A morning discovering favorite local haunts of one of Paris’ star chefs and bakers? Mais oui! Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of doing exactly that, with two star Michelin chef Thierry Marx. Our day began at his new bakery and cafe in the 8th arrondissement, La Boulangerie. After tasting a few of Marx’ many sweet specialties, I had a tour of the kitchen where I met the crew and watched them at work, learning a few tricks along the way.
I then hopped into my vintage Citroën 2CV and my beret clad driver navigated his way to our next stop Cafés Verlet, where Marx often drinks (and buys) his coffee. It was there where I tasted various intoxicating brews, both hot and cold, and learned exactly how specialized this family business, originating in the 20th century, really is. It was in 1965 that grandson Pierre Verlet began roasting coffees from all over the world. I even caught a glimpse of his son’s roasting method in their nearby coffee mill.
The next stop was a hidden gallery in Saint-Germain, another of Marx’ favorite haunts. Pause for a little visual stimulation. The last discovery before lunch was gastronomic bouquiniste Alain Suchet, his bookstand on display along the banks of the Seine. It is here where Thierry Marx acquires vintage cookbooks to add to his collection. With so many to choose from, I could have spent all afternoon browsing!
For lunch I dined haute couture style at the Mandarin Oriental’s Sur Measure. It is here at Thierry Marx’ two Michelin star restaurant, where he “blends the technical and emotional aspects of cooking with sight, sound and taste.” What an experience, from the amuse bouche to the dessert. Emotional to say the least!
To find out more about Thierry Marx’ favorite spots to shop, dine and explore in the French capital, pick up a copy of Paris Marx Saveurs Capitale (in French). If you’re planning a trip to Paris, you can experience ‘Paris by Marx’ with a stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Find out more in my feature in France Today.
For those living outside of France, or even for many of those on the inside, what does it really feel like to dine with the vrai français? How do the French dine, what do they serve and with which formalities, what do their homes look like? Personally, I’m lucky to have a few dear French friends who have graciously opened their homes to me. But I still often wonder what secrets are discovered at these French dinners.
By the clever collaboration of Renaud Maigne who often traveled for work and was tired of dining alone, “The thing we remember the most is the personal exchange we’ve had with the locals who tell you about their country and traditions.”, and Matthieu Heslouin who wanted to make the foreign dining experience accessible to all, “Thematic dinners are as numerous as the passions of the hosts. To each his own dinner! Or in French, à chacun son dîner!” Thus VoulezVousDîner was born! Dinner parties for all to attend, all around the world.
I was eager to attend one of these Paris dinners, and chose Diner Concert Chez Sacha. Gourmet dinner followed by a piano concert? Yes please! My Italian and I arrived first, how very un-French of us, and we became acquainted with our lovely host Sasha and her friend Carl, who generously poured the champagne. Another French couple arrived and we were seated at a table set with plates designed by Sacha herself. Before the food was even served, I was impressed!
Once dinner began we all became well acquainted and shared various musings on life in Paris, both from the perspective of locals and foreigners, while Sacha told us all about her history with cooking and her passion for pottery. Each course was creatively inspired, delicious and plentiful, paired with select wines and ending with dessert… and cheese bien sûr!
To end the evening, Sacha performed a few piano pieces as we sipped on a digestif. It was certainly a night to remember! Looking forward to my next VoulezVousDîner, in Paris or elsewhere.
It seems that every day another hotspot is opening up in the Marais. New bars and restaurants around every corner. What about those that remain? Does anyone frequent the old haunts?
Le Bougnat is a restaurant I walked by almost every day, and often I wondered what when on in there (and who ate there), discreetly positioned on rue de Saintonge just steps away from trendy rue de Bretagne. One night my Italian and I decided to find out.
Much to our surprise the place was bustling, it was Friday night after all. There were young and old, mingling at the bar, filling up both small dining rooms… In their jovial manner, I could tell many of them were regulars.
Seated next to an elderly French couple, we quickly found out they were regulars. They advised us on what to order, all of the dishes being traditionally French. Somehow through the dinner our tables were pushed together and the next 3 hours were spent in conversation. If felt much like being in a small village far away from Paris. How friendly and hospitable everyone was!
After dinner we had a digestif with our new friends. Learning that this brasserie had been in Paris for many decades and was quite a hotspot (and still is) to those who knew the Marais before the term bobo was even invented. May it remain there for decades to come!
Le Bougnat is located at 28 rue de Saintonge and is open only on Friday and Saturday.
A surprise dinner? Yes, please! I’ll try almost anything once. (Pigs ears in Spain, bone marrow sucked through a straw in China, Yak in Tibet, lardo in Italy…) Obviously I’m a great fan of adventurous eating. When my equally adventurous Italian recently planned a surprise dinner, telling me it was more of a concept, I was intrigued. Would we be dining in the dark, eating with our hands… I could not make sense of it considering we were in Paris, a culinary capital.
My curiosity grew while we wandered Place de la Madeleine. Until we reached the passage.
Le Passage to be exact. Through the door and up the stairs…
Here we discovered a restaurant with a menu unlike any other. Hidden above the famous gastronomic Senderens restaurant is this experience and experiment in taste. There is no menu, thus no decisions to be made. Here is where the culinary adventure begins. Your dinner is based upon the whim of the chef, whatever he decides to test for the main restaurant, with each table trying different dishes, some of which may end up on the menu. Four courses of unique gastro-dining for less than 40€ (add a good bottle of wine bien sûr) et voilà, surprise dinner is served!