Paris: A Few Restaurants to Savor

To be honest, I feel a bit silly writing about food in Paris. It goes without saying that it’s a city of incredible culinary scope – and so, what can I add to the conversation? Much as I’d like to think otherwise, at the end of the day, I know I am a tourist, and I don’t pretend to have vast knowledge about all the culinary establishments the city has to offer. I cannot authoritatively state, “THIS, my friends, is where you should eat when in Paris” – but I can tell you about the places I have eaten at and enjoyed…which I shall now do.

Le Petit Cler:

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Le Petit Cler was, quite literally, steps from my hotel – meaning it was inevitable I’d frequent it at least once. Not inevitable, however, was that it would be good. Luckily for me, it was.

The beauty of Le Petit Cler is this: the menu is simple (it’s just a one-pager, encompassing both lunch and dinner), but the food is great. For lunch, I heartily recommend the grilled bread with roasted goat cheese, tomato, pesto, chicory, and balsamic. I love goat cheese, and this meal is pure goat cheesy perfection. For dinner, I had the flank steak and baked potato for a simple and classic meal. Whatever time of day you eat there, make sure to end your meal with a cappuccino, combined with a liberal dose of people-watching the crowds moseying down Rue Cler.

Getting there: 29 Rue Cler, 75007 Paris, France (Métro: La Tour-Maubourg or École Militaire)


Holybelly:

If Paris has hipsters, then I’m 99.9% sure they congregate at Holybelly, a cozy, hip café serving up tasty breakfasts and lunches. Well, to be honest, I’m assuming on the lunch part, as I only visited at breakfast time – but breakfast was damn good.

While everything on Holybelly’s menu looked excellent, I settled on the savory pancake dish: a pancake, topped by a fried egg, topped by another pancake, topped by another fried egg, and all served with crispy bacon and bourbon butter. It was incredible, though a bit indulgent for a breakfast (but, when in Paris…)

Getting there: 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010 Paris, France (Métro: Jacques Bonsergent)


Frenchie to Go:

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When I arrived at Frenchie, the restaurant was jam-packed (a good sign, I figured), so I ordered my food to-go. The entire menu looked great, and for an American who’s been traveling abroad for a while, it offers lots of comforting favorites: a reuben, pastrami on rye, pulled pork, and a hot dog, to name a few. I opted for the pulled pork sandwich, topped with barbeque sauce and coleslaw (plus a side of fries). It was a little taste of home and it totally hit the spot.

Getting there: 5-6 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris, France (Métro: Sentier)


Les Cocottes:

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Les Cocottes just might be the ideal lunch spot on a cool, drizzly Paris day: the main courses here are stews, all served en cocotte, or in a Staub casserole dish. It’s warm, hearty comfort food, perfect for a pick-me-up during a chilly day of sightseeing. The restaurant has a long counter, so if you are dining solo, it’s a perfect spot: you won’t feel awkward eating there at all.

Getting there: 135 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris, France (Métro: École Militaire)


Pain et Chocolat:

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Another perfect breakfast spot, located just around the corner from Rue Cler. There are three breakfasts to choose from here, and I went with Le Septième: coffee or tea, fruit juice, bread with butter and jam, a croissant, a few pieces of cheese, and scrambled eggs, all for 14 euros. The food was great, and the server was quite friendly, making for a spot I could easily see myself returning to again and again.

Getting there: 16 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007 Paris, France (Métro: La Tour-Maubourg)


L’As Du Fallafel:

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It felt like a bit of a Paris cliché to make the pilgrimage to L’As Du Fallafel: everyone, it seems, goes there, and I knew the cobblestone streets surrounding the place would be jam-packed with tourists (myself included) eager to try the famous falafels. Still, if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s food trends, and so I went.

Located in the Marais (and not too far from another favorite, L’Eclair de Genie), L’As Du Fallafel serves up seriously gigantic, filled-to-the-brim falafels. The line may be long when you get there, but don’t let it deter you: they know what they are doing, and it moves quickly. As for the falafel itself, I give it high marks – it was delicious and deserving of the hype (unlike some other places I know; cough Shake Shack cough).

Getting there: 32-34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France (Métro: Saint-Paul)


Jules et Shim:

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Strictly speaking, does one need Korean bibimbap when in Paris? Perhaps not, but Jules et Shim is really tasty. Lured by the promise of delicious food in highly Instagrammable flower-shaped containers (not to mention the restaurant’s proximity to Canal Saint-Martin, which I had been eager to visit), I made the trip to Jules et Shim. I found the food a great value for the money: you get a filling, healthy portion, which you can enjoy at one of the restaurant’s few tables, or can take to-go to eat by the canals. An easy, quick Paris lunch – and a real win – in my book.

Getting there: 22 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris, France (Métro: Jacques Bonsergent)


And there you have it: some of the culinary highlights of my too-short week in Paris (well, along with these desserts). Tell me: what did I miss? What are your Paris favorites?

Momofuku Ssam Bar (or, Where David Chang Leads, I Will Follow)

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A few weekends ago, I had friends in town. We had a list of places that they wanted to visit and eat at while they were here, and so on Sunday night, we made our way to one of those restaurants – BaoHaus. Except, we got there and realized it wasn’t really a sit down restaurant, and we all wanted to have a nicer meal. So, we passed on BaoHaus and began thinking of other places, which is right about when it occurred to us that we were around the block from Momofuku Ssam. A David Chang restaurant that’s long been on my list of must-try places in NYC? Sold!

So we headed to Ssam and put our name down for a table. We waited about a half hour which, from what I gather, isn’t that long for Ssam (the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and wait times can often be lengthy). We started our meal with pork buns for everyone. If there was one dish I wanted to try at Ssam, it was the pork buns – and they did not disappoint. Very flavorful:

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For my main course, I ordered the Roasted Jurgielwicz Duck. There were lots of little garnishes and sauces on the plate; I’m not quite sure what everything was, but I know it all worked in harmony together quite well. This was a tasty entree (though the pork buns definitely take the top honors for the best dish of the night):

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I often find that, when I’ve been wanting to go to a hyped restaurant for a long time, it inevitably disappoints me when I finally make it there. But, I can honestly say Ssam did not let me down. And now that I’ve been to two of David Chang’s NYC restaurants (Ssam and Ma Peche), I only have two left to go (Noodle Bar and Ko). Checking them all off is, most definitely, a delicious quest.

The Details: Momofuku Ssam Bar | 207 Second Avenue, New York NY, 10003 | 212.254.3500

Vellum

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The other day, someone found my blog by searching for the term “venom rest in ann arbor.” While it might be possible that there’s some sort of snake exhibit in A2 I don’t know about, I find it more likely that they were looking for information about Vellum, a new(ish) restaurant on Main Street. So in the spirit of giving the people want they want, it felt like the right time to post about my recent dinner at Vellum.

I went with a friend a few weeks back, and I really enjoyed the restaurant. Among Ann Arbor restaurants, Vellum reminded me a bit of Grange in terms of style and price point, so I couldn’t help but mentally compare the two as I ate my meal. And, I have to tell you, Vellum definitely won that battle in my mind.

We had dinner at the tail end of happy hour, so I was able to sneak in a cocktail at happy hour prices. I had a Negroni, which I really like and always tend to order when I see it on a cocktail menu. I thought this drink was quite strong, but I tend to be a lightweight drinker, so take my opinion here with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it was tasty!

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I ordered the Walleye, with onion broth, shallot, brandade, and apple. I really enjoyed this fish, especially the touches of apple. The presentation of the dish seemed a bit random and scattered, but still sorta fun:

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I also got a side of cornbread, which was the only letdown of my meal. There were little touches of maple in it, but overall I thought the cornbread wasn’t too flavorful. I think I’d try a different side next time.

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Overall, I enjoyed my first foray to Vellum! I’d definitely go back, and I’d especially like to return for a happy hour and sample more cocktails.

Fellow Ann Arborites (Ann Arborians?), have you been to Vellum? If so, what did you think?

The Details: Vellum | 209 South Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 | 734.929.4929

Easter Brunch at Lexington Brass

I know Easter was a few weekends ago, but it’s never too late to discuss chicken and waffles, so let’s talk Easter brunch in NYC. We made our brunch reservations fairly late (and by “we,” I mean my negligent sister who was entrusted with this task, tsk tsk), so none of our first choice spots had openings. We ended up at Lexington Brass, which was an easy ten block walk from our hotel, and it was a pretty good choice. Or, at least, I enjoyed my meal – I think my family was a bit less jazzed about the items they selected.

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Lexington Brass offers a fixed price menu for Easter Brunch, but I didn’t really like any of the fixed price options and opted to order from the normal menu instead. I went with a splurge choice (it was a holiday, and I was on vacation!) and selected chicken and waffles (and a Bellini, of course). The waffles were really, really tasty – particularly the syrup that came with them. Good choice on my part, I must say:

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As for everyone else, I didn’t sample their meals, but from their comments, they were pretty much your standard issue breakfast/brunch items – that is to say, fine, but nothing special. At restaurants, I always see what other people get and feel like I ordered wrong, so this may be the first time in history I wound up with the best meal. Anyway, here’s a peek at what everyone else got. Starting at my chicken and waffles and going clockwise, we have: my sister’s frittata, my mom’s granola and eggs, my dad’s pancakes, and my best friend’s waffles:

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We also shared an order of truffle fries for the table. These were nice and crispy, and very flavorful:

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After brunch, we realized we had a bunch of time to kill before the musical that we were going to see (Once) started. We decided to grab dessert somewhere and randomly wound up at Taina Cafe. We were literally the only people in the place, which immediately made me question our choice, but we ordered tres leches cake to share and it was actually pretty good (and, if nothing else, nicely presented):

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And that was our Easter Sunday. Coming up next: my last Easter-in-NYC post, covering our afternoon seeing Once on Broadway. Spoiler alert: it’s an incredible musical and everyone should go.

The Details:

Lexington Brass | 517 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10017 | 212.392.5976

Taina Cafe | 134 E 48th St, New York, NY 10017 | 212.421.1116

Brunching at Cafe Zola

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Every time I have brunch at Zola, I wonder to myself if Ann Arbor thinks this is the only restaurant available in town for weekend brunch – it’s always insanely crowded. Even with a reservation, you have to fight your way through the hordes of people and wind up waiting for a while in the jam-packed entryway.

But once I finally make it to the table, I remember why everyone is there – because the food is pretty damn tasty. Also pretty tasty? The drinks. And when you’re brunching with your Instagram-obsessed friends, it’s perfectly acceptable to push together everyone’s drinks in the center of the table and take a photo because the colors look pretty. Perfectly acceptable. Trust me on this one.

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By the way, my drink was a lovely Kir Royale, but my friends forced me to try the Bloody Mary against my will. And I would like to take this moment to ask: am I the only person on planet earth who cannot stand Bloody Marys? I am told that the look on my face after I sipped the drink was priceless. Yuck.

For my meal, I chose the smoked salmon bagel and it was quite delicious. I have a mild – or major – smoked salmon obsession, and it shows no signs of abating any time soon:

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The cool thing about Zola is that, even after visiting a few times, there are still so many things on the menu I want to try. I mean, I’ve never had any of their fancy waffles or crepes, which seems like an oversight on my part. I guess I’ll just have to make a return visit…

The Details: Cafe Zola | 112 W Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 | 734.769.2020

Lunch at Lena

I had dinner at Lena last fall and I must admit…I was not that impressed. The food was fine but, in my opinion, pretty overpriced for what you got. In fact, the most impressive thing to me about the restaurant was the space itself; it’s amazing how transformed it is from its days as a rundown Greek restaurant. Lena looks very cool and modern – I love the ambiance there.

Despite my lackluster first experience, I decided to give Lena another try, this time for lunch. I enjoyed my culinary experience much more this time around. My working hypothesis is that, since Lena is a new-ish restaurant here in Ann Arbor, perhaps it just needed a little time to come into its own. Plus, if I’m being honest – I found the prices more reasonable at lunch, which always makes the food taste a tiny bit better, right?

I started with a side Fresh Market Salad. This was the least special part of my meal – it was pretty much your standard salad. The dried cherries were tasty, though:

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We got Plantain Tostones for an appetizer – and while these don’t look that pretty, they were fantastic. I’d definitely order these again:

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For my entree, I got the Fish Tacos, which were delicious. I tend to order fish tacos whenever they’re an option on a menu, and these didn’t disappoint:

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This lobster salad sandwich wasn’t my entree, but doesn’t it look tasty? I had major entree envy:

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So, Lena, you have redeemed yourself in my eyes – and I will probably be back soon.

The Details: Lena | 226 S Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 | 734.994.2773

Girl & the Goat

I had a handful of restaurants that were on my “must visit” list while in Chicago this summer, and at the very top of those was the Girl and the Goat. I wanted to go because 1) The owner, Stephanie Izzard, was on Top Chef, 2) She won Top Chef, 3) She was the first (and only) female to win Top Chef, and 4) She is a Michigan alum. So, basically, she’s awesome and why wouldn’t you want to eat at her restaurant?

I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who wanted to dine at Girl and the Goat; I attempted to make a reservation back in June shortly before I went to Chicago, only to find out that you had to book much further in advance. So, instead, I wound up making a reservation then for August; Girl and the Goat was to be my farewell meal in the city.

It was worth the wait. I really enjoyed the meal; all the dishes felt unique and innovative, not to mention the fact that they use locally-sourced ingredients. I would highly recommend the restaurant and I can’t wait to go back myself – the menu changes frequently, so I’m sure it would be fun to go back and see what’s new. In any case, here’s what we had:

We started with a bread basket (with very tasty bread and butter). The really important thing in this picture, however, is the goat napkin ring. Cute detail!

I chose a “Best of Three” as my cocktail: vodka, Pimm’s, cucumber, and lime. It’s pretty much guaranteed that if there’s a cocktail on the menu with Pimm’s in it, I will choose it.

Girl & the Goat’s menu is divided into three sections: vegetables, fish, and meats. We ordered three items from the vegetable menu, two from the fish, and one from the meat. First up from the veggie menu was a kohlrabi salad, which was tasty but led me to conclude that kohlrabi is not really my jam.

Tempura soft shell crab with sweet corn elote (no idea what elote is, but the corn was fantastic):

Pan fried shisito peppers:

Chickpea fritters:

Wood-fired Walter’s Chicken with fried pickles (the sauce on the chicken was delicious, and the fried pickles were yummy, albeit guilt-inducing):

Wild striped bass with grilled eggplant and garlic hazelnuts:

We ordered two desserts. The first was my mom’s pick – sweet corn and peaches with brown butter gelato and spiced caramel corn. I love the idea of caramel corn on a dessert; it’s brilliant, right?

And this was my choice: the magic chocolate shell with watermelon granita and royaltine. Never heard of royaltine? Neither had I, but it’s amazing – I can only describe it as chocolatey-cookie-crunchy goodness. I also found watermelon and chocolate to be an unexpectedly wonderful combination:

Doesn’t that look good? The perfect end to a meal, for sure.

The Details: Girl and the Goat | 809 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.492.6262