The Food Lover's Guide to Paris"
Workman Publishing, $16.95
Journalist Patricia Wells has lived in Paris since early 1980; the first edition of "The Food Lover's Guide" was published a few years later, in 1984. She has been writing about the city and its culinary traditions ever since. This new edition, released on its 30th anniversary, is completely revised and updated as well as "rephotographed," as Wells says in her introduction. So much has changed, she adds. New generations of restaurant owners, bakers, pastry chefs and chocolate-makers have given the French capital a new zing. Diners also have more choices than ever, from elegant meals to quick bites as well as Breton creperies, tapas bars, Japanese noodle spots and all variety of specialty eateries. And Parisian dining practices also have become more casual, which is reflected in an expanded chapter on cafes and casual bites.
Wells also features interesting sidebars on culinary Paris, including short pieces on oysters, a lovely homage to various French breads and even an appreciation of the Belgian bakery chain, Le Pain Quotidien. The guide includes chapters on wine bars and markets, bakeries and kitchen and tableware shops, cheese shops and chocolate shops, pastry shops and ice cream shops, wine shops and specialty-food shops, and, of course, extensive descriptions of restaurants, bistros, cafes and brasseries as well as 40 of her favorite recipes (such as anchovy, onion and black olive tart, chestnut and foie gras soup or lemon tea cakes, better known as madeleines). The book's French-English food glossary also comes in handy. For updates, readers are encouraged to consult "The Food Lover's Guide to Paris" app for the iPhone and iPad, available from foodloversparis.com or from the iTunes store.
"Old-Fashioned Corners of Paris"
Little Bookroom, $18.95
Does one ever tire of learning about the small shops of Paris? Author Christophe Destournelles certainly doesn't. He is on a mission — and on foot no less — to discover old-fashioned Paris. Much to his pleasure, he soon realizes that old Paris still exists in pockets scattered across the city, and not just shops either. He also uncovers fortunetellers, racetracks and even a newspaper vendor who hawks papers the old-fashioned way. Destournelles is especially appreciative of shops that practice forgotten trades, such as the new generations of barbers who offer leisurely shaves that typically last anywhere from 20 minutes to half an hour. Or there are the tripe butchers — only a handful still exist — who cater to a specialized gastronomic clientele. Spleen or udder anyone?
Some customs are peculiarly French. Consider the sound of a hard-boiled egg being cracked on a zinc counter. In old Paris, blue-collar workers would gobble them up and then wash them down with a coffee. Poor students also welcomed the treat, as much for its taste and the fact that it was cheap. But in May 1995, the eggs housed in their distinctive "six-egg stand with its central saltshaker" were banned for health reasons. And yet Destournelles manages to find a few taverns that still carry on the tradition.
The book is loaded with quirky Paris in all its romantic glory with wonderful photographs by Christophe Lefebure.