Friday, December 31, 2010

Délicieuse Année 2011

As the sign at La Grande Epicerie de Paris says, I wish you a "délicieuse année 2011" filled with great meals, health and happiness!

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paris - Restaurant Jean

A number of people have asked me to recommend restaurants near the Opéra, which is a quartier not well represented in my blog. The reason for this is simple: there are not a lot of good restaurants in that area. However, my wife and I recently discovered a really fine restaurant in the area, Jean, near Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and perhaps fifteen minutes' walk from the Opéra.

Jean has imaginative, attractively presented food in a comfortable setting with capable team-style service.
There is a moderate-sized but very attractive à la carte selection, as well as a 3-course menu for 45 euros, a 4-course menu gastronomique for 65 euros and a 7-course menu gastronomique for 78 euros.

We opted for the 4-course and were very happy.
After several interesting amuse-bouches, we started with an inspired cauliflower (yes!) dish, consisting of cauliflower puree and tiny cooked florets, topped with thin raw slices, perfectly perfumed with a hint of sancho pepper oil. Next was sauteed scallops with a creamy almond sauce, topped with small slices of sauteed abalone and served over crispy cabbage. The meat course was a perfectly cooked fillet of venison with a simple but classic jus (my wife, a non-lover of venison, was offered an excellent magret de canard instead).

Dessert was a heavenly chocolate disk filled with a creamy mixture of flavors that we could not identify, and some little pastries on the plate. The pastry chef is an American woman, Alison Johnson, who previously was pastry chef at Artisanal, Picholine and Eleven Madison Park in New York City. This altogether satisfying meal was completed by a complimentary cognac.

Our menu did not include a cheese course, but we were tempted by the relatively small, but well chosen, selection of perfectly ripened cheeses. However, we were lucky enough to enjoy the aromas as the woman at the adjacent table ordered a small piece of each of the ten or so cheeses on the plate.

Jean, 8 rue St-Lazare (Métro Notre-Dame-de-Lorette), 9ème.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paris - Bánh Mì

Writing the last post, on the return of Baoguette, reminded me that Clotilde Dusoulier, in her excellent blog Chocolate & Zucchini, had recommended a bánh mì place in Paris that I have been intending to try: Saigon Sandwich. Well, it really is good. Imagine a well-constructed bánh mì sandwich - pork pâté, roast pork, cucumber, shredded pickled carrots and radishes, cilantro, homemade mayonnaise and hot peppers - and imagine further that it's on a really fresh French baguette. Yes, you are in heaven. They also have a chicken bánh mì that is even better, or you can get the classic pork with chicken added.

Actually, I think the pork fillings at New York's Baoguette are better, but the great bread more than makes up for it.

I have to hand it to Clotilde: she is no snob. Saigon Sandwich is in a really terrible neighborhood, around the corner from the Belleville Métro station, and the sidewalks are so crowded with immigrants selling used clothes that you need to walk in the street. There are three folding chairs in the restaurant so you can eat on your lap, right next to the line of waiting patrons, if you don't want to take out. Having fully intended to eat sur place, I decided to enjoy my lunch at home.

Saigon Sandwich, 6 rue de la Présentation, Paris 11ème (Métro Belleville) (closed Sundays).

Bobby Jay

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baoguette Returns

I recently reported that Baoguette, 61 Lexington Avenue, had been closed by the Health Department. A trusted reader reports that it has reopened, with a provisional rating and lots of happy eaters.

In the absence of Baoguette, I have tried Nicky's, 150 East 2nd Street, a charming deli-like place, with three little tables for the few customers who eat in. The classic bánh mì is good (but not as good as Baoguette's), and they have other bánh mì sandwiches, including a tofu one that I plan to try next time I'm in the neighborhood.

Also, I went to Num Pang, a very popular Cambodian sandwich shop at 21 East 8th Street. The specialty, pork belly sandwich, is flavorful, but does not have the complex layers of hot, sour, sweet, salty and bitter that one finds in a good bánh mì. Also, the eating area, upstairs, is really pretty bad, even by my relaxed standards for this type of place.

I am continuing to make the rounds, but look forward to returning to Baoguette when I get back to the USA. I hope they can get their Health Department rating up to "A."

Bobby Jay

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Winter's Day in Paris

People often ask me what I do when I am in Paris, particularly when my wife is not with me.

Today was a typical, and rewarding, day.

It being Saturday, I visited my favorite outdoor market, on Avenue de Président Wilson. It being a few days before Christmas, the market is full of wonderful luxury foods: foie gras, truffles, geese, ducks, etc. I bought a lobe of foie gras to prepare for a Christmas dinner to which we have been invited, and food for a couple of lunches and dinners.

For lunch I bought a coquelet (baby chicken) cooked over the rotisserie, half of which I pulled and mixed with rice and a little Sriracha (Southeast Asian, not French, but it is great) hot sauce. Then an assortment of cheeses I found at the market, including Mont d'Or, a seasonal cow cheese from the Alps that is one of the great things to eat in this world.

In the afternoon, I went to the famous marché aux puces (flea market) at the Porte de Clignancourt, where I picked up a Napoleon III picture frame that I had bought earlier, and had a brief but unsuccessful exploratory visit. There is always a lot to see at this market, which has numerous submarkets and many hundreds of antique dealers.

Returning to the apartment, I walked the dog and read for a couple of hours.

Dinner -- at home -- consisted of saucisse mourteau, a French garlic sausage with no real US equivalent, cooked with lentilles de Puy, amazing green lentils that keep their firm texture and are great company for pork of any kind. I had enough for another meal, probably lunch tomorrow or Monday.

Saucisse Mourteau with Lentilles de Puy: in the pot and as leftovers

Then followed an extremely chocolaty store-bought organic
mousse au chocolat, to which my French friends had introduced me, and a satisfying square of Lindt's new "Mytille Intense" chocolate.

Not for everyone, perhaps, but for me this was a very nice day.

Bobby Jay

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Cookbook - The City Cook

Kate McDonough, editor and founder of, an excellent web site, has recently published a book, The City Cook: Big City, Small Kitchen, Limitless Ingredients, No Time, which furthers her mission of encouraging busy urban professionals to cook at home and providing them with strategies to help them to succeed.

The first part, which is a concise but insightful look at how to cope with culinary life in the city -- shopping, equipping a kitchen, etc. -- will be particularly useful for Kate's target audience. Also the many bits of wisdom scattered throughout the recipe section, like "Eleven Easy No-Cook Hors d'Oeuvres," "Chicken Breasts Ten Ways," "How to Get Fish Smells Out of an Apartment" and "The Versatility of Rotisserie Chickens," to name only a few.

The recipe section provides about ninety clearly-expressed recipes. Most are quite simple, some amazingly so. The one recipe that I have tried so far, Broiled Black Cod with Miso, is wonderful: just two ingredients, almost no effort and a complex flavor profile that is a perfect example of what a little
umami can do (I used mellow white miso). Next up are the Almond Cream Tart, made with whole unskinned almonds, and the Cacio e Pepe (a classic pasta with cheese and black pepper) for which I have not previously seen a recipe (who knew there was no butter? and note the tip on grinding the cheese in a food processor rather than using a Microplane, which would have been my instinct). There are many others that I plan to try.

The City Cook makes an excellent Christmas gift. In fact, I gave a copy to my French teacher, who has a tiny apartment kitchen and is always trying to make simple, healthy food for herself and her friends. Cookbooks that I have given her in the past include Jacques Pépin's excellent
Fast Food My Way and slightly less excellent More Fast Food My Way, as well as Patricia Wells' Trottoria. Adding The City Cook to this group indicates my high regard for this book.

Bobby Jay