Tourism

Paris restaurants – La Jacobine

For our last night of the girls’ weekend in Paris, we went to La Jacobine in the 6th for dinner.

Now, I had been wanting to eat here since July, when I happened to stumble upon this restaurant, read the menu in the window and started drooling! Back in July, it was my last evening in Paris and I had already eaten so I had been looking forward to getting back here ever since.

This time I was ready.  La Jacobine

It was a cold drizzly evening, we had just been on a cruise along the Seine, so the warm cosy atmosphere was just what we were looking for. We were shown to what appeared to be the last available table and settled in to browse the menu. Since my friend Katrina was in France for the first time, she was determined to try the escargot as an entrée. Encouraged by her bravery, I decided to also try a traditional French dish I have seen in so many places but haven’t been game to order: salade de gésiers. Escargots and Salade de Gesiers

I was told by some lovely Parisians “don’t think about where it comes from, just enjoy it”. So with a deep breath, I jumped in!

Now that I have tried it, I feel able to actually research what it is! It seems that the gésiers, or gizzard, is a pocket of muscle which forms part of the oesophagus in birds, and contains pebbles the bird has swallowed in order to break down harder food before it reaches the stomach. It can be very muscular in birds that eat hard grains and therefore needs to be cooked slowly for a long time in order to be tender.

Well, ok that information is not so bad – I was actually fearing something from the other end of the bird’s digestive system, ha!

So how did it taste? Not bad at all actually. This information explains the flavour, which for me was very much like duck meat but stronger and richer, perhaps slightly fattier. Obviously the gésiers are cleaned before cooking as there was no trace of grit or pebbles in my salad. It certainly did not taste anything like the offal flavours I was fearing.  I’m not sure if it is something I will eat very often, but I am glad I took the plunge.

As for Katrina’s escargot – she pronounced them to taste just like butter, garlic and herbs – no surprises there. She decided that with all the difficulty getting them out of their shells, she probably won’t bother again, but at least she has tried them once.

On to the main courses. Being a cold, wet evening  out, I had trouble deciding between the duck tajine with dates and almonds or the lamb shanks with prunes and figs. Katrina went for the lamb while I chose the duck and we shared a nice bottle of pinot noir to accompany the meals. When the food arrived we were surprised to see that they looked like they were cooked in the same sauce – they were almost the same colour. But no, looks are deceiving as we tasted each other’s dishes and they were indeed quite different. Katrina said the lamb was delicious but found the sauce sweet, but thought that the sauce with my duck was sweeter. I am quite fond of sweet flavours combined with meats and I thought they were both absolutely delicious.

I am glad I got there in the end and I would definitely like to return another day if I have the opportunity. The food lived up to the flavours I had imagined, the service was friendly and the atmosphere perfectly cosy for a winter dinner. This one is definitely on my list of recommendations.

La Jacobine, 59-61 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006 Paris

It’s a little tricky to find as it is located in a laneway that runs between Rue Saint-André des Arts and Boulevard Saint-Germain, one that is very easy to miss.  The laneway is called Cours du Commerce Saint-André and, thanks to Google streetview, this archway is what you are looking for:  Cours du Commerce Saint Andre 

Lights, camera and… Paris dining with a difference!

Well it was a bit of a whirlwind weekend filled with the usual sightseeing, exploring the beauty of Paris, but also with a twist – an exciting dinner with a difference on the Saturday night. But more on that later… I’ll start at the beginning, with all the more “normal” things we did.

Friday morning, early train from Beziers, arriving to a wet Paris. Wet Friday afternoon in the 2nd

First outing was to explore the Montorgeuil area in the 2nd and stock up on goodies for later on, then head to the Eiffel Tower for a horse and carriage ride around the evening streets, yes including champagne!  The Christmas lights are stunning, from the warm golden balls scattered through the trees of the Boulevard Saint-Germain to the glistening whiteness of the Christmas village along the entire Avenue des Champs Élysées, it was all beautiful. Wintry cold, but beautiful. Back to the apartment to thaw out and catch up over wine and the goodies bought earlier.

Saturday morning up & out early to the Eiffel Tower again, ready for our “behind the scenes” tour up the tower. Disappointment!! The tour operator changed our time without telling us – to that evening which we couldn’t make – so we were left with no option but to claim a refund when we got home. On with the day, walking and exploring a sizeable area of Paris and taking in a light lunch. Laneway in St Germain Des Pres  Street entertainment St Germain des Pres  Nutella crepes  Place des Voges   DSC_1198I love the Parisian sense of humour…  Red nosed statues

With very sore feet, but even more in love with the most famous City of Lights, it was back to the apartment to prepare ourselves for the big dinner ahead.

So what WAS the big surprise?

Well, we had the fantastic opportunity to be welcomed into the home of a wonderful Parisienne lady for an evening involving meeting new people, making new friends, discussing our cultures and that of France in particular, seeing how Parisians live in their apartments, enjoying French wines –  and all of this over delicious home-cooked French fare. Who would pass up that opportunity? Not me that’s for sure!!

Now I had never thought of this sort of an evening before, especially since I don’t actually know anyone who lives in Paris so that meant I might never have this opportunity… until I was fortunate enough to come across this website:

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After a quick browse, I decided this would be a perfect surprise for my friend so I went ahead and booked it. As I was booking quite a few weeks in advance, I entered my details and registered my interest. A week or so later I was contacted by Renaud, the owner of the site, to organise our dinner and we were on our way. A host was chosen, details were passed back and forth and it was all set.

Imagine my surprise though, when Renaud contacted me again a few days later  to ask if we would be willing to have a couple of journalists accompany us to our dinner and film the evening for a story to be aired on national French TV. Wow, this was now shaping up to be an even more interesting night!

The journalists contacted me and we arranged for them to meet us in our apartment where they did some general filming of us flicking through brochures, choosing our outfits and getting ready for the big night out. They then followed us down the street and into the taxi. With cameras following our every move, one cafe owner called out to us that we must be “divas”. How hilarious!!  Well our journalists were wonderfully friendly and put us all at ease as we arrived at the apartment of our host and began with a welcome glass of champagne and some nibbles.

All we knew about our host, Sacha, was that she was an artist.  She turned out to be a lovely and very talented lady who welcomed us warmly and showed us around her beautiful, original, Haussmann apartment.  For those who don’t know about Haussmann, he was the civic planner who modernised Paris between 1853 and 1870, giving the city the classic look it still has today. Sacha’s apartment was in one of these buildings and still contains the original walls complete with detailed ceiling work, parquetry floors, fireplaces and mirrors in the reception rooms. It was amazing.

Sacha then blew us away with her incredible talents as a concert pianist! Sacha playing piano  Personalised dinner setting by Sacha

More surprises were in store when we found out that Sacha designs and paints unique bespoke dinner services for weddings and she had designed a beautiful setting especially for our night. (If you are interested, her work can be found in the famous Galeries Lafayette in Paris). By this stage we were feeling that the whole evening was a little surreal – certainly not your average Saturday night dinner in Paris!!

Her talents certainly didn’t end there though, her food was also delicious.  Sitting down to dinner along with Sacha’s lovely friend Yael, we were presented with an entree of foie gras cooked with orange segments and artichoke hearts – my friend’s first ever taste of foie gras and duly pronounced to be amazing – along with a leafy salad. Main course was equally delicious,  fish cooked in a light coconut cream sauce and served with fragrant rice. The next course was fromage,  a selection of 4 beautiful French cheeses and lastly we finished with a decadently rich chocolate gateau. And of course the meal was accompanied throughout with delicious French wines.

The evening was very interesting and every time the talk turned to the differences, surprises and delights we had discovered with the French culture, on would come the lights and camera, and we’d find ourselves being filmed again! Thankfully the wine worked its magic and we were much less intimidated or nervous by the end of dinner.

After dinner, our journalists finished their interview and left us with our hosts – of course this meant some time to let our hair down and finish the evening with some girl-talk and a good laugh.

We left in the early hours with two new friends and an incredibly interesting night out in Paris to remember.

I would definitely recommend Voulez-vous Diner.com to anyone visiting Paris and looking for something a little out of the ordinary to remember.  DSC_1212

Our weekend continued on Sunday – after a decently late sleep of course – when we headed up to Montmartre for a fresh pasta lunch and to climb to the top of dome of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Be prepared for a steep, never-ending spiral stone staircase if you do this climb, but the view is worth it

The afternoon had us cruising on the Seine admiring the beautiful monuments from the water, albeit through slightly foggy and rain splashed windows and while tolerating a very loud and annoying tourist group on the boat with us, then it was out of the rain into a gorgeous little restaurant in the left bank for some traditional French food, but that will be the subject of my next post.

If you’d like to see a glimpse of our dinner on French TV, it is to be incorporated in a story on “66 Minutes” about visitors to France and their impressions of French culture. It is due to be screened on channel M6, Sunday night 23rd December. If that changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Enjoy!