Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy New Year 2012!

In Paris, year-end thoughts turn to food, and windows abound with beautiful still-lifes. Here are some highlights of our stay in the City of Lights.

Dalloyau Window and Christmas Cakes

Macaron Tower at Fauchon; Hediard's Window

 Birds on Rue Montorgueil

My own Tarte aux Pruneaux

For the non-food reader, amazing shoes at Christian Louboutin


Bobby Jay

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Paris - Restaurant Jean Again

We "discovered" Restaurant Jean, a charming restaurant located in Paris' 9ème arrondissement, a year ago, and decided to return for a meal with American friends. We had a really excellent meal and greatly enjoyed talking to the owner, ex-Taillevent, about the Paris restaurant scene.

Two of us started with one of the best egg dishes ever: a perfectly prepared runny boiled egg in a brick pastry nest over a cauliflower sauce and topped with some smoked eel and a bit of caviar. A really memorable bite.

Incredible egg at Restaurant Jean

The others began with tartare and carpaccio of scallops and smoked salmon with chèvre, japanese pickled plum and seaweed.

For our main, J and I had pigeon, roasted to a beautiful rare, the breast stuffed with foie gras, and all accompanied by truffled macaroni, pomegranate jelly and confited pink garlic; this was as good as it sounds. One of our friends had black cod marinated in miso, then caramelized, and accompanied by seasonal vegetables and a wasabi sabayon, while the other had perfectly sauteed scallps. Both were very pleased.

Jean has lost its wonderful American pastry chef, but the standard of desserts has been maintained. Two of us ended with a medley of coffee tastes: jelly, mascarpone and biscuit. The others had an equally wonderful mango with pistachio dacquoise, white chocolate Bavarian and an amazingly intense basil sorbet, another very successful dessert.

Jean's scallop tartare/carpaccio and coffee dessert

This sublime meal did not come cheap, about 75 euros per person before wine, but for food of this level, Jean is a real find.

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

Bobby Jay

Paris - Mets Gusto

We are back in Paris for year-end, and thoughts run, of course, to food.

Unfortunately, we started with one mediocre and one bad meal (trying a new place in our neighborhood), so we wanted a sure thing, but something new. Accordingly, we took the recommendation of our friends P and S, who know a good restaurant when they find one, and headed for Mets Gusto, in a residential part of the 16ème arrondissement.

While not a 35-euro or under place (think 60-65 euros), this gastro-bistro serves excellent food in a friendly environment. I started with cannelonis stuffed with shrimp in a (slightly too) rich parmesan seafood broth. J started with stuffed onion and tomato "comme en Provence." Both were excellent.

We then had our first game of the season, wild col vert ducks perfectly roasted until crispy and served with potatoes in a slightly aigre-doux sauce. The buckshot pellets that we discovered made the dish seem all the more authentic.

For dessert, we shared a chocolate cream with crunch hazelnuts and caramel ice cream. Serial wonderful tastes and textures made this a memorable dessert.

Mets Gusto, 79 rue de la Tour, Paris 16ème (Métro Rue de la Pompe).

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Art of Eating Celebrates 25 Years

Edward Behr is the publisher and one of the main writers of The Art of Eating, a really fine cooking and food magazine that comes out four times a year. A of E, which is ad-free, has in-depth articles about food and wine from around the world, sometimes common, sometimes very esoteric. For example, the Spring 2011 number included articles on Bordeaux cannelés (one of my favorite pastries), crème Anglaise, brioche, biscotti di prato, Normandy farm-made cider and making baklava in Gaziantep, Turkey, among others.

In commemoration of A of E's 25th anniversary, Behr has published a cookbook entitled The Art of Eating Cookbook: Essential Recipes from the First 25 Years. The book contains many traditional recipes that you will never make (marinated mackerel and sweet-and-sour sardines, for example, in my case) and many that you might. But the real strength of the book, as of the magazine, is in the scholarly approach it takes with respect to all the recipes, carefully explaining the choices made, describing the different traditions and options available, and giving other interesting facts. This is a book to be read as much as it is a cooking manual.

I am probably never going to make far aux choux (cabbage pudding), but what a pleasure to read his introduction!
The batter for this rustic pudding, from the Quercy in southwest France, is essentially the same as that for crepes, clafoutis, popovers, and Yorkshire pudding. Similar dishes are made in other French regions from other vegetables as well as fruits. When made without goose or duck fat, far au choux loses its regional reference and tastes much less interesting. Best of all is fat from a garlicky goose or duck confit. The far should be crisp-edged and tender -- not at all stodgy. A lighter consistency comes from Savoy cabbage, whose heads are, as the cook and gardener Barbara Damrosch describes them, "ruffled and crinkly," with an "elegant" texture and a flavor "so much more delicate that that of the firm-headed types." The leaves are thinner and the heads looser than with regular cabbage, and the Savoy varieties don't keep as well, but their taste is sweeter and milder, less sulfurous when overcooked, faster cooking and more tender. It is Damrosch's favorite kind, and the favorite of many cooks.
Get this book. If it's not for you, give it to a foodie friend.

Bobby Jay