My brother was born a foodie. Back before anyone was labeling themselves as such, he was one. While the rest of us “normal” elementary-school aged kids were requesting peanut butter and jelly, or perhaps the standard turkey sandwich, David was asking my mom to make him chicken cutlet sandwiches every day for lunch with a side of French dressing for dipping. He loved Idaho potatoes, boiled or mashed, and could taste if those spuds didn’t hail from the Gem State. Not only did he enjoy food like most boys do, but he had strong opinions as to what he was chowing down on when it came to mealtime.
Fast forward through school and college. My little brother is no longer little, yet at his core, he’s still that chicken cutlet and Idaho potato-loving gourmand. He lives in Manhattan and has extensive lists of favorite restaurants and ones to try on the horizon. So it should come as no surprise that when he came to visit with his fiancée one last time while we were living in Paris, the food scene was at the top of the to-do list.
To be clear, he didn’t merely say he wanted to try some French food, or eat croissants every morning, like most guests do. He wrote to me expressing the desire to go “belly to the wall.”
If you’re like me, you might not fully grasp the expression. Did he want to eat so much that his belly would extend to the wall? (A huge feat, if you saw my skinny brother.) I was unclear, but I got the jist. We were going to go all out for one last hurrah in Paris.
We had three full days to do it up, and if I say so myself, I think we accomplished our mission. If you’re like David and want some ideas of how to coordinate a foodie extravaganza in Paris, here are some of the places we hit during his visit:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, experts say. So we took caution not to ignore it, and respected the first meal of the day to rev our metabolism for the events to follow.
Du Pain et Des Idées:
While I usually wait to indulge in a morning pastry on the weekend, the festivities called for some mid-week decadence. It made this boulangerie a perfect choice, as it is only open Monday - Friday. Go get one of the “escargot” (because they are round, like a snail’s shell). David and I loved the chocolate pistachio, while Carissa’s favorite was the praline. It’s best to grab breakfast to-go (there is a table just outside if you wish) and walk over a block to the Canal St. Martin. Stake out a bench and watch the boats go by, if you can take your concentration off of the deliciousness before you!
Du Pain et Des Idées | 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France | Open Monday - Friday from 6:45am - 8:00pm
[Pictured above - Left: The chocolate pistachio escargot / Right: David and Carissa parked on the bench and ready for the first bite of the day!]
We only had two mornings for pastry runs (as the first day of their trip, I met up with them in the afternoon), so boulangerie #2 was Blé Sucré. I had read good reviews about Blé Sucré, but it wasn’t until my friend’s mom raved about it that sealed the deal. She’s the cutest Korean lady who would take the Metro every morning by herself when she was in town visiting her daughter because the pain au chocolats were that good.
This boulangerie is known for its pain au chocolat and madeleines. Of course we got both - pastries for breakfast and two bags of madeleines that traveled with us until our evening picnic. There are tables and chairs outside, so you can get pastries and coffee to enjoy beside the Square Armand Trousseau (a small park).
Blé Sucré | 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012 Paris, France | Closed on Mondays
I had been saving some special places to try out for when visitors were in town, and so I jumped on the opportunity to dine at the much-talked about Septime for lunch with my brother.
That statement makes it sound a lot easier than it is. The truth is that getting a reservation at Septime is a very difficult task. Reservations open up exactly three weeks before the date in question, at exactly 12am (Paris-time). There was one day we were able to go here for lunch, so that meant we had only one chance to secure it.
Three months from that Wednesday Michael and I were in London. That meant with the time change, we had to be ready to nab a table at 11pm. Which also meant we were hanging out in one of my favorite places, the Craft Beer Co, on said evening. Michael reminded me that we had to cut out and get back to the hotel’s wifi so we could be ready to pounce on the reservation. I waved him off, saying, “Oh, it won’t really book up for lunch that early.” But he insisted, we got back to the room just at 11pm, and within minutes the place was booked. We couldn’t even get a table for 4, but Michael’s quick thinking decided to try for 5, which worked.
All that to say - it was so worth it! The menu is 30 euros per person with 2-3 options per course (entree, plat, dessert), and they were accommodating to make dishes vegetarian-friendly as well. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s a great deal to try a fantastic restaurant at a great price. It’s my favorite lunch I’ve had in Paris to this day.
Septime | 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France | Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 12:15pm-2:00pm, Dinner: Monday-Friday, 7:30pm-10:00pm
I was a little apprehensive about this whole “belly to the wall” business since it felt like I had been eating with abandon from the beginning of the year, with the excuse that our imminent departure was a carte blanche to eat whatever I wanted. Soon even NYC wasn’t going to have enough kale to redeem my diet woes.
In the spirit of eating excellent food, but with the ability to not have to pig out, I booked our first dinner together at Au Passage (reservations can easily be made online). Au Passage serves food tapas-style, so it’s a great place to go with a few people to try lots of wonderful French dishes, with complete control of how much you want to eat. Start with a few things and feel free to keep ordering - or save some room for dessert! (Small plates range from about €4 to €15, so it won’t make your wallet go belly to the wall either...or would that mean your wallet would be stuffed with crisp bills?)
Au Passage | 1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Paris, France | Closed Sunday, Open Monday-Saturday from 7:00pm-1:30am
Of all the places we ate at, dinner at Spring was our biggest splurge. The set menu was 84 euros per person, not including beverages. As with Septime, it wasn’t a problem to accomodate vegetarians, and booking can be done online (without the precision that Septime entailed, though it probably doesn’t hurt to do it somewhat in advance).
Dinner with fabulous. Every course was delicious, with beautiful presentation. The atmosphere was my favorite part of the experience. We were sitting next to the open kitchen, which provided me with endless entertainment. Unlike some “open” kitchens that separate the diners and kitchen staff with a glass window, this one is truly out in the open. The dessert station was just over Michael’s shoulder, so I enjoyed watching where the finish to the meal was being made - which turned out to be not one, but three desserts!
Other highlights included the manner of how select bottles were opened. A bottle of champagne was popped with the fancy sword-to-cork method. Another bottle, of what appeared to be wine, was clamped with tongs that had been heated by a torch for a few minutes. The sommelier clamped the tongs around the neck of the bottle, and carefully melted it right off. I take it that our bottle wasn’t in the price range that warranted such a unique presentation, though I appreciated the show thanks to our companion diners.
Spring | 6 Rue Bailleul, 75001 Paris, France | Open Tuesday-Saturday from 6:30pm-10:30pm
If you think this three-day pig-out was the end of going “belly to the wall,” you don’t know the half it it! This was all a warm-up for part two - the second half of the visit where we all traveled to Budapest together. More on that for another day though!
Do you have any places (in Paris or in your own city/town perhaps) where you would bring a foodie like my brother looking for a food-filled extravaganza?