Trip Coach: June 5, 2007

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Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the new book Chocolate and Zucchini, answered your questions about Paris and food.

Clotilde Dusoulier: Welcome everyone! Thanks for joining me in this discussion about food and Paris, and thank you for all your questions -- I'll try to get to as many as I can.

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Portland, OR: My husband and I are going to Paris for 6 days on our first trip to Europe in August. We would love to experience as much of the Paris food and wine world as possible, but also need to save money where we can. Can you please recommend some good "cheap" places to dine as well as a few places that we should splurge on? We will be staying in the New Orient Hotel located on rue Constantinople near the Arc de Triomphe, so restaurants that are closer by would be even better. Thanks!

Clotilde Dusoulier: One of the best budget tips when eating out in Paris is to make lunch your main meal of the day, because most restaurants offer lunch formulas that are great bargains: a restaurant like Le Bélisaire (2 rue Marmontel in the 15th; +33 1 48 28 62 24) has an outstanding 3-course lunch menu that only costs 20 euros.

And in the evening, you can opt for a more simple meal at a wine bar, where you'll have drinks and a few nibbles of cured meat and cheese--try Le garde-Robe, for instance (41 rue de l'Arbre Sec in the 1st; +33 1 49 26 90 60).

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Milwaukee, WI: Clotilde

We have been to Paris several times enjoy trying all of the food there, but where can we find the best and cheapest steak and frites? Thanks! Mary

Clotilde Dusoulier: Hello Mary! First of all, keep in mind that the best of anything is rarely the cheapest, especially when it comes to meat: high-quality meat and fresh, made-to-order fries have a price.

That said, I really like the steak-frites that's served at Le Sévéro (8 rue des Plantes in the 14th; +33 1 45 40 40 91) or its sister restaurant, Le Bis du Sévéro (16 rue des Plantes in the 14th; +33 1 40 44 73 09), where the owner ages his own meat. And although it comes with garlic potatoes rather than fries, I highly recommend the entrecôte (rib steak) at Corneil (18 rue Condorcet in the 9th; +33 1 49 95 92 25).

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Los Angeles, CA: Hello,

Since we generally know that those restaurants that have menus printed in eight different languages probably aren't our best bet for a night of fine dining, what is the best way to approach a restaurant if you don't speak French?

Do you politely ask the host/hostess if they speak English, etc.?

Thank you!

Clotilde Dusoulier: That's a great question, as the language barrier can sometimes get the relationship off to a faulty start.

Try to find a bit of time before you leave to learn a few words and phrases; it's the best investment you can make to prepare for your trip.

Of course, no one is saying that all visitors should speak French fluently; the idea is simply to show that you're making an effort. And regardless of your language skills, you should always address a French person in French first, and never assume that they speak or even understand English.

There is no magic trick, really: say "Bonjour" ("Bonsoir" in the evening), smile, and politely ask, "Parlez-vous anglais?" If they do switch to English, thank them, show that you're grateful for their efforts, and speak slowly (but not louder) to make yourself understood. And if they don't speak English, well, keep smiling, and try to communicate with gestures and what little each of you knows of the other's language.

Also, there are several food-oriented dictionaries out there that will help you decipher menu offerings.

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Greensboro NC: Sugguestions for a good Thai and or Vietnamese restaurants in Paris

Clotilde Dusoulier: For Thai cuisine, I like to go to Krung Thep (93 rue Julien Lacroix in the 20th; +33 1 43 66 83 74) and for Vietnamese cuisine to Dan Bau (18 rue des Trois Frères in the 18th; +33 1 42 62 45 59).

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Studio City, CA: What's the best area to stay in for a month if you want to live like a local? Like you, I just want to meander, shop, eat, people watch, write and maybe visit a few museums. I plan on attending the French Open and travel to Cannes next year. Thanks.

Clotilde Dusoulier: I suggest you pick a place that's close to a good food shopping street, such as rue Montorgueil in the 1st, rue Cler in the 7th, rue des Martyrs in the 9th, rue de Levis or rue Poncelet in the 17th, or rue des Abbesses in the 18th.

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Andover, NH: I will be traveling as a single woman to Paris in October/November for several days. I will be staying in the Rue Cler area and know that there's a great french market nearby.

Can you recommend some dinner options that won't break the bank, will give me the feel for being in Paris and not with 100 other Americans and is a train ride or walk away?

Thank you.

Clotilde Dusoulier: First, I might note that it is fine for a woman to eat on her own in Paris: no one will raise an eyebrow or get the wrong idea. That said, it is a lot more frequent to see people eating solo at lunchtime than at dinnertime, when eating out is seen more as a social occasion, but that doesn't mean you can't do it.

The area where you will be staying has plenty of good restaurant options if you just want to walk home afterwards, and I recommend in particular l'Ami Jean (27 rue Malar in the 7th; +33 1 47 05 86 89), la Fontaine de Mars (129 r St Dominique in the 7th; +33 1 47 05 46 44), Caf? Constant (39 r St Dominique in the 7th;+33 1 47 53 73 34) and, slightly more upscale but excellent value, Le Clos des Gourmets (16 av Rapp in the 7th, +33 1 45 51 75 61).

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Westport, CT: We will be in Paris in October, and are "foodies." This is a two parter. Do you have a few favorite small bistros not known to every tour book? We will be in the 7th arrondisement. Also, I'm interested in a half day cooking class. Do you recommend one? Thanks.

Clotilde Dusoulier: For restaurants in the 7th, you can refer to the recommendations I made above to the reader from Andover, NH, but here are two other favorites on the road less traveled: Le Réveil du Xè (33 rue du Château d'Eau in the 10th; +33 1 42 41 77 59) and Le Mesturet (77 rue de Richelieu in the 2nd; +33 1 42 97 40 68).

As for cooking classes, you can look into L'Atelier des Chefs (atelierdeschefs.com), L'Ecole de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse (atelier-gastronomique.com), or Le Pavillon Lenôtre (lenotre.fr/fr/cours_de_cuisine.php).

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San Juan, Puerto Rico: I'm currently planning my fourth trip to Paris. During my second trip I ran into a very good sushi rest. on 8th arrondisement. It was a small establishment (about 5 tables) but the service and quality was excellent.

For this trip I would like to explore new sushi venues in the city. Any suggestions?

Clotilde Dusoulier: A good place to start is the Parisian Japantown, located on and around rue Saint-Anne in the 2nd arrondissement, where you'll find many authentic and reasonably priced Japanese restaurants. My favorite sushi bar there is Korin, 58bis rue Sainte-Anne in the 2nd (+33 1 40 20 49 93). A bit more upscale is Isami, 4 Quai d'Orléans in the 4th (+33 1 40 46 06 97).

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Kansas City, Missouri: My friends and I will be in Paris 9/9/07 for 6 days. We are staying in the Latin Quarter. Any favorite restaurants in that area that locals favor? We don't need fancy, just good. Thanks, Kathi

Clotilde Dusoulier: In that area, I recommend Les Papilles (30 rue Gay-Lussac in the 5th; 01 43 25 20 79), Le Pré Verre (8 rue Thénard in the 5th; +33 1 43 54 59 47), and Ribouldingue (10 rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in the 5th; +33 1 46 33 98 80)--the latter serves great offal dishes, if you're into that sort of thing.

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Niceville, Florida: Is there a good way to handle a flight layover in Paris? My husband will be on a business trip and will need to spend a night's layover in Paris. He's the type to just spend the time in an airport hotel, but I would like him to see at least a little of Paris. Help....

Clotilde Dusoulier: It depends what airport he's flying into, and how late in the day he arrives, but both Paris airports are a 45-minute taxi ride from the city (if the traffic is good) so if he's up for it, he could decide to have dinner in Paris and see a bit of the city from the cab...

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San Diego, CA: What kind of activity can one entertain with 5-6 y.o. English-speaking kids in Paris this June and July to give them long lasting memories? Thank you.

Clotilde Dusoulier: I would suggest you take them to visit the Potager du Roi in Versailles (potager-du-roi.fr), where gardeners used to grow fruits and vegetables for the King of France. It's a beautiful place where they can run around freely, and if they're city kids, it will show them where their food comes from!

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Gainesville, FL: Bon jour Clotilde,

First I want to congratulate you on your, albeit brief, TV appearance and the release of your English cookbook which I was able to acquire one of your last signed copies.

My reason for writing is to ask you for a recommendation for dinner. My wife and I spent seven wonderful days in Paris a few years ago and we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in Provence in early September before returning to Paris to catch our flight back the Florida. On our previous visit we splurged for lunch at the Jules Verne restaurant (I understand that as 1 January 2007 chef Alain Ducasse is now responsible for the kitchen) and I had thought of returning there for lunch. Since visiting your web site and reading your blog over the past few months I realized there just might be an exceptional little place that would be as wonderful even if it does not have an aerial view of Paris. If you were planning to go out for dinner with the one special person in your life where would you go? In advance, thank you. George

Clotilde Dusoulier: Hello George, and thanks for the kind words. For that sort of special meal, I highly recommend L'Astrance (4 rue Beethoven in the 16th; +33 1 40 50 84 40) and Les Ambassadeurs (10 place de la Concorde in the 8th; +33 1 44 71 16 16), the restaurant inside the Crillon hotel. (In both cases, there are weekday lunch menus available to make the celebration more affordable.) Happy anniversary!

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Clotilde Dusoulier: And thus ends our chat session! Thank you for your interest, and I hope you have a delicious stay in Paris.

For more tips and recommendations, you can follow my eating adventures on my blog (chocolateandzucchini.com) and my moblog (chocolateandzucchini.com/moblog/), and stay tuned for my book about Paris restaurants and food shops, which will come out in the spring of 2008.

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