Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Markets in Paris

Here are two interesting options for "Christmas Markets" in Paris. These markets will also get you to La Villette and La Defense, two very interesting parts of Paris that may not be on your radar. The markets text is from La Maison de la France's website. Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas: Christmas Market at La Defense (Paris)!
The biggest Christmas market in Paris and the surrounding area takes place on the forecourt at La Défense throughout December. Over 200 exhibitors offer a wide array of crafts from France and elsewhere, as well as local food, at the nearly 10,000m² market.

Throughout December 2009. Days and opening hours:
From Monday to Sunday: from 11 am to 8 pm If you need more information have a look on the website

Merry Christmas program in La Villette (Paris 19th)!
The Christmas Market will take place in the Grand Hall La Villette in Paris.

From 18 to 20 December 2009

Days and opening hours:
On Friday: from 10 am to 7 pm
On Saturday and Sunday: from 10 am to 11 pm

The first International Tropical Christmas Market:
It is the first edition of MINT (International Tropical Christmas Market). This fabulous and exotic christmas market will seek to bring together the rich medley of afro-ethnic culture with a multitude of stands dedicated to discovery of arts and crafts, gastronomy and fashion design.

A magical place...
A whole host of events taking place throughout the chilly but remarkably festive month of December, the Grande Halle de la Villette will be transformed into Father Christmas' village. Decorated with fairy lights and the colours of the tropics, this warm and welcoming ambience will bring the magic and spirit of Christmas to all who love this Yuletide season.

Well wrapped up and with joy-filled hearts, visitors will experience the afro-ethnic flavours and spirit of Christmas. In addition to the fair there will be concerts, gospel singing, fashion parades, lectures, tombola and workshops. Internationally renowned sponsors and famous names will stroll through the stalls, stopping to peruse their favourite.

If you need more information have a look on the website

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slow Roading in Slovenia, Not Paris but...

Ok. Slovenia. I know. This is way off the beaten path in Paris. Not even in France. But I can't resist sharing some images of a clean, green remarkably scenic and scenically diverse (tiny) country with wonderful wine. For twelve days following my Pays Basque and Paris tours in October I took the 'slow road' (and some fast roads too) in this splendid part of Europe that is largely unspoiled, untramelled and quite marvelous. I had heard that Slovenia was a convivial destination for travelers who appreciate gorgeous countryside and good, often organic food, good wine. It is all that and much more. A country with a population of two million who peaceably broke away from the former Yugoslavia and got on with growing their country's freedoms and actively aligning with Europe. A country that has a rich history as a cross roads of empires pre-Roman, Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and more. Slovenia was once even controlled, briefly by Napoleon! Go for the gorgeous Julian Alps, the short but lovely Adriatic Coast, the Unesco World Heritage caves like Scokjan, the charming capital city of Ljublana. Stay in one of the 200+ farmstays where your food and often your wine will be fresh, top quality and delicious. Wines include delicious Rieslings, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and local varietals like the deep red Teran from the Karst region. You will taste echoes of Alsace, Austria, Italy, Hungary in the wines, but, its all part of that lovely Slovenian melting pot of culinary and cultural influences. This is one splendid little country for a relaxed vacation.

The Rodin Museum Is a Gem

The Rodin Museum on rue de Varenne, just alongside Invalides, is a manageable gem of a museum. The collections are displayed in the lovely historic mansion and in its extensive, park-like grounds. Indeed, you can simply visit the grounds and enjoy the full scale models of Rodin's sculptures such as the emotive Burghers of Calais or the famed 'Thinker'.
Inside the mansion you will surely enjoy smaller Rodin works and also a salon dedicated to the exquisite sculptures of Camille Claudel, Rodin's muse and associate. Another benefit: the Rodin Museum and the Orsay team to offer a daily pass where you can visit the two museums on one combined ticket. They are easily walkable from each other. Until February 28 you can also enjoy a very interesting Matisse-Rodin exhibition at the Rodin Museum which explores the substantial influence that Matisse had on Rodin's sculpture and printmaking work. (Extra fee for the special show.) A wonderful, manageable collection in a gorgeous setting.... what more can you ask. Metro: Invalides or Varenne RER: Invalides.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fil O Fromage for the best cheese and wine pairings

Fil O Fromage is GREAT. If you love to feast on French and other European cheese with perfectly paired charcuterie, perhaps some fig, cherry or other complimentary confiture, and, a glass or two of well-matched wine, treat yourself at this adorable cheese and wine specialist in the 13th near Bibliotheque Nationale and Bercy Village.

Cherif Bourbit is the proprietaire of Fil O Fromage. He is an extraordinary affineur with a wide selection of perfectly aged European cheese on offer. He also is exceptionally knowledgeable about wine and features several small-scale producers and their wines, all chosen for felicitous pairings with those delectable cheese and charcuterie plates. Cherif is also one of those infectiously engaging Parisian artisans whose heart, soul and mind are totally focused on perfection in their chosen metier. This is one very special little place. The word is out, TopTable, a London publication focused on things-gourmet declared that Fil O Fromage is the best place in Paris to pair cheese and wine. La Fourchette picked Fil O Fromage as a Coup de Coeur. Its been one of my favorites for seven years!

Cheese lovers can enjoy one of 24 formidable "Assiettes Gourmandes Degustations" for 15.50 Euro. There are six 'thematic' platters that gather a selection of a certain type of cheese.. eg. goat or sheeps milk, or perhaps blue cheeses or even bries. There are six choices for "Les Europeennes" or selections of Spanish, Dutch, Swiss, English, even cheese from Luxembourg! And, of course, celebrating a nation with more types of cheese than days of the year, there are twelve "Les Regionales" gathering selections of cheese from regions of France. One of my favorites is the Corsican plat. Superb. All of the grands assiettes include salad, bread, and a also a selection of appropriately paired artisanal charcuterie. Cherif will happily suggest a glass or bottle of wine to accompany your feast. You can also buy any of the cheese, charcuterie and wines to take to your hotel, apartment, or to nearby Parc Bercy for the picnic of your dreams.

Fil O Fromage. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 to 8:30. Check the website for jazz evenings or other special events. 12 rue Neuve Tolbiac. Metro: Bibliotheque or Cour St. Emilion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Paris Bistro Favorites Old and New from my October trip

During my Paris Off the Beaten Path tour in mid-October, we ate in three marvelous very 'true' Paris bistros. The new to me 'find' thanks to Alex Lobrano's "Hungry for Paris" was the delightful Hier et Aujourd Hui on rue de Sassure in the 17th out beyond Batignolles and the rue de Levis market street. This is one of those super little 'true' Paris bistros that makes you want to pick up, pack up and move to that quarter. A husband and wife team of chef and server offer delicious bistro classics (with intriguing contemporary touches), well chosen, fairly priced wines and friendly ambience in this sweet, off the beaten track bistro. My braised saddle of rabbit with a deeply flavored wine sauce and savory notes of preserved apricot was worth the longish walk! Lunch formules run 26 E for three courses with several choices for entree, plat and dessert. The chef also sells his Foie Gras and Pain d'Epices to take home. Take some home!

During our Canal St. Martin/Belleville day, we enjoyed a robust lunch at the very true Auberge Pyrennees Cevennes, 106 rue de la Folie Mericourt, in the 11th. Take a look at the attached video. This is not a dining spot to nibble a salad. The Lyonnaise style menu includes hearty and exceedingly well-made classics like Cassoulet, Saucisson Chaud et Pommes à la Creme, Pied du Cochon, steaks, confit de canard and such. There is a delicious salmon with sorrel sauce for fainter appetities. Add splendid profiteroles, Ile Flottante that just about floats out of its dish, and a perfect Tarte Tatin, some hearty red wine.... and you will be deeply content. Lunch formule (including the enormous Cassoulet in a copper braising pan as a main course choice) runs 28 Euro.

Bistro Paul Bert on the rue Paul Bert in the 12th also upheld its high standards for French bistro classics with excellent duck, roasted rack of suckling pig and a completely decadent Molleux aux Chocolat and a superb cheese board. Happily yet another of my favorite central Paris bistros, La Ferrandaise on rue de Vaugirad just off the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th remained superb as well with its good value 32 E dinner formule and nice choice of wines by the glass... good for a single diner. Dinner at La Ferrandaise was escargot on a bed of new potatoes from the Ile de Ré, braised confit of lamb, and, delectable roasted mirabelle plums in a cocotte accompanied by caramel-salé icecream. Their new seasonal menu has just been posted. Check their website.

Happy bistro-ing in Paris! Let me know about your favorites.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some October PARIS images

Paris in October. Palais de Thés tea and macarons from Pierre Herme at the hip Hotel des Academies et des Arts, cakes at Arnaud Delmontel on rue de Martyrs, an impossibly blue clear day with late-season roses by Notre Dame, and images of impossibly chic women who surely eschew chocolate and patisserie.

For travelers to Paris the fall is a robust season with a full cultural calendar. Go see the Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese show at the Louvre or the smaller, but fascinating Rodin-Matisse show at the Rodin museum. The Grand Palais has a major Renoir exhibition. News for Orsay lovers: in 2010 large portions of the museum will close for renovation. Go now. And finally, make it a point to visit the extraordinary Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine in Trocadero. I'll be posting a full article on this remarkable place shortly. For now, the historic plaster casts of the great architecture features of chateaus and cathedrals, the frescoes and 'wall paintings' exhibits and the fascinating contemporary architecture presentations present a heady view of past informing present informing future. And thru the end of November there is a remarkable show of 14 leading architects who have been invited to rethink how Paris should 'grow' including master planning to improve the suburban areas, thinking about how to be a 'green' city, looking at what tangibles and intangibles make for a great urban space. Wonderful stuff. And killer views over to the Eiffel Tower too.

A Great New Spot for Eating, Drinking and Celebrating Tea

Thés Georges Cannon is a venerable French tea company, an importer and blender of fine teas with an impressive pedigree. Recently Cannon opened their first 'retail' Paris-presence in the Luxembourg quarter near Montparnasse and not far from the heart of St. Germain de Prés and it is a winner.

Sleek, contemporary and multi-faceted, this is a tea place where you can buy one of 250 premium pure or blended teas and tisanes, drink a wide array of tea in a cleanly designed salon, and, eat your tea too.... in entrees or patisserie that incorporate teas deliciously. (The creative force behind the food worked previously with Patrick Loustalot Barbes at the marvelously sympathique L'Artisan de Saveurs, now lamentably closed.) Cannon pushes the bounds of tea-salon-dom in some wonderful ways. Not only can you enjoy a classic tea shop and salon, buy, eat and drink you teas.... but you can also venture downstairs to a lovely spa area and enjoy a massage, or, book a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in a serene tea room solely for that purpose.

Cannon is on to something good here. Check it out! 12 rue Notre Dame des Champs. Open Tuesdays-Fridays from 9-7:30, Saturdays from 10:30 to 7:30 and Sundays from noon to 6. This would be a great spot for a Sunday 'brunch'.