In Paris last winter I met a friend for lunch on a chilly January day. The right bank bistro we chose was called Clown Bar, the name a clue that it was located near the city’s famous circus, Le Cirque d’Hiver. The landmark restaurant had been recently revitalized by a young team, and its menu reflected this with an offering of new, inventive dishes. One of the first things I spotted on it was a Salade de Mache et Croquettes de Camembert. The waiter explained that it was prepared with tender mache lettuce and garnished with warm crispy Camembert croutons.
The salad tuned out to be my favorite dish among many good ones that day. It was a brilliant pairing, both for its simplicity and for its contrasting textures and tastes. The tender mache lettuce tossed in a vinaigrette made a great counterpoint to the crunch of the fried Camembert. Continue reading
Last week during Paris’ record-breaking heat wave the temperature hit 36° C or about 103°F on Wednesday. I didn’t have to look at the thermometer to know how hot it was in our apartment. When I went to put on eyeliner, the pencil had melted and left wide swaths of brown beneath my eyes. (I looked like a Patriots player on a sunny day!). Cheeses set out to come to room temp were oozing within thirty minutes, and the roses on the dining table were limp after a few hours in our un-air conditioned place.
As it turned out we had invited three American students visiting the City of Light to dinner on that hottest night of the year. So, besides setting up a small fan near the table and opening every window, I prepared a cold menu to avoid turning on the oven. A tomato gazpacho garnished with spoonfuls of icy cold cucumber granità anchored the dinner, followed by an arugula and haricots verts salad topped with chopped hardboiled eggs and sautéed chorizo. Fresh chèvres and a bowl of cherries came next, and a finale of purchased lemon tarts completed the offerings. Continue reading
The apartment we rent in Paris has a petite kitchen. Counter space is practically non-existent, the fridge is 3/4 size (big for Paris!), and the oven not much larger than a microwave. Amazingly, though, it works beautifully if I keep the menus simple. Dishes like the pan-seared salmon fillets featured here are perfect to prepare in this small space.
For this recipe salmon fillets are seasoned with an herb and spice rub that includes smoked paprika, thyme, and rosemary. The fillets can rest in the fridge for up to an hour before being quickly pan seared. For sides I drizzled olive oil over a pan of asparagus, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Basmati rice cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan of water scented with several pinches of turmeric made another colorful garnish. Continue reading
Amuse-bouches at Louis
Soup of summer squash with Cucumber Granità at Louis
Interior at Louis
Warm chocolate cake with arugula ice cream at Louis
Salmon with roasted radishes and charred brioche crumbs
Duck with baby beets and black currnts
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.
Scrambled eggs with truffles at Truffe
Pâté with truffle filling at Truffe
Napkin at Truffe
The bar at Truffe
Menu cover at Truffe
Ravioli with truffels at Truffe
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
Every 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
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
At 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
We 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
Famous Mont d”Or cheese which arrives for the holidays
Truffles on a bed of rice in my local cheese store–check out the price!!
Countless delicious cheeses–which to choose is the problem
Quatrehomme Cheese Shop
Entry to La Grande Epicerie–the food emporium at Le Bon Marché
Dark Chocolate pastries from Le Bon Marché for our New Year’s Eve dinner
Waters are taken seriously at La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché
A favorite wine shop on rue du Bac
Champagne for tonight!
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.
This 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 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