Recommendations

“La Garde Robe”, Paris, France

Photo: Not Drinking Poison in Paris 2012

Le Garde Robe calls itself at “cave a manger”, making the point that it is first and foremost a “cave” or wine shop.  And as a wine shop its offering of organic (or “bio”) and natural wines is impressive.  However, there is a lot more Le Garde Robe than wine.  During the course of the day, it is also a cafe, a wine bar and a petit restaurant, which is where the “manger” or “to eat” comes in.  The kitchen is tiny and the menu very limited.  But everything is impeccably  sourced, from local farms or artisans, organic  and well prepared.  Charcuterie, cheeses, a few salads, a plate of crudites (or raw vegetables) served with basil pistou, and tartines  make up the bulk of the menu.  A few daily specials make up the rest.  The day we were last there, these included a butternut squash soup, house smoked and air cured beef, and a cocotte of boudin noir with apples.

Quality ingredients, prepared without pretension, at a fair price.  And at lunch, there is no corkage when you select a bottle from the wine shop.

Le Garde Robe (Two locations):

41, rue d’Arbre Sec, 75001 Paris  01 49 26 90 60
4 Rue Bridaine, 75017 Paris  01 44 90 05 04

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“Le Petit Commerce”, Bordeaux France

Photo Yelp 2013

The Petit Commerce, a bistro specializing in seafood, reminds me of two points regarding the city of Bordeaux that are not necessarily the first that come to mind when I think of this capital of wine.

First, Bordeaux is a port city and as such, has a rich culinary tradition surrounding fish and shellfish.   Although officially located on the river Garonne, it is very near the river’s mouth and therefore close the rich fishing of the bay of Biscay.  Bordeaux is also in the center of one of the most renowned oyster producing regions in France, very close to the famous oyster beds at Arcachon and around Oleron.
Second, Bordeaux is close enough to both Spain and the Basque countries that its cooking reflects some of these regions culinary traditions.  In this case, I am thinking of cooking on a “plancha” or flat topped grill.  Its a very simple, rustic way of cooking that adds a rich, caramelized, note to any ingredient.  And one finds it often in Bordeaux.

At Le Petit Commerce, the concept is simple:  very fresh fish, mostly whole, cooked on the plancha Continue reading

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“La Belle Auberge”, Castegnede, France

Having grown up reading Elisabeth David, I have always been enchanted with her descriptions of the auberges that populated the countryside of France when she first visited in the 1940’s.  The kind of place that one happens across when driving way off the beaten path, where a lunch of well cooked local fish, meat and vegetables can be had for next to nothing, where the dining room is full of beret wearing locals, a socially mixed group ranging from the local plumber to bank tellers to the mayor and his wife.  In Elisabeth David’s world, the chef was always an older woman who wore a cotton house coat over her dress and pumps; the servers were always jovial and intuitive and happy to Continue reading

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“Chez Mattin”, Ciboure France

Chez Mattin is a Basque bistrot in the fishing port of Ciboure, which lies across harbor from the larger coastal city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.  With its menu of traditional Basque specialties and its wood beamed dining room, Chez Mattin feels like a portal into a simpler time in dining.  This is good, honest food, emphasizing both “la mer” and “la terre” with a daily chalkboard menu that features equally the products of the green hills of the Payes Basques and the best of the days catch from Ciboure, France’s second most important fishing port.  The quality of the ingredients is irreproachable, the service is friendly (although don’t expect servers to speak English), the wine list full of well priced wines of the region.

Chez Mattin was recommended to me by the owner of the well-known “La Tupina” restaurant in Bordeaux, who lives in Ciboure and commutes to work each day.

Chez Mattin
Address: 63, rue Evariste Baignol  64500 Ciboure
Telephone : 05 59 47 19 52
Reservations:  Indispensable, especially at dinner

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