Saturday, 23 May 2009

More Paris tidbits

An authentic Breton crêperie run by Japanese chefs, Italy's best gelateria, a chic brunch at the Hyatt with friends

I went to Breizh Cafe today. The chefs are Japanese and the direction is Breton. It is an authentic Breton crêperie and you will find nothing better anywhere else. I love galettes and crepes and have been all over Brittany for great ones but this is the best. It is at rue Vieille du Temple and rue du Perche in the third arrondissement. Always crowded, it is a good idea to reserve. I had a Breton artichoke galette today with gruyère, ham and delicious fresh artichokes. There is a list of excellent cidres and I chose the 1/2 carafe of house cider--enough for two or three. I always start with their fresh oysters from Cancale and never have room for the numerous dessert crepes. One day I will skip the oysters.... The restaurant serves non-stop from lunch to the early evening.

Grom is an Italian gelateria that originated in Italy. I discovered it in Florence only to find that one opened not only on the rue de Seine, Paris but also on 7th Avenue South near Bleeker in NYC. The ingredients are all natural; the ice cream is smooth and creamy and this is definitely a keeper! It is authentic Italian gelato made from all natural ingredients as opposed to the fake style Italian gelato that Amorino serves.

My friend, Eric and I had a wonderful meal at L'Accolade on the rue Guillaume Tell in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. It is a bit off the beaten track but well worth the trip. Everything is well prepared and presented beautifully. Eric had a delicious fresh grilled swordfish on smashed potatoes and I had de-shelled langoustines on a cheesy risotto. We both started with a lovely refreshing tuna tartare in which the tuna was presented as pieces and not shopped fine. My apple-pear crumble (hazelnuts instead of crumble) with salty caramel ice cream and caramel was superb and the home-made profiteroles au chocolat were addictive. My dentist recommended this place. I can always count on him for a good restaurant report.

Last month, I had a fancy brunch at the Hyatt Vendome with my friends Sophie and Loic. It was a very pleasant and delicious experience. For 75 euros, you are treated to champagne, a vast buffet and one main course and coffee or tea. I had the delicious omelette aux morilles. At the buffet were all sorts of fancy dishes including a superb crème brulée au foie gras, saumon fumé, seafood salad, cheeses, and a wonderful baby club sandwich. For main courses (I had the omelette) there was pain perdu with honey and ham, exotic Spanish ham, and tartare de boeuf among other things. The buffet had a variety of beautiful desserts including fondant au chocolat, tartelettes aux framboises, crème caramel, the classic opera, etc. etc. And we chose a rosé Champagne Billecart Saumon to anoint the meal. It is a lovely event that can be experienced on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


A visit to Strasbourg (a gourmet's delight) where I went to two pillars of gastronomy for fine cuisine and a number of local small eateries for traditional Alsatian food.

Strasbourg is known as a gastronomic capital. I spent four food-filled days there and was not disappointed. For kugelhopf (the breakfast pastry with almonds and raisins that comes in various sizes), I ran to Christian which has two locations--both in the old city and one in the Place de la Cathédrale. Get there before 11 am, otherwise they will have run out. They also serve a lovely lunch there and you can have Alsatian specialties. I went for a delicious chocolate extravaganza and was not disappointed.

That day, for lunch (and before the chocolate gateau) I had the compulsory flammekeuchen which is a thin crusted pizza covered with lardons, oignons; crème fraîche--what a delight.

For my first dinner, I went to the Buereheisel which is a lovely restaurant in the Parc de L'Orangerie. Years ago, the chef was Antoine Westermann and the restaurant had three Michelin stars. Père Antoine retired and his son took over the kitchen. Now the restaurant has one star and, nevertheless, is really wonderful. I chose the menu gastronomique and was very impressed.

For starters, I had roast lobster with curry and white asparagus, followed by frogs legs with spaetzle, sole with green asparagus, lemon and fresh tomato, sweetbreads with morels (a truly luxurious dish), roast lamb with baby vegetables and rosemary, and a beer-caramelised brioche cake with roast pear. This menu was spectacular!!!! and reasonable at 145 euros with wine. To have all these luxury foods at that price quite wonderful. Had this been the three-star restaurant, the same menu would have cost twice this much and have been equally delicious. I left feeling happily sated and blown away by the perfect performance of the chef as well as the excellent service.

The next day, I had the pleasure of dining at Au Crocodile (which has two Michelin stars). Everyday, there is a bargain menu of 87 euros for six courses, wine, water and coffee. You really can't find that anywhere as most menus include food only. This day, I had several amuse-bouches including a spectacular gougère with spinach, and a tiny flammekeuchen and a cappuccino de choucroute (the regional sine qua non). My courses were white asparagus (an Alsatian seasonal specialty) with blinis and caviar followed by the river fish, sandre with morels and creamy polenta, and culminating with a series of pre-desserts which introduced a strawberry soupe with Gewurtztraminer (a regional wine) with a pepper ice cream which was a perfect light ending to a lovely meal. I had a number of Alsatian wines with this wonderful menu and at the end, several mignardises (pistachio cake, basil cotton candy, raspberry tart, passion fruit tart with red fruits). With coffee came two lovely chocolates (with cumin and with coffee). A truly memorable experience.

I went to a very picturesque and interesting town the next day: Colmar, and had lunch at a Bib Gourmand which is a Michelin restaurant that serves good food at reasonable prices. It is always wise to seek out the "bibs" in any city. At Les Trois Poissons, I sat outside along the Ill river and had a delicious sandre choucroute au beurre blanc. This was a simple, light and memorable meal. The sandre skin was crisp and tasty and the meat of the fish was prepared perfectly. With this, I had a glass of Riesling and was happily sated.

When in Strasbourg, one should not miss the Winstubs. They are the casual wine bars where people go for terrific regional food. I chose Le Clou which has the coveted
Bib Gourmand. No pomp--but a warm welcome and delicious food. I ordered a portion of warm white asparagus (spring asparagus are a stable of Alsatian cuisine) with a vinaigrette dressing, and Brotwurst sur choucroute. The choucroute garni looked fabulous but was too copious for me. For dessert, I had Mirabelle sorbet with mirabelle alcool. This was my favorite meal: hardy, no-frills, and delicious food served in a friendly and boisterous atmosphere.

If you can believe it, I had one last lunch to write about: at La Maison des Templiers. This is a temple to Alsatian food in the charming part of Strasbourg known as La Petite France. At a lovely table on the terrace along the river, I had coq au riesling--pieces of succulent chicken in a redolent cream sauce. This dish is only found in the most traditional Alsatian restaurants and I chose this place precisely for this dish.

I left Strasbourg with plans to diet and with the wonderful memory of all the terrific dishes I had sampled. It was a wonderful stay in a beautiful and delicious town.