Results tagged frites from David Lebovitz

Lille, Aux Moules, and a Sink

Merveilleux

“Three weeks?! Is that all?” they laughed uproariously, as a response to my telling folks at a dinner party the other night about how much trouble I was having finding things like sinks, tiles, light fixtures, and so forth, for the renovations of my apartment. I literally spent weeks and weeks combing plumbing catalogs, scoping out a myriad of stores devoted to kitchen fixtures, and relying heavily on our friend, the internet, in search of a plain, large, white sink.

I don’t want swoops and swirls, (and I only have one more Ikea visit left in me, and I’m banking that for something really important) – I want a generous basin that’s large enough to hold a few pots and pans. And I’m not interested in a purple or green one. You wouldn’t think it would be all that hard – and neither did I – but after three solid weeks (and I mean, twenty-one days and twenty-one nights), I finally found one in France. The only problem? It was in Lille.

Merveilleux Windmill in Lille

As I’ve shown many friends here, tout est possible, so we decided to make a day trip up to the city in the North, just a few hours from Paris, and while there, eat some of the local fare. Because things are so frantic right now — imagine if I took me three weeks to find a sink…then I really need to get cracking on a toilet, a towel bar, kitchen cabinet handles, a soap dish, and light bulbs — so I don’t have a huge amount of time.

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Le Camion Qui Fume

le camion qui fume

Hamburgers have certainly become a much bigger part of the landscape in Paris since a while back, when I jotted down where to get burgers in Paris. At that time, they were just breaking out of fast-food joints and becoming a novelty in restaurants and cafés. Yet nowadays, you can go into almost any lunch spot and it’s not uncommon to see a Parisian diner carefully cutting through the layers of un cheese (as they call a cheeseburger) with great precision, using a knife and fork.

I’ve sampled a few around town, but the problem is that no matter how you order it, the hamburgers generally aren’t very good. The beef is usually dry. And to make matters worse, it’s sandwiched between one of those cellophane-wrapped supermarket hamburger buns. And to make matters even worse, it’s served with a side of half-cooked frites that one could easily tie into a knot, which I once did to a few of them and left them my plate, hoping that someone in the kitchen might get the message.

(And don’t get me started on the prices. I don’t mind paying €15 for something to eat. But for a burger made with unexceptional ingredients that isn’t much better than one from a fast-food joint? Non, merci.)

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Verjus

fried chicken

If you’re one of those people who’ve been trying to get one of the coveted places at Hidden Kitchen, the supper club in Paris, liberté and egalité have arrived in the form of a wine bar and restaurant called Verjus.

verjus wine bar Verjus blackboard

After running their successful dinners, they’ve decided to take the plunge and create a warm space where they could welcome any and all guests, whether they want a glass of wine in their cave, or a full meal in the upstairs dining room. The restaurant is now open (and it sounds like they have enough stories about the problems they’ve had starting it up to write a book), the wine is flowing in the cave beneath it, and both are wonderful.

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A la Biche au Bois

oeufs dur mayonnaise

It’s a standard request. Whenever people ask for a restaurant suggestion in Paris, even before they open their mouth I know exactly what’s coming—they want a suggestion for a restaurant that: 1) Serves traditional French food, 2) Is budget friendly, and 3) Has no tourists.

There are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat in Paris, like Chartier and L’As du Fallafel, but ones where you’ll find honest traditional French cooking are harder to come by these days. If you’re looking for the rare combination of good food and atmosphere, and modest prices, most of us have given up on the classic bistros and brasseries whose food slides deeper and deeper every year into the “lower than ordinary” category due to corporate takeovers.

There are a variety of reasons, and as Alec Lobrano noted in his terrific book Hungry for Paris, “..”it was accountants, who edited the menus” that were often the most responsible for doing a lot of the great old brasseries in. And nowadays most of the food in them is merely passable, but hardly memorable.

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Bistro Bummer

Au Petit Riche

Always on the lookout for classic French bistros, a friend and I recently stopped at Au Petit Riche. I’d eaten there before and found the food decent, but I remember the company a little better than the food. I was dazzled by the stunning interior and the conversation, which should have been a tip off since I rarely forget anything I eat that’s good.

Many Americans have become more astute about dining and want to know where the ingredients are from, how they are handled, what part of the animal they’re getting. It’s part of the farmer’s market movement, as well as a number of folks striving to eat locally or at least show some concern for where and how their foodstuffs are raised.

And there’s also the do-it-yourself movement, where everything from upstart ice cream shops are opening, and of course the bean-to-bar movement, where every step of the process is carefully tended to. In general, the French don’t ask those questions because France has always been a deeply agricultural country, with close ties to their terroir. When dining with friends from the states in Paris, I know they’d be disappointed to find frozen green beans with their steak, or boiled white rice heaped on a salade Niçoise. So I am always careful to steer them away from some of the classic bistros on their lists, ones they may have eaten at a decade ago, or that a friend recommended.

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The ActiFry

When I read about the ActiFry Fryer, a machine that uses new cooking technology to create crisp fries and other foods with virtually no oil, I immediately wanted one.

drying potatoes 2 French fries

Normally I’m not one to hop on the bandwagon and rush out and get a new gadget, especially when my apartment is bursting at the seams and if I put one more thing on my kitchen counter, I’m going to wind up cooking on the ceiling.

French market potatoes

So I sent a message to a friend who works with the company and she arranged to have an ActiFry machine sent to me, not expecting or in exchange for a review, but because I’m a wonderful person worthy of low-fat frites.

sliced potatoes

I went out and bought a sack of potatoes, then came home, plugged in my ActiFry, and made a big batch of French fries with just a spoonful of oil.

fried chicken1 sliced potatoes 1

I followed the instructions, peeling then cutting the potatoes into bâtons, rinsing them, drying them thoroughly before putting them in the machine. Then the user adds one tablespoon of oil, closes the lid, and sets the timer for thirty minutes.

Monalisa potatoes

Every few minutes, I peered into the machine, and nothing much seemed to be happening – at first. The potatoes were being stirred by the revolving arm, very, very slowly.

potatoes in actifry french fries 2

And as the machine turned, skeptical me was surprised as the sticks of potato soon turned a golden-brown color. And after stopping the machine to pluck one out, a sprinkle of salt was all that was needed, and I had to admit the French fry was very good, somewhat mottled, but crisp!

fried chicken 4

So next on the docket were Korean chicken wings, which were a success as well.

A few pros and cons of this machine:

The pros of this machine are that you can make crisp, fried foods with just one tablespoon of oil or fat, and that the machine does what it says it does: crisp-fried food with a minimum of oil or fat. Or mess: the machine comes apart easily so the non-motorized parts can go in the dishwasher.

The cons are that the machine is not inexpensive (partially due to the fact that it’s made in France, rather than China, and there’s currently an unfavorable exchange rate) and although there are included recipes for curries and roasted meats, those tasks could be done using a standard stove or oven. And because of the cooking time and method, batter-fried foods like tempura likely won’t work in this machine. The ActiFry is also fairly large, about the size of a football helmet for a medium-size gorilla, and the parts, especially the metal non-stick pan, are thin and lacking in heft.

fried chicken 5

Related Links

ActiFry (Official Tefal Website)

ActiFry Fryer (Amazon)

ActiFry Fryer (Amazon UK)

Making French Fries in an Actifry (Video of the process, in Dutch)

ActiFry Review (Gizmodo)

Sweet & Crispy Chicken Wing Recipe

*Disclosure: This machine was sent to me by the company with no expectations or promise of a mention. I tested five different dishes with the ActiFry: chicken wings, two batches of French fries, and fried rice (which ended up like crispy sizzling rice—happily), and I was pleased with the results.

Where to Find the Best Steak Frites in Paris

Alec Lobrano has been writing about the food in Paris for over two decades, and was the Paris correspondent for Gourmet magazine. When his book, Hungry for Paris came out, I immediately opened to page one and read it cover-to-cover. He’s one of the best food writers of our generation and each chapter tells the story of one of his favorite restaurants in Paris. And now, as a result, whenever someone suggests a restaurant for dinner, I’ll pull my copy of his book from my shelf and see what Alec has to say before I confirm.

steak frites

We recently dined together on steak frites and I was thrilled when he agreed to write up a guest post with his favorite places for steak and French fries in Paris to share with you. He not only did that graciously, but included notes about what cuts of meat to expect in a French restaurant, which many visitors will certainly appreciate. And for vegetarians out there, he listed a healthy alternative, too!

You can read more of Alec’s Paris restaurant reviews and recommendations at his site and blog, AlexanderLobrano.com, which I read religiously. Not only is Alec a wonderful writer, he’s a terrific guy, and I hope you enjoy his company as much as I do…-David

In Paris, Where’s Le Bœuf?

According to one of the cordial waiters at Au Bœuf Couronée, one of the last old-fashioned steakhouses in the Paris’s old slaughterhouse neighborhood La Vilette in the 19th arrondissement, they haven’t been so busy in years.

Pour quoi? It seems that these trying times have a lot of people craving meat and potatoes, or as the French would have it, steak frites, that infinitely Gallic and profoundly consoling combo of steak with fries or some other form of spuds.

If you’re one of them, I’m happy to share my favorite steak frites addresses in Paris (vegetarians please skip to the last paragraph), but first a couple of pointers.

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Fish & Farm

I don’t know why, but on my recent trip to San Francisco, I was having a really hard time remembering the name of the restaurant called Fish & Farm. Maybe it was the jet-lag, or all the chocolate and cookies that were coming at me from all angles.

chocolate-covered florentines

But I kept calling the restaurant Farm & Fish.

Or Fish Farm. Or Farm and Fowl.

Aside from having a hard time trying to find a listing for a restaurant about fish farming, because of the offbeat name, I thought the Fish Farm was somewhere in the outer Mission, one of the fringe neighborhoods of San Francisco. Not right downtown, in the gentle theater district.

tater tots

When we pulled up to the restaurant, I was surprised at how slender it was. (What was I expecting? A farm? A hydroponic tank?) But then I was glad, because it’s small size gave them the luxury of spending more time on the food for each guest.

tattoage

Doubly-inked chef Chad Newton sources as much of the food as possible as close to the restaurant as he can.

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