On a recent vacation to Paris, I sat on a sunny patio and wrote lots of notes about all of the great Parisian food bits I had discovered, because I knew I’d want to share them with you once I got home. Here’s part 2:
acations are great for getting us out of our food ruts. You usually can’t eat the same things that you have at home. Of course, the further away from home you go, the bigger the adventure. When travelling, the adventure of eating is as big and as great as you want to make it. I’m not talking about eating live reptiles (or even cooked ones). It’s more about having your mind opened to new possibilities.
Being married to a guy who doesn’t speak English has some advantages. For example, we’ve been to Paris twice, and are currently scheming our way back for a third trip. And when I’m being nosy and want to know what exactly is in the cream sauce served with our lasagne, André can ask for me. The answer is béchamel sauce — remember back when I thought white sauce was yucky?
We had a lot of great Parisian food adventures, both large and small. Here are some of my favourites:
- The food adventure really began on Air France, where we were served a full meal with real silverware and wine that we didn’t have to pay for! We had an appetizer of marinated chick peas and tuna. Also of note was the free champagne, and the woman who came around with the bread basket (twice) so you could have little baby baguettes with your meal.
- While there may not be a giant grocery store near your hotel in Paris, you will find — every few blocks — a corner store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of snacks, and corkscrews.
- One rainy afternoon, we sat on a covered patio across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral. I read a cool book about life in France (A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle). We drank beer and ate 4-cheese pizza that included Roquefort. I would never have ordered this at home. I’ve always avoided blue cheese on principle. On this particular pizza, on this day, it was fabulous and salty and added a new dimension to the simple combination of crust + tomato sauce + cheese.
- When you get back to your hotel room late at night after a concert, and you’re starving, the only thing open might be the corner store (see #2 above). But they sell tuna “saladières” in nifty packages with pasta and olive oil. It’s not exactly low in fat, but it makes for a very satisfying munchie. We bought extras and kept them in the little fridge in our hotel room.
- There are restaurants that specialize in tartine, which literally means ‘slice of bread’. Open faced bread, with oil and seasonings, and then different toppings. Some are heated under a broiler, some aren’t. I had ham and swiss. André had chicken and bacon.
- At the outdoor weekend food market, we found salt-water caramels, and herbes de provence. We learned that you can buy your beets raw or cooked, and that the squash is so giant you can buy just a slice if you like. This particular market also sells underwear, kitchen utensils, and fresh cheeses from all over France.
- The grocery store sells a kit with all the ingredients necessary to make pot au feu, including celery, onion, carrots, leeks, and a spice package. Just add your own beef.
- I discovered braised leeks. Really, who knew you could cook leeks and turn them into a silky side dish? These leeks were served as an appetizer next to grilled fish, the sauce a light mix of dijon, mayo, and perhaps tarragon. This was one of the great finds of the vacation, these braised leeks. They were perfect and opened up a whole new world for me. Adding to the novelty was the fact that they were served in a rotisserie restaurant that had a house cat, who roamed around beneath our feet the entire evening. I’ve got a picture of the cat, too, if you want to see it.
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and bon appetit!
Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef