About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Bouillon


47 Rue de Rochechouart
Tel: 09-51-18-66-59
Email: restaurantbouillon@gmail.com
Metro: #2, #7, #12
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 2 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

The restaurant is pretty nondescript from the outside. And, the signage is quite small, so you could easily walk past it without realizing it. Also there are several restaurants in Paris with 'Bouillon' in their name.

We joined our good friends J and C who had just arrived from the US that morning. So, a little jet-lagged, but they managed to stay awake for the food that was about to come.  J had been there  2-weeks earlier and was "wowed" by the food, which was our reason for choosing this place.  C was anxious to try it based on J's previous review.

As we entered we noticed that the restaurant is plain, in fact VERY plain. Just tables and chairs and the walls were bare, no adornments whatsoever. It didn't have a cozy feel to it at all, and the colors didn't help (off white & gray). They seemed unable to find our reservation, asked us to spell the name, and then finally realized they were not looking at today's date in their book.  When they turned to today they found our booking.  This was an eerie predictor of the service to come.  We perused the menu, they had a "plat du jour" (plate of the day) which was "Coq au Vin".

We first ordered some wine. In fact, we ordered a bottle of red and a glass of white for me. Now I know we have American accents, but our French can't be that bad, but our wait-person came back to pour a glass of red wine for J; he reminded the wait-person that, no we ordered a bottle, and JJ cried out "j'ai soif" (I'm thirsty).  But she removed 2 wine glasses (from JJ and C) and came back with a bottle just for J?!? and poured my 1 glass of white wine which was a sauvignon blanc, and quite good actually. Now logically, do you think this is weird that only 1 person would drink a whole bottle to themselves while 2 others had nothing to drink? So, we asked for 2 more (empty) glasses.  Let's just say, this was NOT a good start.

ENTRÉE


Three of us had the "Bouillon de "vrais" champignons de Paris, foie gras de canard, céleri-coriandre, vinaigre fumé" (Bouillon "real" Paris mushrooms, foie gras, celery cilantro, smoked vinegar). The presentation was wonderful, but that's just about where it stayed. We all tasted it and unanimously asked for salt and pepper. In fact, two of us doused it with lots of salt. The soup was beyond under-seasoned. And, I noticed that the French group next to us also requested salt/pepper, not a good sign, since it's an unwritten law that the Chef should know the basics of seasoning.

Also, J and C actually commented that they confused the fois as being tofu. I have no clue how they made it so flavorless and so light to give it that texture of tofu. The question begs to be asked, was it intentional? If so, change it back. As most Chefs know, typically mushrooms are not washed because they absorb too much water and the flavor is lost. You instead brush the grit off. Unfortunately, I was the lucky recipient of some of that grit, oh well. But I do have to say, once we seasoned it, the flavor profile was vastly improved.


JJ had the "Pissaladière", a common snack or dish originating from Nice which is akin to a pizza pie topped with onions and anchovies. My first observation, it looked pretty enough, but the dough was not a traditional bread, foccacia or pizza dough, but a pastry dough of some sort and it looked overcooked, almost burnt. It was topped with fried onions and I thought, that can't be bad, until I tasted it. I took one bite into it, it was like chewing on rubber bands. So no-one would think I was exaggerating, I insisted they all taste it. Another question needed to be begged, was this intentional?!? Regardless, the dish was not tasty, the dough was mushy, and it may not have been freshly made, because it tasted like it was reheated; hence, the over-browning.

OK, this was NOT a good start...

PLATS


J and C ordered the special of the day which was "Coq au Vin".  Well this dish was the saving grace of the day. A classic French dish done right. I tasted the chicken and it was good, but the sauce was exceptional, in fact, it was the best part of the dish. It was stewed a long time to develop a rich and full flavored wine sauce, almost had the texture and sheen of  "demi-glace".  It was accompanied by mashed potatoes. I'm not a potato person, but it was delicious. Creamy, rich and had a nice buttery flavor.  We agreed this dish was a hit.





JJ had the "Cabillaud cuit vapeur, a parfumé aux épices, citrons confits" (Steamed cod flavored with spices, preserved lemons).  It was simply presented with the star being the fish. Surprisingly, since it was not described in the menu, it sat atop garbanzo beans (chickpeas). This was reminiscent of a typical French dish, "Petit Salé aux lentils" of pork belly sitting atop lentils.  The fish was good, but even better was the lemony flavor imparted by the preserved lemons.  And, the garbanzo beans added to the flavor profile. Overall a good dish.




I had the "Poitrine de veau Français cuite au bouillon, jeunes légumes de chez Didier Pil" (French breast of veal cooked in broth, young vegetables from Didier Pil).  The dish was nicely presented and I loved the colors of the vegetables.  I took a bite of what looked like a round beet, but in fact it was a brussels sprout cooked with the beet that gave it that color and flavor. I liked it a lot.  Veal tends to be bland, so accompaniments or sauces are very important. I have to say I thought the veal was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying vegetables were a perfect match. But to bring it to the next level, I would've liked to see a more prominent sauce tying the whole dish together. Hence, I stole some of  J and C's coq au vin sauce, which made the dish perfect.


Now onto the wines. Although a restaurant is not responsible for the taste of the wines, they are none-the-less responsible for their choice of wines in their list. The first wine was a red wine called 'fruit defendu' from "Magellan" made of  "Cinsaut" grapes. The group that had it said the wine was extremely light and had no body. In fact, to describe it would be a light, light pinot noir, and pinots are light to begin with. I had a taste of it, and I didn't mind it as much as the others. JJ would’ve preferred the Belgium dark beer with the same name (fruit defendu).  So, J next ordered a 2nd bottle of wine. It took forever to get it and J had to remind them we ordered another bottle of  wine, but this time it was a Vinsobres from the Rhone. It was a little richer and more full bodied, it was good.


We decided to skip dessert, and just have coffee instead.


SUMMARY

As I've said before, consistency is not only important in the restaurant business, but crucial. One of the primary reasons J wanted to return was because he fell in love with the soup. Unfortunately, it was very different from when he had it just 2-weeks earlier.  You can have slight variations, but to be so dramatically different?

As for the service, I have one word to describe it "Schizophrenic".  Although the wait staff were friendly enough, the service was uncoordinated and forgetful. Little things like remembering to fill our bread platter would've been nice. Or simply remembering that we ordered another bottle of wine, after all we are in France and the money makers in the restaurant business are wines, so you would think that'd be something they'd remember. And, getting and paying our bill took forever, even by Parisien standards.

The entrées were dreadful, the coq au vin was delicious and the veau and cod were good.  I would've given it a lower rating if it wasn't primarily the redemption from the coq au vin. With 2-glasses of sauvignon blanc, 2-bottles of red wine, and 2-coffees and 1 tea, our bill came to 168€ or 84€/couple.

Would I return, probably not.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Les Comptoirs du Medoc


 93, rue de la Victoire, 75009 PARIS
Tel: +33 1 45 266 188
Website: www.lescomptoirsdumedoc.com
Note: closed on week-ends

Reservations can be made online

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 4.5 - Star......................................................€€€......................................................... 1 - Bell



We just returned to Paris 3-days earlier, a little jet-lagged, but this restaurant woke us up in more ways than one. This restaurant has only been open for about two weeks. From the outside it looks atypical of a traditional French restaurant. It's very sleek and almost looks like a store front.


The interior also looked atypical. It was "cheesy elegant"; it almost had a Grecian theme with life size statues of Greek goddesses.  I actually liked the interior, sort of reminded me of being in Las Vegas.

They had a reasonable pre-fix menu for 37€, not a big selection, but adequate. As some of my readers know, I prefer small menus for two reasons: I'm a Libra and it's difficult for me to make decisions, less choices means it's easier for me to make a decision; And, #2 my philosophy is less means more in the flavor department. JJ got the pre-fix menu where as my friend J and I chose a la carte.



Surprisingly unbeknownst and unexpectedly we were given a quenelle of leeks served in a cream based sauce. We thought it too large for an amuse bouche, so more like a small soup. The quenelles were quite light and airy, which with the creamy sauce balanced the richness.  My guess is that the Chef used whipped egg whites to lighten it. It also had a very distinct citrus taste, which we later found out is the Chef's signature touch, which I'll explain later.






ENTRÉES

One of us had the "Saumon gravelax, minis poireaux grillés relevés avec condiment fruit de la passion et curry doux" (Salmon gravelax salmon, mini grilled leeks, condiments with passion fruit and sweet curry).  The salmon was very good, nice slices, the leeks were grilled perfectly and the passion fruit curry sauce were made into what appeared to be little garbanzo beans. The passion fruit curried "peas" were not as sweet as one would expect, it was on the tart side, but overall a very well composed and good dish!


JJ had the "Noix de Saint-Jacques cuites en coquille, fine purée de céleri, viennoise aux noisettines du médoc" (Scallops cooked in shell with a puree of celery), talk about a beautiful presentation, it was so eye-catching that I didn't really care how it tasted.  Fortunately, I was able to taste it. I don't normally like scallops, but this has made me a believer. The scallops were cooked perfectly. They were encrusted in a hazelnut "noisettines" which gave it a nice crunch and topped with micro-greens. The dish also had a bit of citrus flavor. It was a beautifully executed and composed dish.




I had the "Œuf cuit mollet, purée de champignons de Paris, effiloché de poule au pot et émulsion ail et gingembre" (Cooked boiled egg, mashed Paris mushrooms, shredded boiled chicken and garlic and ginger emulsion), initially I thought how odd, they're giving me the same entrée twice, because it looked like the soup dish we had earlier. Although they looked alike the flavor profile was very different.  I love eggs and the egg in this dish was cooked perfectly. It was soft boiled and the yolk was just so flavorful on it's own.  The cream sauce was a nice accompaniment, neither the garlic nor the ginger was over powering, they were very subtle. And, it was topped with thinly shaved raw mushrooms.  Again, there was a hint of citrus.  It was a delicious entrée, but albeit a rich dish.



I thought, well if these are our entrée, I'm really looking forward to the plats to follow!


PLATS

JJ had the "Lotte pochée, écrevisses rôties au fenouil, vinaigrette aux agrumes" (Poached Monkfish, crayfish roasted fennel, citrus vinaigrette).  At first glance the monkfish looked overcooked, but it was anything but overcooked. In fact, the fish was perfectly cooked. It was moist and extremely tender.  Although tiny, the crayfish punched a lot of flavor.  The dish was surrounded by the citrus vinaigrette sauce so the dish was tart, which was a plus for JJ who likes to eat raw whole lemons as a snack. He absolutely loved this dish!





J and I had the "Biche poêlée, légumes d’hiver rôtis, sauce poivrade" (Venison pan fried, roasted winter vegetables, pepper sauce), J had his rare whereas I prefer mine medium.  Our wait person came and poured a nice rich demi-glace.  The dish was accompanied with a pear which sat atop a napa cabbage, some raw brussel sprout leafs and carrots.  We'll start with the meat, the meats were cooked perfectly to each of our liking. The sauce was out of this world rich and delicious, so a little went a long way.  The pear gave us the sweet component, so there was a combination of protein, cooked and uncooked vegetables, salt and sweet and again a little citrusy. So, it basically hit all our taste buds. This was an excellent composed dish!






DESSERT

Only JJ got the "Tarte citron meringuée aux riz soufflé" (Lemon meringue pie with puffed rice), as I mentioned earlier JJ loves to eat lemons as one does oranges. This dessert was very lemony and tart, just like he likes it.  The added rice puffs gave the otherwise smooth dish a nice texture. The Chef did not disappoint JJ with this dessert.










Although JJ was the only one who ordered dessert, we did get a nice "Paris Blaignan" treat, a Medoc version of Paris Brest, a pâte à choux filled with pastry cream and chocolate.  What was interesting about this dish was that he incorporated hazelnut into the pâte à choux which brought it to a whole new level.  I broke my no sugar diet and had one. The little pastry balls packed a lot of heavenly flavors.





SUMMARY


A nice range of wines (the Gironde area has JJ's favorite wines so he was thrilled) although few on the low end.

What a find. Thanks Mr. J for suggesting this restaurant. It's exploring and finding new restaurants like this that make me truly enjoy living in Paris. As I mentioned earlier the Chef likes a little citrus flavoring in his meals. We asked the Directrice, Alexandra Labarthe about this and she said he likes it because it wakes up the taste-buds, can't deny that.  Overall, we found the food EXCELLENT.  And, considering it's only been open two-weeks, WOW! Service and ambiance were excellent.  As far as noise level, it's large enough with the large glass windows it made listening and conversing easy.  It could also easily be a go-to-place for a nice romantic dinner.   So CHAPEAU to chef Nicolas Tissier!

Our bill with two bottles plus 1 glass of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, and coffee, came to 208€.

I can't wait to go back. Make reservations now, this restaurant will not go unnoticed!

Monday, December 8, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS




I am currently in the U.S. to spend time with my family for the winter holidays. My blog will not be updated until I return to Paris before Spring 2015.  

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone...

 'HAPPY HOLIDAYS'

Let us celebrate all that connects us to one another
Célébrons tout ce qui nous lie les uns aux autres
Celebremos todo aquello que nos conecta uno al otro

I wish you a Happy New Year 2015, full of success, joy and health for you and your family.
Je vous souhaite une bonne année 2015, plein de success, de joie et de santé à vous et votre famille.
Ich wünsche Ihnen und Ihrer Familie ein frohes neues Jahr 2015, Gesundheit und Erfolg.
l'année prochaine

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Restaurant Review -- Neige d'été


12 rue de l'Amiral Roussin 75015
Metro: Line 6 Cambronne
Tel: 01 42 73 66 66
Email: contact@neigedete.fr
Website: www.neigedete.fr
Closed: Sunday and Monday

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 4 - Star............................................................................................................... 2 - Bell


What a nice find in the 15eme. They've only been open for about 2-months, there is no sign in the front of the building but it's easy enough to find.  One of the first things you notice as you enter, is its starkness. It is very minimalistic, almost staid. Only texture was some furry blankets covering some of the banquets.  For me personally, I find minimalistic decor very cold and uninviting. The restaurant is Japanese owned and run. One part of the restaurant that I really liked was the open kitchen. From what I could see, it was very clean, efficient and well run. There is a Chef with 3-sous chefs.


The menu is a prefix menu, no choices and no variations. You can, however, at the time of booking let them know if you are allergic to anything, and they will adjust for your allergies.  So basically, you do not know what you will have until the menu is set. Lunch dégustation (tasting menu) is 35€ whereas dinner is set at 65€.


We received a copy of the menu what we could expect for the day. We also got an Ipad for their wine list. We're pretty high tech, but we found the use of the Ipad difficult to navigate, and difficult to compare the individual wines. However, they do have a resident sommelier, and he can help guide you through this difficult wine application.


Entrée:

For our two amuse bouche courses, our first amuse bouche we had the sugar encrusted foie gras and a pear compote. The foie gras was actually more chicken livers and gizzards encased in a sausage casing. Both were a modest size and both very delicious.  Interestingly our utensils were located in a drawer below our table. Although it's a clever idea, and many restaurants have employed this, the problem with this drawer concept, it did not have a lip at the front, hence, whenever I opened the drawer the utensils kept spilling onto my lap. This is an easy fix, which I hope the owners will consider employing.


For our second course we had the pumpkin soup, with a pumpkin foam, and at the bottom of the soup was a nice surprise of morsels of chestnuts. This soup was absolutely delicious. It was creamy, sweet and surprisingly light. It also had a touch of salt, and with the texture of the chestnuts, it was a big hit for all of us.






Plats:

Our first plat was a paella of chorizo, squid and grey shrimp. This too was really delicious. The rice was cooked perfectly and the chorizo imparted a nice flavor, but not spicy.  The squid was scored so it would insure tenderness once grilled. One thing I can say about the Japanese, they know how to cook seafood. And, I must not forget that their grilling created a nice smoky flavor in the squid. This dish was a hit! There was a fried herb place atop the foam, I asked what it was, it was a Japanese herb that was not translatable in either French or English.


For our second plat, we had the farm raised chicken with winter vegetables and a jus. This was a piece of chicken breast, and I have to say, it was one of the most perfectly cooked breasts I have ever had. It was tender juicy and just plain delicious in its simplicity and very well executed. It was accompanied with simple purple potatoes. Atop sat more of the Japanese "mystery" herbs.





Desserts:

For dessert, well anyway three of us, had a chocolate tart, a raspberry panna cotta and a scoop of ice cream flavored with rosemary and verbena.  Everyone liked the desserts, but it appeared that they favored the ice cream the best. The desserts were not heavy and overwhelming, but just perfect. Overall the desserts were a hit.




I had the cheese plate in lieu of desserts, but you can also have the cheese plate as a separate course for a minimal supplementary cost. No complaints about the cheese, they were good.









Afterwards, we had some miniature chocolate bars, almost like brownies and some macaroons.









Summary:

All the Chefs and staff worked almost roboticly to provide excellent service and excellent food. If you're looking for well executed,  text book "precise" and very delicious food, then this is the restaurant for you. But, in addition to delicious food, if you're looking for more warm and cozy and romantic restaurant, then this is probably not the restaurant for you. The plating was very precise, not overly pretentious as some restaurant. You could definitely see the Japanese design sensibility.  Although the food was excellent, we agreed it lacked soul or personality. Maybe if they cozied up the place a little and not act so robotic it wouldn't seem so sterile.

I would've rated this restaurant a 4.5, but they need to improve on the "it-factor". But I would definitely recommend this restaurant for the food. But be forewarned the menus are fixed, so check ahead of time to see what they're serving.



For 3-bottles of Luis Pato Portugese wine (2-reds, 1 white), 2-aperitifs, filtered water and 2-coffees our lunch degustation bill for 4 came to 258€.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Restaurant Review -- Beast

Metro: Republique, Arts et Metier, Temple
Open: Tuesday-Saturdays for dinner
Telephone: 07 81 02 99 77

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

4 - Star......................................................€ ................................................... 3 - Bell


We were actually at the restaurant a week ago looking for lunch, but found out that they're not open yet for lunch. But our time was not wasted, we had an opportunity to meet owner Thomas Abramowicz, a native Parisian. He's a very amicable, approachable guy with impeccable English.  As we were speaking, we couldn't concentrate because the smells emanating out of the smoker were intoxicatingly good. Thomas spent several years in the US to learn from the BBQ masters throughout the BBQ capitals.  Upon his return to Paris, he wanted to share his new found knowledge and skills by opening an American BBQ "joint", but one of the biggest challenges was the smoker, so he had it built in Texas and shipped to Paris. It's a monstrous machine, hence, the name the "BEAST".  The restaurant has only been open for a few weeks.

The "BEASTS"

The Beast does not accept reservations, except one table reserved for a minimum of 6.  Last night we were actually 8, but we squeezed in. We had a very diverse group from the US: three of us came from California (San Diego/San Francisco), two from Boston, one from Cincinnati, one from the deep south of Birmingham Alabama, and lastly our token Frenchy (ha, ha). We're all familiar with BBQ as it relates to our own hometowns, but also all of us have traveled to the south and have tasted a variety of BBQs. Like the BBQ that is offered in the US, we are quite diverse in our our BBQ preferences. Some like dry-rub, others like me like it wet and so on.

"Ordering"

The inside was very simply decorated with long picnic-like tables that are shared. Although not a large restaurant it was quite ample and in a great location near République.

Interior


So, before I delve into my review, let me describe some of the challenges Thomas had to overcome. First was the smoker, then came the meats. Beef in France, in particular, is very different than that in the US; they are grass fed and very lean (and not shot up with hormones and antibiotics), so not the kind of meat you want to smoke for 8 hours or more, because it'll become jerky.  What's ideal for BBQ is nicely marbled meat. I recently read an article with the headline that read,


"French celebrity chef expelled from country's butchers' federation for saying British beef makes the best steaks" 

Yves-Marie le bourdonnec

That famous butcher is Yves-Marie le Bourdonnec. He was right on. Unfortunately, criticizing anything French in the food world can be damaging to one's standing in the "food community."  But what Monsieur Le Bourdonnec sited did in fact hit close to home for Thomas.  It was a huge challenge to find the right meats. So, Thomas was able to solve this problem by sourcing them from different places (all natural/organic):

Origins of meat

Lastly, another challenge is to accommodate the French palate. As a general rule the French don't like overly spiced foods hence no hot links, nor do they like heavy sides, e.g., macaroni and cheese, and like most Europeans many do not like corn because it's basically animal food, hence no corn bread. But Thomas did provide thick baguettes.

Whew, with all these challenges I'm surprised Thomas wanted to venture into the food world.

With that said, the star attractions are the meats, slow cooked/smoked in a wood burning monster of a machine that must be stoked constantly.

Onto the food. You get a menu, but there's also a chalk board menu on the wall. With the exception of the drinks, it's self-service. You go to the counter and you order exactly what you want, including the sides, simple enough. The food is served on what looks to be a rimmed baking sheet and you're also offered up sliced pickles and onions.

We all ordered different meats, beef ribs, brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork, but none of us ordered the chicken, interestingly enough. We all raved about the meats. And, the pulled pork was one of the highlights. They were so tender and juicy, and the best part was the smoky flavors came out to give it that distinct American BBQ flavor. The meat was so tender it literally was falling off the bone. Thomas cooks his meats in the "dry" method, meaning not basting it with BBQ sauce during the cooking process. The only discernible difference for us was the quantity. Americans like slabs of meat, whereas the French like smaller/modest portions. As far as the meats were concerned, we all unanimously gave it a 4 out of 5 rating.

The BBQs


Now the sides were a different story. Like the diversity of BBQ, we all had differences of opinions, and keep in mind Thomas has to think about French sensibilities and their palates:

1.  BBQ sauce. I happen to like bbq sauce on my meat, so I ordered some at the counter. I got a little dab on my pan, what I tasted was a very vinegary catsup, which I didn't like. So, I went back and asked for the more spicy sauce, which they accommodated me with, this I liked more, but could've been spicier and a tad sweeter. Personally, I would have liked to have the sauces on the tables, and maybe provide 2-different kinds, one spicy and one not spicy so one can help themselves.

2.  Cole slaw. I liked the cole slaw, it was tangy and sweet. The vinegar is great for BBQ to cut down on the fat. Only minor complaint was that it was under seasoned. Others wanted a more creamy cole slaw, so this is more a personal choice.

3.  Baked beans. With the exception of 1 person, all of us loved the beans, it had a hint of spiciness.

4.  Baked potatoes. They were sliced in half and what appeared to be an attempt to be a baked potatoes with sour cream. It was a bit underwhelming.

5.  Steamed vegetables. None of us ordered it but I asked if I could see it. They were pretty gray and seemed overcooked. I would've provided something very traditional like "greens", slowed cooked with bacon, which is not only more traditional, but there's no such thing as overcooking it and it's more appealing to the eye.

Admittedly, the sides were put on the "back-burner" to excuse the pun, since this, after all, is a meat eating country.


Desserts:

1.  Key lime pie.  Although this dessert was very good, it really wasn't a key lime pie, more like a lemon/lime tart. But in Thomas' defense, the only real key-lime pie is found in the southern states.

2.  Pecan pie. Although tasty, the crust was incredibly thick and dense and difficult to slice into. It seemed as if the crust was the featured attraction. I would use a lighter crust and more filling.

Note: These desserts were more reminiscent of French desserts where the fillings are thin.

3. 'Coco' pie.  This was a hit, it was a simple dish, but we all liked the flavors. The coconut flavors came out although several said it needed more coconut. 

Desserts


Summary:  

The meats are the star attraction. And, Thomas delivered. The meats were perfectly smoked, moist and succulent and overall delicious. As Americans, we would've wanted more BBQ sauce readily available. The simple solution is to have them on the table, it'd also be one less thing the person at the counter has to dish out.

The Beast has only been open for a few weeks. We give high marks on the meats, the featured attraction. As for the sides, it's perfect for the French palate. As in most American restaurants that are popping up in Paris, you have to make special request for certain items, in my case spicier BBQ sauce. For example, when we went to a Mexican restaurant last week, we asked for corn tortillas, since they don't normally serve corn tortillas to their customers because it's not a flavor the French enjoy.

Some of you may be asking, why are you going to a BBQ restaurant in Paris? For many ex-pats it's a taste of home. And, for the French it's a nice change. We're so happy Thomas opened this. It's a first of it's kind in Paris.  And, did I mention he has quite the collection of bourbon. I can't wait until he opens it for lunch.

Extensive Bourbon Collection


It's already become extremely popular. By 8 pm there were lines forming. Considering the newness and the many challenges, CHAPEAU Thomas.

For 8-people, with some alcohol, our bill came to 21€ a piece. A great deal. Would I come back, ABSOLUTELY.








Sunday, November 16, 2014

Restaurant Review -- Sixième Sens

43-45 Rue de La Roquette 11eme
Metro:  Bastille
Phone: 09 83 88 63 52 or 06 67 19 07 19
Website: http://www.restaurant-sixieme-sens.fr/accueil.html
Note: Reservations can be made online as well
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

4 - Star......................................................€€ ................................................... 2 - Bell


Sixième sense, or the "6th Sense", restaurant is in one of the liveliest areas of Paris, in the heart of the 11eme by the Bastille.  I must say once you enter you escape into this tiny, cozy restaurant away from the frenetic, noisy activity just outside its doors.



We were personally greeted by Chef Guillaume Poupard. I was expecting to be greeted by a maitre'd or a wait-staff. It's a very small cute restaurant with only 16-seats. So we started chatting with the Chef and he told us he had 2 other restaurants and had at one point as many as 9-employees. He wanted something small and something he can do that he loves, namely cooking, without all the headaches that come with owning a large restaurant and to be able to meet his guests. Well I thought this should be an interesting experience, not only is he going to be our waiter, bus-boy, and bottle washer, he was going to be our Chef. So I anticipated that we would be in for a long night.


Although he had some apéritifs, we opted against them, for me personally because I don't like sweet drinks, and they were fruit punch cocktails. 

Entrées:

There were 4 of us for dinner.  Three had the "Tartare de thon légèrement acidulé à la coriandre fraiche, au citron vert et aux graines de sésame torréfiées «façon Tataki », coulis passion et pesto génois" (Tuna tartare slightly tangy fresh coriander, lime and roasted sesame seeds passion fruit coulis and pesto Genovese). We all liked this dish. It was delicious. Very refreshing with all the fruit and pesto that complimented it well. I felt like I was eating something straight from the Caribbean, I was almost hoping for a little "heat" (spicy), but this is France so it wouldn't go over well. Overall a very well composed first start.



I had the "Terrine de foie gras frais de canard de Sarlat à la vieille prune, confiture de figues aux noix" (Foie gras duck plum old Sarlat, fig jam nut).  The fois gras had a nice layer of duck fat atop the dish. Some people like to spread this on their bread, but I find the fois gras rich enough. I was eating it alone with just their rolls, which by the way were delicious. His rolls were crusty, heavier and heartier which I'm guessing was a combination of white/wheat flour. I don't normally like putting sweet on my fois gras, but my friends said you have to taste it, and I did, and it was delicious. How can you go wrong with good fois gras and some confiture to start. It too was a great start!

Plats:

Three of us had the "Charlotte de filet d'agneau fondant rôti à la fleur de Thym" (Charlotte lamb fillet roast fondant flower Thyme). Since we can see the kitchen, I noticed that he topped the lamb with a sprig of thyme and flamed it with a torch. Interesting, so it basically gave the lamb a whiff of smoky thyme. At first glance the plating looked very familiar. In fact, it was the same plating style as the tuna tartare for our entrée. But the taste was totally different. He sliced the lamb into nice thin medallions that sat atop a ratatouille of eggplant and zucchini. The lamb was perfectly cooked. Pink on the inside and the ratatouille was a nice hidden surprise. I actually took the thyme and sprinkled it around my lamb, which added an extra dimension that I liked. It was a good dish.


One person got the "Médaillons de belles noix de Saint-Jacques à la fondue de poireaux avec ses petites carottes tournées confites au miel et tagliatelles de «Prosciutto di Parma»" (Beautiful medallions of scallops, leeks with small candied carrots with honey and tagliatelle "Prosciutto di Parma"). Our friend said she adored this dish. It was perfect for her and the saltiness of the ham combined with some of the sweet elements was very complimentary.

Dessert:

Unfortunately, the Chef did not have a cheese plate, and since I don't eat sweet desserts, I opted to have a glass of cognac as my dessert.

One person ordered the "Soupe de Mangue rafraîchissante aux essences de vanille" (Mango soup refreshing essences of vanilla).  Not only was it beautifully presented in a mason jar, but true to it's title it was very refreshing. It was a mango soup that also had nice sized sweet chunks of mango. This was a big hit!



Lastly one had the "Feuillantine aux poires Williams et marrons glacés sauce chocolat noir intense" (Thin crispy dough with a williams pears and chestnuts intense dark chocolate sauce).  It was nicely presented At first glance I thought it might be a napoleon, because of its layers, I'm guessing thin "leafs" were made from crispy filo dough with a poached pear and rich intense chocolate. Everyone who tasted this dish loved it and thought it was absolutely delicious with the different elements of textures and taste.

Summary:

All I have to say is, who runs a restaurant, alone. Either they're mad or a genius. In his case, he wanted a simpler life and give pleasure by cooking small intimate dinners. Even I, at minimum, would need a dish washer, and I mean the living and breathing kind. But I have to say, my hat's off to the Chef. I was so impressed with his precision and timing. I thought for sure that we would have to wait awhile in between courses, but he's a professional and really knows kitchen timing well. It's like going to someone's home and being prepared very good food by a good friend. He's very personable and just a nice all-around good guy. Would I go back, ABSOLUTELY.

Chapeau Chef!




With a bottle of malbec, 1 glass of cognac, 4 entrees, 4 plats, 2 desserts, 2 coffees our bill came to €160.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Food tour -- Secret Food Tours


Website: http://www.secretfoodtours.com/contact/
Contact Phone #:  0033 (0) 650487657

Recently I was invited to check out a food tour through Montmartre, my old neighborhood. It was a company I had not heard of since they've only been open for less than 4-months, so I did not want to pass up the chance to see my old neighborhood that I love, and oftentimes take for granted.

"Secret Food Tours Paris" was conceived and founded by Nico Jacquart, a Frenchmen who recently returned to France from the U.K. to open up this new venture. The tours are very intimate and are for no more than 8-people.

Nico and Pierre-Jean


On this particular wet day in Paris we met at Metro Anvers (line 2) at 11 am. Two lovely couples joined, one Canadian and the other couple from the U.K. We were a total of 5.


At the helm of our tour was Pierre-Jean. What a truly fun guy. He went to Johnson and Wales in Miami, Florida so spoke fluent English and was very well versed on Parisian food culture and the history of Montmartre. After giving us a history of the area, we immediately headed off to the "big guns" a chocolate store.


This particular chocolatier has only been around for about 3-years. So, in one way I'm glad I no longer live in the area, otherwise, I'd be as big as a house. The store was not only immense, but was filled with beautiful, edible chocolates and macarons. We were able to sample several types of chocolates and hard candies. Yum, what a great way to start a tour.


Next stop we went to our old neighborhood bakery. This boulangerie, AU LEVAIN D’ANTAN won "Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris" in 2011. Which means in 2011 they beat out several hundred boulangeries for the best baguette, hence, had the privilege of providing baguettes to the President of France, at the time President Sarkozy, so their breads are very well known and  delicious.



In addition to the baguettes, Pierre-Jean bought some eclairs which we later ate at the park around the corner where the "wall of love" is prominently featured.


Next we headed to a pâtisserie specializing in "French" macarons. The proprietor's hair was as colorful as the various macarons. They had such an incredible variety of macrons, that my head just spinned. They were so beautiful and delicious. Some in our group decided they were coming back at a later date to bring some to their loved ones.


Next we headed to Charcuterie, all I have to say is wow. Talk about a selection of pâtés, terrines and sausages.  They not only had French sausages, but sausages imported from other countries like Spain. I was in fact intrigued with the chorizo from Spain, since the proprietor told me it was very spicy, so Pierre-Jean got us some to taste for later.


And, what comes after visiting a charcuterie? well why cheese of course. I was aghast at the selection of cheese this particular cheese store had. I was even more intrigued by the vibrant colors of some of the cheeses. The proprietor told us that the brilliant color came from red basil (red cheese) and pesto (green cheese) pictured.


Well I thought we had hit every food store in the Montmartre, boy was I wrong. We had one final last stop, and one of the most important visits of all, if you guessed wine, you would be correct. The wine shop "La Cave des Abbessess" was amazing. I have never seen such an extensive array of wines in Montmartre, so this was a nice treat.


Inquisitively, I asked Pierre-Jean what he was lugging around all day. Turns out he had a table and a special back-pack that housed everything but the kitchen sink, like utensils, plates and more importantly wine glasses.  He said that normally part of the tour is a picnic, but unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate so we used the small dining area of the wine shop.

Now this was the fun part for me, wine tasting with the baguette, cheeses and charcuterie Pierre-Jean bought earlier.  Pierre-Jean is extremely knowledgeable about wines and gave us an interesting course how how they are produced, the vintages and the "terroir".


As you can see from the happy faces, we had a great time. And, when I thought all was said and done, Pierre-Jean gave us a short walking tour of the Place du Tertre and Sacré Cœur where alas we bid our farewells.

I have to say, I've been on many tours in my life. And, for me the personality of the tour guide as well as his/her knowledge is paramount to a successful tour. Nico and Pierre-Jean delivered.  Pierre-Jean is not only extremely knowledgeable about the surrounding history and knowledge of the foods, he had the personality to match. Very amicable and just a fun nice guy to be around.

Would I recommend this tour, ABSOLUTELY! Merci