Friday, October 09, 2009

A Quiet Restaurant with a Big Heart: Casa Pepe

One of my favorite nights out in Paris isn't actually very French at all. At number 5, rue Mouffetard (a great street for walking and exploring on the Left Bank), you will find a bit of Spain tucked into the Heart of Paris! The restaurant is named Casa Pepe and it is a quiet, unassuming storefront with a big heart.

The tables are generally fairly close together, but with the jovial attitude that permeates everything from the food to the ambiance, you somehow don't mind rubbing elbows with a total stranger! The food is traditional Spanish fare-- I highly recommend both their paellas and their tapas platters. The great addition, though, is the entertainment! For an extremely reasonable rate, you not only get a great, relaxing meal, but also dueling guitars, singing, and traditional Spanish dancing. The later in the evening it is, the more all-encompassing the entertainment, so if you're looking for a quieter night, stop by on the earlier side (they're open til 2am!).

My only complaint (and it truly is the only complaint-- I really love this spot!) is that the dueling guitars are from time-to-time just beside your ear and it can be a little overwhelming. They generally look for non-verbal cues, however, and move fairly quickly if you don't look like you're enjoying it.

Casa Pepe
5, rue Mouffetard
Pasris 75005
Metro:Cardinal Lemoine, Place Monge
Hours: Every day, lunch and dinner until 2am!

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PS- Image courtesy of La Casa Pepe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bridging the Centuries

Each bridge that crosses the Seine in Paris has a story to tell-- and has held the weight of the world's stories through time. As noted by everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Audrey Hepburn, people come here to reflect, write, and listen. This photograph takes you on a "walk" past 6 of the bridges. Enjoy...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Something Had to Give: Le Grand Colbert

The movie "Somethings Gotta Give" entered the American scene in 2003 as a fun romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. What the title lacked in creativity, the film seemed to make up for in star power and character development. At one point in the film Diane Keaton goes to Paris for her birthday and has dinner at a great little restaurant, her "favorite" restaurant. Enter: stage left, Le Grand Colbert.

Although it listed as a historic monument (the building was constructed to be a townhouse in 1637), it only recently entered the tourist scene once word got out that this is the restaurant of "Something's Gotta Give" fame.

The exterior of the restaurant is like something... out of a movie. The neon sign at once seems to contrast with the grand, baroque-style windows and velvet drapes, yet it also makes it rather unique. Once inside, the ambiance takes over with waiters bustling about, the clattering of plates and silverware, and an exquisite mosaic floor. For me, however, that's where the movie magic ends.

The food was fine, but nothing more. I found the service to be rushed and uncommitted. In addition, it was so incredibly hot sitting next to the window due to the extremely large lights that I had to change tables (Note: If you do decide to go, do NOT sit next to the window!). All-in-all, I was unimpressed with the restaurant, apart from the decor and the location.

Perhaps the restaurant wasn't quite ready for an onslaught of tourists, perhaps they have been surviving on their reputation, or maybe they treat the regulars with a little more elegance. In the end, though, it seems that "something had to give."

Le Grand Colbert

2, rue Vivienne
Paris 75002
Metro: Palais Royale


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Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Fresh Perspective: Paris Food Markets

Someone kindly mentioned the other day that my blog is missing something: the Paris markets! Given my theory that you can't truly understand a culture until you understand how it interacts with food, they couldn't have been more right.

Paris has fresh food available in amazing quantities and, unlike the U.S., almost all of it is grown/harvested domestically. The fish come in from the north, the fruits and vegetables from the south, and a great many things are brought in from Rungis, the massive market just outside the city where chefs shop early each morning.

Walking through the market you may find everything from live crabs to chickens, and eggs to olives. It is an incredible mixture of produce from sellers who specialize in just one department. The foods are generally arranged in colorful displays, making them appealing to the eye, as well as the palette. In addition, the freshness of all the products seems to add that certain something extra to everything-- the strawberries and carrots seems sweeter, the fish and meats healthier, the pastas more flavorful.

If you're staying in an apartment while in Paris, I recommend trying the fresh chicken or seafood, vegetables, and fruit (Barefoot Contessa has some great French recipes online-- try her Roast Lemon Chicken for an easy, delicious meal). If you have a hotel room during your stay, grab a rotisserie chicken, some cheese and fruit for a lovely picnic in the garden.

Paris Food Markets

* There are many locations throughout the city, and the days/times depend on the location and time of year. Generally markets are held on large boulevards or open squares in neighborhoods and are closed by closing time. Click here for a list of markets by location and their current dates/times.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bringing Home a Taste of Paris: Flavorful Souvenirs

Awhile ago I watched a Martha Stewart episode in which she travels to Paris to meet the owner of the Poilane bakeries. They talked at length about his family, the shops, and (naturally) the breads. After nearly 5 minutes of discussion, she noted that he speaks of bread like it is an art to which he emphatically responded "But it is!"

The Poilane breads are a perfect illustration for how things-- and specifically foods-- are carefully prepared in France. Everything from bread to chocolate and wine to mustard are created with great attention to detail. All of this means that bringing back a flavorful souvenir is money well spent-- and memories that keep on giving!

Not everything can fit well inside a suitcase, but here are a few of my favorites:

- Maille: The prestigious mustard shop on the Place Madeleine carries several varieties you will only find here, along with their traditional fare. You can also have mustard on tap! Some of my personal favorite Maille mustards include Sundried Tomato & Chevre, Provencale, and Lime & Dill. (The Maille boutique is seen above)

- Fauchon: Also located on the Place Madeline, Fauchon is known for their exquisite packaged foods. Try some of their coffee or sweets to go. Also sold here are the little pots of honey from the bees at the Opera Garnier.

- Lavinia: The largest wine store in Paris is not far from the Place Madeleine and literally has everything you could ever want in terms of wine and spirits.

- Jeff de Bruges: With several locations around the city, this chocolatier is fairly easy to find. They have a line of chocolates specifically made to be souvenirs (in the shapes of airplanes, purses, etc.) and others that will leave your mouth watering.

I've also heard of people bringing back French flour (which is different from American flour), but I'm not sure that putting substantial quantities of a white powder in your luggage is a good idea, so I've yet to try it. Always be sure to have everything packaged carefully and note the travel restrictions on traveling with liquids.

Happy travels and Bon Appetit!

Maille: 6, place de la Madeleine; Metro: Madeleine
Fauchon:30, place de la Madeleine; Metro: Madeleine
Lavinia: 3, Boulevard de la Madeleine; Metro: Madeleine
Jeff de Bruges: 19 stores throughout the City