When in Rome…? Well, when in France eat what the French eat.
French cuisine is a mixture of sophisticated refined gourmet a la carte dining and hearty rustic fare.
We have a habit of buying “deux baguettes” each day, one for lunch and one for nibbles with cheese and wine…soo French and soo nice.
And one day I dine on my favourite of snails, dripping in garlic butter and parsley. I love the foie gras, blue cheese and baguettes, and everything is accompanies with wine of course.
Spotting the poster of a plate of mussels in every train station for days tempts us to the point where we have to visit Leon De Bruxelles. “Fried Leo” is a small pub dedicated to mussels and Belgian dishes.
In 1989, the first restaurant “Leon” opened in Paris, devoted to the famous traditional dish ‘The Planches de Moules’, where all the flavours of the mussels enter the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet.
Their mussels are very small, much smaller than ours in New Zealand, but are tasty indeed. We dine next to Gucci and Prada; a lovely couple, she works for Gucci and he for Prada, and they speak Anglaise with a gorgeous french accent – it’s a lovely night.
I’m gutted to say that the best coffee we have had here has been from Starbucks! The others coffees are cold, small and horrid, not to be mention expensive, especially compared to good ole Starbucks which is 3 Euros and hot!
I think I left my culture behind somewhere!
We also manage plenty of nice wine, although our favourite Pinot Noir is rare, we find plenty that agrees with our palate. No liquor bans in public like New Zealand: here every picnic outing must include a bottle of vino, note to self when in Paris, always carry a wine opener in the back pack.
The longest lines are always at the rotisseries. There are rotisseries that roast pig, chicken and lamb with lovely little roasted potatoes to go with the meat. The most popular are the chicken vendors where juicy chickens are slow roasted on horizontal rows of turning spits encased in a sort of glass oven. At the bottom of the oven, there is a stainless steel drip pan filled with cut potatoes over which the chicken drippings are drizzled.
The vendor invites you to select a perfectly done chicken from the spit and this is then placed into a foil lined bag, accompanied with another bag of soft yellow potatoes cooked in chicken juice and a dash of salt. Both bags are secured for a short trip to the park or the apartment and this street-style feast is enjoyed with glasses of French wine.
The wine is the perfect antidote to the fatty goodness of the chicken and potatoes, and who counts calories in Paris anyway?
Wow, what a place; there is every type of delicacy food wise from all over the world. “La Grande Epicerie de Paris” meaning grocery department that offers you over 5000 different products, selected from around the world.
A hard-to-find bottle of mineral water from Wales, jams made by a French artisan, an exquisite tomato sauce from Naples ! What you can’t find anywhere else, you will find it there.
We manage to grab a couple of huge meat-lovers chicken kebabs with a citrus glaze that melt in our mouths and sit on the street eating them! It’s like that in Paris; you can eat or drink anywhere, so we are starting to get into the French habit of bottle of vino in the back pack, along with a picnic rug!
We only manage to be home a few nights to cook vegetables and meat, but it is not really the French way at all, and they eat late, 9 pm at the earliest.
Some how, dining out in Paris never seems to be an indulgence. It feels as though the food is simply part of experiencing Paris.
One could never just come here, turn their nose up at the pastries, cakes, pomme frites, cheese, or wine, and choose a salad.
Bypassing France’s gourmet traditions just can’t be done; simple as that.