“I find the Eiffel tower hugely romantic,” Anne-Katrin Weber, author of the new cookbook, In Love with Paris: Recipes and Stories from the Most Romantic City in the World, gushes. Her book is full of photographs that capture the dream-like beauty and glamour of Parisian streets, its elegant gardens, and its decadent food.
“Close by you get all the perfect ingredients for a picnic in the park: almond croissants from Carette or artisan cheeses from the fromageries Laurent Dubois or Quatrehomme,” she continues, mapping a perfect day eating your way through Paris. “Just pick up a baguette from one of the amazing bakeries and you’re ready to go. Or share some lovely ice cream at Berthillon after kissing your loved one under Pont Marie.”
It might be a well-worn stereotype that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, but Weber embraces the city’s reputation, compiling iconic Parisian dishes alongside equally iconic French love stories. In the pages of In Love with Paris, Weber reprints letters between lovers Abelard and Heloise, as well as excerpts from Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and poetry by Charles Baudelaire.
Weber also highlights what she considers some of the most romantic spots in Paris, offering a roadmap for visitors to create their own picturesque jaunt through the city. She pictures her book as a stroll through Paris, where readers can share “the beautiful view from Montmartre hill over the city with a loved person just when the sun is setting, going for a wine and cheese picnic in one of the picturesque Parisian parks, walking hand in hand along the Seine exploring the literary gems of the bouquinistes or just meandering from café to café through the stunning streets of Paris.” Couples, friends, and solo travelers looking for love will have no trouble finding it using In Love with Paris as a guide.
“In 19th century French literature one often comes across the flâneurs – observers of contemporary life,” Weber says. “My book is an invitation to the readers to become flâneurs and flâneuses going for a slow culinary walk discovering all the hidden love stories, romantic spots and culinary joys Paris has to offer.”
Food is a central element of the romance of Paris, and it’s key to Weber’s book, which offers classic French recipes that can be experienced in Paris and prepared at home. Weber encourages readers to spoil themselves with all of the decadent culinary offerings Paris has to offer – and she recommends starting with the city’s many iconic bistros.
“When I think of Paris, the first thing that comes to mind are the classic bistros,” Weber says. “In the cold season, many have displays of oysters and other delicious seafood set up in front, inviting you to have a glass of white wine and enjoy some fresh oysters. Then there’s the smell of the boulangeries and patisseries, bien sûr. No matter where you walk, so many streets smell of baguettes or croissants, it’s just heavenly, especially the smell of buttery sweet pastries is very seductive.”
The treats of Paris are tempting for any culinary adventurer, from cream filled pastries to cheesy baked potatoes. Whether you have the chance to try these five dishes in Paris – all of which Weber features in her book – or you recreate them in your kitchen for a Parisian escape at home, the romance of Paris is just a bite away.
The Paris-Brest pastry is the height of decadence. Thick swirls of praline crème mousseline are sandwiched between two rings of pâte à choux flecked with sliced almonds. Beautiful to look at and divine to taste, the Paris-Brest is edible architecture. It gets its name from the bicycle race from Paris to Brest in Brittany. Today, the Paris-Brest can be found in most pâtisseries around Paris for those eager to taste a pastry that exemplifies the artistry, elegance, and precision of French cooking.
2. Moules marinières
A traditional French dish likely to appear on most restaurant menus in Paris, moules marinière is an enticing mixture of fresh mussels steamed in a broth seasoned with garlic, leeks, shallots, and white wine. Heavy cream gives the broth a rich, creamy texture ideal for dipping slices of fresh French bread.
3. Croque madame
To call the croque madame a sandwich would be to seriously undersell its flavors. This decadent version of a grilled cheese sandwich has slices of ham coated in rich béchamel sauce that are sandwiched between bread topped with melted layers of Gruyère cheese. The sandwich’s crown is a crispy fried egg. The croque madame is a bistro staple, particularly for brunch, and a prime example of how French cuisine elevates even the most humble dish to lavish culinary heights.
4. Gratin dauphinois
Like the croque madame, gratin dauphinois is a dish that transforms basic ingredients into a culinary masterpiece. Sliced potatoes are layered with cream, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous dusting of Gruyère cheese. This is the French version of comfort food, elegant in its simplicity and rich in its flavors. Traditionally eaten by peasants in France’s Dauphiné region, bistros all over Paris feature some version of creamy, cheesy potatoes on their menus.
5. Tarte Tatin
Invented in 1888 by the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel in the Loire Valley, the tarte Tatin is one of the most famous French dishes in the world for good reason: This upside down tart consists of crispy, crumbly pastry crust topped with apples (or pears or peaches) caramelized in butter and sugar. The sliced apples turn an alluring burnt-amber hue in the oven, so like most French dishes Tarte Tatin looks as good as it tastes. This rustic dessert must be eaten warm, and is enjoyed plain or sometimes topped with cream.