Plan for a Delightful Dining Experience

How to Plan for a Delightful Dining Experience on Your Next Trip to Paris

People travel to Paris for a variety of reasons, ranging from business trips to summer vacation. Whatever your reason for making the trip, you will find your visit to the City of Light much more enjoyable if you take advantage of your presence there to dine on the fine French cuisine that hundreds of Parisian restaurants offer.

By fine French cuisine, I don’t mean the standard steak-and-French-fries fare that is served up in the city’s myriad cafés. Nor do I mean the exquisite haute cuisine that is served in exclusive restaurants. To me, fine French cuisine is served in mid-range restaurants where the price for a three-course meal ranges from around 28€ to 35€, excluding beverage.

The following are some ideas on how to prepare for your fine-dining experience in Paris:

Determine in which quarters you will spend most of your time while in Paris

Do you plan just to hit the major sightseeing spots and then quickly move on to Belgium? If so, this will limit the areas in which you will find good restaurants. Many fine restaurants can be found off the tourist circuit with only a little extra effort.

Determine whether you are truly ready to try French cuisine

Many travelers aren’t open to new dining experiences and abhor the idea of eating foreign food. I once dined in a Parisian restaurant with an American woman who ordered a chicken dish baked in brick pastry. When it was served, she raised the plate high and studied the food for the longest time. Finally, she lowered the plate and, with great reluctance, began eating it.

Determine how far you are willing to travel from your hotel to get to the restaurant

After a day of sightseeing or shopping, you generally return to your hotel and prepare to go out for dinner. How far are you willing to travel to get to the restaurant that was recommended by a friend or whose name you found on the Internet? Use the Paris metro service Web site to learn precisely where the restaurant is located, the closest metro or bus stop, and the amount of time it will take to get there.

And finally, here is my method for choosing a restaurant for my wife’s and my weekly foray into the marvelous world of French restaurant dining. I begin by consulting The Fork, an on-line restaurant reservation service. There, I look at restaurants that have garnered at least an overall score of 8 out of 10. Then, I look at the rating that these restaurants have garnered on Trip Advisor, an on-line restaurant rating service.

With up to an hour or so of careful research, I usually find a restaurant whose food, service, and ambiance are above reproach.

Bon appétit!

Tom Reeves
Tom Reeves is the author of a recent e-book entitled Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Toli Nameless and Paris Girls Rock Camp

Toli Nameless and Paris Girls Rock Camp

Toli Nameless is a Jamaican-born musician who grew up in New York City. On this side of the Atlantic, she has found a comfortable home as an artist-in-residence at 6b, a cultural center in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis.

Toli Nameless © Discover Paris!

Toli Nameless
© Discover Paris!

We first met Toli last year, when she organized the 3rd edition of Paris Girls Rock Camp as part of an initiative called Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA). Her inspiration to create the camp was “a culmination of the evolution of [her] career in music, education, and women’s development, and the opportunity to provide this type of service in [her] community.”

Toli’s first introduction to GRCA was through the Willie Mae Rock-n-Roll Camp for Girls in Brooklyn, NY. Invited to perform at a benefit concert for the camp, she was sufficiently intrigued with the event that she decided to bring it to Paris. She counts on the support of 6b and GRCA, her year-round partners, and recruits additional partners for the camp each year.

Paris Girls Rock Camp’s mission is to offer a positive educational experience in music to young girls and women in the Paris region. Toli and her partners have organized the camp since 2011.

Public performances following this year’s camp were held at the Cité de l’Histoire de l’Immigration on June 21, 2014 and at Le 6B’s Fabrique des Rêves festival on July 11, 2014.

We caught up with Toli several weeks ago, when she performed at another event, 6b’s annual open house.

Toli Nameless and Paris Girls Rock Camp

6b – garden and façade © Discover Paris!

As an “incubator” for artists of all types, 6b houses over 160 residents in 7000 square meters (roughly 75,350 square feet) of space devoted to workshops, offices, and common areas (exhibition space, screening room, dance hall, restaurant associations…). It welcomes artists, architects, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and artisans. Each person develops his / her project individually, while benefiting from a dynamic group of like-minded associates.

Among the activities organized at 6b are the annual Fabrique à Rêves festival, numerous gallery expositions, and cinema workshops. The city of Saint-Denis is an active supporter of the center.

Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris



Jamericazz in Paris

Alecia McKenzie is an award-winning author from Jamaica who has called Paris home for the past six years.

Denise King is a renowned jazz singer from Philadelphia who has a fabulous gift for improvisation.

Together, these two women have created Jamericazz© – a combination of readings from McKenzie’s books and King’s spontaneous interpretations of the passages into song.

Alecia McKenzie and Denise King (c) Discover Paris!

Alecia McKenzie and Denise King
(c) Discover Paris!

On July 26th, McKenzie and King joined other writers and artists for an evening of literature, jazz, and art at the gallery Espace Kaméléon in Paris’ 14th arrondissement. McKenzie read three passages from Sweetheart, the novel for which she won the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Caribbean Region. She prefaced her recitations by stating that “something has happened” to the main character – a young Jamaican artist named Dulcinea Evers – and informed the audience that she would read passages written in the voice of the protagonist’s father.

After each passage, King wove the story into powerful a cappella riffs, using her own words.

Canadian-Vietnamese writer Caroline Vu followed by introducing her recently published novel Palawan Story, which deals with the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the experience of the Boat People. Then Parisian writer Sadiad Youssouf, who is of Somalian, Vietnamese, and French descent, read from her unpublished French-language manuscript about life in Djibouti and France.

 Vu Can, artist and professor - Sadiad Youssouf, writer - Denise King, singer Caroline Vu, writer and doctor - Alecia McKenzie, writer and artist

Vu Can, artist and professor – Sadiad Youssouf, writer – Denise King, singer
Caroline Vu, writer and doctor – Alecia McKenzie, writer and artist

King rounded out the evening with two a cappella solos, after the audience called for encores.

Along with the readings and music, a selection of oil, acrylic, and ink paintings was on display.

Among them were works by McKenzie and her teenage daughter, who has also been painting for several years.

Yes, McKenzie is an artist as well as an author! She paints in addition to writing journalistic pieces and fiction. She finds this activity to be the most relaxing of all her creative endeavors, and often paints with her children. One of her paintings graces the cover of Sweetheart.

 Cover of Sweetheart

Cover of Sweetheart

McKenzie has been a published writer since high school, when her poems appeared in the Jamaican newspapers The Gleaner and The Star. Her first collection of short stories – Satellite City – won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 1993 and has been translated into several languages. Additional works include a novella for young people entitled Doctor’s Orders (2005) – and a second collection of short stories called Stories from Yard (2005).

King is a mostly self-taught vocalist whose musical persona is heavily influenced by the likes of Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughn. She discovered jazz at the tender age of twelve, thanks to an uncle’s impressive collection of LPs. She was discovered many years later, when a recording professional walked by her front stoop and heard her dulcet tones as she sang to herself. She began recording during the 1990s and has gone on to perform on stages around the world.

The July evening in Paris was the third time that McKenzie and King have performed together. Previously, they have read and sung at a private tribute to Nelson Mandela at the home of a mutual friend in Paris, and at the official launch of Jamericazz© at Waterstones bookstore in Brussels last June. At the launch, McKenzie read complete short stories from her collections, and King improvised poetic jazz vocals based on the readings.

Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

Cuistance – World Food in Paris

Cuistance – World Food in Paris

My husband Tom and I love dining out and we do so quite frequently to write our weekly Paris Insights restaurant review.

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a fine meal at a restaurant near Les Halles called Cuistance.


© Discover Paris!

The menu borrows from the Spanish tapas theme. The restaurant serves small portions and encourages customers to order three tapas as the equivalent of the traditional French entrée-plat* to share with their dining companions. The selections are fresh and exciting with international touches;  examples included Tataki de boeuf (Japan), and Ecrasé de burrata (Italy).

The restaurant is narrow and its décor is decidedly contemporary. Our servers were happy and proud to speak English with us. We were pleased with our choices from the menu.  Among the six savory dishes that we sampled, our favorite was Ecrasé de burrata, flocons d’avoine, pickles de mini maïs, riz soufflé, vinaigrette de noisette grillée, cress de basilic pourpre – a flattened portion of burrata cheese (a pocket of mozzarella containing fresh cream) covered with toasted wild rice, ears of pickled baby corn, and purple basal, all dressed in toasted hazelnut vinaigrette.  Delicious!

Ecrasé de burrata

Ecrasé de burrata

© Discover Paris!

The wine list is lovely as well, including the wines by the glass. I enjoyed a glass of Pouilly Fumé – Domaine des Fines Caillottes – 2012 from the Loire Valley and a glass of Maucaillou – 2011 from Bordeaux. Tom settled for a beer (Sol, from Mexico) with his meal.

As we were waiting for our dessert selection, a Mango-coconut soup topped with a honey-coated filo-dough crust, Chef Henri-Serge Manga emerged from the kitchen to inquire among the customers about their satisfaction with his handiwork. We asked a few questions about the ingredients in our dishes, to which he readily responded, and then he graciously posed for the photo below.

Chef Henri-Serge Manga, Cuistance Restaurant © Discover Paris! 

Chef Henri-Serge Manga, Cuistance Restaurant
© Discover Paris!

Chef Manga is of Cameroonian origin. He studied at Thames Valley University near London and has cooked in Japan and the renowned Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire, Great Britain. He worked at a wonderful little restaurant called “Bon in Paris” 16th arrondissement prior to taking over the kitchen at Cuistance.

14 Rue Sauval
75001 Paris
Telephone: 01 40 41 08 08
Métro station: Châtelet Les Halles (Lines 1, 4, 7, and 14; RER A, B, and D)

*If you don’t know what entrée-plat means, then you may be interested in reading our new e-book Dining Out in Paris.  For more information, click HERE.

Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

Firefighter and Chef Michael D. Poole Makes Chocolate on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Chef Michael Poole trained at the world-famous Cordon Bleu in Paris and won several prizes for his artisanal chocolates in the United States. This summer, he is the guest chocolatier at Mococha Chocolat in Paris’ 5th arrondissement, where he is teaching a Master Class on making Cayenne Caramel on July 10, 2014.  In this exclusive interview, he tells how he pursued his culinary training in Paris and shares his thoughts on the differences between U.S. and French culinary culture.

Chef Michael D. Poole Makes Chocolate on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Chef Michael D. Poole and Hot Chocolat Artisan Firehouse Chocolates
Collage © Discover Paris!

ETBP: You have an intriguing career – firefighter, gourmet chef, and chocolatier! How do you find time for all of this?

MDP: It’s not easy! At first I would get overwhelmed taking on too much work (catering) and then going to my firefighting job. Over the years I have learned how to balance working for the Fire Department, cooking, making chocolates, and taking time for myself by going on vacation.

ETBP: Tell us about the program that you followed at the Cordon Bleu – length of time, number of courses, exams, internships…

MDP: The first year I started out in the Diplôme de Cuisine intensive course – Cuisine de Base (Basic Cuisine). This is a six-week course, going to school six days a week three classes a day with very little down time to experience and see Paris. During the first semester of cuisine classes, I decided I wanted to do the whole Grand Diplôme program, which is a comprehensive combination of cuisine and pastry classes.

The second year I took Pâtisserie de Base Intensive. This was also a six-week intensive class, but only in pastry. I took this course in August, the hottest time of year. Because of the heat and a lack of air conditioning, I learned techniques during this class that were invaluable.

The third year I took the regular 10-week courses in intermediate cuisine and pâtisserie. Taking the two courses simultaneously was much better because I had time to really process what I was learning and I also had time to see and enjoy Paris.

The fourth year, I took Superior Cuisine and Pastry, which was another 10-week course. During that time I started working and training with a former student who had graduated and opened a small chocolate factory outside of Paris. After I graduated and received my Grand Diplôme, I stayed for another three months for a cuisine stage (apprenticeship) at Restaurant le Chiberta, 3 Rue Arsene Houssaye, Paris 8th.

ETBP: Did you make your first chocolates at the Cordon Bleu?

MDP: Yes, during the first year of pastry class.

ETBP: How would you compare French culinary culture with U.S. culinary culture?

MDP: The French culinary culture traditionally has always been, and still is, all about the “food.” The French are very passionate about their food. For example, at lunch they talk about what they are going to have for dinner. And at dinner they talk about what they had for lunch. On the other hand, Americans have been known for the quantity of food they have on their plates. Not that they do not like good food. It’s more about how big the portions are rather than the taste and quality of the food.

The French are known for small portions. Just a taste…it’s not about getting stuffed. It’s about the enjoyment of the food. The smell, the taste, closing your eyes, and making those noises: ohh, ohhhhhh, ohhhh that is so good (smile!). That is what I’m talking about! And that is what I aspire to cook like!

Our new book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light gives you the knowledge and confidence you need to enjoy a fine meal and to have a wonderful dining experience in Paris.  Bonus: 12 in-depth restaurant reviews give great suggestions for where to dine! Get your copy here:

Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

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