Saturday, December 31, 2011

Still trying to figure out what to do on New Year's Eve in Paris


The clock is ticking down the minutes to midnight and Stephane and I still haven't figured out how to celebrate our first New Year's Eve in Paris. There will be champagne - but not the little individual bottles called "Pop" by Pommery that seem to be all the rage right now judging by the brisk sales at Galeries Lafayette.


Whatever we do, we won't have to pay for transportation because the metro, bus and the RER are free from 5:00 pm on December 31 until 12:00 pm on January 1.

If we decide to go to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is where most people gather to welcome the New Year, we won't take a Velib because all of the stations in the 8th arrondissement and around the Champs des Mars are closed.

And we won't see explosions of blue and red over the Eiffel Tower because, contrary to popular belief, there aren't any official firework displays in the city.

Since Sara and Philippe have been invited to celebrate with Jean-Arthur, perhaps Stephane and I will have a quiet evening at home and play cards. Poker, anyone?


Here's a toast to the future, a toast to the past,
And a toast to our friends, far and near.
May the future be pleasant;
The past a bright dream;
May our friends remain faithful and dear.

~Anonymous

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées will be crowded with revellers tonight. Photo by Sara.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kunitoraya - THE place to go for udon noodles in Paris


During one of our Skype conversations at the beginning of December, I asked my son if there was anything specific that he wanted to do while in Paris. Without hesitation Philippe said, "Yeah, I'd like to go back to that udon noodle place". Since Kunitoraya is the little hole in the wall restaurant that I automatically head towards whenever I'm near the Palais Garnier, I immediately agreed because there's nothing better than a steaming bowl of udon noodles on a cold Parisian day.

My favorite, Kamaten-Udon comes with udon noodles, broth, tempura and a quail's egg for 16€. After removing the udon noodles from the hot water, you dip them in the broth to which you've already added the condiments. You can drink the broth when you're finished.

Kunitoraya was also one of the first places that I took my Japanese friend, Itsuko, when she came for a visit in November. After inspecting the kitchen, which is rather easy since it's right behind the counter, to confirm that they were using homemade dashi (Japanese sea stock) and speaking with the staff to ensure that they're truly Japanese, Itsuko looked at the other customers and joked that she hadn't seen so many of her compatriots since she was last in Japan. While I don't remember what Itsuko ordered, I know that I had C-13 (Kamaten-Udon). As always, I was pleased with the combination of tempura and noodles served with a savory broth, while Itsuko declared that her meal was authentically Japanese. Best of all, when she checked her facebook account and saw that a friend from Aki, Japan* had posted a comment telling her to go to Kunitoraya because they serve the best udon noodles in Paris, Istuko could respond that her American friend (me!) had already taken her there.

As Itsuko and I had bonded during trips to the Japanese grocery store in Lausanne, I mentioned that I was disappointed that the one in Paris had recently reduced their stock. According to Itsuko, the same thing has happened in Switzerland because all of the Japanese products imported into European countries have to be scanned for radiation making it very costly for the small shops.

*There are three Kunitoraya restaurants: one in Aki, Japan and two in Paris. The restaurant on St. Anne accepts orders continuously from 11:30 am until 10:00 pm, a big plus as many restaurants stop serving mid-afternoon. The picture shown below is slightly misleading because there is usually a line of people waiting outside for one of the coveted ~ 30 seats.

Kunitoraya
39 rue Sainte-Anne (the little hole in the wall where I always go)
75001 Paris

5 rue Villedo (their more upmarket restaurant)
75001 Paris

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A riddle for the day. What casts a long shadow over Paris?


Is it a pointy mountain, a stealth plane or an odd-shaped giant with a minuscule head?

Here are a few more clues.



The answer to today's ridde is also where we'll be dining tomorrow. Can you tell that I'm more than just a little bit excited about our upcoming lunch at Le Jules Verne, the restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower?

In the meantime, we're enjoying our visit with Stephane's family in Geneva. But I better stop blogging and get going because I still have to make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some essentials -- cheese for fondue and raclette, Läckerli cookies and SWISS chocolate -- before driving back to Paris later this afternoon.



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. C'est magnifique in December!


Even though we used to take Sara and Philippe to a fairly impressive Christmastime "Enchanted Forest" at one of the local department stores when they were small, they were a wee bit envious of the children dressed as princes and princesses at the Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte last Monday. Proudly wearing the period costumes that may be rented on weekends, bank holidays and school vacations for 4€, the little royals gasped in delight at the towering Christmas trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and at each room that was more magnificently decorated than the last. The effect was pure magic.

Intrigued by Nicholas Fouquet, the man who built the castle that inspired King Louis XIV to build Versailles and wishing that I would have bought a copy of The Man Who Outshone the Sun King: Ambition, Triumph and Treachery in the Reign of Louis XIV from the gift store during our first visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte in November, I'm currently engrossed in the fascinating tale of his life:

From a glittering zenith as King Louis XIV's finance minister, builder of the breathtaking chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, collector of books, patron of the arts and lover of beautiful women. Fouquet had fallen like Icarus. Charged with embezzlement and treachery, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Charles Drazin's riveting account brings to life the rich, hazardous and Machiavellian world in which Fouquet lived. His charm, cunning and charisma enchanted and beguiled those around him, but in them lay the seeds of his destruction.

Alternatively, if you'd prefer to watch a dramatized miniseries on the life of Fouquet in French, Stéphane, Sara and I really enjoyed Le roi, l'écureuil et la couleuvre.

Please click on any of the photos that you would like to enlarge and enjoy a December visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte. For additional information about the castle, please refer to this earlier post.



As the sky was overcast when Stephane and I visited Vaux le Vicomte last month, we felt fortunate that Monday was an exceptionally beautiful December day. 

View of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte from the Great Water Mirror, which measures 4,000 m2 (13,123 sq ft). On a clear day, the entire chateau is reflected in the Great Water Mirror even though it's 400 meters (437 yards) away. It's a demonstration of the rules of incidence and reflexion.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Insider's tip: Visit the historic vault and domed ceiling in Société Générale

The vault at the Société Générale on blvd Haussmann is listed as an historic monument and is open to the public.

One of the first things that you do after moving to a new country is open a bank account, so that's what Stephane and I did in March. Accompanied by our relocation agent, we passed through the secure doors of Société Générale to meet with our account manager, Mme X. My focus drifted in and out as she explained some fairly standard details, but she had Stephane and my full attention when she mentioned the impressive negative balance that we're allowed to have at the end of every month. To two financially conservative people newly arrived from Switzerland, it was incredible. When Stephane and I glanced at each other rather uncomfortably, I could tell that he didn't like Mme X's implication that we couldn't manage our expenditures. To put it into every day terms, it was like telling my Swiss husband that he doesn't know how to ski. Absurd and insulting - talk about culture shock!

Nevertheless, we let Mme X continue until she said that I wouldn't see an itemized breakdown of the charges on Stephane's bankcard and vice-versa. What? - Why not? Shooting a look at our relocation agent, Mme X explained with French finesse that there may be charges on Stephane's card that he wouldn't want me to see and that I would probably make purchases that I would prefer to keep secret. When we jokingly commented that the French system differs significantly from the Swiss, I could see that both women were in agreement that Stephane and I were naive and didn't appreciate the complexities of marital finances in Paris.

1912, Paris. Cross-section showing the ceiling and vault from the historical archives of Société Générale.  

It's ten month later and thanks to the French banking system, Stephane still doesn't have a clue how much money I spend on hot chocolate or scarves. Like me, he only sees a cumulative figure at the end of the month and doesn't know the details. If I ever feel the need to check, I could ask for his code and go online. But we've adopted the French approach. So, he was a bit worried when I told him that I wanted to visit the main office of our bank shortly before Christmas. Wondering what surprises I had in store, I showed him the glass domed ceiling that surpasses the one in Galerie Lafayette before leading him to the vault. Not knowing that it is listed as a national monument and open to the public, he asked if I had acquired secret stash of jewels.

If you're near Galeries Lafayette and want to see the hidden world of French finance, take a few minutes to admire the dome from the main floor and to marvel at the 15.7 inch (40 cm) vault door in the basement.

Société Générale
29, boulevard Hausmann
75009 Paris
Monday to Friday from 9:00 am -5:30 pm

Photos of the dome aren't allowed, so this is a picture of a picture.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday's pictures and a song - Merry Christmas! Photos by Lisa Woodruff of Huntington Beach, CA

"Only in SO CAL in December would you see this. Merry Christmas!" ©Lisa Woodruff

Merry Christmas! 

Many thanks to Lisa Woodruff of Huntington Beach, California for sending this photo of the classic "Woody" car that she spotted while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on her way to work in Seal Beach. With a vanity license plate that reads "53 BUICK", a surfboard on the roof and a Christmas wreath on the back, this is the ultimate "Merry Christmas" from Southern California.



The magnificent colors of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island provide a beautiful backdrop for the Christmas decorations and surfers in the photo that Lisa took from the pier in Seal Beach a couple of years ago. Thanks for showing us what Southern California looks like in December, Lisa. I'll think of you enjoying the sunshine as I brave the cold wind and rain in Paris.

If you have some pictures that you would like to share, please send an email to mkoutandabout@gmail.com.

Sunset as seen from the pier in Seal Beach, California. ©Lisa Woodruff

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night on the metro - Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!


After being greeted by the unwelcome cacophony of ear-splitting music and the chants of striking airport security staff at Charles de Gaulle airport yesterday morning, we found some moments of tranquility where we least expected it - the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station late last night. While scurrying from line 1 to line 9, the sounds of "Silent Night" wafting through the tunnels reminded us to slow down, if only for a moment, and appreciate our time together. The following instrumental version is a close facsimile of what we heard, minus the piano!



In between picking up our son at the airport (our family of four is now complete!) and riding the metro home last night, we had another wonderful evening listening to the opera singers and dining at Bel Canto. Since I've mentioned how many problems I have with the French language, it seems only fair to mention that their usage of English isn't always correct either. Sara found this gem on the menu:

Pan-seared cod filet with mush potatoes and virgin sauce.
Virgin sauce, anyone? It's delicious on mush potatoes!

After a quick glance at this sign, Philippe wondered why they had recycled the one from last year:


The French version literally says, "The artists thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas and happy end of the the year 2011", which seems to be why they used 2011 rather than 2012 in their translated English version.

Any idea why Francophones celebrate the end of the year (2011), while Anglophones celebrate the beginning of the new year (2012)? 


Friday, December 23, 2011

Afternoon tea (à la française) at the George V Hotel-the perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary

La Galerie, festively decorated for Christmas, in the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris

As I’ve said before, I’m usually a cheap date but things may change now that I've discovered that George V’s afternoon tea rivals any of those that I’ve had in London. It's so good that I’m already thinking about ways to win the lottery so that I won’t have to wait another year to use our wedding anniversary as an excuse to return.

After making an exploratory visit last weekend when I was somewhat disappointingly seated at a table in the bar, we followed the suggestions of the hostess to increase our chances of getting a table next to the pianist in La Galerie, the room described as the heart and soul of the George V. As only guests staying in the hotel may reserve tables, seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is in high demand. Stephane, Sara and I agreed, however, that arriving shortly after 3:00 p.m. and waiting forty-five minutes for the perfect table isn’t too bad when you're in a prime location for people watching. Our table was ready before we knew it!

Christmas tunes playing in the background and a glass of bubbly - the perfect way to celebrate a December wedding anniversary. 

Wanting to toast our many years together, Stephane and I took the French Tea (55€) that came with a glass of champagne (bien sûr!), while Sara opted for the English Tea (45€).

While Stephane and I raved about our pumpkin soup with chestnuts, foie gras with mango chutney, crab with quinoa and scallops tartare, Sara was pleased by the more traditional fare of tuna salad, cucumber salad, roast beef and smoked salmon. With macarons, Financiers (small French cakes), fruit salad, and some dessert that I don't remember, many of the pastries were the same for the English and French tea. Perhaps best of all were the scones with clotted cream because I would have thought it necessary to cross The English Channel to find ones that tasted as delicious. Sara, who is a bit of an afternoon tea aficionado, remarked that the only difference between the George V and Number Sixteen, where she recently had tea while visting friends in London, is that we weren't offered milk and additional hot water to dilute our tea. I guess that, unlike in England, tea still doesn't take center stage in France.

English Tea goodies on the left, French Tea delicacies on the right.

Not wanting to leave the festive atmosphere of the George V, we did some window shopping at one of the boutiques and found a little trinket for Stephane to put under the Christmas tree. At 194,470 € ($253,608), the necklace made our afternoon tea seem like a real bargain. Maybe I am a cheap date, after all!

Four Seasons Hotel George V
31, avenue George V
75008 Paris


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Countdown to Christmas - figuring out the Bûche de Noël


Lenôtre's chestnut bûche is 57€ and serves 6-7 people.

Bûche de Noël - First of all, I've got to say that "bûche" is one of the more difficult French words for me to get my lips around and by lips I mean that it's one of those words that you're supposed to pronounce as if your lips are puckered far forward for a kiss. As an Anglophone, I prefer to keep my lips in a more retracted position. So, for the past couple of days, most of Stéphane and my conversations have consisted of me using the aforementioned word followed by Stephane saying, "it's not bush, it's bûche" as he demonstrates, once again, the extended position that my lips must achieve to make the correct sound. It's gotten to the point where I may hold up a piece of paper with the words "Bûche de Noël" written on it to preemptively avoid the pronunciation lessons.

Why has this awkward word become such a hot topic? Because we've been taste testing "bushes" in preparation for our first Parisian Christmas. While we could get a really fancy one from Lenôtre, we decided to first sample the more traditional ones from our bakery and bought a selection of chocolate, Grand Marnier, and praline mini bûches.

After completing our taste tests, I sent our daughter a message with a status report. Since December 25 is Sara's birthday, we usually ask what she would like for the main meal, even if it means tracking her down at a pub in London. Isn't this the instant message conversation via Skype that every daughter wants to have with her mother when she's out having a pint with friends:

MK: we wanted to know if a buche de noel would be ok for your b'day cake
S: what is a buche de noel?
MK: traditional french christmas cake. google it. dad and i have been tasting petit bouches [edit: embarrassed to admit it, but I did write the French word for "mouths"] today.
S: is it just cake?
MK: it's cake and a buttercream frosting. rolled to look like a log.
S: oh
MK: google it
S: i dont like those log things. i dont normally like the frosting in them.
MK: but have you had a french one? a real one?
S: i don't know
MK: cause even dad likes it
S: but ive never had a log thing i like
MK: ok. well, we can get something else. dad wants to know if you like st honore.

While walking home from the metro after meeting Sara at Gare du Nord last night, Stéphane and I continued our pro-bûche propaganda by showing her the selection of gourmet ones at Lenôtre and having her sample some of the ones from our bakery. She really doesn't like them. But since we've never claimed that our family is a democracy, Stephane and I decided that we're still going to order a Bûche de Noël from our bakery -- we'll just have it on the 24th instead of the 25th of December. Vive le  tradition!


Traditional Bûche de Noël

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - figuring out the tree

Lots of tiny gold and silver Eiffel Towers adorn our tree, as well as spice cookies from Ikea (the only decorations they had left by the time that we got there) and ornaments from Carrefour. Some of them say "Noël", which is only fitting since we're in France.

You know that moment when you're seated next to a stranger on an airplane and they try to initiate a conversation by asking what you do? Well, I've found that the most effective way to curtail any further discussion is to tell them the truth. As soon as they hear that I don't work, they suddenly become engrossed in their book because they're sure that they're seated next to the world's most boring person. Trust me, it's a real conversation stopper.

Just for the fun of it, I may change my answer the next time that I'm flying across the Atlantic and respond that my job is to figure things out. Doesn't that sound mysterious and interesting? But it's true - that's what expats do. We move from country to country and try to figure out how to make our new life resemble our old one. And it's never more evident than at Christmas time when it's impossible to duplicate all of our beloved traditions in a foreign land.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of our biggest dilemmas was the question of the tree and what to use for ornaments since all of ours are rather unwisely stored in the United States. Fortunately, I remembered the vendors selling the counterfeit Eiffel Tower keychains from China and made an illegal immigrant's day by purchasing a large portion of his supply. At first, he seemed to think that I was going to enter the lucrative trinket selling business myself and was relieved when I explained that they were for our Christmas tree.


Next on the list - a tree, lights and more ornaments. I won't go into all of the ugly details but will say that there were crowds of people, moments when I was close to tears at the thought of our Christmas failure, and finally success! Sure, the tree seemed to shrink when we got it home and Stephane had to drill holes to insert additional branches to cover the huge gaps, but it looks beautiful -- as do all Christmas trees. And best of all, take a look at our angel. Since the stores that we visited were completely sold out of tree toppers, we made one out of an inverted campagne flute, added some wings and a face (I suggested using my photo but Stephane nixed that idea), and sprayed it with artificial snow. Step aside Martha Stewart!

Next up: Figuring out the Bûche de Noël.

Joseph, Even though we would have liked to wait for our children to decorate the tree, we decided that we wouldn't this year because of how late they arrive. We did, however, get two special ornaments for them to put on the tree.

After seeing this forest of Christmas trees in the courtyard of the George V Hotel, I considered stuffing one up the chimney and taking it home with me like the Grinch in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Would they really miss one?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ice skating on the Eiffel Tower, at Trocadero and in front of the Hôtel de Ville

Ice skating rink on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.

People are often surprised when I tell them that I took ice skating lessons when I lived in Indonesia. A tropical country just isn't the place where you expect to find an ice skating rink. Beaches, yes. Large quantities of ice, no. So, when I found out that there's an ice skating rink on (that's right - ON) the Eiffel Tower, I had to see it for myself.

As I had heard that it gets really crowded, I planned to be there as soon as it opened at 10:30 on Sunday morning. But since I was feeling a bit lazy, I didn't arrive at the Eiffel Tower until around 12:30 p.m. and asked for the quickest way to the rink. Pointing towards the South Pillar, the man at the information booth advised me to take the stairs. After waiting a relatively short time to purchase my €4.70 ticket, I climbed approximately 300 stairs, occasionally stopping to admire the view - not because I was tired.

And there it was - 200m² of ice located 187 feet (57 meters) above Paris. The entrance to the rink and the skates are included in the price of the ticket. So, if you're planning to visit the Eiffel Tower prior to January 31, 2012, grab a pair of skates for a uniquely Parisian experience. To avoid standing in line, you can also purchase a ticket online for €8.20  and take the elevator to the first floor.  Click here for more information.

Of course, with any skating rink there are always rules. Here are a couple of my favorites taken directly from the Eiffel Tower. The wording is theirs, not mine:

It is not allowed to:
  • Charge into guard rails or even pretend to do it,
  • Charge into others intending to stop at the last second,
  • Try to do somebody else fall down

Ice skating rink at Trocadero

If you prefer to skate while looking at the Eiffel Tower, then the rink at Trocadero is the one for you. With a prime position near the Christmas market, it's larger than the rink on the Eiffel Tower. Open from 11:00 am- 9:00 pm until January 2, 2012, the 5€ fee includes skate rental. Please note that the rink will be open from 11:00 am-4:00 pm on December 31. Click here for additional information in French.

Ice skating rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville 

The ice rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville seems to be the largest of the three that I visited and will be open until March 4, 2012. Entrance is free and you may use your own skates. Skate rental is 5€. It's important to note that you're required to have an identity card to rent skates and to wear gloves while on the ice.

Click here for more information and a complete list in French of all of the ice skating rinks in Paris. 

Looking down at the ice skating rink on the Eiffel Tower from one of the 704 steps that I climbed to reach the second floor. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Morning Musings in Paris: Which part of the elephant are you touching?


G. Renee Guzlas, artist

Living in Paris, I'm quite often reminded of the tale of the six blind men who were instructed to touch one part of an elephant. The man who felt its tusk described it as a spear, the one who stroked its side believed it to be a wall and the blindman who touched its trunk was sure that it was a snake. While each one argued that his description of the elephant was correct and that the others were wrong, each of the blindmen's descriptions were accurate for that specific part of the elephant.

Still wondering what this tale has to do with Paris? Let me tell you a story.

When Stephane, Sara and I went to Chez l'Ami Jean for Thanksgiving dinner, we arrived around 7:30 p.m. because that's when we're used to eating in the evening. Walking into the crowded restaurant, I felt a bit disappointed when I noticed that almost all of the guests were speaking English. Based on the reviews, I had expected more of a local restaurant. But an interesting thing happened while we made our way through course after course of food. Slowly but surely, the English-speaking people were replaced by Francophones. Which makes sense because they usually like to dine later in the evening. When we finished our dessert around 10:30 p.m., there wasn't an Anglophone left. So, of course, if you ask one of the people who dined at 7:30 to describe Chez l'Ami they would probably tell you that it's full of tourists, while if you asked someone who arrived at 10:00 p.m., they would say that it's a hidden gem known only by the French. Both would be correct according to their experiences.

Likewise, my descriptions of Paris are going to differ from that of a French person, an illegal immigrant, a tourist or even another American expat, especially if it's their first time living abroad. But more than any of the other places where I've lived, I've noticed that people seem to feel as if their experience is the only "real" or valid one. Perhaps it's because we want to feel that Paris belongs to us, that we have a special relationship with her. We don't. She's like a capricious woman with many admirers who knows how to seduce us with her myriad of charms. Some of us are entranced by her architecture and museums, while others are passionate about her food and cafés.

One of my goals for 2012 is to interview some of the other residents of Paris and visitors because I want to understand more about the elephant than the small part that I'm touching as an American expat. Thoughts, comments, ideas?

Eiffel Tower in the fog. If you only saw it on this particular evening and hadn't ever seen a photo of it, your description would be quite different than if you saw it on a clear day.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday's pictures and a song - What does December look like in your part of the world? Photos by Heidi Schnüriger of Rothenthurm, Switzerland

©Heidi Schnüriger


As the response to "What does December look like in your part of the world?" was minimal (Ok, non-existant), I turned to my dearest friend Heidi to ask if she would share a couple of photos. Supportive as always, she quickly sent these pictures of Switzerland's highest upland moor near her home in Rothenthurm, Switzerland. Even though these photos were taken on December 18, 2010, Heidi assured me that it looks exactly the same today because there was a fresh snowfall yesterday.

Heidi, I hope that you approve of the song selection. Andrea Bocelli is the first singer who comes to mind whenever I think of you because we've enjoyed many glasses of wine while listening to him. Feel free to sing along - that's what I was doing while trying to decided which version of "Ave Maria" to use. And, of course, I had tears in my eyes - I can't help it. This song always get to me.

Do you have some photos that you would like to share? If so, please send an email to mkoutandabout@gmail.com.


                                                                                                                                                               ©Heidi Schnüriger
                                                                                                                                                                ©Heidi Schnüriger

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Le Camion Qui Fume: An American-style food truck serving burgers, fries and onion rings in Paris!

The Classic Burger with fries for 10€ and an American-sized serving of ketchup!

Newsflash: In addition to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Seine, Paris has its first American style food truck serving hamburgers, fries and onion rings! And I love the name: Le Camion Qui Fume (The Smoking Truck).

Even though this may not seem like a big deal to those of you who have easy access to burgers with all of the traditional toppings, have a bit of compassion for the American expats in Paris who subsist on baguettes, cheese and the occasional confit de canard (preserved duck). When news of the truck's opening hit Twitter a couple of weeks ago, it was hard to resist the Siren's call of such claims as "Le Camion Qui Fume makes the Best. Burger. Ever", "Delicious burgers made by a Californian chef", and"hand cut fries", so I did what I always do in these situations - I threw on my coat and dashed out of the apartment.


Arriving at the Place de la Madeleine just as they were taking the last orders for the day, I overheard a couple of Americans talking about how difficult it must have been to get a license from the French authorities to operate a food tuck. Since this subject is one of interest because my son has been encouraging me to do exactly the same thing (no, thanks!), I inquired about the complexities of French bureaucracy and asked if I could share a table with them.

In between expressing delight at the juiciness of the burger and discussing the freshness of the bakery quality bun, it was fun hearing about the experiences of other expats in Paris. One of them, Lindsey, already wrote about "The Best Burgers in Paris" over at her blog, "Lost in Cheeseland". As she has tasted a lot of burgers during her quest to find the ultimate one in Paris, I'll gladly take her word that the hamburgers at Le Camion Qui Fume reign supreme.

For those of you who prefer your burger well-done, it's helpful to know that Kirsten, the chef, serves the burgers medium-rare so that diners may better appreciate the flavor of the freshly ground meat. And best of all, for someone who craves onion rings in between visits to the States, those at Le Camion Qui Fume are homemade (or truckmade!) and crunchy - just the way that I like them. The only thing that was missing was something sweet at the end of the meal. Even though there is cheesecake on the menu, Lola's Cookies would have been perfect!

Jamie and Lindsey, thanks for sharing your table with me and for making the experience all the more enjoyable.

Le Camion Qui Fume
Please check their website for location because it changes daily.

Additional reviews:

David Lebovitz: Le Camion Qui Fume
The New York Times: The New American Tastemakers in Paris
Le Monde (in French): Le coin des urbains : burger à tomber du Camion

Craving barbecue ribs, coleslaw and pulled pork sandwiches in Paris?  Try Blues Bar-B-Que.