You're invited to lunch...

I'm a young 20-something from Australia, who has just started a new life living in Paris. If there were but one thing that I did not forget to pack, that would be my appetite for fine food.

A full-fledged 'foodie' through and through, I can think of no better way to document my gastronomical experiences.

The menu? Since the purpose of this blog is food, each entry is based upon a meal, which is usually lunch. Of course, every meal is accompanied with an experience. So I guess you could say that with my food blog comes a range of 'side dishes', which include dating, love, friendship, fun, travel, work, and whatever else I come across along the way!

So if you want to read about...

Cheap bistros, fine restaurants, baguettes, wine, picnics, seafood, champagne, chacuterie, museums, friends, parks, wine (worth mentioning twice), fromage, useful tourist info, cocktail parties, dating, supermarkets, coffee, week-end trips, work, bars, foie gras, home-cooking, chocolate, monuments, glaces (ice-cream), live music, macaroons... and everything else in-between

...then come to lunch with me!

Nicola xx

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Italians know their ice-cream!

Did I mention in my last blog that my first week-end in Paris was the Easter long week-end? An amazing time, indeed, to be in Paris - home to some of the world's finest chocolatiers and location of some of the world's most magnificent churches. Whether you are religious or not, you can't deny that Easter is the single most prominent time of the year to indulge in the taste of chocolate and the sounds of church bells...generally in the company of friends and loved ones.

So there I was, my first week-end in Paris, alone. The two friends that I do have here, away on week-end trips. Loved ones, back home in Australia. I have since learned to embrace my own company, to even enjoy it. But on that Friday afternoon, as I waved good-bye to Sarah, I was definitely feeling more 'desperate and dateless' than excited by the prospect of spending the whole week-end alone!.

Sure as eggs (pun unintended) that week-end turned out to be the best week-end that I have had, thus far, in Paris! By Saturday morning I was no longer 'desperate and dateless' and by Saturday afternoon I had made a very important gastronomical discovery.

It was on this very week-end that I discovered the best ice-cream in Paris. In many ways this post is ground-breaking because the best ice-cream in Paris is often thought to come from the world-renowned glacier Berthillon. And don't get me wrong, the ice-creams from Berthillon are very nice, but they're definitely not the best.

Before I let you in on where the best ice-cream comes from, I will first tell you the story as to how I wound up eating some of this 'heaven in a cone!'

I was crossing the Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris. It was Easter Saturday. Buskers lined the bridge, playing everything from the accordion to the saxophone. The sun was shining, but everyone, myself included, was still rugged up in their winter coats. Spring had apparently started, but the temperature would have had you believing otherwise.

As I reached the St Germain end of the bridge, a sleek black sedan pulled up beside me, and put down the window. The man inside was saying something, but I couldn't understand a word. In the middle of this busy bridge he put on his hazard lights, stopping all traffic flow from behind. He got out and started to approach me. Unsure of what to do, I slowly started walking in the other direction. He then started calling "ay ay mademoiselle, s'il vous plaît, attendez!"

How could I not stop? Especially since he had just run the risk of inuring a very large parking fine, in order to speak to me. The conversation was brief, but long enough for me to learn his name (Marco), his nationality (Italian) and his phone number. He called me an hour later to see what I was doing for lunch. Normally I would have thought this was far too keen, but beggars can't really be choosers. With no other friends, and definitely no other arrangements, I agreed to meet him for lunch.

We went to a small Japanese restaurant in St Germain. I can't recall the name, but the restaurant wasn't really anything to write home about, and so the name isn't all that important. There were many awkward silences during lunch. Most likely because neither of our first languages is French, and so we both had strong accents and a restricted vocabulary.

For what the lunch lacked, the dessert more than compensated for. After our sushi, Marco and I walked along the busy Rue de Buci and turned into Rue de Seine. He took me to a place called Grom. We waited in a queue of about 6 or 7 people, and when we reached the counter I realized that all of the ice-cream flavours were in separate aluminium vats. What's more, each vat was sealed with a shiny, almost sterile-looking, lid. This immediately eliminated the fun routine of letting your eyes taste each flavour before making the crucial decision of which flavours will 'make the cut.'

I chose three of my all-time favorites - hazelnut (noisette), coconut (noix de coco) and coffee (café). I have to say, I have never seen ice-cream be scooped in such a professional manner in all my life. At Grom they seem to take the scooping process very seriously, it's fascinating to watch. Apparently they use the scoop to repetitively beat the ball of ice-cream, and this heats it, and makes it even creamier than it was initially. The serving sizes are descent and the cones are made of waffle, as opposed to the cheap, foamy alternative that some ice-cream shops use. As for the ice-cream itself, it is SO creamy and the flavours are SO true to what they are meant to be. It was honestly one of the best ice-creams I have ever had in my life!

Unfortunately Marco didn't last. But I will be eternally grateful to him for having introduced me to Grom. I make sure I visit Grom at least once a week now. I have tried 7 flavours, but I will keep on the task until I have tried each and every one of them!

If you want to go there, the address is 81 Rue de Seine. The closest metro station is Odeon.

Until next time...

Nicola xx

Friday, 23 April 2010


Since this is the first post on my blog, I'd like to start by clarifying a few things. I have never had a blog prior to this one, nor have I really ever followed one. Because of this, I'm not really sure what I'm doing, or how to go about writing it! I hope that at least a few people will find it interesting enough to keep reading. But if they don't, it doesn't really matter, because mostly this blog is for me. It's a means by which I can write about the food or the meals that I will enjoy over the year, and hence, a means of remembering them. Because if you think about it, at one lunch a day, 7 lunches a week, and 365 lunches for the year, I'm definitely not going to recall every single meal! On top of that, there's the interesting dinners, and amazing pastries for breakfast, which (whilst not fulfilling the criteria of lunch) will inevitably deserve a mention.

I should also point out that I have been living in Paris for 3 weeks now. The idea for the blog was actually a spur of the moment decision. I was reading an article about the 'Sex at Oxbridge' blogger, and realized that as much as sex is her passion, food is mine - why not blog about it?! So I will have to backtrack a little, and tell you about the last 3 weeks. After that, I intend to keep the blog up-to-date.

Another warning before I start - Disaster seems to follow me! I can only expect that this pattern will continue on the other side of the world, and at the very least, it should make for interesting reading along the way!

O.k... So let's go back 3 weeks.

My departure from Sydney was eventful (I told you!) to say the very least. One of the plane's engines blew up, we were forced to land, where we waited for another 5 hours! Here's the link if you're interested!

It was about 32 hours later - after all of the connections, trains, and buses - when I was finally in my hostel room.

I am told that Paris is the world's most visited tourist destination. About 80 million people a year, to be precise. I'll make an educated assumption. Once these 80 odd million people have checked in and dumped their suitcases, there's one thing that comes to their minds... "Where are we going to eat?"

Can you blame them? They are, after all, in Paris. The capital of France. The epicenter of the gastronomical world!

It was certainly the first thing that came to my mind! Sarah, an Australian friend from school who is at uni here, suggested that we meet in the 9th arrondissement and walk up to the Sacre Coeur. Whilst it was a lovely idea, unless there was going to be something to eat, I didn't want a bar of it! She assured me that I wasn't going to be disappointed... And I wasn't.

Rue de Matyrs is an incredible street for foodies. The closest metro station is Notre Dame de Lorette (line 12). The street runs straight up to the Sacre Coeur basilica. But if you actually intend upon going to the Sacre Coeur, choose another street, because you'll probably never get there via this one. There are simply too many amazing specialty food shops. Sarah and I walked up one side, and down the other. Cheese shops, wine shops, meat shops (I don't think that 'butcher' is an adequate translation of these chacuteries, since they sell foie gras, cured meats, and so much more), boulangeries, a surprising number of Greek delicatessens, a salmon specialty shop, chocolateries, green grocers, and then of course, a multitude of restaurants. The street is always busy, and the hustle and bustle of people, cars, trucks making deliveries, and shop owners out on the street, gives the street a real 'market vibe.'

Remembering, of course, that I was quite hungry by this stage, I bought a chocolate from Jeff de Bruges to tide me over. In terms of chocolateries, this one isn't really anything special! It's a chain, so they're all over Paris. And it's not too expensive, but the actual chocolates are fairly ordinary. We then went to one of the Greek delicatessens. A funny choice for the first meal in Paris, I know, but most of the food is ready-to-eat, and looks so delicious!

There's 4 or 5 of these Greek delicatessens on Rue de Matyrs, and the food looks to be much the same in all of them. So we picked one, and walked in. To the left of the shop was a shelf packed with about 10 ceramic pots, each filled with different varieties of marinated olives. On the same side, there was another shelf with plates of nuts. Some smoked, some salty, some sweet, some natural, some mixed. Above the nuts and olives was another shelf with several varieties of ouzo. On the right was a large cabinet, with bowls of every type of Greek specialty imaginable, filled to the brim. Moussaka, dolmades, fetta stuffed peppers, meatballs, eggplant balls, sardines, whitebait, taramasalata, tzatziki, aubergine dip, olive tapenade, 5 different types of baklava, marinated sweet figs, dates, and the list goes on.

I get the impression that most people buy the food to take away, but there are 4 plastic table and chairs set up at the back of the shop, with the option to eat there, which is exactly what I did. I had a plate with some tabouli, fennel green olives, big white beans marinated in a tomato sauce and a dollop of tzatziki. Everything was so flavorsome, if a little on the salty side. That said, I love salty food, so that wasn't a problem. It was 5 euro, and whilst the serving was very small, the quality of the food was so good, that 5 euro was a bargain!

That night we went to the Buddah Bar, a very well-known underground bar and restaurant, not far from the Tuileries gardens. Most people recognise the name from the Buddah Bar CDs which are sold all over the world. My honest opinion? You'd be better off enjoying the music and a bottle of red on a picnic rug by the Seine, rather than at the actual bar.

A big group of Sarah's friends were going, so we decided to join them. The bar can best be described as a wrap around balcony which looks down on the restaurant below. It's very moody, with dimmed lighting, chilled out music, and an enormous Buddah looming over the room. By Parisian standards the bar/restaurant is absolutely huge! It is also, by Parisian standards, excessively expensive! The cheapest glass of red wine was 10 euro.

The group was fairly international - a couple of French girls, an Italian guy, a Canadian girl, a handful of Dutch people, and us. The expensive glass of house red never actually arrived (which I was secretly thrilled about, one glass of 10 euro wine versus two 5 euro meals at the Greek Deli was really no competition!)

I did learn a lesson on this night, which will stay with for the rest of the year. Whilst I was in the process of telling the waiter not worry about the overpriced glass of wine that had never arrived, I overheard the 2 French girls in the corner talking about me. They were giggling and looking at my shoes. They were saying that I was too dressed-up, and commenting on the height of my heels. To be honest, I don't think I was overdressed at all - heels, jeans, a nice top and a jacket hardly constitutes ball-worthy attire. As for the lesson? When in Paris, better to be under-dressed than over-dressed! A shocking reality, and one which I am still struggling to come to terms with. Paris is just as much the epicenter of the fashion world, as the gastronomical world, and yet this is apparently not exercised on a daily basis.

And so there it is - the first day of my year in Paris. A Greek lunch, an amazing food street, and a visit to Buddah Bar.

Until next time...

Nicola xx