Friday, June 22, 2007

Musée du Louvre

This is my third time to the Louvre but a Paris trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to home of the Mona Lisa. Besides, there is always so much to see it is certainly worth multiple visits. After admiring probably the three most well-known treasures of the Louvre (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory), I also made sure that we visited one of my favorite pieces at the Louvre, the sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. Afterwards, we proceeded to make our way through various wings of interest, starting with the Egyptian Antiquities, with which both my sister and I hold a strong fascination. We spent a good amount of time studying sarcophagus, mummies, and artifacts before moving onto other areas such as the Michaelangelo Gallery, Medieval Louvre, and Mesopotamia Antiquities. We ended our visit in Cour Marly and Cour Puget, which essentially form the sculpture garden at the Louvre. Our legs were certainly sore by the end, but I think we barely covered a fraction of the museum!

Hiramatsu (Paris)

Hiramatsu (52, rue de Longchamp; M: Trocadero) came highly recommended and it certainly lived up to every expectation. It is a 1-star in the Michelin Guide and offers a 3-course lunch menu for 48 euros that is worth every penny. We started off with an amuse bouche of gazpacho with tomato “ice cream” and it was very refreshing and the flavors complemented each other. Then for appetizer, we all chose seared foie gras on brioche with a cherry sauce (we are all big fans of foie gras) and the foie gras was nice and fatty. For my main course, I chose beef with artichoke hearts and chanterelle mushrooms, and the different textures of the ingredients enhanced each other. For dessert, I had strawberry “soup,” which was a lightly whipped concoction of fresh strawberries with vanilla bean ice cream. It was not very sweet and it’s perfect for a summer day. To finish, they presented us with an assortment of “gourmandises,” which included a chocolate macaron, a banana financier, cream of pistachio, apricot and raspberry-flavored jellies, and a spoon of tomato with light cream. The service was also impeccable – it was truly a 3-star experience for a reasonable price. No cute guys, but very highly recommended for food!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fete de la Musique

It’s officially the first day of summer, and the French celebrate it by partying hard in the streets with music performances everywhere, otherwise known as Fête de la Musique. I’ve heard about how crazy it can be, so of course I had to go check it out myself. I met up with N and his friends and we started off near where I live, in the Latin Quarter. After enjoying performances by many different bands (I have no idea if any of the bands were famous but we were just following the crowds and there were bands playing on practically every street corner). We slowly made our way over to the Bastille area, where it was even more happening, with stages set up and people everywhere. It was definitely quite an experience – someone described it to me as Mardi Gras amplified and it’s celebrated across all cities in France. So if you ever are in France on June 21, be sure to join the fun and enjoy the music!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Cooking and Eating

After my fun experience with the cooking course last week, I was itching to try my hands at another dish. My sister and I signed up for a class at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier, which is a well-known culinary academy at the Ritz Hotel (my friend S is studying there to become a pastry chef). They also offer lunch classes and today we made seared tuna with julienned leeks. A class at the Ritz school is three times the price of the one I took with L'Atelier des Chefs last week, but it was well worth it. The class is smaller (there were only four of us) and the instructor really taught us some cooking techniques, whereas with L'Atelier des Chefs it was more just cooking from the recipe. Both are a lot of fun, especially since we get to eat the end result! The seared tuna was simple to prepare but it was very tasty, and the flash-fried julienned leeks were not only delicious but also added to the presentation. If you are more serious about cooking, I would definitely recommend trying one of the courses at the Ritz cooking school.

After our lesson, my sister and I headed to Fauchon (since it's on the way back to the metro station). Fauchon certainly is an institution in Paris, known for their madeleines. We tried a number of different flavors, including some unusual ones like truffle and roquefort (cheese). They also have some beautiful-looking desserts and cakes so we picked up some pastries as well. (Yes, I know we just had lunch 10 minutes ago but we didn't have dessert!)

My sister and walked around quite a bit browsing the stores in this area (I think it's considered St Honore - around Madeleine and Place Vendome), and I noticed that there were a lot of good-looking men walking around. I'm not sure where they came from, but I've walked around a lot of different parts of Paris since I arrived, and so far I've found this area to have the highest concentration of attractive men. While I suppose I can't really rate an entire area, I will definitely have to come back and find a good café to people-watch!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Day with Claude Monet

A nice day trip to break away from the bustling city life of Paris is to go to Giverny in the morning before heading to Rouen, a city in Normandy, in the afternoon. This will appeal even more to fans of impressionism, since Giverny was the home of Claude Monet and Rouen is home to the cathedral that inspired one of Monet's most famous series of paintings. My sister and I got up bright and early to catch the morning train to Vernon, which is about 45 minutes away from Paris by train. From Vernon, one would take a bus to Giverny, which takes about another 15 minutes. The morning train allows you to get there as the garden opens and there aren't as many people, although my sister and I spent so much time taking pictures everywhere that soon the gardens filled with people. Giverny has always been one of my favorite places in France - walking through Monet's garden almost feels like stepping into one of his paintings, surrounded by willows, serene water, and of course his well-known waterlilies. Nearly a hundred pictures later, we took off for Rouen - to snap more pictures of course.

My favorite street in Rouen is to stroll down Rue du Gros Horloge, a cobblestone street lined with shops leading up to Cathedral de Notre-Dame, the subject of Monet's series of paintings where he studied the effects of light on the cathedral. (See an example below.) I tried to take a picture that resembled Monet's paintings but I thought he painted them from a different angle so it didn't quite turn out as I planned but you can still see it...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Angélina & Au Trou Gascon

My mom and my sister arrived last night to join me in Paris and we decided to start off slow today since they are still quite jet-lagged. We walked around the Champs-Elysée and Arc de Triomphe and then headed over to Angélina (226 Rue de Rivoli; M: Tuileries) in the afternoon for some hot chocolate and dessert. Everybody has been telling me about the legendary Angélina (reputed to be Audrey Hepburn's favorite) so of course I had to go and see it for myself. Their "chocolat africain" (hot chocolate) is thick and delicious and their "Mont Blanc"(meringue with chestnut cream) is the best I've ever had. They've certainly lived up to their reputation in terms of food. The only disappointment was that there weren't any cute guys in sight. My friend told me that they met some cute guys the last time they were here, but I guess that will depend on your luck! So unfortunately no Q for Angélina.

I did a lot of research on restaurants before I came to Paris and one of the sites that helped me a great deal was Chow Hound. I met a few people there and one of them organized a Paris gathering. We decided to try out Au Trou Gascon (40, rue Taine; M: Daumesnil), which came highly recommended. (I felt bad leaving my mom and sister since they just got here but this was the only night that worked for everyone.) It was great to meet other foodies who enjoy seeking out good restaurants as much as I do. Majority of our conversation for the night revolved around food and good restaurants - I love talking about food while eating good food! For my meal, I started with some "Gascony cured ham," which was cut directly from the bone and was very good (although I couldn't tell much difference between that and the good ones you can buy from charcuteries/delis). For entrée, I had the quail with foie gras. The quail was pretty good although I think the one at Les Ormes was better. Not everyone in the group liked their dish though so the food was a bit inconsistent. The one cool thing about the restaurant is that they are known to have over 130 different kinds of Bas-Armagnac (picture left). Alas, no cute guys though so no Q...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Café Marly (Paris) - Q

A number of us met up for brunch at Café Marly (Cour Napoleon; M: Palais Royal), which is a very nice restaurant right in the courtyard of the Louvre. After quite a long wait (since we didn't make reservations), we got a nice table facing the Pyramid entrance to the museum. (In the restaurant you can also get a table that looks right into the sculpture courtyard in the Louvre.) Of course you are going to pay a price premium for the location but it's well worth it. I got a smoked salmon and scallop carpaccio for appetizer, which was sashimi-grade scallop wrapped in smoked salmon and thinly sliced together. The presentation was certainly very nice. I went with a traditional steak tartare for main dish and it was very fresh and well-seasoned. The clientele, as can be expected, was mostly tourists so attractiveness can vary quite a bit. Fortunately, they do have an extremely good-looking staff deserving of a Q. Combine that with the atmosphere of the Louvre and solid food, Café Marly is undoubtedly a great brunch destination (reservations recommended)!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Learning to Cook the French Way

After all the eating, I thought it'd be pretty cool to take some classes to learn how to cook some French dishes. I signed up for a couple classes through L'Atelier des Chefs ( and the first class was today. It was a relatively small group of seven of us in the lower level of Lafayette Maison (home store of the Lafayette department store). The class was mostly in French so I didn't quite understand all of the things that the instructor said but could figure most of it out. We were making a pan-seared seabass dish with a medley of vegetables. I was responsible for cutting up some fennel and bell peppers while others chopped up other veggies such as eggplant, zucchini, shallots, tomatoes, etc. After all the prep work, some of us stir-fried the vegetables while others seared the fish and made the sauce (combination of tapenade, tomatoes, shallots, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc.). And then we plated everything up and enjoyed our hardwork with some bread and wine. It was absolutely delicious! (Of course, since we made it ourselves!)

The class was certainly a lot of fun and I can't wait to try the recipe out at home. Given that, I figured it would be nice to try my cooking out on some guinea pigs (uh, I mean, guests). I know many of you have been following my blog regularly and I thank you for that. I especially want to thank Marc and Chi-Mei for always leaving me encouraging comments. I know there are more of you out there since you do email me your comments. Therefore, to encourage more comments, I would like to offer to cook for the first person (and a guest) who leaves me a comment to this post (sorry, you would have to live in the Bay Area). Even if you are not the first this time, don't worry, I plan to offer more "rewards" in the future so keep reading and keep eating! :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Paris) - Q

After many days of unsuccessful attempts, I finally found a place that I can give a Q to! For dinner tonight I went to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (5, rue Montalembert; 7th arrondissement), which has been highly recommended by multiply sources (also 1-star in the Michelin Guide). L'Atelier is known to be the more "casual" restaurant of renowned chef Joël Robuchon (versus La Table de Joël Robuchon) and is set up almost like a diner counter (albeit a very high-end one). The staff is very attentive as well as attractive. My waiter was probably the best-looking guy I've seen in Paris, but then later I found out that he is actually from Milan. I asked to take a picture of him but he said no (he is the third guy who has turned me down for a picture - I didn't think Parisian men were so shy!) The clientele was definitely upscale, with an even mix of locals and tourists. It was mostly couples, but the counter setup is very conducive to striking up a conversation with your neighbors and everyone is very friendly. Who you sit next to can be hit or miss, but just the good-looking staff alone deserves a Q!

As for food, L'Atelier serves up delicious tapas-style dishes, so you can easily gobble up/taste 4-5 plates. I decided to go for their tasting-menu which is 6 smaller-portioned plates plus 2 desserts for 110 euros. I started off with "Le Crabe Royal," which was crab covered in daikon "ravioli" style - it was nicely flavored with a hint of spice. Next I had an "asparagus cappuccino." Normally I don't even like asparagus but the cappuccino was very light and refreshing. The next small plate was foie gras - you can never go wrong with foie gras. This was followed by "l'oeuf de poule," which I wasn't quite sure what it was but I think it was eggs mixed with spinach. It was another light-tasting and refreshing dish. The fish course is next, with a filet of Saint-Pierre, and the final savory course ware mini lamb chops. The lamb chops were the most tender I've ever had and it was so tasty that you want to suck on the bones (if people didn't sit so close to me!) They were also the smallest lamb chops I've ever had, but fortunately I was already pretty full by then. The meal was topped off with two desserts, one a lighter fruit/ice cream combo and a souffle. L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon has certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the top restaurants in Paris - superb food, unpretentious environment, and attentive (and attractive) staff!

I Need a Bowl of Pho

As much as I love French food, after nearly two weeks of it day and night, I felt that I really needed something different (similar to how I had to take a break from macarons). So when N suggested that we get pho for dinner, I happily agreed. N took me to Pho Banh Cuon 14 (129, avenue de Choisy; M: Tolbiac) and we ordered a couple bowls of pho. Maybe it was because I was craving Asian food, the pho tasted absolutely heavenly. It was also one of the cheapest meals I've had in Paris. A bowl of pho was 7 euros, and N and I joked about how everything is relative. He had just come back from Ho Chi Minh City where he was studying Vietnamese and a bowl over there costs about 50 cents (but there is definitely a lot less meat), and I was saying that a bowl of pho costs about 5 dollars in US and has more meat. Either way, I'd happily pay for another bowl of pho in Paris.

After dinner, I told N that I really needed to find a hotspot with cute guys because I haven't seen any place worthy of a Q for a long time. We headed over to Bastille where a lot of pubs and bars are. We walked up and down Rue Du Lappe but to my disappointment, I didn't see any bars or pubs with an attractive clientele for us to check out. In the end, we decided to go to Balajo, which is a Latin/ballroom dancing club, and I was quite excited when I saw it because I didn't think I'll get a chance to ballroom dance in Paris. There was a 12 euro cover but the bouncer was nice enough to let us in for free. The club was full of couples dancing away (swing, salsa, etc.) but it was definitely catering to an older clientele. Most of the couples there looked like they came on a regular basis and some were really good. We enjoyed watching them for a while and decided to give it a try ourselves (N was really good). Despite the lack of eye candy, I really enjoyed watching the couples dance and had a lot of fun. For those who enjoy ballroom dancing, Balajo is definitely a fun place to check out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

La Tour d'Argent (Paris)

One of the restaurants that I've always wanted to go in Paris is La Tour d'Argent (15, quai de la Tournelle; 5th arrondissement). It is well-known for its unbeatable view of Notre Dame and the Seine (left), and although many people say that the food is not as good as it used to be (it only has a 1-star in the Michelin Guide now), I think just the view itself still makes this restaurant a worthwhile experience.

S and I decided to go for lunch since it's a better deal (their prix-fixe lunch is 75 euros vs dinner is around 230 euros, without drinks), even though we knew the night view would be even more breathtaking. I started off with the king crab and shrimp ravioli in mango broth, which was more like a salad but the flavor was excellent and there was plenty of crab. For main dish, I ordered the the milk-fed veal while S ordered their famous duck. The veal was cooked perfectly and the duck was tender and well-flavored. A guy prepares the duck right in the dining room (see right). As their tradition, they handed S a card with the number of the duck on it (this reminds me of eating Peking duck in Beijing where they also give you a card to tell you what number of duck you are eating). For dessert, I had a "Argan oil biscuit with lemon mousse and caramel ice cream," which was nice because it was pretty light and wasn't too sweet. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the food, but it could also be that I was expecting just okay food by from what other people have told me.

Unfortunately, I can't give La Tour d'Argent any Q's. Its clientele consisted mostly of tourists or couples who were there for the romantic view. The good thing is that while you won't necessarily find the view of men pleasing to the eye at La Tour d'Argent, the view of Notre Dame will more than make up for it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Musée Picasso

Sundays in Paris are always kind of sleepy... most stores are closed, as are a number of restaurants. I started the day off by going to a newly-discovered farmer's market near where I live (on Blvd Raspail). I was very happy to find one close by and even happier that it's open on Sundays! (Fortunately most farmer's markets are open on Sundays. This is good or else a lot of people might starve, including myself, since most supermarkets are closed on Sundays so if you forgot to stock up on your groceries earlier...)

Most of the museums are also open on Sundays, and it's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Since I've been to most of the major museums (and know that I will have to go again when my family comes to visit), I decided to go check out Musée Picasso. The added benefit is that the museum is in the Marais district which, according to friends, is also one of the few areas that stays open on Sundays. And they were right. As soon as I got out of the Metro station, the streets were bustling with energy as if it were any other day. There were many cute shops as I made my way toward Musée Picasso.

There was a special exhibit on Picasso and Carmen. Apparently he was obsessed with the tragic heroine and was stalking her virtually through his paintings (so to speak). The exhibit showed a progession of his fascination through the years, and it was pretty interesting, especially since I just saw the opera for the first time not too long ago. I'm not sure how the museum is usually set up, but the special exhibit took up a good chunk of the museum, so much so that I almost missed the permanent collection. When I finally found it, it was near closing time and I had to rush through it a bit, but I still got to check out a number of masterpieces such as "Two Women Running on the Beach" (right). Overall, although Musée Picasso doesn't have as impressive a collection as the Picasso Museum in Barcelona (which is kind of hard to beat collection-wise), it's a lot more intimate. It's small enough where you can really spend some time taking in each piece and you don't feel the pressure of a crowd pushing you through (the one in Barcelona was very crowded when I went but it's definitely worth going). So Musée Picasso probably won't make it on most people's top 10 must-do's in Paris (at least not if this is your first visit and you are only in Paris for a short period), but if this is your third or fourth visit and you want to get away from the crowds at the Louvre, Musée Picasso might just be a good way to spend an afternoon (with an added bonus of shopping through the Marais).

Saturday, June 9, 2007

La Trufflère (Paris)

A classmate of S is doing his internship at La Trufflère (4, rue Blainville; M: Place Monge) so he got us reservations at the restaurant for lunch (I love these chef connections). Eight of us went and we were able to get a table downstairs in the "cave." I think La Trufflère's three-course prix-fixed lunch (at 22 euros) is probably one of the best deals in Paris. You get to sample pretty high-quality food and great service at a fraction of the price of dinner (which probably will run you about 100 euros without wine). Instead, we paid 36 euros per person including wine and coffee.

My meal started off with some croquettes of pig's feet (pied de cochon) . I thought it was pretty unique - the texture of the pig's feet contrasted well with the batter of the croquette. The small bed of greens had a tangy dressing, which also helped to accentuate the croquette. For the main dish, I chose the breast of duck and while it was nicely cooked, the flavor was just okay. It was good duck breast but pretty standard (i.e. not inventive). For dessert, I chose a cheese plate instead since La Trufflère is known to have a very nice chesse cart. (I thought the cheese plate was good but it was all mild cheeses and I would have preferred a range from mild to strong.) I also tasted the desserts that my friends got - one was a chocolate ganache cake which was a bit too rich for me and the other was some sort of coconut pudding with fresh fruit, which I liked better because it was more refreshing given the warm weather.

Sadly though, again I cannot give La Trufflère any Q's. We were there for lunch for over two hours but I didn't see a single cute guy. I'm beginning to wonder if this is mission impossible... I've gone through many days without seeing any attractive men. I need to find some Q places! (Better yet, I need QQQ places!)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Macaron'ed Out

I can't believe I would be saying this but I think I'm macaron'ed out for a while... I took a different way to the metro station today and I happened to pass by Gérard Mulot (76, rue de Seine; M: Odéon) - I didn't realize I lived so close to it! Gérard Mulot is another highly recommended patisseries on my list so of course I had to stop in (even though I was on my way to eat already). I liked the place because they not only had beautiful cakes and pastries, but also had a good selection of savory foods (everything from smoked salmon to pate to quiche to salads) so it also makes a great place to grab a quick lunch. On top of it all, the service was very friendly. Maybe it was because they weren't that busy or as popular as places like Pierre Hermé or Ladurée (both discussed in my earlier postings), I thought people were much nicer here. Of course I couldn't resist but to pick up more macarons, which were quite good. But by now, I've had about two dozen macarons in the week since I arrived and I am simply macaron'ed out.

Macaron, I love you, but I think it's time for us to take a little break...

A Good Night in Paris

(I'm going to go out of chronological order for this post simply because I wanted to put this picture on top... :-) So after a very filling dinner, we decided to walk along the Seine River. Paris is esp. breathtaking at night... no wonder it's called the City of Lights. I took this picture on Pont (bridge) Alexander III and it's my favorite picture so far.

OK, now onto how the night started: I booked us a dinner reservation at Les Ormes (22 Rue Surcouf; M: Invalides), which is a Michelin 1-star restaurant. Y and W brought another friend, B, along and we made our way to the restaurant. We got there pretty early (by Paris standards) so the restaurant was completely empty. They offer a prix-fixe menu for 49 euros which includes appetizer, main course, and dessert. As soon as we sat down, they brought us what looked like cheese puff pastries fresh out of the oven and they were very good. Since there were four of us, it was easy to order different dishes so we can try them all. They started us off with an amuse bouche of a cream of mushroom soup with quail egg. I got the langoustine (aka Norway lobster) wrapped in eggplant for appetizer, and the jarret de veau (veal) for entree, which came highly recommended on the web as one of their signature dishes. I thought it was just okay, the veal was tougher than I expected, but the sides (it was some sort of creamed vegetable as well as some gnocchis) were pretty good. After tasting everyone else's dish, I thought the pigeon that B got was the best, cooked and seasoned to perfection. The dessert I picked was rhubarb souffle which I thought was quite interesting. None of my companions liked it but I think it's because they've never had rhubarb. Overall we had a great experience and the service was impeccable. The most disappointing part of the meal was that there was not a single cute guy in sight, so it is with regret that I can't give Les Ormes any Q's. I would still recommend the restaurant for its food and service though! :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

At the French Open (Roland Garros)

Since I'm here during the French Open (known as Roland Garros to the French), I figured that I have to try to go check out one of the matches. Tickets have been sold out for ages, and a quick scan online showed that tickets were going anywhere from $2-300 to $1000. I decided to try my luck anyway and went to the stadium today. There were scalpers abound as soon as you walk
out of the subway station and tickets were going for ridiculous prices. Fortunately I met a nice, retired French gentleman whose wife couldn't make it because she wasn't feeling well. So I was able to buy the ticket at face value and he and I chatted and watched the game together.

It happens to be the women's semifinals today. First up was Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic. Maria looked gorgeous as usual (see her picture to the right) but unfortunately she didn't seem to be having a good day. On the other hand, Ana seemed to be very on top of her game and played extremely well, defeating Maria in two sets (6-2 6-1). The second match was between defending champion Justine Henin and #4 Jelena Jankovic. It was a much more interesting game as both played very well and Justine proved why she is #1 in the world and defeated Jelena (6-2 6-2). So it will be Justine against Ana on Saturday in the finals.

It was a lot of fun getting to experience Roland Garros first-hand. The energy and tension in the stadium do not really translate to broadcasts on TV. Even though I was never a huge fan of tennis, now I'm a convert.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Eating Nonstop

It seems that all I've done in Paris since I arrived was eat and eat some more. Today was no exception. For breakfast, I had a pastry from Eric Kayser Boulanger (okay, it's two days old but I overbought and am still working my way through it). Then I ran out to meet F for lunch near the Champs-Elysée (yes I slept in so there wasn't too much time between my breakfast and lunch...) Still feeling greasy from my meal the night before, I happily agreed to F's suggestion of going to a smoothie/sandwich joint, Paradis du Fruit, for something light. Their smoothie was delicious and their sandwich/salad combo plate was reasonably tasty as well. I would almost feel healthy if the portions weren't so huge. I thought one of the reasons French women stayed thin was the small portions? I have not experienced that at all. Every meal I've had so far offered more than generous portions. I really wonder what is the French women's secret to staying thin?

After lunch, F had to go back to work, and I wandered down Champs-Elysée. Soon enough, I passed by Ladurée, another institution known for their desserts and macarons. How could I not go in? I practiced restraint this time and did not get one of every flavor (they had more flavors than Pierre Hermé) and just got a half-dozen macarons. I finished more than half of them by the time I walked to the metro station. Time to go home to rest for a bit before the next round of eating.

I was meeting Y and W again for dinner. We first stopped off by Y's friend's apartment, where she gave us boxes full of chocolate and candies she made that day. Y's friend, S, is currently taking classes at the Ritz cooking school, where she is studying to become a pastry chef. She also trained at the Cordon Bleu academy and I found out that her boyfriend is actually a manager at the Eric Kayser Boulanger. Wow, this is the connection I need. She brings home boxes full of desserts everyday and she can't eat them all. We thought we'd help her out a bit... So we took a detour of eating chocolates and candies before we went to dinner.

S recommended this Indian/Pakistani restaurant near her apartment called Palais de Shah Jahan (15th; M: Charles Michels) and we thought we'd check it out. We learned this time that we shouldn't be too greedy and order too much so we just ordered three dishes (chicken biryani, shrimp masala, and a lamb curry dish - don't remember the name), plus some naan. The portions were pretty small (finally!) but given how much we have eaten already, it was plenty for the three of us. In the middle of our meal, S came by and handed us two large bags full of bread, leftover from Eric Kayser, and says to us, "for your petit-dejeuner tomorrow." There were about 10 large loaves in there. "Petit"? She's gotta be kidding.

We finished the night off with some coffee at Café Le Buci right at the corner of Rue Dauphine and Rue de Buci (6th; M: Odéon), which is one of the most happening streets near where I live. We'll eat more tomorrow.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Le Relais Charbon (Paris) - QQ

We started the night off at Chez Papa, a bistro specializing in cuisine from southwest France. I met my friend's sister Y and her friend W there. The Chez Papa in Paris (101 Rue de la Croix Nivert; M: Felix Faure) is different than the Chez Papa in SF. The one in Paris is a very low-key place where the food is very so-so and non-flavorful. I'm not too familiar with southern French cuisine but it was extremely greasy. I ordered the grilled duck breast with seared foie gras. I'm a huge fan of foie gras but this one was just so bad it almost turned me off foie gras for life. There was a thick layer of grease at the bottom of my plate I could literally see my heart clog. The portions were extremely generous though, but with not very good food, do you want generous portions?

We all felt pretty greased out after dinner and decided to walk it off. We joked about how we haven't really met any cute French men and semi-challenged each other to see who could get the most phone numbers tonight. We wanted to grab some coffee to wash off the grease and there were several cafés/brasseries nearby. We checked all of them out and picked Le Relais Charbon (right next to M: Charles Michels) because it looked most promising. And sure enough, as soon as we sat down, some very drunk guy next to us starts talking to W. He was very drunk so we tried to ignore him. Then our waiter comes over, and as we discussed in Mandarin what we wanted to order, our waiter, who was very boyish-cute, starts to speak to us in Mandarin. We were pretty shocked. As it turned out, he took three years of Chinese and is hoping to work in China someday. He kept coming by to see how we were doing and we would converse in Mandarin and a bit of French. He was very friendly, and at Y's encouragement, W managed to get his email and phone number. Go W! The restaurant was pretty packed and the bartender and the other waiter were both pretty cute as well. Everyone was extremely friendly. I can't vouch for the food since we didn't eat there but just for the cute waitstaff, I'll have to give it 2 Q's.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Marché Rue Mouffetard

Armed with my new Carte Orange (monthly metro pass), I am ready to venture beyond the 6th arrondissement, where I've spent the last couple of days. One of my favorite things about Paris are the open/farmers' markets and not many can beat the one on Rue Mouffetard. Sundays are generally pretty quiet since most stores are closed but Rue Mouffetard was packed with vendors and people. I picked up some cherries, some cheese, and bread. When I saw the line outside the boulangerie La Flûte Gana, I knew I had to stand in it. (I somehow have a strange attraction to long lines - I figure there must be a reason although some places were disappointments.) La Flûte Gana was not one of them. I think their bread is even better than Poilâne's. They have this foccacia bread baked with cheese and prosciutto that is out of this world. I could eat just that for days. I was surprised that this bakery was not among the long list of recommended bakeries that I've researched. I would put it on top of the list so far.

What was on my list was Eric Kayser Boulanger on Rue Monge. Someone had highly recommended it on Chow Hound. I figured that it couldn't be too far away from Rue Mouffetard, but obviously I really don't know Paris that well. More than two subway stations later, I finally arrive at my destination. Fortunately it was open on a Sunday and I picked up some pastries and a croissant. Maybe if I didn't walk so far to find the place I would say it was worth it... but you don't have to make the mistake that I did - take the metro to Cardinal-Lemoine on Line 10.

Favela Chic (Paris) - QQ

After a long day of walking around, I decided I needed a nap. I thought to myself, just an hour and I can get up to grab dinner and walk around some more, but I almost had a repeat of last night (sleeping all the way through) if F hadn't called. F was introduced to me through a mutual friend since I don't know anyone in Paris so I only met F in person for the first time tonight. She is probably one of the coolest people I've ever met AND seems to know half of Paris. So F tells me that there is a farewell party for one of her expat friends at this bar/club/restaurant near Place de la Republique. I've never been to a club in Paris so of course I had to check it out.

I make my way over to Place de la Republique but I wasn't sure which direction the club was. I asked a couple guys for direction - trying to practice my French - but they answered me in English. Sigh, this happens to me all the time - is my French really that bad or is it just obvious that I'm a tourist? It must be the former because just a few steps away a woman stops me to ask me for direction (so I must either look like a Parisienne or I just look very approachable :-). I finally find the club and there was a line but it wasn't too bad. I must say the website ( looked much better than the club inside (does "favela" mean "shabby"?) The club was completely packed it was nearly impossible to move. I manage to find F and her friends - all the men were expats and all the women (except F) were French. Everyone was extremely friendly. The music was loud and was a random mix of American songs from Prince's "Kiss" to Kelis' "Milkshake." The club seems to cater to mostly an expat crowd, a lot of Americans but also many from other parts of Europe (met a guy from Spain and another guy from Luxembourg). There were quite a few attractive men but I think most of them were not French. It seems that a lot of people were like me, who were in Paris temporarily or just visiting. It reminded me a lot of my experience in Beijing last year where everyone seemed to be transient. I guess there must be a big community like that in Paris as well. When I think about it, that group in Beijing also tended to be more attractive on average. I wonder, are attractive people naturally more transient (always looking for new adventures) or are the more adventurous people more attractive (because they have more worldly experiences)?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bonjour Paris!

So my first day in Paris wasn't off to a great start... My flight was delayed, American Airlines broke one of my luggage so I ended up having to lift it everywhere, and then after having dragged my luggage through the streets of Paris and up two flights of stairs to my apartment, I decided that I needed a little nap before I go exploring. By the time I woke up, it was already midnight and the day was over... Oh well, I guess I needed to catch up on my sleep anyway.

My second day was off to a much better start. Having slept so much the night before, I woke up early and decided to venture out. Most places were not open yet but I like Paris in the morning - it was so quiet the city felt almost deserted. I walked by Pierre Herme, which is a 3-minute walk from my apartment, but it wasn't open until 10. I'll have to come back. I went to the famous Poilâne boulangerie (which I figured would be open early) and picked up some croissant, pain au chocolat, and apple tart. I was surprised no one was there - it shows you how early I was. Most places don't open until 10 so I decided to go back to the apartment first. I went back down to Pierre Herme shortly after 10 and there was already a line out the door. As we were standing there, tour bus after tour bus drove by us (I guess it's a busy street) and the people on the bus looked at us with longing eyes, some probably wondering why we were in line and the others wishing they were there with us. When I finally got in the door, I could see rows and rows of beautifully crafted desserts ahead of me. There were so many I want to try, but I didn't want to be greedy. After all, I'll be here for a month and the store is literally a few steps from where I live. Okay, I'll just take one of every flavor of the macarons then (there were ten different flavors ranging from jasmine to caramel). I also wanted the "secret" ice cream one, but they told me that they don't have that. Hmmm, you truly don't have it or did I not say the secret password right? I'll have to try again another day.

I needed to go get a SIM card for my cell phone so I decided to eat at a brasserie right across the street called Le Gueuze. It was pretty touristy but I sat outside with a view of the Pantheon so I can't really complain. I order Les Moules Payssant (mussels with wine, mushroom, and ham in cream sauce) and I couldn't believe how big it was. It was tasty although somewhat inconsistent (some mussels tasted great while others were quite bland).

In the afternoon, I wanted to find a café to people-watch (isn't that what everyone does in Paris?) and realized that finding an empty chair at a café on a Saturday afternoon in Paris is harder than finding parking space in Russian Hill in SF. OK, I don't need coffee that badly.

Alas, I have not forgotten my mission - even though I didn't get to sit down at a café, I've been people-watching ever since I arrived. It's too early for any conclusions yet, but so far I've definitely seen more good-looking men in Paris than in SF. When I first arrived, some really cute guy helped me push my luggage through the turnstiles (it was stuck), and then I ran into some model (I think) getting ready for a photo shoot. If I weren't dragging my luggage along, I for sure would have tried to get a picture of them!