eclair

Top 5 Things to Try in a Paris Bakery (Aside from a Croissant!)

Your visit to Paris will certainly be punctuated with visits to museums and other landmarks, but you’d be missing out if you passed up the opportunity to sample a treat or two at a Parisian bakery.

With boulangeries on nearly every street corner, you’ll have more than a few opportunities to sample the legendary French bread and pastries. And while everyone has heard of the famous croissant, there are a few lesser-known bakery staples that deserve a second glance.

1. Eclair

The name of this pastry comes from the French word for “lightning” – presumably because that’s how quickly you finish it once you’ve had a bite! An éclair is made with choux pastry, an eggy batter that cooks up airy and light. The logs of pastry are then filled with pastry cream – chocolate and coffee are the most common flavors, but some specialty shops like Eclair de Génie have come out with innovative versions like passion fruit or gianduja.

2. Almond Croissant

Not for the faint of heart, this buttery pastry starts with a croissant base which is filled with a sweetened almond paste, similar to marzipan. The croissant is usually topped with slivered almonds and a powdered sugar blizzard, transforming what is usually seen as a breakfast staple into the perfect sweet dessert.

3. Palmier

Also sometimes known as elephant ears in the States, these buttery pastries are named for their resemblance to the leaves of palm trees. A palmier is made with a simple combo of flaky puff pastry and sugar for a giant cookie that’s the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

4. Flan Pâtissier

While it shares a name with the South American dessert, French flan is a horse of a different color. This eggy custard sets up firm, making it easier to eat than South American flan. It’s usually baked in a tart shell, marrying the best of custard and pie in one delicious, vanilla-scented treat.

5. Moelleux Au Chocolat

Chocoholics, you’ve met your match with the moelleux. This miniature chocolate cake is just barely set in the middle, for an unctuous chocolate experience you won’t soon forget.

Top image care of Marc Kjerland

romantic paris

5 Famous French Romances to Inspire You this Valentine’s Day

Paris’ reputation as the City of Love is well-earned – many lovers have called the French capital home. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are just a few of our favorite love stories throughout the ages that have left their mark on Paris

1. Héloïse and AbéLard

This Medieval couple is the subject of a beautiful epic poem by Alexander Pope, and though their story is not the happiest, it is certainly filled with love.

Héloïse met Abélard when he was hired by her uncle to be her private tutor, and quickly, the two fell in love. When Héloïse became pregnant, she was forced to leave Paris in shame, and her uncle (for reasons that are still disputed by scholars) had Abélard attacked and castrated. The couple decided to take Holy Orders were thus separated for twenty years – but they kept up a famous correspondence of beautiful love letters that so enchanted Josephine Bonaparte that she had their remains moved to Père Lachaise cemetery, where they are buried as though they had lived as man and wife.

2. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

Sartre and de Beauvoir were the intellectual power couple of Paris’ literary scene in the 1950s and 60s. While their love story was far from traditional – they never lived together and famously had an open relationship – De Beauvoir said that her union with Sartre “made a superfluous mockery of any other bond we might have forged for ourselves,” and there’s something rather romantic about that.

3. Frédéric Chopin and George Sand

The romance between Chopin and Sand bucked the gender binary long before it was common: cigar-smoking, pants-wearing, Revolutionary novelist Sand and shy, sickly, discreet Chopin seemed a strange pairing at first, but they spent almost nine years together. When they finally separated, Chopin’s illness (tuberculosis or, some muse, cystic fibrosis) worsened, and while Sand had always promised he would die in her arms, there is no proof that this actually happened. While their love story did not finish happily, it was, many say, the inspiration behind many of Chopin’s most beautiful compositions.

 

4. Henri II and Diane de Poitiers

King Henri II was married to Catherine de Medici, but that didn’t stop him from keeping up a several-decade relationship with Diane de Poitiers, 20 years his senior. Diane was an extremely intelligent noblewoman who was instrumental in many of Henri’s political successes and earned great power in the court. She was immortalized in Henri’s engraved signature: an H and two interlaced Ds (which originally more closely resembled Cs, for Catherine), and when Henri died in a jousting match, he was flying Diane’s favor rather than that of his wife.

Diane’s presence and influence is most evident at the Loire Valley chateau of Chenonceau, where she lived, but you can also see elements of it at the King’s Parisian palace, the Louvre.

5. Quasimodo and Esmeralda

While these lovers are fictional, their presence in Paris cannot be denied. Two of the main characters of Victor Hugo’s opus Notre Dame de Paris are the eponymous (in the English translation, at least) hunchback and the gypsy Esmeralda. While Esmeralda never held Quasimodo in her affections, the ending of the novel (far darker than that of the Disney film) shows just how much Quasimodo loved her.

eiffel tower

3 Romantic Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day in Paris

It’s no secret that Paris is the city of love – which makes it the perfect place to spend Valentine’s Day with that special someone! Here are three of our favorite ways to make the day special.

1. Walk Along the Seine

Walks along the Seine are a bit damper these days, but the river running through Paris is still a lovely spot to wander arm-in-arm. In the past, lovers would go to the Pont des Arts and padlock their love to the city. While this is now frowned upon (lest the bridge sink – not super romantic!) the Pont des Arts, Pont Alexandre III, and Pont Neuf are all beautiful places to soak up the views of central Paris.

2. Stroll Père Lachaise Arm-in-Arm

A cemetery visit might not seem like the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day, but Père Lachaise is actually home to a host of famous couples: from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas to the medieval Héloïse and Abélard (sometimes dubbed the French Romeo and Juliet), you’ll have more than your share of lovers to inspire you.

3. Enjoy a Candlelit Dinner

Paris’ gastronomic prowess is no secret, and what better day than Valentine’s Day to enjoy a delicious, romantic meal with your partner?

Since spots that take reservations tend to fill up pretty quickly on the 14th, here are a handful of our favorite spots that don’t take reservations; show up early (at 7pm) or late (at 9:30pm) to avoid the crowds.

  • Café Constant offers a reasonable, seasonally-inspired prix fixe not far from the Eiffel Tower –  the perfect place to stroll once you’ve finished your meal of heartier fare from the French Southwest.
  • Frenchie bar à vins is the wine bar outpost of Gregory Marchand’s famous Frenchie restaurant; the small plates menu makes for a delicious shared dinner. Just be sure to show up early – folks start to line up at 6:30 to score a seat.
  • Le Relais de l’Entrecôte is a Parisian classic; the family-owned restaurant serves only one dish: steak-frites. When your waitress appears tableside, she’ll just ask you how you like it cooked (and what wine you’d like to enjoy alongside it!)
vincent van gogh

Top 3 Things to Do in Paris in February

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, a food tour – there are certain Paris must-sees that never change. But the French capital is also home to a thriving, ever-changing scene of exhibitions, concerts, and more! Here are the three things we’re most excited about for next month.

1. Catching Van Gogh At the Petit Palais

The centrally located Petit Palais is hosting a temporary show of Dutch masters including one of our favorite fellow expats, Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibition, which opens on the 6th of February, focuses on Dutch artists who lived in Paris between the French Revolution in 1789 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914. With over 100 works, this exhibition is sure to be something special!

2. Martin Gets a New Friend in Robert

One of our favorite wine bars in Paris is getting a new outpost! Loïc Martin and Peter Orr are opening Robert, a new restaurant that they tell Paris Food Affair will depart from the small plates trend that has taken over Paris’ dining scene of late. Given how much we love Martin (and Au Passage, another member of the family), we can’t wait to see what Robert has in store for us when it opens this month!

3. Saying “Meuh” to French Cows

Paris may be a center of art, culture, and gastronomy, but most of France is actually better known for its agriculture (thankfully! Otherwise, where would we get all that delicious cheese?)

Every year, Parisians get a glimpse of the agricultural bent of the rest of the country with the agricultural trade show or “Salon de l’Agriculture” at Porte de Versailles. A ticket into this trade show affords you the opportunity not only to see some of the most beautiful farm animals France has to offer (imagine a county fair on steroids) but also to taste some of the top regional specialties from all over France.

What are you looking forward to this month in Paris? Let us know in the comments or via Facebook!

view of paris

See Paris from Above! Top 5 Views of Paris

Paris’ skyline is famous, with the Eiffel Tower standing tall amongst the Haussmanien apartment buildings with their iron balustrades. But as for the best place to enjoy this view? Folks remain undecided.

1. Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is of course one of the most famous places in Paris to enjoy the view: climb (7 euro) or take the elevator (11 euro) to the second story viewing platform, where you’ll get four unique panoramas: central Paris to the east, the Chaillot Palace and La Défense to the north, the Champ de Mars to the south, and the Ile des Cygnes or Swan Island to the west, which is home to a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The only problem with this view? The most famous emblem of Paris is invisible – because you’re standing on it!

2. Montparnasse Tower

The large black office building lurking in the 15th is the Montparnasse Tower, generally seen as an eyesore to most. But what Guy de Maupassant once said about the Eiffel Tower is true of Montparnasse as well: it’s a great place to take in the view, because it’s the only place in Paris that you can’t see it!

What you can see from the viewing platform (17 euro) at the top of the Montparnasse Tower is, of course, the city’s more famous Tower: Eiffel is located not too far from Montparnasse, making this one of the best views of the Iron Lady. However, seeing as Montparnasse is rather far to the south of the city, a lot of the northern landmarks, like the Louvre, are tough to make out.

3. Sacré Coeur Basilica

The former village of Montmartre became Paris’ 18th arrondissement in the 19th century, and today, it’s one of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods. Not only does it have narrow cobbled streets and secret gardens to uncover, but it also offers one of the best views of Paris in the city: from the steps of the Sacré Coeur Basilica, a white behemoth that sits at the very top of the hill, you can see Paris unfold in front of you – and as a bonus, you’ll also see where Amélie almost meets Nino in Amélie Poulain.

(Hint: to see the Eiffel Tower, walk along the edge of the hill past the funicular – you’ll be able to see it just before turning up towards the Place du Tertre).

4. Parc Buttes Chaumont

For a rather unique view of Paris, head to the Buttes Chaumont park in the 19th arrondissement. This park is home to a temple replica overlooking a man-made lake – from the temple, you get a pretty fantastic view of the nearby Sacré Coeur Basilica as well as unique views of the city from the northeast.

5. Galeries Lafayette

If we had to pick our favorite view in Paris, though, it would undoubtedly be that from the top of the Galeries Lafayette department store, behind the ornate Palais Garnier opera house. This centrally located department store offers great views of not only the gilded opéra but also the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. And perhaps the best thing about it? It’s free!

wine bar

Drink Up! Our Top 5 Wine Bars in Paris

When F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Paris, he was known for downing an entire bottle of wine – before dinner! These Paris wine bars are perfect for partaking in one of France’s favorite past times (and grabbing a bite to eat, too).

1. Ô-Chateau

The owners of Ô-Chateau got their start giving English-language wine tasting classes in Paris. Their wine bar is all about choice: more than 50 wines by the glass await you in this bar not far from the Louvre, and the knowledgeable sommeliers are more than happy to help you make your selection.

Ô-Chateau – 66, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement

2. Frenchie Bar A Vins

Famously rich, French food often relies upon an accompanying glass of wine to add a welcome touch of acidity and balance. There’s no better place to see this in action than Frenchie Bar à Vins, the wine bar outpost of the famous restaurant just across the street. Here, creative small plates are the perfect pair for an assortment of ever-changing wine choices from across the country (and across the world).

The wine bar doesn’t take reservations, which makes it easier to get into than the restaurant, but be sure to get here early: it fills up fast!

Frenchie Bar à Vins – 6, rue du Nil, 2nd arrondissement

3. La Vache dans les Vignes

This haven for wine and cheese lovers isn’t technically a wine bar, but rather a specialty store that’s also known for its cheese plates. Choose your wine (by the bottle or by the glass) and the number of cheeses you’d like, and your server will pick the wedges that work best with your selection. The owners specialize in selecting wines and cheeses from small producers, so prepare yourself for some pleasant surprises.

La Vache dans les Vignes – 46, quai de Jemmapes, 10th arrondissement

4. Le Garde-robe

Natural wine has been a growing trend in France in the past few years: these wines have no added sulfites and are often described as “alive” by those who love them. Discover them yourself at le Garde-Robe, which specializes in these vins vivants: the staff here is extremely knowledgeable and will be more than happy to guide you in your selection of a bottle and a cheese or charcuterie board to sample along with it.

Le Garde-Robe – 41, rue de l’Arbre-Sec, 1st arrondissement

5. Le Barav’

Part wine bar, part restaurant, le Barav’ has something for everyone. The short-and-sweet menu includes classic cheese and charcuterie boards as well as a few little snacks to share highlighting only the best French ingredients: roasted cheese with honey, beef carpaccio, croque monsieur, steak tartare, and a special plat du jour that’s always changing. A regular selection of wines by the glass and an enormous 250-reference cellar will keep you coming back for more.

Le Barav’ – 6 Rue Charles-François Dupuis, 3rd arrondissement

If you want to learn even more about French wine, let us be your (very enthusiastic) guides: our Best Bites of Paris tour is a great way to learn more about wine and terroir.

claude monet - impression, soleil levant

5 Off-the-Beaten Path Museums in Paris to Keep Warm this January

While some would say that very little holds a candle to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, these behemoths of Paris’ museumscape are far from the only spots you can take in the city’s art, history, and culture. Here are just five of the dozens of museums in Paris that we think are worth a second glance.

1. Musée Marmottan

If you’ve been to the Orsay and the nearby Orangerie to see Claude Monet’s famous waterlilies, then the Marmottan should be your next stop. This former private home in the 16th arrondissement is home to the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings (and over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in all). It also houses Marmottan family’s collection of Napoleonic era art and furniture, giving you a small glimpse at what it might have been like to live in Paris in the 19th century.

2. Musée Jacquemart-André

Another small private home, this time in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, the Jacquemart-André is as much a discovery of this gorgeous mansion as of the collections housed within. Visitors tour through the formal state apartments, the informal apartments, the private apartments of the André family, the winter garden, and the Italian museum, which houses collections of 15th and 16th century Italian sculpture and paintings, including works by Donatello, Botticelli, and Bellini.

3. Musée des Egouts

Yep, you read that right: this museum is devoted to the sewer system of Paris. The history of Paris is inextricably linked to the river Seine, which was once the sewer through the city. When Napoleon began building the sewer system, it modernized the city exponentially. This (slightly smelly) museum takes you through these developments, from ancient times to the present.

4. Memorial de la Shoah

Founded in 2005, the Shoah memorial houses several exhibits dedicated to the plight of the Jewish people of France, many of whom lived in the Marais, where the museum is located. The museum is home notably to the Wall of Names, listing the approximately 76,000 Jewish people deported from France during the war.

5. Espace Dalí

Located up in beautiful Montmartre, this museum features over 300 original pieces from Surrealist master Salvador Dalí. Each year, the museum houses a new temporary exhibit, and it also displays modern works from local artists in tandem with Dalí’s masterpieces.

 

galette des rois

The Low-Down on French King Cake (And Where to Find it in Paris!)

France may no longer have a king, but we do have King Cake, a traditional dessert you’ll find in pastry shops all over the country just in time for Epiphany on January 6th.

While King Cake, or galette des rois, was once a Catholic tradition associated with the arrival of the three wise men at the birthplace of Jesus, in secular France, the cake has become more of a celebration of the New Year: you’ll find galettes on French tables from the beginning of January through to the end of February – and with it, an intriguing tradition.

What Is King Cake?

Unlike in New Orleans, where King Cake is made with a brioche dough and brightly colored icing, in France, galette is a combination of buttery puff pastry and frangipane, a sweetened almond-based paste similar to marzipan.

Most galettes are big enough to share, though you’ll also find individual portioned ones, as well as galettes with added flavors, like pistachio, coconut, or chocolate.

How Do You Eat a King Cake?

King Cake is not eaten like other pastries: there is a ritual involved in galettes, and it begins with the youngest member of the party getting under the table.

You see, each King Cake contains a fève: in the past, a fava bean was used, though most modern galettes contain instead a porcelain trinket, hidden in one of the pieces. Once the youngest member of the party is under the table, the galette is sliced, and as the slicer points to each piece, the names of the other members of the party are called out from under the table, assigning each slice to a diner.

Once each person has his or her slice, it’s time to dig in, but attention! The fève can be hard on the teeth if you’re not expecting it. The person with the fève in his or her slice gets to be king (or queen) of the day, sporting a golden paper crown that is sold with the galette itself.

Where Can I Try one?

While galettes are sold in nearly every pastry shop in the capital, there are a few that are noteworthy.

Pierre Hermé, for example, is a master not only of the macaron but of the galette: his version is available in plain, chocolate, and ispahan varieties (the last is a fruity combination of rose, raspberry, and litchi.) The unique spiral design of the top of the galette is reflected in the abstract shape of the fève within.

Benoit Castel is another favorite this year: his inverted puff pastry is crisper and lighter than most, and his traditional filling is elevated thanks to Madagascar vanilla. The fèves were produced in collaboration with le Coq Toqué, a producer of artisanal Normandy apple cider: some Kings will also win a bottle of the cider for a very regal tasting indeed!

Discovered any other delicious galettes in Paris? Tell us about your favorites in the comments or on Facebook.

Image care of Steph Gray

fireworks

3 Ways to Have a Perfect New Year’s Eve in Paris

Spending New Year’s Eve in Paris? Aside from learning how to count down backwards in French (trois, deux, un…), you’ll want to keep your eye on some of the chicest ways to celebrate in the capital. Here are just three places you might find us on New Year’s Eve!

1. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris on the River Seine

The Seine is the river floating through Paris, separating the city into the Rives Gauche and Droite. This New Year’s Eve, why not let it be your guide?

This New Year’s Eve boat party takes place on a classic Parisian péniche, docked not far from the central Ile Saint Louis, one of the two islands in the center of the city. The boat boasts not only a dance floor but a huge covered terrace from which you’ll get one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the city. Just be sure to book in advance: this party is sure to fill up.

2. A Spectacular Fireworks Show

If fireworks are more your style, the place to be at midnight is the Champs-Elysées. The city of Paris projects a light show on the imposing Arc de Triomphe before unleashing a spectacular fireworks show at midnight.

Of course, if standing out in the cold on the Champs-Elysées doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you can easily pop a bottle of bubbly and enjoy the spectacle from your hotel room: BFMTV (channel 30) broadcasts the show live.

3. The Early Bird Special

If you want to take advantage of the spectacle of New Year’s Eve in Paris without having to stay up super late, a tour bus of Paris’ various illuminations may be more your style. This Paris by Night tour departs at 5, 6, and 7pm, and for an hour and a half, it will guide you through some of Paris’ most beautiful monuments, all lit up for the end-of-year festivities.

This tour is the perfect way to add a special-occasion flair to your New Year’s Even in Paris while also making sure you get home in time to get a good night’s rest – so you’re ready to explore the city on the first day of 2018!

yule log - buche de noel

Parisian Christmas Foods: Uncovering Festive French Faves

In France, Christmas dinner is often defined by rich, gourmet foods: from caviar to foie gras to a special cake designed just for Christmas, the French know how to do holiday meals up right.

Unlike many American families, who opt for a buffet-style Christmas dinner, the French Christmas meal is usually served in courses.

oysters

Appetizers or hors d’oeuvres may either be fish- or meat-based. The former is more popular with religious families, as Christmas dinner is usually served on the 24th (Christmas Eve) rather than the 25th (Christmas Day), and Catholic tradition demands a fish-based Christmas Eve dinner.

That said, religious or not, many French families choose to enjoy oysters, smoked salmon, or even caviar for this first bite of the Christmas meal.

foie gras

Many other families opt for escargots instead, and nearly every family will serve foie gras: in fact, one poll shows that 76 percent of French people couldn’t imagine a Christmas dinner without it.

For the main dish, turkey is a popular choice, though capon and Guinea hen are also common, served with chestnuts, potato gratin, or mashed potatoes. The main is followed by a cheese course and then dessert: the classic bûche de Noël.

It’s perhaps no surprise that in such a pastry-minded society, there’s a cake designed just for Christmas. The bûche or Yule log is a genoise cake filled with buttercream and often decorated to look like an actual log, complete with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. You’ll find some version of this cake in nearly every pastry shop in Paris, with some of the more elaborate going for upwards of 100 euros a cake.

clementines

Of course, some French people opt for something a bit simpler (and easier to digest): a clementine.