Archive for May, 2010

Unusual Apéritifs in Paris

Sunday, May 30th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

In our weekly quest for new restaurants to review, we often order an apéritif to whet our appetites for dinner. We decided some time ago to compose a list of some of the unusual house cocktails that we have tasted, and present a few of them below, most of which are wine-based concoctions.

Stronger stuff can be tasted today and tomorrow at the 3rd annual Cocktails Spirits salon, held at La Maison Rouge art gallery at 10, boulevard de la Bastille in the 12th arrondissement.

Vin Chai Moi’s grapefruit, ginger, and white wine cocktail
© Discover Paris!

Vin Chai Moi cocktail

This handsome restaurant and wine bar in the 1st arrondissement has a surprisingly long and eclectic list of wine cocktails from which to choose. Our favorite is made with white wine flavored with grapefruit and ginger. Though it may look like a frou-frou drink, it is potent!

Vin Chai Moi – 18, rue Duphot – Paris 1è

Kir Birlou

This is a specialty of A Verse Toujours, a café in the 5th arrondissement. It is made with white wine and Birlou, a liqueur from the Cantal region of Auvergne, containing “the flavor of apple and the mystery of chestnut.” This liqueur has been available outside of Auvergne only for the past ten years. “Bir” signifies beer, because the liqueur marries well with this beverage. “Lou” comes from the word “pelou,” which is a colloquialism that evokes the chestnut.

We have not found the delightful Kir Birlou anywhere else to date!

A Verse Toujours – 3, avenue des Gobelins – Paris 5è

Pousse Rapière

This beverage is made from a liqueur called Armagnac Pousse Rapière, composed of macerated orange and Armagnac from the Château de Monluc located in the Gascony region of France. The liqueur is mixed with Vin Sauvage Brut, a sparkling white wine from the same producer. One can substitute other sparkling whites, including champagne, but the wine should be brut (dry). Otherwise, the cocktail will be too sweet.

La Cérisaie, one of our favorite restaurants in the Montparnasse district, first introduced us to this drink. We have also found it at La Tute, in the 1st arrondissement.

La Cérisaie – 70, boulevard Edgar-Quinet – Paris 14è

Le Bon Goût – Our Monthly Restaurant Review

Friday, May 28th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Deborah Brown-Pivain, Proprietor
Gentle Gourmet Bed and Breakfast
(c) Discover Paris!

On the first of each month, we publish a restaurant review, which we call “Le Bon Goût,” for the readers of our Paris Insights newsletter. In it, we not only describe our dining experience, but also write about the chef or the proprietor, and illustrate the review with a photograph of him or her.

We have been reviewing restaurants for many years, and have met many chefs and proprietors who are passionate about the art of preparing great cuisine. By writing about them, we hope that we can communicate their passion to you, their customer.

In this month’s Le Bon Goût, we review a vegetarian establishment called Gentle Gourmet Bed and Breakfast.

Access to the review is available to paid subscribers of our newsletter. To enter a subscription, click here.

The Champs Elysées Goes Green!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

A Forest on the Champs Elysées
(c) Discover Paris!

This past weekend, the upper portion of the Champs Elysées was transformed into veritable ribbon of greenery. Visitors were surrounded by vegetation from forest and farm, and stands on the sidewalk offered a place to adopt a tree – all in honor of 2010 being the year of biodiversity.

Though one was always conscious of being on the “grandest of avenues,” it was still a huge pleasure to enjoy trees and underbrush across from the Drugstore Publicis, and sunflowers and mustard plants across from the Virgin Megastore. From the Arc de Triomphe to the Rond Point, birch, sequoia, and chestnut trees gave way to grapevines, pineapple plants, melon and cabbage patches, and even sugar cane! Attendants were scattered about, ready to provide responses to questions about specific plants and the exposition in general. Signs displaying information about each plant drooped over just as the tips of wheat or other grain stalks would, requiring passersby to reach out and lift them to read them. This was yet another way of interacting with the exhibit.

Children abounded on Sunday afternoon. Everyone was remarkably well behaved, and it was easy to see that the kids were fascinated by the wide variety of plants that were literally within arm’s reach. In one instance, I saw kids standing atop a tree planter, trying to get a bird’s eye view of the avenue.

Cul Noir Sow and Piglets
(c) Discover Paris!

Animals were even brought in to complete the farm motif. A beekeeper had a display of live bees that invited onlookers to identify the queen amidst the swarming insects. Cows and goats peacefully munched their feed, ignoring the crowd. The most delightful sight of the day was a giant “Cul Noir” sow nursing two piglets! Somehow, the mother seemed oblivious to her little ones as they butted their heads against the teats as they hungrily suckled.

According to RTL, over 1.8 million people visited the Champs Elysées on Sunday and Monday – twice as many visitors as the ever-popular Salon de l’Agriculture attracts in a week’s time! There’s no doubt that beautiful weather helped bring out the crowds, but this is still an incredible number of people. The organizers can be proud of an event that was likely successful beyond their expectations, and the visitors can always look back with fondness on the days when the Champs Elysées went green!

Festival France Noire

Friday, May 21st, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

The film festival France Noire – Black France opens today at the Forum des Images located at the Forum des Halles in the heart of Paris. The event has been organized by four university professors, including Arlette Frund (Université de Tours), Trica Danielle Keaton (Vanderbilt University) Tracy Sharpley-Whiting (Vanderbilt University), and Maboula Soumahoro (Université de Tours). It promises to be a rich and rewarding experience, as it treats three important themes: how blacks perceive themselves in France; how they perceive France as a country in which they live; and what kinds of intellectual, cultural, and artistic communities have developed among the black communities there.

We had the honor of being invited to attend a pre-festival reception and screening held at the American ambassador’s residence last night. Two documentary films were shown. The first, entitled Un Siècle de Jenny (directed by Laurent Champonnois and Dederico Nicotre), is a tribute to Martinican singer, actress, and activist Jenny Alpha. The second, entitled Noirs, l’identité au cœur de la question noire (directed by Arnaud Ngatcha), treats the thought-provoking question of how French men and women of African descent perceive themselves in French society.

A film about the African-American experience in Paris in the early part of the 20th century will be shown this evening at 9:00 p.m. Entitled Harlem à Montmartre, it was produced by Dante J. James, a filmmaker from Durham, North Carolina.

La Mariam
By Alexis Peskine

Jazz Festival at Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Jazz Festival at Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Jazz lovers will not want to miss the 10th annual “Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés” this year. The festival offers two full weeks of entertainment from May 16th through 30th, with concerts scheduled every day and free photo expositions that highlight several aspects of this musical genre in Paris and New York.

Sunday’s opening schedule consisted of a free concert at the Eglise Saint-Germain that featured new female talent. In fact, most of the concerts offered during the two week period are free of charge. Venues for these concerts include FNAC Montparnasse, Starbucks Coffee at various locations in central Paris, and the Sunset and Sunside jazz club (one drink minimum here), while ticket purchase is required for concerts being held at the Théâtre de l’Odéon, the Hôtel Meridien Montparnasse, and other grander sites. (Note that the venues are not restricted to Saint-Germain-des-Prés.)

Photo expositions are hung at the Hôtel Bel Ami (which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary this year), the Bibliothèque André Malraux, and the Hôtel Lutetia (which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year). The show at the Bel Ami, and one of the expos at the Bibliothèque, trace the history of the Festival. But the most spectacular exhibit will undoubtedly be the display of a collection of Philippe Levy-Stab’s photos entitled “Jazz, Spirit of New York” at the Brasserie and the Salon Saint-Germain of the Hôtel Lutetia. This expo will is scheduled to end on 31July 2010, long after the festival is over.

To see the entire schedule for the festival, click here.

Café des Iles from Comptoirs Richard

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin
Comptoirs Richard

Comptoirs Richard
Photo by

The company Maison Richard started out as a small café, founded in Paris in 1875 by a certain Pierre Feyel. From this humble origin, the enterprise developed as a wholesale distributor of wine, and, in 1955, began producing roasted coffee. Today, the company roasts and distributes 6,200 tons of coffee per year.

The company has seven retail outlets in Paris. I stopped by the boutique at 48, rue du Cherche-Midi and purchased 250 grams of their whole-bean blend of four coffees from Sumatra, Galapagos, Haïti, and Jamaïque Blue Mountain. Called Café des Iles, it releases a spicy-sweet aroma with a hint of cherry when hot water is poured onto the grind. To the taste, it is slightly sweet, full-bodied, and mellow, with just a trace of bitterness.

* * * * * * *

Like our blog? Join us on Facebook!

UNESCO Shows Art Treasures to the Public
By A. D. McKenzie

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin
Thor's Story By Erró

Thor's Story
By Erró

Museums in Paris will open their doors late into the evening on May 15 for the “European Night of Museums,” and a special participant will be UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The organization is opening up part of its vast art collection to the public for the second time, with the event having particular significance this year as 2010 is the UN-designated International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

Visitors will be able to view works by famous artists from around the world at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters (7, place de Fontenoy, 7th arrondissement) and take guided tours in French and English, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

UNESCO is home to more than 600 works by artists such as Picasso, Moore, Miro, Calder, Giacometti, and many others, and among the main attractions are Picasso’s largest-ever painting, “The Fall of Icarus,” and one of Moore’s most impressive sculptures – “Reclining Figure.”

“What’s interesting is that renovation of our building just finished last September and now the Henry Moore sculpture is visible,” said Raya Fayad, a spokesperson for UNESCO’s Works of Art and Special Projects Unit. “It wasn’t visible last year.”

Art lovers will also get to see the bold, colorful canvas of Icelandic artist Erró as well as the garden and fountain created by Japanese craftsman Isamu Noguchi. “The Symbolic Globe,” created by Danish artist Eric Reitzel, has become a city landmark since it was erected beside the UNESCO building in 1995. Its shape and simplicity form a curious counterpoint to the Eiffel Tower in the background.

The art collection began in the late 1950s when UNESCO’s headquarters was inaugurated in Paris, according to Fayad. The organization commissioned works from the contemporary artists of the time to “embellish” the building. Since then the collection has grown through donations from member states. Now UNESCO’s headquarters “currently owns the largest artistic heritage within the United Nations.”

We wish to thank A. D. McKenzie for her contribution to the Paris Insights blog.

The Pavés of Charles Chocolatier

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

The Pavés of Charles Chocolatier
(c) Discover Paris!

On our way to last Thursday’s Tweet-up we stopped by Charles Chocolatier at 15, rue Montorgueil in the first arrondissement. Their speciality is the Bûche à l’ancienne, 70% Cacao made from a chocolate-based praline of hazelnuts from Piedmont (Italy), peppered with bits of hazelnut, and whole and crushed pistachios from Sicily, all enveloped in a 70% dark-chocolate coating. However, instead of purchasing the bûche (in the shape of a log), we decided to try their pavés, which are similar in concept, but have different shapes.

The Pavé de bûche is the round confection shown in the photograph. The dark-chocolate exterior was firm to the bite, while the interior was smooth and melted readily in the mouth. It contained chunks of pistachio.

The Pavé de feuillante is the bar-shaped confection. It contained fine, crunchy praline.

The square-shaped confection is the Pavé de gianduja. It had a supersmooth filling of gianduja, a paste made from ground hazelnut and chocolate. My partner found that the flavor of the gianduja was less intense than the flavor of the other pavés.

All Charles Chocolatier chocolates are handmade. The chocolate shells and the fillings contain no animal fat, only cocoa butter. The absence of cream or butter makes the interiors a little more pasty than one finds in other chocolates — whether or not you like this will depend on your individual taste.

None of the confections were very sweet. Americans who are accustomed to intense sweetness in their chocolates might not care for these.

They are, after all, French chocolates! Vive la différence!

Charles Chocolatier Boutique
(c) Discover Paris!

Sunday Morning on Rue Mouffetard

Sunday, May 9th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Street Performer on Rue Mouffetard
(c) Discover Paris!

Among the picturesque street markets in Paris, rue Mouffetard is one of the most popular. Sunday morning is perhaps the liveliest time of the week, with musicians and street performers providing entertainment while shoppers buy their provisions from the colorful food stalls that line the street.

Jazz on Rue Mouffetard
(c) Discover Paris!

Last Minute Shopping for Mother’s Day

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Carpet of Flowers
(c) Discover Paris!

For late Mother’s Day shoppers, here is an added incentive to spring into action and buy your mother a gift before it is too late. Purchase a copy of Paris Insights – An Anthology before May 9th, and Discover Paris! will send you a color-photo-laden document of a promenade through a lesser-known garden destination that your mom will enjoy reading about or visiting when she is in Paris. All you need to do is forward the message that you receive as confirmation of your order to us at

within 24 hours of your purchase. We will then send you this complementary bonus gift for your Mother’s Day gift recipient.

The Travelers’ edition is available on We now have nine 5-star reviews on Amazon! At $13.22, it is significantly less expensive than the Premium edition, which costs $39.95. Click here to buy your copy now.

The Premium edition of Paris Insights – An Anthology is available at Over 100 color photos and sky-blue paper heighten your pleasure in reading this version of the book. Click here for a preview or to purchase your copy now.

One of these editions is bound to fit your mom’s taste as well as your pocketbook. Whichever you choose, no other book presents the city of Paris in such a lively, informative, and vividly illustrated fashion. Order your Mother’s Day gift now!