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Paris 5 nights, St. Emilion 2 nights, Bordeaux ville 2 nights- opinions and recommendations?

Bonjour, CHs français!

First, let me thank you for all of the wonderful and energetic comments on the French board. I have been both informed and *highly* entertained, and am left daydreaming of a little party amongst the Paris CHs. But I digress...

My husband and I are traveling to France to visit his daughter in mid-May. She lives outside of Paris (studying in Versailles), and is at the tail-end of her McDonalds/doner kabob phase. Thus, I am (thankfully) responsible for all plans food-related. My plans thus far are as follows

Paris (Thursday-Tuesday morning):
We have three evenings in Paris free (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), and might be open to making advance reservations for one lunch as well. We are all adventurous eaters- I am fairly fish-centric, but open to bits of anything, and my family are avowed red meat lovers. Current places in the running for the three dinners and/or 1 lunch:
6 Paul Bert
Pirouette
Circonstances
Franck Enée
Bistrot Flaubert
Premices
Le Bon Georges
Spring or David Toutain

Market and wine/food shop recommendations in Paris:
We are renting a fairly large apartment with a full kitchen near the Pompidou, and are hoping to eat in for at least a few meals (and probably most breakfasts), as we enjoy cooking and want to take full advantage of the amazing produce, cheeses, charcuterie, etc, that will be available to us. We will of course stop by the Marche des Enfants Rouges, but I wanted to see if any of you had other recommendations for food and wine shops/bakeries within a reasonable walking distance (I would also be willing to cab or metro to a do-not-miss place).

St. Emilion (Tuesday and Wednesday):
I am still researching this area. Auberge St. Jean is unfortunately a no-go, as it is closed the two days we will be in St. Emilion.
*Current list: Lard et Buchon and Le Clos Mirande, though I do not have strong feeling about either of them.
*We have a private wine tour booked for Wednesday, centered around small organic vineyards in the area.
*We will be making our way into Bordeaux ville on Thursday, but would happily schedule a wine tasting on our way in if anyone has a don't-miss suggestion (I wish we had time to get out to Medoc to try the wines Ptipois mentioned in her amazingly informative post, but we'll have to save it for next time).

Bordeaux ville (Thursday and Friday night, whole day Saturday):
Our main goal in Bordeaux is to stroll around and explore the city, as our daughter is considering continuing her studies here. I'm wondering if we should make reservations for just one night and wing the other?
*Current considerations for lunch and/or dinner:
Le Pavillon des Boulevards
Restaurant La Cave de Bigoudy
l'Estacade
Cochon Volant
or perhaps La Tupina (?).
Also, we will be there in late-May. Do I need to avoid the oysters since it is so late, or should I feel free to indulge?

Merci, merci in advance for reading this lengthy post. Please feel free to give your unvarnished opinions, and, if you think I'm missing something or am planning poorly, please do speak up!

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  1. I'll only comment on your Paris possibilities - all are good (except Bistrot Flaubert which I don't know.), you'll have a tough time narrowing it to 3

    3 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott

      Thank you, John. These were all culled in large part from the generous and informative posts from you and other Paris CHs. Of that list, do you feel there are any do-not-misses (I realize that is extremely subjective)?
      I will keep a short list of possible add-on lunch reservations, but would like to maintain some flexibility for when we get there (market-based meals, falafel or crepe stand, etc).

      1. re: mandafire

        "do-not-misses"
        hummm. I guess put that way for three dinners I'd go with Franck Enée, Spring and David Toutain - but and it's a big but, none are open Sunday PM (our current Sunday place is Bertrand Grebaut [Septime]'s Clamato but it's not for everyone (a couple we went with last week hated it).
        Your other choices, 6 Paul Bert, Pirouette, Circonstances,
        Premices and Le Bon Georges are all terrific lunch spots, except on Sunday.
        BTW is your relative near Versailles, in which case La Veranda is open Sunday and is great.
        And, I just saw that Meg Zimbeck put up a great Sunday list on Paris by Mouth http://parisbymouth.com/paris-restaur...
        which has several of my favorites that are in the category you're seeking: Les Jalles, Terroir Parisien, BAT, 110 Taillevent & Les Tablettes de etc. not to mention dans Les Landes.

        1. re: John Talbott

          Thank you for the info, John. I think we may put dans Les Landes on for Sunday.

    2. Upon the advice of this board, I recently dined at Miles in Bordeaux and it was excellent. We did the wine pairing also which was ok, but nothing spectacular, so unless you want a variety of different wines I'd get a bottle. Make a booking if you want to dine here, we went on a Wednesday at 9 and it was very busy.

      It is my understanding you can eats oysters all year, but that they are just not as tasty in breeding/summer months (months without the letter 'r') which is why you would avoid them - I would still eat them in May. We ate some delicious oysters in Bordeaux, they were a world apart from the oysters I have eaten back here in the states.

      Bordeaux is a really nice city there are lots of flea and food markets and it is very walkable. I really liked it and would definitely go back.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ralphthecat

        "It is my understanding you can eats oysters all year, but that they are just not as tasty in breeding/summer months (months without the letter 'r') which is why you would avoid them - I would still eat them in May. 1"

        Many oysters these days are sterile and don't breed - they were developed for the oyster farming industry as they grow faster and they don't lose condition when the weather warms and they enter the breeding season. So good quality oysters are available and good all year in France.

        Some places may still sell the ones that breed and the quality will change in the warmer summer months (you will be OK in May). As they are shucked to order, usually outside, you can simply go and look at them. Some people do enjoy them in this milky condition and so some places will still offer them.

        1. re: PhilD

          Thanks to both of you for the info. I will happily slurp away.

          1. re: mandafire

            In Bordeaux, you might have a look at La Table du Quai on the Quai Louis XVIII - the style is bistro and south westwith reasonable price/quality balance..
            Normally I would not counsel a new restaurant without eating there but I know Pierre Bertranet's two other restaurants and from whence he has taken a part of his team for Bordeaux.
            I think you will not be disappointed.

      2. The first time we came to Paris we rented an apartment not far from where you are staying. Around the corner, literally a minute's walk out the door, was a little boulangerie with breads and pastries. This place was nothing special; I'm sure there were a thousand just like it throughout Paris. And yet it was the best bread we had ever tasted. So don't worry about finding the "best" -- you'll do just fine. We found that the yogurts from the local Monoprix were just fine, and the Bonne Maman jams actually tasted better (and came in some different flavors) than what you get in the USA. (Loved the rhubarb jam!) Not sure why that was. I can say, however, that the coffee @ our little boulangerie was really pretty bad. But you may be within walking distance of Fragments, which has gotten rave reviews for their coffee. Your Paris resto list looks divine. We have Circonstances down on our own list for our upcoming trip as a possible lunch.

        1. Re Paris
          So much of the immediate area "near the Pompidou" is devoted to tourism that I'm not even sure that much real-life stuff goes on there. Hopefully, you are in easy walking distance of the rue Montorgueil shopping street, one of the oldest and best known "rues commerçantes" where you can can find an abundance of excellent bakeries, cheesemongers, butchers, etc... depending on where you are, the #29 bus from rue Grenier-St Lazare @ rue Beaubourg will also get you there in a few mins and from Etienne-Marcel/ Montmartre on the way back... btw, there's a very famous Monet painting of the rue Montorgueil in the Musée d'Orsay... gives an extra dimension to shopping for pork chops, eh ?

          In addition to the Marché des Enfants Rouges/ rue de Bretagne already suggested, there's a small but good quality street market on Wednesday afternoon/ early evening on the place Baudoyer behind the Hotel de Ville... probably easily walkable for you. The #29 bus also makes the excellent Marché Bastille on the boulevard Richard Lenoir near métro Bréguet-Sabin pretty convenient for you... Thursday morning when sedate and Sunday morning when very large and boisterous. The Marché Maubert on the place Maubert in the 5th on Tue, Thu and Sat mornings is also very easily reached if you use the #47 bus from the rue Beaubourg to Maubert-Mutualié ... on return journey, stops near your apartment are on the boulevard Sébastopol.

          Re Bordeaux.
          Have a look at
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9680... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9690...
          for a truckload of recommendations.

          L'Estacade is recommendable for the setting and views, not for the food. If you do decide to go, take the little Batcub ferry across the the river (from the quai Lyautey/ Quinconces to the Stalingrad jetée) for a little extra adventure.

          Like PhilD says, oysters are eaten year-round now. And the Bassin d'Arcachon, just 35-mins from Bordeaux, is one of the biggest oyster producers in France.

          Be prepared for a little instant depression if your daughter is considering the Université de Bordeaux... although a very old university, it has been re-organized and most of its component parts have been re-located to some very dreary suburbs... some of its instituts do remain in Bordeaux ville so let's hope you're not obliged to make a foray to the suburban campuses.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Parnassien

            Thank you so much for all the information and recommendations. Regarding our rental near Pompidou, I was just thinking yesterday how I messed up on that one. Next time I'll do better.

            And with regards to tourist traps, can any of you give me feedback on Breizh Cafe for lunch? It is really well-regarded in the English-speaking press, but I don't know if we'd be better off skipping in favor of whatever little place we happen to walk by.

            And thank you for the preparation re: the Univ. de Bordeaux! Her main goal is to get a feel for the city, so I'm betting that any suburban campus visits should be pretty short. Also, in Bordeaux, do we need to plan on reservations as far in advance as one does in Paris, or can we get away with being a little bit more flexible?

            1. re: mandafire

              Well, as someone who never plans far in advance and doesn't mind improvising if my first choice is fully booked, I'm the wrong person to ask.

              In Bordeaux, the only place I book a week or two in advance is Miles on the rue Cancera... it's new and hot. But my philosophy for Paris holds true in Bordeaux: you can always find a resto that is as good or better than the one you think is unmissable. When in Bordeaux, I also regularly prowl around the Saint-Pierre quartier (which your daughter will love) playing it by ear.

              Too bad you will miss the Sunday market on the quai Chartrons... such a delight! But B-ville is loaded with other markets on various days and locations. A few (i.e. Marché St-Michel on some days) are more like flea markets/ bazars where plastic predominates but most are fun, fun, fun and some are foodie-fab.
              http://www.bordeaux.fr/ebx/pgPresStan...

              1. re: Parnassien

                Well said. When I am in Bordeaux, it is generally for an evening wine-related event where finger food is deliberately scarce and you have to find food as you go out. I never think of booking anywhere since I never know when I'll be on the street. So I always try to find a table at Le Bouchon Bordelais and never find one. The good part comes next: strolling through the beautiful streets and trying to figure out where I'll eat. I always seem to end up at Le Petit Commerce - a place where there's always a place to sit even when it's packed - or at La Brasserie Bordelaise if I'm in the mood for meat. Next time I think I'll try more diversity.

                1. re: Parnassien

                  Oops, maybe I should rein back enthusiasm for the impromptu if the OP is there for Friday and Saturday. The Bordelais tend not to be homebodies and are out and about a helluva lot. If you hit a patch of good weather on a Friday or Saturday or Sunday, the city will be buzzing and the restos will be crammed. So yes, you as tourists and Bordeaux first-timers should probably play it safe and reserve for dinner.

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    Thanks to both of you. I think we'll do a combo: stroll on Thursday, and book dinner on Friday and late lunch on Saturday (we depart that evening).

                    Either of you have an opinion re: Spring vs. Goust? Or should we do Spring and Goust and ditch Circonstances? Or change it up altogether?

                    1. re: mandafire

                      I'm not Parnassien nor him me, although I'm envious.
                      Me, I think you should do as you say "Spring and Goust and ditch Circonstances". But that's cranky me.

                      1. re: mandafire

                        I did very much like the original resto Hier et Aujourd'hui in the 17th before it moved and re-incarnated as Circonstances in the 2nd. I did have a very quick lunch at Circonstances but, honestly, was too hurried to have clear memories of the food other than to say I wasn't disappointed.

                        I wouldn't fuss about any of these choices. Flip a coin or eeny meeny miney moe. You won't be disappointed whichever you end up at.

                        Personally, I'm a pennypincher so budget and price/quality ratio play a big part in my preferences... which is why I would hold on to Circonstances and then flip a coin about Goust and Spring. Or go to Caillebotte or Le Bon Georges. Or any of 100 other places where you can't go wrong.

                        1. re: Parnassien

                          I'm in agreement with the budget balance, thus my thought of one or the other. I'll discuss with my family and see if they have a strong preference.

                          1. re: Parnassien

                            "Le Bon Georges"
                            Talk about places that don't get talked about.
                            And we had Pascal lamb and a cote de boeuf that were gold standard yesterday. I'll go back any day.
                            And don't get me wrong I too liked Circonstances and Hier et Aujourd'hui; was just trying to rank them.

                    2. re: mandafire

                      And re Breizh Café. Very good indeed but I'm a little irrationally averse to crêperies where you have to book a table. Unfortunately, there are lots of tourist-trap crêpe stands so I wouldn't play it by ear for this particular genre... do a search on Chowhound for crepes to find crêperies that others have vetted (and a caveat that French accent keystrokes sometimes screw up Chowhound's search functions... even apostrophes complicate it)

                      1. re: Parnassien

                        Just go to Le Pot' O Lait, don't bother going anywhere else. Go early though, it's a small place.

                  2. Like Parnassien, I tend to not plan so far in advance. Thus, not surprisingly, Spring and David Toutain are already booked on our available nights. For the three dinners we will be eating out, the current plan is (pending availability)

                    Circonstances
                    Goust
                    Dans Les Landes on Sunday (thanks, John)

                    What are your thoughts? I put in Goust as we all love wine and their pairing concept sounds interesting. Also, I think our daughter would enjoy the experience. It looks to be around 150E/pp with wine for dinner, and would thus constitute a very big splurge for us. Is it worth it? Do any of you have another (better) fine dining rec in the same price range? Or should we stick with the list in my original post?

                    Continued thanks for all of your valuable input.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: mandafire

                      If Goust doesn't pan out, the owner's original restaurant Il Vino in the 7th is excellent for wine-pairing. You can choose from the menu but they also have a dégustation option... you choose the wine and then the chef makes a dish that pairs well with it... you have no choice what sort of dish is eventually served ... but I've never had a stinker yet and the joy of surprise is worth the suspense.

                      Michel Rostand's Bistrot Flaubert on your original list is also worth considering... reeks with Frenchness and good value for the quality of cooking. And not on your list but easily walkable from your apartment, the new Sergent Recruteur on the Ile St Louis... ignore all reviews before 2012 when this former tourist trap was totally re-done into a very modern resto with a Michel Bras-trained chef.

                      BTW, if you are set on David Toutain and Spring, try for rezzies again. We cancellation-vultures are usually quite successful, usually the day before or day of.

                      1. re: Parnassien

                        "Spring"
                        Friends visiting called and got in the same day or one before. Who knows?
                        As for whether Goust is worth it, it sure is at lunch.

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Just heard from Spring re: another date. So if I am left to choose between Goust (reservation is available) and Spring, which do you recommend, given our other dinner plans? I know it's apples and oranges...

                          1. re: mandafire

                            Spring hands down whatever that means.

                            1. re: mandafire

                              I recall from a few recent posts that Spring is often fairly full of US tourists (as it's on the NYT rotations has a US chef), whilst Goust is lower on the international radar and was very local on our visit (it has a Spanish chef).

                              I have also seem to recall from JT that the wine list at Spring isn't that wallet friendly, whilst I thought the Goust approach to wine was very good and enjoyable especially their "blind" pairing.

                              If these things matter to you it may be a useful data points.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                "from JT that the wine list at Spring"
                                Correct. At the beginning it was unacceptable but is now more friendly at least to me.