Nope. I ate three.
The City Bakery
3 West 18th Street
New York City
(UPDATE: Café des Musées changed owners in the Fall of 2014 and I’ve heard mixed reports from locals and visitors. I haven’t been back since the change of proprietors so an unable to provide a personal report about any changes. But I will update this post when I return.)
Located a few blocks north of the historic place des Vosges, steps away from the hubbub of tourists clogging the sidewalks, is Café des Musées, a terrific restaurant in Paris.
Chef François Chenel makes his own pâtés and smokes his own organic salmon, which arrives with a spoonful of crème fraîche, chives, and toasted levain bread. Both are also available to take home, including pre-cooked lobes of foie gras, even if you’re not dining here.
We split an order of grouse. One of the great things about France is that in the winter, restaurants will feature game like partridge, wild pigeon, and other specialties that are hard to find elsewhere. The grouse was dark and meaty-red, just as ordered. Alongside were triangles of braised celery root, a pile of dressed watercress and quetsches, Italian prune plums, cooked until jam-like. Although not as unctuous and sweet as I would have liked, a shot of port in the deglazing would’ve sealed the deal.
Other menu options are a pretty well-crusted entrecôte steak, served with real French fries, which are unfortunately rare nowadays in Paris. Cochon noir de Bigorre is always great here, a neatly-classic steak tartare, and for those looking for a vegetarian option, a cocotte of seasonal vegetables comes in a casserole, bathed in olive oil. (A friend from California who ordered this pronounced it “boring”, so perhaps that’s not the best choice.)
For dessert, we shared a raspberry Dacquoise; a slightly-crisp almond meringue which had a nice cake-like chew. It was served with excellent, dark cherry-red raspberries which were so sweet they were syrupy.
For those on a budget, at both lunch and dinner, on offer is a prix-fixe option. One recent fixed-price menu was vichyssoise and foie de veau, veal liver, with dessert for just 19€. Another time it was a poached egg in red wine with a lamb shank following up for the main course, with dessert being rhubarb crisp.
The service is a bit scattered, but that to me is the charm of eating in a neighborhood-type restaurant where people just go for good food but are welcome to linger. It’s the kind of place where the tables are pushed close together so you’re rubbing shoulders with your neighbors and perhaps sharing a basket of good bread. That’s one of the pleasures of dining in smaller Parisian restaurants and cafés.
My friends and I shared a bottle—ok, two bottles—of fruity gamay from the Touraine which went very nicely with everything from the charcuterie to the game and through the dessert. And afterward as well.
Café des Musées
49, rue de Turenne (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 72 96 17
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A recent post on Marinated Feta elicited some interesting comments and questions about olive oil. Here’s a few tips that I follow when buying, using, and storing oil:
1. Keep olive oil out of the light.
I know you’ve spent a lot of money on your oil and you want to look at all those pretty labels lined up on your countertop. But too bad; it’s one of the absolute worst things you can do to oil. Light destroys olive oil, and other specialty oils as well, so stow it away. Nothing destroys olive oil faster than light. Except heat.
2. Keep olive oil away from heat.
That means don’t store your olive oil on that shelf above your stove, even though that’s where it’s handy. Keep it away from sunlight as well. It’s best not to store olive oil in the refrigerator. If you do, when you take it out the condensation can dilute the oil and cause it to spoil quicker.
How does one explain, in a few short paragraphs, something that’s such a critical part of Italian life, like gelato? If you’ve spent any time in Italy, especially in the summer, it’s hard to look anywhere and not see an Italian balancing a cono di gelato, often while balancing the omnipresent cell phone at the same time.
But everyone, from suave businessmen in Armani suits to grandmothers chatting on a stroll with friends—they all eat gelato. And like the tiny shots of espresso taken from morning ’til night, it’s a part of Italian life and consumed everywhere, all-day long. Granita di espresso on a roll for breakfast anyone?
‘Gelato‘ means ‘frozen‘ in Italian, so it embraces the various kinds of ice cream made in Italy, and that’s the best definition one can offer.
More than most countries, food in Italy is fiercely regional: in the north, near Torino (Piedmonte), the food is very earthy with white truffles and hazelnuts appearing in various dishes. At the other end of the boot is Sicily, where the climate is far warmer so the flavors lean towards citrus and seafood. And in between are lots of villages and regions, including the Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Campania, Tuscany, and Puglia, among others.
The gelato made in the north of Italy, where it’s cooler up near the mountains, the gelato is richer, often made with egg yolks, chocolate, and most famously, with gianduja, the silky-smooth hazelnut and milk chocolate paste. In the south, ice creams tend to be lighter, and flavored with lemons and oranges. In Sicily, granite are prevalent; slushy shaved ices that are almost served like a drink, with a spoon and a straw to slurp them up, as well as fruit-flavored sorbetti.
But getting back to gelato…as mentioned, gelato means Italian ice cream. But what makes it different?
I was trying to explain to a French friend what a ‘foodie’ is, and he was looking at me like I was nuts. I guess when you live in a country that’s full of people that live to eat, the concept of people not into eating is a bit odd.
So, for lack of a better introduction, here are my ‘foodie’ addresses for places that I visited and good things that I tasted while in San Francisco:
When someone handed me an unusually heavy sack emblazoned with the name ‘Charles Chocolates‘ on it, I wanted to run home with in and dive right in! I’ve been jealous reading reports of Chuck Siegel’s magnificent confections from other bloggers and let me tell you: Chuck’s chocolate are worth the wait.
My hands-down favorites were the Triple Chocolate Almonds; California almonds roasted and enrobed in both milk and dark chocolate. Superb! There was a stack of tablets of chocolate in there too, flavored with caramelized rice and candied ginger that I’ve schlepped back to Paris to share.
But the most stunning were two heavy boxes, crafted entirely of chocolate, and filled with a luscious selection of Chuck’s best and more dazzling creations. One was his Tea Collection with tea-scented chocolates (think Osmanthus blossoms and charcoal-fired Oolong tea), while the other had such diverse tastes as passion fruit and salted peanut butter. They were so good, you’ll want to eat the box. Luckily you can.
Westfield San Francisco Center
3rd Floor, Bloomingdale’s side
This is my must-stop restaurant when I come to San Francisco. The problem is, I can never get in. Luckily my good pals came to the rescue and we dined like celebrities (like Jake Gyllenhall, who was seated across the dining room, unnoticed by everyone but us. I thought Joy was going to drop her kid right then and there.)
Starting with marinated sardines, moving on to heaping bowls of pasta, then finishing with perhaps the best version of Panna Cotta I’ve ever had, it’s hard to have less than a stellar meal at Delfina.
And having charming, if distracted, company…and Jake Gyllenhall to look at, certainly doesn’t hurt either.
3621 18th Street
San Francisco, CA
This is my newest must-stop restaurant in San Francisco (I’m allowed a couple…aren’t I?) And by the looks of things, I’m not alone. Laurence Jossel paid his dues at some of the best dining spots in the city before opening Nopa and he’s got a winner on his hands. In a formerly dicey area (my old neighborhood), diners and chefs from other restaurants now come from all over to gather at the large table to share dinner, or to cozy up in a booth. (Warning: The noise level can be daunting. Request upstairs if you want some calm.)
How can you not love starting a meal with a frosty martini alongside perfectly-salted, hyper-crispy French fries with harissa dipping sauce ending with a bowl of sugared donut holes? Nopa makes me almost want to move back to San Francisco. If I could only persuade Laurence to open in Paris…*sigh*
560 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA
I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiously awaiting Elizabeth Falkner’s upcoming book, Demolition Desserts. But for those of us who’ve been enjoying Elizabeth’s desserts for years, we’ve been relishing her tasty treats at Citizen Cake.
(Disclaimer: I have a major crush on Elizabeth Falkner for years.)
Before I high-tail it outta Austin, I thought I’d share a few things I ate while here. The tour of ice cream shops around town will have to wait until I’m back home, but there were plenty of other things to sample….
Austin is the hip town…or city, in Texas. I say ‘town’ because it feels more like a big town than the capital of the state. There’s lot of quirky people here; tattoos, piercings, and general goofiness seems to be the norm and celebrated by all. No complaints from me either! Of course, there’s also some mighty fine Tex-Mex food, including unending bowls of chips and salsa, which are dangerous when heaped in front of me. I can’t resist polishing off the entire basket. And if there’s a margarita (or two) involved, all bets are off on how many I’ll pound down.
(That’s baskets of the chips, not the margaritas. Those I need to limit myself to one or two of. Unless they’re really, really good. Then I can perhaps manage an extra one, just to be polite.)
Migas, a lively scramble of eggs and crispy corn tortillas is my breakfast of choice (hmmm…crisp corn tortillas…anyone else see a trend?) I like mine sitting at the counter at Las Manitas, one of the last diner-style restaurants left in town. It seems almost all of Austin converges here for their hearty breakfasts, accompanied by endless amounts of the all-American bottomless mug of coffee, a habit I quickly reverted back to.
You can find good Vietnamese food in Paris, and there are a couple of nice addresses for Chinese food as well, but if there’s a good Korean bbq in the City of Light, that kalbi has yet to singe my lips.
When I come back to San Francisco, people ask me if I’m interested in trying the newest, hottest, most au courant restaurants in town. In general, I bypass those places and make a beeline for the ethnic joints when in town. And one of the best Korean bbq’s in San Francisco is located across from the Japan Center: Korea House.
Hike upstairs into a large dining room, and slide into a booth equipped with a coal-fired grill. Seconds after you place your order, the waitress reappears with a multitude of tiny bowls filled with everything from spicy-red kimchi to cubes of quivering agar-agar jelly. I’ve learned if you have any Korean friends, it’s definitely good to invite them along, since you’re liable to get a few extra banchan that you might not normally be offered.
I am such an idiot. I won’t tell you who, but years back, someone with a thriving restaurant on 18th Street in San Francisco alerted me to a great business opportunity nearby. Food-related, of course. I passed, and now the area is the culinary destination in the Bay Area.
(Aside from the taqueria on Church Street across from the Afeway…)
Although I missed the proverbial boat, I’m glad to see the smart folks at Bi-Rite Creamery scooping up some excellent ice cream in that neighborhood. I sampled just about all of them, from the fruity Cherry-Almond to the most curious Soy Chocolate. There’s a seductive Salted Caramel and a Butter Pecan as well. But my absolute, hands-down favorite scoop was the Mint Chip. Flavored with organic mint oil, it’s a big dose of refreshingly cool mint with big, honkin’ chunks of housemade chocolate chards. Think the best kind of Girl Scout cookies all mashed together and piled in a cone. Yum!
3692 18th Street
San Francisco, CA
(For those who can’t make it to Bi-Rite Creamery, their most popular recipes can be found in their book, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.)