brasserie

La Joie de Vivre in Paris (Part Deux)

In my previous post, I began to tell you about Paris--what to see and do and suggestions of hotels to make your home base. In this post, I will get into the eating and drinking aspect of your holiday to the City of Lights. To begin, here are a few tips to help make your food experience go as smoothly as possible:

  • Dining options are usually classified as either cafés, bistros, or brasseries. A café is the most casual and serves coffee, alcohol and light fare. A bistro is generally a small, modest place that is meat-centric (as opposed to seafood). A brasserie is generally a larger, slightly more upscale establishment offering more seafood than meat. Although these days there's a fine line between bistros and brasseries.
  • Listen very closely to this one! An entrée is actually an appetizer. Don't get fooled or you'll end up leaving the restaurant quite hungry!
  • Café au Lait (coffee with steamed milk) is the drink to order with your petit déjeuner (light breakfast usually consisting of a croissant or pastry with coffee or tea).

WHERE TO EAT

BISTROS & BRASSERIES

Drouant for a delicious dinner that highlights chef Antoine Westermann's farm-fresh, local, seasonal veggies. I miss his bistro, Mon Vieil Ami, but this is the next best thing. Reservations needed. (18 Rue Gaillon)

Septime for one of the most popular tables in town. Modern, bistro dishes in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere. Reservations a must and can only be booked 3 weeks in advance. If dinner is too competitive, lunch is a great alternative. (80 Rue de Charonne)

Huitrerie Regis for oysters in a lovely, quaint seafood and oyster bar. Menu includes a large selection of bubbly and white wine (naturally). There is a minimum 1 dozen oysters per person rule, but it was delicious and the best place to try France's famous fines de claires oysters. They don't take reservations and the place is small but if you go on the early side of the dinner rush you should not have a problem getting a table. (3 Rue de Montfaucon)

Josephine Chez Dumonet for some of the best duck confit around as well as other French classics served in a traditional bistro setting. Reservations needed. (117 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Le Stella for seafood in true brasserie. When it's nice, request a table outdoors on the terrace. I recommend ordering the seafood tower or at least some oysters to accompany your meal and fit in with the crowd! (133 Avenue Victor Hugo)

Le Relais de l'Entrecote for steak frites. This casual yet delicious eatery is a must if you like steak & french fries (don't expect anything else on the menu!) Just tell the waiter how you would like your steak to be cooked and watch as your plate keeps filling with steak and fries. There are a couple locations around Paris but it doesn't feel like a chain. They don't take reservations so I recommend going to dinner on the earlier side if you don't want to wait in a long line. (20 Rue Saint-Benoît)

Le Bistro Marbeuf for a casual meal in a cosy French bistro. A great option if you're in the Champs-Élysées neighborhood. Reservations recommended but not necessary. (21 Rue Marbeuf)

CAFÉS

Eggs & Co. for a sit-down breakfast or brunch. This really cute little place in the Saint Germain neighborhood serves (farm fresh) eggs and lots of them prepared in a million different ways. I recommend the eggs benedict with a green side salad to balance out the meal. Good coffee and freshly squeezed OJ too. Truly an egg-cellent choice! (11 Rue Bernard Palissy)

Coutume Café for a light breakfast, snack, brunch and/or coffee in a rustic, cozy atmosphere. (47 Rue de Babylone)

Café Trama for a really delicious croque monsieur in a rustic yet modern setting. (83 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Briezh Café or Little Briezh for authentic crêpes. The savory, buckwheat variety are what draws the crowd but sweet ones are also available. Whatever you choose you can't go wrong. Reservations recommended. (109 Rue Vieille du Temple & 11 Rue Grégoire de Tours)

Cuisine de Bar for a tartine-filled lunch. Open-faced sandwiches served in a cute, light & airy setting. Reservations not accepted. (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Cosi for yummy sandwiches served on warm, fresh flatbread. This is the place that inspired the chain we know here in the States but is not associated in anyway. Great to take away and have a picnic lunch in the park. (54 Rue de Seine)

OTHER DELIGHTS

Poilâne for fresh apple tarts right out of the oven. Despite being a bakery, do not expect a baguette to be found here. Several locations but I prefer the one in Saint Germain. (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Eric Kayser for one of the best baguettes in the city. Yummy croissants too. Many locations but don't let that deter you. I prefer the one in Saint Germain which also has a few tables for snacking onsite. (18 Rue du Bac)

Androuet for authentic French cheeses to go with your baguette and wine. Don't be afraid to ask the staff for some help selecting. Several locations but the one in Saint Germain is strategically across from Eric Kayser for baguettes. (37 Rue de Verneuil)

Berthillon for ice cream or glacée as the French refer to it. This is one of the best ice cream parlors in the city so if you're only going to have ice cream once, make sure this is the place. Having a pocket dictionary is always helpful in deciphering the flavor menu. (29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île)

WHERE TO DRINK

Prescription Cocktail Club for a prohibition-era drink in a dark, speakeasy, loungey atmosphere. Fun place to go after dinner. Located in the Saint Germain neighborhood and a little tough to find because of the lack of signage but you'll know you found the right place when you see the bouncer outside. (23 Rue Mazarine)

Tiger for a craft cocktail in a trendy, retro setting with a bright, tropical twist. This place specializes in gin & tonic (they offer several spins on the classic and make their own tonic) but for those not into gin they offer some other fun, tasty cocktails. Located in the Saint Germain neighborhood. (13 Rue Princesse) 

La Terrasse at Hotel Raphael for a rooftop cocktail with views of the Eiffel Tower. Open for lunch and dinner, which is a tough choice. Either way you get an amazing view! Reservations by phone or email are necessary to get a table on the terrace. (17 Avenue Kléber)

Les Deux Magots for an aperitif or coffee in Hemingway's old hangout. Grab a table outdoors when the weather is nice and watch the Parisian world go by. (6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés)

Les Philosophes to take a break from all the walking through Le Marais. Perfect for an aperitif or coffee outdoors on the terrace. Also has some of the best onion soup incase you need a snack too. (28 Rue Vieille du Temple)

Well, I hope you're hungry and thirsty because you've got lots of eating and drinking to do! This list could go on and on since there is just so much good food in this city. You won't go home hungry, that's for sure! Have you been to Paris already? What is your favorite restaurant? Bon appétit!

There's More Than Beer in Bruges

Okay well it’s a big part of it, of being in Belgium for that matter, but Bruges is a gorgeous, romantic city and is perfect for a couple days to escape the hustle bustle of a major city like London, Paris, or even Amsterdam. Today I’ve got Bruges on my mind because it is the 2-year anniversary that my husband proposed to me there. It happened along a picturesque canal and we celebrated afterwards as any Belgian would do with many strong beers. Let’s just say it was an early night. Bruges is located a little over an hour northwest of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and only about 2 hours on the train from London or Paris (3 from Amsterdam) which makes it an easy weekend destination if you’re visiting one of those cities. It is pretty small so you don’t need more than a couple of days there to get a real feel for the culture. The local language is actually a dialect of Dutch (Flemish) but most people know English. French is not really spoken here despite it being the language in Brussels and other parts of Belgium.

In addition to wandering the quaint, cobblestoned streets and getting lost along its many picturesque canals, here’s a list of 5 things you should do in Bruges, most involving food and/or beer. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. Have an authentic Belgian beer at Staminee de Garre. Tucked away down a small alley off the main square, this tavern is quite hidden and tough to find but well worth searching for. The atmosphere is cozy yet lively and is filled with a good mix of locals and visitors alike. Most notably, this watering hole serves up its own Belgian tripel on draught and is the only place on the planet that you can have it. It is delicious but packs a punch at 11% abv, so expect to be cut off after 3. You can thank the bartender later for that. (Staminee de Garre, de Garre 1)
  2. Check out the scenic main square, Markt. Despite being very touristy, this square is still a must see with its Dutch step-gabled buildings, horse-drawn carriages and dramatic medieval facades. If you've seen the Colin Farrell movie In Bruges, this is where the famed belfry resides. As with any main square, there is no shortage of cafes, restaurants and shops. Bruges tends to clear out in the evenings so come back here at night when the buildings are beautifully floodlit for a quieter, more romantic experience.
  3. Indulge in a true Belgian waffle. When many people think of Belgium, the first thought that comes to mind is waffles and rightfully so. You can almost always smell the sweetness in the air with street vendors selling the doughy delight on practically every corner you turn. What we know as a Belgian waffle in the States doesn't really exist here although some places try to appease the tourists by offering the decadent toppings. You can expect the real thing, also known as a Liège waffle, to be about a quarter the size, slightly crisp and sticky on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside and best eaten plain or simply topped with powdered sugar. No maple syrup. No whipped cream, ice cream or fruit. Make sure you stop at Chez Albert to get one (or two, or three...) and don't be surprised if you find yourself searching for a Liège waffle maker when you return home. Note: I later learned that other types of waffles can be found in Belgium, like the Brussels waffle, which is closer to what we Americans know. But I did not come across this type at all on my trip, just the lovely Liège variety. (Chez Albert, Breidelstraat 16)
  4. Order Mosselen-friet (or Moules Frites) for dinner. Considered the national dish of Belgium, this meal consisting of mussels and fries is easy to find in these parts. The mussels are plucked locally from the Flemish coast and come served in the pot in which they were steamed. There are a variety of broths they can be prepared in—from basic and buttery to garlicky to one of white wine—but no matter what you choose you cannot go wrong especially when paired with fries made the Belgian way—double-fried in duck fat. Sounds intimidating but tastes amazing. And don’t worry, you can always get a side salad to help balance out your meal. A great place to enjoy mosselen-friet is at Brasserie Chagall, a small candlelit restaurant with a cozy fireplace that makes you feel like you're having dinner at a friend's home. Reservations recommended. (Brasserie Chagall, Sint-Amandsstraat 40)
  5. Take a load off at Café Rose Red. Adorned with red roses hanging from the ceiling, this bar is one of the best to sample a wide variety of Belgian brews. Yes, I'm encouraging you to have more beer because I mean why not? When in Rome... Anyway the atmosphere is casual, rustic and cozy making it easy to spend hours in. It's a perfect place to escape from the cold or wet weather and they have a great patio for when it's nice. The charcuterie plates are on point and are the perfect snack to balance out all the beers you will have. If the long beer list has you mixing up your saisons with your sours, the bartenders know their stuff so don't be afraid to ask them what you should order. (Café Rose Red, Cordoeaniersstraat 16)

Proposal or not, Bruges is a memorable place. I had no idea what to expect as far as Belgian culture goes and I was pleasantly surprised. Delicious food, friendly people, and pretty surroundings. Belgium easily went from being a place lower on my list of travel priorities to one that I cannot wait to visit again. In the meantime, I've picked out a liège waffle iron at Sur La Table. Wish me luck...

step-gabled houses
step-gabled houses
alley in bruges

alley in bruges

belgian beer
belgian beer
Some new bling makes for a great souvenir ;-D

Some new bling makes for a great souvenir ;-D