Pain, Vin, Fromages – the name says it all.

Pain, Vin, Fromage restaurant in Paris at NightHow long will you be in France? A day, week, or month? Will you have enough time to experience the best aspects of French cuisine? Maybe, if you visit Pain, Vin, Fromages, a small restaurant in the Marais district of Paris. The name says it all, you’ll find great bread and a wide assortment of French cheeses and wines.

I haven’t had the opportunity to eat here yet, but I’ve walked by and it looked very good. Of course, I’m a bit jaded. I have two major vices: bread and cheese. So this restaurant hit a soft spot.

The menu

Their menu is simple and well thought out. The items, not surprisingly, fall into three categories: bread, wine, and cheese. Each item, from the bread sticks to the 50 varieties of cheese, is carefully chosen and paired with wine by Vincent Durand, the resident oenologist.

Vegans are not going to find a lot of choices at this restaurant. But lacto vegetarians should love the extensive cheese selections, tartines, and most importantly the fondues.

Pain, Vin, Fromages is conveniently located near the Centre Pompidou in the Marais. It’s only open for dinner.

Pain, vin, fromages restaurant
3, Rue Geoffroy-l’Angevin, 75004 Paris (4°)
01 42 74 07 52
Open everyday from 7 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.
Metro: Rambuteau
Wine bar

Kosher Pizza invades Falafel Alley

Kosher Pizza in ParisWhat is a pizza joint doing on a street dedicated to falafel? It’s bringing back a bit of Paris history and that is a good thing for us. The street has been a bit sad for years as the old Kosher Pizza restaurant sat empty and boarded up. Perhaps rue de Rosiers is returning to its history of kosher food instead of the latest batch of clothing stores.

Kosher food does not allow dairy and meat to be served or cooked together. That means this is a vegetarian pizza restaurant by default. You can even have it sans cheese for your vegan fix.

The lack of meat is not the only thing different about the Kosher Pizza Restaurant. The walls are covered with Orthodox Jewish posters and scripts instead of Venetian sunsets, the standard images of Michelangelo’s David have also been replaced with rabbi photos; which reminds me a bit of the Rabbi trading cards available from Archie McPhee in Seattle.

The Pizza

Kosher Pizza in Paris
The pizza has a ridiculously thin crust. It is more like a cracker than the dough you’d see in a thick crusted pizza. Perhaps this is a nod to matzo.

The pizza options are mostly variations of onion, leek, egg, olives, and eggplant. It’s a bit surprising to see pizza names, like nicoise, and not see the traditional meat ingredient listed.

I was a bit worried when I sat down and watched a young couple eat three pizzas. I was unfortunately brought up with the concept of quantity over quality at pizza joints. Forget the California bite sized pizzas, bring on the buy 1 get 3 free delivery specials.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how filling the provincial pizza was. It’s a cracker thin crust with sauce, a sprinkling of cheese, and topped with ratatouille. The cheese is so minimal that I’m sure vegans would love this pizza without the cheese. The toppings blended nicely with the sauce.

Kosher Pizza is obviously closed on sabbath and Jewish holidays. It’s a bit more expensive than its falafel neighbors, but you’ll appreciate the unique experience.

Kosher Pizza
17 rue des Rosiers (4°)
Metro: St. Paul
01 48 87 56 88
Wheelchair Friendly: Wow! This is very accessible. There are no steps to enter and the bathroom is easily reached from the dining area. Even the tables are wheelchair friendly.
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Value: 3/5
  • Location: 5/5
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Vegetarian Options: 5/5
  • Vegan Options: 5/5

Aligot in Paris – Aveyron festival October 9-11, 2009

Aveyron festival posterDon’t miss the Aligot festival this weekend in the 12th arr. near Park de Bercy. To be fair, it’s not just aligot but also a celebration of the Aveyron region of France. The Marché des Pays de l’Aveyron festival takes place October 9-11, right in front of my favorite cafe, the Parisian Sweet Bar.

Aligot is a stringy white cheese that is laboriously stirred with potatoes to create a heavenly, yet very filling dish. It’s a rich mashed potato dish that makes even the sturdiest potluck bowls of Alabama pale in contrast. After all, the region is known for its hardy, rustic cuisine.

This is also a great time to sample and purchase confiture, honey, and other local products. I always keep an eye out for socks and other items made from the Angora goats. Making aligot at a Paris marketThese regional festivals are perfect for tourists in Paris that are looking for a quick shopping/eating excursion. Wine lovers can find wonderful bottles that are impossible to find back home. They are free to join and you can expect ample samples and smiles.

Just try to look past the fois gras, sausages, and other meaty products.

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Hidden Delights of Le Pure Café

My friends in Paris think I’m a bit crazy. You see, I’m not only a vegetarian. I’m also a tea-totaller. So what could be more crazy than living in Paris and not drinking wine?

So I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about. Jean-Pierre promised a magical experience when drinking wine with cheese. My time in Paris was rapidly coming to an end and I needed a touch of magic.

So we planned on visiting the original wine bar, not just in Paris but around the world. It’s a small restaurant in the 11th arrondissement that introduced the concept of expertly chosen wines that are available by the glass and paired with the best foods and cheeses.

Unfortunately, it was August and we met outside a closed restaurant. However, all was not lost. Jean-Pierre had lived nearby a decade earlier and knew a special little restaurant. We crossed our fingers that it was still around and not on the standard August Vacation.

Le Pure Café

Le Pure Cafe at night
Jean-Pierre lived in an apartment that looked down on this odd corner lot restaurant. He knew it a couple decades ago when the area was buzzing with good ol’ communist and worker activism. This restaurant/bar was a meeting place for the Parisian Proletariat.

It’s now more bobo than prolo. The new owners have expanded the space and size of the bar. There’s still a small tribute to its red history, but the conversations are now about food, family, and work instead of revolution.

The interior is decidedly “shabby chic”. It’s the antithesis of Bofinger or the new restaurants that are meticulously designed. Le Pure Café seems to have grown organically and still exhibits some growing pains. For instance, the circuit breakers were tripped about every twenty minutes while we were there. The raucous din of conversations would abruptly stop as the lights went out and the waiter would lean over a dining table to flip the switch back on.

The food

Le Pure Café has a few vegetarian options on its menu. I chose a baked cheese ravioli dish in a cream sauce. It was very rich, cheesy, and satisfying. However, I was fascinated by my friend Philippe’s dish. He had Burrata. Keep an eye out for this cheese, I think it is going to be the new hotness.

Burrata – Buffalo Mozzarella’s Creamy Sister

Burrata is like buffalo mozzarella with a cream center. He was served a large ball of cheese with a drizzling of pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. He also had a small green salad and some thinly sliced country ham. Obviously you could get it without the ham.

Burrata is very soft and tastes extremely fresh. It gives a new and decadent spin to the standard caprese salad. I would highly recommend this dish for your visit to Le Pure Café.

I’ve been looking for the cheese in California and have only found it in one Bay Area store. The fromager at Oakville Grocery, in Napa Valley, said the shelf life is very short; so most stores will be reluctant to stock it.

The Dessert

One cannot possibly live on pasta alone. No, one needs a balanced diet. In my case, the diet is balanced by a healthy serving of something chocolate. Le Pure Café certainly didn’t leave us unbalanced.
Jean-Pierre had a fabu tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. Philippe had the carpaccio of pineapple (I prefer the version at La Bélière), and I had the mother of all tiramisu platters. I ordered the Declinaison Chocolats, or a quartet of marscapone delights. I was presented with four variations on the tiramisu concept. There was the standard espresso/chocolate variety, but I also got Pistache, Caramel, and Fruit Rouge. I truly couldn’t choose a favorite, they were all magnificent.

The Wine

Jean-Pierre and Philippe chose a good, but simple wine for me to try. Keep in mind, I’m over 40 years old and have not drank alcohol. So I was experiencing wine and alcohol at the same time… I have to say, it was horrible!

I’m sure the wine was good. I’m sure it would have been magical with cheese. I’m probably going to burn in some alternative wine-hell for dissing vin rouge. But I shuddered and went into body writhing convulsions every time I swallowed the wine. I think Jean-Pierre thought I was being possessed by some kind of voodoo.

I now can live the rest of my life knowing that I really didn’t miss anything in France by choosing Perrier over wine at the dinner table. I still enjoy cooking with booze, but I can cancel any future wine trains through the Napa Valley.

Le Pure Café Summary

Le Pure Café is a hidden restaurant in the 11th. It sits in the split of two side streets that are accessed via a side street. So you’ll need to have your map with you. However, it is certainly worth the trip.

The service was friendly, although a bit slow. The food was wonderful and the wine didn’t kill me. The highlights were certainly the cheese based dishes. I didn’t see much for vegans, but lacto-ovo vegetarians should love it. The restaurant is triangular with large doors on two sides. This makes it fairly wheelchair accessible.

Dinner for the three of us, including dessert and wine was 96 euros.

Update: Watch closely and you’ll find Le Pure Cafe as the backdrop for a recent Windows 7 commercial on television.

Le Pure Café
14 rue Jean Macé (11°)
Metro: Charonne, Voltaire, Faidherbe Chaligny
01 43 71 47 22
Wheelchair Friendly: Easy access via several doors to the seating as well as ample outdoor eating. I don’t know about the restroom.
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Value: 4/5
  • Location: 3/5
  • Taste: 5/5
  • Ambiance: 5/5
  • Vegetarian Options: 2.5/5
  • Vegan Options: 2/5

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Chez Prosper – 11th Arr.

Sometimes you need a stick to your ribs dinner. Sometimes you need a joyful place to eat with noisy locals and waiters with a sense of humor. Sometimes you need a place you can always count on for a good meal. Sometimes you need all of the above.

Chez Prosper salad chevalier
Chez Prosper is a busy bistro tucked into the corner of Place Nation. It sits in the shadow of an old tax collecting station from the old gates of Paris. It’s a retro-bistro that looks as if it has been serving the masses for the past 100 years.

It’s not a vegetarian restaurant but it does feature one of my favorite salads of all time.

The Salad Chevalier is simple, yet ultimately satisfying. It starts with a layer of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Then a heaping layer of sautéed potato slices are added. Topping off this salad is a tartine with three melted cheeses.

Salad dressing is provided in an old coke bottle for you to use as much as you like. Personally, I pour on this sunflower oil/mustard dressing. I’ve never left Chez Prosper without being full, happy, and satisfied.

If your meat eating friends are like mine, they’ll enjoy the salmon in blue cheese sauce and the steak tartar. I also recommend the dark chocolate tart with extra crème anglais for the finale.

Pros: Chez Prosper is a great value for your dollar, the Salad Chevalier will cost around 10.50 Euros. No reservations are required. The bread is bottomless. The staff is contagiously happy. Chez Prosper has two sister restaurants with slightly different menus.

Cons: It can get crowded, noisy, and smoky indoors. But that is what you’d expect in a popular Parisian bistro.

Chez Prosper
7, Avenue du Trône, Paris France 75011
Metro: Nation
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Vegetarian Options: 3/5
  • Vegan Options: 2/5
  • Value: 5/5
  • Location: 4/5