Finding France in NYC

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  I’m one of those people who’s in the lusty kind of love with most things Parisian—from Tintin comics to tarte tatin. So sure, there are the mornings I wake up craving a vrai croissant (and a cassoulet, and a Montmartre stroll at dusk) thinking I’d do anything—hell, I’d streak naked through the Louvre (“Oui, oui, how Rubinesque!”)—if only I could transport myself to Paris.   More often than not (okay, always) my earnest wishing does not actually land me in Paris. So then it’s time for Plan B.  If I can’t be in Paris, I can certainly put in a good faith effort to find the best of Paris here, in my new home, NYC. After all, I’ve heard the rumors: Paris is a moveable feast.  The Craving: Hot chocolatePLAN A: le Chocolat l’Africain at ANGELINA, 26 rue de Rivoli.PLAN B: MarieBelle Fine Treats and Chocolates, 484 Broome Street. The first time I had true French chocolate at ANGELINA’s—the monstrously rich, are-you-kidding-me, served-with-a-side-of-whipped cream kind—I swore off Swiss Miss for the ages. Thankfully, the stuff you get at MarieBelle’s is almost as good, minus the fancy tea room ambiance of Paris. You can either sneak into this SOHO store for a free sample, or you can take home a tin of the European-style hot chocolate (featured as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things”; $15) to whip up at home. I’m now addicted to the extra kick (is that chili pepper in there?) found in the Aztec spicy variety. The Craving: Cheese (please!)PLAN A: Any ole Parisian fromagerie.PLAN B: Murray’s Cheese Shop, 257 Bleecker Street. Okay, so there’s not a cheese shop in the U.S. that will stand up to the selection available in Paris (damn pasteurization). That being said, I certainly haven’t made my way through the many cheeses offered at Murray’s—yet. And the guys behind the counter are great. Looking to funktify this week’s fondue? They’ll happily help you experiment. Speaking of fondue, I had a pretty divine one (complete with bread, fingerling potatoes and steak tips for dipping) last weekend at Artisanal, 2 Park Ave. From the gougères (cheese puffs) to the tarte tatin (with cream cheese crust!) to the Epoisse I carted home from the in-house shop, stick to cheese (and wine) and I promise pleasure.  The Craving: The Perfect Browse PLAN A: Le Bon Marché, 22 Rue de Sèvres. PLAN B: Barney’s Co-op, 116 Wooster St., near Prince St.(or 236 W. 18th St., near Seventh Ave.) I’m not a fashion fiend, but I am a friend of fashion, and there’s just something hypnotic about browsing the cool, edgy racks of clothing at the oldest department store in Paris (which is much more sedate than the right-bank giants, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps). So when I’m feeling like a Bon Marché day in Manhattan (I mean, when I really need retail therapy), I steer clear of Bloomie’s and hit the Barney’s Co-op. The Co-op carries all the “affordable” brands you’ll find on the top floor of the Madison Ave. Barney’s. And when your dinner companions ask you where you got that stylin’ corduroy jacket with the Nehru collar? But of course. A Paris purchase. The Craving: Quaint Bookstore PLAN A: The Red Wheelbarrow , 13 rue Charles V.  PLAN B: Three Lives & Co., 154 W. 10th St. (at Waverly Place). I absolutely fell for this little English-language bookstore in the Marais while I was living in Paris. Owner Penelope Fletcher Le Masson has created a nook full of charm, books (of course), and the occasional fabulous author reading. Thankfully, Three Lives & Co. in the West Village fills all my independent bookstore needs—including the charm factor. And there are a few bonuses you won’t find in Paris: cheaper books (no international shipping costs) and an even more stellar reading series. Last month I cozied in for a reading by Yann Martel, recent winner of the Booker-Mann Prize. It was groovy. The Craving: A Croque Madame PLAN A: Any Paris brasserie. Bonus points if it’s the kind with a few craggy men who just stepped in from playing boules. PLAN B: Les Deux Gamins, 170 Waverly Place. There are a few places around New York that serve a decent croque monsieur—fewer that serve a madame (the fried-egg-on-top version). The rest of the fare at this corner bistro is fine—not better—but the servers speak French and all the patrons smoke. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any place that feels more Parisian—unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to land in Paris. Know any other great France-like finds in NYC? Come to the message boards and tell me where to head next!  Bonjour Paris is pleased to have Aimee Whitenack as a contributor.
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