ? :)

                                  2. re: John Talbott
                                    lynnlato Mar 4, 2014 05:50 AM

                                    ""How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?"

                                    I'm fairly certain Obama is to blame. ;)

                                    1. re: John Talbott
                                      Dave Feldman Mar 11, 2014 07:20 PM

                                      Margaret Visser, the world's foremost authority on table manners, has written extensively about fork-switching. I remember her saying in "The Ritual of Dinner" that when forks were first introduced in America, everyone ate tines down in the English style. The switch seems to have started in mid-19th century.

                                      Visser is an interesting character. One of her main themes in all of her books that etiquette revolves, to a certain extent, around attempting to demonstrate to others that you are "civilized." Thus the more ornate and "unnatural" the ritual, the less practical the practice, the more "civilized" you are. It makes a lot of sense.

                                      She also has a long section describing what the diner is supposed to do with knife and fork when placing them on the plate. Not only is there no uniformity in Europe, but the same placement signify opposite things (e.g., "I'm finished" or "I'm not finished"). Obviously, there is nothing inherently superior in placing knife and fork parallel to each other as opposed to perpendicular, or tines up/down.

                                      I think she is stalking you, John. She was born in South Africa but was educated and started her professional career in Toronto and then made her way to France.

                                      1. re: Dave Feldman
                                        John Talbott Mar 11, 2014 11:56 PM

                                        "I think she is stalking you, John"
                                        I prefer to think of her as a follower.

                                        1. re: Dave Feldman
                                          mangeur Mar 12, 2014 08:07 AM

                                          "Not only is there no uniformity in Europe, but the same placement signify opposite things (e.g., "I'm finished" or "I'm not finished"). "

                                          Indeed. After placing my utensils on my plate, I rely on eye-contact and subtle nod to the server. A short nod indicates "we're finished", while a prolonged eye-contact indicates "we need your attention". I made these up, but they work for me.

                                          1. re: mangeur
                                            PhilD Mar 12, 2014 04:24 PM

                                            OK I am completely confused by the subtlety of knife and fork placement at the end of the meal....is it really that difficult, and does it really vary from country to country...?

                                            My experience is that when you finish you put your knife and fork together side by side on the plate. If you have not finished you don't i.e. If you put your utensils down you keep them separated on their respective sides of the plate. Servers then clear the empty plates. Have I missed something?

                                            1. re: PhilD
                                              Parigi Mar 12, 2014 04:27 PM

                                              I do as Phil. I don't do the varying-duration eye contact at all. Have I been rude all my life ?

                                              1. re: Parigi
                                                mangeur Mar 12, 2014 05:48 PM

                                                Not implying that at all. Just do as Phil does, as most of us do. The eye contact is just part of our repartee with our waiter.

                                                1. re: mangeur
                                                  PhilD Mar 12, 2014 05:55 PM

                                                  Your really flirting with the cute waitstaff aren't you ;-))

                                                  1. re: PhilD
                                                    mangeur Mar 12, 2014 06:22 PM

                                                    Hm. Never thought of it that way. But they are awfully cute... :)

                                              2. re: PhilD
                                                Dave Feldman Mar 12, 2014 10:10 PM

                                                Phil, I'd recommend reading Visser. I know she's discussed this in more than one book, but The Ritual of Dinner for sure.

                                        2. re: Parnassien
                                          mangeur Mar 2, 2014 01:38 PM

                                          "Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy."


                                          1. re: Parnassien
                                            John Talbott Mar 2, 2014 01:42 PM

                                            "Re volume. As a Frenchman, I was trained by my parents and grandparents to make every conversation in public sound like a seduction or a conspiracy."
                                            Ha, you shouda been with me today at Les Trois Garcons, where, the French kids were in full scream mode. Okay, so it's Sunday, end of School Break Week, but these kids put Yankee youngsters to shame. And the dogs were in full participation. 73 decibels.

                                            1. re: John Talbott
                                              Parnassien Mar 2, 2014 03:14 PM

                                              John, I can only suppose the offending kids were the products of suburban or originally provincial parents. BTW, it is obligatory to blame everything that goes wrong in Paris on the "les banlieusards"/ suburbanites... even the word "banlieusard" must be pronounced with a sneer by every self-respecting Parisien(ne). Ok ? :) Anyway, give the brats to my gran for a week and they will be transformed into little lambs quietly browsing La Rochefoucauld maxims.

                                              1. re: Parnassien
                                                mangeur Mar 2, 2014 03:19 PM

                                                Even at 2, my granddaughter understands the difference between inside and outside voice. ( I can't wait to teach her about seduction and conspiracy.)

                                                1. re: Parnassien
                                                  Ptipois Mar 2, 2014 06:47 PM

                                                  In the banlieues (and that prominently includes the reputably 'worst' of the 9-3), I often see young men and teenagers leaving their seats for ladies or old people in the bus. In Paris "intra-muros", very rarely. I do not think Parisians are better educated than banlieusards, far from it.
                                                  (And to keep in chart, there are mighty good, cheap African restaurants in the North burbs.)

                                                  1. re: Ptipois
                                                    Parnassien Mar 3, 2014 12:54 PM

                                                    Pti, just for the record, I like many of my peers now exclude "la zone" when heaping scorn on les banlieusards.

                                                    I was primarily referring to the conservative and "respectable" southern and western suburbs. For "la zone" I have pity and guilt, not scorn. And a note for the non-locals: "la Zone" is the deprived (mostly) northern suburbs where the poor and immigrants are shamefully wharehoused.

                                                    1. re: Parnassien
                                                      John Talbott Mar 3, 2014 02:04 PM

                                                      southern and western suburbs.the "les banlieusards"/ suburbanites
                                                      The kids screaming Sunday were not from the southern and western suburbs nor the eastern ones, they were locals, Parnassien, the poussettes were not hauled out of boots of cars but were from the nabe.
                                                      If you give me a few business cards for your gran, I'll refer them for retraining.

                                                      1. re: John Talbott
                                                        Parnassien Mar 3, 2014 02:20 PM

                                                        John, I know. I was being tongue in cheek, playing the snooty Parisien and blaming French folks originally from elsewhere.

                                                        1. re: Parnassien
                                                          Ptipois Mar 3, 2014 05:32 PM

                                                          Sometimes I really want to nickname you Amélie Poulain.

                                                          1. re: Parnassien
                                                            Parigi Mar 4, 2014 12:05 AM

                                                            "snooty Parisien"
                                                            Oh. I thought it was "awkward posturing", sorriest.

                                                            1. re: Parigi
                                                              Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 12:46 AM

                                                              One of the joys of Paris life is the posing and posturing that our culture encourages ... and, except for the awkward moments when our throw-away lines are retrieved and given misunderstood significance, we do it so well.

                                                        2. re: Parnassien
                                                          Ptipois Mar 3, 2014 05:26 PM

                                                          I see, but I disagree about guilt or pity. What you call "la zone" is not so deprived as you describe it, besides it is not so clear-cut as you make it appear. Getting closer, you realize that life there is far more interesting that it looks like from the other side of the Périphérique. Last but not least, there are some wondrous markets, shops, and restaurants.

                                                          1. re: Ptipois
                                                            Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 12:35 AM

                                                            While I cannot claim to be an expert on all of la Zone, I did spend many evenings and weekends for a decade in my younger and not so young years as a volunteer teaching literacy skills in Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis... and I continue to make regular visits for weddings or just maintain old friendships or sample the music scene. I agree there is a particular vibrancy and colour but, after a dozen run-ins with schizophrenics and a few brushes with violence, I no longer see it through rose-coloured lenses. As for restaurants, I do appreciate the little Taf et Maffe resto in Aubervilliers as a foodie and sociological experience and its residence-sociale catering in Saint-Denis as an inspiring example of public-private partnerships filling the gaps. But I must confess that, although I do try and try, I find that I don't have a real affinity for many authentic immigrant cuisines in la Zone, even at their best (and the quality places are rare).

                                                            And the guilt and pity is because we French have allowed, even engineered these pockets of deprivation in the suburbs to make sure that Paris has fewer slums to disquiet the tourists. Are Amélie's leftie petticoats showing ? :)

                                                            1. re: Parnassien
                                                              Ptipois Mar 4, 2014 01:54 AM

                                                              Yes somehow, but to each his own, and we have a different view of those places.

                                                              By the way I do not condone the term "we", not even in "we French", for the French are not a monolith and I do not include myself in what you describe when you talk about "the French" or "Parisians".

                                                              Besides, I do not share that guilt about the burbs for I do not consider myself separate or even remote from them; I think pity is patronizing, and I do not see "la zone" as one homogenous place but as a collection of pockets in a complex territory with all sorts of different lifestyles and options. Now there certainly is a difference between Paris and the suburbs, but the width of the gap is widely exaggerated.

                                                              As for the food, I suppose it all depends on your standards and affinities, as you say. Since I'll always prefer a good family maffé or poulet braisé sauce piment to a tasting menu by, say, David Toutain with plenty of technicity but no humanity, it is easy to guess why I see the area beyond the Périphérique as furiously interesting.

                                                              Actually, there may be something very Parisian at work there. NY Chowhounds for instance do not hesitate for one second to go sample some terrific Chinese, African, Mid-Eastern, etc., foods in the remotest, hardest-to-reach parts of Queens, Brooklyn and even farther, and to report enthusiastically about it. Nothing of the sort here, although similar gems could be found outside of the city. That refusal to consider the entire region as worthy of interest is caused, I'm afraid, by the touristy status of Paris threatening to make it a half-dead city, and by a certain tendency of Parisians to segregate themselves from what is around them (hardly anybody ever crosses the Périph' to eat out). It is not the tourists' fault - it is a Parisian quirk.

                                                              1. re: Ptipois
                                                                Rio Yeti Mar 4, 2014 02:01 AM

                                                                "David Toutain with plenty of technicity but no humanity"

                                                                This is a gratuitous blow to all of us that have been enjoying, and been touched (on an emotional level, hence the actual presence of humanity) by David Toutain's cooking.
                                                                You have the right to defend the "zone", the suburbs, and family style cooking all you want, but I don't think Parnassien's comments called for this "pique gratuite" to us all...

                                                                1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                  Ptipois Mar 4, 2014 07:20 AM

                                                                  That is only my opinion about Toutain's cooking understood as an example, not an attack on anyone who likes it. I hope that is still permitted. It is not a pique, all the less since Parnassien hasn't mentioned Toutain in the posts I am replying to.

                                                                2. re: Ptipois
                                                                  Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 03:44 AM

                                                                  I think the comparison between New York and Paris is unfair. We Parisiens (and in this case "we" = me and mes semblables) aren't as purpose-driven and sensation-addicted as Americans. The almost masochistic urge to seek out and vaunt esoteric foodie experiences seems to squarely contradict the very French and European notion of pleasing and savouring the senses rather than just collecting sensations, foodwise or otherwise.

                                                                  As for "la zone", I agree with most of what you say. But you Mme la Normande and me, le fils du 7e, can occasionally experience and even enjoy the life of la zone but we can never belong. We are and always will be outsiders there. Indeed it is easier for zonards with the right education and achievement to find acceptance in the 7th than for us to fit in in Clichy-sous-Bois. And for our less curious fellow Parisiens, what is the purpose of venturing into the suburbs ? Aren't there enough ethnic and occasionally very good restos in dreary neighbourhoods inside Paris ? Or does the inconvenience of getting to and from the suburbs for poulet braisé somehow make it taste better ... or confirm foodie street cred like those New Yorkers who take 5 trains to get to some "secret" source of authentic merguez or Yucatan delicacy in a distant borough ?

                                                                  I certainly agree with Yeti's point. And more generally think that there is great humanness in many Paris restaurants. After all, they are to a great extent extensions of our homes and where we celebrate our family ties and friendships. Admittedly some hard-core foodies are too fixed on the food alone to recognize the special joy and humanness that is the essential quality of any good restaurant in Paris.

                                                                  1. re: Parnassien
                                                                    Steve R Mar 4, 2014 05:37 AM

                                                                    As I have a visit to Paris coming up soon, I have been reading this board & have now stumbled upon this very interesting discussion. As one of those NY'ers who regularly travels out to Queens for the various ethnic foods & communities available (as well as trekking to various ethnic enclaves inside my home area of Brooklyn for others), I'm pretty sure that, if I were to spend a longer period of time in Paris, I would find myself in what you are calling "la zone" to find interesting cuisine from the varied folks there. In fact, finding out of the way gems (& taking the inevitable hits) is mostly why I joined CH many years ago, even though it has since also become a tool for guidance when in Paris, Florence or even Hawaii. So, I guess I agree with the thrust of Ptipois' comments. But, then again, I don't belong to a place with such a strong food culture and tradition of its own and I must find other cultures' creations in order to eat well and satisfy my soul and palate. Thanks for the discussion. Now, where do I go eat in Paris during my 5 days there? (joke).

                                                                    1. re: Steve R
                                                                      Rio Yeti Mar 4, 2014 05:45 AM

                                                                      Last time I went to New York, Brooklyn looked more like the "Canal St. Martin area" than "Pantin"...

                                                                      1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                        Steve R Mar 4, 2014 06:20 AM

                                                                        Absolutely correct, if you confine yourself to the now very trendy areas of a very geographically large borough. Just last night my wife and I ate at a very good newly reviewed NY Times 2 star restaurant (Dover) in my immediate neighborhood (Bklyn Heights/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens) & sat at a table next to a couple who took the train to Brooklyn from Manhattan (the West Village) to eat there. What a turnaround! However, last week I ate at a pretty down home rustic Georgian restaurant (Lagidze) in the middle of Brooklyn, across the street from a great neighborhood family Turkish restaurant (Taci's Beyti), and the week before I was in Sunset Park, Brooklyn eating in a small hand pulled noodle Chinese place 10 blocks away from the new Mexican neighborhood with families galore eating tongue tacos. I have nothing against the new Williamsburg, Bushwick, Boerum Hill or other similar neighborhoods in Bklyn (well, part of me does wish they'd all leave again), but lots of Bklyn is still what it was, a haven for various ethnicities to establish a new home away from home. Come visit again…. I'll give you a tour.

                                                                        1. re: Steve R
                                                                          Rio Yeti Mar 4, 2014 06:27 AM

                                                                          With pleasure :)

                                                                          1. re: Steve R
                                                                            Ptipois Mar 4, 2014 07:38 AM

                                                                            For one thing, I'd love a tour. I used to live in Park Slope in the mid-Eighties, when it was just about to start getting trendy. At that time the area was nothing to write home about, foodwise, but oh Lord once you got out of it and hiked or biked around, what incredible foods you were able to find in other, more remote parts of Brooklyn! A few streets down, there was an old Italian enclave where mozzarella was made afresh every morning. Come to think of it, that may be one of the reasons why I find the "ethnic" suburbs of Paris so fascinating.

                                                                            1. re: Ptipois
                                                                              Steve R Mar 4, 2014 10:21 AM

                                                                              You all know how to find me (my e-mail is on my CH "home page" & several of you already know it). I love taking folks around Brooklyn. Or even Queens. And retirement provides me with the time to do so.

                                                                            2. re: Steve R
                                                                              bauskern Mar 4, 2014 08:28 AM

                                                                              When I had graduated college and was living/working in Manhattan, those from Brooklyn were considered to be part of the great unwashed "bridge and tunnel" crowd. It would have been absolutely unheard of for someone from Manhattan to travel to Brooklyn to eat (unless it was at Peter Luger's steakhouse, perhaps? - I think that is in Bklyn?). How the times have changed!

                                                                        2. re: Parnassien
                                                                          Ptipois Mar 4, 2014 07:29 AM

                                                                          "But you Mme la Normande and me, le fils du 7e, can occasionally experience and even enjoy the life of la zone but we can never belong."

                                                                          I am sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, you do not know anything about where I belong or not. I would be thankful to you not to include me in your social considerations.

                                                                          What a strange idea to think that one should "always be outsiders there". Just have a drastic change in one's fortune (which is nothing I wish for anybody) and then you might have to move there, and eventually belong as much as you can manage it. There's nothing genetic or essentialist about that.

                                                                          As for the "less curious fellow Parisians" I don't think they need to be excused through the use of a rather condescending rhetoric ("does the inconvenience of getting to and from the suburbs for poulet braisé somehow make it taste better") — all I'm saying is that there are wonders to be found outside of the city limits and it is no less true, or - okay - not much less true, of Paris than of New York. Now New Yorkers won't feel shy seeking them and most Parisians will. One does not need to depreciate the former to make one's point. All it boils down to is that some will go to some lengths to experience excellent food and some won't. And it sounds a bit preposterous to say New Yorkers will explore the taste offerings of their region more thoroughly because they are more masochistic and purpose-driven than Parisians.

                                                                          And I'm not depreciating Paris restaurants in any way, let that be clear. Only mentioning a style of cooking that strikes me as artificial and happens not to be my favorite. That I prefer traditional family cooking from all sorts of regions is only a taste, and does not require to be interpreted.

                                                                          1. re: Ptipois
                                                                            Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 02:23 PM

                                                                            Pti.... Yes, there are a few wonders to be found outside of the city limits. But there are many, many more to be found inside. I just don't get the need to make forays into la zone for foodie kicks.

                                                                            I didn't intend to get into class warfare. All I'm saying that la zone has a certain and very interesting culture that excludes us from belonging. It is not me or you looking down on or rejecting les zonards but it's les zonards not accepting us as anything other than interlopers. It has nothing to do with class or income. It's just how "le bled" works. Certainly we can have moments of sharing and warmth but in the end we must all return "home".

                                                                            1. re: Parnassien
                                                                              Ptipois Mar 4, 2014 07:49 PM

                                                                              Again, I wish you wouldn't use the pronoun "we" or "us" when you reply to one of my posts. Maybe you know where you belong, but you have no idea where I do or not, where is home to me and who excludes me or not.

                                                                              Particularly, I deeply disagree with your caricatural (not to use a harsher word) view of what you call "la zone" and "les zonards". What is that place and who are they? What parts of the territory and what types of population does your definition include? What is "it's just how le bled works" supposed to mean? (For the information of other posters, "le bled" is a term of Algerian origin which depicts the native village.)

                                                                              As a frequent visitor of families and friends living in the so-called "hot" suburbs, I can assure that you are totally mistaken in your description of their inhabitants' lifestyles, social standards and acceptance of others.

                                                                              Considering your frequent practice of posing as the quintessential "we the French" or "we Parisians" for the Yanks here, I would like to stress that this sort of statement is not typical of the French and does not represent them.

                                                                              However, we still have an ethnically interesting phenomenon at work there, and once again it is a good example of Parisian mental segregation: some people from inside the Périph will talk to no end about "la zone" without any idea of what's really there.

                                                                              1. re: Ptipois
                                                                                Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 11:48 PM

                                                                                Mme Ptipois.... Ouch! But I'm not sure what we are arguing about. I agree that "la zone" is a socio-economic and ethnic mosaic. I don't quite see where I caricatured the inhabitants other than implying, as central and local governments have clearly stated, that there is a common denominator of social and economic stresses. Maybe there is some confusion over vocabulary. "La zone" and "zonard" used to be pejoratives 20 years ago.... but not now... just the opposite (at least in current informal language). "Bled" originally one's home village in Algeria is now used by most younger residents of "la zone" as well as Oberkampf & Menilmontant hipsters to refer to their own particular neighbourhoods or communities. So maybe, just maybe by using terms and meanings in common currency in my generation but not yours I have offended your sensibilities. If so, I apologize.

                                                                                And I have subsequently explained and re-explained my use of "belonging". It hardly contradicts your own notions of where you think or want to belong. Or we may be confusing each other with different definitions of "belonging" which to me is not the same as "affinity".

                                                                                You and I both know, have an affinity for, and have explored "la zone" and have friendships with people who live there. It's not my idea of a culinary heaven while for you it's marvel of gastronomic oases. I certainly enjoy Paris more than the suburbs but that's only because the familiarity and the possibilities are more obvious. And I'm not that big a fan of esoteric ethnic cuisines. But that seems to be the crux of our disagreement. All the rest is just vinegar added to the wine.

                                                                                As for the quibble over "we", it doesn't require much time and space. Whenever I write "we", just translate as "on"/ one. When I say "we Parisiens" etc it is simply a convenient generalization and does not obviously mean "all Parisiens". Language/ communication is impossible without such generalizations. You are certainly free to add your own modifications if you can figure out a understandable way to express all the exceptions to the generalizations in one or two words.

                                                                                Can we kiss and make up ?

                                                                                1. re: Parnassien
                                                                                  Ptipois Mar 5, 2014 12:11 AM

                                                                                  "As for the quibble over "we", it doesn't require much time and space. Whenever I write "we", just translate as "on"/ one."

                                                                                  This doesn't work when you clearly associate that "we" with "you and I" or "me or you", which you did twice in this thread and is precisely what I am reacting to.

                                                                                  "When I say "we Parisiens" etc it is simply a convenient generalization and does not obviously mean "all Parisiens"."

                                                                                  That is not clear at all, for you always make it sound like a general statement (hence my mention of Amélie Poulain), and most of the time I think it doesn't ring true.

                                                                                  "Language/ communication is impossible without such generalizations."

                                                                                  On the contrary I think that all these matters would require less vagueness.

                                                                                  "Can we kiss and make up ?"

                                                                                  Your arguments do not convince me (to be fair I failed to understand more than half of them), and we're not chummy enough to justify that expression.

                                                                                  1. re: Ptipois
                                                                                    Parnassien Mar 5, 2014 12:19 AM

                                                                                    Ok, no kisses. But what about the making up ? :)

                                                                                    1. re: Parnassien
                                                                                      Ptipois Mar 5, 2014 12:26 AM

                                                                                      These things are of very little importance and not worth sombering a nice day. So I'll make up (and might I say kiss) à donf, obviously.

                                                                                    2. re: Ptipois
                                                                                      Rio Yeti Mar 5, 2014 12:23 AM

                                                                                      If I may interfere, not to add oil in the fire (don't know if it's an expression used in english...), but actually to steer the conversation back to a Chowhound one...

                                                                                      I live right near the suburbs (Porte de Pantin), and I have plenty of friends who live or have lived in the suburbs, even I had a part of my life (a few years of my childhood) living outside the périphérique... But although I can't say I ever explored the different neighborhoods in search of food, from an outside perspective I tend to agree with Parnassien about the fact that there doesn't seem to be a great deal of authentic restaurants doing amazing food... most of what I see are kebabs or small pizzerias... That is not to say that I doubt some gems exist, but let's be more specific : so Ptipois, do you have any recs for one said gem in the area of Pantin for instance ? If I can shlep all the way to the 7th for David Toutain (a neighborhood, where I definitely don't feel like I belong), then I can certainly cross the périph' for some great chow !

                                                                                      1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                                        Ptipois Mar 5, 2014 12:27 AM

                                                                                        Ah, sorry, no recs for Pantin.

                                                                                        1. re: Ptipois
                                                                                          Rio Yeti Mar 5, 2014 12:31 AM

                                                                                          Ok, this side of the périph' it is then... (not that the food in this part of the hood is any better... next time I move, I'll choose more carefully...).
                                                                                          Thanks anyway.

                                                                                          1. re: Ptipois
                                                                                            Parigi Mar 5, 2014 01:01 AM

                                                                                            I had an excellent Chinese meal, truly good Cantonese, at Pantin, lol. Wish I remembered the resto name.

                                                                                            1. re: Parigi
                                                                                              Rio Yeti Mar 5, 2014 01:26 AM

                                                                                              Ouch too bad, because I've really been in the mood for some dim sum lately, but never found the time to go all the way to Tricotin... Let me know if you get an eureka moment !

                                                                                              1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                                                Parigi Mar 5, 2014 01:43 AM

                                                                                                The Chinese lady in the most unassuming stand in Marché St Quentin has very good home-made dimsum. She even invented a whole bunch. Try them all.

                                                                                                1. re: Parigi
                                                                                                  Rio Yeti Mar 5, 2014 01:51 AM

                                                                                                  Yes I saw you talk about it on another post, and made a mental note to myself, but that note disappeared with probably a dozen of other mental notes I make while reading this board... so thanks for reminding me !

                                                                                                  1. re: Parigi
                                                                                                    bcc Mar 5, 2014 02:53 AM

                                                                                                    Yes! And thanks for the heads-up.

                                                                                                    1. re: Parigi
                                                                                                      Rio Yeti 1 day ago


                                                                                                      Went monday... the marché St Quentin was closed...
                                                                                                      Went tuesday... the marché St Quentin was open, but the stand had a signed "closed until april the 18th"...
                                                                                                      Went today... finally ! I tried a bunch of different dim sum, all very good although I was a bit disappointed to see that she reheats them in the microwave, which dried out a few of their edges. (but since there is no place to sit down, I'm guessing she can't ask for her customers to wait for her to cook a fresh batch every time ...). I went to a spot with some tables and chairs inside the Marché St Quentinn, where I ate everything happily, not sure if I was squatting the tables of the "italian restaurant" that serves minestrone, but nobody told me anything...
                                                                                                      Definitely the best I had in Paris (but keep in mind that I haven't tried that many dim sum places), and very original (chicken and clementines dim sum !).

                                                                                                      Will return for sure, but where do you usually eat ? Or do you just buy the food and heat it back at your place ?

                                                                                                      Thank you !

                                                                                                      1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                                                        Parigi 1 day ago

                                                                                                        You can pre-order dumsun from her uncooked. She actually prefers it that way. Of course, it tastes better.
                                                                                                        The next best thing is to re-steam it, which she cannot do there in the market.
                                                                                                        The Italian traiteur is also awesome.
                                                                                                        It gets ultra fresh fish from the neighbor poissonier who supplies Spring and Jeu de Quilles, etc., and makes amazing pasta vongole (but not every day, often on the weekends). Did you see her half dozen types of lasagna ? All good.
                                                                                                        The tables outside are for the whole market. The one table inside the "Mercato" is reserved for the Mercato's customers. So you were ok.

                                                                                                        1. re: Parigi
                                                                                                          Rio Yeti 1 day ago

                                                                                                          So you buy them uncooked and you steam them yourself ? Ok, will do.

                                                                                                          No I didn't check the Italian traiteur... I'm ashamed to say it was the first time I entered this market, and it's a pretty weird place... Not much people, it almost looks abandoned, and yet most things I saw looked pretty great. Including the few poissonneries, and some places selling cheese and meat.
                                                                                                          I have a feeling I will start lurking around this place more often.

                                                                                                          1. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                                                            Parigi 1 day ago

                                                                                                            Indeed it is a great market, and there are never too many people. What's up with that.
                                                                                                            There is also a faaaabulous Portuguese lunch counter with a funky patronne who loves Chicago blues.

                                                                                              2. re: Rio Yeti
                                                                                                bauskern Mar 5, 2014 05:38 AM

                                                                                                In America I believe the expression is "to throw oil on the fire" . . . although I haven't heard anyone say that in a long long time. I will also add as an American that I have found this thread to be immensely informative, even though it has veered away from food per se! Last year I watched a movie at home -- it was filmed as if it were a documentary, but it was a cinematic film -- about France's involvement/presence in Algeria and the Algerian uprising. I can't recall the name of the film, but it was a real eye-opener, and I thought it was very relevant to America's involvement today in Muslim countries. Anyway, I'm glad that everyone has "agreed to disagree" and to move on back to food . . . . .

                                                                                                1. re: bauskern
                                                                                                  Parigi Mar 5, 2014 05:56 AM

                                                                                                  Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers ?

                                                                                                  1. re: Parigi
                                                                                                    bauskern Mar 5, 2014 06:14 AM

                                                                                                    Yes, that was it. An eye-opener! It was like I was watching a news story and not a movie.

                                                                                                    1. re: bauskern
                                                                                                      Parigi Mar 5, 2014 06:35 AM


                                                                                                  2. re: bauskern
                                                                                                    Ptipois Mar 5, 2014 08:59 AM

                                                                                                    It was probably Gilles Pontecorvo's "La Bataille d'Alger".

                                                                                                    (Posted before I saw Parigi's reply above.)

                                                                                      2. re: Parnassien
                                                                                        Parigi Mar 4, 2014 09:35 AM

                                                                                        "and me, le fils du 7e, "
                                                                                        Ah, I see, tongue in cheek again…
                                                                                        Les fils du 7e never say that.
                                                                                        And those who say they are, …

                                                                                        1. re: Parigi
                                                                                          Parnassien Mar 4, 2014 01:15 PM

                                                                                          "Les fils du 7e never say that"
                                                                                          Huh ? it's a perfectly ordinary way to declare one's geographic origins. Of course, when cherry picking, it can be shorn of context and deliberately misinterpreted. Very unworthy of Cixi, though.

                                                                                        2. re: Parnassien
                                                                                          Busk Mar 4, 2014 01:22 PM

                                                                                          Clichy-sous-Bois? Does Olivier Klein "belong".

                                                                                        3. re: Ptipois
                                                                                          John Talbott Mar 4, 2014 09:11 AM

                                                                                          "NY Chowhounds for instance do not hesitate for one second to go sample some terrific Chinese, African, Mid-Eastern, etc., foods in the remotest, hardest-to-reach parts of Queens, Brooklyn"
                                                                                          I must say, as someone who lived in NY (Manhattan) for 25 years, that this is not only true now, it was almost 60 years ago; a most interesting point. Part of the answer, though may be that NYC doesn't have cités and the clusters of immigrants who settled in the other boroughs set the tone for good Greek, Indian, etc., food.
                                                                                          I know I get ribbed a lot for eating in places like Levallois-Perret, Meudon and Puteaux but they are what, 10 minutes from the city?

                                                                                          1. re: John Talbott
                                                                                            Steve R Mar 4, 2014 11:00 AM

                                                                                            I can't speak for "almost 60 years ago" (sorry John) but I clearly remember meeting folks from Manhattan in Queens for Indian/Pakistanian/Begladeshian or Latin American or Chinese way back at least 30 years ago. Having grown up in Brooklyn, I've always explored much of the borough and have pretty much always had to go to Manhattan regularly. Of course, I still have friends (including some on CH) who won't cross the river to Bklyn even now. Their loss.

                                                                            2. re: Parnassien
                                                                              ChefJune Mar 4, 2014 11:54 AM

                                                                              <Re eating habits. The American way mesmerizes me. Like watching an accident. How in the world did such unnatural and showy use of knife and fork evolve ?>

                                                                              Probably invented by John Hancock in Colonial times. Have you ever seen his tombstone (which he designed for himself)?

                                                                              1. re: ChefJune
                                                                                allende Mar 4, 2014 01:22 PM

                                                                                I have seen the tombstone, many times. Quite, quite amusing.

                                                                                But getting back to New York. I was born there, in Manhattan, and lived there for a decent part of my life. Steve R hit it on the head as far as ethnic restaurants. Spot on.

                                                                                The other restaurants... abysmal. Nothing more than a lot of very wealthy people chasing after nothing more than "faux." No matter what anyone says, on a scale of 1 to 10, New York restaurants, excluding the ethnic ones, are a 1. Paris is a 10. Even here in Italy, where, depending on what area we're talking about it, is only a 5 or 6. The "better" restaurants in New York, with a few exceptions, are a 1.

                                                                                I saw a menu from one of the "hottest best" places in the city. The food was trying to be Toscana, Toscana, Toscana. Unfortunately, they didn't have a clue. They couldn't even get the wines right (250 dollars for an off year of Brunello from a minor producer; a wine that is 35 years old and God only knows how they got it and how it has been stored) But, the restaurant is famous because you have to spend a lot of money to eat and drink there. And people will buy that bottle, even though they couldn't tell sangiovese from nebbiolo, because it is from the 70s and is from Tuscany. And the people don't know anything. And only labels are drunk, not what is in the bottles. Really sad.

                                                                                Chef June. Forget about the American way re eating habits. It's the mediocre food in New York's "better" restaurants that is the problem and the people who don't know the difference between good food and not good food.

                                                                                Again, ethnic in New York or nothing.

                                                                          2. mangeur Mar 4, 2014 08:13 AM

                                                                            What this extraordinary thread has brought home to me is that "soul" is ultimately and perhaps entirely a personal concept.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: mangeur
                                                                              Kurtis Mar 4, 2014 08:44 AM

                                                                              Completely agree, and what makes an ordinary extraordinary is when these entirely personal "souls" communicate: from small sample from the kitchen of an inquired ingredient as you are finishing up the meal, to observing glances and smiles from the "houses" we like to visit.

                                                                            2. John Talbott Mar 4, 2014 09:18 AM

                                                                              So, to get back to the business at hand, which is to avoid the enemy because he is us; today's meal at Sur Le Fil in the 14th was a standout from the young chef who came thru Itineraires. English was spoken but as a common language of the charming hostess and Italian couple with bambino. For more & pix http://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a0...

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