Autumn is always full of activities to do here, so it was somewhat of a dilemma to fit in all the things that interest me.
Fête de la Gastronomie had several activities all over the city that made it hard to decide between all of them.
I enjoy going there just for the views and fresh river breezes near the fabulous Pont Alexandre framed with its golden statues.
Last friday the sun finally came out again after a week of rainy cool days that have so far plagued September here.
It’s an easy ride from my place on bus 28 that stops right at Gros Caillou before crossing the Seine to the Grand and Petit Palais.
As you can imagine, Paris, being a huge cosmopolitan city has many ethnic food restaurants.
There may be more concentrations of one ethnic group over others due to the different waves of immigrants that France has welcomed throughout the years.
Therefore the number of particular ethnic restaurants has changed throughout the time I have known Paris.
For example, when I was a student, almost every street in the Latin quarter and elsewhere had a Vietnamese restaurant due to the influx of Vietnamese fleeing the Vietnam war.
Now it is mostly a melange of Laotian Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese who came in droves in the 70’s and are now concentrated in the 13 arrondissement and around Belleville in the 20th.
Invading them has been the Turkish Kurdish kabobs everywhere, with a super concentration on Rue Faubourg Saint Denis north of Porte Saint Denis.
Further north on the same street on the right side of Gare du Nord are loads of Sri Lanka restaurants.
Same with former French Ivory Coast countries of Senegal, Mali, Benin and also Congo and Cameroon.
The Ivory Coast representatives seen here occasionally would break out in song and dance as well as the Peruvians.
Paris is not loaded with real Mexican restaurants, nor many from central America.
I found their specialties intriguing, such as a delicious thick pancake filled with spinach and dill and a pastry with goat cheese and chives, that I bought. They had lovely sweet pastries as well but I didn’t buy any, though retrospectively I should have.
Unfortunately, it was prettier than it tasted being made with tasteless white flour. Maybe it is used to serve as a plate to pile foods upon?
I had already been introduced to Azerbaijan cooking from a demonstration at a cookbook fair, and a lot of their foods are baked rice based creations with various meats.
Of course there were stands from several Asian nations, which I feel are all very well represented here, except pure Taiwanese. The organizers made sure they were not anyway near the China stand.
The Indian ocean was better represented by Indonesia, Comoro islands and of course Reunion. Surprisingly there wasn’t any from French Polynesia.
Despite it being a French territory, I can’t name a Tahitian restaurant here either.
Paris does have many Lebanese places, due to the former French occupation of Lebanon after World War I, and it remains a popular ethnic choice for the French.
There wasn’t a stand from Iran, though there are many Iranian immigrants in Paris. A lot of Iranian markets and restaurants are located in the 15 arrondissement.
I was surprised to see a Yemen stand that was set up by a Yemeni family restaurant in Melun, a town southeast of Paris. They were very friendly as well.
Perhaps in a few years, we will see more Afghanis and Syrian cuisines represented, though there have been a few Afghan restaurants here for a long time.
We had previously met the lovely owner, Marie Claude, when stopped for an ice cream near her place a month ago.
I was impressed with her insistence on using traditional spices from there and her creativity with recipes reworking some traditional dishes.
Everything we ate was delicious, fresh and perfectly seasoned. Her Réunionese rums macerated with vanilla and lychee were extraordinary!
Perhaps due the polished palate of the French, who travel often and generally have higher culinary expectations, many foreign chefs have elevated their cuisines to assure acceptance in a competitive restaurant scene.
My only complaint is that culinary foods traditionally well spiced with hot peppers have been seriously toned down here , as the French are not used to them at all.
I have learned to request that they add extra peppers, whom many are reluctant to do out of fear of it being too much. Some will instead bring the pepper preparations in a separate dish, such as Marie Claude.
Certainly tourists do not come to Paris for ethnic foods, and they shouldn’t with all the marvelous French dishes to try
The culinary treasures of France and rich heritage of fine dining is very much alive and well in Paris, from the bastions of gastronomy to the little neighborhood bistros.
Those of us who live here just like a little diversity from time to time. For me, I look forward to eating ethnic foods as I my daily menus are generally French.
If affords this cook a day out of the kitchen and a feeling like traveling without taking a boat or plane. Bon Appetit!