Au Passage

29 08 2011


I’m a latecomer to the wine bar bandwagon.  I admit that for a long time I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.  The idea of having to plan ahead and make reservations just to have a few drinks and nibbles with friends put me off.  I mean, such a meal would seem to be inherently spontaneous – reserving just feels contrary to the whole aesthetic.  And yet, Au Passage may have changed my mind.

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Around Paris: 11th: Les Funambules

15 07 2010

If you do any amount of reading about the food scene in Paris these days, chances are you’ve heard of the rue Paul Bert.  Tucked away on the outskirts of the 11th arrondissement, this tiny street is home to the much-lauded Bistrot Paul Bert, its seafood-oriented sibling L’Écailler du Bistrot, and the nearly impossible to book Temps au Temps.  Nick and I found ourselves in the neighborhood during a recent soccer match, and since the bar where we were watching the game had illogically closed their kitchen, we decided to step out at halftime to find some dinner.

Les Funambules

Despite having called the 11th home for two years, I’d never actually been to this part of it before.  But I knew that we were in the vicinity of the rue Paul Bert, and that good eats had to be nearby.  Looking more for a quick bite than a full-on dining experience,  we crossed the foodie destination restaurants off our list.  In our wanderings, we passed by this fun-looking restaurant on the corner of Paul Bert and rue Faidherbe.  Everyone was eating out of huge, brightly-colored ceramic bowls, which intrigued us, so we walked closer to get a better look.  The bowls contained salads, of the big variety so popular chez moi.  We were convinced.

Sitting down at a table on the patio, I gave Nick the seat with the view of the TV (the wandering took up some time, and the game was about to start again).  We looked through the menu and found a number of tasty-sounding salads, as well as a Cantal cheeseburger.  Sold.  It was then that Nick noticed the fish and chips on the chalkboard menu.  We arranged to share bites and ordered our dinners.

Fish and chips at Les Funambules

My fish and chips arrived crisp and hot.  It was served with a little ramekin of sherry vinegar, which was an interesting but not at all unpleasant substitute for the more traditional malt vinegar served across the Channel.  The tartar sauce had an air of housemade about it, and lacking ketchup, it made a fine dip for the fries (industrial, but not half-bad).  The fish (cod) was tender and flaky, the breading a thin and shattery counterpoint.

Cantal burger

Nick’s burger, with a nice, thick layer of gooey cheese underneath, came speared with a pickle.  Classic.  A sweet pickle.  Strange, but then, I’ve always had a weakness for sweet pickles.  We polished off our pub grub just in time for the end of the game, which delayed the waiter quite a bit.  He was too busy cheering for Spain to bring us our bill, but I’ll let it slide this time.  I mean, the World Cup only happens every four years, right?

Would I make a special trip to come back to Les Funambules?  Probably not, but I would happily eat there again the next time I’m in the neighborhood.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

12 Hours in My Paris

3 05 2010

I’ve gotten requests to do this “12 hours in…” meme that made its way around the interwebs a while ago, but mostly just felt confounded by the enormity of the task when faced with only 12 hours in Paris.  If I wasn’t frantically packing, I’d probably end up with my nose buried in various guidebooks, trying to figure out the perfect day, only to find that once I had it planned, my 12 hours were up.  But my recent move (for those interested, the fridge gets delivered on Saturday, and maybe one of these days our bathroom will have a medicine cabinet and a door, all of which will go a long way towards making the new place feel like home) prompted me to give the 12 hours thing a second thought. 

Granted, we really only moved about half a mile away, but it feels very different over here in the heart of the 10th arrondissement.  Both neighborhoods have diverse immigrant populations, but while the old one was predominantly North African and Chinese, the new one has Turks and Indians.  The old street had a dozen butchers and at least twice that number of crappy clothing stores.  The new one is a veritable market street, with vegetable stands, a fromagerie/wine shop, and a handful of butchers and kebab shops taking the place of most of the cheap clothes.  Which is just fine with me.  But I still want to take you on a farewell tour of my old neighborhood, which centers on the Goncourt métro station and stretches its arms up into Belleville, down along the Canal St. Martin, and over a bit into the lively Oberkampf district.

So here we go… 10 am: Escargot pastries (basically croissant dough rolled up around various fillings and sliced to show off the spiral shape), chaussons aux pommes, and pain au chocolat-banane for breakfast at Du Pain et Des Idées.  Ideally, it’s sunny out, so I’ll eat at a bench along the canal, and then find a Velib’ to ride up the canal to the Bassin de la Villette.

Just try walking past here without succumbing to the mouthwatering aroma of roasting chickens.

12 noon: Make my way back home, stopping for a roast chicken from Boucherie Tizi Ouzou (the best), Boucherie d’Agadir (the friendliest), or Boucherie Djurdjura (if I’m in the mood to pay a little more for a poulet fermier).

1:30 pm: After devouring chicken (and potatoes, and hopefully some salad or fruit) chez moi, take a walk up to the Parc de Belleville to enjoy the flowers, people-watch, and take in the wonderful view of the city.

Parc de Bellville, in full bloom

3:30 pm: Wander further up the hill to the village-y Jourdain neighborhood.  Admire the St. Jean Baptiste church, the pastries in the window at the Pâtisserie de l’Eglise, and the smells emanating from the Boulangerie au 140 and the Fromagerie Beillevaire.

St. Jean Baptiste de Belleville

5 pm: Head back downhill, stopping for a drink (or two) on the terrasse of Aux Folies.  Look at the graffiti around the corner on rue Dénoyez.  And of course, more people-watching.

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