Last August I had the very intense pleasure of living in the heart of Paris for the month while studying French. Friends to whom I recount these stories most often respond with a phrase akin to “Paris? You must have eaten so well!” While it’s true that I did have some marvelous culinary experiences, the act of finding such pleasures was considerably more difficult than I had anticipated. A great meal in Paris is certainly not guaranteed.
To avoid the disappointment of too many mediocre meals I relied heavily on social media. I read blogs, followed Twitter influencers based in Paris, and downloaded apps. The dialogue around Paris’s food scene was fascinating and addictive. There truly is something to suit all tastes, if you do a bit of research. I read about a crop of French-inspired bistros imparting their own modern approach and receiving plenty of accolades for it. Interestingly enough, there is a great deal of buzz around restaurants led by American or British chefs.
August is the month when most Parisians take les vacances, including the owners and staff of many cafes, bakeries and restaurants. This made for several disappointments when, after trekking for blocks on the hot summer sidewalks, I’d find that the bakery I’d specifically sought out was “en vacances.” There was rarely a reopening date posted. One pâtisserie in my neighbourhood had me reduced to walking by daily hoping to catch a sign of business returning.
Luckily others who shared my desires posted online when some of these top bakeries opened, so with lucky timing I was able to dine at a couple of the establishments that were finding love in the online reviews. Frenchie’s, under direction of Executive Chef/Owner Gregory Marchand, was making repeated appearances in a variety of blogs. With its tapas style service and communal seating, it had a palpable good-time vibe with well-executed plates with layers of flavours. And it would’ve been hard to avoid the Twitter chatter about Cantine California. Food trucks — like everywhere else it seems — are becoming increasingly popular in Paris and these dudes had it down to a science. Their tacos and burgers were worth the Twitter stalking to find them, and the line-ups indicated everyone else agreed.
By the end of my time in France I had a running list of food “must-sees” in my head. The Albion, near my hotel, had to be my last meal in Paris. The praise I’d read was warranted. It remains a stand-out meal from my six months in Europe. While making my reservations in French the owner let me know that both he and the chef were British. With the warm atmosphere, excellent wine pairings, and impeccably flavoured courses (I finished with a squeal-inducing brownie and chili infused ice cream), it was the magical end to my trip.
The online community’s value wasn’t just for selecting dining locations however. I questioned some experienced expats after receiving odd looks when I would proclaim “je suis excitée!” to my server. I soon discovered that I was not conveying my pleasure in the food, but was declaring that more than my taste buds were aroused. Providing clarity on that was yet another reason to thank the world of social media.
Having recently returned from Europe, Emily Chandler has a full case of the travel bug but happily resides in Stratford. Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Chandler