Monday, January 31, 2011

Paris - Odds and Ends

Yes, the last post was my final post about Paris restaurants. But there were so many other snacks and tastes throughout the week I just can't leave out.

My first meal of the week included a butter and sugar crepe. I could eat one of these every day and never tire of them.

There are many Paul bakeries around Paris, and there was one right around the corner from us. It was a daily - and sometimes twice a day - stop for us.

The French like to add an egg to a lot of dishes. Sandwiches, fish, pizza...fine by me.

My favorite - stinky cheese.

And yes...this seems so ordinary, but this is the food I cannot stop thinking about. Yogurt. The yogurt in France is just so much better. I do love my Greek yogurt, but this one was really amazing. So thick and just a little sweet. The pack of four actually came with a recipe for how to make it yourself, which I really need to try.

Oh Paris...I hope I see you again soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paris - Le Relais de L'Entrecôte

I think this is my last Paris restaurant post. Funny, since this restaurant was our first dinner of the trip. I had heard of this place from my friends Amy and Seth who went last year, and then we happened to walk by it just a couple blocks from the apartment. Well, I say we walked by "it" - there are actually 3 locations in Paris. So we walked by one of them. Le Relais de L'Entrecôte is the steak frites place. That's all they serve, so that's what you're going to eat. With a few other things, of course.

So there's no menu. The waitress just asks how you want your meat cooked. And I'm pretty sure the whole table has to agree on one amount of doneness. She then writes it down on the edge of the paper tablecloth.

They start you off with a a salad of greens, walnuts, and a very mustardy vinaigrette.

And then, the main event. They bring out a big platter of steak and a big platter of fries and prepare everything on a separate table.

Thin slices of steak covered in a slightly creamy, peppery, mustardy sauce. I don't know what was in it, but it was really good.

And when you get to this point...

You do it all over again. They bring you another round of steak frites. They do have a dessert menu, and we shared profiteroles. But somehow - again - I didn't get a photo. I guess the sugar just takes hold of me when it lands on the table and all I can do is eat it. Oh well.

This restaurant was fun, boisterous, and perfect for the first dinner of our trip. We were all so excited to be there and a classic French meal was a great kick-off to the week.

Le Relais de l'Entrecôte
20 Rue Saint-Benoît, Paris 75006

Monday, January 17, 2011

Paris - Le Chateaubriand

I do believe Le Chateaubriand was the crown jewel of our dinners in Paris. Part of that is due to the enthusiasm leading up to the meal. I read so many amazing reviews of the restaurant and of chef Inaki Aizpitarte, saw both showcased on the No Reservations Paris episode last September (I think), saw that it was placed on the 50 Best Restaurants list (at #11!)...all these accolades, plus the fact that it's a casual, modest, moderately priced place and not a hoity-toity restaurant had me really excited. And the waiting, waiting...waiting...and finally a reservation secured by Amex for us was like a little bit of Christmas morning before we left for our trip.

Here is the review from the 50 Best list. Yeah, I'm taking the lazy way out here but they describe Le Chateaubriand better than I could.

Le Chateaubriand breaks the mould of top French restaurants serving haute cuisine. Its classy, wonderfully inventive food would grace the tables of the swankiest venues the world over but is served instead in a simple bistro setting, complete with zinc bar, chalk boards and hard wooden chairs. Chef-patron Iñaki Aizpitarte always maintained he wanted to create a restaurant where his friends could afford to eat. So this is fine dining at its most democratic; the prices, together with the young, cool staff and the simple, unintimidating décor, draw an eclectic clientele and the atmosphere is all the better for it. Aizpitarte’s dishes are influenced by his Basque roots but also draw on his extensive travels. He has a particular penchant for deconstructing classics and reworking them, and also a focus on pared-back simplicity. There are plenty of bold, imaginative flavour combinations but many dishes employ very little ‘cooking’ – unadulterated, raw (and usually colourful) ingredients are a significant feature of his menus. A five course prix fixe menu changes daily. You get no choice in what you eat but it’s this system that allows Aizpitarte to keep his prices so low. Affordability and creativity together in one great neighbourhood restaurant, not to mention one of the best-looking brigades in the business. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Let's get to the photos, shall we? The menu (which is just a xerox on a piece of white paper) simply says "amuses bouche" to start with. First up, some little cheese and poppy seed puffs.

Second amuse bouche: ceviche, heavy on the fish water. Really refreshing.

Third: lentil soup.

Fourth: pouce-pieds. There is no English translation for what kind of seafood this is, because as far as I can tell they don't exist here. They are found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North Africa. It literally translates to inch-foot, which doesn't tell you much, but I'm sure it's a play on this crustacean's size. They are quite small, and also kind of look like a toe. A little dinosaur or turtle toe. Basically you tear the outer dark covering off and it's like a little clam attached to the green claw part, which you then bite off.

Fifth and final amuse bouche: veal kidney. I know! Me? Eating veal kidney?! Yes. And it was very good. Tender, salty, with almost Thanksgiving-like spices.

And now onto the second course: a soup with foie gras and mushrooms. A very soft piece of foie gras and thin slices of mushrooms were placed in a bowl, and then a really flavorful mushroom broth was poured over it.

The third course, in my opinion, was the most spectacular. Line-caught pollack with a walnut cream, endives, and ham. Would you ever think to pair fish with walnut cream? Never. But it worked. The saltiness of the sauteed fish with the cream was perfect.

Fourth course was Limousin beef with potato crisps, sesame seeds, and chives.

And now, dessert. A choice of a true dessert, or a cheese course. If I remember correctly, my dad, my sister, and Peter had the cheese. I don't remember what kinds there were, but there were 3 - hard, blue, and soft.

My mom and I had the dessert. Which was actually two desserts. The first was an icy concoction of apple, mango vinegar, coconut, and pineapple.

The second part was chocolate and celery. I don't remember the exact make-up of the dessert, but I do remember I cleaned my plate.

And the very last thing - pineapple pieces covered in fennel seeds, and candy-coated fennel seeds. Strong flavor but very interesting combination.

The creativity level, and the flavors were off the charts. But maybe what impressed me the most was how attainable such wonderful food was. For a restaurant that's the best in France (at least according to the 50 Best list), you think of similarly ranked places in the U.S. - places like Per Se, or Alinea, or Daniel that yes, are unbelievable, but will also set you back a good amount. Le Chateaubriand's set menu is 50 euros. And an equally affordable wine menu (also xeroxed and stapled together). On the way there our cab driver said he's been there several times and loves it. There's definitely something refreshing about being able to experience such amazing and unique food in a relaxed, low-key setting. Bravo!

Le Chateaubriand
129 Rue Parmentier, Paris 75011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paris - Les Fables de la Fontaine

While researching Parisian restaurants, I decided we needed to go to a seafood place one night. And if you're researching where to have a great seafood meal in Paris it's impossible to not come across Les Fables de la Fontaine. I found a great review from, and these two sentences sold me on making a reservation here:

Freshness, above everything else, is key, as seafood from the Brittany and Normandy is shipped from the early morning’s catch each day. The menu changes by the season, with daily specials, though there are standard items, such as sole munière.

I started off with croustillants with langoustine, basil, and citrus emulsion.

For my main course I had...sole meunière. It can only be ordered for two people, so my dad and I shared it.

The picture is a little dark, but I wasn't going to let that beautiful piece of fish sit there for one second longer to take any more photos. It was a little crispy, salty, and lemony. Perfection.

Peter and Bub both had scallops with a nut crust, over a French version of mac and cheese, and of course butter and truffle oil. Of course.

For dessert we shared rice pudding with a little brownie and ice cream. Yes, that is all one menu item.

It's not an inexpensive place, as you might expect from a restaurant with a Michelin star, but not too bad and the fish was really fantastic. There are only about 8 or 9 tables in the entire restaurant. A wonderful, cozy, classically French seafood dinner.

Les Fables de la Fontaine
131 Rue Saint Dominique, Paris 75007

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paris - Fish La Boissonnerie

Fish La Boissonnerie was one of the little restaurants we came across in our neighborhood (6th arrondissement) and decided to try it out for dinner on our second night there. Although, I guess it was already on our radar because it's owned by the same people as the wine store right outside our front door (La Dernière Goutte). It's a very low-key, friendly neighborhood spot with great, simple food.

For my first course, I ordered squash soup with chestnut foam. It was SO GOOD. A little sweet from the chestnut flavor, a little peppery, creamy, awesome. I would have licked the bowl if it was appropriate.

Foie gras and some kind of meat gelatin (??) for guess who.

I had scallops with haricots coco and lardons. So, I have never seen haricots coco in the U.S., but apparently they also go by the name of borlotti beans or cranberry beans. Judging by a quick internet search it seems that they are available, but a bit scarce. Although I guess I have never even looked for them in a store so maybe they're easier to find than I think. They are similar to a cannellini bean but a little smaller. And delicious with scallops and lardons.

Peter had a spaghetti and clams dish...

And my sister had salmon with a poached egg on top. An egg on top makes everything better.

To finish off the evening, I had a lovely dessert. You didn't think I would skip dessert, did you? I did, somehow, skip the picture. I could have sworn I took one but I can't find it anywhere. It was a chocolate terrine with red currants. Mmm.

Fish La Boissonnerie
69 Rue de Seine, Paris 75006

Monday, January 10, 2011

Paris - L'As du Fallafel

I love a good falafel. Love. But this isn't just a good falafel. It's a great one. Fantastic. And it's no secret, just google "L'As du Fallafel" and you'll see all the reviews and praise.

You're walking down a cute, quiet street in the Marais and all of a sudden - BOOM! Falafel madness. You can eat inside, but it seems that most people get their orders to go and eat them standing in the street or just walking around, as we did. The deal is - there's a guy standing outside taking orders. You pay him and he gives you a ticket with your order. You get in line for the window, give them your ticket and they give you your sandwich.

There's the glorious window, with heaps of red cabbage slaw, cucumbers, and onions. They also serve the falafels with eggplant, tahini dressing and harissa.

I think I need a falafel after looking at these pictures. This place is especially good if you're looking for a late lunch because a lot of restaurants in Paris shut down at 2pm or so and don't reopen until dinner.

L'As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers, Paris 75004

Friday, January 7, 2011

Paris - Josephine "Chez Dumonet"

Finally, finally - here are my Paris posts. I made three dinner reservations for the week we were there, leaving the rest of the nights open to stumble upon restaurants to try. This one was a heavily researched reservation. Here's a review I read somewhere, it was copied and pasted into my itinerary long ago so I don't remember where it came from.

Chez Dumonet should be declared a national monument, so well does it represent the old-world bistro. Its menu illustrates why I came to Paris in the first place: help-yourself marinated herrings with warm potato salad, potent boeuf bourguignon, crisp-skinned duck confit, pan-fried foie gras, monkfish with white beans, and some spectacular desserts such as a millefeuille big enough for three and a Grand Marnier soufflé whose architecture rivals the Eiffel Tower’s. I pray that Josephine will never change, with its 1930s light fixtures, white-linen-draped tables, and jokey waiters (who speak a little English). Just don't try to order your steak well done or ask for cream with your coffee, as the staff cannot bring themselves to commit such heresy against French tradition.

How can you NOT want to go there after reading that? Here's the funny part. They're closed Saturdays and Sundays. Can you even imagine? Try pulling that off in New York or Chicago. I don't think so. There are a lot of restaurants in Paris closed on the weekends. Luckily I was able to get a Friday night reservation.

Ok, let's get to the food. First up - smoked salmon. The French employ smoked salmon on the dinner menu a lot, which I appreciate. I love smoked salmon and I don't think it should be reserved for brunchtime with a bagel. Here it is served with a lemon, a creamy dressing, and a basket of toasts.

Peter's daily dose of foie gras:

And my sister's warm artichoke salad:

Ok, now this next course...may be the best thing I ate all week. That's a bold statement, but I feel pretty confident in it. Beef bourguignon with buttered noodles.

It was served in a little pot, and a dish of noodles on the side and you combine the two on your plate. That's only a half order which my mom and I both got. My dad had a full order. I can't even put into words how good it was. The sauce was very, very reduced so it was really thick. The meat had definitely been cooking all day, it was just falling apart. The carrots and pearl onions...mmm. Halfway through eating it I got sad because I know I'll never get to eat anything like this in the U.S. Here's the side order of potatoes we got for the table:

And last, but definitely not least, the Grand Marnier soufflé. You have to order it along with your dinner to give them enough time to make it. And they bring out two little glasses of Grand Marnier, so you can poke a hole in the top and pour them in. The French...they really do it right.

An amazing dinner, a very snowy walk back to our apartment...a perfect Parisian night.

Josephine Chez Dumonet
117 Rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris 75006

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bread Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)

On Christmas tree-decorating-night (which was much later than usual this year), I made bread soup. I didn't make it on Christmas tree-decorating-night last year, but the year before that I did. That was our last Christmas in New York, and that year we bought our Christmas tree with change. Well kind of...I happened to take my change jar to the bank that day, and used that cash to buy the Christmas tree. But one day I'll tell my grandkids "you know (shaking my finger at them)...when I was young, I bought our Christmas tree with change and ate bread soup for dinner." I think the bread soup/Christmas tree night will become a tradition.

1/2 cupextra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic
1 large white onion
1 14.5 oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
1 28 oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
salt, pepper
1 quart chicken broth
4-6 cups torn stale bread (if bread isn't stale enough, toast in oven until crispy)
2 15 oz. cans cannellini or Great Northern white beans
10 basil leaves
parmesan cheese

Finely chop garlic and onion. Saute in 3 tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot for about 8 minutes. Add diced and crushed tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Add broth and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts bubbling turn down to a simmer and add beans and bread. Keep stirring as it simmers until it becomes a thick stew, about 10-15 minutes. Add more salt, pepper to taste. Serve in bowls and tear basil over top, drizzle more olive oil and add cheese.