Next we flew our way over to Paris… “La Ville-Lumière” city of lights …. stunning city architecturally. I love St. Germain/Michel… it’s probably one of my favorite neighborhoods, filled with grand aesthetically pleasing houses, shopping, marvels of gourmet food and plentiful bakeries and restaurants. Check out Montmarte for marvels of little shops & boutique stores, Dali Museum and a breathtaking view of the city. I marvel at the pastries and fresh baguette every single morning. It was my favorite thing I looked forward to each day… oh and the escargot, foie gras and the heavenly a soupe à l’oignon. And I am fully aware that the French don’t eat onion soup… EVER… that won’t stop me from ordering it. For Paris, it’s all about the small pleasures in life.. found in pastry like form.
Bistrot Des Dames (18 Rue des Dames, Paris) – wonderful neighborhood restaurant … the locals rave about this hidden gem. we ordered practically everything… a bottle of Saint Emillion, foie gras terrine, meat & cheese plate, tuna salad nicoise, veal stew and I opted for the seafood w/ pappardelle. the foie gras was wonderful… rich and fatty all at the same time…i didn’t want it to end, but unfortunately it had to…or else I’d have a heart attack. the veal stew i could live without… not tender enough and lacked flavor and depth. olives is not salty the solution. my pappardelle with the seafood was good…. missing just a touch of sauce…and pasta could have been more al dente…but overall, an enjoyment…with big chunks of veggies to my delight.
Au Levain D’Antan (6 Rue des Abbesses, Paris) – This is considered one the best baguette in Paris, in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Montmarte. Amazing croissants, award winning baguettes and their sandwiches are delish. They won first place in a competition 2011! I could definitely eat here for breakfast every day. The smells will mesmerize you.
99 Cafe (Rue de Caumartin, Paris)- Located off the Lazare metro stop, we stopped by for some hot liquids to warm the body & soul and a small bite of what their crepes tasted like. While good, I prefer my crepe batter to be thinner … not thick, dense pancake textured like…
Gerard Mulot (76 Rue de Seine, Paris) – This was another outstanding bakery… I liked their baguettes and croissants here the best… the macarons were good, but I have had much better. Plus, when you see a line, it’s almost ensured to be good. Extra kudos for amazing and beautiful packaging…. the pastries are so shiny they don’t look real!
Les Bistrot des Tartes (7 Rue Lagrange, Paris) – Located in the heart of Saint Germain/Odeon neighborhood, we had just eaten lunch and made our way home … stuffed as a button. If I had only one regret in life (or rather to be realistic, on this trip) it was NOT stopping by this boulangerie and eating this ridiculously good looking slice of blueberry pie/tart goodness. WHY… was I too full to eat this?! WHY… didn’t I just suck it up…and at least order it to go?! WHY…was i so stupid? We will never no… We will meet again, until next time.
Leon de Bruxelles (131 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris) -on the crave for mussels.. we settled on Leon de Bruxelles, which we discovered later was a chain throughout Paris…. not very authentic in taste and environment. No complaints as we had Our only saving grace was our waiter, who was super nice enough to put up with all of our bullshit so to speak. Since the food is sub par here, it’s not worth posting pictures.
Cafe Panis (21 Quai Montebello, Paris) – We just got done viewing the gorgeous Norte Dame Cathedral … the view from top is breathtaking and worth the 10€. Back to the food… this quaint cafe is located near the Saint Germain neighborhood. The food was good.. but we didn’t order any special entrees… just french onion soup & escargot. It’s a great place to stop and take a small break, but I would not come here for dinner. The soup basked in french bread and crispy melted cheese … the broth was bit on the bland side… not hearty enough, and lacked depth. Surprisingly, the soup was one of the better ones I’ve experiences here. The escargot was great… drizzled in olive oil and pesto… oh, just give me a million of these things to eat with bread…lots and lots of bread….
Skip Cafe Le Buci… terrible food…slow as hell service. French onion soup did not come gratinee style, but somehow they managed to burn my cheese with something… since they did not have a broiler. We had to send back the beef tartare … it was awful, way too much mayo… we traded it in for a beef carpaccio..not any better, but still edible.
Le First (3 rue de Castiglione, Paris) – A class restaurant located in the heart of the Westin-Vedome Hotel. Chef Gilles Grasteau portrays the ever elegance of french technique and cooking. We started pan-sautéed duck foie gras with green lentils and duck meat.. phenomenal in both presentation and taste. Next comes the glorious hangar steak in a red wine sauce with gnocchi… my least favorite between dessert and appetizer, however, still very good. The red wine sauce was a bit too heavy and salty for me… the potato gnocchi drenched in creamy parmesan sauce was excellent.. it was creamy, soft, luxurious silk in your mouth. The desserts here was truly memorable… we ordered two, small pear tart with almonds, paris honey caramel and tanzania chocolate and praline profiterole, vanilla ice cream (think chocolate molten lava cake).
Villa Bianca (6 Boulevard Leblois, Strasbourg) – This is going to be a really short section on Strasbourg… basically, it used to be German colonized…now French… the architecture is stunning. You will easily see German and French influenced buildings. Absolutely gorgeous. The food however, leaves something to be desired. Very simple.. bare minimum…no frills. That means it can be good…or bad…
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Boni (15, rue Tonduti de l’Escarene, Nice) – This restaurant is off the beaten path…very far from Old Towne and closer to our hotel (Hotel Comte Nice). This was our first dinner meal in Nice…and we were off to a right start. The servers don’t speak much English (nor Nice for that matter) so we had to bear with each other just a little bit. The chef was a bit more attentive than our server! I’m not sure if they were understaffed but all the tables filled up quickly around 8pm. Very promising sign. We wanted Italian food (pasta!), so Boni was a perfect complement to the warm autumn night. We all pretty much had tagliatelle (hand made) ..just in different variations. A gf ordered the mushroom tagliatelle and what I liked about this dish was the sauce and the variety of mushrooms used (minus the unidentified spongy tasting mushroom)… whereas my seafood tagliatelle didn’t have much sauce at all. Good, but I preferred the mushroom for its sauciness. My other gf ordered the duck, which is phenomenal. Very plain looking (could have been dressed up with vegetables) but the sauce was sweet and tangy, and the duck was tender and superb without any ink of fat. She also choose a side of pasta with it…
Chez Pipo (13 Rue Bavastro, Nice) – Socca is native to Nice. Chick pea pizza… this socca is made in a wood fire oven… the top is sensationally crisp, and the bottom is soft, as one would expect mashed up chick peas to be… the result? An amazing product…. and a must pairing with a glass of rose. We wanted to try it for the first time, nice and plain. You can add fun toppings like eggplant and sun dried tomatoes… truly a delicacy, worth trying.
La Voglia (2 rue St François de Paule, Nice) -Nice used to be occupied by Italy during World War II. It should come to no surprise that since they are close to the borders of Italy, they offer lovely pasta and pizza, just as good if not better than the Romans. La Voglia, while highly populated in the touristy area of Cours Seleya, still manages to hold down the fort well. My favorite dish was the seafood pasta with marinara sauce….I could not stop eating the spaghetti… everything was so fresh, and I loved that it had tomato sauce…(the combination of seafood and tomato sauce is rare in Rome). My friend enjoyed her lasagna, while my other friend ate her margarita. We were under the impression that it would be chunks of fresh mozzarella and basil… but such was not the case. Instead, we were given fresh grated, hot mozzarella…. plain.. no basil… and this is the true “margarita” style pizza in Europe. Nothing more, nothing less. Overall, the food was very good, but the service was poor. We knew the portions would be big, so we wanted to share two plates, not three…and our waitress forcefully told us there was a minimum requirement of 1 dish per person. This turned out to be BULLSHIT of course… we had asked a local… yep, we got conned.
La Tapenade (6, rue Sainte Reparate, Nice) – Service was REALLY slow… we were all stark mad and ravishingly hungry, we just wanted our food. Highlights include the Nicolas Alziari olive oil they served with the french bread…(the Nicolas Alziaari olive oil store can be found just down the street, worth checking out)… next the sardines, (my personal favorite)… and the lovely, mushroom ravioli. I had shared with a friend the sardines and mushroom ravioli and it was just the perfect portion split between us. If you are really hungry, I would not suggest the sardines as it’s not really that filling. We ended the wonderful meal by sharing a tiramisu dessert…. in… wait for it…. a mason jar! I am in love with this concept and it will inspire me to start making more desserts in a mason jar. Solid restaurant with outdoor seating accommodations.
As we strolled down zone pietonne…little boutique shops caught our eye… so did this kebab store… We bought a beef Kofte (pictured below)…and the flavors reminded me of an empanada… in a fold up crepe like form. It was pretty good..and we considered it to be a great snack. If you don’t mind empanadas…. because it has a lot of garlic and onions….
L’abbaye (15, Rue Pont Vieux,) – Our last meal in Nice…Everything was unmemorable…all but one dish. The spaghetti w/ beef. Not meatballs, but tender, chunks of slow braised, flavorful meat. The spaghetti was just as wonderful, chewy, tender, it was pretty flawless, coupled with the beef sauce. Divine. This is the dish I should have ordered…instead, I opted for the dorado, which was hard, thin and tough and unappetizing. Plus, in the month of October, it’s not really fish season (not until December anyways)… so the quality I had expected fell short. The mussels were tiny and over cooked… While I am convinced that this place is mediocre, there is one dish they manage to spit out spectacularly… L’abbaye, please don’t change your recipe!
Conclusion: Nice reigns supreme on gourmet food, with a divine selection of Italian and French… for pastries and dessert, my heart belongs to Paris. For the ultimate fine dining experience, Paris is probably your best bet. This is evident with the amount of pristine and breathtaking architecture found within the streets of Paris. Both cities have a high selection of cafes and boulangeries, should you use to spend your time at them. Paris is highly populated with smokers… so be wary when you are eating outside.