Dear loyal readers,
Imagine a country whose very name evokes extraordinary cuisine and picturesque photography….
Imagine this country annually attracts more tourists than any other country on Earth, including the United States...
Are you imagining France?
At the behest of my stomach and my camera, I made two trips last summer to rediscover just how magical France is...and to bring you back mouth-watering photographs.
MY FIRST TRIP was during the European Cup (yes, soccer). I landed in Normandy (no, not on the beach) and beside watching the soccer games I visited a few beautiful places up by the Celtic Sea. Mont Saint-Michel was my favorite one. It is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks, the old monumental monastery standing stoically on an island/peninsula. I say “island/peninsula” because as the monastery stares out unflinchingly at the sea, the high tide sweeps in and covers the ground connecting it with the mainland, rendering Mont St. Michel an island for a few hours a day. It’s magical and landed MSM on the Unesco list of World Heritage Sites.
The final few days I spent in Paris watching the European Cup finals and falling in love with the city again. The feeling was so strong, that I decided to come back with my friend at the end of August. I think my French connections pulled me strongly to the center of culinary art...
On MY SECOND TRIP, I stayed in the Marais at a gorgeous pied-a-terre rented through Airbnb. That’s my favorite way to travel: to find a home, nest, and then simply live—cooking, getting breakfast at the same café each morning, going to the market, having a glass of wine with locals. The Marais was the perfect neighborhood for me (lots of great stores and eats within walking distance), and we used it as a home base for our bustling 7 days of restaurant hopping & shopping before we took off to Frankfurt. If you are visiting Paris you must either stay or visit the Marais!
If you’re tired of Paris’ famous but overcrowded avenues, Le Marais – one of the only districts not redesigned by Haussmann under Napoleon – might be just the place for you. Full of pre-revolutionary buildings and tight alleys, getting lost here becomes a pleasure. This historical area on the right bank is now home to a plethora of vintage shops, art galleries and gay bars. The gay crowd rubs shoulders with the ancient Jewish community on roads such as Rue des Rosiers and Rue Pavée, where the smell of falafels sold in dozens of tiny shops and synagogues sets the mood. The area is a labyrinth of small alleys – the perfect spot for wandering with a loose agenda. Unexpectedly, you will come across one of the many synagogues and small intimate squares like the Jardin des Rosiers. Pay attention to the walls in the streets, as you will probably find some street art things. There, you will see that there are a lot of clothing shops and thrift shops. In fact, there is no specific place that you must see in Le Marais. Once you start walking you will understand that the best thing in Le Marais is to get lost in the small streets of this charming neighborhood that is essentially a cross between Soho (shopping, trendiness, tourists) and Chelsea (flashy gays).
In addition to the Carreau, there are hot spots there like Café Charlot, an Isabel Marant store, and the home of top Paris gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac. It's also the home to Bob's Kitchen, a tiny spot that's been the place the past few years to get Americanisms like juices, smoothies, vegetarian stews, pancakes, and chocolate-chip cookies, as well as my beloved and unfussy Temple Celeste, where, I ate delicious, cheap Szechuan as I knew it in New York.
There are legions more brilliant spots in Paris that I’ve either yet to discover or try—I am by no means an expert— but at present, this is what I found and loved.
Below you can find a list of my favorite places in Paris.
Chez Marianne is the place to go for dinner. It has become a local institution, so you might find the queue outside is off-putting, but the self-service system and the great range of vegetarian options are worth it
Verjus Wine Bar, 47 Rue Montpensier Head to Verjus for an excellent selection of small plates, such as morsels of buttermilk fried chicken and celery root dumplings.
Frenchie, 5-6 Rue du Nil Ex-head chef of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Greg Marchand’s table is one of the hardest to get access to in the city. It boasts a fresh and innovative market menu and casual, but fun atmosphere.
Frenchie Bar à Vins, 5-6 Rue du Nil Following the success of Frenchie restaurant comes the equally sought after spot at the no-reservations wine bar.
Breizh Café, 109 Rue Vieille du Temple is a crêperie run by a Frenchman originally from Brittany who lived in Japan – it also has a branch in Tokyo. There you’ll find oysters, seaweed butter and good chocolate to liven up the usual savory crêpes.
9 Carrefour de l’Odéon This little wine bar must be up there with my little Paris kitchen as one of Paris’s tiniest cooking establishments.
Le Comptoir du Relais 9 Often hailed as the father of the bistronomique movement in Paris, Yves Camdeborde’s modern take on the bistrot makes the most of the nose-to-tail philosophy and at the weekend offers good bistrot fare at reasonable prices.
La Fontaine de Mars, 129 Rue Saint-Dominique This traditional Parisian bistrot is known for its hearty French fare.
Le Verre Volé, 67 Rue de Lancry The perfect cave à manger, with natural wines and a short market menu, this fun wine bar is a Canal Saint Martin favorite.
Bob’s Juice Bar, 15 Rue Lucien Sampaix A nice break from French food great spot for a juice and a healthy salad from this New York style eatery.
Clown Bar, 114 Rue Amelot An absolute gem. Amazing dishes, served beautifully.
Septime, 80 Rue de Charonne One of my favorite places to eat in Paris for its colorful artistically executed set menu.
Le Servan, 32 Rue Saint-Maur This is a great place to go for a well-priced, tasty lunch. At 23€ for three courses (excluding wine), you can’t go wrong!
Le Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert Perhaps one of Paris’ worst kept secrets, this neighborhood bistrot dishes up all the French classics in a quintessentially Parisian setting.
Aux Deux Amis, 45 Rue Oberkampf This quirky ex-tabac attracts hipsters and locals alike who cram into the tiny space to swig natural wines and share plates of French ‘tapas’ in a fun and unpretentious setting.
Le Dauphin, 131 Avenue Parmentier Inaki Aizpitarte’s trendy tapas bar designed by Rem Koolhaas opened to an onslaught of adoration from chefs and critics and offers an eclectic mix of high-end sharing plates.
Au Passage, 1bis Passage de Saint-Sébastien Part of the new breed of neo-bistrots offering natural wines, sharing plates featuring excellent ingredients and a laid-back atmosphere.
Le Baratin, 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve Off a little side street in Paris’ second Chinatown Belleville, you’ll find this restaurant serving simple, tasty French food and a great selection of wines.
Que du Bon, 22 Rue Plateau A casual neighborhood bistrot with a daily changing market menu at great prices.
Ô Divin 35, rue des Annelets A lovely spot for dinner. It originally started life as a wine bar, so you can expect a good selection – and the cheeses are a must, too!