Paris: Michelin restaurants for the rest of us
This week brought the release of the new Michelin Red Guide, prompting foodies to run and see which chefs had been awarded stars—the top honor in restaurant criticism.
The guide, whose English edition arrives mid-May, sells 1.3 million copies a year in its various editions.
Its star system rewards expensive restaurants, of course. But the guide also has a lesser-known rating for affordable restaurants. Toward the back of the guide, there's the "Bib Gourmand" section in which Michelin recognizes places that offer excellent three-course meals for less than €35 ($44) each.
This year, 47 Paris restos are on the Bib Gourmand list—a record. Many of these spots are new additions to the list. My favorites include:
• Le Baratin,, 3 rue Jouye Rouve, 20th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-49-39-70
• Le Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 rue Paul Bert, 11th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-72-24-01
• La Cantine du Troquet, 101 rue de l'Ouest, 14th arrondissement, 011-33/1-45-40-04-98.
• L'Entêtée, 4 rue Danville, 14th arrondissement, 011-33/1-40-47-56-81
The above restaurants are not open every day of the week, so call ahead to confirm and to see if reservations are needed.
Paris: A Grand Palais in the wee hours
You shouldn't visit Paris and rely on guidebooks alone. You also need to consult a local arts and entertainment guide, such as Time Out Paris, to find out about affordable activities that give you a true slice of local life. Take, for instance, a stunt recently pulled by the Grand Palais, the national art gallery. During the last four days of its hit exhibition "Picasso and the Masters," it opened its doors around the clock. Art lovers, scenesters, and insomniacs could stare at gloriously painted canvas no matter the hour. There was a run on tickets, and the only open slot I could nab was pre-dawn on a Monday morning. The subway being closed, I took a taxi across the silent city to arrive at 3:45 a.m. Snow was falling lightly as I joined the line with hundreds of well-groomed Parisians. Despite the hour, the majority had silver hair and whispered as if they were in church. I, on the other hand, was grinning like a child, just barely containing my excitement over this crack-of-dawn spectacle. The works themselves were impressive—Picasso surrounded by influences like Goya, Valasquez, and Delacroix—but it was the possibility of traipsing through the Grand Palais at 4 a.m. that really sold me on the show. This beautiful Beaux-Arts building was constructed for the Paris Exhibition of 1900, and boasts a stunning ceiling made of glass and steel. Since reopening in 2005 after a twelve-year restoration, the Grand Palais has hosted one punchy event after another, including fashion shows and expos that mix art and street theater. I can't wait to see what kind of spectacle is organized for their next big exhibition on Andy Warhol (March 18–July 13). I'm hoping for kitschy cocktails, pop-art snacks, and another very, very late night. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, avenue Winston Churchill, 8th arrondissement, 011-33/1-44-13-17-17 Series: Affordable Paris
A few good links: Penguin madness
Follow-up! HK "Airport Auntie" gets apology, ticket upgrade from Cathay. That lady who freaked out after missing her flight? She got an upgrade due to the "untold embarrassment" of having her tantrum appear on YouTube. [shanghaiist] Weirdest stuff stopped at customs. You'll never guess what one guy had in his pants. [nydailynews.com] Riding the Rails Taking Amtrak across the U.S. [New York Times] A wunderbar welcome in Austria and Germany Lots of renovations make it a good time to visit. [CNN] Penguin Places Where to see some of the world's most humorous birds. [Intelligent Travel] Two words for a frugal flier: Patience. Wednesday. [Yahoo] Chicago Has Your 'Heart Attack French Toast' The mascarpone-filled artery-clogger is at brunch spot Toast. [jaunted.com] Obamasnacks—banned in Indonesia We're thinking these would make great souvenirs… [BoingBoing] Where did Hillary Clinton stay in Israel? She and her staff took up 154 rooms in one of the country's most famous hotels. [Hotel Hotsheet]
This weekend: Orchids make their spring debut in Coral Gables
Exotic and unique orchids will be on display this weekend at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's International Orchid Festival in Coral Gables, about 8 miles outside of Miami. Starting Friday, 10,000 orchid plants from more than 50 vendors will be displayed on the garden's grounds. You'll have plenty to choose from: Orchids represent a large segment of the flower kingdom, with more than 22,000 species, and thousands of hybrids. Kids are welcome; there's an area for crafts, cupcake decorating, and for learning about the orchid that produces vanilla. Take a walking tour to orient yourself about the garden, or attend the daily introductory lecture. There's lots more to see on the 83-acre site, open since 1938. There's also a rotating sculpture garden that currently features huge works by Mark di Suvero and Dale Chihuly. Permanent exhibits include the cool-sounding spiny forest of Madagascar, an outdoor butterfly garden, and a tropical fruit pavilion (the garden is named after Dr. David Fairchild, a fruit pioneer who was one of the first to bring mangoes and avocados to Florida in the late 19th century.) Friday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Admission to both the festival and gardens is $20 for adults. 10901 Old Cutler Road. 305/667-1651. Not near Miami? There are orchid shows going on at the New York Botanical Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, at the Atlanta Orchid Society, and in Cincinnati. Find out more at the American Orchid Society.
Speakeasy Paris: The underground restaurant scene
The modern speakeasy is no longer a smoky den of ill repute. It's simply a haven for those who like their gastronomy just a little bit under the radar. Underground restaurants have been popping up in recent years around the world, most notably in San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Berlin. In Paris, the two speakeasies that have caused the most buzz both happen to be run by Americans. Hidden KitchenTwo young American cooks arrived in Paris last year with the dream of hosting a short-term series of speakeasy-style dinners. Calling their project a "dinner club" in order to avoid regulation, Braden and Laura quickly became the talk of the local food scene. Mainstream journalists followed bloggers, and Hidden Kitchen soon became one of the city's most sought-after reservations. I scored my own seat by making a reservation at their web site, hkmenus.com. Confirmation came immediately, along with a series of ground rules: The menu would offer no choices, but I could alert them to any strong preferences. The location would be disclosed by email shortly before the date. My only hesitation was over the price—a "suggested donation" of €80 ($100) per person. That's more than I usually spend, but this was a special occasion (my boyfriend's birthday), and the price included wine pairings for each of the ten dinner courses. Also included in that price was the fun of meeting some really interesting people. We shared a large table with a cast of cookbook authors, film people, and in-the-know travelers. English was the common language diners used to express their excitement over Braden and Laura's stunning central apartment and (of course) the food. On this night, that food included mackerel with red and white grape salad, seared tuna with sweet and sour broad beans, a modern take on bangers and mash, meltingly good posole with buttermilk onion rings, and pear bread pudding, among other dishes. Plates were small and artfully arranged, and each was paired with its own special wine. The conversation flowed as easily as the drinks, so much so that I was surprised when the clock struck midnight. Espresso and homemade petits fours gave me the strength I needed to leave, all the while resolving to come back again. Aux Chiens Lunatiques I've been dying to eat at the "crazy dogs' place" for years, especially since the publication of chef David Tanis's long-awaited cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. This is a man who, after working for 20 years at Chez Panisse, convinced Alice Waters to grant him six months' leave every winter so that he could escape to Paris. During these winter months, he and partner Randal Breski, formerly a maître d' at Chez Panisse, run an underground and irregular dinner club. In fact, dinners at Aux Chiens Lunatiques are occasional in the extreme, and unlike the Hidden Kitchen's easy-to-navigate website and quick response time, Aux Chiens' system is opaque and tough to sort out… I suppose it's a lot more like a real speakeasy in that respect. While I'm waiting for my reservation, I'd love to hear in the comments if any of you have had the pleasure of actually eating there. MORE Covert Cuisine: Underground restaurants Our Affordable Paris series