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Paris

The Victory McDonald’s

We’ve written about it before, but now there is photographic proof. McDonald’s opened a location in the Louvre.

Why does French espresso suck?

Coffee, Cup and BeansIt is no secret why French coffee sucks.  It is because instead of brewing it properly they use the instant variety. But if you ask a Frenchmen about this, he will most likely reply that real French don’t drink “weak American-style coffee,” they drink espresso. The Nescafe Instant Coffee in every store, he’ll say, is just there so tourists have something to drink.

This is a lie, Europeans are second only to Asians in consuming instant coffee. But even if it were true, it does not explain why France, the cafe capitol of the world, has such horrible Espresso.

The New York Times steps in to answer the question.

I want to put it in stronger terms, but I’ll leave it to Duane Sorensen of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, who once asked me: “Why does the coffee in Paris suck so bad?”

Why, indeed?

Maybe it’s because Paris cafes do all the little things wrong: old beans, over-roasted beans, second-rate machines. Coffee is ground in batches, not to order. Order a café crème or noisette and out comes a box of U.H.T. milk, a shelf-stable dairy product. Even the venerable Cafés Verlet (256 rue Saint-Honoré, 011-33-01-42-606-739) ignores a basic rule and keeps roasted beans in open barrels.

The composition of most espresso blends doesn’t help things. James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee often points out that the French have a taste for robusta, a low-cost, low-quality bean that gives good crema but can taste thin and harsh. Or, to paraphrase a conversation I had with Corby Kummer, drinking robusta is like putting balsa wood in your mouth.

So there you have it. Not only do the French drink loads of low-quality instant coffee, they also cut corners when brewing their espresso. If you want a quality cup of coffee next time you’re traveling in Paris, you best bet it to find the nearest McDonald’s or Starbucks.  Thankfully they’ve just opened up a new McDonald’s in the Louvre.

(Hat tip: Joey)

Has Parisian dining jumped the shark?

Au BougnatGuardian writer Michael Tomasky recently got back from a trip to Paris and he is not happy with the restaurant scene in the self-proclaimed “food capital of the world.”

In fact we ate a lot of mediocre meals, and one outright awful one, at a brasserie in St. Germain that was close to disgusting. I have two main complaints.

First, the menus are really limited. There’s a steak, a piece of veal, a chicken, maybe a cut of lamb. Two fishes. That’s it. I’m aware that this is the tradition. But some traditions are bad. It’s not too much to ask that there be several choices on a menu.

Second, they don’t bring you vegetables. In America, at any good restaurant, your main course will come with a starch and a vegetable. There are exceptions, like steak houses, where everything is a la carte (or, come to think of it, at places that affect to be haute French). But basically, in the US, if you order a pork tenderloin, you’ll get a few potatoes and a respectable little clump of spinach or Swiss chard, something like that. I eat badly in some ways, but I love my greens, and a meal feels really incomplete without them.

Like Matt Yglesias, I am going to disagree with Tomasky’s critique of the short menu. The expansive menu found at the typical American diner is great and all, but only because we all know what is on it (breakfast, sandwiches, burgers, cheap meat). But at a new restaurant a long menu can be daunting. And as an American who has trouble making choices, I appreciate when places severely limit my options (this is why Chipotle is excellent–you can get whatever you want, but only 2 things are on the menu).

But his second critique is right on the money. Restaurants shouldn’t try to nickel and dime you. God knows the French do enough of that with their pay toilets, credit card minimums and lack of free refills.

Dinner should come with fixin’s–and plenty of them. Thankfully in America, it does.*

*Except in trendy NYC restaurants

Marketing to Americans [travel]

Conrad Hilton was a visionary.

Not only did he build one of the world’s most famous hotel chains, but he also understood that the best way to make Paris and other European cities more appealing was, well, to make his hotels there more like America. This meant installing two things: air conditioning and steakhouses.

After all, just because you’re traveling in France doesn’t mean you have to sweat (and smell) like the French!

[Photo credit: lobstar28 via Slate]

Free Refills roundup [welcome to Paris edition]

23 Free RefillsFree Refills are a cornerstone of American culture. So naturally we tend to talk about them a lot, particularly on the internet. Today I’m starting a new feature where every week or so I’ll roundup the best free refills related comments from the trusty twitter feed and post them here.

Enjoy!

I think Congress should reform the restaurant industry next. Its not fair that everyone doesn’t offer free refills. –@Rhodymike

Many White Castle locations offer free refills on sliders as long as you retain the boxes. –@whitecastlefact

if it’s not free refills. You’re not in America. “MERICA!” –@normajeanband

Just had a $1.50 hotdog and 20oz drink with FREE refills at the greatest store in the world… Costco!!! I love America –@anthonypond

Hotel had mix-up and no room for us. Starbucks charges for wi-fi and refills. McDonalds has free wi-fi but no plugs. Welcome to Paris! –@runkeeper

Let me know about any good ones I missed in the comments.

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