Cuisses de grenouilles, pamplemouse, lapin, jambon, oeufs—probably names that do not just roll off your tongue. When you are at your newest favorite Paris bistro or shopping for your night’s dinner on Rue de Buci (6th), Marche Raspail (6th), or Rue Cler (7th), it’s a good idea to have your bistro French down so you don’t have to request a menu in English or deal in a fog with a French-only-speaking market vendor. If you have your bistro French down or are working with Eating & Drinking in Paris by Andy Herbach, you’ll recognize frog’s legs, pineapple, rabbit, ham and eggs. Food in France is a whole new ballgame for most Americans. There is simply no comparison between the French and American food experience when talking fresh, local and unprocessed. Savvy locals shop only at the daily street markets or, when in the 7th, at La Grande Epicerie au Bon Marche, the mother of all gourmet food shops. Paris street markets and specialty food shops are stuffed with still freshly baked baguettes, hanging rabbits, Camembert cheese and butter from Normandy, produce from Provence, Bresse chicken, Cros de la Geline poultry, Salers and Charolais beef, oysters from Brittany, sole from Normandy, and Burgundy wine from Puligny Montrachet, Mersault, St.Aubin, Aloxe Corton and Vosne Romanee. (Burgundy, not Bordeaux, ranks near the top on my survival/alternative investment roster.)
Unlike in the States, Paris bistros and restaurants will frequently source their menu offerings, making your choice of evening fare a most pleasing venture. According to law, menus must be posted outside. As such, you can enjoy a scouting walk to potential dining candidates and scope out the menu for each in advance of reserving. Unlike in the States, Paris restaurants and bistros will most often emphasize Price Fix, featuring either two or three courses. In France, Entrée refers to the first course and the designation Plat refers to your main course. A menu designation s.c. (service compris) indicates that your tip is included, which is most often the case. It is not required, but as an extra, you can leave a couple of 1 or 2 euro coins. To kick off your gastronomic French adventure, I strongly advise you order a copy of Andre Domine’s Food of France. If you cannot find this title, order instead Culinaria France by Domine.