Free gourmet food and wine in Paris? Mais oui. But be prepared to stand in line for it.
The Wine & Fooding Tour 2004, organized by the movement known as Le Fooding, is sponsoring several free events at Paris restaurants this year that offer wine tastings, with matching nibbles cooked up by young chefs.
The events have attracted hundreds, with lines stretching around the block.
"Wine tasting can be boring and pompous," said Julia Sammut, a member of the Fooding Bureau, which organizes the events. "We want to invite people to look at it differently, giving them a chance to drink excellent wine in a relaxed atmosphere, for free, no strings attached."
Le Fooding was born in 2000 in Paris. The name is a blend of "food" and "feeling," and the goal is to promote a new way of eating and cooking, emphasizing quality, creativity and ambience.
The founders, Alexandre Cammas and Emmanuel Rubin, food critics for prominent French magazines, shared a frustration about what they perceived as conservatism and narrow-mindedness in the French world of gastronomy.
"Gastronomy did not appeal to young people anymore — not as much as design, fashion or architecture," Cammas said. "We wanted to bring food back into the heart of things."
A bureau was created to organize free events, spread the philosophy and edit a guide to Paris restaurants and a magazine. Besides the wine tastings, the bureau has sponsored picnics along the Seine, cooking performances and restaurant awards.
Although it initially raised eyebrows and doubtful smirks, the movement has gained increasing respect. Still a small organization, Le Fooding has learned to be thrifty and creative, while persuading large sponsors to work with it.
Beyond the excellent food and drink, the Wine & Fooding Tour is an opportunity to mix with a hip Parisian crowd and a few famous faces, plus students and neighborhood people.
Three Wine & Fooding Tour 2004 events remain: Sept. 13 at Tokyo Eat, Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président-Wilson; Oct. 4 at Café Charbon, 109 Rue Oberkampf; and Nov. 8 at R'Aliment, 57 Rue Charlot.
All the events begin at 7 p.m. Word travels fast when free food is involved, so arrive early. Admission is free but requires a pass phrase. You can find it the week before on Le Fooding's French-only website, http://www.lefooding.com , or ask those in line. The website also has details on each event's wines and chefs.