Recently in Restaurants category

Mon Vieil Ami

While I wait for my life (ie, my television and internet) to return to normal….(although I’d be happy if they’d just return. period)…I left my perch in the Wi-Fi equipped Place des Vosges long enough to have a really nice dinner at Mon Vieil Ami, that I thought I’d recount. I was going stir-crazy sitting at home and was so bored that I almost had to work. Imagine that!

But since I procrastinated enough, which included scrubbing the knobs on my washing machine (yes, really…) and the ones on the oven too, then tackling a batch of ice cream using some leftover mascarpone in my fridge that had one day left on it, I am back in the Place des Vosges once again, sans chocolat chaud, but connected.

What more could a guy want? Yikes…now that’s a loaded question.
I couldn’t wait for my internet connection to return to normal, so I thought I’d offer forth a short, quick write-up of a great dinner I had last night. And judging from your very kind comments, I know 98% of you are sympathetic to my situation—and perhaps the other 2% are meanies, content to laugh at others’ misfortune. So excuse any errors, mis-whatevers, and typos while the chill slowly creeps into my fingers here on this cold park bench. And since I’m sitting, need I say where else the cold is creeping into? Perhaps when I get home I’ll take a chocolat chaud sitz-bath.
With marshmallows, thank you ver much.

(ha!…my first typo…)

My dining companion hier soir from Los Angeles was missing vegetables after eating too many rich meals while in Paris, so she was thrilled with the menu offered at Mon Vieil Ami. My first course was roasted beets from the gardens of Joël Thiebaut (sp?…I’ll correct the spelling later.) In the huge terrine buried amongst the ruby-red and golden beets were four well-caramelized, succulent, sweet-sour chicken wings, as well as some raw beets that had been shaved into ribbons, added for good measure. Why not?

We both ordered the same entrée, which I love, since I hate to share.

Continue Reading Mon Vieil Ami…

Café des Musées

Café des Musées

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.

Café des Musées

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.

Café des Musées Menu

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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10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

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10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Pain aux ceriales
How about a pain aux céréales?

Here’s my list of Ten Great Things To Eat in Paris – things that I think you shouldn’t miss!

Continue Reading 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris…

Taillevent, Illy, Chez Dumonet, and O-Chateau Wine Tasting

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Taillevant & Le Cave Taillevent

Last month I had a fabulous lunch at Taillevent, the recently-demoted three-star restaurant, courtesy of some good friends from the states. But if our lunch was any indication, I don’t know who’s plucking the stars. And at 70€ it’s the deal of the decade: Three courses and lots of little extras. Plus they were very pleased to substitute any of the desserts which didn’t appear on the fixed menu for the selection offered. And to make the lunch even more special, another recent guest kindly bought me a bottle of lovely champagne…what’s not to get all starry-eyed over?

But whether or not you can make it to Taillevent, the restaurant, you should definitely visit their wine shop in the main Printemps department store. Run by Alison Vollenwider, with the help of Stéphanie (aka la petite), this wine cave is one of the most interesting in Paris.

Alison trained as a sommelier at Windows On The World with famed wine expert Andrea Immer, then worked in Bordeaux as a sommelier before settling here in Paris. Stop by and say hi—you’ll find plenty of reasonably-priced wines, starting at less than 10€, and lots of good advice from Alison. She’s friendly and knowledgeable…what more could you want from a caviste?

Update: Alison is now a proud mom and no longer working at Le Cave Taillevent.

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Illy

Ever since I got my new espresso machine, I’ve been trying to learn as much about the complex art of making espresso as possible.

Continue Reading Taillevent, Illy, Chez Dumonet, and O-Chateau Wine Tasting…

Paris Restaurant Round-Up

I got a very cute message lately from a couple who had come to Paris and followed some of my restaurant suggestions. But it got to the point one evening here they were undecided where to go one night, and her husband said, “I don’t care. Let’s just go anywhere that chocolate-guy says to go!”

I was glad to be of service, but I like being known as ‘that chocolate-guy’ just as much.

But frankly, I don’t go out as much as most folks imagine. I love going to my market, talking to the vendors, and coming home with something new that I’ve never tried before, like the chervil roots I bought the other day, which involved a rather detailed, lengthy conversation with the vendor.

I mostly cooking all the fine things I find here and learn about. So when I do go out, I want it to be good…no, I want it to be great…and I find the best food in Paris is classic French cuisine; confit de canard, steak frites, and coq au vin. When you find a good version, I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying. Especially if it’s accompanied by good friends.

And, of course, a few obligatory glasses of vin rouge.

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So here’s a round-up of places I’ve eaten lately.
There’s a few you might to want to bookmark for your next visit, as well as one or two you might want to avoid.

Continue Reading Paris Restaurant Round-Up…

Les Papilles Restaurant & Wine Bar

Although not Michelin-starred, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Les Papilles. I have to admit that I rarely go there, since it’s equally far from any métro station, and I don’t make it over to that part of town very often. But when a friend called me about having a leisurely Saturday lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to revisit the restaurant.

A few people commented when I first wrote about Les Papilles a few months back, and I mentioned the “Small portions“. Well, I guess I had been there on a day when they handed out menus (it was a weekday), when I had ordered a tartine, an open-faced sandwich that I recall as being not-too-filling for my American-sized appetite.

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When I returned for lunch on a saturday, they were offering one menu, which looked great (and since we had no choice), sat in anticipation of a great meal.

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This first thing you notice about Les Papilles is the wine, and the place does double-duty as a wine bar. The window has boxes and boxes of bottles of wine stacked neatly, and as you walk in, one side of the restaurant is entirely devoted to wine and a few choice food products, like smoky pimente d’Espelette, chocolate sauce with sour cherries, and chocolate-dipped almonds, that are definitely worth trying to pilfer…just kidding, no need to take the risk since they offer a small bowl of them with coffee.

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Before you start, the waiter suggests ou choose your own bottle of wine, which arranged by region, and the staff are happy to help. Since it was sunny and brisk outside, and the menu was decidely autumnal, I picked a 2005 Sancerre from Domaine des Quarternons, which was crisp and full-flavored, with a hint of cassonade, or cane sugar. I knew it would be good with our first course, and I wasn’t wrong. (It’s hard to go wrong with white Sancerre, anyways.)

We started with a velouté of carrots, served with coriander seeds, a creamy quenelle sweetened with honey, and crisp hunks of smoked bacon, which came alongside in an over sized white soup plate. Aside from the slightly-annoying bits of coriander and cumin dust on the side of the plate (why do places that serve nice wine use cumin with such recklessness?) the soup was lovely, and we were able to ladle out ourselves from the tureen the waiter left on our table.

Our main course was a poitrine of pork, a centimeter-thick slab of braised then sautéed pork belly served in a copper casserole in a rich broth with young potatoes, mushrooms, black olives, and dried tomatoes. Off to the side was a brilliant-green dish of pistou, which had the intended effect of lightening up the whole dish, a wise counterpoint to the hearty pork and potatoes.

Afterwards, a small, blue-veined wedge of artisanal Fourme d’Ambert cheese from the Auvergne was brought to the table with a poached prune and a swirl of red wine reduction on the plate, followed by dessert; a glass of panna cotta with Reine Claude plum puree on top, that we both licked clean.

Completely sated, we left Les Papilles completely happy, with the rest of our Sancerre in tow, which the waiter gladly re-corked for us before sending us on our way.

Les Papilles
30, rue Gay-Lassac
RER: Luxembourg
Tél: 01 43 25 20 79



Related Restaurants and Wine Bars in Paris

Le Rubis

Le Garde Robe

Le Verre Volé

Les Fine Gueules

Café des Musées

French Menu Translation Guide

Le Severo

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There’s lots of good food in Paris, but sometimes you have to travel to the outer neighborhoods to find the gems. And while the 14th arrondissement isn’t all that far, it’s worth the trek for the excellent meal at Le Severo with some other friends at a little petit coin of a restaurant, a schlep from wherever you are in Paris. There’s only 10 or so simple tables and a lone cook in the open kitchen who presides over the dining room. An old zinc bar acts as a catch-all for bottles of water, wine carafes, and a big container of fleur de sel…which was a good omen.

One entire wall of Le Severo is a chalk-written wine list and menu. Notice I said ‘wine list’ first. That’s because three-and-a half lengthy columns are up there, listing all sorts of wine, heavy on the reds. Somewhere in the midst of it all lurks a terse menu, and it’s almost all about beef: steaks, Côte de Boeuf, Lyonnais Sausages, and Foie de Veau. First courses range from a salade Caprese, (a dish you shouldn’t order outside of Italy) and a salad with goat cheese. But the real star here is le meat, so we started with a platter of glistening slices of cured jambon artisanal, which isn’t really beef but I’m too revved up to go back and change that, and it came with a too-huge slab of yellow, ultra-buttery butter (which is the only way I could describe it…it was really, really buttery…I don’t want to change that either) which we slathered on the bread, from the organic bakery, Moisan, then draped our slices with the ham. We then gobbled ‘em down.
Delicious.

The other starter was a Terrine de pot au feu. Pot au feu is the French equivalent of a boiled-beef supper, complete with vegetables and broth. When done right, it’s excellent, and at Le Severo, my hunch paid off. The terrine featured cubed, boiled beef parts, tender and neatly diced, loosely held in place with a light, jellied beef broth.

Since it’s rather warm and humid here in Paris right now, I chose a bottle of Fleurie, which was an overwhelming task considering the size and scope of the wine list. But the prices were gentle enough to encourage experimentation and the list is full of curious wines, so I think whatever you chose would be the right choice. The Fleurie was light, upbeat, and fruity…yet sturdy enough to stand up to a slab of beef.

Anyhow, our steaks arrived flawlessly cooked.
The French love their beef bleu, practically raw. But I like mine rare to medium-rare, or saignant. The chef-jacketed owner William Bernet, who is the singular server, assured me I’d be happy with saignant, and when he brought my faux filet, the rosy, juicy slices were indeed cooked just to the lower edge of my desired point of tenderness. To the side, my steak was accompanied by very, very good house-made French Fries.

My only fault was that the fries could have spent an extra 48 seconds in the deep-fryer to get that deep-golden crust that everyone loves but cooks seem to have trouble attaining around here, a fault I find in too many restos in France. Does anyone really like undercooked French fries? But I didn’t need to reach for that container of fleur de sel at all during dinner; everything was salted just-right. That to me, is the sign of a great cook, and a great restaurant. If you can’t salt food properly, you should find another line of work.

I was able to talk my companions, who just moved here from Rome and were delighted to chow down on good, honest French cooking, into splitting a cushiony-round disk of St. Marcellin cheese, which was roll-you-eyes-back-in-your-head amazing. I had a simple Creme Caramel, which arrived properly ice-cold and floating in a slick of dreamy burnt sugar sauce.

And because they were eating cheese, I didn’t have to share one bite of it (Ha! My strategy worked.) My friends then had a Mousse au Chocolat, which they liked, but they were not as conniving as me and shared a bit, but I felt it could’ve used a wallop of more chocolate flavor, but that’s how I am about chocolate desserts. The espresso served after dinner was quite good, and living in France, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Illy café, which is all but impossible to ruin.

First courses at Le Severo are in the 10€ range, while main courses were priced 15 to 25€. The hefty Côte de Boeuf, which they’ll prepare for 2 or 3 people, is 30€ per person and I’m going to have it on my next visit.

On the métro home after dinner, it suddenly dawned on my that my dining companions were macrobiotic. So if macrobiotic people can enjoy a beef restaurant like Le Severo, you can imagine how happy it makes us carnivores.

Le Severo
8, rue des Plantes
M: Mouton Duvernet
Tél: 01 45 40 40 91

Free Falafel!

There’s a little bit of a war going on here in Paris on the rue des Rosiers, in the Marais. The Rue Des Rosiers is the Jewish street, sporting several good (and a few bad) bakeries, a few chic clothing stores, but a string of fafafel stands and restaurants. The most famous, L’As du Falafel, is always crowded, and teeming with locals, who come for their Heeb-Hop (Hebrew-Hop, as we call it), and tourists, who’ve read about L’As du Falafel in their guidebooks.

I always feel sorry for the other places on the street. There’s often deserted, while the throngs of people line up at L’As in search of their falafel-fix. The only time they seem to generate any interest is when L’As du Falafel closes for the Sabbath, on Friday nights and Saturdays. But a few weeks ago I started noticing handwritten signs on the place across the street, Mi-Va-Mi, with slogans like “Taste and Compare”, daring to take on the Ace o’ Falafel, just across the street.

Today as I stop by to get my weekly falafel, making a beeline for L’As, I notice a swarm of missionaries agressively confronting passers-by with plates brimming with warm falafel, followed closely by someone with a guest-check book, pen-to-the-paper, ready to take their order. The scene was curious, since the French haven’t quite grasped the concept of ‘Free Samples’ (or competition). When I asked a French friend why anyone rarely offers samples, I was told “Because it’s not ‘correct’. But there’s a guy at the fromagerie on the Î’le St-Louis who’s making a killing offering samples to passers-by, mostly tourists, who get one taste of great French cheese, and invariably come in and make a purchase.

Correct or not, that dude is rakin’ it in.

So although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially in Paris, there’s lots of free falafels to be had this week as the street is abuzz with people bearing heaping bowls of freshly-fried falafels. I don’t know how long it will last, and the offer doesn’t extend to those who’ve already purchased. (I tried to get one of the falafel-pushers to augment my half-eaten sandwich, but being très Paris, there’s little interest in the customer after the sale.)

And in an unlikely show of unity, as I was finishing up, I saw one of the fellows from L’As du Falafel pop one of his crisp falafels in the mouth of his main competitor, a woman who was offering falafels from Mi-Va-Mi. She stopped, took a taste, and nodded in agreement before going back to offering her falafels to all takers.

So perhaps there’s something to be said for the absence of competition.

(Although I appreciate the presence of free samples.)

L’As du Falafel
34, rue des Rosiers
Tél: 01 48 87 63 60

Mi-Va-Mi
27, rue des Ecouffes
Tél: 01 42 71 53 72