Sunday, April 27, 2008

So long and thanks for all the memories...

I have been dreading writing this post.... my last from beloved Paris.

As people who know me know, Paris has been the land of my dreams since I was a wee young lass. I have always wanted to spend a year here and now, I have.

And what a year!

A huge change from my life in Hong Kong, I have experienced everything ranging from acute loneliness, the joy of finding a like-minded, food-obsessed blogging friend, the unexpected kindness of strangers, countless visitors, and the absolute freedom of being a flâneur, roaming the streets of Paris for hours on end with a dinner reservation to look forward to.

What was originally a six month stint turned into a 15 month stay after a proposal and subsequent marriage... um yes, that would be my own.

Now unfortunately as we begin our move to London, find a flat, go on honeymoon and return to Hong Kong to pack up my belongings, I will be on a break from blogging. I will be back end of May but for now, I leave you with a list of things I'll miss most from Paris. This list is by NO means exhaustive but may give you a taste of a few of my favorites.
  • Cherry (thanks Susan!) and Salted Butter Caramel ice cream from Berthillon

  • Peering into lit apartments and seeing wonderful decor

  • Biche au Bois

  • Stumbling onto an unexpected and utterly peaceful courtyard in the middle of a busy street

  • Sandwiches and tarte fine aux pommes from our bakery

  • Free museum days on the first Sunday of every month

  • Bastille market (especially the salted butter caramels and the mediant mix)

  • Special evenings such as Nuit des Musées, Fête de la Musique and Nuit Blanche

  • Fresh fruit chocolates only available Saturdays from Jean Charles Rochoux

  • Pretty dresses from Les Petits...

  • Falafel from L'As de Falafel and the Foie de Vollaile in a pita from Chez H’anna (both on Rue de Rosiers)

  • Rosewood body wash and oil from Patyka

  • Meeting the boy for a sandwich lunch in Parc Monceau

  • Lemon olive oil from O & Co

  • Le Marais... we've been so lucky to live in the Marais

  • CHEESE!!

  • Being only a 10 minute away from the Seine and a view of the Eiffel Tower

I am sad to be leaving but I am so very grateful that I have had this chance to live here in this wonderful city. It has lived up to all my expectations and I have been very, very happy here.

As I walk around the city eating and drinking on my last day, sighing and making goo goo eyes at all the buildings, the boy turns around and says to me,

"We'll always have Paris."

and indeed we will. Indeed we will.

Le Petit Saint Benoit

So I thought I'd end the way I began. With food. I started with the first thing I ate in Paris and now I bring you my last evening meal in Paris.

It was at the Le Petit Saint Benoit, which I have been to on several occasions but have not yet blogged about. I have had very yummy meals there including the bestboudin and my first steak tartare in Paris.

But tonight, I had one thing on my mind. The Pot-au-Feu a l'Os a moelle. This was a lovely shallow dish of perfectly cooked vegetables with a large bone filled with meltingly fatty, rich, unctuous bone marrow, together with a large piece of what I *think* is brisket marbled with gelatinous bits. It was wonderful and rich but yet soothing and went surprisingly well with the bright warm spring day.

The boy had the special of the day, the cote de boeuf, which was a generous slab of meat with a wonderful green peppercorn sauce which kept the boy very happy indeed.

We didn't have dessert as we had luckily managed to snag the very last fresh fruit chocolate bar from the lovely Mr. Rochoux. Happily for us, it was the new season gariguette strawberries that day. Sadly for you, we ate it too quickly to take a photo.

We love the Le Petit Saint Benoit not only for the food but the wonderful atmosphere, the old bar, the interior, which looks like the restaurant car of an old train, the fun waitresses, and the old style 'patron', whose only job is to greet the regulars and make sure they are happy.

Le Petit Saint Benoit
4, rue Saint Benoit
75006 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 60 27 92

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Favorite Sammich

One of the places I will miss the most in Paris is my friendly neighborhood bakery. Although it is part of the chain, Ronde des Pains, although oddly, it doesn't seem to be listed there. I have visited other ones and still have a biased towards the one in my 'hood. After all, I've never seen the addictive paper thin apple tarts at the other ones (although they may have sold out!).

It didn't always start out being a love affair. For 10 out of the 13 months or so I've been here, they've had construction obstructing the front of the shop. And very fickle opening hours with it being open one weekend and closed the next. They were also the first one to put up a notice about an increase in price due to the price of flour. Besides the thin apple tarts I fell in love with from the beginning and have gotten many, many people addicted to, I often shopped elsewhere for my baked goods. After all, their croissants were merely passable and their pain au chocolates, while a complete fantasy while warm, were a bit tough when cold.

They won me over with the darnest thing. Sandwiches. I am NOT a sandwich person. Too many school years with soggy bread containing tomatoes and ham with a tiny stingy spread of mayo has scared me off. This is no slight on my mother, it was me who made my own horrid sandwiches. I obviously didn't know what I was doing and didn't really care.

These however, are a completely different beast. Sandwiches with a variety of ingredients and breads, all matched to complete perfection. Examples? I had one last week made with their "campaille" bread which has a soft, creamy "mie", stuffed with a soft cheese, bresaola ham, tangy, salty slices of parmesan, crisp lettuce and pickled, slightly hot cactus.

Fancy fancier?

How about the "Savoureux" made with foie gras with rocket and gingerbread? Yes, that's right, those are bits of gingerbread in the sandwich. And delicious it was.

Or a lovely simple but delicious "Rambuteau" which simply consists of rocket, delicious ham and slices of the gorgeous parmesan cheese. This was eaten too fast... twice... to take a photo.

The only which I didn't enjoy so much was the special that day of smoked trout on creme of asparagus spread, pale asparagus spears, lettuce and fresh dill. However, look at the variety of the sandwiches!

The choices kill me each time I go in. I stand in the queue, making the old ladies behind me angry as I decide which one to go for. All priced at between 4 to 5 euro, it's just perfect.

And if you like desserts, I can always recommend the tarte fine aux pomme. Or sables for those of you who are into those things! And its a very short hop, skip and a jump away from Centre Pompidou if you're visiting!

Ronde des Pain
16 Rue Rambuteau
Paris, 75003

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

F-odd: Snout Salad

While I may not be able to find frozen corn kernels at my neighborhood supermarket, I did find this:

Yes, you saw right, it's beef snout salad.

And by what I can see on their website, looks like it's a popular product.

So popular is the snout salad, that they have 4 varieties:

- Lyon style beef snout,
- Dijon mustard beef snout,
- Lyon style pork snout, and
- Provence style pork snout.

Clearly this is something worth exploring. And for you, I did.

And what did I think?

Not so good. It had an odd, slightly 'dirty' taste, slightly reminiscent of andouillette, which I have yet to develop a taste for.

I do love the food in France and I am not opposed to eating all kinds of animal innards but I think the French have beaten me in all foods with that distinctive aroma. I think I can safely strike off snout, andouillette and tete de veau (veal head).

But, as my Dad loves to say, "Never try, never know."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Milk" Chocolate

Whenever I go to buy dairy section at my local Franprix, I'm always curious about the little Kinder chocolate bars I see there.

It's a good idea, especially in the heat of summer, to have a cold chocolate bar to melt slowly in the mouth.

These are usually packaged in a bundle and upon closer inspection, claim to be a "milk" product, which is supposedly a healthier 'treat' for the young'ns.

I had to pick one up of course. I chose Kinder Pingu. They also had Kinder Hippo but I didn't like the association. Some call me too sensitive.

It claims that it contains 26% of milk and has no preservatives and no colorings. The ingredients list milk first, then chocolate (made with cocoa butter) and then sugar. It clocks in at 136kcal per portion.

The composition is a thin genoise sponge with a milk mousse inside enrobed with a thin shell of chocolate, which also runs through the middle, for 'crunch'.

And how did it taste?

Well, not bad. Not too sweet, it was pleasant if a little bland. I don't know that I would give a whole one to a child but it wasn't as sweet or as heavy as many chocolates.

The chocolate didn't so much crunch and gently crackle and the milk mousse texture was a bit odd while the thin genoise wasn't really apparent, lending more texture than anything.

Not something I'd buy again but it was ok. I think if I was a parent, it would be a decent once in a while treat. But I'm not a parent.

So, would you buy them for your child?

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Go List 2008

Might be late to the party but here you go!

The Go List 2008

Happy eating!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are you a licker?

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrifty.

I save elastic bands from packets of noodles "just in case" I need elastic bands.

I hate wasting food so even though I'm full, I force myself to finish whatever is left on my plate (a habit I'm desperately trying to break).

But one thing I refuse to do is to lick yogurt tops. I can't do it. Looks silly for one thing and just to get that thin scraping of yogurt? Ridiculous. Undignified.

So why do I feel ever so slightly guilty about it?

It's the same guilt I feel about not drinking the leftover milk after eating cereal.

What about you? Are you a licker?

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Day Out on the Champs

Besides the wonderful city of Paris, I will also miss my friends here.

In particular, I will miss hanging out with Umami, who is a kindred spirit in all things foodie.

Both of us arrived in Paris at the beginning of 2007 having given up our jobs back East and now finding much time on our hands, we got straight to work with the exploring. While I entertained guests and flitted around, Umami at least got down to business with the learning of French.

Having gotten down with the French comedy scene, she suggested we go see the hot movie Disco, which premiered last week.

We met after her hair appointment, bought tickets and proceeded straight to lunch at the, unknown to me, much hyped and trendy restaurant in the Toyota showroom, Kaiseki Bento.

Let me digress here a bit and ask, does anyone else know that all the automobile showrooms have restaurants? I had absolutely no idea! Apparently they all do! A bizarre concept to me but one, I'm sure, which will be welcome to those car fanatics like the boy.

Anyhow, a small cafeteria type restaurants containing 5 tables with 4 chairs each, arranged in a puzzlebox type setting, we worried we wouldn't be able to get seated. However, as it was only noon, we got in quite easily, although we were requested to vacate our table by 1pm.

It was a little bit odd. We were seated with windows on one side, a view of the 'behind' of a Prius with the table and counter area to the other side of us.

As to the setting, it was a bit bleak. There was a screen behind us but it was so very corporate, without much of the glitz and glamour, and the wall of blinking lights blending into the decor was... well a bit dated to be frank. Early 90's it would have looked all techno and cool but now it just looked a bit boring. The chairs were uncomfortable and the setting, not at all living up to the hype of "coolness". It was just so very corporate. And this is coming from someone who has worked in corporate marketing her whole career!

Ok, the food. There were 3 categories bentos, priced from 50 to 25 euros. The 50 and 30 euro bento was a set meal of various things incorporating both cooked and raw items. The 25 euro menu offered a choice of buckwheat noodles or 6 pieces of nigiri with 8 pieces of maki. This latter is what we both opted for.

It looked very pretty, with half the maki spread with crushed mango and passionfruit and the other with avocado. It tasted ok too, if a bit odd. After about the second piece, I felt that something was off... I lifted up my pieces and saw that the bottom was sitting in a thin film of oil. I thought at first they used oil so the sushi wouldn't stick to the bento box but Umami said it was a strong flavored olive oil. Sure enough, as we continued on, the olive oil soaked into the rice and I felt tasted very strange. It was a strong olive oil and I didn't think it went well with the sushi at all. I would have much preferred it without. The waitress told us that the chef was Japanese and liked to experiment with different types of sushi. I'm not fond of a lot of fusion foods and I think this is probably not something I'd like to try again.

After lunch, we wandered over to the Nespresso Boutique Star which, despite its cheesy name, is a huge 2-story showroom of their coffee, coffee machines and other products. It was rather impressive, I must say. It comprises of a number of areas such as a small bar at the front for coffee, a lounge at the back, a 'smelling salon', which was quite interesting. As you bend down to put your nose to the filters, it lights up and heats up the candle or essence (I couldn't tell what was in there) so you can smell it quite strongly. You can pick your machine to match your wallpaper and customize a machine to the way you like as well. There were people joining up Nespresso club memberships.

It all served to show you that Nespresso is no longer the tacky instant stuff you get at the supermarket but it is tres chic. It was marketed very exclusively with all the accompaniments such as sugar packets colored and labeled to match your favorite coffee. Huge walls full of tubes of coffee pods. Of course we got sucked in and had a cup of coffee at the little bar in front. How could we resist?

After a nice little cuppa, we indulged in a bit of beauty miracles at Sephora before heading towards our movie, which was as funny as promised if the story a bit disjointed and unbelievable.

It was a very, very tai-tai type of day filled with 'leche vitrine' (don't you love French for window shopping, window licking?), trendy places for lunch and coffee followed by a movie mid-day. *sigh* ... I'll miss this life!

at Le Rendez-Vous Toyota
79, avenue des Champs-Elysées 75008
Tel: +33 (0) 1 56 89 29 83

119 Champs Elysee

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Corn-spiracy Theory

I was craving corn in a bad way.

After all, in the fall in Canada, we get beautiful fat kernels of corn on the cob, and all year 'round in Hong Kong, we can get imported corn.

I love corn. Yes, I know it's all sugar and fiber but I love the crunchy sweetness of it. I have rarely eaten it in France. Instead I turn towards those vegetables I rarely see but are usually priced too highly, such as artichokes and asparagus.

But the other day I needed my corn fix and I needed it now. Most of all, I wanted frozen corn to make a corn casserole.

Unfortunately it was Monday and most shops around me were closed. I luckily have a Picard nearby so googled to see if it was open.

And it was.

So off I went. I looked in all of the freezer cabinets and saw artichoke hearts, mange-tout beans, everything except the yellow gold kernels. So I asked the cashier who replied with and icy,

"We don't DO corn at Picard."

I was not surprised at the attitude but more surprised that they didn't "do" corn. After all, everyone loves corn, don't they?

I was even more surprised when I didn't find frozen corn at the Franprix or the G20 nearby. I settled for the canned stuff. Something was up.

I queried Umami the next time I saw her. She said it was because the French think of corn as animal feed and beneath them to eat.

Can this be true? A nation who is happy to eat the colon and stomach of a pig rolled up into a sausage with a lingering aroma of feaces (according to Wikipedia) turns up its nose and scorns the lowly corn? Or is there a corn-spiracy against corn?

(Props to the boy for the horrible pun. He proudly pulled corn-spiracy out of his pocket as I complained... *sigh*)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

La France re[cuisinée]

Although I have eaten in Alain Ducasse restaurants, I always thought he was one of those pompous chefs who think they are the best there is and ever will be. However, Susan once told me of the tremendous effort he makes in giving young chefs a boost or a start and on his website, he makes a point of saying that his vision is "best expressed in his endless endeavours to make ‘Haute Cuisine’ simple, approachable and understood by everyone".

He makes good on his vision here with the (badly publicised) La France re[cuisine] which runs for 2 months from March 1st to April 30th in 100 or so restaurants offering a set lunch menu for 28euros. Now while this might not seem like the best bargain in town, they are mostly restaurants which can and usually charge more. Of the restaurants participating in Paris, all three are Alain Ducasse's associated restaurants.

The boy and I, along with Umami and her husband, decided to try out the Rech on a weekday (offer only available Mondays to Friday) and I duly made the reservation. I was a little surprised as the lady taking the booking had no idea of what I meant by La France re[cuisine] but kindly went to check with the management and confirmed my reservation.

The boys had the starter of Daurade crue on salade a l'huile d'olive vierge de Ligurie", which was really nice, fresh and delicate. The boy loved it.

Our main was salmon en aiguillettes, aux oeufs de truite et perles de hareng. There was a moment during our ordering process when we all wondered whether salmon had wings (aiguillettes de poulet refers to chicken wings) but of course it was simply thinly sliced salmon steaks. The salmon was very well cooked. I prefer my salmon raw or only partly cooked as I find cooked salmon very dry. This wasn't dry in the least and was very nice, especially accompanied by the light yet flavorful sauce. It was very nice.

Although it was slightly curious that the boys' dishes arrived accompanied by spinach while Umami and my dish came with thin haricots, tiny carrots, half dried tomato slivers and a tender radish like root vegetable. We're not sure if the kitchen ran out of sides to plate all four plates or this is done randomly or they felt that the boys weren't getting enough greens.

The dessert. What can I say except I loved it? It was named Mister Rech and described as a succes noisette glace, sauce au chocolat chaud. It arrived as an innocuous puck of ice cream dredged and crusted with finely crushed hazelnuts. The waitress then poured on a thick, thick, warm dark chocolate sauce on it. Then all hell broke loose. As in, it all went in my mouth. Every single mouthful. Umami was much more gracious and seeing how much her husband enjoyed it, pushed over the majority of it to him to finish. I was not so gracious.

It was lovely for us to come together for a dinner and a nice break for the boys in the middle of the day. As for the food, I think it was very decent value for the price, however, I fail to see how the menu itself lived up to the "symbolic" dishes of France, which La France re[cuisine] was supposed to promote.

I do highly suggest going to at least one of them during the promotion. Act quick, it ends at the end of the month! Also, this is not just limited to Paris, it is across France so check the website for a full list.

32, rue Saint-MarcParis (75002)
Réservation+33 (0)

20, rue Saint MartinParis (75004)
Réservation+33 (0)

62 avenue des TernesParis (75017)
Réservation+33 (0)