One of my favorite things about the French is that they tend to be well-rounded: The French dress fashionably, travel, read a ton, keep abreast of politics and quite famously, eat well.
Collectively I’ve spent about a year and a half living with French families so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about French home-cooking. But returning to Paris this year reminded me of so many French eating habits I have yet to work into my daily life.
While there are many French food customs I’ll never get on board with- like oeufs en gelée (blergh) and small, sweet breakfasts, there are others, like a salad with every meal and good wine that I’m more than behind.
*Note- not every French person or family does these things, these are just food customs I’ve observed personally.
A Salad with every meal
Salad is truly an art form in France. In fact I never liked salad until I lived there.
When I lived in France, I made a simple green salad every day to accompany the main dish at dinner. I loved how it wasn’t a question- at dinner you always have baguette, and you always have salad.
You start with fresh, butter lettuce that you wash and dry with a salad spinner three times. It’s usually from the farmer’s market and speckled with dirt so it’s important to wash thoroughly!
Then you always, always, always make the vinaigrette from scratch. (I’ve never even seen bottled dressing in France!) Here’s my recipe.
And voilà, you have a delicious salade verte!
Yogurt after every meal
After dinner in France we would bring out an assortment of yogurts: mousse au chocolat, lemon and strawberry, among other flavors. In my opinion, yogurt is the perfect low-key, weekday dessert, and boasts plenty of health benefits as well.
Sadly, this is one French food tradition I sadly won’t be replicating in America as American yogurt is sugary, processed and terrible for you. You might as well just eat half a candy bar.
Also, if you’re ever in France, the above yogurt, Fjord, is the yogurt of dreams: thick, tangy, creamy, addictive. As in like worth smuggling through US customs.
Interestingly enough, there’s actually no viable English translation for apéro dinatoire! Cocktail party with snacks? Drinks and finger food?
Essentially an apéritif dinatoîre is when you invite guests over to drink and snack on an assortment of hors d’oeuvres. You don’t “officially” serve a meal so it’s not a dinner party; it’s more of a casual, often weekday gathering that lasts late into the night.
(Fun fact- did you know no one says hors d’oeuvres in France? It’s an antiquated word.)
Gougères, or cheese puffs, I made for an apéritif dinatoîre last year. They’re surprisingly super hard to make- this was my third batch!
Sparkling water always makes me feel kind of fancy. Plus, if you’re trying to cut out pop, it’s a healthy carbonated alternative.
Always using a tablecloth
Another thing that makes me feel a little more put-together? A tablecloth. The French never sit down to eat without one.
Epic, five-course dinner parties on the regular
Oh god. French dinner parties are so much work yet so worth it. Here’s the drill:
1. Decorate your house beautifully, with a fresh tablecloth, flowers, chic stemware and your best china. Your best china isn’t just for holidays- it’s also for impressing your guests. And turn on some music!
2. Wait for your guests to arrive- they’re always a little late. Once they arrive greet them with a kiss and serve them hors d’oeuvres and cocktails (kind of like an apéro dinatoire but with a lot less food).
And don’t forget to thank them for their gift, usually a bottle of wine or flowers. In France it’s rude to show up empty-handed.
3. Sit down to the table for the first course (entrée in French. Yep, it’s backwards from English!)
4. Serve the main course. It is imperative for everyone to rave about the food- in France people talk a lot about food. Points for serving more exotic dishes like tagine or goulash.
5. Serve the cheese course. Ideally you will have at least 3-4 room-temperature cheeses on a plate- here’s my guide on how to serve a good cheese course.
5. Serve dessert. Also, this isn’t a throwaway course- it’s a lot of work. Ideas: financier with a berry coulis, omelette norwegienne, a poached pear in a salted butter caramel sauce.
6. Serve coffee.
7. Chat about politics/sex/family life until as late as three a.m., serving up plenty of wine.
8. Wake up mildly hungover and wash about 8,000 dishes. Each of those courses had a fresh plate, remember?
Buying good wine
Once I grow up (ha) I vow to never buy Yellowtail again- good wine is worth paying extra for, in my book. Unfortunately, good wine in the states is pricey, but in France you can pick up a decent bottle from 3-5 euros!
Also, someday I will have a badass wine cellar like my host dad in France with a gravel floor and a million wine bottles. #seriously
Ah, I love a good farmers market, especially in France. Most French farmers markets are open two-three days a week, and serve up all the good stuff: charcuterie, seafood, cheese and fresh produce.
Um I think if I mention one more picnic on my blog you are all going to kill me, but really- I never have them in the states. Picnics=the best.
A cheese course before dessert
Eating healthy on the weekdays and indulging on weekends
This is one healthful custom I’ve observed in France. The French often eat simple foods during the week, and on the weekends indulge in pastries for breakfast, barbecues for dinner and sinful desserts. It’s the perfect mix of abstinence and indulgence.
Omelets for dinner
I’ve actually never seen anyone in France eat an omelet for breakfast! But we did often eat them for dinner with chives and other fines herbes on top. Yum!
More cheese and butter in my life
And especially more goat’s cheese.
My actual favorite food in the world. Also it kills me that this cost literally two euros.
Which French eating habits would you like to adopt?
After my five-week Eurotrip across Italy, Switzerland, England, Wales and Spain, I knew there was one place in Europe I still had to drop by- Paris.
As long-time readers know, I spent a year in Paris working as an au pair, drinking cider on the Seine and becoming the oh-so-clichéd American expat in Paris. I made a lot of close friends during that year, both French and foreign, so I knew I had to pay them, as well as the city I called home, a visit.
My week in Paris felt… exceedingly normal. A friend even commented, “Honestly, it feels like you just never left and still live here!”
And as I remembered, there is nothing like spring in Paris. Between the pollarded trees and the plentiful picnics, a huge part of me just wanted to say, “Forget the rest of the world trip! I’m not leaving!”
Here’s how I spent my week in Paris.
The view from my friend’s apartment! Pas mal !
As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s visit to Europe was all about seeing friends. And see friends I did, from picnicking in Parc Monceau and the Bois de Vincennes to partying until the dawn in Oberkampf and getting a ride home on a French guy’s motorcycle. Let’s just say not much had changed.
While some nights I crashed at “The Cupboard”, my friend’s shoebox apartment, I spent most of the week with my friend Vens at his place in Puteaux. Vens was an excellent host, and we spoke about 80% French- exactly what I needed to brush up!
A weeknight picnic in the Bois de Vincennes with my former au pair family. Ah, just look at those rillettes!
Pre-gaming on the Seine like old times. Though I have to say, the Seine’s a lot busier in summer!
Picnicking and painting nails in Parc Monceau on my last day in Paris. Wahhh.
New Sites Around Paris
Although I tried my damndest, somehow I still have not seen all of Paris’ sites. So this year I checked a few more of my list: Sainte-Chapelle, a tiny Gothic chapel, the Promenade Plantée, a railroad track turned park, and Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris.
Thoughts? I loved both Sainte-Chapelle and the Promenade Plantée but would give Musée Carnavalet a miss.
And on my next visit I still need to see the Picasso Museum and the Catacombes. Good God there are way too many tourist attractions in Paris.
Views from the Promenade Plantée
Sainte-Chapelle’s famed stained glass
Paying Saint-Germain-en-Laye a Visit
I couldn’t very well visit Paris and not stop by the town where I lived, now could I? I popped over to Saint-Germain-en-Laye to visit my au pair family and was pleased to see not much has changed. The château still stands proud next to the métro, the rôtisserie chicken still turn in the streets and the teenaged girls are still rocking the I’m-so-effortlessly-thin-and-gorgeous-I-don’t-even-have-to-brush-my-hair look.
I can’t help but miss my snooty but stunning little town.
Eating French Food
While in Paris, I ahem, attempted eat light- did you see what I scarfed down in England and Spain? I still made room for lots of my Parisian favorites: duck confit, gâteau basque, baguette, my favorite yogurt ever and steak frites with a glass of red wine.
And although I’m far from a pastry lover, one morning I even had pain au chocolat. Because, Paris.
Cardiac arrest-inducing duck confit with potatoes and salad. Why are salads in France SO delicious?
Gâteau basque with a pistachio filling
The obligatoire pain au chocolat
Discovering My New Favorite Bar
While I admit I filled my week with lots of unblog-worthy things, this one is worth sharing!
Blog readers, meet Café de l’Industrie. If Hemingway were still alive, this is where he would hang. From the neo-colonial décor to the inexpensive wines by the glass, it’s everthing you want in a Parisian café/bar/restaurant.
Overall writing this post and seeing these photos makes me sad- I have no idea when I’ll next see Paris, a city where I’ve made some of my fondest memories. But I’d like to think I’ll be back soon enough- there’s too much calling me back not to visit.
Have you ever returned to a place where you lived abroad? What was it like?
Thank you to Vens, Laura and Rach for letting me crash! Come visit soon!
At the age of 22, I spent a glorious petite année in Paris. I truly had the time of my life which may have had something to do with Paris’ fantastic bar and club scene.
So when Momondo asked me to become a ‘local ambassador’ for Paris and share my favorite local haunts I thought there was no time like the present to finally share my favorite after-dark spots!
I find tourists often overlook Paris’ nightlife- which, it turns out, is on par with many other European capitals.
Rather than recommend specific bars, I want to highlight Paris’ top nightlife districts. And just for the record I’m more a fan of late-night bars than clubs, and I normally head to places where you don’t have to pay cover. (Yep, I was the quintessential broke au pair. No shame.)
So without further ado, I give you all of my favorite places to party in Paris.
How to get there: (Boulevard Poissonnière, metro stop Grand Boulevards)
Grands Boulevards is a hopping 9th arrondissement neighborhood with many large, multi-level bars and clubs lining Boulevard Poissonnière in Paris’ (a large percentage happen to be Irish pubs, for some unknown reason). Grands Boulevards is a great place to meet both expats and locals, and due to the proximity of all the clubs it’s easy to bar-hop there.
Tip- if you’re in Grands Boulevards during the day there are many beautiful 19th century arcades around such as Passage Jouffroy and La Galerie Vivienne.
How to get there: (Rue Oberkampf, metro stop Parmentier or Oberkampf)
Oberkampf is my absolute favorite place in Paris for a night out. It’s filled with trendy, mid-size bars big enough to dance in but intimate enough you can always find your friends. From top hits pop music at Café Charbon to sultry, jazz-dancing at L’Alimentation Générale, Oberkampf has a range of late-night dance spots frequented by a more mature crowd than Bastille or Grands Boulevards.
How to get there: (Rue de Lappe, metro stop Bastille or Ledru-Rollin)
Looking for a rowdy, early-twenty something party scene? Welcome to Bastille. On the Rue de Lappe the music is loud, the drinks are strong and the crowd is young, boisterous and slightly douchey. If you steer clear of Rue de Lappe you can find more grown-up spots like Barrio Latino- but be warned, the drinks are obscenely over-priced!
During the warmer months, the Seine is the ideal place to pre-game, socialize and practice your French. While I wouldn’t spend the entire night there, I would definitely head there around 10 p.m. with a few bottles of cider and a whole bunch of friends. Head to the quay near Notre Dame- it’s always bustling!
Important tips for going out in Paris:
The metro closes at 2 p.m. best it’s best to get there around 1:30 a.m., some lines close earlier than others. You can also take the Noctilien, Paris’ night bus.
Parisians dress fairly sharp when they go out but you still don’t need six-inch stilettos. (I used to wear booties or black suede boots- no dancing ’til dawn in painful heels for me!)
Pre-drink hard. In Paris drinks are expensive, at around eight euros a cocktail. They add up quickly!
Don’t feel ashamed if you indulge in a late-night Nutella sandwich… (It happens to the best of us.)
or a hangover-curing McDonalds feast the next morning.
On a final note this is basically the French version of my friends and I on a night out in Paris:
Where are your favorite places to party in Paris?
Psst! I’m now listed on bloglovin‘ so if you use a blog reader please follow me there!
After a year of thoroughly exploring the Paris restaurant scene, there was still one gaping hole in my virtual foodie CV- going out for a fancy meal. So for my last lunch in Paris, I headed to Pierre Sang with my Paris-based PIC, Edna.
And in the spirit of going all out on my last day in city, we opted for the 35-euro five-course menu. When in Paris, right? (more…)
So as y’all may have read I’m now 23! But I did want to tell you about the wonderful birthday party I had last week in Paris.
After a year of living with a host-family in France, I was seriously missing being able to host dinner parties. (I love dinner parties.) So when my good friends generously lent me their house for the weekend and okayed a dinner party at their place, I invited over my scant remaining friends in Paris and started cooking.
My French friends’ gorgeously designed abode
After an early-morning trip to the farmer’s market in town (how French!), I spent the rest of the day preparing my birthday menu and trying not to sweat to death. This year my birthday, July 21, fell smack-dab in the middle of a ninety-degree heat wave in a country that rarely has air-conditioning. Yay.
Once the guests arrived we raised a few obligatory toasts, after which I requested that we pray. Though I’m not a religious person, during my nine months in Europe I had never once held hands at the table and prayed. And I have to say, it felt good to send some thanks up to the heavens- I really do have so much to be thankful for!
For the main course I prepared Ina Garten’s lemon chicken with croutons, and as usual Ina didn’t let me down at all… it was tasty! With the chicken I served a butter lettuce salad with shallot vinaigrette, the same one I make everyday in France.
My lovely friends who made it to the party.
As the soundtrack of Manu Chao, Gotan Project and Jacques Brel played on, I served up the cheese course: salers, bleu d’auvergne and chèvre.
We finished off the meal with a super-simple financier, or almond cake which I paired with a home-made apricot sauce. While I love cooking, I hate baking so I make this easy cake every time I have a dinner party.
While my other friends left to catch the last metro, Edna stayed over for a mojito nightcap and some late-night girl talk.
And when the couple who let me borrow the house came back from vacation, we had a lovely laughter-filled dinner out on the terrace. Then my favorite French couple gifted me a beautiful shamrock necklace, which they said was “to bring you luck on your travels.” So sweet.
And while a small dinner party was quite a departure from last year’s birthday celebrations, it was exactly what I wanted.
What do you like to do for your birthday?
Despite the utter lack of air-conditioning, Paris is a wonderful city in the summer. From the white-sand beaches on the Seine to the irresistible summer sales, there’s always something to pique your interest in the sunnier months.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite ways to beat ze ‘eat. (See what I did there?) (more…)
After spending a year lunching in the city of lights, I’d like to say I know my way around the food scene pretty well. Here are my nine favorite lunch spots in Paris that I visit again and again and where I send friends and family who plan to visit the city. (more…)
Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet, commemorates the end of the monarchy in France and the beginning of a kingless French republic.
For the first time ever, I got to celebrate under the “bleu, blanc et rouge” of my adopted home country, and take part in the trifecta that makes up Bastille Day weekend: the Firemen’s Ball on Saturday night, the Military Parade on Sunday morning and the fireworks on Sunday night. (Well um… I actually didn’t end up going to the military parade but more on that later.)
Like any Frenchman worth his sel, my French host dad loves wine. On any given night we might be uncorking a 1997 Côtes du Rhône or pulling an award-winning Rioja out of the cave à vin. And as someone who once felt that yellow tail was a splurge, I’m not sure I deserve all of this well-aged goodness. (more…)
I have a confession. I didn’t love you at first. And I’m not really sure why. (more…)