Paris Restaurant: Eat Intuition in the 12th

Ethnic influences are an exciting development on the Paris food scene, and Eat Intuition, near the Bastille, is a good example.

Venezuelan chef Isabella Losado has a market-driven tapas menu that includes salmon gravlax with beets (pictured above); delightful button mushrooms with house-made ricotta; spicy beef and pork meatballs on a bed of creamy polenta, and oeuf endiablé — deviled eggs that turn a summer staple into a treat.

Wines by the carafe are from small producers, and fresh pressed fruit juices marry flavors like ginger and passion fruit.

At the end of a springtime Sunday brunch, when the generous slice of flourless chocolate cake, then the coffee (served in small French press pitchers) were gone, we lingered, watching Isabelle move back and forth across her pink-tiled kitchen.

We were grateful for her inspired dishes and filled with newfound appreciation for the melding of two cultures.

Epicerie Saint-Sabin

Epicerie Saint-Sabin, a new grocery store/wine cave/café near the Bastille

When was the last time you got a French geography lesson with your lunch?

For me, it was last month, at Epicerie Saint-Sabin, a new grocery store/wine cave/café near the Bastille, when owner Laurent Pataille ran down the sandwich choices scratched on the chalkboard near his impeccable deli counter.

I learned that le Noir de Bigorre ham comes from the northern slopes of the Pyrenees; Laguiolle cheese, pronounced “la-yol” and similar to Cantal, is made in the Aveyron; and that tourte de meule is a delicious whole grain sourdough bread made throughout France.

I ordered a sandwich made from all three ingredients, and the lesson didn’t end there. M Pataille also recommended a wine I had never heard of: Fitou, (Champs de Soeurs 2011)—a luscious red apellation from Languedoc-Roussillon.

Wines from Cahors, Marcillac, Fronton, Gascogne, Roussillon; fresh and packaged edibles from Aveyron, Lot, Gars, Hautes-Pyrénées and Toulouse; tins of smoked mackeral, syrup made from poppies, candy made from violets, hazelnut cake from Rouergue, a commune in the Aveyron—the shop is dedicated to terroir.

My sandwich and glass of wine (at 3:00 in the afternoon, when it’s not always easy to find a bite to eat) were the high point of the day, and at 9.50€ a bargain. Especially when you include the duck sausage that tided me over while my sandwich was being prepared. And not to mention the high price of schooling.

Have you been there? Tell us what you think!

Restaurant Auberge Flora

Flora Mikula has been part of the Paris dining scene since the 90s, and I was sorry when her restaurant in the 8th closed. But her newest restaurant, on the ground floor of her new hotel near the Bastille, has diners talking.

Flora herself does the cooking. One of a handful of reputed women chefs in Paris, she has expanded upon her love of provençal cuisine. Where Flora’s last resto was elegant, formal and expensive, her new venue is casual, eclectic and an excellent value.

Food is served all day, every day. While breakfast is most popular with hotel guests, her generous brunch is a favorite with residents of the neighborhood.

A wide assortment of small plates is served cold and warm from lunch on. Servings are copious, and the selection runs from tapinades to duck samosas to foie gras with mango chutney, with prices from 6-18€. There are vegetarian options and market-fresh daily specials, as well.

In the evening, the 45€ tasting menu aleviates the need to choose. The meal unfolds via multi-tiered plates with a multitude of delicious tapas, followed by the meat or fish du jour, and wonderful assortment of desserts. Moderately priced wine and delicious bread, things I have learned not to take for granted, round out the experience.

Le Tabarin

From the outside, Le Tabarin seems unremarkable, one more awning-fronted café near the Bastille. But look in the window, and you’ll see soft light coming from table lamps, red banquettes lined with mirrors, and jazz posters plastering the ceiling.

A slate easel near a window lists daily specials, and a smaller ardoise catalogues the wines. Gathered at square tables on weekdays are young people who work in the neighborhood; Sunday brunch attracts shoppers from the Marché Richard Lenoire.

Salads are a good bet here. Salades composées – main course salads – are rich in charcuterie, fruit, cheese. My favorite, though, was a starter: émincé de boeuf cru avec gingembre et citron vert. The beef was in fact not raw, but seared and sliced super thin, atop endives. Light and refreshing, it made me eager for the next course.

Confit de canard was just as I was hoping for: a dark, rich thigh that came with crisp fries and a pile of greens. I don’t remember the name of the wine, except that it had a nice smoky flavor that complemented the duck beautifully. (As usual, I asked the staff to choose.)

The crême brulée was crisp on top, creamy and warm inside, and a delightful way to end the meal – which cost less than 20 euros!

Paris Plage

Summer in the city, even the most beautiful city in the world, is hot. Enter Paris Plage (Paris Beach). For the 9th year in a row, the city has transformed the banks of the Seine into a series of mini summer resorts, all in the name of cooking off.

In central Paris, the beach follows Voie Georges Pompidou, from Pont de Sully (near the Bastille) to Pont des Arts (near the Louvre). Its 3 kilometers contain sand, palm trees, shaded deck chairs, ice cream parlors, climbing walls, tai chi areas, a swimming pool, concert stage, and boules courts.

Dance lessons take place weekday evenings from 7-8 pm near Pont Neuf – choose from waltz on Mon nights, cha-cha and salsa on Tues, and tango on Thurs.

At Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement, the beach stretches from Rotonde de Ledoux (near the Jaurès Métro) to the former Magasins Généraux (Rue de Crimée). It features a water-sports complex, with row boats, kayaks, pedal boats and dinghies, as well as picnic areas, restaurants, boules and fencing.

About 150, 000 people cool off at Paris Plage daily. The beaches are open 8am – midnight and activities are free, through Aug 20. For concert and activity info, maps, and videos (in French), check the website.

Les Côtelettes

Value seekers and wine enthusiasts will love Les Côtelettes – a family-owned bistro where desserts are homemade, herbs come from the chef’s potager, and meat and wine come from small-scale French producers.

At lunch, the 15 euro formule offers a limited selection, but lots of winners: rillette, free range chicken, wonderful dorade (sea bream), wholesome desserts featuring fruit and soft cheeses.

A la carte, products come from all over the map – Brittany mussels, Charolais beef, cheese from a small town in western France, to name just a few.

The menu changes regularly, as does the 50 bottle wine list.  Service is polished and friendly, and while the location is central, it’s off the beaten path, on an impasse, or dead-end street, near the Bastille.

Memorable, affordable, and delicious!

Ballet and Orchestra at the Paris Opéra

I remember the first time I saw an opera in Paris. It was an obscure Wagner work, at the Opéra Garnier, beautifully set, with supertitles in Old French. I had no idea what was going on – but I was at the Opéra de Paris!

I was delighted just to sit in this famed building, to spend time with its gold leaf, Swedish marble, Algerian onyx, frescoes, and precious stones. Not to mention the Chagall ceiling and the sublime people-watching!

Fortunately, these days, you can attend plenty of performances without missing the main event (or having to read Old French). Between the Opéra Garnier and Opéra Bastille (the latter is a must-see for modern architecture fans), there are 9 concerts and 5 ballets between Feb and mid-June. There are plenty of operas, too, including a few that are well known, such as The Barber of Seville and Faust.

It’s easy to get tickets through the Opéra de Paris website. Choose your language, search by date or by catagory, select your seats (I’ve paid as little as 20 euros), pay on line, and they will send you the tickets.

One thing to know: tickets are sold at the box office, over the phone, and by internet according to a precise schedule. Read the fine print once you’ve decided on a performance. Internet tickets for a May ballet, for example, don’t go on sale until March. And you may be able to get something at the box office a week before the performance.