Tonight I was treated to dinner at Brasserie Wepler at Place de Clichy in the 18th. This quintissential Parisian brasserie was founded in 1892 and has transformed itself many times from a bar in the late 19th Century to a café with billard tables, then to a renowned café with shows and dancing to it's current day metamorphosis as a casual restaurant-café and the largest oyster house in Paris. The Brasserie has witnessed the evolution of the neighborhood that began as the home of the "Bohême" lifestyle, cabarets, and artists and writers exemplified by Picasso, Modigliani, Henry Miller who would frequent this café.
We ordered directly off the menu so there were a hodge-podge of plates at the table but I highly recommend the fruits de mer (shellfish) and my oysters were wonderful! Plump, chewy, fresh, tasting of the sea with a splash of the red wine shallot vinegar. Many of the desserts seemed geared more for "visitors" than the local French clientele but I had the tableside-prepared crêpes flambéed with grand marnier and garnished with tiny brunoise (dice) of candied orange peel!Ohh la la! Santé et bonheur...
Oysters, smoked salmon, shrimp and a chevre chaud (warm goat cheese salad).
My main course (plat) was grilled sea bass (bar) with a zucchini (courgette) flan and Scott had a tomato and herb omelette. And some of the desserts....
On the left are my crêpes flambéed with grand marnier and garnished with tiny brunoise (dice) of candied orange peel, and on the right, a "flottant" or a floating meringue in crème anglaise (pastry cream).
ice cream with star fruit and grated coconut, nougat ice cream in raspberry coulis with toffee chunks, ubiquitous profiteroles drowning in chocloate, and a berry parfait.
So through this 3 day extravaganza, we spanned the range of French cuisine... from casual brasserie (Wepler in Montmartre) to traditional French bistro (La Bastide Odeon in St Germain des Pres) to haute-cuisine (Lasserre off the Champs-Elysées). Mon dieu! Quel week-end incroyable! Merci FCI! Merci Scott! :-)
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Mignardises! Those little delights wrapped in the center are passion fruit caramels! Incroyable! :-) Clockwise from noon: cream puffs, passion fruit tarts, truffles, chocolate-covered candied orange peel, and hazelnut macarons! Oooh la la!
I was once again treated to a wonderful dinner courtesy of the French Culinary Institute and a few students who decided to bail on the trip. Excusez-moi, did I hear that right? A culinary student…bailing on a free trip to Paris??? Obviously they’re not the sharpest knives in the knife bag (pun intended), but I am eternally grateful for their utter lack of initiative as it has allowed me to dine like a diva this weekend!
Saturday night brought us to the right bank and the elegant restaurant, Lasserre. Located on avenue Franklin D Roosevelt near the Seine, I of course walked all the way to the other end, not realizing that the numbers went both ways off the Champs-Elysées. But I managed to throw myself onto the hood of cab and beg him to drive me the 6 blocks in the other direction. I don’t usually take cabs mainly because that particular line item did not make it into my financially challenged negative cash-flow budget but I was in high heels and the sidewalks are coated with a thin layer of gravel to keep people from slipping on the snow and ice which wreaks havoc on my “chaussures” so I splurged the 5 euros for the 1 minute-30 seconds ride.
I made it just in time for the champagne toast and petit gougères. Whew! The très elegant Lasserre was a bistro before WW2 and his since become a Paris legend with it’s 2 story high main dining room upstairs and a retractable roof! You not only dine with the stars, you dine under the stars! Literally. No roof, no glass, just you and the Big Dipper!
The inimitable Chef Jean-Louis Nomicos re-energized this grande dame with evocative dishes and a wine cellar that boasts 160,000 bottles! The impeccable service instilled and dispensed by the lovely and gracious Monsier Louis ensures every diner feels like the most important person to have steps through the cascading velvet drapes. Upon our departure, Monsieur Louis gave all the women a tiny Limoge Lasserre saucepan. Voila le menu…
Dîner ~ l’Institut Culinaire Français Samedi 26 février 2005
Sur l’arrivée (Upon arriving) ~ Champagne Gougères Fromage (cheese puffs – no not those cheetos cheese puffs!)
Entrée (Appetizer) ~ Petit Chablis 2003 (white wine) Cappuccino de champignons sauvages, royale de foie gras (Foie gras in a wild mushroom soup)
Les Plats (Main Course) ~ Château Bras d’Argent 2002 (red wine) Filet de sandre poêlé au beurre citron, fondue de poireaux (Sautéed fillet of perch in a citrus butter sauce and sautéed leeks) or Jarret de veau braisé aux aromates, carottes et gingembre Veal braised in aromatic vegetabless (celery, onions, leeks), carrots and ginger
Scott's vegetarian "dinner"............................and a centerpiece of vibrant roses!
Le Dessert (Dessert) Gâteau au chocolat guanaja, coulis d’orange amère (Guanaja chocolate cake with a bitter orange sauce)
Café et Mignardises (Coffee and small dessert bites)
Look at this coffee server! Amazing! Oh, you mean I have to share this?!
Cheers! Bonheur et Santé! ___________________________________
Lasserre Chef Jean-Louis Nomicos Directeur Monsieur Louis 17, avenue franklin d roosevelt, 75008 paris, france tél: +33 1 43 59 53 43 web: www.lasserre.fr, email: firstname.lastname@example.org métro: franklin d. roosevelt hours: lunch, thurs-fri; dinner, mon-sat menus: déjeuner 75€, dégustation 185€, a la carte 135€
My culinary alma mater, The French Culinary Institute in New York City, is in town with a group of students and that means two things. 1. I get to see my friend Scott, and 2. free meal(s). When one is financially challenged, one tends to swallow one’s pride, hopefully along with a great dinner! Anyways… last night the FCI’s Chef Marc and mon ami Scott hosted 18 students and 1 alumni (namely me!) at the gracious La Bastide Odéon in the hip St. Germain/6th arrondisement, located in between the Théatre de l’Odéon and the Jardin de Luxembourg. Voila le menu...
Dîner à La Bastide Odéon Chef Gilles Ajuelos Le 25 février 2005 pour L’Institut Culinaire Français Ecole de Cuisine
Sur l'arrivée (Upon arriving): ~Beaumont des Crayères Champagne (Champagne) Les Olives Assortée (Assorted Olives)
Les Entrees (Appetizers): ~Domaine du Deffends Blanc 2003 Vin de Pays du Var (White wine) Pressé de poireaux à l’huile d’argan, chèvre frais, et pain grille (Leek terrine with argan oil, fresh goat cheese and toast) or Rémoulade de celery et pommes, saumon cru au sel et caramel de vinaigre (Celery and apple remoulade with cured salmon in a caramelized balsamic sauce)
Les Plats (Main Course): ~Domaine Vallembelle 2003 AOC Faugères (Red wine) Rascasse à la plancha, risotto crémeaux au potiron et à la sauge (Grilled red snapper with creamy pumpkin and sage risotto in a port sauce) or Magret de canard épicé à l’orange, purée de dates et navets confits (Duck breast with a date puree, candied turnips in an orange sauce)
...and a beautiful vegeterian dish for Scott. Vegetarians are every chefs worst nightmare (though they'll never publically admit it!), unless of course you are a vegetarian chef. When an order comes into the kitchen that there are 1 or 2 vegetarians in a party, eyes roll and the digust is tangible. When the South Beach Diet hit critical mass, every other order was requested the "South Beach" way and it was enough to send the kitchen into anarchy. Try it and watch the chef.. I dare ya... ;-) Luckily such nonsense like the South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, etc... doesn't exist in France! Nor are there many vegetarians! ;-) It's simply not logical...
Les Desserts (Dessert) ~Café et thé (Coffee and tea) Sablé moelleux aux poires et crème brûlée à la pistache (Short bread with a poached pear on pistachio crème brulee) or Tranche d’ananas pane au pain d’épices et son sorbet fromage blanc (Gingerbread encrusted pineapple slice topped with fromage blanc)
And what every chef is most intersted in... We met the chef who treated us to a tour of their shining kitchens. They are of course spotless and look virtually brand new with a custom made stove in the center with a flat top, 6 burners and 2 “planchas” (one for meat and one for fish!) which is like a flat stainless steel griddle but it sits above water (sorry, hard to describe) and eliminates the need for sauté pans. The sauces are made separately from various reductions and a stack of small copper sauce pans sits at the ready. The prep kitchen is huge by restaurant standards, has a dry storage area and all the latest gadgets (mixers, ice makers, convection ovens, refrigerators, walk-ins, etc…). They keep very little produce and food in general on hand as most everything is delivered fresh daily.
The chef hails from the south of France where he spent a decade as sous-chef at Nice’s glorious l'Hôtel Negresco! Naturally, he serves provençal cuisine but when opening his own restaurant, opted for a convivial, familial atmosphere rather than the more formal XVIII century styled, Michelin award winning, The Chantecler.
For an appetizer, in honor of Mme Guiliano and her French Women who Don’t Get Fat, I selected the pressé de poireaux. The leek terrine as you can see is a visual delight. Argan oil, from the Argan tree, hails from Morocco and claims to have medicinal properties such as lowering cholesterol, improving circulation and fortifying the immune system. Known as the “almond of Barbary”, the Argan fruit has a “green, fleshy exterior like an olive, but larger and rounder. Inside, there is a nut with an extremely hard shell, which contains almond-shaped kernels.”
For the main course I had the snapper that was cooked to perfection and since I could bathe in pumpkin risotto, I was a happy camper. I’m not a big fan of pistachio and thought it looked beautiful, I opted for the pineapple which was encrusted in gingerbread crumbs and topped with a quenelle of fromage blanc ice cream and a prefect quenelle sized mint leaf. Fromage blanc (white cheese) is a French thing and is a cross between plain yogurt and cream cheese and is adored by the French (and my friend Scott).
This spring, La Bastide is highlighting wine from La Vallée du Rhône. The first Tuesday of every month, winemakers from AOC Rhône Valley wineries will be in the restaurant to share their wine and “parler de leur passion”. Next month (on March 1st) features Le Domaine la Réméjeanne par Rémi Klein AOC Côtes du Rhône et Le Domaine de l’Oratoire St. Martin par F. Alary AOC Cairanne.
What the heck is AOC, you ask? Good question! AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Controlée or Appellation of Controlled Origin. A French system implemented in 1935 to protect the highest quality producers of wine (and cheese, meat, etc.), the laws guarantee that the producers meet specific standards and strict criteria in all aspects of production. Wine AOC laws that dictate which varieties (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, etc…) can be planted and which production methods can be used in specific wine regions. This is why only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne! Sparkling wine made anywhere else in the world must be labeled “sparkling wine” and not “champagne”.
Cheers! Bonheur et Santé! ___________________________________
La Bastide Odéon 7 rue Corneille, 75006 Paris +33 1 43 26 03 65 http://www.bastide-odeon.com/ Métro: Odéon; RER: Luxembourg Hours: Tues-Sat, 12:30-2pm and 7:30-10:30pm Cuisine: Provençal Menu-carte: 36.50 euros
My friend, from whose office I took this picture, wanted me to call this "melted snow" so here it is... melted snow. Not since Frosty got locked in the greenhouse have I been this sad to see snow melt. I stopped by above mentioned friend's office at 10am this morning -- their windows look out on the garden of the Palais Royal (Jardin de Palais Royal) and it was covered in a glorious, pristine, white blanket of powdery snow. The dark skeleton trees contrasted starkly, accentuating their thin, spiky branches and I had to tear myself away from the window.
I rarely go anywhere here without my camera and of course, on the most glorious day, I left it at home. I returned a few hours later, camera in tow, and to my extreme disappointment, the garden had been opened and most of the snow had melted. I did my best Ansel Adams impression but couldn't capture the glory of this morning's scene. It's snowing tonight so maybe I'll pop by tomorrow and play shutterbug.
These balls, 2 "sculptures" of them in the courtyard of the Palais, remind me of an old AC/DC song, but I won't go there... I got the idea to take this picture from mon ami Jason at NYC à Paris.
I love the snow if for no other reason than it is the only weather, other than a beautiful sunny spring day, that doesn't wreak havoc on my hair, and this time it's really snowing! Not the snow that melts instantly but the real stick-to-the-ground big fluffy cottonball snowflakes that you try to catch on your tongue. When I took these pictures this morning it was -2 celcius, which in farhenheit translates to downright freezing! ...and much colder than this California girl is used to, that's for sure! Fortunately I have my NYC Century 21 full length insulated michelin man coat to keep me snug. I look like a walking down sleeping bag coming down the street....just in time for the premiere of "Son of Chuckie." Lovely. Given the way I look in the morning I hope no one confuses us... Anyways, back to the snow... Here are some pictures of my 'hood...
This is a quick and delicious salad that I learned from my roommate Pierre. I have it for dinner a couple of nights a week when I am just too darn tired to even reach for a sauté pan. I’ve never been a big salad person 1. because I always related it to a diet food (read: punishment), 2. I always flung little specks of dressing on whatever I was wearing be it a cocktail dress or my sweats, and 3. it was always such a hassle to wash, spin, dry, etc. the lettuce, plus it never had much flavor (other than arugula and dandelions which I love but that’s another story) and was nothing more than a conduit for the vinaigrette. And even with the advent of the hermetically sealed lettuce-in-a-bag (it is pumped full of some nasty gases to keep it green) I still couldn’t get excited about making a salad.
I know you’re thinking, “Good God, how lazy is this woman?!” Answer: very. When I am hungry, tired and cranky, I want it now, I don't want to wait. I am the reason Jack-in-the-Box exceeded earning in the 90s! After working 60-80 hour weeks, if you thought for one minute that I was about to actually turn on a stove, you're aliéné (crazy)! It was trying enough waiting the 5 minutes in my car to profess my undying love to my best friend Jack, uh I mean order my Sourdough Jack Value Meal, and without fail my supersize fries and diet coke (the diet coke balanced out the fries...didn't it?) we're usually consumed before I reached the first stop light. Sorry, back to the salad...
So enter the lettuce-less salad. How delighted was I to realize that I could still get a good part of my daily dose of raw veggies sans leafy greens! One word...duh! Like I’ve said, I never claimed to be a good cook, just a cook!
I prefer the, ahem, long English cucumbers rather than the ubiquitous shorter, fatter garden cucumbers for this "salad" and I buy the tomatoes that are still on the vine as I like my tomatoes to actually taste like tomatoes! One exception to the no leafy green rule is endive and I will occasionally half and slice an endive and toss it in. It adds a slightly bitter taste but sometimes it’s just what I’m in the mood for. I don’t add any vinegar and I use a bit more olive oil than normal for a salad because when the oil mixes with the feta and juice from the tomatoes and there is a little pool left over at the bottom of the bowl, well it just screams to be mopped up with some fresh bread :-) Of course serve it with a glass of wine and a good chewy, grainy baguette. Life is good...
(cucumbers, tomatoes, feta with endive)
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered 1/3 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1-2 ounces of Feta cheese, crumbled 4 generous tablespoons good olive oil herbs de provence (or thyme or whatever herb you like) sea salt & fresh ground pepper 1 head endive (optional)
1. combine all ingredients well in bowl. 2. pour glass of wine. 3. rip off hunk of bread. 4. eat. 5. drink. 6. mop. 7. smile.
update ~ evening of feb 23: i made this salad, yes again, tonight (hey, if it ain't broke...) but this time i quartered and sliced a green apple and tossed it in. not bad, if i do say so myself ;-)
Doesn't that piece of salmon look incredible?!?! The layers are spectacular! This is what fish is supposed to look like and what it does look like when it is purchased fresh from your local poissonnerie or fishmonger and eaten that day. This morning my roommate Pierre went to the Place Monge marché (farmers market) and bought fresh salmon so that tonight my roommate John could make his wonderful and wonderfully easy salmon dinner. The salmon is marinated in a tropical marinade and served with cous-cous. Yum! This recipe is for 4.
¼ cup soy sauce ½ cup teriyaki sauce (plain, no fancy seeds in it) + a few tbsp for basting 2 tbsp honey 1 cup tropical fruit juice (John used Tropicana “reveil des tropiques” with orange, pineapple, & apple juice)
4 – 8oz (225grams) pieces salmon
1 pkg instant cous-cous (I told you it was easy!) 1 small can petits pois avec carottes (small peas with carrots)
1. in a microwave safe bowl, combine soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and honey. 2. warm in microwave for 15-20 seconds to warm the mixture and melt to honey. stir to combine and add the juice. 3. put salmon in container or zip lock bag and pour in marinade ensure the salmon is coated with the marinade. put in fridge and marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour max (any longer and the marinade starts cooking the fish).
4. when you are ready to cook, set oven to broil 5. take salmon out of the fridge and marinade and put on a foil lined sheet pan. put it on a shelf about 6 inches away from the heat source. cook for 8 minutes. 6. baste with a 1 tbsp of teriyaki sauce per piece of salmon and cook for 4 more minutes.
7. while the salmon is cooking make the cous-cous according to the directions. Once it has absorbed the water, stir in the peas and carrots and let sit for a few minutes covered to heat through.
8. plate and serve! it is truly succulent. bon appetit!
My 1000 recipes book just arrived from Memphis, Tennessee! Now to think of a recipe worthy of this precious little book making it's way around the globe. So much of my culinary inspiration comes from meandering through my many cookbooks and since they are all in storage in San Francisco and I am (not in storage) in Paris, I'll have to find inspriation elsewhere... Good thing I'm in a culinary mecca...that and the market is tomorrow...
My apologies for being remiss in my musings (or bloggings as I guess they are supposed to be called now that I am using an official blog), however I've been sick as the proverbial chien (dog) and haven't been able to stop coughing. I'd like to blame these darn French germs but it seems everyone in Europe has this nasty bug. I dragged myself across the street to the corner pharmacie, pointed to my throat, proceeded to cough up a lung, and the horrified man behind the counter, after jumping back 10 feet to dodge the spew of American germs, handed me my new best friend...a bottle of Clarix. Let's just say I'm on my second bottle... and I'm still coughing!