Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More sweet wheat

I already wrote that I tried what David Lebovitz claimed were the best madeleines in all of Paris. Well for me, out of the madeleines I've had (althought limited), I'm a huge fan of these from Eric Kayser:

They have a huge hump and are always slightly overcooked with crispy edges. I guess everyone likes them differently? If I get a salad for lunch from Kayser, I always get one - its only an extra 50 centimes!

However, I paid blé sucré another visit (and I may again since its right on the way to the market). And behold:

Kouing Aman. So flipping good. Those layers pull right off leaving crisp buttery shards everywhere. Sugary, flakey and with a touch of salt. Devoured in under 5 minutes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Le Comptoir du Relais...and other Saturday stuff

Finally I got my lazy behind over to a museum. Good thing SM wanted to go early (11am, that's early for me), which forced me to wake up. Beautiful day!

Apparently, if you're a resident of the EU (I take my Carte de Sejour everywhere) and 25 or under (I still have a year and 4 months until I'm over 25!), admission too Musee d'Orsay (and maybe other places?) is gratuit. Score. And we made it right before the Crime and Punishment exhibition closes on June 27th, which, by the way, was really cool and disturbing and included a guillotine (apparently the French state used them as late as the 1970s!)

I love the Orsay. First, the building (old Paris - Orleans train station which they were going to tear down until the French protested, something they tend to do quite well and often) is gorgeous. Second, they have some of my favorite art including Woman with a Parasol facing Left, The Luncheon on the Grass and The Artist's Studio. They also have a really graphic painting by Courbet called The Origin of the World (NSFW and click at your own risk...). And third its not a huge museum you get lost in. On a related note, check out J. Seward Johnson's (yes, J&J heir) sculptures of famous paintings including a couple of Renoirs, Manet, Monet, Picasso and even the American Gothic painting.

Ok, I went all link-happy again. Moving on.

We were starved after walking around and so I decided we should check to see if, by some miracle, we could get into Le Comptoir du Relais. Someone told me the earliest dinner reservations if booked now are in November. I don't know what this place's deal is (its tiny and attached to a hotel so I think hotel guests get first dibs?) but apparently, luckily for me, no reservations are taken on weekends! So we got seated outside within 15 minutes. 

The chef, Yves Camdeborde, is fairly well known. Dinner is around €50 for an ever-changing, no-choice prix fixe (I guess hence the wait?). But by day its just a bistro, with some pretty darn good food. But I must say that when I tried his food at the Le Fooding event in NYC last summer, I really didn't like it (I think he ran out of food and whipped up some awful Camembert of the worst things I ate that year, so much that I almost gagged, and I like cheese!)

I ordered the the seasonal veggie salad which included broccoli, petits pois, carrots, snow peas, haricots verts, pickled garlic (yum!) and sucrine lettuce. 

If I saw this before ordering I would have hesitated. But it was really good. I did have trouble figuring out what to order because there were 6 -7 items on the menu I wanted to try and that, in my opinion, is a huge amount for one menu. 

SM got the tuna. I don't know how it tasted (I don't eat tuna) but he said it was delicious. It certainly looked it.

Although quite happily satiated, I couldn't resist dessert. Strawberries in spiced red wine (they called it sangria) with toasted almonds. Hit the spot on such a hot day.

SM's succumbed to peer pressure and ordered dessert as well. His chocolate pot de creme wasn't too shabby either.

Not too expensive, delicious, and good people watching near Odeon? Monsieur Camdeborde, it is quite likely I will be seeing you again, not only here but next door at L'Avant Comptoir, a tiny standing-room only wine bar that also has a take-out (buckwheat) crepe window.

And, on an final note, it was the gay pride parade that day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Maybe the chef has no tastebuds

I've been to Nomads 4 times. Twice to eat, twice for drinks. The first time I ate there, I had champagne, wine, lamb (more wine) and dessert, in that order. The night ended up with my being unable to get back into my hotel because the night guard had locked the door and was doing who knows what (ah, the charm of small Parisian hotels - never knowing that hey, there might be a curfew or a crazy person who decides to leave for 30 minutes and lock the door) and involved me dropping a good portion of my creamy dessert on my black shirt.

Fast forward 1 year, probably almost to the date give or take a week or two. A filet of daurade (dorade? sea bream) on a bed of ratatouille. 

Tasteless fish and too much oil in the ratatouille. Someone definitely under-seasoned. Unfortunate that flavor fell short, because the presentation of dishes here is so enticing and artful. You eat with your eyes but your tastebuds know something is wrong.

And the times I had drinks there? The first time I ordered a drink with lots of fresh fruit in it, and I couldn't drink it. I only ate the fruit. Porque? Because it was pure alcohol (or at least what tasted like it). The second time was last Friday and the drink was bearable but cloyingly sweet. And €10. No thanks, next time I'll pass.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Feed me more Moroccan food

Moroccan. This is one cuisine the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough of. Couscous, merguez, stewed veggies (usually turnips, zucchinis and chickpeas). So good. Even the version they serve at the cafeteria at work is ridiculously good in my opinion, although aside from the merguez they also pile on chicken (dark meat!) and lamb (way too gamy), both of which I pass on so as not to be a fattie. 

But merguez - well that I can't resist. Its a thin, spicy sausage originating in North Africa (Morocco I would assume) and is usually made from lamb but it can also be beef or a mixture of both. The spices in it make the fat run off a brick color when frying them up in a skillet. Delicious. Although, I must concede, I have been seeing merguez more and more in the U.S. it seems (I saw it at whole foods!) but in France it is so readily available at the grocery store (along with duck and rabbit) and at any of the butcher shops, which make their own.  

I met up with my friend for lunch at Marche des Enfants Rouges (I think I've written about it before). Aside from a few stalls that sell produce and flowers, the market is essentially a food court (lets call it a food hall because food court reminds me of malls). You can get lebanese, japanese, moroccan, italian, whatever either to go or to stay and eat it at the little wooden tables lining the west side of the market. It wasn't hard deciding on moroccan. It was hard deciding on what to get.  

I have to mention that the Moroccan food stall is completely tiled which I love, and which reminds me of the Talavera ceramic pottery and tiles I love so much from Mexico. Might have to convince JPs mama to install some somewhere in her new house like around a bathroom sink or in the kitchen or on the rise of the steps. I don't think my Mama's house would benefit from Talavera except for the salt and pepper shakers I got her this time...well maybe a nice platter next time! I myself am eyeing what I like to call the "chips and dip" set, where you have a plate with a bunch of mini bowls set on it. But as always, I digress. 

Look at this food. How could you pick just one? They have a ton of stuff (although some, like the eggplant, seemed too oily). I kinda wanted this pastilla, or pastry with ground meat. 

And the fish (sardines?) looked fantastic. 

But I wasn't feeling too adventurous and went with the usual, foolproof dish - merguez with veggies. 

Even served in a cute little clay dish. I couldn't stop smiling. I also couldn't stop eating this ridiculously sweet dessert we shared - it was essentially a square of couscous drenched in tons of honey (far left). 

Way too sweet but we couldn't stop eating little bites of it. Perhaps next time I'll try a different stall. But then gain, maybe not.

And it must be something but I don't know why I posted 5 entries or so in under a week. I guess I have a lot on my mind and write stuff.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

French hot dogs in American buns

I'd seen the US HOT DOG stand in the Marais when getting my gelato fix at Pozzetto and it always intrigued me. I'm a huge fan of street food and aside from the stuff they sell at markets (only half of which seems palatable at times), little stands like this are the closest I'm going to get to the equivalent of an NYC food cart.

Saturday I had "brunch" with GT who I hadn't seen in almost 2 months since my vacation was right after his 3 weeks in Asia (jealous btw!). Brunch wasn't brunch but a "hey, lets go get HOT DOGS!" I wisely agreed. They don't have the snap of Gray's Papaya but they were filling and the buns were totally American-style. I got one "US" style (onion confit and ketchup, although the onion confit is more French than American), and one with just ketchup (extra ketchup, I'm a fan).

Yes, I ate both of my hot dogs. They were yum. And then I got Pozzetto because I couldn't resist.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

They don't actually serve Absinthe here

Went to a Friday night dinner with ME (who is a wonderful Boston-NYC girl) at L'Absinthe. It's a pretty laid-back, fairly modern-looking bistro on Place Marche du Saint Honore which is part of Michel Rostang's restaurant group, a chef who has 2 stars.

They actually have an English menu and the waiters speak English decently, except that our waitress had completely lost her voice. The other time I went there, I was underwhelmed by the dessert so we both went for the Entree + Plat. And 1.5 bottles of wine between the two of us.

My smoked salmon appetizer was thick, deliciously fatty slices of salmon served on top of some curried roasted potatoes.

ME got the lobster ravioli as the starter which were tiny little raviolis, topped with a sauce and big chunk of lobster.

She ordered monkfish for the main but somehow it was almost the same as the appetizer because it had the same sauce (you'd think they'd tell you something like that when ordering).

I got veal. When you order meat in Paris, it's a gamble. Medium could either come out medium-rare or medium-well. Last time, I had steak which I ordered medium and could only eat around the sides since it was mostly completely bloody. When ordering the veal chop, I knew better and ordered it medium well. It came out perfect, with a side of veggies including wild asparagus which I'd never tried before and was ridiculously good.

It was a nice night out that took my mind off being in an I-miss-NYC rut again.

Failing at being a Paparazzi at Barbuto

Back in October, JP and I made a trip to Chicago which was centered around eating at Topolobampo (fail). We ended up at Frontera Grill twice in one day (brunch and dinner). It was delicious. I love Rick Bayless.

Anyhow, watching more Top Chef Master's episodes I totally fell for Jonathan Waxman. He's such a jolly grandfatherly man! And so, my one and only real day in NYC during vacation, JP and I went to Barbuto in the West Village.

Mmmmm, I've missed fresh market-driven food. We started with a salumi misti appetizer. JP had the bolognese and I had the gnocchi with market vegetables. Both were light and perfect for a warm summery afternoon. 

And then I saw Jonathan Waxman. And, just like with Daniel Boulud, I was too chicken to take a picture of him, even from far away. He was just chilling, talking to his staff and drinking. I wished I wasn't such a big dork until I saw another girl (also with her boyfriend) freaking out and trying to quickly take a picture. Made me feel less dorky, or at least know I was in the company of someone equally nuts as me. Also made me remember how much I <3 NY.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coral sand and turquoise waters

I am back. I am back from 85 degree tropical weather and turquoise waters in Mexico, back from the ridiculously unexplainable city that is New York, and back in Paris. The Paris where in the middle of June, you are wearing a trench coat to work since the weather is below 70 degrees and raining and where my legs will always stay pasty white (not that that changed much in New York ever). How long this will go on is still TBD but for now, lets make the best of it until August when I am taking my next vacation. 

And so, a recap, primarily in pictures, of my week in Cancun.

There was a convention and they ran out of Junior Oceanfront suites with balconies. So we got upgraded to a Master Oceanfront Suite with a huge balcony (that wasn't even the next step up, it was two steps up). This is 1/2 of the hotel. Our room was the equivalent of the big half balcony halfway up the building side on the left.

And we got a free breakfast buffet everyday which is normally $30pp. I ate a lot of mangoes although these pictures definitely don't show it. What it shows is the reason I gained 5+ lbs.

And the view from our balcony.

And how was Cancun? Cheap to go there and stay there, really expensive while you're there. $100 for dinner in Mexico is kind of unheard of. But we went into town once and spent a total of $20 on dinner and drinks, so I guess we can say it balanced out. 

 But I can't resist tropical drinks. Especially in pineapples.

The food actually wasn't very good. Very greasy and oily in that part of the country it seems. But here's some food from a Oaxacan restaurant that was really good.

It wasn't all drinking, eating and sitting on the beach. We went to Tulum, which was a Mayan port city on the beach.

There's a lot of these guys there

And we went to Chichen Itza. Those Mayans knew a thing or two about math and astronomy.

The end.