When some people think of Paris, they think of gourmet restaurant meals. We, however, did not. The biggest reason is that we don't eat a lot of restaurant meals here at home in Seattle, gourmet or otherwise. When I'm not busy, I enjoy cooking (and am good at it). When we are busy, it honestly takes less time to prepare a simple meal than it is to go out to eat.
We had a bit of a snafu with getting into our rental apartment on time (we were able to leave our luggage but had to go kill a few hours while it was being cleaned), so we shoved aside our irritation and jetlag (after all, we were in Paris!) and wandered the streets of our Marais neighborhood. It was fate that we stumbled upon the very brasserie (La Chaise au Plafond on Rue du Tresor) that I had intended for our first evening, but had lost the pin on my map app. I chose it for it's location, primarily, on a quiet dead-end street but with adequate people watching possibilities. We ordered a carafe of red wine and two plat du jours: a chicken fricassee with curry sauce and vegetables. It of course came with bread on the side.
We had an amazing boulangerie/patisserie, Chez Manon, right downstairs from us. We can personally vouch for the excellence of those tarts, particularly the rhubarb.
With baguettes at 1 euro each, we ate breakfasts most mornings in our apartment, toasting the bread for tartines with amazing French butter and jam. The little grocery store downstairs provided eggs and yogurt for a little protein, the produce stand a few doors down offered the most gorgeous strawberries ever!
I confess that we brought coffee with us (Starbucks Gold Coast) to use in the small drip coffeemaker, and bought a supply of pods for the Nespresso machine. We would never do this on a trip to Italy, but according to David Lebovitz, France is not known for its coffee. When we were out and about, we generally had a cafe noisette (espresso with a little steamed milk) standing at a cafe bar. Cheaper than sitting at a table, and fun!
Our lunches often came from a boulangerie, as well, whether we brought a delicious baguette sandwich with us from Chez Manon or picked one up on our foot travels. One of my favorite lunches was our first full day in Paris, sitting on a park bench in Square Suzanne-Buisson, sharing a Chez Manon sandwich while we watched a Parisian dad and his adorable Parisian twin toddlers (one boy, one girl) enjoy the little playground, all under the watchful eye of the statue of Saint Denis, holding his decapitated head.
We did enjoy a few dinners at one of our corner cafes, once a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter (with red wine)...
...the other a so-so croque monsieur and a big salad with some local beer that was nothing to write home about. Generally, with all the walking we did during the day, we just wanted to chill in the evening, picking up wine and the makings for a quick dinner (chicken breasts and haricorts verts) from the grocer, a roasted chicken from the meat market down the block...
...or amazing tagine and couscous dishes from Le Marche des Enfants Rouges, Paris's oldest covered market, also just down the block. We also hit L'As du Fallafel, possibly the best falafel place in Paris, although many people debate that. We opted to purchase from the window and eat standing in the street, rather than pay more to eat our meal at an inside table.
When we went to the Sunday market near the Bastille, I dearly wished that we, A) had a bigger kitchen in our apartment, B) were staying in Paris longer, C) didn't have other plans that day. The sheer gorgeousness of the vegetables, cheeses, meats, fish, breads, desserts and other foodstuffs was a feast for the eyes (and a feast for a lot of bellies, if not ours).
The flowers and the dogs were gorgeous, too!
One thing I loved about Paris was the dearth of big supermarkets. You would be hard pressed to go more than a few blocks without passing, separately, a small grocer, a luscious produce stand, a boulangerie (bakery), a charcuterie (meat and deli items), a fromagerie (cheese shop), a patisserie (pastry shop), a chocolatier and a wine shop.
We had planed to eat a few lunches in proper restaurants (when prices are less), but we generally found that, even with all of our walking, we just weren't hungry enough to eat two courses. We ate more bread in Paris than we usually do, but we ate smaller portions overall and snacked less. Interesting.
We really didn't shop a lot in Paris, and what we did buy was mostly edible! I'm embarrassed about how much Edmond Fallot mustard we brought home, and we found that good French butter, tucked in Ziploc bags with an ice pack and nestled in our checked luggage, travels nicely. We also came home with a few jars of jam, a big bag of grey salt, herbes de Provence and some bouquet garni bundles, Fauchon chocolates and macarons, and Mariage Freres tea. (I'm so glad we splurged on the macarons...I had only had them once at a local foodie event, and didn't think they were anything special. It turns out they are quite special when you get good quality specimens!)