Friday, April 27, 2007

And the winner is.....


I am so relieved that someone had the answer, albeit slightly ashamed that I couldn't find it online.

As for where I got the answers, my favorite veg-head Astronomer, who earned his stripes eating Durian and all sorts of what must be weird food on his trip to HK, was the first one to guess. And I really should have thought to call Umami, who is a virtual treasure trove of answers regarding food. I have yet to name something she has not tried.

So, how did it taste? Well... I opened one of the passion fruits to do a true comparison. It is definitely sweeter and much more mild with a subtler taste than the passion fruit. The seeds were much softer and tasted vaguely of sunflower seeds, which makes the overall taste a little more bland. The passion fruit on the other hand was tart with hard little seeds and a more beautiful fragrance.
I'm very grateful to receive this p'tit cadeau and to the friends who helped me identify it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


What's orange and red, is very light, weighs almost nothing and is a fruit?

Give up?

Well don't ask me because I don't know either.

Last Sunday while strolling around Bastille Market, I spied some passion fruits selling for 3 euros a basket of 5. I bought a basket while the boy's mother picked up some of those tiny, ultra sweet, thin skinned bananas. While at the stand, I picked up one of these fruits and examined it curiously. The gentleman serving us, put one in our bag as a p'tit cadeau as it was a "jour de fete". In fact it was not any kind of holiday as such but election day so the mood was very jolly.

Quickly swept away after having paid, I was horrified to discover I had not asked him what this fruit was! So, I returned today to the Bastille market but to my dismay, the exotic fruit seller was not there today.

So I turn to the Internet where I still cannot seem to find it. Anyone who knows what it is, please please tell me.

All I know is that it is very light, has no fragrance to speak of and has turned slightly hollow and red over the course of the last few days. I'll be cutting into it tomorrow but will keep searching for the mysterious fruit tonight...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A la Biche au Bois

This entry has been a looooooong time coming. Because I have already been three times and have so far not said a peep about the place. But my return custom says only one thing about it:

She likes it, she really likes it!

For a few reasons: good food, good value and good service.

The first time I went, it was late, the restaurant was crowded (we were only able to get into the 9pm sitting) and it was freezing rain outside. I was unwell and feeling horrendous midway through the meal. I went outside to get some fresh air. An incredibly busy server noticed me and asked if I was alright. I assured him the food did me no harm but I wished to get some air. A chair was unearthed as if by magic (the place was PACKED!) and wiped, put in a discreet corner with a bit of a cover to protect from the rain and offered to me. When I returned into the restaurant, every single server stopped by to ask if I was alright and if they could get me anything. I was in shock. I had made no fuss, was not running through the restaurant nor pushing to get outside but was rather discrete about it but they were very kind and thoughtful without being pushy. Despite a full house of guests. I was impressed.

Even more impressed was the boy. For, despite my malaise, had polished off his starter, main, a plate full of cheese, (goading his poor Chinese colleague into taking a huge bite of blue cheese with no warning), most of the bottle of Burgundy and was sitting back like a Cheshire cat sipping his Armagnac.

The second time we went, it was with my family of Mom, Dad, Brother and girlfriend as well as the boy. Before I could get my camera out of its case, forks were flying, arms were reaching and plates were compiles so that everyone got a taste of everyone else's starter. A bloggable picture was out of the question. The boy sat, terrified of being stabbed in the eye and wisely waited until the flurry stopped before attacking his plate.

So now, the third time, we were able to finally enjoy the meal with no one feeling ill nor forks a flying.

To begin, the dinner is an astonishing good value at 24.90 euros including a starter, a main, a selection of cheese and a dessert. Some starters and mains may include extra costs but were not unreasonable in the slightest.

I started with the parfait au foie nature, a choice my Mother made last time of which I was incredibly envious. It came in two generous slices with a small salad and a pot of pickles and bread for the table. It was delicious, smooth and luscious, a delicious start to the dinner. I shared it out between others as it was a little too much for one person. Even a greedy person like me. The boy's Mother had the Salade Périgourdine which came with a generous and fabulous piece of foie gras, with a salad of haricot vert and tomatoes. After a taste, ALL of us wanted to change our entrees.

My main, which was the classic coq au vin, came in a le creuset pot, a dark, fragrant scent wafting over it. It contained three large pieces of chicken, potatoes and mushrooms. The gravy or sauce was fabulous and everyone took turns dipping their chips (fries to me) in the sauce. The white meat was a bit too try to my taste but the dark meat falling off the bone, rich and delicious.

Then come one of my favorite bits. The cheese course. A huge round platter is brought around to the table and you are asked to choose what cheese you like. You are allowed to choose as much as you would like but be warned, the portions are generous. When my brother's girlfriend came, she turned to the boy to ask how much she could have and when he answered "as much as you want", the responding smile almost cracked her face in two. The blue is delicious, as well as the Pont Leveque. I'd go back just for the cheese.

Last but not least was the desserts. Before the Armagnac and the coffee, of course. And, in an effort to feel slightly better about my choice, I had l'Ile Flottant, a beautiful light meringue in a creme anglais drizzled with caramel. I had no problem finishing it. And the boy had no problem finishing the custardy creme anglais.

So, finally, my verdict is go. But if I can't get a booking next time, I'm pulling this post!

A la Biche au Bois
45 av Ledru Rollin, 12th
Metro: Gare de Lyon
Tel: 01 43 43 34 38

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hot days

We've had many visitors recently with more to come. One of our groups included a lovely couple whom we have known from Hong Kong. The male counterpart is currently studying in Cambridge and is a bit of a dessert aficionado ... obsessed with sweets is another good word to describe him. They were very easy going and since they had been to Paris before, they were in no rush to see all the sights. In their words, they were here to "hang out and eat". My kind of people.

Unfortunately, the lady got sick on the last day and so we decided to stay home to keep her company. Since we had already exhausted the eye toy game the previous evening, we thought we'd do some baking. On the hottest day of the year so far. In my not-quite-sealed gas oven.

The cry from the American gentlemen was for "Nestlé Toll House cookies" (said in a mock French accent, bien sur!). A search was made and ingredients purchased. No almond or vanilla extract or nuts were used and for the chocolate chips, 2 bars of 70% chocolate was chopped up. We omitted the baking soda, using self-rising flour, as it was the only flour I had on hand. While I measured, he beat, mixed and then rolled the dough into perfect balls. I laughed at his obsessive rolling into perfect spheres but I didn't laugh when they came out of the oven exactly 10 minutes later. Perfectly round, pale on top but golden on the bottom, they were the best damn cookies "I" had ever baked, combining a good soft chewiness. I was surprised, given my usual ineptitude at baking. I made them take the majority of the cookies with them as they left. After being left to sit for a day or so, I was disappointed to find that they did not have a good "chew" but was instead, a touch too soft and crumbly.

Determined not to be outdone and due to bananas going black, I made banana bars using this recipe but leaving out the cocoa and putting in a small bag of chocolate chips I had instead. I again omitted the rising agents and used the remainder of the self-rising flour. I had to bake in my 9x9 pan and it took closer to 50 minutes but the results were ... average. They were moist and just sweet enough without being too sweet but the crumb was not light and fluffy, more dense and sticky.

As the oven was on anyways, I also made Greek Ribs for the boy for dinner, using a dry rub recipe of my Dad's. They turned out delicious, if just a touch salty.

Dad's Greek Rib Rub

- 1 part sugar
- 1 part salt
- 1 part white pepper
- 1 part garlic salt (I just minced 3-4 cloves of garlic)
- 1 part msg (my Dad's miracle powder)
- 3 parts oregano

Rub pork ribs generously with the mixture and leave to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour. Can also be used on pork butt or shoulder. Best served with lemon wedges for squeezing over the meat.

There was no time for a picture, by the time I got back from the kitchen, the boy tore into them and they were a right mess!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Whirlwind Tour

I know I promised last time that the next post would be about the traditional cuisine we had at the Diamond Anniversary dinner but I'm going to have to delay that for a bit. But for a very good reason! I will soon have a recipe given to me to post by the boy's mother! So stay tuned...

For the last week and a half, my parents from Hong Kong and my brother and his girlfriend from Montreal descended like a plague of locusts upon our tiny flat, eating most anything in sight! It's been a big, greedy binge of French food and I was determined to have them try everything. As the boy explained to my Mom, "It's not a successful holiday unless you leave just a little bit fatter." My Mom took this bit of "advice" to heart and proceeded to demolish the breadbasket each and every time.

My parents arrived earlier than my brother so the boy and I decided to take them down to visit the boy's parents in the South of France, booking them into a bed and breakfast in Puyloubier (which became "Polar Bear" under my parent's pronunciation). You might be dreading to think what two big city mice would fare in the tiny village but they loved it. Including the "main street" comprised with all of 1 shop, 1 restaurant, and a square.

But back to the food. We went to Relais Sainte Victoire, who infamously had a tiff with the Michelin people, with the chef saying that he requested his star to be removed while the Michelin guide insisting that the star was removed in 1995 due to the lowering standards of the food. Oddly, the front glass panel of the entrance displayed the Michelin Guide sticker for 2007, while the inside were framed articles, proudly announcing their rejection of the Michelin star so as not to compromise their cooking. Let me just start the review by saying that we were all in agreement that the reason for rejecting the star may have been more a pre-emptive move as it certainly did not deserve a star, neither for service nor the food.

I started with a mixed platter which comprised of a jellied terrine (bottom right), which was much, much too tart and mushy, a forgettable dish of gratin mussel and scallop (bottom left), a nice block of quince foie gras covered in breadcrumbs (upper left), and an odd, incredibly dense, pate/meatball type spread that was like rillettes with no fat and without the creamy texture (upper right).

Our mains came and I had ordered the lamb "de lait", after the wonderful experience with my cochon de lait. When it came, it was a lovely piece of lamb with a rosemary mash but nothing close to spectacular. As nice as my lamb was, the one the boy's mother received was horrendous. Full of fat, gristle and uncooked parts, it was virtually inedible. When the waiter came over to enquire regarding the food, we pointed it out to him, whereupon, he shrugged and did absolutely NOTHING about it.

Which shows the quality of restaurant where the guests' pleasure means absolutely nothing.

The desserts were obviously their forte, with the presentation finally showing some care. My platter of chocolate desserts looked nice but was not spectacular. The cone of dark chocolate filled with a aniseed-y foam was average. It may be dampened by the fact that I can no longer eat any more foam as I do enjoy dark chocolate and aniseed. The mousse was rich and light and was not so sweet as to make my teeth hurt. The chocolate mille-feuille was a little too hard for my taste and the contrast of tastes with the ice cream did not work as well as hoped.

To be absolutely fair, the food was decent but for the reputation, the dispute regarding the star, it was very sub-par. On top of which the disinterested service, the lack of presentation and the setting of the restaurant make me wonder about the truth of chef René Bergès actually refusing the star.

Relais Sainte Victoire
53, avenue Sylvain Gautier
13100 Beaurecueil
Tel : 33 (0)4 42 66 94 98