Saturday, November 2, 2013

Food Blogger Travels Part 1: France

View from the top of Notre Dame
Greg and I recently went on our honeymoon/first anniversary trip to France and Italy. We wanted to share with our readers our experience, our new love for Europe and most importantly the food we ate and where we ate at.   We begin with the first city we stayed in, Paris.

When Audrey Hepburn said "Paris is always a good idea" she was right.  I couldn't have fell more in love with a city than Paris.  The charm, the beautiful balconies, the shops, the markets, the boulangeries, the brasseries...oh, I could go on and on about the amazing things that this city has to offer.  While we visited the Musee du Louvre, Musee D' Orsay, Musee Rodin, took a boat cruise on the Seine River, we really indulged ourselves in the French culture the best way we know how, through food.

Jardin du Luxembourg

To start off, I can say that we both really enjoyed our relaxing time in the gardens, Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Tuileries.  The perfect bottle of Bordeaux, some cheese and a baguette made many of our afternoons.  Also, the delicious sandwiches filled with cheese, meats, tomatoes and lettuce sold at most markets and cafes were also a good pairing to our french wine in the park.  And yes, we drank from small plastic cups like everyone else.

Black olive baguette

Let's talk about the bread in France.  I don't think I've had bread that fresh where it is perfectly crusty on the outside and light, airy and soft on the inside.  We had bread everyday.  OK, I admit, at every meal.  We just couldn't get enough.  The formage (the cheese) was not only amazing but also intimidating to buy.  There were so many to choose from.  Greg and I popped into a shop one morning so we could take some with us on our train ride to Nice.  The cheese was beautifully displayed and smelled, well, stinky but delicious.  The woman helped us the best that she could since her English wasn't the best and my french was a little lacking in the cheese description department.   So we each just picked out a cheese that was reasonably priced (some were 45 euro!) and looked good.  We ended up with a "stinky" goat cheese, which Greg picked, and a creamy like brie with a salty finish which I picked.  Both were wonderful!
Delicious espresso.

Our morning coffee usually consisted of a shot of espresso.  This took a little getting used to since we Americans are so used to a full cup of coffee.  However, we were happy to convert to a new morning ritual.  We enjoyed stopping at any cafe in the middle of our day for a pick me up.

Enjoying our Croque Madame and Monsieur.

One of our favorite breakfast meals we had was in the Latin Quarter where we enjoyed a Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur with our espresso, followed by some mulled wine to warm us up from the chill in the air that morning.  Every cafe had such charm and warmth to it that we wanted to stop, eat and enjoy a glass of wine at all of them.  
Mulled wine

Having an aperitif is very popular in France and Greg and I did not skimp on this part of the culture at all.  We really enjoyed this time of the day, taking our time to sip on a great glass of red or refreshing rose along with some snacks before dinner.  As for dinner we indulged in these wonderful restaurants.

The man who shucked my oysters.
L'Atlas (11 Rue de Buci, 75006 Pairs, France):  We were fortunate to be in Paris during oyster season.  I had the freshest oysters from Normandy at L'Atlas and had the opportunity to watch them be shucked right in front of me!  Along with my oysters I also had an amazing french onion soup, the best Greg and I have ever tasted.  Greg enjoyed a steak and pomme frites (fries).  The service was slow at first but proved to be an amazing place with great people watching.

Les Crocs L'Ogre (81 Rue Bosquet, 75007 Paris, France):  This steakhouse was amazing!  I know I use that word a lot but it's the only word to describe this restaurant.  The food was so indescribably delicious that we actually forget to take pictures.  The service was wonderful!  Our server explained the menu to us in detail.  He also recommended a wonderful bottle of wine.  We began with our first steak tartare here which was so fresh and full of flavor.  There is also a butcher there inside the restaurant.  You have the option to choose your own meat for your entree and have it cut by the butcher.  However, feeling a little overwhelmed by that Greg chose the chef's special which was a fillet perfectly cooked.  Our dinner ended with a wonderful chocolate mousse and a complimentary liqueur, La Vieille Prune.  The server said the liqueur was to help with digestion.  It was strong and wonderful.  As far as digestion, we think it worked.

7eme Vin (68 Rue Bosquet, 75007 Paris, France):  On our last night in Paris we ate at this wonderfully quaint restaurant.  Without a reservation we had to wait for about 30 minutes, but with a glass of wine in our hand as we stood outside, we didn't mind.  We enjoyed the most exquisite buttery escargot and fresh oysters for a starter.  For our entree Greg had a beautiful beouf bourguignon while I had a very tender duck dressed in a sweet honey ginger sauce.  Both were beyond delicious.  We finished with a dessert and continued our evening with a bottle of wine under the Eiffel Tower.
Boeuf Bourguignon

Duck with sweet honey ginger sauce

The Gatsby (64 Rue Bosquet, 75007 Paris, France):  This swanky Parisian bar was great for a late night creative cocktail.  Greg and I both enjoyed the spicy bourbon cocktail the bartender made for us.  We were wowed with the lovely ginger, lemongrass, coriander (cilantro), gin cocktail that I would love to recreate.  This place is a must if you are looking for a local place to go for a non-wine drink.

French macarons.
After all of our adventures in Paris we traveled by train to Nice.  The train ride was wonderful as we saw the breath taking country side while sipping wine and eating our baguette and cheese we purchased in Paris.  While we unfortunately didn't get to experience some of the restaurants we had hoped to in Nice, due to the fact that they are closed Sunday and Monday, we had a wonderful time.  We climbed the Chateau for a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Nice.  Along the way we met an American woman Debi, who was checking out the city before her art students arrived for classes...yes I'm jealous she got to stay!  Check out her blog here.  We ate at the beach side cafes, indulged in macaroons and sipped on champagne as we watched the sunrise on our last day there.

Toast at sunrise in Nice.

France exceeded all of our expectations and has both of us wanting more.  More french bread, espresso, fresh seafood, exploring of the city, and leisurely days in the gardens.  Next time we go Greg and I want to stay in the country side and can't wait to experience the culture there.
Sunrise in Nice.