Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Paris Trip, A Summation

The restaurant reopens this friday and I'm swamped with trying to finish off the menu and then figure out the recipes for the dishes. So, I'm not writing much. I think this video sort of sums up how I feel. Please listen closely to the beginning of the video.....He's in PARIS!!!!

Best thing I put in my mouth since I've been home: Two cheeseburgers with EVERYTHING from the Famous Hot Weiner. Oh yeah, and fries with chili. Are they as good as fleur de sel caramel macaroons? Close, very close.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An American Chef in Paris

Once back in Paris, we were given some great info. on local restaurants from Alison Barshak, chef/owner at Alison Two in Fort Washington, PA. One of her suggestions was this nice little bistro which was close to our hotel.
So, It was some nice food, but I had to tell you that story so I could tell you this one.

As we were finishing our dinner, three ladies were seated at the bar beside us. They spoke.....wait for it.....wait for it.....ENGLISH!!! The sound of english speaking folks was like Pavarotti belting out an aria to Rich's ears and he struck up a conversation as Karen translated the menu for them. It turns out that they owned an apartment in Paris that had a kitchen. Since Rich knew that Captain Happy Feet(me) would actually enjoy the chance to cook a dinner and not have to eat at a restaurant where he was crammed into a seat like a sardine, the food lacked salt and you couldn't get a glass of water to save your life...he suggested that we come over and cook dinner. They took us up on it and so, it was on.

So, saturday started by heading to the market.

The day started with no preconceived notions of what might be on the menu, so after a quick walk through the entire market, we jotted down some notes and went on a buying spree. The next video is where we bought our herbs and potatoes. Warning: this guy is very entertaining.

Here's just a guick note to Kathy Glahn....this cabbage is awesome!!!!

Once the marketing was done, we packed up and walked over to the apartment. Once organized, the cooking started.

You'll notice my comment about appropriately salted food. The food in France was almost across the board undersalted. That's a shoemaker mistake, France.

Here are a couple of shots of the dinner. The menu was as follows:

Snacks: Toasts with butter, arugula and salted radishes; olives
Chanterelle mushroom risotto with pecorino cheese and Iberico ham
Label Rouge chicken with cabbage, bacon, fingerling potatoes and olive puree
Saddle of Lamb with white beans and red wine reduction
Dessert from Pierre Herme. Enough said.

Here's the galette. Amazing.

So, that sums it up. Lots of bottles of wine and lots of great conversation. It was an amazing feeling to get to cook with some of France's great ingredients..... It was great to share a kitchen with my great friend, Rich Matosky......It was great to go to bed with the sweet smell of cooking still on my hands even though they had been washed over and over. You can't know that feeling unless you've done it, but if you've had it you know what I'm talking about. Thanks for the invitation, ladies. I had an awesome time....I hope you did, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paris, Part Deux

Okie dokie. I gotta apologize to all the faithful readers out there who have wondered what the hell happened to me. Actually, I've been wondering the same thing. Our vacation plans had us staying a couple of days in Paris, followed by a week at a rental house the Loire Valley and then back to Paris for one day before flying out. Well, I'm back in Paris. Our house was less than adequate and the town looked like the eastern European town the Russians impound Bill Murray's motorhome in the movie Stripes. So, there was no internet(what?) and we lacked that thing....what's it called????.....a.....oh, yeah. SHOWERHEAD. The towels must have been made by the Brillo company and the upstairs could have been a stage set for the Diary of Anne Frank. So, back to Paris we go. I've pasted in some pics just for reference. Also, if you're planning a trip to the Loire Valley, I'd recommend going in the summer(beware of the Panzer tanks)

Here's the crazy East German looking Wal-Mart like super store from Selles Sur Cher....whoppeee!!!!! I was waiting for manish looking female swimmers to come out the doors.....
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So, I've got tons of cool entries from Paris, but I'm just glad that I've finally got some internet access(limited as it is) and can continue to fill you in on what's up in Paris.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Paris, Day Three

Well, I think I've finally figured out the photo thing, so this post will be a lot of photos. Sit back, relax, grab a cup of coffee(do it for me....you can't get take away coffee here. you have to sit in a cafe and drink it. that's really getting on my nerves)

OK, Day three started with steak frites and wine. Not a bad way to spend a day. The cool thing about this place is that they only ask you two questions. How do you want your steak cooked and what do you want to drink. They literally only serve steak and french fries. Again, cool. The sauce was kind of chimmichurri, kind of walnut pesto.

Next stop. Shopping. Note to Kathy: Please accept all deliveries to the Inn from Bernardaud and Christofle..... I picked up a few 'extras' for the restaurant, pictured below.... :-)

The Louvre:
Disclaimer: I'm not an art person. Not even close. So, we saw the Mona Lisa. Cool, whatever. I like Fawcett's stuff much better. Also, what idiot decided the glass pyramids were a good design feature? They look as stupid as a pinto pulling a big rig. What was the thought process there? Oh, here's this grand palace, lets plunk down some modern glass pyramids right in the middle. I thought the French were meant to have taste????

I will give them this. At least the good folks at the Louvre had the sense to include the Nittany Lion in their displays.

Whether you like art or think it's painfully boring, you gotta appreciate this craftsmanship. Yes, I actually laid down on the floor of the Louvre to take this picture of the ceiling. I think Karen was embarrassed.

Yes, I got a lease on my very own restaurant and already had the awning installed.....the awning folks move A LOT faster over here than they do in Hanover!!!

Finally, I'll leave you with a shot of the Paris lights. Pretty cool.

BEST THING I PUT IN MY MOUTH TODAY: Well, here's how good they are.....The winner? Day old Pierre Herme caramel and fleur de sel macaroons.

WORST THING I PUT IN MY MOUTH: A deplorable dinner at a corner bistro.(we were just looking for dinner and figured it might not be that bad) I hope everyone strikes the notion that ALL french can cook. It was not good.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Paris, Day Two

Okie Dokie, Day Two in Paris. Here's the run down folks.

We didn't really get out of the hotel until around 11 this morning....(jet lag is still a bitch) However, after getting out of the hotel, we made our pilgrimage to Poilane. To the uninitiated, Poilane is the bread everyone talks about. By everyone, I mean EVERYONE. So, obviously, I had high expectations. Let me tell you, they didn't let me down. There was a LARGE line. Once we were able to order, we ordered a croissant(this was amazing....it really was the flavor of pure butter suspended between layers of flour. Crispy and melt in your mouth all in one.) and apple tart, a roll and a quarter miche Poilane. The last one was what I was really anticipating. Here's the run down. Super crispy, bitter crust with a dense natural yeasty interior. You can't buy this in the US. I've had a lot of good bread and this is hands down the best I've ever had. There's a reason that in a city of bread bakers on virtually every corner, Poilane stands out.

Pierre Herme is a god. If the fact that I'm talking about food with spiritual references bugs you, please click here.

OK, so I said it. He's a god. I've heard the stories, I've seen the write ups. Again, there's a reason there's the hype. I've included video from his shop below, but I've got to add this. We returned to his shop later in the afternoon and the line was out the door. It's not like there was a half off sale at the Dollar General or Ryan's was giving away 1/8 inch steaks(with the purchase of the 'sneeze and hack' bar) folks. This stuff is not cheap and there was a line out the door. People even stopped by to look at the displays in the window like it was a jewelery shop. Really awe inspiring. But, like I said yesterday. These people take their food seriously. Really seriously. So, we loaded up on macaroons, canelle, and a puff pastry and butter tart that I can't remember the name of, but will be back for more tomorrow. Here's the skinny on macaroons. I love them. I'll drive to Baltimore just to get a dozen at my favorite bakery downtown. Pierre Herme's are in a different league. One bit of the caramel and fleur de sel macaroon and I caught myself making that stupid face you see people on food travel shows making at every bite. They bite into squid shit or something like that and then almost as if on cue, their eyes roll back in their head, they smack their lips and then give a banal description of what they just ate. Well, my eyes rolled back in my head, a blissful smile crossed my lips and I couldn't speak a word. Nothing. Nothing from the guy who can rip apart just about any food item in .5 seconds flat. I've never done cocaine, but that's what I imagine it feels like to shoot up. And....just like a junkie, I went back for more later in the afternoon. Yes, we spent a total of $48 on macaroons.

After, Herme, we went and visited the Cluny Museum. I've been told that this trip isn't all about food,(what?) so we managed to squeeze in an hour of museum looking. Sweet.

This pic isn't of the Cluny museum, but of Invalides....I just thought it was a nice pic.

After Cluny, we visited the Bon Marche which is sort of like the size of a Macy's with the quality of products like a Barney's.(not the purple stuffed animal. The store on the east side of Manhattan) Aside from being a big ass department store(I LOVE shopping!!!! Nothing makes me happier than staring at tile floor with the other guys waiting to move to a new part of the store They should put a bar and a bowling alley in department stores.) Anyhow, the Bon Marche as 30,000 square feet of food court(if you're not good with visualizing square feet, suffice it to say, it's HUGE). No, not food court like Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A. Food court like every prepared product you can imagine. Mustards, pasta,chocolates, strawberry flavored marshmallow Fluff(this was actually in the American part of the store)..... freakin' everything. We only popped our heads in and then left because I decided that if we went too far toward 'the light' I'd get sucked in by the tractor beam that is 'cool food' and we'd be late for our reservation at Helene Darroze.

Dinner at Helene Darroze. I'll spare you the nitty gritty details. Let's just say it was a fine Michelin two star experience and I learned a lot. Yes, learned. It's impossible for me to go out to eat anywhere nice without my wheels spinning....but I'm gonna bring a whole load of ideas home.

STRANGEST THING I SAW TODAY: Outside the Cluny museum....there were some pay phones that had graffiti all over them. Right in the middle someone had sprayed 'fart'. I saw that and it just made me laugh. See, fart jokes are funny in any language or continent.

BEST THING I PUT IN MY MOUTH TODAY: This one's a toughie. I ate a TON(my pants still fit) of awesome food today. I gotta give runner up to the macaroon at Pierre Herme. It was awesome. The winner? The miche from Poilane. It was simply amazing and I've always wanted bread to taste like this. I don't know why we can't get it in the US, perhaps bakers don't want to make bread with such a bitter bite, but it really was a point in my life when my perception met reality and I was really happy about that.

WORST THING I PUT IN MY MOUTH TODAY: OK, I gave him bit 'props' earlier in the post, so I can take a shot at him now. Also, I understand that when you swing for the fences all the time, you're gonna strike out some times. Maybe it was my mistake for even buying it but, here goes.....White truffle and hazlenut macaroon from Pierre Herme. This was actually gag-inducing. Sorry, dude.

A word about photos: I'm having trouble loading photos. I actually got some today, but they are slow to load to blogger, perhaps because of my connection. I'll try and do better tomorrow. UPDATE: Pics added!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Paris, Day One

OK, so I'm no audio video genius.

We arrived today.... one day late (thanks Air France) for our trip to Paris and the Loire Valley. After a half hour ride from the airport to our hotel, we checked our bags(the room wasn't ready) and started roaming around our new neighborhood. I gotta tell you, we booked this hotel on a tip from a friend and it couldn't have been more perfect. We are around the block from Lenotre. Literally across the street from one of Paris' most renowned cheese shops. A 15 minute walk to the Champs Elysee. It's awesome. (Oh, yeah. I took a three hour nap in the afternoon. Jet lag's a bitch)

So, I took a TON of photos today....and....videos. No, not videos on my new Flip, but on our digital camera. Well, somewhere during the uploading the camera hung up and lost ALL MY FREAKIN' PHOTOS. Don't be alarmed. I'm gonna reshoot them tomorrow and friday, but I thought I'd give you a run down of what I saw.

First off, lets be VERY clear. The French as a culture take their food WAY more seriously then we Americans. WAY MORE SERIOUSLY. It's so awesome to be in a city where food is such a passion.( Well, it sure beats hurdling fat, limping folks trying to get a 'deal' on 69 cent rump roast at the Wal-Mart.) A simple trip to the corner fish monger(scallops quivering in their shells anyone? Whole turbot? ) or the bakery that is on every block would make that obvious.

Here's what I saw:
1. A 20 whole suckling pig confited in lard. WTF? You had me at 'lard' Paris.
2. An entire restaurant and store devoted to.....yep, you guessed it.....foie gras and truffles.
3. The most amazing fish market I've ever seen....and it's just around the corner from my hotel.
4. Pastry work at Lenotre that makes me want to quit baking because it was so perfect and I'll never get there.
5. The toilet of the Hotel George V is made by Villeroy and Boch. Seriously?
6. 15 McDonald's ads and one McDonald's. FYI, it's difficult to get 'food on the run' here. They not only take their food seriously, but they take the act of eating seriously. They take time. Are you listening America?
7. So many people that I lost count carrying their daily baguette home. That's no joke. They buy for the day.

Best thing I put in my mouth today: Tarte flambee from a pastry shop near the hotel. i took a pic of the front so I'd remember the name, but you already got the memo on my photos. Yippeee!!!!

I'll have more interesting photos and snippets to post tomorrow. Oh yeah. Tomorrow night is our dinner at Helene Darroze.

Here's one video that made it.....enjoy.