Visiting Paris? Now you can call Patricia Wells
It used to be that any connected foodie planning a trip to Paris started with a phone call to Patricia Wells. That’s still good advice, and now, thanks to the magic of the app, you can take part, too.
Wells established her reputation back in the old print days as the restaurant critic of the International Herald Tribune. She was probably the most influential English-language critic in Europe, and parlayed that into a series of memorable recipe and guide books: “Food Lover’s Guide to Paris,” “Bistro Cooking” and “Simply French” (written with Joël Robuchon) to name just a few.
Though she no longer reviews for the Herald Tribune, she’s still as busy as ever: writing books (her newest, "Cooking With Patricia: Lifestyle Lessons from my Two French Kitchens" should be out this spring) and teaching a full slate of cooking classes, both in Paris and in Provence (mostly sold out for 2012, but some spots still available for 2013). [UPDATED: Wells' "Simply Truffles" was published in November]
And, of course, reviewing restaurants for her website and the iPhone app she developed for “The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris.” With more than 300 reviews of restaurants, bakeries, chocolate shops and food stores, and updated regularly, if you’re going to visit the city this summer, this is about the best $4.99 you’ll ever spend.
Though she and her husband, Walter, former editor of the Herald Tribune, have retired to Provence, Wells still lives in Paris much of the year and keeps an office and cooking school there.
She’s still very much on the hunt. For a recent morning visit, she’d collected pastries from two of her favorite bakeries: Hugo & Victor and La Patisserie des Reves. Just for research, you understand. Even an expert needs to stay on top of what’s happening.
“The biggest changes in restaurants in Paris are two things,” she says, cutting open a towering brioche, so delicate it’s almost hollow inside. “First, 20 or 30 years ago, every chef who started out aimed at winning a Michelin star, with everything that entailed, from huge flower arrangements to expensive ingredients. Today, very few chefs start out that way, they want to do their own things.
“Along with that, with all of the bloggers and websites that have come along, there’s just so much more information that it makes it easier for people to find the really good small places. It’s not just a few guidebooks and newspapers anymore.
“Oh, and a third thing: Today most restaurants are open seven days a week; that makes things so much easier.”
Photo credit: Kathy Parsons