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Paris: City of Light
After eleven hours of flying from San Francisco, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport tired but invigorated as I was on my way to see a world-renowned city that I had not visited in many years. What would be new? What had changed? What had disappeared? What would be the quality of my hotel? Was the food in Paris still wonderful? Were the windows at Fauchon still filled with irresistible treats? I was full of questions. I visited Paris to attend the International Association of Culinary Professionals Regional Conference with over 150 cooking experts, including Patricia Wells and the grande dame of cooking, Julia Child.
When my taxi arrived at the Hotel Lutetia, located on the Left Bank, I saw a large, classic Art Deco building. The Lutetia is located in the sixth arrondissement near Saint-Germain-des-Pres. The Lutetia has 275 air-conditioned rooms including 29 suites, conference and reception facilities. There are two restaurants, the upscale "Paris" and the Brasserie "Lutetia," and the Piano-Bar "Lutece." The hotel is a 20 minute ride from Orly airport and 35 minutes from the Charles de Gaulle airport. The staff is quite helpful with all your needs.
The Hotel Lutetia rooms rates are from 950 French Francs to 1650 French Francs (including continental breakfast in the brasserie), more for suites and apartments. My room had a double bed, a desk and chair, a large two tiered wooden luggage rack, an arm chair and a beautiful, floor to ceiling mahogany armoire in which to store my clothes -- a beveled full length mirror was on the outside. And yes, a small television, a small safe and a mini bar filled with a few snack items (mostly champagne, wine and miniature liquor bottles). Yes, the French do have fun!
Now it was time to go to sleep (plan to spend the first day or so getting adjusted to your new time). Paris is nine hours ahead of the Pacific coast and although I wanted to hit the decks running, as they say, I was soon asleep.
My first full day in Paris was a Sunday and I employed the services of Canadian Rosa Jackson. She cheerfully showed me the different outdoor Sunday markets -- these open-air markets are among the city's most colorful attractions. Every district has one, although they may be open only a few days a week. Sunday is a good day to visit, but all markets close at 1:00 p.m. and most are closed on Monday.
We started with the Marche Biologique on the Boulevard Raspail (metro Rennes), an upscale (read "expensive") organic roving market. A roving market means that the market is not there daily, this market is open three days a week and is organic only on Sundays. At the market you are greeted by about thirty independent organic farmers and the aroma of potato pancakes being fried on a griddle.
There were beautiful baskets of fruits and vegetables, displays of farm-raised geese, chickens and ducks, eggs, nuts and dried fruits and organic wine. Next we took the metro to experience another roving market at the Place Monge (metro Monge). This market is larger in size but not as expensive as the organic market. Large displays of marinated olives, freshly baked breads, fruits in season and a large variety of cheeses abound. But it was at Rue Mouffetard (metro Monge or Censier-Daubenton) where we saw the busiest market with a great variety of hanging game birds (heads still attached), meats, fruits, vegetables, grains and flowers. Live musical entertainment gave this market a classic feel, and the street is reserved exclusively for pedestrians during the day.
Another day I rose at 4 a.m. to visit Rungis Market. The most permanent market, Rungis is outside Paris and is the largest wholesale market in the world, serving 18 million people each year. Opened in 1969 after the 99 year old Les Halles market in Paris needed to expand, Rungis is more than a market -- it is a city unto itself. There is a school for fish cutting, thirty restaurants, twenty-two banks, a dedicated refuse system, a hospital and twelve pavilions devoted to fruits and vegetables alone.
There are separate pavilions for meats, innards, cheeses, poultry, flowers and fish. The market employs 15,000 people. Writer Ingrid Bromovitz called Rungis "the Ellis Island of Parisian gastronomy -- a way station for all fresh food entering the world's culinary capital." If you have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. Be aware of the early hours. We left Paris before 5:00 a.m. and visited the fish pavilion first, it opens at 3 a.m. and is closed by 7:00 a.m. The market is not open to the public, but tours can be arranged. Contact Stephanie Curtis, an American living in Paris, for prices and information. Stephanie also leads a Cheese, Bread and Wine walking tour. The Societe Semmaris also gives Rungis Market tours.
A Culinary Education
Professional cooking schools in Paris have always been popular. Le Cordon Bleu L'Art Culinaire is celebrating its 100 anniversary this year and is truly an international school with sites in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo. The Paris location has 28 Master Chefs who teach anywhere from half day to nine month-long classes, depending on each student's individual needs and objectives. Both French cuisine and pastry classes are presented in French with English translation.
The Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise is located in the famous Ritz Hotel in Paris. Classes are held across the hall from the main kitchens where legendary Auguste Escoffier cooked. This private, nonresidential school offers French cooking, bread and pastry making plus wine and table service instruction. Again, classes are taught in French with English translation.
Marie-Blanche de Broglie has been teaching in her home for the last 20 years. La Cuisine de Marie-Blanche is the name of her school and she teaches some classes and some are taught by the Chef of the Plaza Athenee Hotel. Classes include complete menus for non-professionals with a seated luncheon to follow. Classes are in French and English.
Dining in Paris
And now to the most fun part of my trip. I couldn't wait to experience Parisian restaurants. There are four kinds of restaurants in Paris: gastronomic temples, brasseries, bistros and cafes de the.
Gastronomic temples are the starred restaurants, those rated by the Michelin Guides as being superior. These usually offer classic French cuisine, are very elegant and quite costly. A few examples are Taillevent, Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, Ledoyen and Tour d'Argent.
The Eiffel Tower restaurant is Altitude 95 (95 meters above sea level). Breakfast, lunch and dinner are more modestly priced ($20 for lunch, $48 for dinner) than the nearby Jules Verne restaurant. French regional cuisine is offered with contemporary decor for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ride the north pillar elevator to the tower's first level and get ready for one wonderful view (011-33-1-45-55-20-04).
Brasseries are much more casual, usually open until late at night for the after theater crowd, serve numerous kinds of seafood, especially fresh oysters, and beer. A few examples are: Brasserie Flo, La Coupole and Le Dome.
Bistros are neighborhood places that serve hearty food. They are unpretentious and tend to be "in" right now. Some three star chefs are opening bistros and although they are not cheap, they are less expensive than these chefs more formal establishments. A few examples are Benoit, Le Petit Marguery, L'Ami Louis and Le Relais du Parc.
Cafes de the offer another popular form of dining. These casual spots are good for sandwiches and salads at lunchtime or dessert and afternoon tea. One very popular cafe de the is Angelina (metro Tuileries), founded in 1903. This elegant spot on the rue de Rivoli is famous for its L'Africain cup of hot chocolate. It is so rich and thick, it is hard to finish the full pot (i.e., chocoholics need apply here). Angelina also offers pastries and has a full menu, in case you need a meal to go along with your chocolate. Thankfully, Angelina Chocolate is now available in the United States in San Francisco at a shop called Cocoa Chocolates at 255 Grant Avenue at Sutter Street. It can be ordered by calling 415.398.2700. They will mail. What they have are 1 pound bags of the chocolate for making cocoa that makes 14-15 servings. Price is $26.00.
Other places that sell chocolates, teas, coffees, breads, wines and all forms of upscale food items are Fauchon, Hediard, Lenotre and Poilane. These food emporiums have to be seen to be appreciated. The food looks as good as it tastes! And I find them perfect for shopping for gifts to take home.
Another "don't miss" spot is La Maison du Chocolat owned by chocolatier Robert Linxe. Linxe opened his first shop in Paris (225 Faubourg de St. Honore) in1977 and now has six locations, three in Paris, one in New York (73rd Street between 5th and Madison) and in Neiman Marcus stores in Los Angeles, Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area. This natural chocolate with no preservatives should always be eaten at room temperature -- and what a treat it is! Kitchen shops are another must for the "foodie." My favorite and the place where copper reigns supreme is E. Dehillerin. Floor to ceiling professional cookware delights the senses but beware, you must request prices as nothing is marked. Three other shops are nearby in the Les Halles area: A. Simon (two locations across the street from one another), La Bovida and M.O.R.A.
Go and enjoy Paris! Be aware that things are expensive because of the decline in the value of the US. dollar against the French Franc. Hopefully in time that will change and everyone can enjoy the delights of one of the classic cities of the world!
36 rue Etienne Marcel and
48 rue Montmartre, 75002 Paris
32 rue du Vertbois, 75003 Paris
226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
20 rue St. Martin, 75004 Paris
36 rue Montmartre, 75001 Paris
7 cour des Petites Ecuries, 75010 Paris
Le Cordon Bleu
8 rue Leon Delhomme, 75015 Paris
255 Grant Avenue @ Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
102 Boulevard Montparnasse, 75014 Paris
La Cuisine de Marie Blanche: Marie-Blanche de Broglie
18, Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007 Paris
18-20 rue Coquillie, 75001 Paris
108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris
26 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
21 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
45 Boulevard Raspail; 75006 Paris
Telephone: 011.33.1.49 54 46 46
8 locations in Paris
44 rue du Bac
13 rue Montmartre, 75001 Paris
Le Petit Marguery
9 Boulevard du Port-Royal, 75013 Paris
Le Relais du Parc
55, Avenue Raymond Poincare, 75016 Paris
Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise
15, Place Vendome, 75041 Paris
Societe Semmaris: Nicole
Les Petits Farcis
Rungis Market Tours and
Cheese, Bread and Wine walking tour and tasting lunch
each tour: 120 euros per person for groups of 2 or 3
less for larger groups