Soon it was suppertime again. Our destination that evening was none other than our very own Hôtel Lutetia’s Le Paris Restaurant. Michelin star executive chef Philippe Renard and his sous chefs created some of the best food that passed between my lips during this trip. The very intimate dining room creates a sense of being cocooned apart from the crowd; the sommelier and the waiters hovered silently, just out of view, waiting to assist guests; and the cuisine, made up of the freshest ingredients, was assembled in a perfectly executed, contemporary manner.
I started with the delicious Brittany lobster served with fresh zucchini and white mushrooms, tomato and basil, followed by the Brittany langoustine, pan fried with girolles (a lovely, meaty yellow-orange mushroom, found in Europe, related to the chanterelle) and almonds. Both dishes burst with flavor, cooked to the peak of perfection—but not a second more, and were accompanied by perfectly matched wines.
But the pièces de resistance were the desserts: the chocolate experience (three different chocolate confections, each with a different percentage of cacao), a modern interpretation of a raspberry “millefeuille” served with a Tahiti vanilla cream pirouette and a crystallized violet (that I still dream of!), and wild strawberries presented in a spherical cage of sugar and bathed in hot strawberry juice with a hint of coconut.
It was hard to apply the 50 percent solution to this meal, but I knew I was getting quality, in-season food prepared with the freshest ingredients and seasonings. A beautifully set table and a slow pace ideal for connoisseurship and conversation ritualized the meal, and I can truly say that I tasted and enjoyed every morsel. If the “zipper syndrome” told me I had to compensate the next day, so be it!
Later we retired to the Lutetia Bar, in all of its red-velvet-and-gold Art Deco splendor, to listen to live piano jazz and sip on cocktails (in my case, water; “know thyself” is another Guiliano mantra). It was a room in which F. Scott Fitzgerald would have felt at home. And then to bed, where I slept in a fluffy cloud of white down, with nary a maid (or a honking car) to interrupt my slumber. It was well past breakfast time when I finally stirred and made my way, slowly, out of bed. My schedule was free until dinner that night.
The first order of the day was procuring coffee—not too hard to do in Paris—and food. I opted for a small café where I savored my café au lait, and ate (with as much ritual as I could muster) a ham-and-cheese baguette that would tide me over for quite a few hours. And then I set off on foot, toward the Seine, intending to get to the Île de la Cité, Paris’ geographical center and the location where the city was founded, and the home of Notre Dame. I never made it. So many little side streets, shops and other curiosities called out to me. And before long, I realized that I needed to hoof it back to Hôtel Lutetia to get ready for dinner.
Once adequately attired, I made my way back toward the Seine (this time actually reaching the river’s edge) and walked west along the quais bordering the banks, until I reached the Eiffel Tower, before crossing over the river to the Place du Trocadéro (in the sixteenth arrondissement). There, within the Palais de Chaillot, the Musée de l’Homme is housed, and tucked away in the back is the very trendy and chic Café de l’Homme. On the inside: ultra-high ceilings hung with modern light fixtures resembling pinpoint stars and casting subdued light upon crowds of beautiful people; on the outside: a giant terrace with an unrivaled view of the Eiffel Tower. Waiters zipped around like electrons, both outside and in.
I enjoyed a very rustic pâté au natural with caramelized onions and cabbage. My entrée, gnocchi with shitake mushrooms in a cream sauce, was a bit disappointing, although the mushrooms made a valiant effort at saving the dish. This time I skipped dessert altogether in favor of more wine. But best of all was the Eiffel Tower: every hour, on the hour for five minutes the filigreed iron lady was illuminated by sparkling lights. It sounds so kitschy, but the effect still manages to impress.
Much too late that night, we all piled into cabs and headed back to our lovely home-away-from-home, where my soft-as-a-cloud bed awaited me for what should have been my last night of sound slumber in Paris. Alas, jet-lag struck, and I frittered away the hours tossing and turning. The next day, I managed to sleep very well on the flight back to Newark, waking up only for meals (old habits are hard to break).
Using the “zipper syndrome”—Guiliano’s way of determining increased size—I surmised that my trip to Paris, the land of captivating cuisine, hadn’t cost me more than a pound or two.But even if you do bring home a few souvenirs that show up on your bathroom scale, Guiliano has this advice: “Don’t panic: if you gain a few pounds, deal with it as soon as you return. Do a … few days of detox with lots of soups, veggies and fruit. And reduce your portions a bit for a while and add more walking, and these few pounds will disappear with no torture. Life is too short to go on diets.”
And life’s vacations are even shorter, which is why she adds: “Changing your relationship with food is not something you start when traveling. The mindset takes weeks of practice and is better done at home.” Well, I must say, my relationship with food was transformed on this journey; I’m pretty certain my bonding experience with some of those French desserts could become a long-term commitment!
“Changing your relationship with food is not something you start when traveling,” Guiliano says, noting that travel leads to stress and stress leads to overeating. “The mindset takes weeks of practice and is better done at home. It’s about ‘knowing thyself’ and once you’ve made some progress you can deal with food no matter where you are.”
Other travel-eating tips gleaned from Guiliano’s book, French Women Don’t Get Fat:
- Opt for quality over quantity
- Don’t deny yourself but consume in moderation
- Eat a wide variety of foods
- Choose items that are in season
- Enjoy the ritual of the meal (as opposed to wolfing down a mini-meal while standing in Line at the Eiffel Tower)
- Always carry a snack, just in case
- Use the “zipper syndrome” (can you close the zipper on those pants?) and not a scale to determine weight gain
Paris Dining 411
Le Paris Restaurant 45,
boulevard de Raspail,
Brasserie du Louvre
Place André Malraux
62, rue de Sevrés
24-26, Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
Restaurant Héléne Darroze
4, rue d’Assas, 75006 Paris
64, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Café de l’Homme (Inside the Musee de l’Homme)
17, place du Trocadero,
(Part 1) | (Part 2) | Part 3
By Andrea Braslavsky of travelgirl