Lindsey Tramuta, founder of the French food & culture blog Lost in Cheeseland, began writing about the joys and frustrations of Paris almost a decade ago. Today, she is a veritable expert on the city of light, and has written for publications like The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, the Wall Street Journal, and Bon Appétit, among others. You can find her reviewing restaurants, trend spotting, whipping up where-to-eat guides, or doing her famous Franco File interviews (here’s one she did with Maggie).
In late March, Lindsey and I met up over a filtered coffee at one of her Paris favorite cafes. Surrounded by happy customers and joined by the owner and barista of Fondation Cafe, Lindsey shared the realities of living in Paris, the evolving dining scene, her ultimate food icons, and a list of the five eateries she says you MUST visit in Paris right now (see below). After our talk, it was that much harder to get on the return flight home! ~Amy
What’s the story of how you ended up in Paris, and how Lost in Cheeseland came to life?
The short version of the story: I came as an exchange student twice, fell in love on the first trip, moved here permanently, pursued graduate studies and then needed to find my voice and my place in the city, independent from my relationship. That outlet was writing and Lost In Cheeseland was the catalyst for everything I’ve done since. It helped reignite my curiosity and was the drive to go out and explore. I wasn’t going to wait for my partner to show and teach me everything there was to know about my new city, I was going to seek everything out on my own. And having a space to share the stories from those adventures set me off on a creative and professional course I had not anticipated. It’s been a wild ride!
You moved to Paris nine years ago, and have been here ever since. What is the reality of being an American in Paris versus the dream?
It’s like any place where one might settle down and pursue a career and a family, no matter what form that takes: it’s not always pretty! I run errands, I deal with bureaucrats, I wait in long lines at the bank and the weather is often quite gloomy which puts everyone in a foul mood. I have daily obligations that don’t always involve digging into pastries or walking along the Seine. But much of the fantasy I entertained prior to moving here is woven into the mix and serves as a reminder for why I’ve chosen this path in my life. There is never a shortage of things to do, see and explore. There is so much intense beauty among the chaos and the people, overall, truly believe that life is worth savoring. ‘Work hard, go on vacation’ is the approach to life (with some, of course, going heavy on the latter) and I greatly subscribe to that philosophy. I’m also here at an incredibly interesting time in the city’s history, with the first female mayor and incredible, emerging talent who have gone to great pains to make Paris even better. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about Paris?
Favorite: the light, the built-in inspiration on every corner, the emerging talent, the preservation of savoir-faire. Least: growing xenophobia, minimal support for new businesses and the pollution! Action needs to be taken on all fronts.
How have you seen the Paris food scene evolve and change in the last decade?
It’s a difficult question to summarize briefly but I will say that the biggest evolution has been an overall openness to foreign influence, new flavors and inventive concepts that flip tradition on its head.
What trends are you seeing right now?
Several food movements have been dominating the scene for some time and it’s quite a mix. On the one hand, you have hyper-local cooking and market-driven eateries and, on the other, you have gourmet fast food – more burger joints, Mexican taquerias, Korean fried chicken, and even Chinese and nose-to-tail places where nothing is off limits.
Tell us about a fabulous meal you’ve had in the city of light.
There are too many to name just one! And since the menus and dishes change daily at most market-oriented establishments, I can’t necessarily recommend a signature dish as such but everything I have ever ordered at Le Richer or their newer restaurant 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis has been of exceptional quality, flavor and value. All I can say is, GO!
Do you cook? What, when, and, why?
I should cook more, as my husband would say, but I much prefer to bake!
What is your favorite food gift that you’ve ever received?
Anything home-baked, to be honest! My friend Frank (@CakeBoyParis on Instagram) makes absolutely divine cakes and often hosts cake parties for a small group of our friends. That, in itself, is a gift – he adores baking and making people happy through his craft and that’s precisely the kind of gift I like to receive.
What is the best food gift you’ve ever given?
I love gift baskets filled with artisanal goods as I think it’s the best way to introduce someone to fantastic small producers. To friends or visitors in Paris, there are two food gifts I’ve given that have been a huge hit: a food tour (I’ve offered Paris By Mouth tours) or cooking class (with La Cuisine Paris) and artisanal jams from La Chambre aux Confitures.
What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.
I snack on this even when people ARE looking! I’m a sucker for rustic, ultra-crunchy bread slathered in demi-sel butter. There is no simpler or greater pleasure.
What is the one item you covet for your kitchen?
Sadly, what I covet doesn’t exist in the way I need it to. It’s the perfect, always-clean, crumb-free countertop! Instead, I’ll say a blender to make smoothies. In our small space, we had to prioritize and the blender didn’t make the final cut.
Who are your food icons?
Three very clever, inspirational women: Dorie Greenspan, Melissa Clark of The New York Times dining section, and Claire Damon, the pastry chef behind Des Gâteaux et du Pain. All bring joy to those who consume their work and remind us to take the time to enjoy simple pleasures.
As a baker, I can’t help but be drawn to Dorie’s recipes and her approach, which demystifies the process (particularly when the recipes are for French treats). She’s also incredibly kind. That she bounces from one book to another is a testament to her passion and her endless stream of ideas and I so admire her and everything she has produced.
I’ve never met Melissa Clark but she strikes me as the woman you want to have at every meal; even better if she can be involved in preparing every meal. She’s smart, witty and makes me want to try my hand at cooking more often.
And Claire – one of the pastry geniuses I’ve been able to interview in person. Everything she creates is spectacular and born of a tremendous respect for ingredients and the craft of patisserie. And she champions more of a female presence in the field, long dominated by men. She’s opinionated, confident and successful, never second-guessing her work and always challenging herself creatively. That’s the kind of role model, in food or any other area of craft, that women need!
Five places we need to visit (and eat) in Paris, a la Lindsey?
- Fondation Cafe – This is where I go when I want really good coffee (which is all the time). Order a filtered coffee and a slice of cake by Broken Biscuits.
- Bespoke – This cocktail bar and restaurant has been open since Spring 2014, and it’s getting attention for a reason. Sit at the bar and order the sliders and a cocktail.
- Chambelland Boulangerie – I’m not gluten-free, but I love this gluten-free bakery. It’s worth visiting for the bread and select sweets alone. For a full experience, grab lunch and the fresh juice of the day, too!
- Miznon Paris – An amazing Israeli sandwich bar that also does plates. The best pita sandwiches on the planet – short of being in Tel Aviv.
- Le Richer – A clean, modern neo-bistro that is open all day. I’d drop by for a mid-afternoon small plate and a glass of wine.
Photos taken and styled by Amy Feiereisel and Richelle Hunter.
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