Two Paris Bistros- Delicious Food at Reasonable Prices

Restaurant Pirouette in Paris

I discovered Pirouette, a stylish bistro located in central Paris near Les Halles, during my winter visit to France’s capital in January. The contemporary setting, with its soaring ceiling and huge windows looking out on a small square, invites one to relax, but the inventive food of talented chef, Tommy Gousset, would make any place shine. Gousset has done stints at Taillevent and Le Meurice in Paris and with Daniel Boulud in New York, and his talents were expertly honed in these great restaurants.

At dinner, our waiter brought two tempting amuse-bouches—an ethereally light cream of shallot soup capped with foam and a tartine topped with a flavorful cream and chorizo. Other highlights included a cream of artichoke soup with a soft poached egg and trompette de la mort mushrooms, an excellent ris de veau with duxelles, and baba au rhum with lime. At lunch a few days later, I started with a mouthwatering risotto de blé (made, I assumed, with wheat berries) set in a creamy broth and garnished with sautéed celery and bacon. My main dish, a dauraude grise (a mild white fish), served atop wild mushrooms and petit grenaille potatoes, succulently completed this menu.

Daurade Grise on a bed of mushrooms and potatoes at Pirouette

The prix fixe is 38 euros for three courses at dinner and 18 euros for two at lunch—a veritable bargain in Paris The staff was warm and helpful, and the setting inviting. I plan to go back on my next visit.

Restaurant Pirouette
5, rue Mondetour
Paris 75001
01-40-26-47-81
Métro: Etienne Marcel

 

Le Casse-Noix in Paris

Le Casse-Noix is a bistro I’ve been booking at regularly for the last few years. Located in the 15th arrondissement not far from the Eiffel Tower, it has an old fashioned ambience with the chef’s collection of nut crackers (a reference to the restaurant’s name ) displayed throughout. Chef Pierre Olivier Lenormand, an alum of the celebrated La Régalade in the 14th, never fails to please me with his creative menus. Continue reading

Stuffed Pasta Spirals—Great Main Course for Make-Ahead Entertaining!

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Baked Pasta Spirals
When you’re entertaining is there anything better than an all-in-one main course that can be assembled a day ahead, then cooked at serving time? The following recipe for pasta spirals (which are really individual rolled lasagnas) stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto fall into  this special category.
The dish was inspired by a display of individual lasagnes that I spotted several years ago in the food section of the celebrated Bon Marché department store in Paris. During a long stay in France, I went often to La Grande Epicerie, and every time I passed the counter of take out dishes, was intrigued with the interesting fillings encased by single rolled sheets of pasta.
Pasta Spirals Ready To Go in the Oven
Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I created my own version, spreading a simple mix of ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, bits of prosciutto, and Italian parsley on individual cooked pasta noodles, then rolling the sheets into spirals and napping them with a zesty tomato sauce. This casserole can be popped into the fridge, and be ready and waiting the next day. Count on about a half hour to bake the dish, and serve it with easy sides—a mixed green salad and some warm crusty peasant bread. Voilà—a delicious meal with no last-minute fuss!

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The Perfect Side Dish—Summer Tomatoes with a Provencal Stuffing

Grocery shopping at my neighborhood market this summer in Paris, I noticed a bin of tomatoes labeled “tomates pour rôtir,” which means “tomatoes for roasting.” I put several of the deep red orbs in my cart, imagining that they would be delicious stuffed.
Back in my small apartment kitchen, I scooped out the seeds and flesh, and filled the cavities with a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs, sautéed shallots, bits of creamy goat cheese, and herbs. Then I popped the tomatoes into the oven for less than half an hour until they were hot and the cheese had melted. The tomatoes held up beautifully in the oven and were indeed perfect for roasting.  For serving each tomato was garnished simply with a fresh basil sprig.
Back home in New England, I was surprised to find similar tomatoes at a nearby Whole Foods.

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A Pair of Terrific Paris Restaurants—The New and The Old

Brill with Rhubarb Sauce and Haricots Verts at Auguste

 

Although I’ve been in France’s capital only a few days, I’ve already managed to dine in two exceptionally good restaurants. Both were in Paris’ fashionable 7th arrondissement, but the ambience and the menus of these two places were worlds apart.
At Auguste, a restaurant that opened a few years ago, the décor was modern with a gorgeous red velvet banquette taking center stage in the main room. The talented chef’s creations were truly original and inventive. My first course, a green asparagus bouillon studded with slices of white asparagus and garnished with a celestial foam, was a definite winner, while my tender fillet of brill topped with rhubarb puree and julienned haricots verts, was just as tempting. For dessert a warm pistachio soufflé was superb distinguished by the exquisite flavor of toasted nuts. A small ramekin of blood orange sorbet made a refreshing garnish.
Salad of Haricots Verts, Artichokes, and Foie Gras at Le Voltaire
A short distance away at Le Voltaire, on the Quai Voltaire, overlooking the Seine, I had another memorable meal, this one composed of French classics. The dining room with its beautiful wood paneling, plush banquettes, and soft lighting was timeless as well. My stellar first course was a salad of extra thin haricots verts and fresh artichoke hearts tossed in a vinaigrette and served with a generous slice of foie gras. My “onglet de veau” was a masterful dish of tender cooked veal morsels paired with fresh apricots accompanied by two creamy purees, one made with potatoes and another with golden-hued squash. A tarte Tatin, France’s popular upside down apple pie, was served with dollops of rich crème fraîche, and practically melted in my mouth.
The tab at each restaurant was on the high side, hovering around 100 euros per person including moderately priced, but good wine. I’d go back to both in a heartbeat, heading to Auguste for innovative fare and to Voltiare for familiar French comforts.
54 rue de Bourgogne
Paris VII
01 45 51 61 09
Le Voltaire
27, quai Voltaire
Paris VII
01 42 61 17 49

Markets of Paris Second Edition by Dixon Long and Marjorie Williams

If you or your family or friends have a trip planned to Paris, you’ll want to purchase a copy of Markets of Paris Second Edition by Dixon Long and Marjorie Williams. First published in 2006, this paperback, with insider information on the legendary food, flea, antique, and other markets of France’s capital, has just been reissued with fabulous updates and additional information. Just the right size for travel, this petit livre with gorgeous photos, can easily be tucked into a purse, a tote, or a backpack. Organized by arrondissement, it’s also a snap to use. The authors lead you to Paris’ celebrated outdoor food markets Continue reading

Food, Fashion, and Paris

Parisian Chic

Food and fashion seem to be the first two things to come to mind when we dream of Paris. I was reminded of this truism yet again this past week. A friend, off to Paris next month for the first time in many years, emailed to ask if I’d share some of my favorite restaurants.

I immediately sent her a note suggesting that she check out my website and click on the Paris tab at the top to see the current food venues I love in the City of Light, including both Sola and Le Casse Noix, two recent discoveries.
Sola

 To my  amusement, a second email arrived several days later from this lovely woman, requesting fashion advice. It began, “May I ask you, not a food question, but a clothes question?” and ended with the endearing line, “I’m not a high-style dresser at age 78, but don’t want to look frumpy.”

I recommended Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic, an inexpensive style guide written by a former top French model. This little paperback reveals the secrets of what smart Parisian women wear and where they shop. (Full disclosure–I’m as passionate about clothes as food when in France’s capital.)

Le Casse Noix

Yes, everyone goes to Paris to eat divinely. And, for some, looking their best while taking a sip of soupe à l’oignon gratinée or biting into a glorious millefeuille is de rigueur. My septuagenarian pal definitely belongs to the latter contingent. She has already ordered a copy of Parisian Chic!

My Favorite French Blogs and Web Sites

    

 Last night while teaching a class on winter soups from Sunday Soup, I mentioned to my students that I had just returned from Paris where I had spent a good part of a three-week stay trying new restaurants. Whenever I give a course, I can’t stop, as a devoted Francophile, from talking about the French, their customs, their food, their art. So, it wasn’t surprising that at the end of this class several people (a few with plans to visit France this year) asked me to recommend some blogs, and web sites.   

It then dawned on me that my followers would be interested in the French blogs and sites that I read. Here are my top five favorites.
French Word-A-Day: Kristin Espinasse, an American married to a French wine-maker in the South of France, recounts her daily life with her husband and two teenagers. In each of her three weekly posts, she includes French words and expressions in touching stories. At the end of each narrative, she lists the vocabulary words with definitions and an audio for pronunciation. I love her honest, direct style and have become one of more than 30,000 people reading her tales of French life.
Hungry for Paris: Alec Lobrano, a former correspondent for Gourmet Magazineand one of Paris’ best known American restaurant reviewers, has an amazing site filled with the latest news about restaurants in Paris and throughout France. His posts are detailed, intimately written and will make you long to be at the table with him.
John Talbotts’ Paris- John Talbott posts several times every week on his restaurant forays in Paris. His style is brief and to the point, and his posts are filled with practical information and photos about the newest and most interesting places to dine in Paris.
Paris by Mouth: This is a fabulous site about all things culinary in Paris. It’s a collaborative effort that includes restaurant reviews by such notable American writers as  Alec Lobrano, John Talbot, and Patricia Wells. French gourmands as well offer their opinions. You’ll find information and reviews for restaurants, wine bars, pastry, bread, and cheese shops and more.
The Provence Post: This is a blog written by Julie Mautner, an American who lives in St-Remy-de-Provence. You never know what Julie will post, but her style is so warm and engaging that I always read every word. One day she might describe an art exhibition or a concert in a nearby town; on another she shows you the photo of a fabulous villa for sale in her area. She might share a favorite restaurant or culinary experience another time. With each post, she makes you wish you were living in Provence.

Winter Soup Supper-Parisian Style

My husband marvels at how easy it is for us to entertain when we’re in Paris. The secret lies in following the “cook some, buy some” philosophy I use here. Take a small dinner that we had for a couple of friends recently. I cooked a delicious winter vegetable and sausage soup topped with grated Gruyère, and prepared the vinaigrette dressing for the salad, but I purchased the rest. That’s right—I made two dishes and bought the other courses. In Paris there’s a fromagerie(cheese shop), boucherie (butcher), charcuterie (deli), boulangerie (bakery) and patisseriewithin walking distance in every quartier.
For appetizers, I set out bowls of Provençal olives, pistachios, and French radishes that were spread with sweet butter and then dipped in sea salt. The glorious main course soup came next accompanied by garnishes of grated cheese, parsley, and a warm crusty baguette. A salad assembled with purchased greens and sliced mushrooms (both cleaned and ready) plus a couple of delectable cheeses followed. Dessert came from a near-by patisserie. Voilà! There was my “make a little, buy a little” menu.
The French potage (based on a recipe for a “soupe du chalet” I had spotted in a French cookbook) was the star of the night.

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Ladurée comes to New York City!

Photograph by Stephen Carlile
One of Paris’ oldest and most famous pastry shops is opening its first U.S. outpost in New York this month. Ladurée, founded in 1862 and celebrated for its macarons (those ethereally light meringue-like cookies made with egg whites, ground almonds, and sugar), is due to open, according to its website, on August 27th at 864 Madison Avenue. Ladurée shops span the globe now and can be found in England, Japan, Turkey, Italy Ireland, and other distant locales.
Photograph by suziedepingu
A longtime fan of their elegant Parisian boutiques with the pastel-colored walls and exquisite packaging, I adore not only their macarons, but their other confections as well. Now I can indulge on this side of the Atlantic. Laduree is credited with inventing the double decker macaron available in a variety of tempting flavors and sandwiched together with ganache or butter cream. You’ll find their chocolates, pastries, and cakes just as tempting. (I once bought a lime- and ginger-scented mille feuille at their store on the rue Bonaparte in Paris and spent weeks in vain trying to figure out how to reproduce it!)  
At the beginning of this week, I went by the Madison Avenue store hoping that it might have opened early. There was still a lot of work to be finished, so I’d recommend checking their website before making a trip. (Please note that the site is in French. Cick on “Les Maisons Ladurée” on top tab, then on “Dans le Monde,” and finally on “Etats-unis,” and you’ll see the date in French which is easy to read.) I definitely plan to go back on my next visit to the Big Apple this fall.
Ladurée
864 Madison Avenue (between 70th and 71st)
New York, New York