Superb Lunches at Petits Prix

Last week in Paris we met friends for lunch twice, and on both occasions the food was not only delicious, but the prices quite reasonable for the menus we enjoyed. On Wednesday we met Sue and John Talbott at Louis, a small, new Right Bank restaurant headed by talented young chef, Stéphane Pitré. The setting is as contemporary as the exquisite food. Although there are only two menus offered without choices, they are both incredibly creative. At lunch the three-course prix fixe is 32 euros while the six-course one costs 48 euros. Our group ordered two of each.

Things got off to a good start with amuse-bouches presented on a stone block that included a savory Parmesan cookie topped with Camenbert mousse, a verdant cube of herbed brioche, and a savory mustard meringue served with honey. A chilled soup of summer squash topped with icy cold cucumber granità and a sprinkling of caviar, salmon topped with roasted radishes and cherry leaves drizzled with miso vinaigrette, and duck served with miniscule beets and black currants were all delicious. A warm chocolate cake topped with a glossy scoop of arugula (yes, you read that right!) ice cream was a memorable ending, as was a dessert of lime foam with champagne.


The next day we continued our midday eating marathon and met our friends, the Porters, at the La Grande Epicerie (food hall) at the Bon Marché. There four of us perched on high Continue reading

A Restaurant Dish Becomes a Favorite at Home

Sesame Lamb Chops, Shiitakes, Snow Peas 1 3648x2736Every so often a restaurant dish is so good, so inventive, yet so simple that I can’t wait to try it in my own kitchen. The grilled shiiktake mushrooms with sesame oil on the menu at Semilla (one of my favorite Paris restaurants) are such a creation. We’ve dined in this Left Bank place at least a half dozen times in the past year, and on every occasion either my husband or I have ordered them. They arrive, stemmed but left whole, usually a half dozen or so on a small plate. A sprinkling of chives and a few pools of sesame oil are the only garnishes. One bite of the tender fungi scented with fragrant toasted sesame oil and you’d be smitten too.

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

During a visit a few weeks ago, I asked our waitress for the recipe, and, smiling, she responded, “Mais c’est très facile!” Then she explained that the shiitakes were seasoned with soy and sesame oil and quickly pan grilled. A few days later I tried them in my petite French kitchen, and discovered that were indeed effortless, and took only a few minutes to prepare.

I decided to expand the recipe by pairing the shiitakes with lamb Continue reading

A Comforting Soup for a Cold Night

Fennel and White Bean Soup with Prosciutto 1 2448x2448At the end of last week we had planned to meet a good friend at a new bistro in Paris. But the tragic events that unfolded between Wednesday and Friday were so unsettling that we all agreed a casual dinner at home was a better idea. When I suggested that we gather for a simple soup and salad supper at our small apartment, our pal was on board immediately and offered to bring dessert.

For the main course, I had in mind a rustic soup prepared by sautéing chopped fennel, onion, and carrots and then simmering those vegetables along with white beans in stock. Short on time, I opted for canned beans, rinsing and draining them well before stirring them into the pot, and was delighted with the results. For extra flavor some chopped fresh rosemary and dry white wine balanced the flavors nicely, while crispy julienned prosciutto and golden homemade croutons made fine garnishes. Continue reading

A Sad Day in Paris

Winter DuskWe were just finishing lunch with friends when one of our pals checked her email and announced that there had been a terrorist attack in Paris. Stunned, we paid the bill and asked the garçons at the bistro what they knew—not much except that a weekly satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, had been attacked. My husband and I decided to continue our errands in the city, stopping in a café to watch on a TV screen more details as the tragedy unfolded. On the bus back to our quartier, I noticed how many riders were checking their cell phones—like us, probably searching for more specifics of this terrible act that had claimed a dozen lives.

When we arrived back at our small rented apartment, we turned on the television to once again get an update of the day’s events. What struck us as extraordinary was that thousands of Parisians had already started to gather at La Place de la République in memory of those who had been killed and wounded and also to stand firm for freedom of expression against ideological terrorism. (In fact, such demonstrations were held throughout France.) Continue reading

Paris Gets Ready for 2015!

We’re back in Paris in the familiar Left Bank neighborhood where we’ve welcomed the beginning of many a new year. The quartier where we stay is festooned with lights and bright window displays, and the food shops remind us how important entertaining friends is at this time of year. The French call December 31 le révillon, or St. Sylvestre, and food and Champagne are at the center of every get-together. Here’s a glimpse of a few of our neighborhood stores where we’ve spent the better part of today selecting delectables for ringing in 2015 with friends.

Ringing in 2015 in Paris!

Scallop and Fennel Tartlets 1 3648x2736This year we’ll be in Paris to ring in 2015, but, rather than dine out in one of the city’s restaurants, we’ll be cooking a meal with our friends, Harriet and Philippe, who live there. Our hosts have decided that after marathon Christmas entertaining, we should follow a simpler philosophy of “buy some, make some” for this special night. And, happily, that’s especially easy to do in France.

Harriet’s local boucher displays gorgeous fowl, completely stuffed and oven ready, which she buys and roasts along with chestnuts and vegetables. Our pals love to purchase oysters, a French tradition at this time of year, and a cache of delectable cheeses. I’ll order a dessert from one of my favorite patisseries, and will volunteer to bring champagne and appetizers. Continue reading

Semilla—A Favorite Restaurant on Paris’ Left Bank

Interior Semilla

Interior Semilla

Semilla Kitchen Team

Semilla Kitchen Team

The French have an original expression for describing restaurants they are particularly fond of. They call them coups de coeur–heartthrobs. Paris by Mouth (a site I use repeatedly when in the City of Light for terrific restaurant, wine, and pastry reviews) even goes so far as to put a bright pink heart by the names of establishments they deem worthy of this honor. Semilla, a popular eatery located in the St Germain area on the Left Bank is my newest heartthrob. (It’s also the recipient of one of those little pink hearts from Paris by Mouth!).

My husband and I have dined in this lively bistro four times this year, twice during our Continue reading

Asparagus Star in A Delicious Soup

Brodo with Asparagus, Gnocchi, and Blue Cheese 1 1515x1368What I love about cooking in France is that the French are real sticklers for using seasonal ingredients. There’s no way you’d see asparagus in their groceries in the winter. (In my supermarkets at home, sadly I don’t have to look hard to find non-local asparagus from Chile displayed throughout the cold weather months.) In Paris bundles of the long, sleek spears appear only in late spring and early summer. And what a glorious scene they make— verdant-hued stalks, tender, petite wild asparagus, and snowy- hued white varieties take center stage at les primeurs (produce stores).

Since arriving several weeks ago, I’ve taken advantage of this bounty. At first, I used the stalks as a side to sautéed lamb chops or roast chicken, but then I got more imaginative and included them in a delicious brodo. Continue reading

Gorgeous Artichokes in the Markets of Paris!

Artichokes Marche Bio Paris  1 2746x1958The first thing I do when I arrive in the City of Light is to get out my rolling cart and head for the organic farmers’ market called Le Marché Bio. We had barely unpacked our bags when we headed to it a couple of Sundays ago. There in all their glory were the jewels of the farmers’ hard work—gorgeous little peas, strawberries that were red all the way through and decadently juicy, cherries so sweet they needed no embellishing, countless bouquets of fresh herbs, and stately artichokes—just possibly my favorite late spring vegetable!

Artichokes in France usually appear in two varieties: the small to medium ones are tinged with purple and call artichauts violets and the others, the incredibly large variety, are artichauts de Bretagne (from Brittany). I couldn’t resist and popped four of the latter in my bag to serve at a small dinner the next night.

Artichokes with Lemon Mint Butter 1 Paris 3648x2736

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Duck for Dinner—Easy, Delicious, and Inexpensive

Roasted Duck Legs with Parsnip Puree 3Last fall at the supermarket, I was debating whether to buy some individually packaged duck legs with thighs when a friend passed by and picked up several packets. “Have you tried these?” I asked. To which she quickly replied that were they not only delicious, but also a terrific bargain at around $3 per serving. Since my husband never met a duck dish he didn’t like, I added a couple to my cart.

Uncertain how I’d prepare this purchase, I remembered on the way home a fabulous duck entrée I’d ordered in a Paris bistro several years back. It featured a duck breast that was quickly sautéed and sauced, then served atop a creamy parsnip puree. Duck legs, I reasoned, could be easily substituted, but would need a longer cooking time. Continue reading