Culinary Travel: Top Ten Must Have Paris Foods and Drinks
Now that I’ve shown you what to eat in Paris to satisfy your sweet tooth, I want to tell you the best ways to whet your whistle and please your palate the French way! 1. Croque Monsieur More than just a ham and cheese sandwich, a Croque Monsieur is a ham and gruyére cheese sandwich slathered with béchamel sauce then grilled with butter until crispy and golden, which is how it came to be called Croque Monsieur, or “crisp mister”. Originally served in Paris cafés around 1910 as a snack, the Croque Monsieur has become a standard lunch menu items in most casual Paris restaurants. Make yours a Croque Madame by adding a fried egg. 2. Soupe à l’oignon gratinée Commonly know as French Onion Soup, Soupe à l’oignon gratinée, has its origins in ancient Rome. But the modern version that you may order in any number of Paris restaurants came about in the 18th century. The soup is made from beef broth, caramelized onions, a crouton and lots of gruyére cheese melted over the top. The best French onion soup I have had was in Paris. Simple, satisfying and comforting, you can rarely go wrong by ordering it while in Paris. 3. Escargot Snails might be considered slimy, sandy and dirty creatures to some, but to most Parisians and to me, they are tasty appetizers. Snails are first removed from their shell, then cleaned and sautéed with garlic, parsley, butter, and wine. They are returned to their shells where they are usually served in a dish specifically used for escargot, complete with special tongs used for holding the shell and a tiny fork used to pluck the snails out. My favorite place to eat escargot is Ma Bourgogne located in the Place des Vosges. 4. Mousse au Chocolat If you are chocolate lover, chocolate mousse in Paris is a must-do. Rich, fluffy and creamy, chocolate mousse will satisfy even chocolate addicts craving. The best place for chocolate mousse is Chez Janou in le Marais. You will be given a plate and a spoon along with a gigantic wooden bowl filled with fresh chocolate mousse. Spoon out as much as you like and leave it on your table. Seconds and thirds are encouraged! 5. Steak-Frites The French version of meat and potatoes, steak-frites is quite simply a steak fried in butter or olive oil served with French fries and often a dollop of herb butter. It’s my husband’s go-to dinner entrée when he’s not sure what to order. If you see the word “entrecôte”, you know that’s a steak. 6. Brie Cheese What could be more French than a wedge of fragrant, creamy and oh so rich brie cheese? Brie is named for a region in France. The soft cow’s milk cheese is surrounded by a white moldy crust and is sometimes mild in taste and sometimes strong depending on how old it is. Some older brie cheeses can be quite heady on the nose! 7. Vin Chaud When I was in Paris last March, I warmed myself up at Jardin du Luxembourg with a cup of Vin Chaud, or hot wine. Vin chaud is simply warmed red wine, probably pretty cheap red wine at that, mixed with a tiny bit of sugar, cinnamon, and lemon. It’s not too sweet, not too dry. Just right on a chilly Paris day! 8. Pastis For a refreshing drink on a warm day in Paris (or anytime of year, really) have a pastis. Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur and apéritif, is most popular in the southern part of France but you will find it in nearly every bar and restaurant in Paris. There are the famous varieties you may recognize like Ricard and Pernod, and dozens of smaller production brands, some of which are quite herbal. Pastis is served with a small pitcher of water and couple of ice cubes. Diluted is the way to drink the sweet, licorice flavored liqueur. Just add as much water as you like to your serving of pastis and watch the chartreuse colored alcohol turn a cloudy yellow once water is added. Sip and enjoy! 9. Champagne French champagne is the real deal in Paris as real Champagne must come from the Champagne region just outside Paris in order to carry the name champagne – everything else is simply sparkling wine. Many shops carry dozens of Champagnes ranging from the reasonably priced to the très chere. My favorite place to enjoy a glass of Champagne is at the summit of the Eiffel Tower. 10. Paris Picnic I love to picnic wherever I travel. While in Paris, it’s nice to get out of the habit of always eating in a café or restaurant and enjoy the sights, people watch and get some fresh air and sunshine. Pick up a baguette from a bakery, a piece or two of fruit, a wedge of brie, some salami or ham and a nice bottle of wine. Find a comfortable spot at the Tuilleries, on the banks of the Seine or in Jardin du Luxembourg, just to name a few of my favorite Paris picnic locations. I guarantee it will be one of the more memorable meals from your trip.