A Long Overdue Report December 11-25th - Paris/Alsace
Ok. Let's try this again.
My husband and I spent one week in Paris, then 4 days in Alsace. We ended the trip back in Paris for three days so we could do food shopping and purchase last minute Christmas gifts to take home. It was a wonderful food trip, thanks to all of you at Chowhound. I spent a lot of time at this site and others such as Paris by Mouth, John Talbott's Paris, etc.
Here is a list of Paris restaurants loosely based on preference:
Le Regalade St. Honore
Le Casse Noix
We went to Le Casse Noix on our first night in Paris. It was perfect for our jet lagged state. We rented an apartment in the 7th (Rue St. Dominique) so we were able walk to the restaurant. It was an unpretentious, warm, cozy bistro with very friendly staff. I don't recall what we ate, but remember it being well prepared. We had prix fixe with aperitifs, a bottle of wine and sparkling water, no coffee. The tab was 115EU for two.
The next day we had reservations for lunch at Table d'Aki. So glad we were able to experience his talent, but not sure if I would return due to the expense. We can't seem to find the receipt, but know it was about 200EU for the two of us for lunch. I had a glass of champagne when we first arrived ( I have champagne every chance I get when in France:) and then we had half a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse with our meal. It is amazing that he is able to prepare and serve everything all by himself.
Most days we had lunch out and ate dinner in. Usually grazing over things we picked up at various shops in the neighborhood (smoked salmon, pate, cheeses, carrot salad, beet salad, etc.) A perfect way to relax and unwind.
The next day we climbed the tower of Notre Dame. The beauty of visiting in December is that the lines are minimal. I think we only waited about 15 minutes to enter the tower. We walked from Notre Dame to our lunch spot, Le Saotico (2nd). Thanks John Talbott for the recommendation! This was my husband's favorite Paris restaurant on our trip! We had a 1:00 reservation and the place was jam packed with office workers and locals out for lunch. They seated us by the window out of the way of the crowd-perfect! My husband had an amazing risotto with truffles and sanils for an entree. I had a smoked salmon tartare on a bed of greens. I think I had dorade for a plate. I think my husband had grilled tuna. Lunch with 2 glasses of wine each, sparkling water, no coffee came to 87EU. A bargain for the quality of the food. The staff was friendly and efficient. We will definetily be back on our upcoming September trip. We will be renting an apartment on Rue Tiquetone, around the corner from Rue Montorguiel.
I am going to post this in batches, since my first attempt didn't go through. Next day: Cordon Bleu and Spring...
The next day, my husband went to an early morning class at the Cordon Bleu. It was obviously geared toward the novice. They made a a fois gras appetizer, roast pork and chocolate mousse. He said it was a wonderful experience seeing the institution itself, so much history. His takeaway was that the instructors were excellent, the morning demonstration was excellent, but the hands on experience in the afternoon was limited. They only recreated the pork dish. I spent the day going to Bon Marche and walking around my neighborhood. I also splurged and had my hair washed and blown dry.
Thay evening we had reservations at Spring. They seated us downstairs in the "cave" and I'm so glad they did! It was very romantic and quiet, compared ot the craziness upstairs. We each had an aperitif, a bottle of wine (on the lower end of the price spectrum), sparkling water, no coffee and the tab was 240EU. Everything was so fresh and presentations were beautiful. I'm glad we had the opportuity to try such a "hot" restaurant, but probably won't return. There are too many new places to try.
The next day we took the train to Reims to tour a champagne house. The only one open during this holiday period was Pommery. We walked about 10 minutes to La Table Anna for lunch befoe heading over to Pommery. I couldn't find a lot of options for a Sunday lunch when I was researching the trip. The staff was very friendly and attentive. Food was OK. Tab was 94EU.
That evening, we decided to walk over to the no -reservations, Cafe Constant, a short walk from our apartment. They seated us upstairs. It was packed with tourists, which I had expected. I made the misake of wearing a sweater. It felt like 90 degrees up there! We both bourguignon. Can't remember the rest of the entrees or dessert but the tab was 99.50 with a bottle of wine and sparkling water. I take that back, my husband had sorbet for dessert and I had rice pudding.
The next day we went to BHV, Galleries Lafeyette (L'emporium) and other shops in the area. We had lunch at one of the kiosk at L'Emporium that sells Iberian Ham, among others and various Spanish cheeses. We had a wonderful platter of hams and cheeses and a green salad. with two glasses of wine, the tab was 59EU. It's always fun to walk around and see all the beautiful displays of food. I love the hussle bussle of the holidays. I made a note of what I wanted to pick up when we returned after Alsace. A very enjoyable way to spend the afternoon!
I'm back. I've attached a few pictures from our dinner at Garance. I will also attach a few pictures from our Pairs by Mouth tour of St Germain and our breakfast at Cuisine du Bar.
Monday morning, headed over to Cuisine du Bar for breakfast before our 10:00am Paris by Mouth tour. We had cafe au lait in the big bowls (reminded me of my childhood!), excellent croissants, their toasted Poilane bread and several jams and butter. A perfect breakfast! It was 10 EU each. We met the group in front of Poilane. There were six of us in the group. Our tour guide was named Diane. She has worked for Gourmet (now Saveur) and has written for several publications, including the WSJ. She asked if we had any requests from Poilane. I asked for apple tarts ( I eat them every chance I get!). She also purchased thier famous butter cookies and some of their sourdough bread. We ate the apple tarts "commando style " out on the street. Delicious. Not too sweet.
We then stopped at Pierre Herme to sample their macarons. She purchased their holiday flavors for us to try. They were unusual combinations like caramel and fois gras, chocolate and truffles and something with fig and noisette. They were all tasty, but I'm a traditionalist, I guess. I prefer the more expected combinations of flavors.
After Pierre Herme, we stopped at Patrick Roger. There was a chocolate sculpture in the window of an Orangutan, amazing. Diane purchased chocolate bars from Ghana and Papua New Guinea and their chocolates with the praline filling. I was in pure heaven! I liked it so much that I went back there before our flight home and purchased several boxes of the praline chocolates for gifts and chocolate bars for home. Expensive, but a special treat you can't find in Central Florida:)
Our next stop was the covered market. We visited the famous butcher that some consider the best butcher in France ( what a character!) and the cheese shop with "Twiggy" helping us with our purchases. Diane purchased charcuterie from the butcher and various cheeses from the cheese shop.
After these stops, we took our purchases to a small wine shop, La Derniere Goutte, to sample our goodies. They set us up in a tasting room at the back of the shop. They opened several whites and reds for us to try. I should have written them down, they were all excellent. The wine shop specializes in organic wines.
After the wine shop tasting, Diane took us to La Maison du Chou for a taste of their petite chou. They had three different fillings. I chose the original creme and it was fabulous. A perfect place to take little girls for a special treat! Or to pick to take home for my own special treat!
We both thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We have stayed in the 6th before, but I didn't know about the covered market and Diane did a great job of giving us the background on all the places we went. We parted about 1:30pm. I would recommend the tour. We were stuffed from all of our sampling and didn't need lunch.
I'm going to look through my pictures for a shot of the Christmas ornaments made from reindeer butter cookies at Poilane. So pretty.
Next, our dinner at Garance (but I have to coook dinner first:)
Sorry it's been a few days since I continued my report. Work got in the way...
Ok, we had spent the morning on a Paris by Mouth tour. We had dinner that evening at Garance, another JT recommendation. This was, by far, was the blowout , stand out meal of the trip. We were in a food coma after this meal! Garance is in a two story townhouse in the 7th. The upstairs does feel like being in someone's home. We chose to eat downstairs at the bar, overlooking the kitchen. My understanfing is that the former sommelier at L'Arpage opened this restaurant and brought one of the chef's from L'Arpage. I think the chef's name is Guillaine Iskandar. He also worked at Septime.
We chose the 5 course tasting menu, chef's choice, but it seemed more like 7 or 8 courses! The plates just kept coming. The chef brought out the first couple plates. They weren't too busy yet. It was fun to watch the action in the kitchen. How it starts at a somewhat relaxed pace and builds to a frenzy and then.. just stops and they start cleaning everything up. Needless to say, we were there awhile!
I will attach a few pictures. I think I already attached a couple a few days ago. The tab with a lower end Burgundy (wine prices were astronomical, but not unexpected) was 214EU - a bargain for the quality of the food. Sparkling water, two aperitifs and no coffee. I would go back here in a heartbeat.
The next morning we took the train to Strasbourg. We rented a car and drove to Riquewihr, where we spent 3 nights. We rented an apartment that was actually in the ramparts of this walled village. One of the nicest apartments we have ever stayed in! It was decorated all in white. It even had a white Christmas tree!
I will post a few of pictures, so you can appreciate it better.
the apartment was called the White Stork. The web site is i-love-riquewihr.com
Any one who has been to Riquewihr or surrounding villages can attest to the beauty and magic of Christmas time. Every house and nook and cranny is decorated. A childhood fairytale village. It is also THE busiest time of the year. The beauty of staying in Riquewihr was being able to leave during the busiest hours and coming back to peaceful streets and alleyways at night. You are able to enjoy the lights and the beauty without the crowds. We ate all three dinners in Riquewihr.
Our first night was Le Grappe d'Or. It is worth going to this restaurant for the decorations alone, but the food is also excellent. It has that Bavarian, farmhouse charm. Very rustic warm and cozy. We ate in the main dining room with the red and white checked tablecloths. There were farm tools and equipment on the walls and rafters. I loved this place!
The next night we ate at Le Sarment d'Or. A more refined restaurant. They sat us by a big stone fireplace in the main dining room. Very romantic. Their special that night was roasted duck, but they had run out by the time we ordered, so I had fish and my husband had lamb. I had a homemade fois gras entree that was out of this world. I think my husband had scallops. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals. I highly recommend both of these restaurants. The staff and owners were especially welcoming at Le Sarment d'Or. As far as caliber of food, I would give 1st place to Le Sarment d'Or, but they are totally different experiences.
The tab for Le Grappe dOr was 109EU, sparkling water and no coffee. I had wine by the glass and my husband had beer.
Le Sarment d'Or's tab was 120EU, including my requistie glass of champagne, sparkling water, a bottle of wine and no coffees.
Our last night we dined at Restaurant au Trotthus. The owner also has a sushi bar downstairs. The chef is Japanese and he attempted to fuse some of the asian ingredients in the entrees, but it didn't work for us. It was a smoked salmon entree with seaweed salad, which I ususally like. I can't put my finger on it, but it didn't work (and we are big fans of sushi). For a plate I had a daube with duck. The desserts were good. the waiter was THE friendliest and funniest waiter of the trip. He told us that they get about 50,000 people on a weekend day right before Christmas! We left Riquewihr on a Saturday morning and they were already blocking off the roads because there is so little parking right outside the village walls. The big tour buses were rolling in... Perfect time to get outs dodge!
The tab for au Trotthus was 107EU
We had told the waiter how much we enjoyed the flambes. He recommended we go to a restaurant called Ganbrinus in the town of Blebenheim. He said they are baked in a brick oven and the best in Alsace! We went by the next day, but they were only open for dinner. It is a very small town and it appeared they also run a B&B.
Sarment d'Or is excellent. They also do a Bib Gourmand prix fixe lunch, which is an excellent option for the Riquewihr daytrippers (as I was a couple of years ago). I'm not sure what style your foie gras entree was, but we had it as a terrine and it was very good with a glass of Schoenenbourg Riesling.
We spent our last night in Alsace at Villa Elyane in Colmar. A beautiful restored mansion B&B about 4 blocks from the train station. It was about a 15 minute walk into the old town district. There are 5 bedrooms and they have all been remodeled in a contemporary style with every creature comfort. We were in room #1 on the first floor. The bath room was amazing. Two separate sink areas, a walk in shower with all different shower heads, a huge free standing tub and the floor tiles were black and white. Wish we had more time to stay there. The breakfast with plentiful and Florence made excellent cafe au lait.
We had lunch at La Cocotte de Grand-Mere. We lucked out and got one of the last tables. The staff is young and very friendly. It is obviously a favorite of the locals. We each ordered their special of the day -blanquette de veau. Perfect on a cold day. Our tab was $76.32. John had a couple beers and I had a glass of Riesling.
That evening, we had reservations at L'Epicurean, also in the historic district. I misunderstood what time our reservation was, so we were a half hour late. They almost didn't give us our table. We promised to eat fast so they could seat the next booking. They weren't very friendly, but I can understand them being annoyed with us. I ordered a large plate of smoked salmon with a big green salad. Can't remember what John ordered. Tab was 77EU. We got,out as quick as we could.
I've attached a few pictures. Smoked salmon from L'Epicurian, herbs growing in the window box, inside of L'Epicurian, historic area of Colmar and a snow ski Christmas tree outside a restaurant in Colmar.
Well, I'm finally back. Had a melanoma scare (live in Florida) but everything ok.
The last time I posted on this trip report we were leaving Colmar. We arrived in Paris on 12/22 and spent three nights at the Luxembourg Parc hotel in the 6th. In had planned these three days for food shopping and last minute gifts to take home. Also, for a few more good meals.
We ate at
La Regalade St. Honore
110 Taillevent (Christmas Eve)
For purchases included:
Chocolates at Patrick Roger and Gerard Mulot
Salted Caramels at Henri le Roux
Fresh mustard from Maille
Bordier Butter from cheese shop I covered market
Fines Herbes and a Persillade mixture that is excellent. I just ran out
I took some notes (not as detailed as others) and kept most receipts so I was able to go back and reconstruct. Those were also memorable days, so close to Christmas.
I want to thank YOU again for your recommendations. They were all spot on.
We will be back in Paris in September and plan on trying out newer places you and others have reviewed, including Bistro Bellet. We will be staying on Rue Tiquetone. We will also be in Normandy/Brittany form10 days. Really looking forward to it.