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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Advice: La Fourchette

This weekend was the best weekend of 2012- starting with a crêpe dinner and ending with a crispy chicken in a park next door.

However, I realized, talking to several close friends, many people don't even know what "La Fourchette" is, especially not tourists or newcomers to Paris.

La Fourchette (http://www.lafourchette.com) is a website that basically offers the function to reserve a table online, look at their menu/pricing and the best part- get a huge discount on a normally overpriced meal.  From either the website or the iPhone application, reserving a table is super simple and the service is really quite unique.  I've used the service about 5 times now in Paris.. and they were pretty fantastic restaurants.

This weekend I used it twice, once on Friday evening at a crêperie, basically a 15€ menu with aperitif, salty crêpe, sweet crêpe and the typically French 'cidre'.

Afterwards, Saturday night was the best deal- we decided to eat at a much fancier restaurant, just to have a little break from the cheap stuff, and so I was in charge of hunting around la Fourchette.

What I stumbled across was "La Millésimes" near the Montparnasse tower, an amazingly chic restaurant bustling with foreign and local individuals.

Normal menu averaged about 30€, we got the full entrée-plat-dessert deal for only 24€ and was the meal amazing.  Starting with a delicately wrapped goat cheese with garden salad,

My polenta and fish..
a polenta base with sautéed rougets filets,

and ending with the best lava cake I've ever eaten in my life... topped with a pistachio ice cream fait maison.

La Fourchette not only facilitates booking restaurants, it allows you to cancel, review the restaurant, search by type of food, read previous reviews, look at photos- an amazing service that didn't, unfortunately, exist in Lyon.  Paris has hundreds if not thousands of restaurants that are signed up for La Fourchette, and unlike Groupon, the patrons and servers respect the clients from La Fourchette.  I've never had a side look or a hesitation when I've booked through them, always treated with patience and care.

If you plan to move to Paris, already live in Paris, want to visit Paris- try La Fourchette to book your dinners and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Real Tapas in Paris

Last weekend we were craving tapas, the sort that we remembered in Barcelona.. one day we were on vacation down south and went to a very local Tapas Joint in a small quarter of the city.  One bottle of cava rosa, fried chorizo, fresh seafood, bocadillos smeared with a garlic and tomato spread, stuffed to the hilt with fresh Pork charcuterie.. That's what we were looking for.

We figured since Paris is so international there would have to be a tapas bar of quality in the area, and we were not wrong.

It happened on a sunny day, strolling around the 8th arrondissment and we spotted the tiny joint, covered by a plastic sheet, not too fancy but idealistic.  El Cerventes was our going to spot and we called to make a reservation, already the home-style type, there is no fixed line.  Cell phone direct, he said, "No way. We are booked up." Ah.

So to avoid the same problem we called on Wednesday to book for Saturday, and same thing, booked, at least 2 weeks in advance.. but come to the 2nd service and we'll find you a spot.

We arrived in the Paris rain, waiting just outside their plastic covered entrance.  10 minutes.

The best was walking in, the place could only seat maybe 30 people at most, and we were tucked away in the corner and began snapping off orders.

Chorizos Fritos
Pulpa Salada
Tortilla Patatas

Our two other friends ordered a main dish, a salmon and a large steak.  Large is an understatement, it was massive.  The salmon that perfect under cooked texture, moist and incredibly flavorful.

We ate and ate, it was amazing.  The flavors were authentic, so spicy and yet well balanced. The queso manchego was exactly how I remember, that slight picanto taste, washed down with a sangria.

The best was the prices, four people ate at a price of only 56€ total.. and when I say ate, we were full and practically rolling back home.

So, if you want some authenticity and a little Espagnol escape, try:

El Cervantes
46 Rue Daubenton 75005

But remember, call 2 weeks in advance... AND they do not accept cards, so pull out cash or get your check book ready.

Viva l'Espagna!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Little Things...

Recently I was just about to cross the street, it was around 9pm in the evening and Bri and I had ordered Chinese takeout.  We stepped onto the street and noticed something very odd, the guy in front of us had whipped out his zizi and was taking a whizz, in plain public, on the crosswalk.

Now, I've seem some oddities in my life abroad, but this is probably a moment that took the cake.  To have the balls (excuse the pun) to pee in public, and I mean, show the wares to everyone and everything...

It got me thinking... There have been many moments that I've said, that would never happen in the states. And thus, this blog is going to be dedicated to those little things that are just cultural.

Homeless Dudes and Cheap Wine
I remember back in the states, many of the Homeless people had cans of cheap PBR or even whisky or vodka.  In France, these homeless, while 10x stinkier than in the states, are also a bit classier.  I happen to observe the homeless around the city, instead of avoiding, and most of them tend to have a bottle of wine in their hands.  How very French for the homeless people to get exceedingly drunk on a bottle of wine.  Of course, glasses are not needed.

Teaching Kids to Pee on Walls
I actually wrote this down in my journal once, scribbled quickly as if I was shocked.  Due to a lack of public, clean toilets, many people end up peeing in public (although rarely in cross-walks), and thus arrives the "teaching your child to pee in front of everyone on this very public wall" moment.  The kid was maybe, 5 years old, mom huddled over showing him how to do his business.

The Soft Porn of Cheese
I watch a lot of French television, it tends to help me keep up my comprehension, plus dating a Senator's assistant means lots and lots of political news pundits.  I always prepare myself mentally when the commercials come on, notably the cheese commercials.  They always start the same, soft beating music lulling and enticing the audience to watch what's happening... suddently a hand reaches over to a cheese, Roquefort, Caprice de Dieu, St. Agur, slices a piece off and takes a bite.  The minute the presumabely French person bites into the cheese, suddenly they are transported to a paradise... rain falls, and it seems as though they love it so much they could marry it.  If you don't believe me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YEmgb7ZCWE

Seriously, he grips the wood as though eating St. Agur provides such an immense pleasure... total soft porn.

I think I could make a whole separate post on just marketing strategies in France.

Get In Line at 6pm For Baguettes
Without fail, I receive a text every night before I leave work from Bri, "Do we hav bread?" because he knows I forget.  So as I haul my bag of work home, I end up in like at 6:20pm with all the other French after-work crowd.  As addictive as cigarettes, the baguettes is an absolute requirement in order to eat any French meal.  So there is always an insane line of at least 10 people, each one ordering the same or a variation,

Une baguette s'il vous plaît,
Une banette s'il vous plaît....

The line seems enormous, but it passes quickly and we all retreat home with a long and crispy baguette under our arms.

I notice it more in Paris than I did in Lyon, but people let their dogs squat anywhere and let it loose, thus resulting in a sort of Indiana Jones commute to work.  I feel like I'm avoiding piles of the stuff every day, luckily I always was the type to watch my feet... so mess avoided! I have yet to step in a pile of crap (knock on wood).

More to come...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Advice: Buying Groceries Online

Alright, so we are not all novice-internet users, so I imagine you've already heard of the fabulous services proposed everywhere around Paris.  "Retirer vos courses!, Achetez en avance!"

I never saw so many proposed services in Lyon and so I immediately decided to try a nifty service offered by Monoprix, a large grocery chain in France, which enables you to purchase online and then pick-up in the store.

I decided to avoid the surcharge and costs associated with delivery and opt for the retrait courses service offered for FREE from 30€ worth of groceries.

So basically it all starts from their website: http://courses.monoprix.fr/ where you create a user login and pick the magasin de retrait close to your area.  Since I'm near Cambronne in the 15th, I was lucky to get one 1/2 mile from my home.

Most all the products I use are on the site, conveniently located down the e-aisles, much like any online service.  I created a list and just starting saving away, quickly adding up all the groceries and compiling 35€ worth of food to pick up on a Tuesday night after work.

Next, you pay, just like any service a little area to pop in a debit card, and *poof* there is even an option to replace any item unavailable with the next best thing, which I chose not too.

Two days later you show up in the store, head to the "retrait courses" telephone box and press the button.  Name, order number, and while you watch the painstakingly long line in the evening hours, the groceries show up within 10 minutes ready to be taken away.  Sign on the dotted line, head home within 10 minutes.

The benefits are obvious, but to list a few:

  • Weekends not being spent hauling groceries and waltzing around the store
  • Extra "chocolate" doesn't suddenly get bought
  • More points are available on online products, so I've been able to get 5€ off on groceries after a few purchases
  • Easy to keep track of consumption times (to know when to order things)
I believe many of the other grocery stores offer the same type of service, but it depends on the area you are located. 

I still recommend Boucheries for meat products, simply for the quality.

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