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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mini-Shoutout: Ferdi

32, Rue du Mont-Thabor
75001 Paris
Tel : 01 42 60 82 52

This year I was rather lucky & had a weeks long drawn out birthday with many mini-gettogethers & surprises. A few weeks after the actual day, fellow food-loving friends, Fred & Lauren, invited me to dinner at Pinxo for more belated celebration. While there are a good number of spendy bars to stop in for a pre-dinner sip in this area, I was trying to find something more reasonable in price range. Fortunately Fred had the foresight to make ressies for an apero at Ferdi.

Ferdi is a buzzing, cozy tapas joint with a long and varied menu & favored by fasionistas and fasionista wanna-bes. I love their fun & whimsical decor with the Playmobil figurines lining the walls. And, I'm impressed that they can turn out such a range of nosh yet still maintain a certain quality level. But, can they knock out a decent cocktail as well? I'd say yes.

I had a very satisfying stirred Tanqueray martini, served in a chilled glass and topped with an olive. Nicky gave her margarita a thumbs up. Of the 16 or so choices on their cocktail menu there are few big surprises. You can get your cosmos, mojitos and caipis. But two of the choices stand out as a bit more interesting. First: a Pisco Sour. With the exception of some of my preferred stops, I don't find a lot of bars in Paris featuring egg white cocktails. Another option you don't find just anywhere: a bullshot. Coincidentally, I was just tweet-encouraged by someone yesterday to finally get around to giving one of these a try. So, perhaps I'll head back soon to do so. Drinks are a reasonable 10 to 12 Euros here - with one exception: the Grey Goose martini at a silly 16 Euros.

I like Ferdi's combination of fun food, playful decor and decent prices. And, for a place that's not exclusively a cocktail bar I think they are conscious in their cocktail mixing and a reasonable alternative in a area where pricier cocktails are the norm. And, I'll take that as a final little happy birthday surprise to myself.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mini-shout down: Novotel Bercy

Novotel Bercy
85, de Bercy
75012 Paris
Tel: 01 43 42 30 00

Forest fact: I have a soft spot for average, bog standard, budget chain hotels you find scattered along the freeways of middle America. You know the ones I mean: they always have sufficient strip mall & General Dollar Store action close by, there's all you can eat breakfast buffets and a fine selection of Bigelow teas on tap all day long in reception. I totally get into it and use all the amenities possible. I'm the one who actually uses the 3 machines in the empty fitness center & skips down the nappy, brown carpeted hallway to visit the hot tub room. And, the ice machines...ah, the ice machines, don't even get me started.

So, the Novotel Bercy, while a slight step up from a Holiday Inn and with no strip malls in site, reminds me of the cheesy, brightly lit, average businessman's hotel. But, for as much as I love these places, the Novotel Bercy: not so much. I've been sitting on this post for several weeks with a bit of a 'why bother' attitude. But I've decided it merits a little shout-down to prevent others from following in my footsteps. Back in January, Kate come up from Geneva and took me to a concert at Bercy for my birthday (thanks, Kate!) The concert fell on a Wednesday, so tried to squeeze in a quickie cocktail adventure prior to the show. I didn't have any ideas for around Bercy & the few I came up with didn't work (temporary closures, etc.) So I thought a hotel bar is always a semi-safe bet.

I was wrong. Although Gin and Tonic is the first featured cocktail on their list of 6 cocktails at 6.95, there's no gin in the house. There's actually not much at all to choose from in the house. I took a cuba libre. Unusual for Paris: the barman was very heavy handed with his pour. The general vibe is a bit depressing even if the barman was friendly enough. So it was a great concert, but crap cocktails. And, I'm still on the lookout for cocktail spots in the area...so share if you've had better cocktail luck around Bercy!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Random Cocktail Adventure: Baboto CLOSED


12/14, Rue de la Ferronnerie
75001 Paris

Between NYE travels and my recent Seattle/San Francisco trip, I’ve had a slow start to my 2010 blogging. But, I'm back and looking forward to finding some excellent cocktails this year as well as tackling some more productive and worthwhile resolutions (but that serious stuff is for a different blog.)

Upon my return from Cuba, things kicked back into high gear right away with one of my monthly cocktail meetups the following night. I don't blog on my meetups because I don't usually take members to untested cocktail spots. But this months' choice was an exception so I am exceptionally blogging about it. In a bit of a rush to post a location for January's meetup before I left for holiday, I did a bit of internet searching and found Baboto. It looked kind of swank & the prices and size seemed right, so I blindly chose it for the meetup.

This restaurant/lounge/tea house/cocktail bar combo self-confidently hangs on the outer fringe of a hectic little zone south of the Pompidou that’s already bursting with bars. The whole thing seems smaller and a bit less swank in real life. The glowing bar is lined with stools as is the mirrored wall facing it. Beyond the bar is a restaurant of a certain trendy genre (i.e. the kind I don't fully trust on a food level) and a veranda. The young, amiable Luis greeted me from behind the bar over loud pop music. He was unaware of my previously made reservations for 20 to 30 people, but he had no problem with it.

The happy hour (18:00 to 21:00) menu features several basics (mojitos, cosmos, etc) at 5 Euros. Their non-happy hour menu is a little more interesting. I also noted that they sell booze by the bottle, with a Gordons(!) ringing in at a steep 95 Euros. And, I’m usually a bit iffy about a bar that sells anything but wine by the bottle. I asked if they could do a standard gin martini with dry vermouth and got an enthusiastic yes. What followed was a shaken, half sweet vermouth and half Bombay Sapphire combo topped with a star fruit and wielding the hefty black, plastic straw.

I tried a few other drinks off the standard cocktail menu including the MO5 (7 year Havana Club rum, champagne, angostura bitters, amaretto & fresh strawberries) which was the least sweet and most refreshing of the lot. Since there was a large group of us, I got to see and sample a wider range of drinks. Most were okay, but some were overly cutesy or too blue for my taste. In general the group seemed content with their drinks – especially those off the happy hour menu as opposed to the 10 Euros regular menu cocktails.

A few of us ordered the 5 Euros tapas platters for something a bit more substantial to nibble on than just their nicely roasted peanuts that came with our drinks. Square black slate plates arrived topped with a variety goodies such as deep fried calamari, shrimp, and toasts with a sort of tapanade. Although initially I hadn’t held high hopes for the food, I was pleasantly surprised and think it might have been the best deal of the evening.

In general, the place is trying: The ice situation is good (lots of it, decent crusher). The non-happy hour menu has some interesting choices. But, they just aren’t in the same league as my preferred cocktail stops.

When I actually started this post, it was January and I was hitting a lot of the sales, so I was thinking of things in shopping terms: If high-end bars like the George V are the expensive designer shops along the Champs and craft cocktail bars like the Experimental are the more edgy, hip and interesting boutiques, then Baboto is H&M when they pull in a designer collection. It’s shiny but still a bit cheap.

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