Winter In Europe Is Not Necessarily That Cold.

Christmas in Europe is different.

For those of us that are sometimes overwhelmed by the Christmas holidays, Europe is a refuge.  The holidays are understated, there is less in your face materialism and perhaps it is closer to the way it was in the past before the world carried it away into the search for bigger, better and more. As this photo of a local restaurant at Ecole Militaire in the 7th in Paris shows, the decorations are different too.  Much more subtle, restrained, refined.

img_2957-2

You have to look to find the christmas trees.  Imagine those in the US.

Chestnuts are everywhere both in the markets and roasting in carts on the streets.

dsc_0060

And they are delicious.

The weather is cooling quickly and its starting to feel like the holidays.

This is also a very good time to travel.

Air fares are ridiculously cheap, I flew round trip from San Francisco to London for under $600 and then on to Paris for under $60 each way.  And here is the best thing of all, this is how aircraft are looking right now, at least mid-week.

img_2968

Its pretty comfy even on transatlantic flights.  Plenty of room in coach for your stuff and to sleep.  Both ways.

img_2973

When was the last time you saw a check in line like this?  It is pretty nice.

img_2971

Does this have you thinking of a last-minute trip to Paris?  Contact us now.

A neighborhood story.

Urban living is sometimes seen as cold and indifferent.  And that is because it often is.  The neighborhood that the Yellow Flat is located in is typically Parisian, baker, butcher and until recently an old man who spent his days in a stairwell next to the grocery store smiling, smoking and panhandling.  But this time when I returned to Paris the space where he sat was empty and instead I saw this:

img_2930

A small makeshift memorial and flowers where he had sat and held court every day.  As you can see from the poster he had died.  A mass was held in his memory at the local church.

img_2929

And these words in his memory.  Even in Paris, in this most busy urban area, the world stopped for a moment to pay respects to him.

img_2928

And the Euro? Wow.

I can’t remember the last time that the Euro was at 1.06 to the dollar making travel to Europe a great value.  Take a look at this meal for two that we enjoyed at the Bistro Balhara or Rue Duvivier about 10 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat:

Start with a fricassee of crispy snails (yes I did it) and wild mushrooms.

img_2961

Follow with perfectly prepared wild caught that morning scallops.

img_2963

Finish with a soufflé finished with Calvados and flambeed at the table.

img_2965

Including a bottle of delicious Gamay from the Loire, this lovely dinner cost us a grand total of 110 euro, 116 dollars.  Perfect neighborhood cure for a cold Paris night.  And next time I am going for the 6 course tasting menu at 52 euro each.

Yum.

The Bistro Balhara is located at 23 Rue Duvivier, Paris 75007.  www.bistrotbelhara.com

We hope to see you soon in Paris at our Yellow Flat.

We Feel The Pain Of Paris. What Can We Do Now?

The Eiffel Tower Shines On

The Eiffel Tower Shines On In The Night

The city of Paris has a Latin motto which is: ‘Fluctuat ned mergitur”. The translation to English is ‘tossed by the water but not sunk’.

When visiting Paris the week the before the November 13 massacres, I enjoyed the hospitality of a city full of spirit, wonder and warmth. The first night there I had long-planned a visit to the wine bar at Verjus to enjoy the explosion of informal drinking and enjoying smaller plates that has spread across the city.  Imagine my surprise. When I arrived I found that it was closed for a private party.  We lingered for a moment on the street and struck up a conversation with a man who turned out to be the host of the party. Seeing our disappointment, he invited us into his birthday celebration for a glass of red wine.

Doors opened to us.

Verus Wine Bar Paris

Verjus Wine Bar Paris

Now doors need to remain open for them.

I walked the streets of the 10th and 11th.  The district was packed with people out enjoying their lives in these vibrant neighborhoods.  7 days later hell would break loose.

IMG_9536

The decision of whether to travel and where to travel will always be personal. Only you can decide whether to travel to Paris, or for that matter Beirut or Tel Aviv or whatever city struggles with the horrors of this modern world.

I ask you to go. When you do, think about this: By doing so you stand in defiance of those that who act without regard to human life. You stand in support of the working people of Paris, from the maid that cleans your room to the chef at a gourmet restaurant to the bartender who pours your wine.

Parisians are returning to their cafes.  They will not back down. Will you join them?

A glass of Calvados at Odeon.

A glass of Calvados at Odeon in the 6th.  The way to finish a night.

We are tossed by turbulent waters but our spirit must not sink.  When you wonder, when you doubt, do not give in.   Go to Paris for the first time or the 10th.  It is the loudest statement that you can make to honor the 128 innocents who died.

Parisian Bakeries Part 2: Breads And Lots Of Breakfast Deliciousness.

Paris Bakeries Part 2.  Breads, breakfast pastries and a plan of attack.

That baguette in the window.

That baguette in the window.

My previous post focused on suggestions on how to find quality Parisian bakeries.  And now you have found that adorable artisan establishment and walked inside.  What do you do?  Before you make a move, check the time and be forewarned, Parisian bakeries are not for the meek in the morning.  People (read that as locals) are there to grab and then get on with their days.  Lines are often long and the servers don’t have time to be helpful.  They have a job to do, don’t take their impatience personally.

Many bakeries will have small tables where you eat your baked goods on premises.  If you want to order it this way ask for your order “sur place” as opposed as to go which is “a emporter”.

DSC_0143.JPG

Here is a guide to the various breads and pastries that you will enjoy in Paris. This is not a simple subject, you will be well served to decide on what you wantin advance.  Have a plan of attack that requires you to go several times and try lots of goodies.  That should not be too hard.

Lets start with breads.

Pain De Mie

Pain De Mie

Baguette. Your baguette should be golden brown, crispy with a bit of flake, with a hint of salt and a soft inside.  As befitting their importance in French culture, there are lots of shapes and tastes:

Baguette Parisienne. The basic baguette, sometimes called ‘ordinaire‘ or ‘normale‘,  An amazing deal at 1euro40 or less. As with the bakeries, quality varies widely.  If you see a lattice like pattern on the bottom side it was baked in a form pan and likely has an industrial source.  But even those aren’t always bad.

Half baguette, at less than 1 euro it will be just enough for a snack and no one will look down on you if you buy one.

Tradition.   Signifies the efforts of an artisan baker that takes the time to create a hand-made baguette.  Also called Baguette A L’Ancienne or De Campange (country). They will be irregular in shape and a bit more expensive.

Batard.  About half the length of a baguette and wider.

Flute.  A long and very thin baguette.

Couronne.  Ring shaped baguette.

Aux Cereales.  Contains whole grain flour and other grains.

Ficelle. This means string.  A very very thin baguette.

Breads are also available by loaf, consider:

Pain Au Levain.  Akin to sourdough.

Complet. Whole wheat or multigrain breads.

Pain De Mie. The closest thing to white bread, but calling it white bread is just unfair. It is so much better. The best sandwich bread in France.  Maybe it is all the butter but white bread does not like the bread you see pictured above. Period.

Aux Noix.  Walnut bread.

Siegle.  Rye bread.

Good Morning.

Good Morning.

On to another happy subject, morning pastries. I always search out breakfast pastries in Paris. They are the perfect for the on the run moment before you head out to see the sights meal along with a cup of coffee. Again, there are so many to choose from and by no means should you be limited to eating them in the morning.

poilane 1

The Pastry Counter At Poilane.

Croissant. Try one, please. What passes for a croissant outside of France is often a joke.  A good croissant should reek of baked butter and stain the paper that holds it with fat.  The outer crust should be firm and the inside airy and light.

Pain au chocolate.  Look for ones that are flaky  and stuffed with practically melted chocolate.  Make a mess.

The Pain Au Choc.

The Pain Au Chocolat

Pain au raisin. Snail shaped pastry with raisins and custard.  Personal favorite.

Croissant amande.  Almond croissant usually dusted with powdered sugar.

Venoisse. A rich sweet morning pastry often with chocolate bits. It should shine from the egg wash.

Vienoisse

Vienoisse

Tartlette de pomme.  An apple mini tart and cousin to the Chausson Aux Pommes, apple turnovers.

Brioche.  A sweet bread made with eggs.  Must eat with jam and more butter.

Beignet.   Surprise, you can find doughnuts in Paris, typically plain dough rolled in sugar.

For more information about baked good consider these articles.

Paris has an annual best baguette competition, some winners are near the Yellow Flat. Award winning baguettes near the Yellow Flat include Boulangerie Frederic Pichard at 88 Rue Cambronne or Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel at 187 Rue De Grenelle across the Champ De Mars next to the Eiffel Tower.  Read more at

http://parisbymouth.com/paris-top-baguettes-for-2014/

There are plenty of quality croissants near the Yellow Flat.  Try Boulangerie Pichard at 88 Rue Cambronne, L’artisan Des Gourmands at 60 Rue de la Convetion or Le Quartier Du Pain.  74 Rue Saint Charles.  Be forewarned that the baker at L’artisan is not cheery.  You are not there for friendship.

Read more at http://parisbymouth.com/the-best-butter-croissants-in-paris/

Learn about the ongoing baguette crisis in Paris here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10143339/French-turning-away-from-the-baguette.html

Want to practice your French and read more?  Check out painrisien.  Very detailed bakery reviews but only in French.

As always enjoy the journey and if one pastry doesn’t excite you order another, you are on vacation!

Next up: Patissiers for cookies, desserts and more.

jules