American in Paris Tom Reeves, author of the guidebook Paris Insights, has just published a new e-book, Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light, designed for tourists and newcomers to Paris who want to understand French dining culture, the kind of book he and his wife Monique wished they had had when they first arrived in Paris and were confused by French restaurant etiquette. It spells out clearly and succinctly the hows, whats and whys: How much should I tip in a French restaurant? What is the difference between a café, bistro, brasserie and restaurant? Why is the waiter taking so long to bring the bill? And so on.
At the end of the book, Reeves reviews 12 of his favorite restaurants and interviews their owners. The launch party for Dining Out in Paris was held in one of them, En Vrac (2, rue L’Olive, 75018 Paris; tel.: 01.53.26.03.94), a wine bar owned by Thierry Poincin (former owner of L’Estaminet in the Marché des Enfants Rouges), who has had the great idea of reviving the custom of selling wine “en vrac” (in bulk), in this case quality natural wine at extremely reasonable prices.
Customers bring in their own bottle or pay a deposit on one and have it filled from one of the stainless steel vats specially designed for the purpose by Poincin – as the level of wine goes down, the empty space fills with nitrogen to prevent the remaining wine from spoiling.
I took home a bottle of a fine little 2011 white table wine from the Pays d’Oc, Preignes le Vieux Le Petit Pont, for only €3, and a highly drinkable 2011 red Coteaux du Pont du Gard from Les Vignerons d’Estézargues, for €4.20. Prices run up to six €6.80 per bottle.
En Vrac also serves quality charcuterie and cheese to go with the wine, and a hot dish at lunchtime. Poincin, who also offers a catering service for parties and events, is opening a new location this week at 69, rue Maubeuge in the 10th arrondissement.