Tuesday, April 26, 2011

La Table d'Eugène

A Parisian friend recently took me to La Table d'Eugène, a bistro tucked away in the 18ème arrondissment, behind Montmartre. This little restaurant (33 seats total, packed very tightly) has received a lot of good press lately, including a recent short review by Mark Bittman and being named one of the top five Paris bistros for 2011 by the authoritative bistro guide, Le Petit Lebey. The cuisine is interesting and well-prepared and reflects the best of what's available in the market at a given date. The chef trained at the Bristol, among other places.


Slow-Roasted Veal Loin

Between us, my dinner companion and I sampled daurade, octopus with Iberian ham, small lamb chops cut from the rack, slow-cooked veal loin, a hazelnut dessert and a very lemony lemon tart. All were well executed and quite beautifully presented, although certain stylistic motifs seemed to recur. The service was gracious and competent. The décor is simple but pleasant. The rapport qualité/prix is excellent: 35 euros for a three-course meal, and some inexpensive but interesting wines. In short, La Table d'Eugène is just the kind of place everyone is looking for. Its good reviews are deserved, and it's worth the slightly difficult trip.

La Table d'Eugène, 18 rue Eugène Sue, Paris 18ème, Métro Jules Joffrin.

Bobby Jay

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Thai Restaurant in Paris

About a year ago, I was complaining about the lack of good Thai restaurants in Paris, despite a huge number of mediocre Chinese/Thai places, to an antiques dealer who has spent significant time in Thailand and seems to be knowledgeable about food. He recommended Thabthim Siam, which he said has authentic and really good Thai food.

This week I finally went (twice) to this simple restaurant, which claims to serve "cuisine Thai traditionelle." I can't vouch for the the authenticity, but the food is good. My first meal consisted of two daily specials -- shrimp and vegetable nems made with battered (rather than wrapped) whole shrimp and shellfish with red curry -- and an indescribable but excellent dessert of curls of jackfruit stuffed with coconut-infused sticky rice. Feeling that I should try some normal menu items, on my return visit I had shrimp and lemongrass soup (tam yam koun), chicken with green curry sauce, and an assortment of sorbets (mango, coconut and passionfruit). The flavors in all my dishes were beautifully blended, spicy but not hot, leaving me happily warmed inside.

Thabthim Siam is in a little section of Paris where no tourists go, even though it is not far from the beaten path. The nearest Métro station is Liège, where I don't think I have ever before gotten off, but which is located in the 9ème between Gare St-Lazare and Place de Clichy. Really not inconvenient at all.

Thabthim Siam, 28 rue de Moscou, Paris 8ème, Métro Liège or Europe.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Joyeuses Pâques

It's Easter in Paris. Although this does not affect daily life much (Good Friday is not a holiday, but Easter Monday is), it is reflected in the windows of the city's pâtisseries and boulangeries. Here are some images.

Joyeuse Pâques cake at Dalloyau

Chocolate Easter eggs at Dalloyau

Breads at the famous Poilâne bakery

Bobby Jay

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hand-Made Pasta Lesson

Despite trying many (too many) recipes and methods, I have never been able to make good fresh pasta. So I decided to take a course to get a base method and a feel for what the dough should be like at various stages of the preparation. The course that seemed best suited to my needs is the one given by Gerri Sarnataro at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), on West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

After more than two years of trying to get into this popular course, I finally did it this weekend. It was fun and rewarding.

There were 14 of us in this hands-on course. We all made pasta dough under Gerri's careful supervision and then broke up into smaller groups to make two pasta dishes each. We then rolled our pastas and cut them according to the recipes our respective groups were making. My group made papardelle with a rich duck sauce and fettucine with peas and ham. Others were responsible for butternut squash ravioli with sage butter sauce; fettucine with onion confit; ricotta ravioli with pesto sauce; tortellini filled with sausage and ground veal and turkey; and fettucine bolognese. These were tried and true recipes and all were really good and authentic.

I love taking cooking lessons and generally find them both enjoyable and helpful. Gerri's course was one of the best.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hot Sauce Tasting

I love hot sauces and use them frequently, on scrambled eggs, in tuna salad, on burgers and leftover meat sandwiches and in a millon other ways. So when I heard about Austin, Texas-based Tears of Joy Sauces, which sells hundreds of hot sauces from around the world, more than a year ago, I decided to order a bunch of them. This month, I finally took the plunge.

Hot Sauces from Tears of Joy Sauces
But what do you do with 14 bottles of hot sauce of varying strengths and tastes? Have a hot sauce tasting party, of course. So today, four friends and I tasted the 14 new sauces, and some of us also tried my old standards - Tabasco hot, chipotle and jalapeno and Rooster Brand Sriracha - by way of comparison.
The Old Standards
We had great fun. Our methodology was to try the sauces in ascending order of hotness (based on Tears of Joy’s excellent product descriptions) with tortilla chips, matzohs, flatbread, corn crackers and, best of all, thin slices of brioche bread brought by one of the participants, accompanied by lots of beer. After we had been through all 14, with some of us tasting the supermarket standards for comparison, we had some relatively mild turkey chili with additions of selected sauces. Our conclusions, developed as we cooled down and chatted over spicy, but not crazy, Chile Bear Jams Spiced Chipotle jam on brioche bread:
  • There was no single winning hot sauce, although certain sauces garnered quite a bit of support and a couple were generally disliked.
  • Almost everyone loved Liziano Salsa, a Colombian all-purpose sauce that is spicy but not particularly hot. I definitely recommend that you get this one, which is probably not that hard to find.
  • The sauces varied more than you might think and they all have more character (not necessarily better) and brighter flavors than supermarket hot sauces like Tabasco and Frank’s. Nevertheless, I still like Tabasco's Chipotle Sauce and consider Sriracha to be an essential and versatile condiment.
  • The hot sauces that most of us liked were Marie Sharpe’s Green Habanero Sauce, Trinidad Habanero Hot and Lottie’s Yellow Hot Pepper Sauce (see pictures above). I will probably buy a few bottles of these and give them as gifts.
Afterwards, each participant got a bottle of his or her favorite sauce to take home and, surprisingly, there were no conflicts that had to be resolved. So go to Tears of Joy's website and go a little crazy. Bobby Jay

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sampling Chocolates

My friend Paul and I had another chocolate making session, sampling various chocolates in different applications. We tried Callebaut Bittersweet, Jacques Torres 60%, Ghirardelli 65% (obtained by mixing 60% and 70%), and, in deference to Paul's wife, a 40% milk chocolate called Jade that I found at Fairway.

The results: Jacques Torres produced a beautiful, somewhat complex chocolate that was easy to work with. Callebaut was denser, harder to work with, but deliciously bitter (my wife's favorite); it also had the snappiest texture. Ghirardelli was not easy to work with and did not have the complexity or pungency or texture that the others provided. Neither of us likes milk chocolate, but it is easy to work with once you get over how liquid it is, and produced beautifully defined shiny molded morsels, assorted leaves in our case. Paul's wife loved it.

So, Callebaut or Jacques Torres for now, but research continues. The best we ever used was the hard-to-find and expensive Valrhona Manjari that we used last September for my birthday party at the Institute for Culinary Education. It had a complex series of earthy and spicy notes that the others don't match. We need to try that one at home.

Also, there are people who swear by Scharffen berger, so we also need to give that one a try.

Bobby Jay