I like to plan... a lot. As I painstakingly prepared for our trip to Paris, I researched food extensively. I mean, hey, let's face it: how many chances am I really going to have to go to Paris.... Exactly. And if I'm only going once (or maybe if I'm lucky twice), I wanted to do it right. I wanted to eat the very best Paris had to offer. And that's exactly what I did!
And so came the idea to do this "Top 10 List", so that if you ever have the amazing opportunity to visit Paris, this can serve as your gastronomic guide. As I sat down to write this post, it was a pretty daunting task... there is a ridiculous amount of insanely delicious, unbelievable food in Paris. How do you decide what's the best?! But trust me, if you eat everything on this list, you are going to be very, VERY happy with your trip! I know I was. In no particular order, here's my top 10:
Words do not describe how good the caramels are from Patrick Roger and Jacques Genin. Amazing in texture, rich in buttery flavor, these little treats will forever change your life. I brought some home for friends and watched their eyes light up with uncontrollable joy as they slowly savored each morsel of caramel goodness. If you have to pick only one place to do your caramel shopping, I would definitely choose Jacques Genin (get the natural caramel or the ginger caramel... both are amazing).
Jacques Genin Caramels:
Patrick Roger Caramels:
2. Bordier Butter
Really Chris, really? No, c'mon.... butter? That's in your top ten?! I need to have butter in France?! Yes, you really, really do! Le Beurre Bordier will revolutionize your current standard of butter. It will seriously blow your mind. Bordier butter is amazingly super smooth and super rich in flavor. You will literally eat loaves and loaves of bread just to eat more of this butter (especially when you add a sprinkle of fleur de sel). I bought this butter at Laurent Dubois Cheese Shop, although you may be able to find it elsewhere.
3. Baguette, Pain au Chocolat, and Pastries
Since coming home from Paris, I've yet to have a baguette or pastry that comes even remotely close to the ones I enjoyed while in the City of Light. It's sad really. Kind of depressing just thinking about it... Ask Asheley, I've actually been quite upset that I don't have daily access to artisan boulangers and patisseries. So while you are in Paris, take advantage of the superior breads and baked goods. Find yourself a quality Artisan Boulanger (bread shop) like Eric Kayser and Patisserie (bakery), and make sure to enjoy your fair share of goodies daily! Here are some specific recommendations:
Baguette from Eric Kayser:
No matter where you buy a baguette, make sure it has pointed ends, a sign that the bread was made by hand. If the ends are rounded, it typically means the bread was machine made and of inferior quality (although probably still better than most of the bread we've had here in the U.S.). Also, the bread should have a nice, dark, golden brown crust. When you knock on the bread, it should sound hollow inside, and finally, when you break into the bread, you should see a beautiful hole structure like this:
Pain au Chocolat from Angelina Patisserie:
This was my go-to breakfast treat while in Paris. It is basically a croissant with chunks of chocolate throughout. My favorite was at Angelina's, with Eric Kayser coming in at a close 2nd. If you are at Angelina's, make sure you also get a hot chocolate... it's crazy good.
Any Croissant-like Pastry at Eric Kayser:
You can't go wrong with any croissant or croissant like pastry at Eric Kayser (I had a lot of them). This one here is a pastry with a lemon filling. It was legit! Asheley still claims her life is forever changed after eating it.
St. Honore Pastry from the Cake Shop in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel:
This was an absolutely perfect architectural masterpiece of pastry genius. Puff pastry, cream puffs, whipped cream, and caramelized sugar... what's not to love?! I'm still having dreams about it. Definitely make your way into the Mandarin Oriental for this treat. You can eat it within their Cake Shop Patisserie or bring it back to your hotel to enjoy!
Kouglof from Vandermeersch Bakery:
Kouglof is a sweet, yeast-risen dough that is studded with raisins and soaked with a syrup that keeps the pastry super moist. It is then coated with a sprinkling of sugar to give it an extra sweet kick. Vandermeersch Bakery is definitely off the beaten track: we had to take a 20-minute metro ride to the outskirts of Paris just to get there. And they only make their kouglof on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and it does sell out quickly from what I've been told, so plan accordingly.
There is no shortage of great chocolate in Paris. You can read all about my chocolate experiences while in Paris here: The Best Paris Chocolatiers. But if you twisted my arm and said I had to narrow it down, this is what you need to eat:
World-renowned for their amazing caramels, Jacques Genin also has awesome chocolate. I bought a box of assorted dark chocolates to enjoy back home here in the U.S., and I am loving what I'm tasting!
The truffles are decadent, the chocolate carousel is plain good fun, and this dark chocolate bar with candied hazelnuts is to die for.
You really cannot go wrong with anything from this MOF Chocolatier (MOF is the highest honor given to a professional in the French culinary world). My only advice here is don't shy away from the combinations that sound unique or different. That's his specialty! I also am in love with the little colorful half-spheres in the bottom-left of the photo: those are liquid caramel enrobed in a thin layer of dark chocolate. The wall of single-sourced chocolate bars are also very worth your time. If I had to pick only one chocolatier to go to, Patrick Roger would probably be it.
Hands down, you need to get the Atlantique from this MOF Chocolatier (although pretty much everything is good, including the couple macarons I sampled). This square dark chocolate bar is filled with luscious caramel and a delicate layer of crunchy shortbread. I bought three of these bars. Enough said.
Okay, okay, I know... technically Pierre Marcolini is a Belgian Chocolatier (and I actually went to the one in Brussels, not Paris). However, they do have a boutique in Paris so I'm including it here. The chocolates are good, but the real star here is the marshmallows. The marshmallow itself is delicate, sweet, and fluffy with a hint of vanilla. It just melts in your mouth. Cover that with a super thin layer of dark chocolate... amazing!
5. Cheese from Laurent Dubois
You need to have cheese in Paris. More importantly, you need to have cheese from Laurent Dubois in Paris. As you can see on the awning, just like Patrick Roger and Franck Kestener, he is also a MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) in his culinary field of cheese-aging. As you enter the shop, a cheese consultant will help you select the perfect cheese. Laurent Dubois also has the capability of vacuum-sealing your cheese so you can bring it home!
Our cheese consultant was superb. They had us try some different varieties to get a sense of what kinds of cheeses we liked, then they started making some recommendations based upon our needs/wants. Want cheese to pair with a certain wine? Or maybe to pair with certain foods? Oh, and you want the cheese to be perfectly ripe for 3 days from now? A week from now? No problem for these experts! For instance, we told him we wanted a nice variety of cheese for a get-together we would be having back home the following week. He not only picked great cheeses based on what we tasted and liked, but he also found ones that were perfectly ripe and ready to eat when our party was taking place.
6. L'Avant Comptoir Wine Bar
Owned by Yves Camborde, L'Avant Comptoir serves up amazing natural wine and unbelievably good little plates (i.e. tapas / hors d'oeuvres) within a tiny, casual, standing-only bar. Look up at the ceiling for the menu... it's hanging down on oversized cards! Then nestle up to the bar and enjoy the communal bread, Bordier butter, and pickles. Remember how I said you need to have Bordier butter while in Paris. Here's your opportunity!!! This is the only place in Paris we visited twice because it was so freaking good. I'll be writing a more in-depth post all about L'Avant Comptoir soon, but here's a sneak peak of what to order:
Jamon (cured ham) and Artichoke Cream on Waffles
Foie Gras and Roasted Pepper Skewers with Balsamic Reduction
Sometimes spelled macaroon in America, the French macaron is said to have been invented by Laduree in the early 20th Century. Although the macarons at Laduree are definitely delicious, I'm partial to the ones at Pierre Herme. The macaron itself is the delicate, sweet, meringue-like shell that sandwiches some sort of ganache, buttercream, or jam filling. Plan on stopping by one or both of these macaron meccas while in Paris!
Macarons at Pierre Herme (definitely get the Lime-Basil and the Salted Caramel):
Macarons at Laduree:
8. Splurge Dinner
The food, the wine, the service, the ambience... enjoying a splurge dinner is an experience that you will not soon forget. Since it was our honeymoon, we actually did a splurge dinner almost every night (it was pretty darn awesome). In doing so, we created memories that will absolutely last us a lifetime. Besides having unbelievably great food, all the following restaurants have amazing natural wine lists with bottles for anyone's price range. I totally get that everyone's vacation budget is totally different (one person's average night out is another's big splurge), so I included places in many different price ranges so that anyone can eat like royalty alongside food-loving locals:
Chef Daniel Rose offers a spectacular market-driven five course menu that rotates weekly for about 75€ per person. The service is extremely warm and friendly to foreigners, and the food is absolutely unreal. The open kitchen offers fantastic views for food-lovers like me, watching Chef Rose and his staff work with extreme detail. Check out my full review here: Spring Restaurant.
Chez L'Ami Jean
Chef Stephane Jego serves up incredibly-generous portions of skillfully prepared food within a fun and lively atmosphere. The servers move around the tiny restaurant with crazy speed and you can watch Chef Jego at work throughout your entire meal through the kitchen window. He has several menus available, including an a la carte, normal tasting menu, and then an over-the-top tasting menu. We chose the normal 6-course tasting menu, which changes on a regular basis, and was about 50€ per person. It was a fantastic value!
A neighborhood bistro serving up elevated French classics, Bistro Paul Bert is a very affordable dinner option in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. The regularly-rotating prix fixe menu, consisting of entree (appetizer), plat (main), and dessert, is only 36€! There are several delicious dishes to choose from for each course. Check out my full review of the restaurant here: Bistro Paul Bert.
Chef Inaki Aizpitarte's Le Chateaubriand is not an easy reservation, but you will be rewarded with an amazing 50€ prix-fixe menu that changes daily. The place is packed with locals, and the food offers some pretty unique flavor combinations. If you can't get a reservation, try his wine bar Le Dauphin a couple doors down.
Formerly the sous chef at Mario Batali's michelin-starred Del Posto in NYC, Chef Kevin O'Donnell came to Paris to head up the kitchen at L'Office. Bringing his Italian culinary influences along for the ride, Chef O'Donnell's French-Italian fare is utterly spectacular. And at only 26€ for the regularly-rotating three course menu, L'Office is affordable for pretty much anyone's budget.
I know, no picture for this one, sorry! Restaurant Guy Savoy has three coveted Michelin stars, the highest honor given within their rating system. The menu is not cheap by any means (315€-360€ per person), but you will eat, drink, and have service like never before (unless, of course, you are accustomed to eating at such haute-cuisine establishments). We decided to dine at Guy Savoy after reading some amazing news on Wendy Lyn's blog, The Paris Kitchen. (You can read her review of the restaurant here: Guy Savoy). During the summer, she announced, Chef Guy Savoy was offering a 5-course Tasting Menu for only 165€... oh, and it included wine pairings! The food was mind-blowing, the wine pours were generous, and the service was absolutely perfect. It was an incredible evening and definitely worth every penny.
9. Falafel @ L'as Du Fallafel
I know, crazy right?! Who would have thought Paris had an unbelievable falafel place! It's not just good, it's described by many, many people as the best falafel sandwiches in the world. I've only had falafel in NY and Paris, so I'm not ready to make such a bold statement yet... but I can say that it is hands down the best falafel sandwich I have ever had (Taim Falafel in NYC would definitely be my 2nd favorite).
The falafel sandwich is layered perfectly, so that every bite contains equal parts of falafel, roasted eggplant, tahini sauce, pickled cucumbers, red cabbage, and sauce piquante. And the best part, it's only about 5 or 6€. It is a perfect lunch option (and hint, Pozzetto is just a short walk away for some after-lunch ice cream!)
Paris is full of amazing desserts. Besides the already mentioned dessert-esque pastries I mentioned above, there are some other favorites I want to share with you:
Gelato at Pozzetto
I sampled ice cream/gelato at a few places in Paris, and this was by far my favorite. The gelato is super creamy and packed with flavor. Grab a cup with a scoop of Pistachio and of Giunduja (chocolate-hazelnut), you won't be sorry!
We had a couple dessert "soups" while in Paris, and both were eye-opening good! I've never had soup for dessert before, but as soon as I got home from Paris, I've been working on recreating these two dishes (stay tuned for recipes!). The flavors were bright and refreshing, with a perfectly balanced creamy component in each:
Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone @ L'Office
Peach Soup with Almond Ice Cream @ Fish Boissonnerie
You have to get a Crepe and Creme Brulee while in Paris! We found delicious examples of both at L'Avant Comptoir. You can get your crepe filled with whatever you fancy, ours had both chocolate and chantilly cream! The creme brulee was perfectly cooked and had a hint of unexpected lavender.
Souffle @ Bistro Paul Bert
I'm sure you can get an excellent souffle at many spots in Paris, but the Grand Marnier Souffle at Bistro Paul Bert was pretty darn perfect.
While you are in Paris, there is so much to eat and so little time! Enjoy every second! Enjoy every morsel! I know we did!