Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shame on me...

Shame on me, not posting...

I know, I know... bad me.

Last 2 weeks in Paris, restaurants to eat, friends to see, places to visit and most dire of all, wedding venues to sort out.... bugger.

The interesting bit:

To hog roast or not to hog roast.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question.

Picture taken from : Essex Hog Roasts

Saturday, August 18, 2007

La Langue Fran├žaise (or the French Tongue...oh la la)

Those of you who have come here hoping to pick up tips on French kissing or to learn more about the French language, be prepared to be sorely disappointed.

I was at Carrefour the other day, picking up groceries for the week when the boy foolishly left me alone by the delicatessen counter. In the glass display a huge pan caught my eye. I leaned in for a look. It was tongue in vinaigrette. I had to have some.

I also strolled past all the glorious hams, dried saucissons and other delicacies when my eye fell upon another display. This time, it was a very pretty display of gelatin containing three cross sections of tongue. Had to get that as well. And also the one beside it, with smaller cross-sections of tongue dotted with pistachio nuts.

To her credit, the lady serving me behind the counter didn't blink an eye when a Chinese girl approached, asking for a single thin slices of both types of tongue along with a small potion of tongues vinaigrette.

Luckily they all came wrapped in little white plastic bags and the boy could not see what folly had befallen me.

Although outraged cries of "This isn't HAM!" and "You mean you didn't even buy ham or anything normal for me at all?!?" were heard loud and clear when sandwich fixings were required.

Contenting himself with a piece of cheese, the boy peered at the tongue studded with pistachios. "Isn't it so pretty?", I asked, to grunts of annoyance. "It's almost like art!" I continued, knowing full well the miserable time he had at the Pompidou Centre last week looking at modern art.

Aside from annoying the boy, I also tasted all tongue-y concoctions.

First up was the tongue in vinaigrette. This was quite tasty but not very "vinaigrett-y", may do well with more marinating. I was surprised to find that the texture was softer and had less of a "chew" than the ones I enjoy in my spaghetti with tomato sauce in Cha Chan Tengs in HK (Cue: Westerners, gag now).

Next, I tasted the long tongue cross sections in gelatin. The French enjoy jellied meats and vegetables as a dish in the summer, served with a side salad. I never really understood it as the texture of the food preserved in the gelatin always changed and tastes mushy to me. In the case of the tongue, it didn't change the texture too much and I would say it had more of a 'chew' than the vinaigretted tongue. I'm not sure whose or what animal's tongue this was. I'm still guessing pork (i.e. the magical animal who keeps on giving).

Finally it came to the prettiest one of all, the one with pistachios. This one was quite mild, with almost no chew, with a texture more like ham. The pistachios were an interesting touch and was nice with the tongue. I liked the look of this one best but overall I did prefer the vinaigrette tongues best.

I'm not sure if French pigs are just lazier and don't exercise their muscles as much but I still find that overall, the tongues didn't have the same texture or chew as the ones I've had previously. Perhaps they've been treated to make the tongue softer to suit the local palate but I still prefer the ones I get back home. MMmmm, can't wait for a big ole plate of tongue on spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thai Good Lah!

I wandered around the neighborhood one day before my Bikram yoga when I stumbled across a small Thai restaurant. Being relatively early (for France) in the day, it was closed. I squinted and pushed my face close to the glass to take a look inside when a small, very friendly Thai woman appeared at my shoulder, causing me to jump back in guilt. She said hello and asked if she could help before unlocking the door. I smiled and said I was fine and looked curiously at the menu before trudging my way to another, sweaty yoga class with scantily clad men who were obviously disinterested in the female half of the population.

I have to admit, I went because of the Thai woman. She was most definitely Thai so the food must be somewhat authentic and so friendly I felt that I needed to visit. So of course I dragged the boy.

The restaurant was small but immaculate and it felt like lots of care had gone into the decor which had modern Thai touches, including a shrine over the kitchen door. The restaurant was manned by what seemed like a Thai couple and their son, who were all very friendly, sending over complimentary amuse gueules when we moved to a different table to accommodate a party of three. It consisted of a bite sized deep fried pastry with minced chicken and vegetables. Inoffensive but forgettable.

We ordered the lunch special, priced at a reasonable 15 euros for an entree, a main and an side dish. The menu seemed varied with authentic dishes, with entree choices including a green papaya salad and Tom Yum Kung and side dishes of rice, fried rice, glutinous rice or vegetables. We also ordered a Pad Thai at a horrific 13 euros but which would satisfy a craving.

Our entree of spicy Thai beef salad arrived, very prettily plated with perfectly cooked meat that was still toothsome and rare in the middle, the sauce was fabulous but not spicy in the least but very tasty with the perfect mix of tart, sweetness and kick from the herbs. It was a generous portion and so moreish and tasty, I quickly dug in, even munching the onions which had been marinated long enough to lose its normally harsh bite.

Not long afterwards, our Pad Thai arrived, looking quite gorgeous in its 'shell' of thin egg crepe with two prawns resting on top and a carrot tower on the side. I was happy to see the dried chili powder and sugar in the corner, for diners to sprinkle as they see fit.

I enjoyed the Pad Thai. Not having had too much experience, I really couldn't vouch for its authenticity. I can happily say, however, that I am quite there was no ketchup in this version!!

Our Thai green chicken curry with glutinous rice came after these two dishes were cleared. I was delighted to find the little 'eggplant' pods, bitter with a great texture in this version, which was not spicy but deliciously flavorful, wonderful with the sticky glutinous rice. The pretty vegetables were cut in very similar sized finger sized sticks, complete with lacy, wavy edged zucchini.

All in all, I loved the food, thought it was made with obvious care and attention to detail.

The restaurant was clearly a work of love, with the tables wiped down until they shone and pretty carafes of water with huge sprigs of mint inside.Mild enough for the French but tasty enough for me. I admit I also fell in love with the soft-spoken, always smiling Thai family, a component that is complimentary but so often missing with meals but which keeps me smiling all day long.

41 Rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie
Tel: 01 42 77 10 20
Closed Mondays

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Other Bloggers Eat

I just don't get it.

For someone who loves food as much as I do, I am a dreadful cook.

Most people don't believe me, thinking I am being modest or even that I'm lying.

I can assure you, as can the boy for that matter, I am a truly awful cook.

So I dream. I eat out, I dream, I try (hey, that counts, right?) and I always end up falling back on stuff that I know well enough how to do.

However, being frustrated and with a bit too much time on my hands, I decided this week to attempt cooking something new.

There was no doubt in my mind what to cook. It had to be Jaden's Persian Sour Cherry Saffron Rice (Polow). It had been taunting me day and night. I "visited" the recipe every day since I've seen it, absolutely certain that despite it being cherry, it would be the perfect combo of tart, sweet, salty and comforting. My favorite combo.

I know that to the accomplished cook, this would be an easy dish. You don't understand. Whenever I step into the kitchen, it's like I step into the twilight zone where I become an absolute idiot.

Case in point. I didn't melt the butter.

I melted half of it in the pan at the beginning, then, when layering the rice, cherries and saffron water, I panicked and quickly melted the remaining 1/4 cup and stupidly dumped it OVER the cherries.

Yep, I'm an idiot. Luckily the recipe still worked and was very delish although totally ugly (I stirred too much...) and unphotographable. THANK you Jaden. I will make it again and again and again. I kept sneaking bites throughout the night despite my distended belly.

I then decided, mainly because I had bananas languishing, all soft, mushy and unwanted in the fruit bowl, to make the banana cake Orangette posted about. No oil and no butter needed. Just the thing.

And what did I do? Well............I left out the chocolate chips, the vanilla essence and I substituted cassonade for half of the white sugar because I ran out. OH, and I also cooked it for over TWICE as long because it was still so incredibly gooey inside. I have no idea what happened but I blame it again on the shroud of incompetence that descends on my head every time I step into the kitchen.

Dang it but the cake turned out fine. Slightly too burned on the outside but perfectly moist and chewy inside. And from the boy's quick demolishment of it, it was still good enough to eat.
So please, don't go by incompetence and try the fabulous recipes out there by wonderful bloggers out there. Next I want to try Umami's rice salad, even though I am highly skeptical...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On the Island in the middle of the Lake in the middle of the Park

The boy and I had planned to go to Bois de Boulogne for a picnic so I packed a few sandwiches, snacks (including the last of the See's Awesome Nut and Chew bars) and we set off in the car to the woods, zipping past the Arc de Triomphe's horrifically confusing roundabout.

We arrived and parked near the lake and walked down near the water, where I spied a boat charging an outrageous 1 euro 50 for the short ride across to the island in the middle of the lake. I was just commenting on the money fleecing nature of the boat when the boy walked up and hopped on. Incredulously, I followed. The man on the boat asked if we were going to the dine at the restaurant, Le Chalet des Iles on the island, to which the boy replied yes.

I thought perhaps the boy misunderstood so I told him that he should tell the truth and pay up as he might know if we didn't go to the restaurant.

"But we are going to the restaurant", the boy replied.

"Are you crazy or something? We packed a lunch, did you already forget? You even put the bananas in there!", I said, exasperated.

"I made a reservation there... as a late surprise for your birthday", he said calmly.

I was suitably shamed and followed meekly but excitedly at this point.

The restaurant itself is very prettily set high up in full view of the water, with tables spilling out throughout the terrace and the lawn.

We were seated and placed our order, happily enjoying the view and each other's company when the bread and wine arrived. I reached for a roll when I looked down into our bread basket to find half a roll, a bottle cap and a cork. We had gotten the remains of someone else's breadbasket. As we waved a waitress over, we notice that a horde of pigeons and swooped onto a neighboring table, recently emptied and were in the midst of energetically pecking at all of remaining food. I must admit, this was less than appetizing. Especially when someone who had visited the washroom came back to discover his bread half gone.

In any case, we were soon distracted by our appetisers of beef carpaccio with raspberries and broccoli, and brownie foie gras. The latter turned out to be simply that. A brownie plated with foie gras, drizzled with dark chocolate. The combination, for me, didn't work at all. The chocolate sauce was much too strong and made only the texture of the foie gras as opposed to its lovely richness stand out. The brownie also, I can only guess was a play on textures as it was very crumbly and dry, tasting like a stale thin slice of brownie.

We did better with the mains. Of which we ordered three. Hey, we were hungry! Also, we couldn't pass up "posh mac n' cheese", which we ordered as a dish to share. This was on menu as a gratin de macaroni au fromage . We were surprised to find it come as a meticulously plated huge spiral of macaroni pasta, with a thin crust of cheese and a flurry of rocket on top. It was decidedly moreish with a nice peppery bite of rocket balancing out the rich cheese and pasta. Very fun to eat too. Especially if you eat it spiral by long spiral like I did.

I ordered the lightly seared salmon served with an "Asian" salad, with this latter consisting mainly of bean sprouts and julienned carrots. By the way, can someone please tell the world that including bean sprouts does not make a salad "Asian"?? In any case, the salmon was delicious, succulent, perfectly cooked and very, very moist. The salad was forgettable.

The boy's beef tartare was a bit more disappointing. Although it was a generous portion, it tasted a little too much of mayonnaise and was a little too well minced, making the texture somewhat mushy. These were served with crispy fires, not homemade but still decent.

With the three mains, we were more than stuffed and could not manage dessert. Instead the boy offered to row me around the lake so I could have a snooze. Unfortunately the counter for row boat rentals was closed by the time we got there, lazily wandering around the island exploring.

Although the food was not memorable in and of itself, the restaurant is lovely, romantic and a nice little getaway from the city.

Most of all, I will it remember it because it was there that the boy asked me an interesting question... which I replied, yes.
Porte de la Muette
Lac du Bois de Boulogne
75016 Paris
Tel: 01 42 88 86 74

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Do you...?

Do you love Hong Kong?

Do you love traditional street markets?

Do you love the old pushy woman clothed in blue who elbows you out of the way to get to the best bit of the wintermelon?

Do you love the slippery slide of the squished fruits and veg between the stalls?

Do you love talking to shopkeepers who advise you what to put in your soup to make it more nutritious?

Do you love going to the market to gawk at the different types of fruit and veg that you've never seen before? (Fresh wasabi root anyone?)

In short, do you want to save the street market in Central?

If so, click here to vote to save the Central street market.

If you want more info, please also click there to read more than this questionable post has to say about it.

PS. Brought to my attention by the wonderful blog, EatingAsia.