Monday, September 15, 2014

Manger Local at the Pont Alexandre III

Summer seems to have finally arrived in Paris this September. All the pleasures of warmer weather can be enjoyed with shops and restaurants open and busy with locals, which is the perfect segue to the Manger Local event last week-end at the Pont Alexandre III.

Manger Local is literally "to eat locally" and in Paris that means the venue was in the center of the city, along the Seine.
There are plenty of green spaces built expressly to provide shelter and beauty while also serving as a habitat for natural pollination.
The event itself was like all things Parisian, small and select, with well known chefs at a center station ready to cook up a meal with produce you bought at the event.
There were artisanal products from juices, to oils and vinegars.
Fresh vegetables galore

and of course bread, along with locally made charcuterie so you could make your own classic ham and baguette sandwich for a picnic with a view of the Seine.
If you didn't want to picnic or wait for a chef to put a dish together for you, there were three food trucks serving burgers, deli food, and snacks.
There was also the option of a meal on one of the barges or permanent cafes along the Seine.
I opted for a walk to a quieter neighborhood with a view:)



Friday, September 12, 2014

Josephine Baker's Home

Many famous American writers, artists, musicians, and performers have lived here, but my iconic expat is Josephine Baker. She lived a bit outside of the city, in Le Vésinet, about 10 miles from the center of Paris.
The small gardens and covered passages of Paris are like jewels sprinkled around the concrete and cobblestones of the city. The Seine is the main waterway, with the Canal St. Martin and the Canal de l'Ourcq offering alternatives on the north eastern side of the city. The liquid jewels of Paul de Lavenne de Choulot, a descendant of Louis VI, in Le Vésinet are the epitome of magnificent waterway design. 

The center of the city is north of the train station built around the church, just like all old French cities, life revolved around religion, so all commerce gathered nearby.
Le Vésinet may be small and a bit away from the center, but it is a charming calm oasis. Many wealthy residents have made this their home because of views like this, where a pond is literally a backyard "pool".
Even the gardening sheds are picturesque
The ponds and parks are public with benches along the walkways that offer views like this.
There's even a trail along the ponds with huge trees and benches.
This is the house where Josephine Baker lived for 18 years (construction workers were entering so I got a look through open gates)
as I window shopped for a home of my own in the neighborhood
before heading back to Paris:)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Birthday with Nicolas Flamel & Pierre Marcolini

I spent my first birthday in Paris eating in a National Monument!

Nicolas Flamel translated manuscripts and made his fortune as an alchemist turning lead to gold. Yes, literally. He also literally shared his wealth by building homeless shelters, and the last one still standing is L'Auberge de Nicolas Flamel

The charm and history of the original building lends to the elegantly understated decor. The amuse bouche of the two cheese puffs were a savory welcome. The lunch menu includes either starter and main or starter, main and dessert, ether way you also get a drink (wine) and espresso, all for under 25 ($33 US).
The next table was having the shrimp with zucchini cream and it looked so good that I chose that as my starter. It was a wonderfully creamy soup with delicately sautéed shrimp that was presented with an artistic flourish as the waiter poured the zucchini cream in three moves to fill the spaces in between the shrimp.
I chose the Dorade Royale, or gilt head sea bream, which is probably my favorite fish in Europe. If anyone believes they don't like fish, I would suggest they try this one. The dish was served with an assortment of fresh green vegetables and a purée of eggplant. The fish was remarkably tender and the green vegetables as fresh as they were pretty. I didn't care for the eggplant purée, mostly because it was bland. 
I did not get the menu with dessert since I wanted to get my dessert elsewhere, but just as they welcomed me with an amuse bouche when I arrived, they also presented me with two pâte des fruits at the end of my meal that were just the right amount of sweetness and apricot fruit. 
I may be a year older, but I'm not as old as the Auberge :)
I wanted chocolate for dessert, and since it's been awhile since I've had Pierre Marcolini, I headed over to one of their stores.
Every shop is slightly different, and this one on Rue Scribe offers not only his chocolates, but also his macarons.
This 34 piece box for 30 ($40 US) was my introduction to this chocolatier and I discovered I loved his intense dark single origin chocolates, so I picked a few of my favorites as my birthday dessert.
The raspberry heart added just the right amount of bright flavor and color to my selection.
My birthday cake was Pain des Amis because my life is already sweet and filled with joy:)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Swimming Along the Seine

The Seine is literally the aqua artery of Paris and the scenery changes depending on where you are along the river. The Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand (National Library) is only two blocks from the Seine and if you are lucky enough to have a blue sky day, the waterfront is a much nicer place to read.
The sights include barges and tugboats which have been converted to cafes, clubs, and special event spaces.
Parisians live with beauty as a part of life. So having a snack on a barge
with a view like this is normal:)
It is still August, so the roads are eerily empty, even around the Gare de Lyon and
the view from the bike lanes underneath the roadway looks like a futuristic movie.
Yes you can swim in a pool ON the Seine! Piscine Josephine Baker is a converted barge which is completely handicap accessible and costs only 3 Euros ($5 US) to enter. They have classes and activities for all ages and levels, so if you want to come back on a regular basis you can buy a carnet  of ten passes (like metro tickets) for a discount.
I prefer walking to swimming, and with the clouds looming, it looks like it's time to walk to the nearest metro station:)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Superb Sur Le Fil

Summer in Paris means closed stores, restaurants, and lots of building and transport maintenance, but it also means my friends come here for their vacation :) Yes, it is possible to find a non touristy restaurant open, and sometimes venturing out of my normal neighborhood yields delicious results like Sur Le Fil.
All my friends love to eat, so of course they passed their genes on to their children. The 11 year old ordered this fresh burrata with tomato mousse, garnished with fresh basil and declared it delicious.
The adults all ordered the sardines layered with roasted red pepper on a tomato wafer and it was as beautiful on our palates as it was on our plates.
I chose the grilled octopus on a bed of citron pasta decorated with zucchini. The octopus was perfectly grilled, tender in the center, and the delicate pasta, made with a lemony sauce was a bright light accompaniment. 
Everyone else ordered the lamb, and they all agreed it was the best lamb they had ever eaten:) I taste traded and it was a succulent, meltingly tender, and very generous portion. In fact both main plates were quite large portions, so keep that in mind if you wish to order appetizers or desserts.
After waiting a bit and sipping our Pinot Noir (28 for the bottle or $35 US), everyone except me found room for dessert. One of the girls got a trio of home made ice cream/sorbet, with classic vanilla, chocolate, and a lemon basil that she said was very refreshing.
The dessert hit of the night were the two choux pastries filled with chocolate mousse which was literally fought over (I suggested that they order another one so that everyone who wanted a dessert could have their own, but they decided to share).
With two kirs, four sodas, a bottle of wine, three appetizers, five main courses and three desserts, our total was still less than 35 ($48 US) per person for excellent food, friendly service, and a charmingly small place that opens out to the street. I think I may have found my new favorite restaurant:)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Paris Plage Part 2

Paris Plages stretches out from the Louvre to Pont Sully as well as around Bassin de la Villette, so you can literally be on the sand in the middle of Paris; they even moved the mini Eiffel Tower made of chairs to a spot near Pont Neuf.
Dances are held during the late afternoons, and the relatively small crowds on the sand are because the crowd is gathered around the music further to the back.
It was a relatively cool day, so people walking by got the fine spray of the misters meant to cool off beach goers on the wooden platforms.
I preferred strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg with more natural beauty
even if some of the art is man made.
Now that it's August, it seems Parisians have all left for Les Vacances (vacation); it's not a bad thing to have plenty of seats to choose from in the metro :)