Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scallops on a bed of curried maple festival squash

I really need to a) get a good camera and b) take a course in food photography because as I reflect back on my meals using such washed-out blurry photos I actually can't remember how good things tasted.

At any rate, here's the recipe:


Butternut, Acord, or Festival squash
Maple syrup
Curry powder
Mango Chutney powder


  1. Grate ginger over halved squash and sprinkle curry powder, salt, & pepper.  Grate nutmeg
  2. Coat with olive oil and put sage leaves in the squash cavity
  3. Roast for 1 hour at 400 degrees, then scoop out and puree with maple syrup and a dash of lime juice
  4. Sprinkle mango chutney powder, salt, & pepper on scallops
  5. Sear in butter

On a kale kick

Rotini with kale, shallots, garlic, fresh chillies, (and super-secret anchovies).

You can replace the anchovies (which you dissolve into the oil first before sauteeing the shallots and garlic) with bacon, pancetta, or any other fatty goodness that will render down and give a little extra richness.  I suppose if you wanted to go vegan you might even be able to brown some portabello mushrooms and deglaze with a veggie stock.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kale with pomegranite seeds?

Yep. Tasty! And looks like Christmas on a plate but my cell phone camera dulled the colors :(

Here's the "recipe":
  1. Heat up some olive oil in a pan
  2. Sautee some shallots and chillies
  3. Throw in some chopped kale and make it go all wilty 
  4. Sprinkle some celery salt as you stir in some pomegranite seeds and lemon juice
  5. Serve immediately, eat immediately, and sigh with pleasure (immediately)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Death and Co

I don't normally review bars but K and I just had such bafflingly beautiful cocktails at Death and Co (6th between first and ave a).  The entire place is themed like a funeral parlor complete with austere entrance, with a menu full of about 12 pages worth of original drinks, sorted by primary liquor.  

K & I both opted for selections from the whiskey page.  She had La Dolce Vita (right), a strong drink centered around a chamomile-infused rye, complemented by St. Germain, Campari, and Elderflower liquor.  It grew on both of us as the ginormous ice-cube began to dilute.  I'm a sucker for all things smokey (scotch, bbq, lox, and lapsang suchong), so I went for the Laphroaig-based Paul's Word (left) spiked with lime juice and Green Chartreuse.  It was, despite the strong single-malt structure, a bit lightweight for me, but it was oh so interesting to taste the peaty backdrop of Laphroaig cut through the sweet.  And our bartender Thomas: this is a man worth befriending, folks.  He worked his tail off, even going so far as to taste (with a little pipette) my Paul's Word and decide it wasn't to his liking.  He spilled it out and started from scratch.  Wow.

So, if you're looking to contemplate your mortality while you imbibe some highly original cocktails with uber-top-shelf spirits, I definitely recommend Death and Co.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It now appears I have a hot chocolate blog

At MarieBelle New York in (wait for it) New York. Ordered their Panela ($6.50). 75% chocolate!!! I didn't think that was street legal. Such a well-crafted drink feels both decadent and refreshing, equal parts dessert and restorative. And since it is served in delicate little gilded teacups in a second floor boutique over looking Madison Ave, one feels oh so uppercrust. As near to chocolate perfection as I have had, but MarieBelle has not solved the classic hot chocolate dilemma: lumping. It invariably sets in as the hot chocolate becomes Stirring doesn't help. Maybe all hot chocolate should be ladelled into shot glasses from an auto stirring fondue pot on your table? Maybe I should just chew my lumps :)

Posted by ShoZu

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chocolate decadence

After Friday's jaunt into Chicago, the fam and I were eager to sink into what I was told (by a few different websites) was Chicago's best hot chocolate, a Barcelona-inspired concoction at the EasyBake oven-decored Angel Food and Bakery.  They were closed when we finally hunted them down on Friday, but the sign said they would return on Saturday so we made plans to do so as well.

It was worth the wait.

We ordered 4 regular-sized "Barthelona" hot chocolates which I washed down with a peanutbutter cupcake (yes the cupcake actually appeared to be less thick than our drink).  The chocolate, topped with a few inches of homemade whipped-cream, was thick, rich, and dark, texturally quite stunning as a sip of chilled cream and the hot cocoa equivalent of 3 melted chocolate bars mingles in your mouth.  The peanutbutter cupcake was like Haute Reeses.  
I didn't finish either but it wasn't for lack of trying.  The chocolate coma set in shortly after my first sip and bite, and, by the time I gave up, my eyes had started glazing over, the world-filtered through cocoa-colored glasses.  

Angel Food & Bakery is located in Ravenswood and is about 15 minutes from downtown Chicago.  Well worth the trip.  Has anyone tried their homemade twinkies?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lula Cafe in Chicago

Lesson of the day: If you're visiting a new city, ask an aerialist what her favorite restaurant is? I asked E if she had any friends in Chicago, and a friend of hers from ART who just happens to be a Chicago-based aerialist gave me an incredible dining tip: Lula Cafe.

I can't imagine someone creating a restaurant more compatible with my food-activist philosophies and my adventurous palette. The walls are decked with gorgeous photos of farm-fresh produce and the farmers who grow them.   You can probably quiz your server and ask them to source any ingredient on them menu.  You'd find they're all (the ingredients, not the servers) locally grown with organic practices (it can be difficult for small farmers to actually gain organic certification) and, in the case of meats, humanely raised and slaughtered.   Beyond the many many ways that supporting such establishments is absolutely vital in these days of corrupt agribusiness, I think you can actually taste the difference when such care has gone into the raw materials of your meal.  

And, one quick glance at the menu makes it clear that equal care is being put into the innovative entrees that Lula offers.  I started my brunch with a Black Sambal Bloody Mary: strong and spicy (in both senses of the word, both hot and flavorful).  My sister M and I decided to share two of the brunch entrees:their take on Eggs Florentine (with poached eggs, hollandaise, sourdough crostini, tomato coulis, and pickled asparagus) and a fascinating squash dish (Ancho glazed sweet dumpling squash, scrambled eggs, black beans, queso blanco, and pickled brussels sprouts).  The florentine was really quite perfect, offering a nice twist on a Norwegian Eggs Benedict (served with lox instead of bacon) with perfectly cooked striped bass, both flaky and savory.  And while hollandaise-doused eggy brunch items can sometimes overwhelm with their richness, the pickled asparagus (pickled asparagus?  yep!) cut through and complexified the palette.    The squash entree was quite a flavor festival and though I'm not sure it all came together for me, I really found each individual ingredient flawless on its own.  

So, all you Chicagoans and those visiting, hie thee hence to the Lula Cafe.  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Super Heeb Sandwich (Russ & Daughters)

Had this tasty treat at the Lower East Side legendary lox-spot, Russ & Daughters.  They call it the Super Heeb.  The regular (unsuper) Heeb is an oh-so-fluffy and just fishy-enough whitefish salad on a bagel schmeared with (double-whipped) horseradish creamcheese.  The mild-mannered Heeb earns its cape and long johns (thereby becoming...SUPER!) with a few bounteous dollops of wasabi infused flying fish roe.  Though lots of reviews have praised the Super Heeb's sinus-clearing potency, I think I've just drowned too much gefilte fish in horseradish sauce (and sushi in wasabi) to be impressed on that front.  That said, it is really quite good and a nice way to introduce the smoked-fish averse to their first white-fish salad.

Oh, and did I mention that their lox are sliced so thin that if you dressed yourself in them you'd be violating public decency laws in most states?

Monday, August 4, 2008

August stinks: Pain, Vin, Fromage

Missed out on what seems to be another must-eat. Ah well--gives us a reason to come back.

Posted by ShoZu

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Les Philosophes (3/3)

Foie Gras, the consolation prize. (See my below tantrum)

Les Philosophes (2/3)

A watermelon, blender, and a handful of spices walk into a bar. Bartender says, "You three think you're so cool, don't you?"

Watermelon soup. Chilled. Oh. Yes.

Les Philosophes (1/3)

Salade des utopistes: goat cheese, avocado, beets, tastiness.

I'd list other ingredients but they change every time. Which, I guess, is a good thing, proof that Les Philosophes is somehow responding to the availability of fresh local ingredients.

I should also mention that we did not actually eat at Les Philosophes and have not eaten on their premises yet this trip. We go to the wine bar owned by the same company, order a bottle, and hunker down in the back room , ordering food at our whim. We're so very noble (as in regal, not kind). :)








Did some research on Paris' best foie gras and I think I found it. Unfortunately (or rather tragically, devastatingly, and cosmically unjustly), it is closed until September 2nd for the holidays. Well, I will write the name here so I remember it for next year: L'Ambassade du Sud-Ouest.


Lizard Lounge Brunch

The vegetarian breakfast...with a side of sausage! ;)

Posted by ShoZu

Une Pita Grec on @ Rue de la Huchette

So I've just set up SHOZU on my new iPhone which I'm hoping will increase the frequency of my blogging as I can now take a picture at a restaurant (or in my own kitchen) and have it posted immediately to this blog which a title and description. While I certainly won't have the luxury to fully indulge my writerly aspirations using the phone's on-screen keyboard, I can in the very least get a pretty photo posted with a brief description and add more later if I see fit.

And I see fit: the above pita was darn tasty. Crunch schwarma-style meat (probably a blend of lamb and turkey), a tzatziki sauce that wasn't too sweet, crisp lettuce, and well-cooked, nicely salted french fries to sop up all the juices. Washed it all down with une Fanta Citron and I was a happy. Rotund and happy. Later walked down to Ille St. Louis to see if I wanted a scoop of Berthillon icecream. I did. Quite an internal battle between the forces of good ("Try something new, like the Spiced Bread flavor."), the forces of evil ("You know you love the Caramel Butter Salt flavor...just get it!"), and the forces of very evil ("Order the Whiskey Chocolate flavor and you'll get your nightcap in at the same time!"). Good won.

Today K & I return to the Lizard Lounge's ex-pat brunch and have very exciting dinner plans. More later.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Parlez vous neerlandais?

K and I haven't been very adventurous these last few couple of weeks in Paris. Which is not to say we haven't been eating very well—we have!—but we really haven't visited any place that I haven't already rounded up in previous entries on this fair city. One nice discovery, on Rue de Turenne 95, just a couple blocks from our apartment (after two nice visits in rental flats, we are finally back in the adorable apartment K's family owns), is Le Bistrot. It's a dive to be sure, but I'm not sure one can actually get more food for one's money than the 8 euro giganto-salads they sell there. Our waiter would have seemed downright hostile if he wasn't so darn amusing in his desire to stop serving us, but when dinner for three comes out to 30 euros (including beer and wine!), it's hard to complain. I ordered the Nicoise and though the waiter mocked me a bit when I asked for extra anchovies, he made sure the kitchen heaped them on and I was happily able to spear a little fishy with each forkful. K's salad featured crab, avocado, and grapefruit which is always a dandy combo.

K was a bit grudging about our trip to Amsterdam; I understand: who wants to leave Paris…ever. I tried to prepare a nice culinary itinerary to ease the transitional trauma and I think we did pretty well:

While I wanted the first of our four meals to be the Ostrich with Truffles at De Koe, I discovered with tremendous sorrow that the café, legendary with the locals, is closed for lunch. We wandered over to Wagamama, confident we would find a nice restorative meal after our 4-hour train trek. There's very little difference between the A'dam and London branches except there are some local specials and you pay in euros instead of pounds which certainly does make the whole experience go down a bit more smoothly. K sampled one of their large soup bowls, filled to the brim with prawns, tofu, vegetables, and the fish of the day, and I had a grilled Butterfish salad over rocket (with watermelon and chiles, now up there with prosciutto & melon as one of my fave flaves!). We both found it strange that "rocket" hasn't caught on in the States, that is until I just googled around and found that it is, in fact, "arugula."

Evening found us at Van Dobben, a broodje shop (broodje are basically sandwiches on buttered white bread) which is so famous here that the street it's on bears its name. This is another local joint and they don't have an English menu posted. I asked the young man behind the counter if he could prepare us a couple of the most popular choice. He served up broodje kroket, a delicious concoction that can best be described as deep-fried beef stew on a bun. In addition to the yellow mustard on the table, there was some unidentified condiment which K swears was molasses-derived. I don't care what it was made from: I could have doused it on my hand and devoured myself. Three minutes later we had finished our dishes and I asked to try a roast beef, so rare it was nearly tartar (YUM!), and smoked eel (tastes like divinely UN-greasy mild lox and textured like a white fish filet with a bit more structure). Getting greedy now, we had barely devoured these broodjes before I was up at the counter again, asking to try a salt beef & liver combo, as well as a tomato, egg, and mayonnaise open faced broodje [see inset pictures]. I think by that point I was too stuffed to enjoy them or anything else…until 7 minutes later, when K and I walked into a nearby Haagen Dazs to chase the meat away with other saturated animal fats.

The next day we took a lovely canal walk up Prinsengracht for our third trip to the Pancake Bakery. You can read my earlier review of the always reliable pancake house. This time I had the banana/bacon pancake and K had the "Greek" (lamb, feta, olives, etc). Both were fantastic, though I think mine won out in the end as it could satisfy both the sweet and the savory. Another random highlight: the waitress, who we'd already heard speak English, French, and Dutch (like nearly every other A'dammer), also whipped out a mighty fine Italian when explaining the kids' menu to an eager and sophisticated 5-year old boy.

For our last meal, we took in an early dinner of the Netherlands' national cuisine: Indonesian. Having tried out the top-shelf rijsstafel at the swanky Indrapura, we were eager to sample a version which might not mock the weakness of our greenbacks. I read some great reviews of Café Bojo and while it clearly was no match for the delicacy of its more bank-breaking brethren, we certainly ate a tremendous amount of food for 22 euros. The longtong rames (chewy rice cakes in center of inset image) and the fried coconut were nice treats, as were the refreshing pickled vegetables in the uncharacteristically hot weather.

At the train station only a few minutes after paying our bill, I debated grabbing a kroket to go from one of the FEBO automats, but K talked me into getting a much more reasonable Mango & Passion Fruit Shake (more like a thick juice with fruit chunks). Four hours later we were back in Paris and I was eating a salmon burger on Rue Bretagne (though I was kicking myself for passing on the café's specialty: horse steak).

We have a week left in Paris and then back to London for a day en route to NYC. I'm currently on a hunt for the city's best fois gras. Any advice?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

London food = tasty? Yep

So it seems I only have time to write about food when I travel. Fair enough. So. Here I go.

En route to Paris (again), K & I decided to fly Zoom into London (again), spend a night, and then Chunnel into Paris. Setting out to prove again that London food can be most extraordinary, we did a little research and then happily "tucked into" four delicious meals. One thing that immediately struck us was how simple it was, from simple pub fare to gourmet gastronomy, to eat local, organic, humane, sustainable, fair-trade, etc. New Yorkers, stop kidding yourselves: if "green" living was a race, London would have lapped us thrice. Carbon neutral cabs? Pepsi Raw? While I have to work very hard in the Big Apple to find food that meets my ethical/ecological standards, I'd have to work as hard or harder to find London fare which harms the world.

Sounds like I should be on a soap box at Speaker's Corner, right?

All right, on to the food:

Humble Pie (80 Buckingham Gate)
After our Easybus dropped us off from Gatwick, we found our hotel room wouldn't be ready for another hour, so we decided to explore Hyde Park. After a lovely morning strolling (and rowing!), we headed back to the hotel for a nap. On our way, we realized that all we'd had to eat since the airplane's dinner was a banana each. Humble Pie International Ltd to the rescue. Adorable storefront. Exciting menu with adventurous variations on a British standard. We settled on a lamb marinated in Shiraz, accompanied by raisins, sweet potatoes, and a few other tasty morsels which I've forgotten despite my attempts to save the menu. Also: the most exciting case of drinks I've ever encountered, filled with a nice stock of juices by James White Drinks. We decided to share the Beetroot juice and the Apple/Crushed Ginger juice. They also have single varietal apple juices which is very exciting to this food dork.

Abeno Too (17 Great Newport St)
After our nap, we trekked 2.5 miles from our hotel over to check out the National Gallery and work up an appetite. We are very very hungry at this point--this information will be important to explain the following. A hunt on the blogosphere had led me to Abeno Okonomiyaki and its little brother, Abeno Too. When I first tasted Okonomyaki in Japan it was translated to me as "my favorite things friend," which made sense for this savory Japanese omelette stuffed with bacon, shrimp, cabbage, carrots, ginger, and other assorted vegetables, all covered with sweet Japanese mayo, okonomyaki sauce, bonito flakes, and nori. After waiting for about 20 minutes at Abeno Too, we were ushered to our space at the okonomyaki bar and got a peek at the menu. This wasn't grandpa's okonomyaki: there were at least 10 different varieties, each offering a novel flavor combination. Having scrimped and saved all day, we decided to go for the most expensive option on the menu: the Abeno Okonomyaki: Organic beef & chicken, bacon, pork, black tiger prawns, asparagus tips, Konnyaku, lotus root, mushrooms, and garlic. Our waiter/chef was a ridiculously well-travelled Londoner of Polish extraction who was currently finishing up medical school. Michael "the Pole" (his own designation) stood in front of us at the bar, chatting us up as he prepared our meal over the course of about 25 minutes. This was high art, the way each component was individually cooked and then delicately layered on top of a growing stack of eggy-goodness. Our barside seats to this culinary demonstration were worth at least as much as the cost of the meal. Michael explained that he and the other okonomyaki specialists train for at least two weeks before they are allowed to make the simplest items on the menu and that you must work at it for some time before you are permitted to cook the specialty we ordered. He also translated the dish as "Fry it like you like it" which is somehow more democratic than the version I'd heard before. Well, suffice to say, as we watched his mastery and smelled the delightful scents cooking up under our noses, our hunger deepened to near-starvation level. When he finished the preparation, we dug into the meal so quickly it did not even occur to me that I should snap a photo of his heavenly creation, hence the afterthought above. Suffice to say, the meal was incredible. We'll definitely be back!

Ye Olde Cock Tavern (22 Fleet Street)
The plan was to check out a place on Essex called S&M, specializing in Sausage and Mash, as we made our way towards the Tate Modern in the morning. Unfortunately, we navigated our way to Essex St when, in fact, the sausage joint is located far north on Essex Road. Dejected and hungry, we began strolling around looking for an English Breakfast. And then the rain started coming down and we dived into a place that looked warm and friendly, Ye Olde Cock Tavern. As you can see from the inlaid photo, this fancy establishment still has restored fittings from the 19th century. It has quite a rich history, frequented by the likes of Pepys, Dickens, and Tennyson back when it stood on the other side of the street. It also has quite a good English breakfast, offering a solid variation for those who are veggie-inclined. The meat version is a fried egg (runny), sausage (juicy), bacon (crispy), white bread (buttery), baked beans (creamy), and cooked mushroom (fungi). The veggie version trades the bacon for a grilled 1/2 tomato and a vegetarian sausage replaces the pork one. A perfect rainy day breakfast. I'd like to thank the kind staff for letting us order the meal even though standard British breakfast time had elapsed while we stood confused in the rain looking for a place to eat.

Jonathan Crisps: "Crisps for Snobs"
Parsnip, Sweet Potato, Beetroot.
Black Pepper & Ginger.
Mature Cheddar & Red Onion.
Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar.
Horseradish & Sourcream.
Sundried Tomato & Basil.
Black Olive & Garlic.
'Nuff said.

Yo Sushi (14 St Paul's Churchyard)
Yes it's a chain, but I'd wanted to try conveyor-belt (kazen) sushi and here was Yo Sushi, beckoning me to come in and sample its rotating raw sea creatures. Simple premise: you sit at a bar and a conveyor-belts brings food right to you. There are 5 different color plates, each corresponding to a different price. Eat what you like and the empties are tallied for your bill. In addition to some fairly standard choices, we had a tasty tofu, seaweed, and cucumber salad, Softshell Crab & Rocket with Chili Mayo, Kobe Beef Sashimi, and, my favorite, Scallop Sashimi with Coriander Pesto (inlaid photo). The bill was more than I might have liked given the actual quantity of food ingested, but it's always good to try out new experiences and I'd never done Kazen-sushi outside of Japan.

We'll be back in London for a day at the trip's end so if you have recommendations for good eats, please do post a comment...Now on to Paris!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too stuffed to type?

It's amazing how easy it is to fall behind on one's food blogging. I mean, I'm not trying to catalogue EVERY meal I'm eating here, just the memorable ones. But, what can I say, most of my meals have been pretty memorable. Faced with the ridiculously self-imposed responsibility to write about all of them, I've instead written about none. So now I play catch up.

Monday night we (K, V, Bear, and Truffle Boy) made our 2 mile walk over to 6 Rue Jacquard, home of Ave Maria. It's an Afro-Brazilian-French fusion restaurant and it's worth paying a visit for the décor alone. Vines descend from the ceiling. Barbie dolls dressed like Mexican images of saints and mounted in frames on the walls. Kitsch posters abound. There is a dish I love here. Its tongue-and-cheek title stretches across 3 or 4 lines in the menu. But I've had it nearly every year I've come so it was time to bravely march forward and try something new. So I opted for one with the shortest title, the Kirikou (sp?). Inspired by one of the national dishes of Togo (or so they say), it offered beef and massive carrots stewed in "African spices," sharing the bowl with tomatoes, rice, onions, cucumbers, mint, oranges, and parsley. The beef was tough for my taste but the stewing juices were definitely worth soaking up with bread. Sometimes one should stick with the known and just make sure that one's dining companions will let one nibble on the unknown. Said dining companions also make it possible to order dessert when one knows one is far too full. We ordered their award-winning "Death by Chocolate," accompanied by a digestif made of rum with macerated ginger and infused with cinnamon. As Bear pointed out, in America, the "Death by Chocolate" would likely be too rich to be savored and, after all, shouldn't one's mort chocolat be savored? To extend the analogy further, I'd say that ordering such a dish in America is like a chocolate cyanide capsule: one bite and your finished. Ave Maria's version, though, is like, I don't know, drowning because you've fallen asleep in the world's most comfortable bath. And the little ginger shot was just what I needed to revive me from my chocolate languor.

V departed Tuesday in the late afternoon, though the departure proved a little more traumatic than we might have hoped as we scrambled from station to station trying to find a metro with an open ticket window (for some inexplicable reason the ticketing machines in Paris do not take American credit cards though everywhere else seems to!). Bear and I walked over to a poetry reading at the Village Voice bookstore and then managed to sneak into a grocery store right before it closed. Once we got to the house, Bear served up a gorgeous and tasty antipasto plate with some fromage, white asparagus, caviar, and sausage while I started work on the seared lamb with a (2 euro!) Cabernet Sauvignon & fig reduction. We had cleverly purchased a jar of marinated eggplants which I dolloped onto some couscous for a tasty side. The main course here was actually the world's largest head of cauliflower. With individual florets the size of my fist, it could have served 8 but we three managed to put away nearly all of it. I'm so proud of us.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Bear and I had some crossed wires and didn't end up meeting up as planned at the overpriced and rude Deux Magots. Bear lunched solo and was charged 15 euros for a small ham sandwich and a café au lait and they wouldn't let her charge it on credit card (16 euro minimum they said)! Meanwhile, I failed to eat anything whatsoever save a few candies Bear bought from a street vendor. That's okay, because at 9:30pm I more than made up for it by gorging myself (and actually being out-gorged by the normally restrained K) at La Cave du L'Os a Moelle (Rue Lourmel), the communal table restaurant that we've made a point of visiting each time we've come to Paris. Here's the set-up. They have sittings at 7:30 and 9:30 and you make your reservation accordingly. You arrive and pick a bottle of vin that pleases you off the wall (they range in price from 10 euros to well over 100, but they are all take-away prices) and take a seat at your table. Since they had lost our reservation, the only community at our communal table that night was comprised of the 3 of us…which was certainly fine with me. On the table when you sit down is a jar of cornichons, a delicious whole-grain mustard, a tray of crudités, a bowl of world's tiniest shrimp (to be eaten whole I discovered!), a blood sausage terrine and another country terrine, and some rather delicious marinated grated vegetables (beets, carrots, and celery root, I think). Bear had reasonably assumed that said dishes were the entire meal and stocked up accordingly only to discover moments later that there were also 5 other courses awaiting us. You go over to a counter and serve yourself (NOTE: the following courses change nightly and depend upon the season and the caprice of the chef) a spicy & creamy fish soup, a stewed pork breast, and a dish of Brussels sprouts and carrots. Follow that up with a cheese course and round out the night with a bowl of fruit salad or one (or two or three or all) of the other 10 desserts they offer. Aside from the wine, the 23 euro price-tag is all inclusive and we really stretched the definition of the word "all" (and our stomachs!). I can imagine few things as delightfully appetizing as the marinated vegetables (as in, they literally prime our appetite for the later courses) and the giant slabs of pork (the fat melting—literally: rendering--in your mouth) were the perfect salve for a frustrating rainy day. I'm still thinking about the Brussels sprout dish—we think it's probably only seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper, but I'd be lying if I said I'd ever had a better vegetable dish. I don't know what the secret flowery syrup in the fruit salad was, but I do know that it had perfectly ripe mangoes, oranges, pineapples, currants, raspberries, and apples in it. I also know that it was easily the best fruit salad I've had in my life (sorry dad!). Bear had 3 servings. Or rather, I served Bear 3 bowls of it (I had the end seat and played waiter and busboy). The people who work there are adorable, kind, and at least tri-lingual and as you and your fellow diners get high on wine and French comfort food, a boisterous conviviality fills the air. I so wish I could have this experience in my native tongue, but somehow I feel like the whole atmosphere would be lost in translation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


It being Easter and all here in a Catholic city, much of the town closes down...except, of course, the Jewish quarter! After spending some time with the devout in Notre Dame (with our fingers still sticky from the Berthillon ice cream we, lunatics, that we are, picked up in the wintry weather today. I had the always delicious Caramel with Salted Butter flavor, K had the otherworldly Cassis, and V sampled the very nutty Pistachio), where we lucked into an "audition" (literally: hearing) of the massive organ (which seems only capable of producing the soundtrack to all of the 1920s and 1930s classic monster movies!), we headed over to Rue du Rossiers to make our semi-annual pilgrimage to L'as du Falafel. A man on the street takes your order (and your order is "Falafel Special"...5 euros--no bargain by NYC East Village standards but a steal in this city) and gives you a ticket. You wait on line. You cross your fingers and hope that the deep-fried balls of chick-pea treasure will just be emerging from their hot oil bath as you reach the head of the line. You reach the head of the line. Two aproned schwarma surgeons take your ticket, figure out what language you speak, and then tease you in said language. They play catch with your falafel which bounce and roll all over the many toppings with which your pita will soon be stuffed. White cabbage. Red Cabbage. Grilled seasoned eggplant (apparently a bribe of a euro buys you extra!). Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Tahini. And, if you say "Picante" at just the right time: hot sauce. Stick a fork in it and it's done. You can either eat it right there (which is probably the smart thing to do), or you can empirically discover the cooling time of falafel by trekking back to your apartment three blocks away. Here's the thing, though: even though it was cold, the falafel kept its crunch while all of the other toppings merge into TomaCabbaCucuPlantIni...and that's a very good thing!

Jean Bart Is No More, But Its Boutique Remains

So, promising great moules frites at ridiculously cheap prices I dragged our little truffle trio (which will momentarily become a quartet tomorrow and then reshape to form a new trio the next day) east toward Bastille to Le Jean Bart (86 Rue St. Antoine).

Though my French was not good enough to make out the various signs affixed all over the closed glass doors, it appears that the marvelously atmospheric dive bistro has suffered both a crippling fire and a pretty dire financial crisis. Though I'm not sure how the chronology played out, the proprietor ended up staging a sit-in to try to save the restaurant. Alas, the place seems to be closed indefinitely.

Strangely enough, right next door is Jean Bart's Boutique, offering the same menu, the same prices, and its own petit share of atmosphere. 8 euros buys you one of their 8 preparations of mussels accompanied by french fries. If you opt for their moules marinieres, you can get that, the frites, beer, and a cafe for under 10 euros. V, K, and I each chose our own bowl of moules and shared a demi of a Bourdeaux Blanc Sauvignon. I went for the Moules du Gallo (sp?), a tasty concoction of oil, garlic, white wine, onions, and snail butter. Though I did enjoy the dish, I'd be lying if I said that the distinct flavor of the snail butter was easily discernible and transformed this rustic dish into a masterpiece. Kinda tasted like butter, perhaps a bit snailier...? As V pointed out, though, the best part of any moules experience is soaking your baguette in the steaming jus at the bottom of the bowl. Based on that taste test alone, this was definitely one of the better moules dishes I've had, but it really is a shame that you can't get the moules themselves more immersed in those flavors. I used to serve moules in a great big ugly clear plastic party bowl that I presume was intended for chips & dip. Advantage: you can ladle a good heaping of the jus right into the middle and dip the moules in with each bite.

At any rate: the Boutique is definitely worth paying the visit but I don't think it's a must-eat...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Back in Paris, Back in Blogland

Ah faithful readers, your lovable truffle boy has returned. Apparently it takes a trip out of the country for me to squeeze time from my schedule, under-ripe lime though it often seems to be. Well, I'm back in Paris with K and another traveling companion I'll call V. Actually, I should probably give a quick run down of the 36-hours we spent in Amsterdam en route to France.

It was the third time K and I made an extended Amsterdam stopover and we know exactly what we want to eat, see, and do while we're in town for a few hours. Apparently, there is very little in the way of Dutch "national" food as many Netherlanders will proudly declare Indonesian to be their native cuisine. So, each time we visit we hit up Indrapura, a tasty little spot in Rembrandtplein that serves up rijsttafel, a fixed-menu meal featuring a variety of Indonesia tapas. Here's how the restaurant's website explains the the meal:
The origin of the concept 'rijsttafel' is difficult to trace. According to one legend it referes to the actual table used by the Dutch settlers during the colonial days in Indonesia. A traditional Indonesian meal is always based on white rice, not only because it is noutricious, but also for its calming and soothing effect in combination with spicy dishes. One fish or meat dish accompanied the rice seasoned with 'sambal' or chilipeper. In colonial days a simple meal like this symply did not satisfy the appetite of the Dutch planters, so a greater variety of dishes, from all over the islands, was added. It is this large amount of tasty dishes that as a whole forms the elaborate 'rijsttafel' of today.
It is tasty. Very. We chose the Purnama for 29 euros a person. White rice, fried rice, tempeh, peanuts, cucumber salad, spicy mango salad, various skewered meats (lamb, beef, pork) in satay-like sauces, various slow-cooked meats in peanut sauce and soy souce, shrimp crackers, a cabbage dish, and at least 3 other dishes I can't remember. Good deal. None of the individual entrees is, itself, more than casually appetizing, but altogether as a spread it is filling and offers a really diverse tasting. K mentioned that about half the dishes seem to offer very Thai flavors while the others rely more on Indian spices.

Another don't miss in Amsterdam is the Pancake Bakery. If you're like us and chose your digs in the Reguliersgracht/Rembrandtplein area, then you might want to take bikes to visit this adorable and cozy pancake specialist. Be forewarned though: this place does not serve breakfast and they do not even open until noon. Or rather, much of what they serve can be deemed breakfast but you cannot dare to deem it so until after noon. At any rate, Dutch pancakes are like French crepes but a little bit thicker. And Dutch syrup, stroop, is super-thick as well, smokier (can you use that for sweets?) and richer (but less sweet) than maple or, deity-of-your-choice forbid, Aunt Jemima. All three of us went for savory options. V ordered the very delicious Greek pancake (lamb, feta, onions, tzatziki), K went for my favorite, the Swedish (coriander and thyme marinated reindeer, onions, carrots, cabbage, poached pears, and cranberry sauce), and I tried something new with the Canadian (with crispy bacon, onions, mushrooms, ham, cheese, and curry sauce). We ripped off some "untouched" pieces of our pancakes and covered them with stroop to save money on dessert. Stingy? Yes. Tasty? Yes.

And right before you hop the tram to the train station, make sure to stop at the northwest corner of Rembrandtplein for Vlaamse Frites. While you'll only rarely catch me touching the white nastiness we call mayonaise in these United States of ours, Euronaise is a whole different creature. A delicious creature that pairs perfectly with deep fried potatoes. Do it. Smother them. Pack lots of napkins and tell your arteries to be quiet!

Okay...on to Paris:

The Paris apartment this time around is on Rue du Temple, just two blocks west of the Seine and just a few blocks north of many of our favorite Marais haunts. We had a bit of a nightmare getting into the apartment the first night and, homeless at 12:30 in the am, ended up crashing into Belle Hortense with all of our luggage because it felt "safe." Who goes to a French literary wine bar in the middle of a crisis? Truffle boy does. While K and V tried to figure out where we were going to sleep that night, I got the menu from the nearby restaurant Les Philosophes (along with Le Petit Fer A Cheval, all three share an owner) and ordered "delivery" to the wine bar, where I was "safely" ensconced with my Sancerre. I got Steak Tartare for myself (how else does one know one has arrived in Paris?) and picked up salads for the ladies. K's was one of those delightful French creations topped with smoked duck breast, prosciutto, avocado, beets, and hot goat cheese on little toasts.

The apartment has a clean and reasonably well-appointed kitchen. Slick electric range & a nuker, but no oven and the cutlery might better befit a Fisher Price Kitchenette. No matter: V and I have already been cooking up a storm. Last night I braised some chicken quarters (doused in a little cumin, garlic powder, basil, salt, pepper, and flour--the only pantry items in the apartment!) in Riesling with carrots, leeks, and onions. Tonight, V and I shared kitchen duties. I picked up some goodness from Hedonisme (6 Rue du Mezieres), a lovely little organic/artisinal shop. Left with organic gnocchi, organic truffle butter (which, of course, is composed entirely of TRUFFLES and BUTTER!), and a bagful of pretty veggies. V prepared a lovely salad with a lemon-shallot dressing (as I said, we have nothing in our pantry) and I made the inset gnocchi with sauteed mushrooms & shallots, basil and garlic powder, and a few spoons full of truffle butter (oh, dear readers: may my veins run thick with the stuff when they cut me open on judgment day!).

Au Revoir! More soon...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Truffle boy is back...

I just happened to browse this site after a lovely couple of hours in NYC's Vespa Bar and it might be the Negroamaro talking, but I've made a resolution to get this site up and running again. So I will try to eat (and write about what I eat) with a little bit more regularity in coming weeks, and if I still can't get it together, I'm sure March's return to Paris will inspire me to blog away.