Monday, January 7, 2013

how to drink well in paris

In the past few months, I've learned two unspoken rules in the Parisian bar scene. First, not to accept drinks from strangers. Apparently "let me buy you a drink" translates to many strings attached, more so than I've ever had experience with in New York. Second, drink as much as you'd like while maintaining composure. Why? Well, "in France, there's no culture of going out and getting drunk." I believe it... even if I've seen my fair share of visibly belligerent men and women. These two "rules" matter little though as I've gotten to the maturity level at which I want to go to a bar to enjoy who I'm drinking with and what I'm drinking; and most of the time that means two glasses, not five with a shot. Here are (more) of my favorite places to do so:
While doing the field work for one of many research papers, I had to frequent wine bars. Oh joy :). The first favorite I found was Ô Chateau. Thought notably "less French" than many others, it's convenient (near Les Halles) with a friendly, not intimidating approach to wine tasting. Plus, there are nearly 40 bottles open at all times, plenty of flights, a full menu, and sommeliers are fantastically multilingual. It's great for groups, too. A lot less spacious and across the Seine is L'Avant Comptoir.
This place is more "French" in that only a few bottles are opened at a time. It is less so in that patrons must stand and share their bread and butter with their neighbor. All of it makes for a fun atmosphere, and the "real French hors'doeuvres" are absolutely phenomenal. What ended up being a complimentary platter of charcuterie was also the best I've ever had.
As for my neighborhood favorite, Le Garde Robe has stolen my heart. The cave à manger environment is wonderfully warm and convivial to the point that the amazing sommeliers recognize almost everyone that comes in. That's in addition to being able to discuss your wine preferences in English or French and serve incredibly fresh food. On my first visit, Edna and I were even greeted with a complimentary appetizer to taste. Miam. It may not be the cheapest wine bar, but I'll be back time and time again.
For cocktails, I prefer the bar behind Candelaria, but I recognize that's because my liquor of choice is tequila and their "guapo" cocktail is to-die-for. I also very much enjoy Sherry Butt and Curio Parlor on the Left Bank. When my mom and sister were in town, we had the chance to visit the infamous Harry's Bar. It's a little bit of New York in Paris with a history of Ernest Hemingway and the Bloody Mary; worth experiencing. For the best happy hour deal though, head over to my favorite "dive bar", Red House.
When it comes to beer, for the most part, Parisian bars are not the places to be. I mentioned once before that beer is a popular happy hour drink, and it's true, it is, but that's only because of the affordable price point. In general, it seems to me that beer is just not drank with the same pleasure that wine is. If you do appreciate good beer in a cozy bar, I'd suggest La Fine Mousse for a wide range of artisanal brews, many of which happen to be French. The Little Red Door also serves a limited but thoughtful menu of quality bottled beers.
The timing of this post may be ironic as I assume many of us are focusing on eating and consuming cleaner in the New Year. These are my thoughts the matter: We have one life to live, to love... and in that sense, the perfect blow out and/or flat stomach matter little. It's about enjoying, savoring, making the most of the opportunities we provide ourselves with. Must we be conscious? I believe so. We cannot appreciate new places or old friends without our health. Maybe my point is that although we must be healthy in order to live, we must be wary not to live to only be healthy... wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun, right? ;)


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