Speaking of delightful French gastronomy… while I was in France in January my after-dinner drink was always verveine, which I had never heard of before but which seems quite popular there as a non-alcoholic digestif. I had no idea what I was drinking until I got back to New York. Continue reading
Don’t ask me why I have been drawn to packaged flan lately. I know – it’s just asking for trouble. Still, in a taste-off between two processed, mass produced versions of a dessert that was just not designed to sit for months in the refrigerated aisle, there is a clear winner. Goya’s flan was too sweet and had an overly burnt top layer, but it nevertheless retained the general taste and contours of flan. Kozy Shack’s flan, however, was indistinguishable from paste. It tasted like flavorless Kool-Aid and had the consistency of Jell-o.
Just in case you ever get a hankering for flan and, like me, are too lazy to make it yourself or to find a restaurant in which to purchase it…FYI Goya’s is the lesser of the two evils.
I had been hankering for raclette ever since missing my chance to try it in France, so last Thursday I went to eat it in New York. Philippe found me a quirky little place that serves fondue and raclette – but only on winter nights they deem sufficiently cold – out of a dimly lit, speakeasy-like back room. Getting to it felt almost like going through the wardrobe into Narnia. Continue reading
I’ve heard a lot of superlatives about Paris – that it’s the most romantic city in the world, the most beautiful, the city of light. But I think its most-fitting top billing is tastiest.
Why? Because I got a contact high every time I passed a bakery. Because the freshly made mayonnaise at a hole-in-the-wall cafe was so far beyond what’s eaten in America that the two deserve different names. Because a 3:00am omelette at a randomly selected bistro was the best I’ve ever had. Because my first bite of entrecôte with bearnaise sauce propelled me to break my 3-day French-only streak with an awestruck, “Are you fucking kidding me?” directed at no one in particular, since I was alone.
And that’s only Paris. In Alsace, they took meat and potatoes to a whole new expletive-inducing level. In fact, except for one unfortunate breakfast, everything I ate in France was better than 90% of what I’ve eaten in America.
Granted, I am one for hyperbole. But even if you take me with a grain of salt (which, incidentally, was also more delicious in France), there’s no denying that the French have a very special way with food.
So without further ado, here’s everything I ate in France:
First row: (Alsacienne) baeckeoffe; smoked duck and goat cheese salad; camembert with pine nuts and honey; best-tasting omelette and fries; charcuterie and cheese plate. Second row: confit de canard; choucroute garnie – note the thing that looks like a layer cake but is actually the fattiest, most delicious chunk of ham ever sliced; the (weak link) omelette; smoked salmon; steak with potatoes and pesto. Third row: gluten-free croque monsieur made by philippe; coquilles st. jacques; picnic lunch bought at the only open store in a tiny alsacienne village; steak and vegetables; pot au feu (after the soup was consumed). Fourth row: smoked salmon and goat cheese salad; breakfast of cheese and jam and nutella; potatoes and lardons and extra fat; entrecôte with bearnaise sauce; chef salad. Fifth row: Homemade jams; adorable baby radishes; three glutinous things that, full disclosure, I watched my dining partners eat but did not actually eat in France (two tarte flambees and a croque monsieur).
And that brings us to… DESSERT!!!
First row: creme brulee; gluten-free canelé and madeleines from Helmut Newcake; pavlova; delightfully decorated ice cream; Laduree macarons; a chocolate-covered meringue on top of mocha-flavored buttercream – I think this type of pastry might be called a merveilleux (and it certainly was); chocolate pot au creme, caramel pot au creme, pistachio creme brulee and caramel creme brulee (aka best breakfast ever); cherry, straciatella and chestnut ice cream; rose-flavored sorbet and coffee ice cream, because we couldn’t find rose-flavored ice cream anywhere; a gluten-free madeleine; creme caramel; some sort of ice cream cake; gluten-free chocolate cake and gluten-free chocolate cookies, made by Philippe; chocolate mousse; a gluten-free religieuse from Helmut Newcake; and gluten-free tarte tatin, also made by Philippe.
The only thing on my wish-list that I didn’t end up eating and really wish I had is raclette. It sounds like God’s gift to cheese and potato lovers, but the specialty restaurant we tried to go to in Paris was all booked up and we ran out of time to find an alternative. I guess this gives me a reason to go back…
Je suis arrivée à Paris le vendredi matin. Cette nuit-là je suis allée pour voir Stars. Je me sentais un peu bizarre, un peu fière et un peu choqué d’avoir effectivement fait mon plan fou.
Le lendemain, je me suis réveillée dans cet hôtel avec un design d’intérieur… distinctif…
…et une vue typiquement parisienne:
Je me suis promenée et j’ai vu des signes de Charlie partout.
J’ai mangé trois repas et deux desserts (au moins) chaque jour. (Je vais le prouver dans un prochain post…)
J’ai rencontré Philippe le mystérieux, avec qui j’avais eu les conversations du Skype pendant six mois pour apprendre le français (et pour lui d’apprendre l’anglais).
Nous sommes allés en Alsace et mangé encore plus. Choucroute garnie!!!!
Miniscule adorable village dont j’ai oublié le nom.
Pique-nique de voiture à miniscule adorable village. (Pas montré: ma faux baguette sans gluten.) J’heart Alsace.
Je n’ai parlé que le français pendant huit jours. Encore: JE N’AI PARLE QUE LE FRANCAIS PENDANT HUIT JOURS.
Je suis retournée à Paris et mon amie de Londres m’a rencontré pour le week-end. J’ai arreté avec ma règle de parler seulement en français et je suis revenue à l’anglais, mais encore et encore je parlais à elle en français par accident. C’était génial!
Nous sommes restées dans Le Marais dans une AirBnB appartement avec une vue parfaite.
Nous sommes allées à un restaurant où un serveur ressemblait exactement à Daniel Craig et un autre ressemblait exactement à Javier Bardem. Nous avons pensé que nous pourrions être dans Skyfall… jusqu’à ce que s’est passé, et nous avons réalisé que nous étions dans tout autre chose.
Et il y avait une espace où nous avons mangé de brunch que j’aimais beaucoup: Le Comptoir General près de Canal St. Martin.
Nous sommes allées à l’Orangerie pour voir les Monets et au d’Orsay pour voir les Van Goghs.
Nous avons fait des achats aux soldes célèbres de janvier (et en fin, ce n’était que les alimentaires que nous avons acheté, pas la mode).
Le dimanche soir, mon amie a pris l’Eurostar pour retourner à Londres, et j’ai pris un avion à New York, où il a neigé un pied le lendemain.
Et cela, c’est ce que j’ai fait pendant mes vacances d’hiver. La fin. (Je me donne un A +.)
It was our intern Kieu Anh’s last day at work today so we took her out to lunch, and she surprised us with parting gifts. (Isn’t that lovely? So unnecessary but so appreciated.) Throughout her internship I have repeatedly subjected Kieu Anh to impromptu French conversations, since I know she studied abroad in the south of France. She, in turn, knows I’m heading to Paris in a few weeks with the intention of spending 85% of my time eating, and she very thoughtfully gave me the perfect gift: “Edible French: Tasty Expressions and Cultural Bites.” It’s a colorful guide to French food-related idioms as well as a recipe book, and it’s beautifully illustrated with watercolors.
I actually mentioned wanting to read this very book a few weeks ago, but Kieu Anh had no idea since she didn’t even know about my blog til today. She’s just got a gift for good gifting!
Now I know what I’ll be reading on the plane… Thank you, Kieu Anh!
Pop quiz: What does it mean to say someone has “un coeur d’artichaut” (the heart of an artichoke)?
One (or, let’s face it, two) desserts per day:
Glacé fleur – the most delicious confection in the world. Here’s a handy guide to the best ice cream in Paris.
Chocolat pot au creme
Mousse au chocolat
Mousse aux noisettes
Flourless chocolate cake
Some sort of soufflé
In addition my never-tasted but nevertheless-beloved choucroute garnie, I plan to dine on:
Brie and Camembert and Roquefort
Oeufs en meurette
Coq au vin
Confit de canard
A French omelette (and by that I mean an omelette made in France)
And last but not least, copious quantities du beurre, in any form or fashion.
I will accompany every single meal with a glass of Sancerre.
It’ll be hard work, but I’m up for the challenge.
Yesterday, within the space of ten minutes, I checked my Delta balance, found my 50,000 miles had been deposited, and booked a 10-day trip to Paris. While I was going through those motions, the rational part of me kept saying to myself, “Maybe this is worth thinking through a little more?” But the part of me that knows how often I paralyze myself by overthinking made a “talk to the hand” gesture and continued on its way.
So now I’m heading to France in mid-January, rather inexplicably. Originally I was going to jet off for the weekend but then I realized that if I’m going somewhere I may never return to, and using valuable miles to get there, I should make the most of it. I decided to tack on an additional weekend to go anywhere in France that my heart desired. I thought about heading south to try to get some sun but that seemed like a fool’s errand. Even the Riviera won’t be able to deliver in January. So I decided to choose my destination based on whichever place has the best food, because really all I want to do is eat as many fatty dishes and patisserie treats as humanly possible, wander beautiful streets aimlessly, and speak a ton of French.
That’s how I concluded that I should go to Alsace, home of choucroute, which appears to be the best invention in the history of gastronomy. According to this handy Buzzfeed article on the 44 French foods you must try before you die, it also boasts the origin of raclette, pot au feu, coq au vin, and boeuf bourguignon. (And now my mouth is watering.) None of the other regions of France look nearly as gluttonous.
This is probably because Alsace also appears to be the coldest region of the country. They have to eat all that fat to prevent frostbite. It’s rather counterintuitive of me to have misgivings about heading to a cold city for vacation only to beeline from there to the very coldest part of the country it belongs to, but I have decided that if you’re going to do winter, you may as well do winter. And look how beautiful winter in Alsace looks!
Today is my last day of a week in the suburbs hanging out with my parents, siblings/siblings-in-law and niece. On Friday I bought buckwheat flour and thought I’d attempt these galettes. I’m not going to link to the recipe I used because the results were horrifying.
The batter was way too thin and looked liked runny sand. The crepes I poured out would neither stick together nor cook through. When I tried to flip them they fell apart and started to resemble roast beef. I gave up and my mother took over with little more success. They came out in circles when she made them but they still tasted the same – like a buttered salt sandcastle. I had wanted to fill the galettes with savory stuff like a fried egg, sauteed spinach and tomatoes, but we spent so much time and effort agonizing over the galettes themselves that there was no energy left for fillings, which I assume would have helped balance out the strong gritty buckwheat flavor.
After that fiasco my mom wanted to throw out the batter but I couldn’t bear to so I added a cup more buckwheat flour to it the next day and tried again.
With the batter a little thicker, the resulting forms were a little more recognizable as crepes. They still tasted like licking a beach but, bathed in marmalade, a sweet beach. For people who can eat anything, a sweet beach is not really appetizing, but for the gluten-free it’s often as good as it gets, and I soon learned to appreciate the earthy flavor.
The batter lasted four days at which point I was finally ready to throw in the towel and just pour the rest down the drain.
Upshot of failed galettes experiment: now I need to go to Brittany to see what they’re really supposed to taste like.