Saturday, October 6, 2012

Restaurant, Cafe, Brasserie, Bistro | Paris Travel

Our Silver Paris

Welcome to my Paris travel journal,
where I share our experiences of a special journey to Paris.
Please use these posts as a guide
for your own travels to this amazing and wonderful city!
Or simply sit, read, and dream...

I never did (and still don't) understand why one is called a café and another a restaurant, or brasserie or bistro, for that matter.  But they're all there in Paris, and you see them on almost every corner--and in between, too!  There are so many places to eat, whether you want a full-scale meal, or simply to sit, sip an espresso and people-watch.

The best I can tell, here are some of the differences between places in Paris to grab a bite to eat or even a full meal.

A brasserie serves food all day and evening, and some are open all night. Their typically Alsatian origins are reflected in the food usually served at these places--sausage, saurkraut, beer, etc.

A bistro is like a cafe/bar where lunch and dinner are served, and just drinks in between.

A café serves light meals (omelette, sandwiches) and coffee, bar drinks, and also a typical French petit dejeuner (breakfast).  We began our first day's walk with a small lunch at the below café.

Café de Florés in St. Germain.

Croque madame at Café de Florés in St-Germain.

One note about Fernando's sandwich above:  a croque monsieur is basically a grilled cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce, yum.  To make it a croque madame, serve a fried egg on top.  Major yum.

Finally, restaurants are open for lunch, then close to get ready for dinner. You usually order more of a full meal here, not just a snack or a dessert.  We found that most are open from noon until 2:00pm, then from 8:00-10:30pm, give or take an hour or two on each side.  :)

La Petite Chaise, the oldest restaurant in Paris.

A restaurant in le Marais district

Here are two little stories--with pictures--about meals we ate at restaurants in Paris.  Enjoy!

Our Anniversary Meal

On our anniversary, we took our own self-guided walking tour from the Louvre to l'Arc de Triomphe.  Once we were on l'avenue Champs-Élysées, we were both famished.  Fortunately, restaurants usually place their menu at the entrance.  We figured if I, with my very basic French skills, could figure out what they were serving, we would eat there.  The first restaurant we came along looked contemporary, and didn't appeal to me.  I picked out just one or two words on their menu, so we kept walking.  We didn't have to walk far.  The next restaurant we came upon looked inviting, I could understand a lot of the menu, and we stepped inside.

The server handed us our menus, and I was pleasantly surprised by two things.  First, the name of the restaurant, which we hadn't even noticed!

For our 25th anniversary meal!

Second, the menus were in both French and English!  Located on avenue Champs-Élysées, they probably realized the wisdom of a bilingual menu.  :)

I wish I had written down the French for what we ordered, but photos will have to suffice.  I felt a little strange at taking pictures, but Fernando gave the go-ahead, so I went ahead.  :)

So you're not confused, here is the French:

L'Entrée -- appetizer
Le plat -- main dish
Le dessert -- dessert

L'entrée (appetizer) -- fresh mozzarella cheese with freshly sliced tomatoes and basil,
drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Le plat (main dish) -- Fernando ordered the Chateaubriand.

Le plat (main dish) -- I ordered fish on a bed of leeks, with tomato and olive garnish.

Every dish is a work of art, masterfully presented.  The appetizer was beautiful to simply look at!  I could have died happy after eating just that.  But, I also especially loved dessert, which we shared.

Le dessert -- Crème brulée waffles with pistachio ice cream.

My birthday meal

On my birthday, we started the day by wandering around le Marais with our trusty walking guide book in hand.  After a lovely morning filled with delightful discoveries--a cobblestone merchants' street, a  city park, a farmers market, and a flea market--we found ourselves on rue Paul-Bert with three restaurants to choose from.  The Little Black Book of Paris recommended all three.  We walked into one, but they were packed and asked for reservations.  We wandered back to this one below.

It looked almost empty, with no one sitting at the two little tables outside.

We decided to go on in, and a friendly waiter greeted us in French.  There was only one other person--a businessman--at the indoor tables, but the waiter slid a table out so I could get to the seat behind, and we were ready to eat.  We counted seating for only about 18 people inside, so this would be cozy.  Fernando shook his head when I asked about taking food pictures, but he helped me write down everything we ordered.  English was definitely not spoken at this little restaurant, and my pocket French dictionary was no help at all, so we were on our own.  How fun!

The waiter leaned the large menu placard against the counter area near us, and we set about looking up words and ordering.  This was a prix fixé menu, which meant that for one price, we could order one appetizer or one main, plus dessert; for a second price, we could order an appetizer and a main; or we could order a la carte, meaning just one of the items.  The placard listed two items in each category--very different from a typical American restaurant!

~     ~     ~

Le Temps au Temps

("The Time of Times" or "The Season of Seasons")

crème de haricot blanc (froide)

(cold cream of white bean soup)
suprème de poulet jaune, pilaf d'épicure

(chicken with a pilaf of barley and grains)

roulé à la rhubarbe et masqué chocolat blanc
tiramisu au café

 (rhubarb-filled cake roll with a white chocolate ganache)
(layered tiramisu served in a glass coffee cup)

~     ~     ~

Once again, we were not disappointed.  The bean soup was simple, beautifully presented, and amazingly delicious.  The chicken was tender and the barley flavorful.  Finally, nothing needs to be said about dessert--I ordered one, Fernando ordered the other, and we shared.  Sigh.  :)

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  1. What an amazing trip... your meals look delicious!

  2. Sounds like you had a great time and some very yummy things to eat. I usually ask Paul about taking pictures at different places before I pull out my camera. :)