What can I say? My travels revolve around food. I like to eat well and any chance for a ‘quick break’ is an opportunity to sample a new dish. My first trip to Paris was no different. When I wasn’t busy trying to cover a gazillion attractions a day (the way only an eager first timer to Paris can), I was looking over the menus and plotting my next feast!Photo by Christine Zenino
I know this sounds like such a North American dish to get. What? You went to France and all you had were steak and fries? Well, yes, but the French sure know how to make a mean steak, plus my fries were garnished with herbs and garlic! I couldn’t stop gobbling them! Steak frites was listed on the menu at almost every cafe and restaurant I encountered, so it must be French, right? Either way, it was a nice meal after a day spent wandering the Louvre.
Pommes de terre au four avec ratatouille
So there was this one restaurant called Patati Patata near Place de la Bastille that I managed to visit on more than one occasion during my first visit to Paris. (Thank you dear locals who know where the good food is hiding.) Picture baked potatoes with every possible topping under the sun – ham, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, sour cream, ratatouille. I went for the ratatouille: a vegetable stew consisting of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, and a myriad of spices. And then I went back for seconds. It’s the kind of place that could never go out of business. No embarrassing lost in translation moments with the cafe owners here.
Baguette avec brie et saucisson
This is what every tourist on a budget envisions as a truly French meal, and yes, it makes a perfect picnic lunch. Buy yourself a freshly baked baguette from the little boulangerie around the corner, stop at the grocery to pick up some saucisson and brie cheese, and maybe also a bottle of red wine while you’re at it because at 2 Euros it’s the best bargain you’ve seen all day. Then find yourself a relaxing little patch of grass in the city, perhaps at the Jardin des Tuileries, or head straight for the Champ de Mars if you’re looking for that iconic view with the Eiffel Tower in the background, et voila! Enjoy your meal.
Crêpes avec nutella
I may have developed a slight addiction to crêpes. It seems like I couldn’t walk more than a few streets before bumping into yet another stand whose intoxicating aromas I was too weak to fight. Even when I did stop for a little break at a cafe (with waiters dressed in a nautical theme…) I chose to order the same dish. Just keep feeding me crêpes, boys. Sure, there were plenty of things that looked just as appetizing on the menu, but crêpes AND nutella – that’s the winning combo!
And when I wasn’t stuffing myself with the afore mentioned goodness, I was stuffing my face with pastries, what else? Have you seen the window displays they have in France? I don’t just mean croissant and pain au chocolat, they had profiterole (which are just like cream puffs), mille-feuille (literally ‘thousand sheets’ which is amazing when there’s whipped cream and fruits between the layers), and croissant amande (which lucky for me I can even find here in Korea!) Now that I think about it, it’s not wonder that I didn’t try more ‘real dishes’ when I was so busy stopping at multiple bakeries throughout the day… Can you tell I have a sweet tooth?
I know this isn’t the most ‘French’ sampling of food out there. I mean, I didn’t even go near the escargot or the pâté de foie gras – then again, would I really want to eat the liver of a force fed goose? I like to think these dishes were a nice little introduction to the country, even if they don’t seem that adventurous. Sometimes you just have to stick with a good thing.