I’ve been on hiatus for way too long – doing everything but writing blog posts.I’m looking back at my date book: it’s all marked up with blue, red, black – even some purple to keep different going-ons in order. Can I blame it on springtime in Paris? The weather is not condusive to being good (i.e going home and doing what I’m supposed to be doing), nor are all the activities and other diversions around town. Among the most memorable readings I’ve attended recently are those of Amy Tan and Nicole Krauss, at Village Voice Bookshop. Both are authors I’ve admired for years and am glad to have heard speak. Sébastien and I also checked out the Musée des arts et métiers, where we saw a demonstration of the Foucault pendulum. We’d already seen the one displayed at the Panthéon, but it’s always impressive to watch a device made to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. I also spent a couple weeks in Bordeaux with family where we discovered laundry soap made from ashes. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking – how do ashes clean clothes? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? It’s not only environmentally friendly, it actually works – really well! Check out the 100% Gironde website for more info. Honestly, I swear by it now.
I’ve also been on the hunt for the best brunch in Paris. Being American, I grew up eating Sunday brunch, so I’m glad to see it’s now becoming popular in France. One big difference: restaurants in Paris often serve a fixed brunch menu with a more than ample combination of eggs, meats, pancakes or french toast, fruit, yogurt, cheeses, cakes, breads, coffee, juice – even wine! I don’t know about New York, but in New Mexico, we usually choose à la carte. I’d order eggs Benedict or pancakes, for example – not both at the same time. I also don’t remember ever paying more than about 15 dollars, max. In Paris, breakfast is reasonable, but brunch is more expensive. On average, it seems to run from 20 to 30 euros. Oh yeah, another difference: the fried eggs in France are only cooked on one side and are… can I say… slimy? There’s no “over medium”, so I opt for scrambled. This said, I really enjoy brunch in Paris and am certainly having fun putting restaurants to the test:
24, rue Caulaincourt 75018 Paris
Located in Montmartre, we vote this brunch the best. Offerings: scrambled eggs, breads, cakes, croissants, cheeses and meats, salad, fruit, yogurt, fresh orange juice, good coffee…. Advantages: self-serve, all-you-can-eat, choose what you want. Reasonable fixed price: 17,50 euros. Very fresh and good quality. Friendly staff and fun atmosphere. Disadvantages: no reservations and a long line. Brunch is only served on weekends and holidays. Walking the hills in Montmartre is difficult after this brunch!
Two locations: 4, rue Malher 75004 (Marais) OR 17, rue des Ecoles 75005 (Latin Quarter)
Our pick for the most authentic American breakfast, including the atmosphere and diner-style stools. Greasy eggs, potatoes and toast, pancakes with real maple syrup, omelets, even bagels… Advantages: You may order à la carte or from the special Sunday brunch menu (15,95 euros). Disadvantages: Real American coffee, i.e. “jus de chaussettes” (like I said, it’s the most authentic). No reservations, gets crowded.
24, rue des Abbesses 75018
This is a bakery in Montmartre that proposes a variety of “petits déjeuners”. They range from simple (a hot drink and brioche) to a full-out brunch (Saturday and Sunday only), including eggs, veggies, crepes, even a mini-hamburger and potatoes (19,95 euros). Advantages: You can supplement and add any side to your “petit déjeuner” (scrambled eggs or smoked salmon toasts, for example). Since it’s a bakery, you know the pastries are made on the premises (the brioche was wonderful). Disadvantages: Again, the line.
Four locations in Paris, including: 18, place du Marché St. Honoré 75001 AND 18-20, rue des Archives 75003 (Marais)
This is the spot we’ve been to the most over the years – probably for the variety and the pots of chocolate spread served with breakfast. Only once did we actually go for the full-out brunch because they propose such a nice variety of “petits déjeuners” (from a simple croissant, country bread and a hot drink to one served with a soft-boiled egg, yogurt…). The brunch (23 euros), however, is quite copious and worth it if you’re hungry: fresh breads, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cheeses, smoked salmon, meats, a hot drink, fresh fruit juice… Advantages: Consistent quality. Organic ingredients. Disadvantages: Once again, no reservations and often a wait on weekends.
167, rue Saint-Denis
While I liked the lazy-Sunday atmosphere and the clean, simple decor, I was a bit disappointed with this brunch. It was too expensive for what it was and the eggs (scrambled) were too undercooked – no, that’s not just me being American – they were soup. While Breakfast in America can get away with American coffee (though they do give you the choice to upgrade), this place was too upscale for that. Twinkie does propose a vegan, wheat free brunch with buckwheat bread (14 euros). I was happy to try this, but didn’t feel like it was copious or satisfying enough. Maybe I should have tried the eggs Benedict or a bagel sandwich (I just wasn’t about to pay 21 euros for something I often make at home or 16 euros for a bagel). Advantages: cute decor/atmosphere. Disadvantages: The waiters made too many mistakes and kept forgetting things.
Then, last Sunday, I was walking down streets, eying all sorts of brunch restaurants to try…