Thursday, March 26, 2009

Au Petit Sud Ouest: Smells like a duck, tastes like a duck...

In search of Paris' best foie gras and other assorted duck-derived fare, K and I were told (by more than a few respectable few food blogs) that La Ambasadde de Sud Ouest was the place to go. Unfortunately, La Ambasadde was closed on Mondays. Fortunately, it's little brother, Au Petit Sud Ouest was open. Same hearty southwestern (we're talking France here, not fajitas) grub and the same adorable personal toaster ovens sur la table (see above).

I have (happily) had my share of cut foie gras but wanted to try something a little more adventurous. I ordered the above, fried foie gras in truffle sauce. Though I wish the truffle sauce was a little more truffled (note the name of this blog), the mild flavor and creamy texture of the foie gras itself was exceptional. I washed it all down with a sauternes, lest I be yelled at by the food snobs who insist that it is the only quaffable accompaniment to good foie gras.

For the main course, K had a cassoulet (a white-bean stew with braised duck wings and duck sausage) that could pretty much be the definition of comfort food, and I had duck with cherries. While there wasn't a zippy flavor combination or clever texture that thrilled our palettes, few meals have been so uterly pleasant as our few hours at Au Petit. The entire atmosphere, food included, is so drenched in conviviality, that you leave warm and satisfied on so many levels. Next time you find your soul needs lifting on a chilly, rainy night in Paris, step into this southwestern haven and toast yourself up some happy.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Chestnuts roasting...outside Jardin Luxembourg

Chilled to the bone after spending an hour or so reading at the medici fountains, these marron chaudes were exactly what K and I needed. And the woman who scooped our chestnuts into the above bag..."her hands were black with her trade," as K noted. Such a rich sensory experience!

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Parisian breakfast spread

This strange, eclectic breakfast is something K and I have been having for about 7 years now, each time we come to Paris, no matter what apartment we stay in (with slight variations, of course).  Pictured above is a cool glass of blood orange juice (2 euros/bottle), caviar (1 euro/jar), monstrous strawberries (1 euro/quart), half a baguette (.45 euros), camembert and chevre (2 euros for each round), nutella (3 euros a jar), and, from the organic grocer, apples, dried sausage, and fig jam (8 euros altogether).  It can be very difficult to find organic apples in American grocery stores as they make a tough sell (for most consumers) next to lustrous and beautiful wax-coated red delicious; it's a great treat, therefore, to pick up a dirty organic apple (and local, to boot!) here in Paris.

Obviously, I'm not mixing the caviar and nutella together (though I have tried it: could be worse!).  I tend to start with the savory options (sausage & cheese, caviar), work towards savory sweet hybrids (chevre & fig jam), and end with pure sugar (nutella & fruit). Amortized over a few days, these purchases (one needs to replenish the baguette, of course), this spread works out to about $4 per person per day.  Not bad for a decadent breakfast of caviar!

Pain de Sucre: Tentation

We picked up this beatiful treat (which my iThing photograph refused to do justice) at the well-known designer patisserie, Pain de Sucre (Rue Rambuteau). There you can find incredible tarts, madelines, macaroons, and even gourmet marshmallows (saffron, anyone?).  What looks like a simple rasberry tart is made more complex (and mouth-watering) by a pistachio base.  We also sampled a matcha mouse (filled with pineapples) over a curry crust.  There are cheaper patisseries, to be sure, but few have quite this many enticing, original, and decadent indulgences. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

La Goulette: Indian pastry

A perfect post-soirée treat! It will only cost you a euro (and a few cavities). La Goulette is just south of the Pompidou museum (Rue de la verrerie).

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Soiree @ Patricia's

K and I enjoyed this simple meal of baguette, cheese tortellini, and chopped endive at one of Patricia's ex-pat soirees.  These events are held every Wednesday and Sunday evening at Patricia's apartment (your donation of 15 euros per person covers Patricia's expenses).  An incredibly diverse and interesting group of expats and anglophone tourists gather to chat, listen to guest speakers, and devour the various liquid and solid consumables Patricia lays out on the table.  It is highly unlike K and I to willingly put ourselves in a situation wherein we must mingle with complete strangers, but the evening was quite pleasant and we certainly met a few people with whom we'd like to meet-up again.  We definitely plan on returning to Patricia's in the future, hopefully on one of the nights when she has an artist or writer as the featured guest!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Neal's Yard Dairy

We were surely the most unpopular passengers on the Eurostar to Paris, what with our (sealed) bag of two of the world's smelliest cheeses (one of them is actually called "Stinking Bishop"). They made an excellent midnight snack when we finally got settled in the Paris apartment (long story for tomorrow.

Be sure to check out this divine cheese shop in Covent Garden. You can taste anything in the shop, and if you're being thrifty, they'll cut a slice as small as your budget!

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Free guinness!!!

Meal #8 was a pint of the dark stuff, compliments of Guinness' 250th St Patty's Day!

(not the best pour, though, but grifters can't be choosers...)

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Cornish pasty!

Popped into the Cornish Bakehouse for our 7th meal of the day. A traditional steak pasty. The crust was like puff pastry meets buttery croissant and the steak was perfectly spiced and as tender as an osso bucco! £2.

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Cadbury flake outside St Paul's

Since I took about a year fishing around for fifty pence amidst a wallet filled with three currencies, the sweet vendor gave us the sweet treat for 20% off! He was very excited to share our "first time" (eating a cadbury flake) with us.

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Coffee with a conscience: Monmouth Coffee Company

We're tucked into a little nook in Monmouth Coffee Company (Monmouth St in Covent Garden) and drinking delicious brew as we read the 6 page menu (that also serves as mission statement and newsletter). Each coffee receives tasting notes and a paragraph describing the source and cultivation. Monmouth is dedicated to roasting sustainable fairtrade coffee from "single farms, estates, and cooperatives around the coffee growing world." They visit the source and taste the coffee on site.

I choose a cup of Na Bagak Bagak, described as fresh tobacco leaf. I adore all smokey drinks, from laphroaig scotch to lapsang suchong tea, and this Sumatran cup of joe has easily earned a place in my heart.

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The sign outside The Breakfast Club


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Breakfast club: spicy blue monday

K's lips depicted here, sucking up the spicy blue Monday smoothie: a tasty blend of strawberries, blueberries, apples, and ginger. We are ginger addicts so I wouldn't call the drink "spicy," by our measure. It is. however, absolutely delicious and refreshing and tart and light and all things a good smoothie should be.

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Breakfast club: the full monty

Booking it down Regent St, we made it into St James park and managed to find Inn the Park with two minutes to spare before the noon cutoff when most London cafes stop serving breakfast. Unfortunately, Inn the Park stops serving at 11am. Drat!

Whipped out the ol' smartphone and googled "best English breakfasts london served all day" and landed on a time out review of Breakfast Club. They have quite a few variations on the traditional English brekkie, from more vegtastic mutations to somewhat more Americanized fare like pancakes.

The "full monty" pictured herein is two eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushroom, and a grilled tomato. All was scrumptious, save for the tomato which wasn't quite grilled enough for my taste. The thick brioche, lightly coated with a sheen of butter, was the perfect sponginess for yolk diving. The plate will cost you about 7 pounds. There are cheaper brekkie spots to be sure, but I ate my money's worth!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Food for thought: three fruit and cinammon cobbler

This is the dessert we grabbed with our mezze (see below). It's hard to tell from the picture, but that bowl is about the size of K's head (which is, to be fair, on the small side). Happy oversized chunks of pear, plum, and apple, perfectly caramelized (none of that overcooked mush!) and just the right ratio of crumb to fruit to creme fraiche.

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Food for thought: Greek mezze

So it's not all sausage and mash in London town...Tonight K and I returned to what will definitely become a London haunt for us: Food For Thought (Neal Street in Covent Garden). For about $10 you get a ginormous plate of of vegan/vegetarian mass deliciousness and a dessert sized to match. The menu changes every night and they close at 8:30 (often selling out of some of their courses long before then). This fine evening we opted for the greek mezze: a baby spinach salad with roasted peppers, white bean and rosemary dip, beetroot relish, and a filo creation with butternut squash and eggplant. Feels so good to stuff oneself on veggies!

The staff is to-die-for, whistling "America" from West Side Story as they serve up tasty grub and debate whether or not they could actually fall in love with a perfect 10 who did not believe in climate change.

Don't miss this place, and be sure to stop at the cheese shop across the street for some stinky melty artisansal goodness.

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Park Porker

First day in London and K and I wandered around the lovely Regent's Park (where spring has definitely sprung!) as our hotel was readied. We stopped by this adorable little sausage hut, lured by the promise of happy pork. In NYC (and elsewhere in the US), K and I try to maintain a pescatarian diet (except when we can order humane meat), a (perhaps misguided) attempt to use the power of the pursestrings to push agribusiness to reform while also supporting the good guys who use humane practices. All that said, we don't know the politics of meat in London or Paris (though the former, as I have mentioned in the past, tends to have an eye toward all things sustainable/local/organic) so we let ourselves go a little more hog wild, as it were, when travelling. If you find yourself hungry in Regent's Park, do stop in here for the par porker, a tasty (but not life-changing) 4 pound (the currency, not the weight) sausage sandwich (with free cup of tea on Mondays).

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