Wineweek 84: Paris Favorites

Even though we have been home for a few weeks, I still have so much photo material from our recent trip to France, that I can fill Wineweek with them for many weeks to come. I promise you, these Paris pictures are way more interesting than anything I did this week, except for the dinner I had last night at a new restaurant called Derelict. It was awesome! However, I will write more about that another time. Now to some Paris favorites. Continue reading “Wineweek 84: Paris Favorites”

Vivant: Great foodie wine bar in Paris with a Swedish touch

Our recent trip to Paris, not surprisingly, entailed a lot of nice food and wine. We have already reviewed the excellent Frenchies Bar a Vin but we did also visit other places. On the day we arrived we wanted something close by the hotel so opted for Vivant Cave for dinner. It is a very narrow small space where the bar takes up a large part of the entire premises and behind it the chefs are working on creating the nice small or mid-sized plates. There is seating all along the bar as well as at a few tables that have been crammed in at strategic places. There are also several wine fridges lining the wall opposite the bar.

The restaurant used to be owned by Pierre Jancou but he has now moved on to new projects. I had not read up on the new chef before but being seated at the bar and having the chef take the orders for us I right away heard the unmistakable Swedish accent. The new chef is indeed Swedish, Svante Forstorp , but while relatively new at Vivant Cave he has plenty of experience from before for example from Aux Deux Amis. He makes some lovely small dishes behind the counter, the limited space does not seem to bother him at all. Not only is the food very good, it is also great to watch him at work. I am of course a bit of a sucker for the open kitchen but I am a firm believer that it keeps restaurants honest.

We opted for a selection of different dishes but among the highlights were the asparagus, the spicy pasta (chili and fresh lemon) as well as the smoked foie gras with cabbage. The place is known to have a good selection of, in Paris so trendy, natural wine and we were rather pleased with the wine recommendations. We tried an lovely Brut Nature champagne from Ruppert-Leroy  as well as an excellent Austrian sparkling from Strohmeier as well as some nice reds – the reds were very different, one extremely light while the other was much darker and fuller. I think the picture gives a pretty interesting comparison.

Service was in general very attentive and the staff were happy to explain the all-French menu to us. I also very much liked the pleasant atmosphere here, staff were relaxed and that made guests relaxed as well. We ended up chatting with people seated next to us at the bar and it did really seem very popular with foreigners visiting (we had Danes, Brits and Americans around us).The price level was rather decent as well, not exactly cheap but definitely value for money. Will be on my list for places to return to if in the area.

Wonderful food and wine at Frenchie Bar à Vins, Paris

Frenchie Bar à Vins is the more casual ‘cousin’ of the more upscale Frenchie Restaurant across the street. The bar has a no reservations policy and it is rumored to be crazy busy all the time. We therefore headed there not at all sure to score a seat. However, arriving around 10 minutes before opening time there was a not too long of a queue outside so we happily stood there and were seated at 7pm. The waiter later explained that they just recently started staying open in Saturday and Sunday so not that many know about it yet. So we were just lucky.

The bar has a very relaxed atmosphere and it does to some extent remind me a bit of José in London. However, Frenchie is a bit more of a proper sit down meal as there are quite a few high tables, with chairs, so not that many people standing around.

The food is all made to share and it is some sort of mid-sized or larger tapas dishes so a great way to sample many things. It is clear that they have a lot of international guests as well as the menu is also available in English and the staff speaks English. The wine list is interesting: a lot of French wine as can be expected but also some well picked international ones mixed in there. The selection by the glass is also pretty good with 6 reds, 6 whites, 2 sparkling, 1 rosé and 1 sweet (as well as some beers).

Surprise, surprise we started off by sampling the sparkling wine. The champagne from Pierre Gerbais was very much what I would have expected and that was not bad at all. The Crémant de Limoux (Domaine Les Hautes Terres, Joséphine) was however not all what I would have expected. The nose of it was not that appealing but when tasting it I was really pleasantly surprised. It had a very elegant mineral taste and it just paired perfectly with our first dish, the terrine. Before going more into the food we also sampled some of the other wines, a pleasant Pinot Noir as well as red from Languedoc. Neither of these were bad but also not extremely memorable.

The food was really something extraordinary here, the start was a terrine and after that we had a very fresh ricotta tortellini with a pea sauce. Greta refreshing dish that really made me want more. That was followed by a ragu of tender lamb with pappardelle, the flavors were perfectly matched and the meat so tender that it just melted away in my mouth. At this point I was really starting to build up expectations for the dishes to come and when the chicken with asparagus and mushrooms came in I was amazed that it was also so great, this actually competes for the best chicken dish ever but after considering it both S and I still hold the chicken we had at Hedone in London as one small step above. Still it was a wonderful dish. We were now actually already full but we could not say no to a dessert (we did skip the cheese, but they do have some nice British cheese from Neal’s Yard) and went for a fresh coconut dessert with chocolate surrounding coconut and a creamy crust on top. After all that food we were full and very happy.

The service was very friendly and they could make good recommendations for the wines and it was possible to have some proper discussion about the wines and the staff actually all appeared to be knowledgeable about the wines on offer. The only drawback was that the service was a bit slow, I am however not sure if it was too slow. The dishes did not come quickly but I also believe that it is nice to have some time between dishes, and here I believe they were just within the limit of what is acceptable (I did however see some people waiting longer than us, and 30 minutes between dishes is too long when there are at least 4-6 dishes).

All in all I was however very pleased with the quality of food, prices were reasonable, the mostly organic wine selection was also great so this is without doubt one of the top places, on my list, for food and wine in Paris. It also seems very good to head there on Saturday or Sunday as it is not yet that well-known that they are actually open then as well.

Wineweek 22: A Day in Paris

This week, I am writing to you on the road again. We are sitting on the train on our way to Reims to attend the 7th annual Terres & Vins the Champagne event. It is a cooperation between 24 small and medium sized champagne houses producing quality bubbly from solely their own grapes. Among the attending will be some of my favorites: Oliver Horiot, Laherte & Fills, Marie-Noelle Ledru and many more. This is the first time we are attending, and I must say there have not been many wine events this year that have excited me as much as this one. I will be writing more about it next week.

Now to the last 24h spent in Paris. We embarked on our trip already on Friday as we thought we might as well have a look around while we are here. It has been 5-7 years for both me and M since we were here, so much has changed (perhaps in our preferences and interests as well). So what do you go and see if you only have 24h? The Louvre, Notre Dame or the Eiffel tower? Well, we saw the Louvre while briskly walking past towards our real passion, wine shops, cafes and bars.

Streets of Paris
Streets of Paris
Blessed with beautiful weather
Blessed with beautiful weather

Our expectations about Paris were mixed. We knew there would be great stuff, we were just not sure we would find it. With hours and hours of advance research on Google, we found a good number of recommendations. We were just not sure whether these English language sites would lead us to what we were looking for. You knever know if the French want to keep the gems of the city to themselves. Well, seems there were gems to share as we were very happy with what we found. And we didn’t even need to know French to find it. Here is a list of places we visited:

1. Vivant Cafe and Bar: Walking distance from our hotel in district 10, Vivant is a cozy bar serving mid-sized dishes and interesting wines. We had some great Austrian sparkling (8€ per glass), creamy foie gras with fresh apple, white asparagus and a spicy pasta. All dishes were great and prices did not hurt the wallet. A dinner for two with four glasses of wine set us back less than 90€ (we didn’t have any dessert though). Just prepare for a cozy atmosphere as the bar is small and people are seated close to each other.
2. Coinstot Vino: Located in a small passageway, Coinstot Vino serves tapas-like plates and pizzas. They have a good selection of wine by the glass, trend being natural production (this seemed to be the trend in the whole of Paris). We only stopped by for an aperitif glass of bubbly and were not disappointed by the staff recommendations. A glass of champagne (from Fleury, see below) was only 9€ (!!!). Next time, I will also try out the pizzas as we heard some good things about them along the way.
3. Ma Cave Fleury: A wonderful and quirky wine bar and shop owned by the producer, Madam Fleury. She produces great bio-dynamic bubbly (Champagne) and also some white and red wines. We tried out the Brut Nature (zero dosage) and Millessime 2006, both toasty with mineral flavors. I must say I preferred the zero dosage and we walked out with a few bottles to take home. Prices for wine by the glass and bottles are very reasonable (7-15€ byt the glass and starting from 27€ by the bottle).
4. La Derniere Goutte: this small wine shop carries a wonderful selection of Champagne, mainly from small producers. In the selection you can find names like Agrapart & Fills and Jaques Selosse being the most familiar of them all (you will not find Möet here). On Saturdays they have visiting wine producers introducing and sampling their wines, and we were lucky enough to meet a very interesting lady from South France. She produced fresh and light reds and whites with minerally notes (just the way we like it), so we ended up walking out with our bottles and her business card.
5. Frenchies Bar a Vins: This is a more casual sibling of the find dining Bistro Frenchie across the street. We were hesitating whether to go as we had read that the queues are long to this no-reservations wine bar, and it was no other than Saturday night. Luckily we decided to walk past at opening time (19:00) and saw that the queue was manageable. We got in at the first seating. Later we discovered that the Saturday opening was new, thus many (including Google maps) expected them to be closed. The wines were interesting (also following the trend of ‘Natural’) and the food was exquisite. We tried out some wonderful terrine with pickled vegetables, Ricotta tortellinis with pea sauce, Pappardelle with lamb and chicken with asparagus. The ambience reminded me of José or Bubbledogs in London: casual and relaxed with friendly staff.

Coinstot Vino
Coinstot Vino
La Derniere Goutte
La Derniere Goutte
Champagne Fleury Millissime 2006
Champagne Fleury Millissime 2006

There are several other great places worth mentioning: the beautiful wine shop of LeGrand Fillets et Fills, Le Verre Vole and numerous great coffee shops that we sampled along the way (M will have plenty of material for Coffee Mondays). One additional place worth mentioning, due to it being the biggest disappointment of all, was the Bar 8 at the Mandarin Oriental. We can admit it, it was a bit of a risk to go there, however we had read that it was one of The places to go for a glass of champagne. However, the selection was dead boring (Bollinger, Veuve Cliquot, Tattinger etc) and a glass of (basic, non-vintage) champagne closer to 30€. We had some tea insted. The ambiance also reminded me of an upscale 80’s disco, so we were not tempted to linger after our tea was finished. Not to be too negative, they did have spotless service though.
That was a quick recap of our day in Paris. All in all it was wonderful and I must admit that Paris has perhaps won me over. I am anticipating that the city will now be on our annual list of to-visits.

Take me to Paris

Spring is in the air and I am eagerly waiting for our trip to Champagne next week. On Monday the 20th of April, The Winecurious is attending Terres et Vins de Champagne, a festival dedicated to grower Champagnes held in the town of Reims located 150 km north-east from Paris. While we are anyway travelling via Paris, we thought that we would take an extra day and spend it looking around town. I have been there once before, but it is such an overwhelming city, that there is always more to see. I doubt we will be visiting the Eiffel tower or the Champs-Élysées, but rather going around in wine shops and bars amazing at the selection at hand. Paris feels like the mother-ship of wine, and we are going to take a trip to “our roots”.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : © Jair Lanes
© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : © Jair Lanes
© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Daniel Thierry
© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : Daniel Thierry

As I am a novice when it comes to Paris our plans are based on what we have been reading about. I found a nice article on the Guardian that seemed to have a list of places that match my taste. So here are a few interesting places I am contemplating on visiting:

1. Albion: Located close to Gare du Nord train station Albion is run by English chef Matthew Ong and New Zealander barman Hayden Clout, who used to work at the Fish La Boissonnerie. They have a monthly changing selection of wines and some traditional eats such as vichyssoise with oysters, and orange and lemon curd tart. Mmm, sounds good!

2. Le Verre Vole. A hipster spot near Canal Saint-Martin, this bar is considered by many the best new-style wine bar in Paris (I don’t know what new-style bar means, but Parisian hipsters sound like they know wine). It was recently expanded, making it easier to bag a table – a reservation is probably a must. The tipsters say to check out the wine bottles on display, library-style, on open shelves – perhaps these are the bottles that are open on the day?? The food also sounds awesome with dishes like lamb and fig terrine. Also the cheeses get very positive reviews.

3. Frenchies Bar a Vins by chef Gregory Marchand’s, an annex to his bistro Frenchie. The bar gives a great opportunity to sample his cooking without the ordeal of trying to book a table at the restaurant. Sample is the right word as one can expect excruciatingly small plates of such delights a an earthy terrine de campagne with country bread and smoked trout with cucumber, pickled onions and garlic flowers. I also hear that Sommelière Laura Vidal manages one of the most interesting wine lists in Paris right now.

4. Willi’s Wine Bar owned by Englishman Mark Williamson, who has had a big influence on what Parisians drink today. The crowd is international and I hear there is a brilliant selection of wines by the glass. The menu follows the seasons with dishes such as quail breast on salad leaves with spiced nectarines.

All of the above sound great and interesting. I think we will prioritize places with a wide selection by the glass as having a bottle at each bar is perhaps a bit too much. I have not visited any of these places yet, nor have we decided on an agenda, so it would be great if any of the readers would share  your experiences and tips for Paris (preferably with a focus on wine)