Upgrade Your Thanksgiving This Year—With a Trip to Paris
Should you ever find yourself nostalgic for all of those times you skipped school and got away with it (surely, this is a thing that we all totally did), here's a suggestion: Skip out Thanksgiving. It feels great, and here’s why.
Thanksgiving is a time when Americans come together to eat a massive dinner and argue politics, followed by long periods of sports viewing. And while we might easily fantasize about doing something else with the holiday, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics offers proof that we find it much harder to act on our desires—more than 99 percent of Thanksgiving travel is domestic, and roughly five percent of us (this seems low, but hey, stats are stats) actually get on a plane.
If you've ever been fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving in Paris, you already know—it can feel as if most of that less-than-one-percent of Americans ended up following you to France. There's nothing quite like Thanksgiving Day in Paris, really, and we can start with the fact that here, it’s just called Thursday. The city hums along as normal, anyone who doesn’t care for Thanksgiving is free to pretend it’s not happening. Or maybe not—perhaps it’s just that we all stick out more, on this most American of days, but it can at times feel as if you’re completely surrounded by your fellow citizens, and even more than usual. There's an increased level of quiet camaraderie, there are knowing glances, in line for the Louvre, or up the Eiffel Tower. Ha ha, you're doing it too, way to go, two thumbs up.
All well and good, this running away from home, until it’s time for dinner, right? Well, again, you’re not in the United States; there’s no pressure, no hint of FOMO, hanging on the air. One of my favorite Thanksgiving meals of all time was a bite to eat that I now forget, accompanied by a terrific hot chocolate I remember well, brimming with whipped cream, consumed somewhere facing out to the Place de la Madeleine, probably somewhere very touristy, no doubt, after a day of sightseeing. (I’d been showing family members around the city, their first visit, and they were having such a good time, we forgot to eat lunch.)
Of course, not everyone is as devil-may-care about our nearest and dearest traditions. A lot of people, no matter where they are on the day, want turkey. In years past, there has been a well-worn path to a collection of American, or American-ish hangouts, where homesick types, long-term expats and strange people curious about American holiday foods could grab a plate. This being Paris, however, you don’t so much grab a plate as much as you dutifully reserve a slot well ahead of time, for the chance to pay $40 (that’s about what one very well-known dinner destination charges, these days) for a bit of turkey and some pie. Pie, it must be mentioned, that ma not resemble the pecan or pumpkin extravaganzas you remember from childhood.
There have long been more spendy options, too—dated tourist traps, or even hotel dining rooms, where you might spend the Gross Domestic Product of a small nation on your dinner. There are even Americans who try and cook the meal at home, or in their rental flat, navigating the couple of fussy, little shops that seem to make an okay living off of people inflexible enough that they cannot fathom a Thanksgiving without a can of pumpkin filling, or a box of cornbread mix.
You are free to do any of these things, if you like. But of all the ways Paris has changed in the 21st century, and one might argue for the better, when it comes to dining out, one of the most fascinating has been the relatively sudden preponderance of actual American chefs and entrepreneurs, many of them doing very fine work. As in any major city, it can be difficult to keep track of which chef is where, or who’s doing what, but for a Thanksgiving meal unlike any other, one sure bet in recent years has been Boston expat Braden Perkins, and his wine-forward Verjus, tucked in just behind the Palais-Royal.
Here, you don't have to force your way through the door on the Thursday (which falls on November 23rd, this year). The restaurant serves their set Thanksgiving menu—with wine pairings, obviously—for the entire week, Monday-Friday. Expect sophisticated updates on classic tastes—a past menu included roast sweet potato soup, cremini mushroom stuffing, wild turkey leg confit and, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert. Expect to pay roughly $80 for the multi-course meal, plus another $60 or so for the wine pairings. The sooner you book, the better.
If you’re truly keen to do it yourself, but don’t need the hassle of scrounging for ingredients, the well-regarded La Cuisine Paris cooking school offers a make-your-own-Thanksgiving class on the day of. The event runs for four hours, during which you'll be able to prepare a once-again elevated dinner, from squash soup infused with vanilla to a roasted guinea fowl with herbs. Of course, when you're done, you'll sit down and eat. The class is in English, costs about $185, and is popular enough that they run two sessions on Thursday, November 23rd. (Once again—book now.)