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A Pocket Feast Paris

6 Aug

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Two summers ago, when a friend came to visit Paris. I was out of town but determined that she eat this, that and the other – that she dare not try an inferior macaron or miss out on the best Vietnamese fod in town. So I spent an afternoon in a coffee shop (Helmut Newcake) drawing all of my instructions into a notebook. Each page had something to eat and something vaguely cultural to do nearby.

I don’t know how many she followed. But the notebook was passed around, people ate things. Probably left a few buttery fingerprints on the pages, a good sign. Someone said, “but most of the cultural things are ALSO food things.” Which may have been a criticism but I took it as a compliment.

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One summer ago I bribed another friend into helping me make the notebook into a real book. She is both computer genius and wise editor. We sat in the garden in the south of France, dinking wine and brainstorming titles.

A Greedy Guide to Paris? Hungry Hippos Eat Paris?

I can’t remember when we thought of “A Pocket Feast” but it seemed appropriate, a nod to Hemingway’s Paris, a literal description of its size.

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One month ago the books arrived from the printer. Glossy and colourful, still with the hand-made, scribbled drawings from its initial conception. We are pretty proud of it. And of the website that Florence made: foodie recommendations based on the Paris book, but with tips for Berlin and Sydney as well. (More cities coming soon!)

Another friend made us beautiful wooden stands for the books: they are currently on display at Shakespeare and Company and La Cuisine Paris. Someone else is working on a very cute video advert. I am so so grateful for all of the support and help and love that went into A Pocket Feast. It took a whole family to make it real.

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If you would like to support us too: you can buy the guidebook A Pocket Feast Paris through our website – we ship worldwide. Buy one for yourself and one for presents – everyone comes to Paris evenutally! And you can like our Facebook page for more news and updates.

Thank-you a million – mille mercis! Et bon appétit!

paris restos: boco

12 Nov

Only the French are this good at transforming the ready-made into an art form.

Three courses, designed by three-star chefs, for only €15. In a city where a plain jambon-beurre baguette and a can of fizzy drink will set you back at least €8, this is amazing.

Boco is a play on bocaux, jars or goldfish bowls. Each starter, main course and dessert comes in a sleek glass jar that can be sealed for takeaway or heated instantly to eat in. Of the chefs (whose faces can be found on stickers on the jars they designed) I only know the patissiers. Michalak and Conticini are big-hitters: the former is a world champion, the latter owns of my favourite corners of Paris, La Patisserie des Reves. His rice puddingdid not disappoint: real vanilla, whipped cream and a marmalade caramel elevated the humble pudding above its usual bistrot status.

All of the jars, sweet and savoury, have clearly been created for a visual effect: tomato and fennel “tiramisu” shows off its colourful layers, marinated tuna sits on a pale green courgette flan. The desserts too play with the presentation: strata of pear compote, maple mousse and maple jelly look elegant and taste subtly sweet.

I was thoroughly impressed by the perfect poached eggs with star-anise spiked lentils – the yolk stayed runny even after a blast from my microwave.

Everything is bio, or organic, and freshly prepared. If the jar size portions leave you a little hungry, grab some of the giant sourdough loaf sliced on the counter or an extra three-star chocolate chip cookie.

At lunchtime, the menu du jour is only $15. Even better, if you take away, they let you keep the glass jars to smarten up your fridge. But you will certainly want to come back for another visit; Boco is the best of France and the best kind of fast food.

Boco – 3, rue Danielle Casanova, 1er – metro Pyramides (open for lunch and dinner, closed Sunday)

or 45, Cour Saint-Émilion, 12e – metro Bercy (open everyday for lunch and dinner)

paris restos: nanashi bento

26 Oct

Everything at Nanashi Bento is simple and understated: the bare floors, the square white plates that fit together like Japanese lunchboxes, the neat staff aprons. The food: mixed grains, honey-roast vegetables, soy-marinated grilled duck or tofu. Everything, that is, except the clientele. In the heart of the haut Marais, this modern canteen attracts gallery owners, models, all-round artsy types dressed in uncomfortable trousers, perhaps a short kimono, certainly with asymmetric  haircuts.

That is to say, come for the fresh, healthy food (people-watching is a bonus). Enjoy a bento style lunch, with fish, meat or vegetarian options. Add sesame seeds and soy sauce, mop it all up with the dark sourdough bread. It is my favourite kind of modern food, the kind that takes inspiration from different cultures (in this case, France and Japan) but not just because. The wild duck with sour cherries and quinoa made sense, it was not just a haphazard combination thrown together and masked with drizzles of this and that. The fresh sushi rolls made with a small taste of foie gras turned out to be an excellent idea.

Peek over the kitchen counters by the entrance and choose a dessert from the Japanese pastry chef. Her pannacotta was one of the best I have ever tasted – made with black sesame paste, the cream was silken smooth and only just set. As grey as a moody sky, adorned with two blackberries and a raspberry, it was even beautiful in its simplicity. The next time we arrived for lunch at 2pm, they had sold out of pannacotta. Disappointed, I settled on another favourite, a matcha cheesecake. Not normally a fan of cheesecakes – too stodgy – but I love matcha (pure green tea powder) and trusted that it would have the same lightness of touch. It lived up to expectations, creamy but not rich. It had the same minimalist style too: one square of pastel-green cheesecake with a thin layer of whipped cream and a sole blueberry. No frills, nothing to hide the pure taste and aesthetic.

Nanashi Bento: recommended by pastry chefs and arty types from France and Japan.

Nanashi Bento – open every day for lunch and dinner (for which reservations are recommended) and takeaway

74 rue Charlot, 3eme – tel:  09 60 00 25 59 (click link for other locations)

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