Friday, July 23, 2010

La Vaissellerie

I decided to start outfitting my future kitchen early. There's a dishware store around the corner from me called La Vaissellerie (I think it literally means "the dishware store") that has a ton of white dinnerware and serving bowls and platters in a variety of shapes and sizes. Behold, my bounty:

4 bowls for soup / pasta, a serving bowl for pasta / couscous / whatever, 4 long platters (asparagus? skewers? caprese salad? MINI TACOS?!), 2 regular bowls (fruit? I dunno...), 2 square-ish bowls (salad?), a rectangular small serving dish, one of those 3-mini-dish sauce things and 2 oven-safe cocotte-looking dishes. I decided to actually utilize some with all the market produce I bought today:

And look at the girolles I got today for €5!

What better way could they have met their delicious fate than sauteed in lots of butter with shallots and sage, and finished with dill and chives? I also added a bit of 0% fromage frais mixed with dill and chives on the sides. French dairy is one of the handful of things I'll miss about France - its not that easy to find fromage blanc or fromage frais in the U.S. and if you do, its usually expensive. Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery sells it (along with other yummy dairy products) but that's the only one I know of and the price (and size) is nothing like the giant 1kg Danone Taillefine tubs I get (49 calories per 100g!).

Anyhow, below is how the girolles (super similar to chanterelles) came to be in my tummy.

Sauteed girolles with herbs

1 pound of chopped girolles/chanterelles (mixed wild mushrooms would probably work well too but note that mushrooms will loose about one-third to half their volume once cooked)
1 finely diced shallot
2 tbsp julienned sage leaves (approx. 5 - 6)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped chives
Olive oil

For the fromage blanc:
1/4 cup fromage blanc
3 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped chives

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and saute shallots over medium-low heat. Once they start getting a little color, add the mushrooms and turn the heat up to medium. When they release a lot of water, add the sage (I'm warning you, LOTS of liquid...)

Stir occasionally until the water evaporates. Add some salt at some point.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the fromage blanc. There you have your sauce.

Once the water had evaporated, taste and add more salt if needed, along with the butter. Continue sauteing until the mushrooms start browning and shriveling up a little (I like my mushrooms dry so I guess its a personal preference).

Once plated, top with the dill and chives and serve with the fromage blanc on the side.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Outdoors at La Terrasse

Galeries Lafayette is a cluster during the soldes. There are lines to get into the Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Longchamp store-in-stores (curiously not at Prada though...). The area of refuge? The newly-opened summer-only restaurant on the 8th floor of the Galeries, La Terrasse. I read about it on my new favorite all-things-edible-in-Paris collaborative blog Paris by Mouth.

I didn't even know you could go to the roof here. It's a great free way to see the rooftops of Paris. There were even people camping out and eating sandwiches. Here's the view of the Invalides dome (that's where Napoleon's tomb is), which I attempted to line up with the dome of the Petit Palais. Kinda failed.

And here is the back of the Opera Garnier.

Surprisingly, the wait for the restaurant wasn't too long, considering the fact the chef is an alum of the three-stared Arpege (10 courses $540?! Guess I won't be going there anytime soon...). I ordered the heirloom tomato salad which came with olives (I ate around them), basil and micro-greens, dressed simply in olive oil. MMMM, tastes like summer.

I was planning on going solo but SM joined me. They ran out of the pasta with Parmesan and yuzu so he got the chicken meatballs with vermicelli noodles and veggies in a seafood broth with shrimp. I think he was happy.

While attempting to shop in the store, I stumbled up on the Pierre Herme boutique in the basement. I couldn't resist. Into my tummy went a chocolate (with cacao nibs) and strawberry-balsamic macaroon which trying on a dress in a dressing room (hence the awful lighting)

And at La Terrasse Pierre Herme made an appearance again in the form of a glorified ice cream sandwich named Satine - fromage blanc and orange coulis sorbet sandwiched by two passion fruit macarons. This disappeared. Fast.

Conclusion to the day? Right after lunch we met up with WD and went to watch Toy Story (VO and 3D!) at the Gaumont Capucines Opera around the corner. I shed tears. Lots of them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


On most days, Higuma has a line out the door. A Japanese restaurant on Rue Sainte Anne in an area overpopulated with them. How could I not try what is supposedly the best gyoza in all of Paris? This place has been reviewed numerous times (just type it into Google) and has been praised for having authentic Japanese cuisine. I don't know much about authentic Japanese cuisine, I just know what tastes good to me. Plus the menu seemed like a mix of Asian cuisine (notice kimchee in the background)

The gyoza, while strangely addicting (mmm, MSG perhaps?) was nothing special. Not anything to go back to. And they come in an odd-set of 7. So who gets the last one??? And then I essentially got a plate of sauteed bean sprouts in one of those thick murky white sauces. 

For some reason I thought I ordered noodles (on a side note, ramen is spelled lamen in these parts) with sauteed veggies but I kept digging and digging but no noodles to be found. Strange. I actually much preferred the udon across the street at Kunitoraya that I had a few month ago

To be fair, the prices are cheap and when walking out I did see a girl eating some katsu that looked really good but I don't think I'll be coming here again. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Les Papilles = tastebuds

I went here with JP back in March. This time we went because it was MEs last day in Paris. The premise of Les Papilles is simple. Its a wine bar / bistro / epicerie concept where you either (a) pick your wine off the shelf while awkwardly hovering above peoples tables and plates or (b) ask the affable owner to pick a wine for you because his hovering will be less awkward and not as long. 

The menu is a set 4-course prixe-fixe so you don't need to choose. I suppose it can be hit-or-miss but neither time have I been disappointed (although both times I did get bleu cheese as the cheese course, which I'm not a fan of).

You start off with a soup. Now, I'm not a huge fan of soup but I really like it here. They add some texture to it by plating your bowl with crunchy things (bacon, croutons) and creamy things (usually a quenelle of creme fraiche or a similar dairy concoction). Then you ladle the soup from a communal soup bowl they place on the table. With JP, it was a sweet potato soup. I don't like sweet potatoes but I remember this being delicious. 

Most recently it was a cool zucchini soup that tasted like, no surprise here, fresh zucchini. Although I'm not quite sure how they managed to infuse so much fresh zucchini flavor into it. 

The little additions (chorizo in one, bacon in the other, as well as croutons, parsley and the cream-factor) made for deliciously interesting mouthfuls. But they give you so much soup, its hard to eat it all - nor would you want to considering the deliciousness that is the 2nd course.

Meat. I'm somewhat glad neither time I ran into a fish course here (I don't even know if they serve fish as a main ever but considering my volatile relationship with it, I think I got lucky). The first time it was braised pork belly with tiny beans and veggies. This was ridiculously good. I love pork but I'm not the biggest fan of pork belly (I do love bacon though) because of all the fat. It's a texture thing. I don't like eating chunks of fat. It's somewhat difficult for me to stomach Momofuku's pork buns because of this (I sometimes pick off bits of fat as I did when I went to Porchetta in NYC, which I highly recommend). But this pork belly was probably a 60/40 ratio of meat to fat. Mmm, perfect.

And again, the communal style makes for a stunning presentation and fun for all as you try to ladle out meat, veggies and sauce to your fellow diners. Recently we had beef braised for what the owner said was "a very long time" in a red wine sauce with seasonal veggies and potatoes. The meat wasn't the best cut I don't think (hence the long braising?) but it was entirely palatable. 

But the stars here were the veggies. Sweet carrots, crispy peas, sundried tomatoes and tiny potatoes in a meaty sauce. I'm starting to see a pattern here with the braised meats, veggies and legumes/tuburs.

Both times the cheese course was bleu cheese with a prune. No me gusta bleu cheese. Enough said. 

Dessert is very rustic and has a home-made quality to it. With JP I think we were served a clementine mousse with some caramel in a glass. It was very homey looking but then again, aren't the best desserts often the ones that look imperfect? At a place like this, I wouldn't expect a perfectly executed tart with dacquoise and the like, nor would I want one. This time it was a strawberry panna cotta. 

I've had panna cottas in Paris before and more often than not they seem to not understand the ratio of gelatin to the ratio of the cream. These guys understood.

Would I go again? No, but only because I have now been there twice and more places call - L'Agrume (hopefully soon thanks to BB), La Gazzetta, Frenchie (so hard to get reservations, argh), among others. Although I have yet to find myself a dining companion who would want to go to Le Meurice, Le Cinq, Les Ambassadeurs or any similar places...Anyone up for it?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Salade de carottes

I eat carrots for lunch. Probably about 2 of them, with a piece of bread at least 3 days of the week. I am ridiculously obsessed with the carrot salad at Eric Kayser which also has cabbage, raisins and a vaguely asian tasting vinaigrette (rice vinegar?). 

Sometimes I come too late and they don't have it. Sometimes they just don't have it that day in which case I unwittingly take a plain shredded carrot salad (€3.10 for three carrots, a mini bottle of vinaigrette and a petit pain or slice of baguette) since I'm too lazy to go elsewhere. In which case I also get a madeleine. They are ridiculously good there. They once over-baked  them and they were darker than usual but I really like the crispy edges of madeleines so I totally didn't mind. But I've also been eyeing Kayser's tarts lately (as well as the tart cookbook) and it seemed like a good day to get the tarte monge, which is filled with a llight mousse and topped with fruits rouges. Sweet from the mousse, sour from the the fruit and the base providing that perfect amount of crunch. Mmmmm, yum. Too bad I can't let it become a daily indulgence.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The days (evenings?) I like Paris

Summer in Paris is most definitely the best time of the year. I don't know why my coworkers keep complaing when its "hot" outside but I love it. And I don't feel the humidity which they claim exists (nothing compared to NYC). The best thing to do during the summer? Sit around at a restaurant or cafe and people watch. Lucky for me, summer means people go on vacation so less of a workload for me. Which translates directly to leaving earlier and being able to have dinner! Even more convenient if it's in my neighborhood, as was the case with Le Petit Marche.

Only steps away from Place des Vosges, this restaurant with outdoor seating serves simple food with clean flavors. And sometimes that (along with a nice bottle of chilled wine) is all you need. 

To start,  ME, SM and I shared some warm goat cheese wrapped in what seemed like phyllo (delicious and easily one of the tastiest savory things I've eaten in Paris) and gravlax spring rolls. 

SM and I both got the filet d'agneau with a basil rub, served with mashed potatoes and haricots verts on the side (he copied my order). It was the perfect portion size, tender and not gamey at all. I didn't try ME's dish but it looked really pretty - a sesame-crusted seared tuna napoleon.

For dessert, the three of us shared a passion fruit creme brulee (classically smooth) and a raspberry panna cotta (although I didn't really share).

A good, simple and reasonably priced dinner outside on a beautiful evening with great company. Sometimes, I'm reminded why I like Paris.

Monday, July 05, 2010

West Country Girl

I don't know why someone would name their creperie West Country Girl. Regardless, this place has some seriously delicious galettes, or buckwheat crepes. I prefer ble noir batter to the regular sweet batter one sees everywhere. The ham and cheese had nothing on Breizh Cafe. But the salted butter caramel...oh man. I can barely ever say no to dessert with caramel beurre sale and I'm glad I didn't say no to this one. 

A slightly-overcooked crepe, crunchy from the butter (the only way regular-battered crepes should be made in my opinion) with a puddle of homemade salted butter caramel that has slightly bitter undertones on top. I practically licked my plate clean.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


July 4th festivities! It was kickball and picnic time with the Americans at the Bois de Boulogne. Cheese, baguettes, wine, chicken and thyme flavored potato chips (and bbq flavor too!), cherries, more wine...and RICE KRISPIES! Courtesy of yours truly. It just seemed like the right thing to make when its super hot outside and you're in a foreign country celebrating July 4th.  I forgot to take pics except for the "garbage pail" ones, which have a slightly green tint to them (more on that later).

They were pretty much devoured over the course of a couple hours which made me quite happy and made me feel very American. Plus, these things are so easy to make - butter, marshmallows and cereal. I'm not one for overly processed foods but I can make an exception here.

I had scoured 4 grocery stores for Rice Krispies (Kellogs website says they are available in France). No Snap, Crackle or Pop to be seen. I found a little monkey and a frog (how french). And then, remembering I needed butter, I walked into a G20 supermarket and found them. So you do exist...

And where did I find marshmallows? They're not marshmallows, they're Haribo chamallows. Ok Haribo, sure why not. Lessons learned about Haribo chamallows:
- The best ones for rice krispies are the pink and white marshmallows
- The "barbecue marshmallows" which I thought would melt better had a funny sweet aftertaste (do you see the big marshmallow roasting the little one? So wrong...)
- The green, pink and white marshmallows (also Haribo but I picked them up the morning of the picnic for the last batch so they're not in the picture) have a fleur d'oranger taste to them

I made four batches:
- Cocoa pops (chocolate krispies) with salted brown butter - by far the best and my go-to recipe in the future
- Regular rice krispie treats
- Smacks (puffed bulgur wheat) with chocolate caramel on top - I didn't bring these out for people to try, they were so bad. Never use puffed bulgur wheat for krispies. blah
- Garbage pail - the remains of the cereals, also with salted brown butter and marshmallows that randomly had a hint of fleur d'oranger and ended up being my second favorite after the salted brown butter

Salted brown butter Cocoa Krispies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

7 cups cocoa krispies (Cocoa pops)
10 oz marshmallows (I wish I had Jet-Puff but the Haribo pink and white work well)
4 ounces butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Coat a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray (I had none so I rubbed it with a neutral oil). Combine the cereal and salt in a bowl and mix well.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. It will first foam, then it will become clear yellow with white milk solids floating around on top and then the milk solids will start to brown. At this point, start stirring frequently (wooden spoon) and scraping the browned milk solids from the bottom.  And don't even think about leaving for a minute. Burning butter makes it bitter (yes say it 10 times fast please)

Once the melted butter is a tan color and smells nutty, remove from heat and immediately add the marshmallows. Stir stir stir until your arm is tired. At that point, most of the marshmallows should have melted. If they're not all melted, return to medium-low heat and stir the mixture until everything is a smooth paste. 

Remove from heat and add the cereal with the salt mixed in. Again, work your arm muscles to mix everything together, making sure to pick up all the marshmallow mixture at the bottom of the saucepan. Invert the mix into the baking pan and use a buttered piece of wax or parchment paper to press down the krispies and get them into the corners. Cool, cut and eat. Or put in an airtight container and serve the next day.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Vienna in under 24 hours

Received a call Wednesday during dinner at 10pm from the Managing Director on my project. "You're going to Vienna tomorrow morning. Book a flight, be at the lawyers' offices by 1pm." Erm, ok sure.

In a taxi from the airport with my London associate. He apparently hadn't eaten breakfast. We were 20 minutes early. I suggested some wurst. Vienna! Sausage! Omnomnomnom. We didn't even reach the law offices. I got out with my suitcase and laptop bag, walked up to the sausage stand (they're everywhere), ordered a currywurst and a bratwurst and stood at the little counter eating cut up fried porky sausages with a little fork, the currywurst pieces being slathered in ketchup and, what else, curry powder.

Best idea ever after getting off a plane and before heading to see clients. Especially because they brought out some measly looking sandwiches an hour after we got there. Fortunately, I was still stuffed from the wurst. Unfortunately, negotiations lasted late into the night and I had no time to tuck a wienerschnitzel into my tummy before catching the following morning's 7am flight to Paris. Alas, next time.

And it wasn't the worst thing ever to wake up at 5am to this view out your window (it was much cooler than it looks):

Although this kinda freaked me out:

Friday, July 02, 2010

In a cooking frenzy - Part 2

I learned a new french word last Sunday. I can't believe I didn't know the word for watermelon! It's pastèque, which, to me, does not make me think of watermelon but whatever. I won't judge. I decided I'd be strong enough to lug 1/4 of one back to my apartment when I went to the market on Sunday (they sell them by the quarter at markets, and they're still huge). Result? Watermelon, feta and basil (with a touch of olive oil) salad for lunch. Delicious. Why did I not do this before?!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

In a cooking frenzy - Part 1

I went on a cooking frenzy after going to the market. Cherries and apricots are both in season so I got a bunch, among other things.

I can't resist when sweet, juicy apricots are €2 per kilo! Of course, most bruised and I was forced to make them into jam!

It was my first foray into jam making. Pretty tasty so far but a little too sweet. I was also afraid I wouldn't boil it long enough and it would come out soupy but no. Its quite the opposite...but the taste is there. I swear!

Recently I had a panna cotta-like fromage frais 0% fat dessert somewhere so in my attempt to recreate it, I got some fromage blanc (I couldn't find fromage frais) and mixed it with some gelatin and now its sitting in the fridge. We'll see how it turns out. And I think I'm just going to stick with this as my yogurt from now on. So sad hasn't been in my life for the past 5 months!

I also got some broccoli. I used to really dislike it (its a texture thing) but its recently grown on me and it makes a very satisfying and filling dish (especially when making it with garlic and red pepper flakes and pairing it with some parm, bacon (!), toasted almonds). I burnt the garlic, as always. I ate it as a main but you can make it as a side or toss it with some pasta.

Spicy broccoli with other stuff

Broccoli cut into florets
1/2 cup of lardons, or diced bacon
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (I like mine spicy!)
Small handful of toasted almonds
Parmesan or other hard cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and remove to an ice bath after 3-4 minutes. While the broccoli is blanching, you can mince the garlic.

Fry up the diced bacon (the key is doing it on low-medium heat otherwise it smokes because bacon fat has a fairly low smoking point). Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Add some olive oil to the same pan used for the bacon, and on low heat, saute the red pepper flakes with the garlic until fragrant, about 30 second to 1 minute. Add the broccoli (which, I hope, you remembered to drain...I didn't so I kinda added it wet and things splattered because hot oil and water aren't friends). Saute for a few more minutes but don't burn the garlic like I did.

Put it on a plate, add the bacon, add the toasted almonds, and top with some freshly grated Parmesan. Alternately you can chop the broccoli and mix it with some pasta along with the bacon, almonds and cheese (add some reserved pasta water to bring it all together).