No bones about it, I'd be a shoo-in for the Gold Medal.
You see, as I prepare for my umpteenth trip to France, I must confess.
Most of my prep time has been devoted to fantasizing, scheming,
drooling, mapping and organizing every place and bite I hope to devour.
Am I ashamed?
Hell-bent on laying an organized, mouthwatering plan
is the best part of engineering a Paris vacation blueprint.
Thanks to my overly-stimulated brain and appetite,
I've conceptualized the greatest ever master-plan of irresistible
restaurants in Paris, Antibes, Nice and surrounding communities*.
*home base cities for my upcoming trip
Where to begin?
Start with the past, the places and feasts you've loved the most;
then dig deep into your no-holds-barred overheated imagination and LET GO.
"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport."
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner rival even the most sacrosanct
French treasures we already know and love.
Just try to choose from the following short list:
The Louvre, the Mediterranean coast, the Alps -- or
a truffle-filled omelet with a side of duck-fat-fried-potatoes.
Hmmm, that one's tough....
Then there's my annual dilemma:
How many museums can I fit into an already overloaded schedule?
The cultural side of Paris offers an incredible number of enlightening
and entertaining adventures -- something like 300+ museums on offer -- yet
it's always a challenge to choose the perfect few in a city with so many choices.
How's this for a strategy?
Choose the best bistro/bakery/wine-bar first and foremost,
then narrow down your museum and attraction list for a winner-take-all
tie-breaking vote organized by taste-buds.
"My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four
unless there are three other people."
Orson Welles, award-winning American actor and bon vivant
Terms like gastronomic and haute cuisine discourage regular folks.
But the truth is far more approachable.
Grandma's cooking -- and her crepe pan -- is just as celebrated in the
annuls of France's cultural heritage as the Michelin movers & shakers.
And who doesn't love Grandma?
Nothing fussy, just delicious.
Take wine as another example -- yes, wine is food in France, that's a given.
On a hot day in Provence, the locals will plop a few ice cubes into their rosé -- a
habit that would set a wine connoisseur's hair on fire.
But the French know what they know.
Check out any café terrace in Aix-en-Provence on a hot summer day.
The natives love their rosé, finding it more enjoyable when iced -- and
don't care two figs what the "experts" say.
Old school vs. fancy.... pot-au-feu and casseroles vs. caviar and lobster....
blue plate special vs. tasting menu.... even the lowly lentil has status here.
And every good Frenchman knows, a picnic is the bomb!
We all remember our "first time" -- Hey -- of course,
I'm referring to our first taste of France.
A quick stop in a French patisserie is like taking leisurely dip into erotic literature. What you bring home will certainly keep you warm on a cold night.
Pleasure - corruption -- lust, it's all there.
No matter which acclaimed baker or bakery you crave, the unending
pageant of exotic pastries read like an Anaïs Nin novel.
Like they say in the movies, "if you've got it, flaunt it."
"First we eat, then we do everything else."
grail of love and lust that just might keep you awake at night.
Layers of goodness, ripe with color and scent, this artful expression of
succulent goodness is as good as a kiss from Neptune, god of the sea.
A love affair set on a mountain of ice may seem an unlikely setting -- but then
again, this gluttony for French food is a bit twisted -- all in a good way, bien sur.
If that's not enough to tempt you to pack your bags tout de suite,
then try this on for size.
France practically lives for the chance to dine en terrace -- outdoors
and preferably in the sun.
With just a sliver of blue sky and the promise of a warm day,
the French put a premium on restaurant real estate that's closer to
Mother Nature than to Monsieur or Madame le Chef.
Everything tastes better when served à l'extérieur, n'est-ce pas?
Hint: If you're falling short on your cultural must-do list, think alfresco
lunch in the gardens of the historic Palais Royal -- or consider one
of the many options on offer at some of Paris' finest museums.
You'll get it all -- history, exquisite dining, style, and joie de vivre.
Ooh baby, this is going to be good.
The two staples of France -- slip in a glass or two of champagne....
Just one taste and your french seduction is complete.
Even as the EU tries to brand raw milk cheeses unhealthy -- flagged
as a health risk -- France continues to thumb its nose at authorities.
Pasteurization is considered sacrilegious to many cheese producers in France.
They insist their product remain "alive", preserving full flavor and
prolonging the historic legacy of fine french food products.
So are these farmers hooligans?
Definitely not, more like angels and heroes.
Who wouldn't approve their passionate call of duty
and devotion to authentic traditions.
Please, please, please, look into regional favorites wherever you go.
Not just fresh produce or the cheese of the moment.
Rather, do a little discovery groundwork of your own.
Fresh trout from the fresh waters of the Pyrenees, chicken from Bresse,
and melons from Provence will take your breath away.
French locals are proud to offer their best to you each day.
And don't forget international cuisine when you visit.
Israeli food in the Marais? Of course.
North African cookery in Marseilles? You betcha.
Vietnamese, Mexican, yes, even Memphis BBQ in Paris.
My heart hurts just imaging the choices.
As a matter of fact, had I spent as much time editing my book as I
have my restaurant wish-list, I may have had a bestseller on my hands....
But ooh baby, my list of must-do restaurants reads like
a book of erotica, it's that good.
Fifty shades of French food.
Perhaps, but I think I'll survive.
Bon appétit, everyone!