Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ribouldingue - The yucky bits

I had been waiting to try it.

Ribouldingue was renowned for serving up innards. And I love innards. It could be the Chinese in me but after eating innards for as long as I can remember in noodle soups and the like, it does not faze me in the slightest. I never made any dishes containing innards but this was mostly due to my incompetency in cooking rather than any squeamishness.

But when Susan arrived, I knew this was the place for her. This is a woman who ate turkey balls in front of her boyfriend, although hopefully not stabbing at them viciously, knowing how men seem to hunch over at the slightest hint of pain to their nether regions.

And so we went. I even convinced the boy to go. He was willing, especially after the aperitif of absinthe he delighted in finding on the menu.

The menu is priced at 27 euros for three courses with additional costs for some of the selections. I debated between the rognons blanc and the ravioles de queues de boeuf but when for the beef tail ravioli when the boy chose the white kidneys. Susan went for the lamb's brains, which turned out to be perfectly pan fried with a lovely crust.

My beef tail ravioli were beautifully presented but I felt they were a bit boring and not as intense as they could have been, assuming they were cooked whole with the bone in so as to extract as much flavor as possible. I may also be biased, given my father's ox-tail stew is legendary with complex flavors that linger in the mouth. The boy's veal kidneys were tender and delicate and I have yet to find out what animal it came from.

For my main, I dithered between the ox tongue (continuing on the tip to top theme) and the tripes but on the recommendation of the waitress, went with the ox tongue. Again, I was a touch disappointed. My favorite, and most ghetto way of eating ox tongue is on spaghetti. Tomato sauce spaghetti the Chinese way in Cha Chan Tengs... with lots of Tabasco. So I was expecting a different preparation. Don't get me wrong, the tongue was tender and beautifully prepared to maintain the texture but the sauce was bland and a touch plain. I was expecting something a little bit different rather than chopped root vegetables. Susan's lamb sweetbreads were very rich and creamy while the boy's onglet was finished before I could snag a taste.

For dessert I chose a chocolate and ginger mousse with mango coulis and shaved young coconut paired with an airy meringue. I love all the flavors separately but together it was too much and didn't work altogether.

It seemed much like a disappointing meal but I was not in fact disappointed. I think my expectations were high due to the innards I had eaten before. I came expecting to eat innards prepared differently but found that the French preparation lacks the punch of the Chinese way. I enjoyed my meal and liked the restaurant itself. For adventurous eaters, this is a good option. For the Chinese, I say wait until you get home, much like I will!

10 rue St Julien le Pauvre
Metro: St-Michel
Tel: 01 46 33 98 80

Friday, June 22, 2007

5 days, 7 meals, 8 ice creams and one Susan

It started innocently enough.

Susan was coming for a visit.

Of course I was under pressure. I had a "rep to protect", as they say.

Yes, it was Susan Jung, Food Editor, coming to stay with me.

"I have no plans", she said, making sweat beads as big as the ones on Anime characters pop out on my forehead.

I ran through my list of usual suspects, crossed my fingers and started making reservations for her arrival.

Luckily, she is one of the most easy going and loveliest people I've ever had the good fortune to meet.

So, what did we eat?

Well she blew into town with the force that is Meei, one of her friends who commandeered the day and so tea at Ladurée followed by a "simple" aperos and food at Bellota Bellota in Lafayette Gourmet before her train that evening.

The next day, I took her to my favorite lunch place in the city, the wonderful couscous stall at the Enfants Rouge Market (soon to be blogged, not to worry), followed by my favorite dinner place in town, A La Biche au Bois. Please note that I did manage to cram about 4 scoops of ice cream (Berthillion, of course, and the Roboppy approved Deliziefollie) into Susan in between lunch and the huge but delicious dinner of veal kidneys.

On day three, we set out resolutely for Pierre Hermé , where be bought canneles, to be consumed after lunch at Le Comptoir du Relais, where we admired our neighbour down a three course meal and a whole bottle of wine on his own. After our canneles, Susan heroically returned to Pierre Hermé for a fortifying Miss Gla Gla (macaroon biscuits with ice cream), before an evening of shopping and dinner at L'Os a Moelle. By this time, I had to beg out and left her to dine with a friend while I tried to rest my horrifically distended belly at home.

Day four was market day at Bastille which could not be missed, following which I set my guest at work whipping up a delicious mayo and dining on brie de meaux, artichokes, andouillet charcuterie, St Marcellin cheese, fresh gorgeous vine tomatoes and radishes, pate de campagne, liver saucisson and Vourvray wine.

Following which a trip to the incredibly nice and talented Jacques Genin was made in order to pick up 2 kilos of delicious, tender caramels, before heading back to Pierre Hermé, where after a slight altercation (which they called a 'misunderstanding and I call plain rude), we managed to emerge with Miss Gla Glas and a Kouing Aman. Of course right around the corner was Poilâne, which we couldn't resist popping into, and La Grande Epicerie of Bon Marche, before going to dinner at the wonderful Ribouldingue.

On day five, L'As de Falafel couldn't be missed and more ice cream from Berthillon and a walk up rue Mouffetard and St Germain to many of the chocolate shops. Patrick Roger's reception was icy cold and unfriendly despite our smiles and calls of "Bonjour", while at Jean Charles Robouchoux, we had a warm reception, placing our orders for the Saturday fresh fruit chocolate specials and a large order as gifts for Susan's return. Finally a last dinner at La Regalade before finally coming to a rest back home.

Reviews of Regalade and Ribouldingue to come... as well as a week of light eating and rest. That Susan may be tiny but she does the foody world proud!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bite me

A few weeks ago, we went on a museum crawl as part of the wonderful Nuit des Musees. We went with friends of ours to Musee Carnavalet, Petit Palais (with a fabulous garden and lounge chairs), Invalides and Musee Rodin.

We went to the Invalides, where we visited the very strange tomb of Napoleon, on a raised platform in the lower floor, looking mightly big and impressive indeed for such a little man. The boy and I found it a little creepy and strange to have such a massive building work dedicated to the tomb of Napoleon but to each their own.

My friends decided to pop into the cafeteria for a hot drink and a warm up when I noticed this near the cash register....

Sucette Napoleon!

Yes, that's right kids! Instead of just visiting the tomb of Napoleon, you can now buy your own figurehead and lick and bite it as much as you want! Out of respect, of course. Because all dead leaders deserve their own sucette.

F-odd: Overheard

Overheard at Borough Market in reference to the picture on the left...

"Mommy, is that a birthday cake?"

The mother turned around shuddered and pulled her little boy away.

My question is, what kind of birthday cakes are kids getting these days anyhow?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

London on a Noodle String

On a last minute trip to London last weekend with the boy, I managed to fit in a few of the obvious to-dos, such as exploring the gastronomical delights of Borough market, shopping on Oxford street (where I found Primark, which ruined me for the other shops due to their shockingly low prices), catching up with friends over dim sum, and of course a Broadway show (Avenue Q, which I enjoyed immensely)

The first thing we did after dumping our bags at the now defunct Hotel 167 (we found out it was closing two days after we stayed there), we went straight to Borough market to indulge in, amongst other things, a venison burger, cheese from Neal's Yard, dried sour cherries from Cranberry, and the most delicious (and deadly) sandwich from the Spanish importer, Brindisa, which consisted of chorizo, fried in olive oil then grilled and split before being put into an olive oil drizzled bap, topped with meltingly soft roasted red peppers and some kicky rocket. It was heaven in a mouthful.

Although we were only in London for a few days, we found time to visit a good friend who is currently studying to take over the world in Cambridge, where we were very lucky with the weather and went punting, which was a LOT harder than I had thought.

My friend, who had warned me that Cambridge is a food wasteland, recommended a safe bet for dinner, Nando's, a chain of peri-peri spiced chicken restaurants. I rarely order chicken at a restaurant as it has a tendency to become overcooked and is generally boring, I really enjoyed this one for the spices, especially as I had never tried peri-peri before. The chicken could have been of better quality but for 25 pounds between the three of us, with enough food for 4, we were more than pleased.

For lunch before hoping on the bus back to London the next day, we grabbed a bowl of noodles at the ubiquitous Wagamama, a favorite with many for their flavorful Asian-inspired soup noodles. I had the Chicken Kare noodles in a coconut based spicy sauce. It was ok. I felt that it could use a lot more punch to the soup base and the noodles were soggier than I would have liked. However, it was fine for a quick lunch stop.

I was however, much, much more impressed by Jen's cafe, which boasts handmade noodles and dumplings, which are wrapped by two pleasant ladies in front of a show window corner. I had the spicy pork noodles (jia-jiang mien) and a bowl of Beijing dumplings (jiaozi) to share with the boy before sneaking back on my own another day for another taste of those toothsome, deliciously springy noodles. It was my definite favorite find of the trip.

One of the great joys of travelling is the different tastes and finding pleasure in new things to eat, even if it is just in a chain restaurant.
Unfortunately I don't remember the exact address for Jen's cafe but it can be found at Newport Place in London's Chinatown.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Vive la French Directness

Many have looked at me with envy, jealous of all the fabulous French food I have been consuming by the bucketload. All the French cheeses, the brains of baby cows, the coq au vin, and other glorious foodstuffs that the most romantic and food obsessed place in the world has to offer.

However, it comes with a heavy price.

And when I say heavy, I mean literally.

Consider the following scenario....

Last week I was at the local H&M, looking for some nice summery things to wear and once I have selected some bits and pieces, headed for the dressing room queue to try them on.

While I was daydreaming (probably about food), one of the girls working the dressing room passed me by with armloads of clothes to return to the racks. Upon seeing me, she stopped in her tracks and says "Vous avez priorite" (you have priority).

I was surprised to hear that, seeing as there were two ladies ahead of me in the queue. Sensing my confusion, she decides to clear things up.

"Parce que vous etes enceinte"

In horror, I said, "No, I am NOT pregnant".

Now stop for a second and consider this scenario. If you were the (wretched) girl, what would you do?

You would think you would apologize and backtrack, wouldn't you?

Nope. This being France, land of stubborn people refusing to believe that they are ever in the wrong, she decides instead to say, nodding at the general direction of my belly,

"On dirais qu'il y a un bebe la dedans"

Not enough with insulting me with the pregnancy comment, she digs in more by saying that you'd think I had a baby in there before sauntering off with her arm full of clothes.

As I turned beet red, I couldn't help but instinctively look down at my belly. Upon looking up, I noticed that the two ladies behind and two ladies in front were also checking out my belly.

Yep, humiliation at the hands of the H&M dressing room girl is a hard, hard pill to swallow. And even more painful to digest.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A little bit of Malaysia

Surprisingly, despite Paris being an international city, some of the more international foods are done not quite right.

For example, the boy's favorite back in HK, wonton noodles, which here in Paris, are sometimes made using Shanghainese flour noodles.

That being the case, and wanting to make the most of my time here and for fear of "wasting stomach", I have rarely wandered out for Asian cuisine, beside a bowl of heart warming Pho now and again.

However, when Umami told me about the Malaysian cultural fair a few weeks ago, I had to go. For the food.

I had satays, nasi lemak and even pulled tea. It was lovely but it was more this sight which pleased me more than anything. It could have been anywhere in South East Asia but the fact that it was in the back garden of the Malaysian embassy pleased me especially.

My Malay friend even told me that the oil they used to grease the roti is Malaysian!