Tuesday, March 18, 2008

paris eats

Hi! I'm finally ready to start my posts about Paris. I've been back home for a few days, but have had a hard time organizing my thoughts (and my photos!) about our eating in Paris. The main reason is that, while there are tons of vegetarian restaurants in Paris and people were kind enough to recommend lots of good options for us, we didn't really have many sit-down meals, especially at nice restaurants, while we were there.

The reasons for this are:

A) We rented an apartment instead of staying at a hotel, thus allowing us to cook and eat at home
B) We were very busy and pressed for time, so scheduling a relaxed meal was very difficult

and, most importantly,

C) Money! The Euro (€) hit an all-time high against the dollar the day before we left for France. Of course a city like Paris has always been expensive, but we're talking inflation-level stuff here.

That's right folks- if you live in the U.S., I highly recommend investing in a wheelbarrow now, since that's how you'll be carrying around the millions of increasingly worthless dollars that you'll need to take to the store to buy a loaf of bread. The € jumped up not once, but twice, in the week that we were there. It was almost comedic. Well, tragicomic. Anyway, I digress.

So on the one hand, I feel that I might be a disappointing food blogger. Even though I walked by really nice looking and highly recommended places like Le Grenier de Notre Dame, Le Potager du Marais, Victoire Suprême du Coeur, and La Nature à Paris (photo below), I didn't go in.

That being said, though, I didn't go hungry all week! Here are some mosaics of what I did eat while in Paris:

Starting off with the most important, baguettes! I bought my first one within an hour of touching down in Paris, and my last two as I was leaving. (I traveled with loaves of bread in my backpack!) My favorite bakery was in our Montmartre neighborhood, although I made sure to, ah, test as many bakeries as I could.

Moving on, produce! I was surrounded by fresh fruits and veggies everywhere I went, especially on Sunday, when we were lucky to have a market right on our street. It was so fun to try different fruits (currants!), but even funner to watch people coming and going and filling their bags with everything on offer. I wish we had market days!

Produce was relatively affordable, especially considering that in the E.U. GMOs and certain pesticides are banned, thus making everyday fruit practically the equivalent of what we would pay a premium for as organic.

However, there were plenty of certified organic (biologique or bio) goodies to be had too, both fresh and packaged.

Above are just some of the things I survived on in Paris: (top to bottom, left to right) vegetarian pâté (there were so many types and flavors to choose from), non-dairy milks of all kinds (I wish I could have tried more! Banana milk!), soy yogurts of all kinds, of which Soja Douceur was by FAR my favorite (more on that later), chocolate and apricot/guava soy yogurts, tofu patties, caramel soy pudding, green tea/chai soymilk, and a typical meal of baguettes, spreads, veggies, fruits, and wine in our apartment.

Edit: While the health food stores were wonderful, I also found tons of good things at regular supermarkets such as Monoprix. They had soy milks and creams, juices, spreads, etc. and Monoprix even has its own line of bio foods.

Soja Douceur, let me sing thine praises! This stuff was almost otherworldly- creamy, sweet, luscious. If liquids were not banned in carry-on luggage, I would have brought tons of this stuff home. Quite easily the BEST soy yogurt I've ever had (although the liquid texture made it somewhere between yogurt and keffir.) Daiku and I tried the red fruits (above), and vanilla, and he agreed that it was much tastier than the stuff we get at home.

These were just some of the stuff we found at Naturalia and other health food stores (visible because of their big BIOLOGIQUE signs). I lucked out, since there was a Naturalia steps from our apartment on Rue Lepic.

But of course, how could I forget falafel? There isn't much I can say about falafels in Paris other than, they were relatively affordable, pretty easy to find, and served with much huger amounts of vegetables and toppings than they usually are here in the U.S. As you can see in the above mosaic, it wasn't uncommon to get falafels piled high with fried eggplants, french fries, pickles of all kinds, peppers, salad, beets, the works! Lots of people had recommended L'As du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers (top right), but I much preferred the sandwich at Chez Marianne, half a block over. Not only were the sandwiches slightly cheaper, but they came with those succulent eggplants, and their pickles were some of the best I've ever had.

We were clearly not the only ones searching for falafel on the Rue des Rosiers, as you can see by this line of people.

Two tips for buying falafel: it is cheaper, by several dollars to buy take-away than to sit down inside. And, you usually order in a different window than where you pick up- don't waste time waiting in a line only to find out it's the pick-up line!

All those things, plus a bit of

and a little...

and we were more or less set! Wine and beer are affordable in Paris, especially if you stick to local stuff. For example, we drank lots of Belgian beer (Leffe, Stella Artois), which tended to be cheap there but costs a pretty penny here.

Having said all that, my friend Sharon did take us to one restaurant with several vegetarian specialties on the menu, La fourmi ailée. This was a cozy little place in the Latin Quarter with books on the shelves and strange paintings on the walls. It looked like a place that couples chose for a romantic meal, with the candle light making for a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Sharon ordered her favorite vegan lasagne, above. It was very tasty and hearty, with tofu and vegetable fillings and an amazingly tangy tomato sauce.

I ordered the mushroom quiche. Now, even though I believe that it is easy to eat good and interesting vegan food in Paris, I don't want to give the misleading impression that everything is rosy and that a large percentage of people are aware of and sympathetic to veganism- that is simply not the case. To be vegan in Paris, you do have to compromise, be on your toes, and be savvy. Case in point at this restaurant: when ordering the quiche I asked, in French, if it had eggs in it. (The menu said it was a tofu quiche, but I figured it could have tofu and eggs, safer to ask). The waitress informed me that it didn't have eggs in it, but she couldn't guarantee me that the pastry wouldn't have been made with butter because, in her words, "you need butter to cook." This is at a vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurant! It's true that the concept of living entirely dairy free is not common in France- this is where the smattering of restaurants even bothering to offer vegetarian plates mean things loaded with eggs and several kinds of cheese.

Anyway, I decided to order the quiche anyway. It was pretty good, and the salad that it came with was an excellent accompaniment.

I couldn't leave without mentioning one last thing:

Coffee. Now, most of you know that I'm not much of a coffee drinker, much preferring tea in my everyday life. I do appreciate a good cup of coffee now and again, but it's definitely not something I'm very attached to.

Well, scratch that. I'm obsessed. I managed to have the world's best espresso at a café near the Place de Republique. It was indescribably transcendent. It was sharp without being bitter or sour. It was balanced. It was creamy. It was redolent with faint yet cloying notes of hazelnut and liqueur. It was resplendent. It was surreal. I would have married that cup of coffee if I could. After that, I happily accompanied Daiku and we drank cup after cup after cup of the stuff. (They were all good, but never quite the same as that first cup, alas.)

Some tips for ordering coffee in Paris:
  • you want espresso. you do not want coffee. don't argue with me on this.
  • to order espresso, ask for an "express" or a "café express" - simply ordering a coffee, especially if they suspect you are American, runs you the risk of being served a "café Americain" - espresso thinned out with hot water. This won't taste as good, will cost you several extra Euros, and well, they'll probably laugh at you behind your back
  • it is always cheaper, sometimes by 50%, to drink standing up at the bar. Usually an espresso at the bar will run you about 1€, while being served that same espresso will cost 2€. This is fair- it is the cost of having servers, especially because you are not expected to leave tips. Sometimes that extra € is totally worth having a warm place to sit, and ordering just one coffee reserves you the right to stay there, unbothered, for hours and hours. However, if a place charges that much more than 2€ for a simple espresso, it's a tourist trap- approach with caution. In the above mosaic, you see Daiku and me standing at the bar of our neighborhood cafe, enjoying .80€ espressos. Pretty damn good deal.
I have a couple more Paris posts up my sleeve- I hope you enjoyed this one!



Sara said...

Falafel with fries?! I don't even know how to respond to that. I'm speechless with jealousy. Looks like you had an amazing trip--and came back with some great vegan tips, too.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Ha! So Paris turned you into a coffee drinker... wonder if it would do the same to me?
I think renting an apartment with your own kitchen is the way to go... much cheaper and vegan friendly. Plus it looks like you got to enjoy some of their amazing produce. That yogurt sounds delicious. Back before I was vegan I love the dairy yogurt in Europe, but hated it in the states. Oh and baguettes! Yum yum. Looks like an amazing trip, can't wait to read more!

Mihl said...

You a disappointing food blogger? No way! I loved, loved, loved this entry. Why have I never been to Paris before? I must go! (I could even go by train.) It was funny to see so many familiar faces in your post (Soy beverage shelves stuffed with alpro brand can be found where I live too...right next to the soy caramel pudding.And of course the stuffed falafels. It took me years to learn how to eat them without having salad and sauce all over my shirt. )
As for coffee, I made exactly the same experiences in Barcelona so I was drinking espresso all day long, too :)
Can't wait to read more about your adventures in Paris.

Rachel said...

Hi Bazu,

Thanks for all the great posts!

We are planning a trip to Paris at the end of April. Would you mind telling me a bit how you went about booking your apartment in Paris?


bazu said...

Hi Rachel,

I hope you have a great time in Paris! Renting apartments is a really good idea if you're going to be there a week or longer. You can go through official renting agencies, which are efficient, but often have exorbitant booking fees or deposits.

We went through the FUSAC listings (the English-language weekly in Paris) and Craig's list. We finally found our apartment through Craig's list. The owner is an artist, and the apartment was cozy yet rustic. We still had to pay her a deposit, but had no problems getting the money back at the end of our stay. My recommendation is to email as many people as you can, because responses can be slow.

FUSAC: http://fusac.com/adindex.htm

Craig's List: http://paris.craigslist.org

Good luck! Feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

Melody Polakow said...

Welcome back! It looks and sounds like you had a great time despite the damn dollar being so low... you should write a book on being vegan in Paris!!

Rachel said...

Thank you for the reply and the links. I'll look into both sources. I look forward to more posts on Paris and everything else!


aTxVegn said...

I'm so glad you two had a good food time (and espresso time) in Paris. The falafels look amazing and so does the market. I don't know what the round pink thingy at the top of the post and in your mosaic is - ???

Urban Vegan said...

Welcome back, chere amie! Your post makes me miss Paris so much--the failing Euro is keeping us away. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time. (I guess the dissertation work went well, eh? ;)

The markets in Paris are absolutely amazing and are like works of art themselves...et vive les legumes biologiques!

I never liked Le Grenier de Notre Dame very much, anyway--so you weren't missing much, There is a little resto in Montmartre--Au Grain de Folie -- that I used to frequent. I loved its coziness. It's food was so-so.

Damn this week dollar!

Welcome back again--And now back to Scrabble and Scramble!


bazu said...

Atxvegn, I tried adjusting for the pinkish light on the produce, but couldn't! Those were normal-colored Asian pears- as big as softballs.

UV, I've been lured back into Scrabble/Scramble addiction!

Anonymous said...

It looks and sounds like you had a fabulous time in Paris! All of your photos are lovely, and I think it is awesome that you stayed in an apt so that you could cook/keep food at "home" while you were there! That is awesome.

Great to see you back!

BitterSweet said...

What an incredible trip, and those are some seriously smart ideas for planning ahead! Thanks for sharing with us. :)

Caroline said...

What an excellent post! I really appreciate your photos and your tips. I'll be spending my junior year abroad in France, with the first month in Paris, and I am very keen on getting as much vegan advice as possible before I go!

springsandwells said...

Bazu's Back!!
Hoorah! What a great post... so many pictures, so many things to respond to. Wow.

Yeah, that weak dollar is a fat bummer. As a committed travel-lover, I can really feel it. And I think Paris is one of the costliest places of all.

I can totally relate to having to order a quiche that might have butter in it. Sigh. It doesn't really aid one's digestion, does it?

I really got into drinking coffee when I was living in Italy. Back then I wasn't a vegan, so I drank at least 2 cappucinos a day. But the coffee's just so much better there. I was cranky at my attempts to get a good cappucino once I got back home, and gradually stopped drinking coffee.

I LOVE all the cool vegan products. I wish I could try that cool soy yogurt. Isn't it neat? When I lived in Italy, which was quite a while ago (12-13 years?) there was very very little of this nature. But it's been creeping in more and more each time I go back to Europe. In India they had so many cool soy milk flavors like "saffron pistachio" "malt" and "cardamom" I tried them all! How fun.

It's great to have you back. Are you getting ready for NoRooz??

xo Amey

Unilove said...

Welcome back! Loved this quote:
"you want espresso. you do not want coffee. don't argue with me on this."

pavotrouge said...

awesome pics! it's a shame I couldn't make it. hang on... you don't have market days in the US?

bazu said...

I'm sorry we missed each other too, PR!
We have farmers markets, but don't really have market day equivalent to what Europe has. I loved seeing everyone buying their produce, their breads, their pastries, all the good stuff on offer.

pleasantly plump vegan said...

wow, wow, wow. i wanna go so bad now! great pics. the falafel with all those veggies look amazing.

Anonymous said...

WOW! It' looks like you had a great time. I am officially jealous. Did you go there for vacation or school or work? I can't wait for the next post :)

parsley the lion said...

hi! i'm a stranger who occasionally stalks your blog among other vegan blogs... anyway, not to be creepy, but props on your paris post! i lived in paris for the past couple summers and it actually turned me vegan. though i had been a vegetarian, having to eat cheese ALL the time to pretend i was getting protein (and some chicken sometimes when i knew i wasn't) was no good, and my stateside cheese boycott detox ritual resulted in my current veganism (who knew i wouldn't miss it). anyhow, i've been poo-pooing paris in my mind for a while since then, but you've reminded me of some of the good things! (like soja doceur and le potager du marias -- i can't believe you didn't eat there... soooo good!!!). what i am curious about is whether/where you managed to find acceptable fresh tofu (certainly not a reality at my denfert-rochereau monoprix) and other yummy protein-things like tempeh and seitan...
post more! and thanks!

Liz² said...

oh wow, what a trip! everything looks so exquisite, and I love love (love!) the baguette overload and ALL THOSE FALAFALS, omg! So good to know that parisians do falafals, it's got to be the best sandwich creation ever.

I was wondering if veganism would be hard in Paris! the only information I have on veggieing there is from this episode of Ramsays' Kitchen Nightmares where he tries to save a struggling vegetarian restaurant and they basically spend the entire episode trying to figure out that vegetarian food means more than tomato soup and cheese toast. oi.


Beautiful post! I can't believe there's more, you've wet my appetite for travel once again (like that's hard to do, but it's a great account of a trip you've done). :D

Projetor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roxy said...

For a minute, I actually thought I was in Paris--the way you so vividly describe it! Your photos are stunning!!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you were able to find everything- I forgot to warn you about the lines at my *favorite* falafal place à la rue des rosiers...but worth it! It's so funny seeing a picture of it on your blog!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! Sounds like you had an incredible time. I've always wanted to go to Paris and now I'm really convinced.

bazu said...

parsley the lion,

thanks so much for stopping by the blog and for your kind comment! I'm really glad you liked the post, especially since you lived in Paris for so long. It's so funny, I recently heard a story just like yours, about a vegetarian whose stay in Paris turned them vegan! My friend living there is also slowly transitioning from vegetarian to vegan. In fact, I took some tofu for her because as you said, tofu is crazy expensive there! (The mori-nu tofu I get here for about $1.39 is almost 4€ there, so about$6-7!) I didn't see any at the Monoprix stores I went to (other than Mori-Nu). The health food stores had fresh tofu, but I definitely didn't see (or really look for) tempeh or seitan. I think if I lived in Paris, I'd become a tempeh-making expert very quickly- I can't live without that stuff!

Wheeler said...

Sounds like a great trip, even if you do have to close your eyes and pretend the economic situation isn't so bad. I love the photos - got to have that baguette in Paris, it's just too classic to pass up.

Thanks for the coffee tips, too. I've made that "cafe Americain" mistake before!

KathyF said...

I'm sorry you didn't get to go to Le Grenier de Notre Dame--I love that cozy place!

But sounds like you made out okay. There is one type of soy cream at Monoprix that was so utterly delicious, I have been trying to find it ever since. I agree, their dairy subs are better than anything in the US, but like you said, it is very rare to find anyone who understands veganism in France. It's just not done there. (Here, either, for the most part.)

trina said...

I'd forgotten about the soy yogurt and the falafel. Though jealous, I'm still enjoying your photos. Welcome home!

vegetalion said...

everything looks amazing, but the produce - I want a market day like that here!!!

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself (and ate so well)!

JBMcT said...

Oooh. I am so jealous. I spent a month in Paris 10 years ago, and I think I went to Chez Marianne at least once a week. Without a doubt, that was the best falafel I've ever had in my life. This post brought back such amazing memories!

dreamy said...

Whoa! With all the food there's no need to go in to those recommended places! :)

Hmm... ppl are saying the dollar's gonna be useless, but it's hard to say.

laura jesser said...

How wonderful that you were able to rent an apartment and cook for yourself!!!

A few things you hit upon that I miss very much: Coffee. Baguettes. Produce (cherries!!). Cheap (high-quality) beer. Yum!! It makes you realize just how un-remarkable American food really is....

madness rivera said...

So good! I'm so jealous, yet I still feel satiated by the post. What a great trip.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Hello from Praha! We've been eating quite a bit of bread as well, it's been a bit more expensive than we thought (what hasn't been?!), but it's quite good, eh? I'm sure the baguettes of Paris are much nicer though.
The yoghurt, oh the yoghurt! I hate to leave it, I really do. Creamy, not gelatinous, & much better for you than the crap in the States. It pains me to know I won't be having anymore for ages. Did you try anything by Alpro?
The produce is so pretty! We went a bit too long with too many soy products, so we've been trying to eat more fruit & veg like we do at home.
Also, bio bio bio! Thank goodness it is everywhere here, right?!

vko said...

Oh, your post makes me miss Paris so much- damn our weak dollar...

I love all your food mosaics- the produce was gorgeous. And the thought of the falafels on Rue De Rosiers is making me drool- big time.

Emilie said...

what a great travel post--good reminder that vegans can rock it out the world 'round! i love falafel in europe. yes! i mean, why don't we have huge bars full of salads and veggies and beans and eggplant and everything to load into our falafels?!

roberta said...

Thanks for some more info on Paris, i can't get enough of them.... especially now that I am planning to move there

b36Kitchen said...

i wasn't much of a coffee drinker until i went to paris for the second time years ago. now i own my own espresso machine.

Rachel said...

This looks so good! I lived in Paris for 2 years and this post made me incredibly nostalgic. Your photos are lovely.