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.
image courtesy of: http://www.freedomandshit.org/
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.