Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sugar rush

I have a dryer that does what its supposed to do! Dry! And the washer washes! Although I'm not sure why it takes it 2.5 hours to wash, and then 2 hours to dry...Regardless, I am so happy I can finally do laundy....thankfully I have so many clothes that I wasn't in much danger but I was running low on the necessities and was starting to take pieces from the "nice lingerie" stash. TMI? Sorry, its all the sugar talking.

How much sugar did I have today? A lot. And probably double that amount of butter. I pastry-shop hopped (similar to bar hopping, minus the alcohol, plus the baked goods). The list had 14 places on it. We got through probably 8. Its a lot harder than it sounds, and the thing is, everything was super close. You're never really more than 5 minutes away from the onset of diabetes around here.

I started by getting a few of my favorite croissants from Le Moulin de Rosa, which used to be an Au Levain de Marais. I thought it still was but apparently I've been mistaking this whole time. 

First official stop: Gerard Mulot. Their store in the 6th is much prettier and probably twice as large, but what do I care when their passion fruit basil macaron is so good? The caramel wasn't bad either. 

And next, a test of my favorite croissant. The real Au Levain de Marais, just a few blocks down. 

They were fresh out of the oven (literally, we had to wait). I don't know if it was because they were hot and the flavor hadn't settled in yet, but I wasn't that impressed. I need to try them again when they're not SO fresh.

Then on to La Fougasse. I'd read a lot about it and heard good things. Their tarts are really pretty. I wanted to get a sable, which apparently come out of the oven on huge cookie sheets before they cut them into squares and top with some jam. But, unfortunately, they were out. So I got a Magellan, a lime-infused chocolate and hazelnut layer cake. I love anything with lime zest, it gives it a certain something which you can't place if you've never had it, since it doesn't really taste like lime. Reminds me of my fresh blueberry lime good! We also had a St. Tropezienne which is two slices of brioche sandwiched by mousseline cream (super thick) and topped with powdered sugar.

This is the caramel eclair from Jacques Genin, a really famous chocolatier who is even more famous for his caramels. 

Textbook-perfect but, unfortunately, I still don't really like eclairs. There's just something very very cloying about them, and this is coming from someone with a pretty big sweet tooth. And of course, I couldn't leave without buying some of the caramels! Last time I only got a bag of plain caramels, this time I snuck in a few mango-passionfruit ones. Oh so good!

We also stopped by Maison Brocco on Place de Republique but please, don't bother. I was way underwhelmed by their chouquettes (way too egg-y) and madeleines. Not even worth a picture.

By then I was entering into a sugar coma and looking at my list I became a little disappointed - there was no way we were getting through it. After break, featuring the most awful mojito I had ever tasted, the last patisserie was Pain de Sucre. Their tarts are beautiful, incorporating not only fruit but also herbs! But I was there for one thing - to try their guimauves (marshmallows), which are stacked in large glass jars. 

I remembered the marshmallow JP and I had at L'Assiette Champenoise. It was bubblegum flavored but so good. These? Really pretty, but such a disappointment, even though the flavors seemed promising (cassis and caramel). Maybe I just don't like French marshmallows. But I'm more than willing to give Pain de Sucre a second chance for their verrines and tarts.

We finished at Pozzetto (again...but I didn't have anything there). Now I have to go tackle the other half of my list...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The 10 course lunch

How my 8 course (10 course if you're either (a) not good at math or (b) are stretching it) lunch at L'Assiette Champenoise in Reims went. It's a 2 star (yes I'm being a snob at the moment)...but I wasn't one when I was there. JP and I strolled in in jeans and t-shirts. We were the only ones at first and got the table smack in the middle of the restaurant with a view of the patio. And then people in suits started coming in. Apparently in very expensive cars. But anyhow...after being led in and seated, the waiter hurried over (they also followed you when you got up to go to the bathroom...)

Would you like some Champagne? Would I?! Of course I would. I'm IN Champagne! Oh, there's no prices just a ton of bottles on top of an iced cart...mmm, Rose, who cares how much it costs...And oh, yes, and later on I'd like coffee AND I'd like to drink it outside. If you could just put the heat lamp on...perfect. Merci! Why hello Mr. Chef, I don't know what you're saying to me but yes, I like your food! Merci!

Of course, to start, you get bread. Freshly baked in house, we got bread 3 or 4 more times, and an extra slab-full of butter, because we couldn't keep our hands (knives?) off the Bordier salted butter. Yes, Bordier makes an appearance, again. I tried all the breads, but the mini-baguettes were the best.

(1) A pre-amuse bouche followed by (2) an amuse bouche with chicken that had the texture of foam on top of a bed of liquefied spinach. Very strange. Very good.

And this is where the real menu starts. 

(3 + 4) King crab and grey shrimps with avocado, smoked herring eggs and boullion. What it was:

A huge chunk of king crab leg, with a shrimp sauce, grey shrimps, and smoked herring eggs on top of avocado mousse. Anyone wanna bet they used tweezers for the fish eggs, mini leaves and shrimp on the avocado? And then, a bowl of flaked king crab leg with grey shrimp in a crab sauce. I don't like crab. Or shrimp. And yes, I had some but JP ended up eating my crab leg. And I just checked their menu online and that course, a la carte, is €52 which is almost what my entire tasting menu cost...And some more bread here

(5) The best part of the meal. Cochon Noir de Gascogne. Or, in other words, PORK! Presented three ways (pork belly, a crunchy bacon disk, and some other porky goodness) on a bed of lentils. This is delicious. And some more bread (and butter).

(6) Cheese course! It was cheese from Philippe Olivier (not that I knew who that is but now I do). We are in France after all. A huge domed cheese cart is wheeled over, I let the fromage guy pick mine for me, because I was way too overwhelmed. I just told him to go with the soft cheeses, and to include epoisses (so stinky, so good). And you don't just eat your cheese, you eat it in a particular order as dictated by said fromage man. JP doesn't like cheese but you can't skip a cheese course, especially if its paid for! I told cheese man to give him harder cheeses, so he got like...parmesan and gruyere. They give you different bread for cheese, you don't get to pick. So more bread here!

(7) Time for my dessert! Wait no, that's not my dessert. It was a huge spread of petit-fours (profiteroles, canneles, some kind of mini sugared hot dough), chocolates, candies, cotton candy (yes, cotton candy), marshmallows and who knows what else. We ate 90% of it and took the lollipops with us. 

(8) Ok, HERE is my dessert. I don't remember what it was. It was full of lemons though. Lemon curd, lemon sauce, lemon sorbet, and some meringue in there somewhere. JP got a ball of white chocolate with some more white chocolate and something...

(9) Like I said, coffee time! We asked to sit outside but they were going to propose it anyway. And of course, its not just coffee, they also give you chocolate squares to go along with it. Which I proceeded to drop all over me when I was trying to show JP how the heat lamp had melted them. Yes, melted chocolate all over me. Fantastic.

(10) Oh why not just make this an even 10 courses? They give you a brioche to take home at the end.

So the tasting menu was only €59 per person. But if you're going all out, you pair it with wine, which we did. So after 3.5 hours of wining and dining and sitting and taking a work conf call for a good 50 minutes while JP was drinking his coffee, we left a little poorer (somehow €59 per person turned into a €250 bill) and a little heavier, but also just a smidgen happier.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some sarrasin and forgotten veggies

Finally got a chance to go to Breizh Cafe in the Marais while mama + bro were here. Its been an elusive place. The first time I tried going there, in July 2009 while I was in Paris for training, they were completely full with a 1 hour wait. Subsequent occasions were also miserable failures with either too long of a wait, or the place being closed. But a Saturday lunch was a success. Granted we were told we could only stay until 1pm since it was all booked for brunch, we didn't need a lot of time.

45 minutes, a jambon fromage buckwheat crepe and some Bordier beurre fume rolled-up crepes later we left with happy tummies to do touristy stuff but not before stopping by Boulangerie Malineau to grab some canneles for my bro, which ended up being 10 mini canneles, a giant almond tuile, and a bag of marshmallows (which were actually pretty inedible). Then off to the Eiffel Tower for the requisite photos, followed by the Arc de Triomphe, a walk down the Champs Elysees to Laduree to get a box of macarons, 6 of which went in my tummy before going to be that night, and the obligatory cruise down the Seine. By then we were tired and went back to the apartment before dinner, for which I made reservations at Mon Vieil Ami on Ile Saint-Louis.

My seasonal veggie salad with raisins and almonds, and a toast smeared with tapenade, was beautiful and delicious, with veggies in all stages of preparation from raw (the radishes) to blanched (the other radish-looking roots) to steamed (the cauliflower). 

I got lamb shoulder as my main and I'm pretty sure they subbed the veggies I was supposed to get for other stuff, which I think were parsnips (not a huge fan). And the lamb was tough and gamey. But this place is known for their veggies, which, even if I don't like parsnips, were pretty damn tasty. Then again, they're from Joel Thiebault, a famed produce supplier who grows ridiculously delicious, "forgotten" and bizarre-looking produce (must visit his farm market stand one of these days...). The fish mama got, sea-bream, was awfully similar to the one I had at Cafe des Musees but equally delicious (and twice the price!)

And then for dessert, roasted pineapple with pineapple sorbet, and a coconut financier on the side. 

Mama had a pear crumble with caramel mousse and pear sorbet (I love caramel, especially salted butter caramel) and the bro got a vacherin (pretty much a baked alaska). The meringue was super airy and melted on your tongue. This isn't the vacherin he had, but another one he had during lunch one of the days, just so you know kinda what it looks like, although this one is kind of ginormous:

Mmmm, lots of food but, for the most part even with the random un-announced substitutions, way yum. I'd suggest any of the veggie dishes, fish dishes and any of the desserts. I'm signing off with a spoon in one hand and a jar of Nutella in the other. You do the math.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eating my way through the Marais

I've been reading about how there's some great places to eat around my apt and seeing how mama + little bro were in town, I took them to dinner near the apt at Cafe des Musees, an unassuming place which apparently has a loyal following. I thought the space was small until, when led in, they took us down a flight of stairs to the cellar, with many more tables. The decor is lackluster but it's more than made up for in the food (at least in what I had).

For me? Filet de bas with a tagliatelle of veggies, surrounded by what to me looked like a lemon beurre blanc (or some kind of butter lemon sauce). Or, in other words, a fish surrounded by what seemed to be a stick of butter. But what a delicious stick that was. The bass was soft and sweet, offering no resistance to the fork, and flaking into tiny pieces only to be drenched in the butter sauce before being scooped up by me and going in my tummy. OM NOM NOM NOM. 

The skin was gorgeous and crispy. Accompanied by a bed of root veggies cut into thin ribbons and arugula, I cleared my place with ease and sopped up the extra sauce with bread. The little bro had an entrecote with fries that were surprisingly really good while mama had a some escargot to start (the sauce was so good and garlicy I couldn't resist dipping bread into it...actually I probably are a baguettes-worth of bread that night) and a cocotte de legumes in basil olive oil.

For dessert, a lusciously silky smooth creme caramel with two slices of financier cake which I soaked in the caramel. Good thing the three of us shared that.

 Now I've kinda been craving that fish again, it was that good. Who wants to go???

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

At least he enjoyed the croissants

Well, now that I have internet again (and came back to my apartment before midnight), lets start recapping! Today we'll talk about a Mexican in Paris. Yes, JP.

To start, his plane was two hours late, which, being without internet, I could only check on my blackberry. And google lied and told me the plane was on time. I should have known better since it was from JFK (esp. since he sent me a text before leaving that they were delayed). So I waited an hour an a half of so. I even brought along two croissants (one of which I ate cause I couldn't wait anymore). Unfortunately, he went through customs and passport control too fast and I missed him coming out so he had to call me and ask where I was. So no big reunion this time. We're shooting for next time :)

What'd we do the whole week? We ate. A lot. Like I said, I gained 6lbs but it was worth it. Between bites of croissants in the morning (he admitted the ones in my corner boulangerie are pretty "banging") and baguettes in the evening, we skipped Versailles in favor of going to London for a day where we stayed up until 5am and caught an 8am train back to Paris after 2 hours of sleep on his brother's couch. Being too tired, we skipped our cooking class and napped instead.

Then we spent a day in Reims (in Champagne) where we toured Ruinart, the oldest Champagne house in Reims (now part of the M in LVMH). All their Champagne is stored in underground chalk caves (up to 30m deep!) which date back from the Roman times. There were some really cool looking walls of Champagne bottles there, all the way up to the ceiling, but I think the hallway is more dramatic:

And here's an old exit / entrance into one of the caves dating back from the Roman times:

We tasted four champagnes between the two of us, including a '96 and '98 Dom Ruinart. I think I really like Rose champagne now! Especially the Dom Ruinart Rose which tasted more like a liqueur that you'd sip as an after-dinner drink.

We also walked around Paris. A lot. One day was Trocadero / Eiffel Tower / Invalides / Saint Germain / Saint Sulpice and then a walk over to Louvre-Rivoli (or Ravioli as JP affectionately puts it). We had a lot of "lets stop for a coffee and dessert", including hot chocolate and a Mont Blanc (meringue base, with whipped cream, and piped chestnut puree) at the uber-touristy-but-still-cute Angelina, which was ridiculously delicious, although maybe not the smartest choice to pair with their uber-thick hot chocolate as its a huge sugar overload. I'd recommend sharing both, as there's definitely enough pastry and hot chocolate in one pot for two. 

And we also stopped by Les Deux Magots in the 6th to people watch and eat some more pastries.  

The weekend he left got ruined by work both days and we missed out on the rotisserie chicken near me cause we came late. Thankfully, even with my limited lack of knowledge of the Paris dining scene (you know that's a big deal for me) I knew a place we could get JP some chicken so he wouldn't mope around anymore.

Highlights? Dinner at Les Papilles, croissants at Au Moulin de Rosa (I thought it was Au Levain de Marais but apparently not...) and lunch at L'Assiette Champenoise, a two-star in Reims which started as "oh yea, they have a €53 tasting menu" and turned into an over €250 check three hours later. I'll attempt to post about them in more detail later but here's a little glimpse...

Braised pork belly with seasonal veggies and tiny beans at Les Papilles:

Bordier butter (demi-sel and doux) with mini-baguettes at L'Assiette Champenoise:

My lemon desset at L'Assiette Champenoise:

And I cooked. Coq au vin based on Julia Child's recipe, although not to a T (more mushrooms, extra carrots, sauteed onions and chicken that didn't flambe when needed). We ate two baguettes that night.

We also went to what is supposedly the best mexican restaurant in Paris. In the words of JP, "weak sauce". I liked my duck in squash blossom sauce but they gave us 2 corn tortillas and 2 flour tortillas. Definitely weak sauce. 

We got more for an extra charge and I'm fairly certain people were appalled when they saw us picking up food with the tortillas using our hands. And ceviche that is cooked and has olives? Big no no. Canned nopales? Not a fan. But the margaritas were big and strong. We also did Moroccan at Chez Omar one night but I wasn't too impressed.

Whew. I went link and picture happy with this post.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is it finally les printemps?

While everyone in New York has been enjoying ridiculously beautiful summer weather (or so I hear), we've been stuck with weather that's been teasingly inching up towards the 60's but then giving us rain, clouds, and occasionally hail. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I haven't really dealt with the weather the past two weeks as week 1, I didn't leave the office before 3am and week 2, not before 2am. But, thankfully since its the weekend and I only worked from my apt at night, today was a gorgeous day and it seemed all of Paris was out and about. Today I wasn't the only one wearing sunglasses for once (I wear them in the winter too in NYC, but it's because it really is bright outside!). And I got some much-needed vitamin D.

 To not completely waste the day away in my apartment, I finally went shopping. I've been craving retail therapy. I hadn't gone shopping since leaving NYC. And my three-month anniversary of arriving in Paris is on April 14th. That's three months without going into a clothing store. I used to go every weekend back home.
And since it was so nice and sunny outside, I decided it would be a perfect day for some ice cream. I'm fortunate enough to live close to both Berthillon (the most famous ice cream in Paris) and Pozzetto (a relatively new well-regarded and well-blogged-about gelato shop).

I took JP there two weeks ago. They have their traditional specialties (Gianduia, Sicilian Pistachio and Hazelnut), 3 flavors of the month, 3 fruit flavors of the month, and some other ones that I forget. I had the Flor di Latte (milk) and Yogourt Magro (yogurt) flavors and JP had coffee and strawberry. I wasn't blown away like I thought I would be, it was OK. Although the coffee was very coffe-ish (in a good way).

Today I lined up for 10 minutes to get two scoops to go. I went with the Sicilian Pistachio and pear. I like to get one creamy and one fruity flavor. I feel like they balance each other out.

Pozzetto redeemed itself (both in flavor and presentation...look how well those two go together!). The pear tasted like biting into a ripe, juicy fruit, complete with the grainy-ness you get from super ripe pears. And the Sicilian Pistachio was so concentrated and reminded me of these Lindt chocolates they sell only at their stores which are shaped like the sicilian pistachio and filled with sicilian pistachio ganache. Anyhow, it was DELICIOUS. Although my favorite ice cream / gelato / sorbet / frozen thing is still The Bent Spoon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I am alive

Hello hello my lovlies! No I did not die. I am back after being without internet in my apartment for A MONTH. A month. It's so ridiculous I don't even want to express my disdain and frustration. And I'm paying for that whole month too!

Granted I probably would've been MIA regardless since JP came to visit for a week, and then mama + bro, and then I've been getting CRUSHED at work the past two weeks. Last week I didn't leave before 3am, I worked until 1:30am on Monday (which was a holiday here) and this past week I hadn't left before 2am, until today, when I left at midnight. Yesterday was a 4am night (or morning?). Next week isn't looking much better but at least I can enjoy tomorrow shopping and later have a Skype date (finally!)

Anyhow, lots to tell, lots of places I've been (to eat) and lots of pounds gained (+6lbs) since March 13th. So there'll be an updating frenzy over the next few days, but for now, I'm off to bed to get my first good night's sleep in a while.