L’embarass de choix

Recently, I’ve written about Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. The third big café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés is Brasserie Lipp. It has been in business since 1880 when Léonard Lipp moved to Paris from Alsace after France lost it after the Franco-Prussian War. The menu is still based on Alsatian specialties like sauerkraut and sausage served with blond beer or wine.  Three things you can’t do at the Lipp are drink Coke, smoke cigars, or use a cell phone.  I’m cool with that. The décor has not changed since 1926, so cell phones would definitely not fit in. The menu changes extremely rarely. If your grandfather dined at the Lipp as a child, he’d find the menu virtually identical today.  The Lipp has been a favorite gathering place of France’s political elite including Georges Pompidou, Francois Mitterand, and Jacques Chirac. Like the other big cafés on the Boulevard, the Lipp has a literary connection. Françoise Sagan, Albert Camus, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry were regulars, among many others. This heritage is celebrated with the Prix Cazes, named after the couple who took over the Lipp in 1920. The prize has been awarded since 1935 to a young author who has not received any other prizes. The winner receives 4,000 Euros, 800 Euros of free dining at the Lipp, and a Jeroboam of champagne.

Today’s expression, l’embarras de choix (lembarah duh shwah) literally means “the embarrassment of choice .“ We’d say “spoiled for choice,” for instance, if you want a place to eat in the Saint-Germain neighborhood, you have l’embarass de choix between the Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore on the Boulevard, and Le Petit Zinc right around the corner.

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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