By Irene Fogarty
OK. I admit that I’ve been rather critical of Parisian restaurants. I’ve complained about the price, the service, the pathetic nià§oise salads, and the general feeling of disappointment at the end of many meals I’ve had. But let me clarify one thing. I am a vegetarian….in Paris. Anywhere else in the world this is not a problem. From Bethnal Green (East London) to the parillas (steakhouses) in Buenos Aires to even good ol’ Dublin, you can find plenty of veggie and vegan options. But here in the proud land of steak-frites and saucisson, boeuf bourguignon, le foie gras and téte de veau (veal), being a vegetarian is not just incompréhensible. The French actually feel sorry for you. They usually respond with ‘quel dommage!’ (‘what a pity’) when they hear you won’t be tempted by their carnal delights. Your loss.
Thing is, it’s not that there aren’t great veggies or fruits here. I love the markets and even the supermarkets. Take the bi gones, Carrefour and Monoprix, they carry a great range of fresh, seasonal fruits and veg. I go through fifteen grapefruits and twenty oranges a week with my wonderful juicer. I just bought a 400â‚¬ Magimix Duo Salad Juicer. It’s fantastic. Sorry I digress, but if you are looking for delicious power juices like the ones you find everywhere in NYC (and the best Parisian gazpacho), try Bob’s Juice Bar on 74 Rue De Gravilliers, in the Marais. Here’s the site for more info, http://www.bobsjuicebar.com/
So now that you understand my dilemma, here are some tips for all you vegetarians out there who are traipsing the streets of Paris wondering where your next veggie meal will come from.
>Be aware that in France, if you tell them you’re vegetarian or that you don’t eat meat, they might just assume you don’t eat beef. Some don’t consider chicken or pork meat since they’re not sold in butcher shops, but at charcuteries and volailleurs. So tell them no meat, chicken, fish, or anything with a face or a heart!
>A typical ‘Parisian’ meal doesn’t have to be steak frites. Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants all offer lots of great veggie options. The good Indian places are clustered by La Chapelle, behind the Gare du Nord, and the Asian places are mostly in the 13th. Couscous restaurants are scattered across the city. L’Atlas (12, blvd St. Germain) is a favorite, and offers a lot of seafood couscous selections.
>Créperies are good places to go for authentic French food especailly if you like cheese. Here crépes are called galettes. If you want a buckwheat ‘crépe’ ask for a ‘galette au sarrasin.
Salads, if all else fails.
>Cafés at lunch usually have lots of main course-sized salads: from salade océane (seafood) to grece (Greek) to the notorious nià§oise (always served with anchovies). Of course you can always ask for that Croque Monsieur ‘sans jambon’ (without ham). Boulangeries (bakeries) all sell sandwiches/ baguettes stuffed with brie or camembert. Sad to say, there are more and more Subway restaurants (if you even call them that) popping up In Paris. I just don’t get it. Processed tasteless bread vs baguette? Plastic tasteless ingredients vs organic ones? Merci beaucoup Jared!
>Don’t be surprised at your waiters reaction if you order just soup or salad for dinner as your meal. At lunch, it’s more acceptable. And of course, with any special requests in Paris, be nice, even flirt a bit. Waiters, are used to calling the shots (prolonged cigarette breaks when you want the bill, etc), so you want them on your side. Because as I’ve mentioned before, the French waiter is ‘special’ if you know what I mean!
>Thank God there are more and more good natural food stores in Paris. Naturalia and Biocoop are the two biggest ones where you can stock up on tofu, soy products and other veggie staples.
>One of the best organic markets in Paris is in Raspail on Sundays from 8.30am – 2pm. Although very stylish for a market, (don’t be surprised to bump into Catherine Deneuve!), you’ll find excellent quality produce, fish, meat (for someone else of course – all with no hormones and milk fed) in addition to divine fruit that are so fresh you can smell them before you approach the stall. Not to mention the cheeses. Check out the selection of goat cheeses – incroyable! Boulevard Raspail (in the middle of the street) between the rue de Cherche Midi and the Rue de Rennes. Not far from the Luxembourg Gardens, a perfect picnic spot. Metro Stop: Rennes.
And the best veggie resto in Paris goes to?
Le Potager de Marias. A very small, rustic, Parisian vegetarian restaurant decorated with lush plants. What’s interesting is they serve traditional French cuisine in vegetarian style, with one full page of vegan selections. WOW! Vegan soups, tarte, pate, patty, gratin, moussaka, desserts, and more. Even the ever so talented pastry chef prepares all vegan desserts including lemon bars, carrot cake and blueberry bundt. It is expensive but they do offer a 3-course dinner menu for about 25 euro which is really good. So I suggest reservations. Le Potager Du Marais, 22, Rue Rambuteau, Metro: Rambuteau, (near Centre Georges Pompidou and Picasso Museum), Paris 75003. Tel : 0142742466 Hours: Open Mon-Fri 6-10pm, Sat-Sun lunch and dinner. Click here for more info, http://www.lepotagerdumarais.com/