I return from France with two very important announcements.
The first is that Paris… has changed. The Eiffel Tower still stands. The chicest residents still wear black with black and boldly accessorize with black. They still haven’t gotten the memo that smoking kills. But the food scene is different.
Amidst the uptight and upscale bistros and brasseries of the past is a new crop of eating and drinking establishments that simultaneously embrace what is right with French food and shun what’s wrong with it. These are places highlighting local, artisan products. These are young chefs using classic ingredients in fresh, new ways. These are places that let you plod through in very sub-par French (Ahhhhh, how do you say? Ah yes. Comme moi.) without giving the evil eye, and will happily switch to English if you are struggling. These are places that cater to this new generation of young eaters for whom eating and drinking is an art- coincidentally, this group is equally split between Parisians, ex-pats living in Paris, and travelers who flock to Paris as a food mecca. There are lots of hipsters. There are bottles of wine under 25 euros. There are scores of people roaming the streets trying to find these places because they are hidden. This is the new Paris food scene.
I will gush like a fire hose about some of these places I found below. But first, the second of the two very important announcements…
I still love butter on absolutely. everything.
It’s hard to imagine that my love of butter has room to grow, but it does. Kind of like a parent’s love for a child. Did I really just say that? Yes, I did. And while there are still people in this fair country who believe butter is the devil, I am happy to say that the entire country of France is in disagreement. They take it seriously, I take it seriously. Love me some butter.
In between eating baguette sandwiches slathered in glorious butter, or croissants made with glorious butter, or [insert any food here] drizzled with glorious browned butter, I ate some roasted fish topped with lemon-dill butter. And now I’m bringing it home to you.
- 1 stick butter, softened
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 T minced fresh dill
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- 4 6- to 8-ounce salmon filets (with or without skin- your call)
- Olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of half lemon
- Remove salmon filets from fridge and place them skin-side down in a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet. Let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes (while you make the butter and let it start to firm back up in the fridge).
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Combine the butter, lemon zest, dill, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Scoop the butter out of the bowl and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to mold the butter into a roundish-rectangle, then twist the ends of the plastic wrap to lock in the shape and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to firm it back up for slicin' and toppin'.
- Drizzle some olive oil over the top of each filet and season well with salt and pepper (remember, insufficiently seasoned seafood is no bueno!!). Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until almost cooked at the center of the thickest part.** If you insert the tip of a small knife into this part of the salmon, you should see a thin line of uncooked salmon in the very middle- this is when you take it out.
- Once you remove salmon from the oven, cover the dish tightly with foil, and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the herb butter from fridge and cut into 4 equal portions.*** After about 6-7 minutes of resting, top each filet with one portion of herb butter and re-cover the baking dish. This will allow the butter to start melting using the trapped heat under the foil, but if you prefer to serve it with the butter either completely melted or barely melted at all, then add the butter either at the beginning or the end of the resting period, according to your desired presentation. I like my butter a little melted but with a nice portion of it unmelted because, really, who doesn't want to see a mound of butter on the food you're about to eat? No one, that's who. Transfer salmon to a plate and serve.
***If you do the math, that's 2 T butter per portion. This makes me happy, but if this makes you sad, no worries! You can divide the stick into 8 portions and save 4 of them in the fridge for another use, like a topper for roasted chicken or another kind of fish. Or just cut everything in half and only make half the butter. Or make the full volume of butter but make 8 portions of salmon. You get the idea.
And now for the gushing about Paris…
A few of the places that melted my heart and made me want to stow away in the sewer pipes a la Jean Valjean so that I might never have to leave. Sorry, there are few pictures, and my description of the menus is really clouded by how much wine I was drinking. I’m not really a restaurant reviewer when I’m on vacation. But I’m an eater. Here are those places:
Le Mary Celeste (1 Rue Commines, 3rd): We were heading to Au Passage in the 11th for an early-evening drink, only to discover it was not open till later. The staff was really nice and recommended we hit up Le Mary Celeste in the 3rd (only a few streets away). OMG, great suggestion. We didn’t eat there but had 4 cocktails between us (the YOLO was the only one I remember… it’s funny how the more you drink the less you remember…) and all of them were amazing. Way cool ingredients, way cool atmosphere. GO. David Lebovitz wrote a great post on it here.
Le Petit Vendome (8 rue des Capucines, 2nd): Best baguette sandwich in Paris. It’s the bread, it’s the butter, it’s the meat, it’s the cheese. The little restaurant is supposed to be tasty, but people go for the take-out baguette sandwiches. We took ours to the Place Vendome to eat them and people-watch. Read a little write-up here and book your flight.
Willi’s Wine Bar (13 rue des Petites Champs, 2nd): Allegedly the first wine bar in Paris! Owned by a Brit (Ahhhh! French scandi!!!), it’s a bar with a cool atmosphere, killer wine list, really friendly staff, and bonus! There’s a nibbles menu in case you’re there between lunch and dinner services. We didn’t eat, but we had a few glasses of wine et champagne and discussed future Food Hound plans. Remember how I mentioned the idea for the Food Hound was born in Paris in 2010? Well, ideas for 2.0 were born in Willi’s in 2013. And despite the imbibing, I even remember
some most of them.
Telescope (5 rue Villedo, 1st): This is where you go for a cup of coffee if you want a cup of coffee that has been crafted by a coffee Picasso. I’m not even a coffee drinker and I left wanting more. Read a little article about it here. I chatted with the owner about food (because clearly that is all I want to talk about all the time) and he drew a little map and led us down the path to our next stop in Paris, which turned out to be the best meal I’ve ever eaten in the City of Light…
Frenchie (5-6 Rue du Nil, 2nd): I’m smiling as I type. And just like Pavlov’s dog, I’m starting to salivate as I think of Frenchie. There was no possible way we were getting day-of reservations for the restaurant, so we showed up at 7 pm to get in line for the bar à vins (wine bar… but doesn’t ‘bar à vin’ sound waaaaay cooler? YES!). We were able to get a seat at one of the communal tables (like, 3 2-tops sitting at a table of 6… nothing cray-cray) and we started a-drinkin’ and a-eatin’ and we just didn’t stop. Oh my gosh, there was burrata in tarragon oil… house-made terrine… fois gras… some sort of ceviche I was just so happy to eat because the BH never goes for raw fish that I didn’t even pay attention to the species… house-made tortellini that might make a pasta convert out of me yet… and wine. Ohhhhh, there was wine. This bar is across from the restaurant, which is at the end of a street that is pretty much dedicated to places in the Frenchie family. There’s a butcher, a fishmonger, a produce store, and even a little coffee/breakfast/lunch spot called ‘Frenchie To Go.’ We saw the restaurant staff eating there that morning and going over their menu plans. That’s legit, folks. If there’s one place you go in Paris, make it one in the Frenchie family.