How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child
I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.
We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family. We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter. My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months. So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.
We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.
So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris. Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go. However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.
The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season. We did not eat here. Are you kidding? Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last? But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?
So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children. It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children. So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.
Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor. We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group. The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.
Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.
We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.
I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me. My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better. Just dig them out. She was such a good soul.
Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup. I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there. Anywho, she loved it.
Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter. We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes. This was a very good decision for all involved.
So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.
The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had. This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.
This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris. Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate. Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.
These are the Mont Blancs. 6 Euros each.
Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out. You’re welcome.
For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops. I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.
Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe. The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables. We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc. We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.
You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.
Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink. This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.
Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.
My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.
Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris. I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee. Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for. All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.
After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris. We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.
We loved this cafe. They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded. We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.
My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.
I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers. So tasty.
At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.
This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.