I am not ashamed to admit that the three things I was looking forward to most while in Paris were:
• Eating in great little bistros and cafés;
• Practicing the French that I’ve studied at l’Alliance Française de Chicago; and
• Going to Rudy’s to buy shoes
I will start with Dinner. Since we had only a single night in Paris, I asked the Concierge at the Prince de Galles for a restaurant recommendation. I told her I didn’t want her to pull out her restaurant book (do they still have those or is it all online now?) – I wanted to know where SHE and HER FRIENDS eat. What about the other staffers at the hotel? I don’t want to hear about how great the restaurant in the hotel is (great, it’s got a Michelin Star – while in Paris for a night, I want a great casual meal). She recommended three places, most within walking distance of the hotel (which means near the Champs-Elysee and thousands of tourists). We selected a restaurant on her list that was in the 5th– called Le Petit Pontoise. This was a quick 7 minute walk from the St. Paul Metro Stop (Line 1), across the river in the Latin Quarter.
We were surprised at how many things were closed on Sunday night, but had no problem finding this place and were quickly seated. The restaurant was about three quarters full. I was taken aback a bit when we walked in and I heard a loud American voice. Ugh, where did she send us? Luckily it was just one table, with American students studying in France. I looked at their plates and they were eating the beef cheeks – OK, at least they didn’t coax the chef into making an American style hamburger. I had to let my Anti-American-In-Paris feelings vanquish.
Our waiter’s English was better than my French (not hard), but he wasn’t fluent. Our conversation back and forth lapsed from English to French – especially as he was describing some of the desserts that I was unfamiliar with.
The menu was simple and had some French staples, but some great unexpected items, which we ordered. I started off with a crab and basil salad, which was light and refreshing. The mild saltiness of the crab paired unexpectedly well with the strong basil. I think this would have been better in the summer or spring, but tasted great in the fall. Mike had an artichoke and tomato tart that was absolutely amazing. We decided that we need to use artichokes (even canned artichokes) more and that we could replicate this tart pretty easily – tomatoes, eggplant, artichoke and cheese in a pastry shell. Let’s do it.
For an entrée I had the duck with some pears and apples. It had a really great fall flavor to it, but my duck breast was a little under cooked. The meat was so tender, but in certain bites the sinewy tissues weren’t melted enough – so cooking for another 2-3 minutes would have made it perfect. Although, I’ll be the first to admit, I’d rather have it slightly under done than slightly over done (at least for duck). Mike ordered the pig cheeks, which was served in a cast iron pot and was the best thing I had eaten in weeks. The cheeks melted in your mouth and the accompanying vegetables had a bright crunch in one bite and a beautiful creaminess in the next. I am not ashamed to admit that I did dip several pieces of bread into that pot of sauce throughout the meal.
For dessert I had a simple Chocolate Molten Lava Cake – or, as I learned is called an Amadeus (the waiter and I used our French and English skills to describe this “under cooked chocolate cake that makes a mess on your plate when you cut it”. I love the dance of language confusion.
If dinner were a competition, Mike won with his selections. I was happy, but I would have been ecstatic if I had made his selections. We paired our meal with a bottle of Burgundian wine that was going for 24€. This restaurant didn‘t have wines by the carafe, which seemed quite unusual – I remember getting une carafe de vin rouge everywhere last time we were in Paris).
Ok, that was dinner. The final thing that I was really looking forward to was visiting Rudy’s Chausseure. A shoe store on the Rue de Rivoli in the 4th Arrondissement (Le Marais) just a couple blocks from the St. Paul (Metro Line 1) Stop. We stumbled across this tiny shoe store on our last visit and fell in love. There are several Rudy’s around the City, but this is the only one I’ve visited. They have about 2-3 dozen shoes on display: everything from oxfords, to loafers to boots. Just one guy works at the store we go to – and he helps just enough to get you the right size. You are left to your own devices after that – which I dig.
The brand of shoes I love is John Mac Grey – and I can’t find them anywhere else. A good search brings up: Rudy’s; eBay and my old blog. I’ve even emailed Rudy’s and asked if they could ship to me and unfortunately they can’t.
The shoes I bought in September of 2011 are still in active rotation. I’ve had them resoled a couple times, but they are starting to show their age. I bought two pairs in 2011 and wear these two pairs 4 of 7 days each week – so they are holding up very well.
I decided this year that I’d pick up a few extra pair and keep a couple pairs on deck, in case something happened to the ones on active duty (a few years ago, a United Stew ran over my shoe with a drink cart and deeply scratched the leather, but a good polish helps hide this defect).
I settled on buying four pairs of shoes –two brown and two black. They are beautiful. They are in a style that you can’t find in the US – a little more pointed, with a European flare. They are also all leather – and try as I might, I can’t find nice leather soled dress shoes in the US at a reasonable price. I paid between 59€ and 89€ for each pair at Rudy’s. For this price in the US, you are likely getting a pair of shoes with big rubber soles and/or a plastic heal. John Mac Grey’s are all leather with a little wooden heal – the way a proper dress shoe should be.
As I packed up my shoes and started to head out, the young sales associate ran after me and suggested that I take the 10 minutes and he’ll complete the tax return form for me – allowing me to get 50€ back when I leave the country! Score! Unfortunately, there was no one manning the Swiss border crossing and since Switzerland isn’t part of the EU I couldn’t get the money refunded. C’est la vie, eh?
Next time I am in Paris, I can guarantee that I’ll be paying Rudy’s a visit and if you like quality men’s dress shoes at an unreasonably low price then you best be hopping on Line 1 to St. Paul straight away yourself.
Yes, I know this was a post about food and shoes, but what else do you need in life, right?
Do you have a favorite shopping haunt in Paris when you visit? Where do you get your fabulous dress shoes in the US and what do you like about them?