Saturday, April 18, 2009

Asparagus (Montpeyroux)

It is asparagus season. We crave for these little green (or white) stalks all year long. When they do arrive; we are very happy. We went to the market in Gignac and we bought two kilos of asparagus from the most famous asparagus farmer in the market.

We simply steamed the asparagus in our steamer. They came out perfectly. We ate them with only olive oil and lemon. Sometimes the most simple things in life are just so much better.

The hunt next is for the white asparagus.

MBC (Paris 17th arrondisment)

We wanted to have a quick and simple lunch today because we had things to do before we left Paris for Montpellier. We read about a famous chef, Gilles Choukroun opening a simple bistro called MBC.

Apparently, MBC stands for the chef's three favourite, basil and coriander. Once I walked in the door, I noticed that it had a contemporary feel, with warm purple walls and Moroccan-style cushions on the two-tone banquettes. It is nice but a bit kitsch for my taste.

Chef Choukroun has two other restaurants in Paris; Angl’Opéra and Mini Palais (I have never been to either). MBC is his latest. Chef Choukroun is know for his eclectic use of spices in his cooking and I imediately noticed that with the amuse bouche. It was an egg plant dip with exotic spices. We dipped the bread sticks into the dip and munched away. The dip had a nice consistency and it did taste very nice.

Since we were not too hungry and we were in a rush to get back to the apartement to finish packing and head to the airport. We decided to take the 19 euro lunch special. A main course and coffee. The main course was stewed lamb with lentils and topped with fresh garden leaves. When the main dish arrived, I was really impressed with the presentation. Full of texture and colour. But the great thing about this dish was that it tasted wonderful. The lamb was cooked perfectly tender; the combination of lamb, lentils and garden leaves were meant for each other. On top of all this; the portion was just right.

The entrance and the bar of the restaurant.

You need to keep your eye open when you look for the restaurant. It has a very simple front entrance.

After lunch, we walked to the apartment. It was just a lovely sunny day that most people were eating out on the terraces of bistros and bars. The cherry blossoms were blooming. What else can we ask for in Paris? Just lovely.

MBC: 4, rue du Débarcadère, 75107 Paris. Tel: 01 45 72 22 55. Métro: Argentine or Porte Maillot. Nearest Vélib stations: 26, rue Saint Ferdinand; 227 Bd Pereire

La Cagouille II (Paris)

I know, I know. I have posted about this restaurant already. However; we had to take friends to La Cagouille because we kept telling them how good it was.

The restaurant has a nautical theme to it but it is not overdone (not Disneyland or anything like that). You just know that the restaurant has something to do with the sea and seafood. The ambiance is easy going.

For our entrée we decided to share a mix of seafood starters for four persons. It was unbelievable. Deep fried calamari, white bate & rougé and long clams.

The next entrée we shared was scallop carpaccio. A very nice dish. The scallops sitting in a butter gelatin. However; the gelatin did not overwhelm the scallop taste, it just enhanced it.

The next entrée was squid carpaccio. I always liked this simple dish. Nothing to it really; fresh squid drizzle some olive oil, salt & pepper. It was simply tasty.

The wine we had to start our meat was a chablis. I did not know the wine, but we all liked it very much.

The first main dish was a norwegian fish with lots of steamed veggies. I really liked this dish. The norwegian fish had a nice firm texture to it. What I really like about La Cagouille is that the fish is the main star on the dish. No heavy sauces; nothing. The fish needs to stand out on its own from its taste and texture. The side dishes are taking a supporting role but a very important role.

The second main dish was a sea bass with steamed spinache. A good sea bass is one of the best dishes around. The meat of the sea bass was soft and tender. Cooked perfectly so that it was moist and flaky.

The third main dish was a sole. The sole stood out on its own. This fish has a lovely colour, texture and taste. The portion was huge; it did not even need a side dish to accompany it. However; some very tasty mashed potatoes came with it.

The service this evening was better than usual. The gentleman who was taking care of our table (I think he was also the restaurant manager) was very good and attentive. Friendly and had a good sense of humour. After our lovely meal, our friend wanted to sit outside in the terrace to smoke a cigar. The restaurant manager wanted to offer us a digestif of a 1983 Cognac (which was very thoughtful of him). We jokingly told him that we will take the bottle with us outside so we can continue to drink and smoke the cigar. He said of course you can take the bottle with you. How kind is that?

Please click here for more information on La Cagouille

Des Gars dans la Cuisine (Paris)

We had friends visiting Paris and on their last day in Paris, they wanted to have brunch in Le Marais. Since, I have never had brunch in Le Marais, I was curios to go. Our friends are the experts of having brunch in Paris, so I knew I had good guides. Whats so great about Le Marais, is that it only one metro line from the apartment.

We got off the metro and walked through Le Marais to find the restaurant. We met our friends at Des Gars dans la Cuisine. A very nice and cosy restaurant with only about 10 tables.

Once we sat down at the table; the waiter served freshly baked croissants and baguettes. One thing I do love in the morning is freshly baked pastries and breads. Lots of jams, honey, butter and nutella accompanied the bread.

One friend ordered the organic breakfast set. It consisted of yoghurt, fresh fruit, smoked salmon and pancake.

The rest of us (three persons) ordered the hamburger set (we saw one pass by and we all could not refuse). The waiter asked how we would like the hamburger to be cooked. "Well done please", was our answer. The hamburger was huge, about 300 grams of meat, with bacon and cheese. I have to say it was fantastic. The hamburger set included muesli and fresh fruit.

The sets come with all you can drink coffee or tea. What a brilliant idea.

The service was very friendly. Reservations are not allowed; its first come first serve type of place. However; there was non-stop groups of people coming in for a table. This was one very popular place to have brunch. My friends and I agreed that this was a very good place and that we should return.

Please click here for information on Des Gars dans la Cuisine

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jazz Club; Lionel Hampton (Paris)

After dinner at Le Baratin, my friends were not ready to go home just yet. So we decided to go out for one more drink. A friend of ours suggested that we go to his favourite bar in the Madeleine. We got into two taxis and to our disappointment when we arrived, the bar was closed.

Since we were all staying very close to the Le Meridien Etoile, Porte Maillot. We decided to go Le Merdien's famous Jazz Club. I was so glad we did. It was an eye (and ear) opener for me.

It cost 26 euros to enter the Jazz Club and that includes one drink. Any drink after that is 12 euros.

Jazz Club; Lionel Hampton is a popular and very famous Jazz Club. It was after midnight and I was surprised to see so many people. The singer was amazing; she actually was not singing Jazz but Blues. Her voice was stunning; so clear and powerful.

Our first drinks with the price of our entry.

The atmosphere is moody and dark. It is very modern in design. I have to say, the service was not very good. It took several minutes for a waitress to notice us; well after we started waving our arms. Then it took several minutes to get the menu; then several minutes to get our drinks. But, I do not think my friends minded because the singing was so good.

A definite place for a night cap and wonderful music.

Category: Jazz & Blues

Le Meridien Etoile, 81 Boulevard Gouvion Saint-Cyr
Paris 75017
+44 1406 83042

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Le Baratin (Paris)

Reservation is highly recommended at this lovely old-Paris style bistro. The small, seasonal menu (written on a chalk board that is placed on your table) is of French-Basque style of food with a choice of traditional meat and fish dishes which change daily. An excellent selection of wines are also available.

We reserved a table for eight people. We were worried that they would be angry because it is a small bistro and we were going to take such a big space. But they were friendly about it.

The first wine for the evening was a Anjou Blanc Mosse 2007. A lovely gold colour. Nose of apple and pear, generous portions of cinnamon and clove spice and some musk. Full-bodied, while it fills up your mouth with ripeness of the apple, pear and apricot fruit. The acidity was not well balanced, not weak but something lacking. On the whole, a touch short on the finish.

The menu is a good mix of meat and fish dishes. The dining room is rustic: decked-out entirely in heavy un-treated wood and the atmosphere is very easy going, a very neighborhood feel and people who have mutual appreciation for great food and the spirit of joie de vivre.

Found on a tiny street near the top of the rue Belleville, Le Baratin is by no means fancy but with emphasis heavily placed on quality, it is for me, one of Paris’ great bistros.

We tried to give directions to our taxi driver because we thought he would not have a clue how to find the bistro. Once we were in front of the bistro, he told us; 'Why did you not just tell me it was Le Baratin, we all know Le Baratin."

The first entrée was carpaccio daurade. It looks like a simple dish, and it was. Just lovely thin slices of daurade with olive oil. Very tasty and fresh.

The second entrée was a chunk of pata negra. I never had this dish before and it was unique. A very nice piece of pata negra, but it was a bit on the raw side for me. However, it did taste very nice.

The third entrée was lotte. This fish is very surprising. Does not look like much; but boy does it have taste and texture. A very firm fish but amazingly tender. A great starter.

The second wine was Domain Gramenon 2006. A wow factor here. A fantastic wine from the Cotes du Rhone, La Sagesse. 100% Grenache, half aged in old oak, and with no sulfur additions. Smooth, open sweet elegant nose is very pure. The palate is smooth with silky tannins. Lovely purity, elegance and spicy structure

The first main dish was a cut of pork with chick peas. An unbelievable cut of pork. So tender and tasted what pork should taste like. You really do not find this quality anymore. Just lovely.

The second main dish was rognon. My friend adores this dish. When its cooked good, this dish is excellent and we were not disappointed. What can I say about this dish; rustic in appearance and tasty with every bite.

The third main dish was xxx

The next wine was a Morgon 2005. An amazing find. Bright red. Intensely perfumed bouquet of raspberry, cherry compote and floral notes shows excellent purity. Lush, silky and packed with fresh red berry flavors supported by gentle tannins and good acidity. Finishing very long.

After the dinner; some of my friends wanted cheese. At first the waiter said that they were out of cheese. A friend put on his charms and kept insisting. The waiter finally said that all they have left is goat cheese. We agreed to have it. It turned out to be one of the finest goat cheeses we every tried. Amazing. Now, we understood why they were hiding the cheese, they wanted it for themselves.

The first dessert was a apple crumble. Who knew the french made fantastic apple crumble. A friend wanted to try it and we were glad that we did. The apples were cooked nicely but they were not mushy (I hate that), it was not too sweet and the crumble had a lovely crunch and taste to it.

The second dessert was fromage blanc with raspberry sauce. We at first ordered this dish because the waiter at first told us that there was no more cheese. We were so in the mood for dish that we oredered the next best thing. When the waiter finally told us that there was cheese, we decided to keep the dessert anyway. This was my least favourite dish; but it was not the fault of the dessert. For me this was 'just' fromage blanc, nothing exciting, even the fresh raspberry sauce could not sweep me away.

However; the second dessert of chocolate mousse was stunning. A lovely rich and velvety texture. The deep chocolate flavour was a dream and it was not overly sweet. Just hit the right spot.

I am always surprised how such small kitchens can make such outstanding food.

Le Baratin | Restaurants (French/Basque)
3 rue Jouye Rouve | Belleville/Nation (area map) | +33143493970
Tue - Sat 12:00 - 14:30 & 20:00 - 23:30

Marché des Ternes (Paris)

We are so lucky to have a outdoor market near the apartment. It is only a 10 minute walk. It is always fun to go to the market to see what is in season as well as the vibe of the atmosphere.

This is not a moving market; so it is here everyday compared to other neighborhood outdoor markets. It is a cute and charming market. It is not too big and not too small. There are always people shopping in this area. You can get anything you need at this market. From fresh produce and seafood, to a boulangerie, fromagerie, patiserie, cavist, and several wonderful cafes. One of the cafes does a great lunch menu.

Lovely seafood.

More seafood.

Ready made meals to take home.

Roasting chickens.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables.

A very famous Austrian patiserie and one of the most famous cheese shops in Paris.

Lovely shops along the market.

Please click here for directions and times