Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Best Dishes of 2012

Gourmet's year-end edition (it has been resuscitated as an on-line only shadow of its former self) contains responses by 53 staff members and consultants to the question: What was the best thing you ate in 2012? The responses were interesting, running the gamut from Frank Pepe's pizza to Fondue au Vieux Comté from Auberge La Petite Echelle in Rochejean, France.

I am often asked questions like that, and frankly can't remember all the restaurant meals I have eaten, even the great ones. But I do keep records of what I cook, and can list the most successful dishes I made in 2012. People also often ask what kind of food I like to cook (and eat), and I think the list demonstrates that I have pretty eclectic cooking tastes. Of course, I enjoy many other cuisines, particularly Asian, but rarely make them myself, and they are never among my greatest successes. The list also understates how often I cook Italian dishes (very).

In any event, here's the list of my best dishes of 2012:
  • Bobby Jay's corn soup, a recipe I developed myself: summer corn is my favorite food
  • Heirloom tomato salad with torn mozzarella and basil, from a recipe by Jamie Oliver: summer heirloom tomatoes are my second favorite
  • Salvatore ricotta, a wonderful creamy ricotta made in Brooklyn, from Eataly, with fleur de sel, coarsley ground pepper and Sicilian olive oil on homemade toast: not really cooked, just a wonderful bite from impeccable ingredients
  • Chicken and andouille Jambalaya, from a recipe by Ethan Stiffel
  • Caribbean roast and smoked pork chops, based on a recipe by barbeque genius Big Bob Gibson
  • Slowly oil poached garlic shrimp, tapas style, based on a recipe from Tyler Florence
  • Seared veal breast stuffed with garlic, mustard and spinach, from a recipe by Gordon Hamersley
  • Matcha macarons with white chocolate ganache, commissioned by my wife for her Japanese art gallery, for which I combined about 5 different recipes over several tries: Japanese/French fusion in a single bite
  • Mustard crusted tenderloin of pork with apple mostarda, from a recipe by Michael Chiarello
  • Golden melon gazpacho, based on a recipe from the wonderful spa Rancho Puerta: healthy but spicy and satisfying
  • Creme caramel, from a recipe from The French Slow Cooker: a perfect application for the slow cooker, wonderfully smooth and silky
  • Cherries in almond syrup with toasted almonds over homemade Greek style yogurt, from a recipe in Bon Appétit: another celebration of summer's bounty
  • Winter fruit compote with kumquats, prunes, figs and cognac, from a recipe by Laura Calder: amazingly easy but satisfyingly redolent of winter flavors
I never know where my mood (or reading or TV watching) will take me, so I am sure next year's list will be very different.

Bobby Jay

Paris - Happy New Year 2013!

Maybe I'm getting jaded, but it seems to me that this year's year-end windows at the great food stores are less exciting than usual. Still . . .

Cadeau Ô Merveille at Dalloyau

Bûches de Noël at Dalloyau

Caviar at Kaspia
Chocolates at Jadis et Gourmande
Bûche de Noël at unknown bakery
Some pretty appealing presentations for the holidays.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Dinner in Paris

I usually make a special dinner for friends on Christmas dinner in Paris. This year we were only three, so I decided to make it relatively simple but elegant, starting with foie gras that I had made earlier (with Chinese 5-spice powder and white port), moving to poule au pot (see preceding post for the story of this course), then a perfectly aged vacherin du Haut-Doubs (Mont d'Or), and relying on our guest for dessert, a delightful orange tart.

Poule au pot with accompaniments
Vacherin du Haut-Doubs (Mont d'Or)
Yoshimi's orange tart
You can only do this dinner in France, where it's easy to find great raw duck liver for foie gras (while expensive, it costs only half the price that it does in New York) and the truly spectacular vacherin. It's hard to believe anything can taste that good, with pungent, woody notes and a creamy unctuous texture that requires that you eat it with a spoon.

How lucky to be able to be in Paris at this time of year!

Bobby Jay

Search for a Great Poule au Pot

My wife J and I love poule au pot (chicken in the pot), especially in winter, and recently I have been seeking out a good and simple recipe for a French, as opposed to Jewish, version.

First I tried a slow-cooker version, served with a garlic aioli. The method was pretty good, but the vegetable profile was boring: it needed parsnips or fennel to perk up the muddy onion-turnip-leek-carrot melange. The aioli helped a lot.

With that experience fresh in mind, I received the January-February 2013 issue of Cook's Illustrated, and found a recipe for "French Style Chicken with Stuffing," essentially poule au pot with sausage stuffing. Their insights: use chicken quarters rather than a whole chicken, and stack them in a prescribed way that speeds up cooking and permits the breast and dark meat to be done (but not overdone) at the same time, and brown the chicken first to create a fond that will enhance the flavor of the broth. Thus, vegetables and potatoes are placed in the bottom of the pot, with broth to almost cover, followed by the leg quarter and the stuffing (sausage, bread and herbs processed and made into rolls in parchment) and, finally, the breasts.

Poule au Pot made from Cook's Illustrated recipe
The method worked and we had a good, but not great, result. My fault, I think: I started with a whole chicken and used the wings, back and neck to make a rich unsalted stock without vegetables or aromatics. This resulted in a broth that was rich but missing the complexity that I was hoping for. If I use this method again, I will make a more complex stock and add something to impart umami flavor, probably tomato paste.

Finally, it dawned on me that I should seek the wisdom of my idol, Jacques Pépin, who has been making poule au pot for more than 60 years.  Indeed, I found a recipe in his Essential Pépin, and this proved to be what I was looking for: great broth, interesting vegetables and flavorful chicken. Jacques gently boils the chicken, then removes the flesh and boils the chicken bones some more, and finally adds the vegetables only for the last 20 minutes, resulting in a supercharged rich broth.  The final dish is served with passed fleur de sel, toasted baquette slices with comté or similar cheese, cornichons (gherkins) and hot mustard. (Those knowledgeable in French food will recognize this as a pot au feu made with chicken instead of beef.) I made it in Paris, where excellent chicken and vegetables abound, and J and our guest loved it, as did I. Here are pictures with all the accoutrements.

Jacques Pépin's Poule au Pot
I have not written off the slow cooker and Cook's versions, but it's hard to see how I can beat the Pépin version of this French classic.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Paris - Le Bouchon et l'Assiette - Still Excellent

My wife J and I returned to le Bouchon et l'Assiette last night, after a year's absence. Apart from the fact that the price of the 3-course menu has increased from 33 to 39 euros, this little gem of a restaurant remains worth the effort it takes to get to, which is not insubstantial.

The young chef, who hails from the Southwest but has worked for some of the best chefs in Paris (among which, the Bristol's Eric Frechon), simply has an impeccable palate. All the imaginative dishes that we sampled were perfectly seasoned with unusual flavors. I started with lentil soup, light and a bit creamy, smoky and bursting with flavor, with toasted pine nuts and lardons of smoked dusk breast adding crunch and texture. Easily the best lentil soup I have ever had. Next was a quasi de veau (the top of the leg) with an interesting melange of diced crosnes and avocado on the side. J started with a plate of unctuous Iberico ham and continued with amazingly succulent suprêmes de pintade (breast of guinea hen).

Quasi de veau at le Bouchon et l'Assiette
We shared a good, but unexciting, chocolate gateau Basque for dessert; I felt that the chocolate overwhelmed the almond flavor that characterizes this type of cake. An inexpensive Pernand-Vergelesses was a perfect accompaniment to our meal.

You really should try this place.

Le Bouchon et l'Assiette, 121 rue Cardinet, 75017 Paris, Métro Malesherbes or Villiers.

A postscript: we returned to this restaurant with friends on December 26 and, among other things, had a wonderful Fontainebleau (fromage frais, whipped cream and sugar mixed and then pressed like ricotta) with pistachio nuts and caramel sauce.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wrapping a Turkey in Caul Fat

At the urging of my friend John, I wrapped this year's turkey in caul fat (crépine in French), which Harold McGee defines as "a thin membrane of connective tissue with a lacework of small fat deposits embedded in it." Used in France primarily to wrap sausages and terrines, caul fat covers the intestinal organs in a pig or sheep (the one used in cooking is almost always pork). I have used crépine - most recently to cover a classic terrine de campagne - at cooking lessons in France.

Despite its unprepossessing provenance and appearance (like a stretchy hair-net from the fities), caul fat provides a continuous baste for the turkey. By the time the bird is fully cooked, the caul fat has mostly dissolved; any flaky remnants (see picture below) are easily brushed away.

Turkey wrapped in caul fat
Turkey roasted with caul fat wrapping
The main drawback is that caul fat is hard to find. The fine butcher shop Citarella could not get it for me but my friend Piglet got some for me at the quirky but excellent, all-organic new butcher, Harlem Shambles, at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 116th Street. If you can find it, caul fat is worth the trouble. I can't prove that it made the turkey taste better, but I did have fun using this ancient artisanal product.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I just watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about Jiro, an 85-year old sushi chef who runs what is supposed to be the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Sukiyabashi Jiro. The ten-seat restaurant, on a basement floor in Ginza, has received three stars from Michelin. Jiro's is not a place to go for drinks, appetizers and a few pieces of sushi. There are no appetizers, just a 20-piece set menu that starts at 30,000 yen (about $375) per person. Not to worry, though: it's impossible to get a reservation.

The movie is delightful, with great images of sushi and every stage of sushi making, from the shopping at the Tsukiji fish market, to the preparation of perfect rice, to the cutting (and sometimes cooking) of the fish and assembly of the finished bite. The subtext of the movie is how passionate Jiro is about his work, and just how hard it is to be a great sushi chef. Early in the movie, Jiro sums it all up, with appropriate Japanese modesty and understatement:
Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.
Only in Japan.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 5, 2012

Momofuku and Daniel Join in Hurricane Relief Benefit

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which left downtown Manhattan without power and wreaked major havoc on the entire area, the team at David Chang's Momofuku and Daniel Boulud decided to help in the way they know best: by preparing a spectacular meal, charging a lot for it and donating the proceeds to the Rec Cross's relief effort.

J and I went, and had a great time while providing much-needed funds to the relief effort. Here is the menu, including the wines expertly paired with each dish.

Menu for Momofuku/Daniel Benefit

I have had only limited experience with the Momofuku empire (an excellent lunch at Momofuku Milk Bar), much more with Daniel's. As expected, the food that was provided by the Momofuku team was extremely imaginative, that provided by Daniel a bit more classic but perfectly prepared. A highlight of creativity was the foie gras - lychee, pine nut, pictured below.

Foie gras with lychees and pine nuts
Where's the foie gras? You're looking at it, flakes of frozen foie gras that melt in your mouth, covering fresh lychees and pine nuts. In all honesty, my favorite dishes were more straightforward: the duck with wild rice, apple and brussels sprouts, prepared by the Daniel team, and the veal sweetbreads with yuzu kosho, labne and Asian pear.

The meal was not the only great aspect of the evening. The 42 diners were arrayed along a single enormous table, and judging by the 10 or so people we were able to interact with, it was a lovely group of accomplished and articulate but unpretentious food lovers. There was a great chemistry in the room, and a good (and useful) time was had by all. Thanks to David Chang and Daniel Boulud!

Bobby Jay

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Maui - Hali'imaile General Store

Who would have thought it? Just off the main road to the volcano, on a street overlooking pineapple fields and the ocean, is a truly excellent fusion restaurant: Hali'imaile General Store.

Hali'imaile General Store
An informal place in a house built in the 1920s as the general store serving a pineapple plantation, this restaurant has been winning awards since it opened 25 years ago.

At the suggestion of the concierge at our hotel, we started with the Sashimi Napoleon, constructed of smoked salmon, ahi tartare and ahi sashimi, separated by fried wontons as the pastry element, accompanied by a wonderful wasabi vinaigrette.

Sashimi Napoleon at Hali'imaile General Store
J followed up with the red veal burger, a perfectly cooked burger with a delicate layer of brie, caramelized onions, local tomatoes and greens and a delightful avocado aioli, accompanied with well-seasoned fries. I had a Cubawaiian sandwich, the restaurant's innovative take on a classic, made with roasted local pork, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, pickled pineapple and an excellent wasabi barbecue aioli, also accompanied with their excellent fries. The innovations made sense and both sandwiches were real winners.

Fusion food is the hallmark of Hawaiian food these days. It can be clichéd, but when devised and executed with care and subtlety, it can be quite wonderful, as it was at Hali'imaile General Store.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Paris - Jadis et Gourmande's Autumn Chocolates

Today is my last day in Paris, so I went on my final food-gift shopping spree. Although I resisted the urge to buy their chocolates, I still loved the autumn windows at Jadis et Gourmande (see my post of June 28, 2012 for more on this chocolatier).

Chocolates at Jadis et Gourmande
Bobby Jay

Paris - Still a Melting Pot

I went to the Marché Barbès today for a different take on Paris markets. Located in the 18th arrondissement on the boulevard de la Chapelle, under the elevated Métro tracks, extending from the Barbès Rochechouart station halfway to the Porte de la Chapelle station, this is a market for real people. It is incredibly crowded with shoppers, at least on Saturday morning. The produce here is good, although more comes from Spain than in more upscale markets, and incredibly cheap. Like two giant lettuces for one euro, peaches for a kilo per pound, etc.

Most of the vendors are North African, as are many of the customers, but shoppers come from all over town. In addition to the produce, there are clothes, hardware and other goods on the outer perimeter of the market area. The market has a bit of the atmosphere of the souk in Marrakesh, although it is a good bit less exotic. Indeed, a guide book said I would find lamb heads roasting on spits, but unfortunately I didn't see any. However, I did see copious and appetizing displays of mint, coriander and parsley, which are the herbs most used in North African food (think mint tea).

Mint, parsley and cilantro for 0,30 euros a bunch
After a pretty quick walk-through - I am leaving Paris tomorrow so really wasn't there to buy - I continued down the boulevard de la Chapelle for about five minutes, arriving at Paris' Little India, where Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan food stores and restaurants abound. It's not Queens, but it's also not far from the heart of Paris.

Butcher and restaurants in Paris' Little India
Bobby Jay

Friday, October 12, 2012

Update on My Search for the Best Chocolate Macaron in Paris

In July, I wrote about my hunt for the best chocolate macaron in Paris. Based on my own taste test, I agreed with the test conducted by le Figaro's "Figarosope," which concluded that the one at Jean-Paul Hévin was the best.  
However, I was unable to sample Pierre Hermé's version when I wrote that, and today I completed that part of my research.  Conclusion: Hévin's status confirmed. The Hermé macaron was perfectly constructed but lacked the rich chocolate flavor of the Hévin.
Macarons from Pierre Hermé
While I was there, I naturally got a few others flavors, and I have to say that the month's special, called "Les Jardins," which is flavored with orange blossom, rose and ginger, is one of the best things I have ever eaten. That was thirty minutes ago, and the delicate melange of scents is still in my head. 

Macaron "Les Jardins" from Pierre Hermé
So for chocolate go to Jean-Paul Hévin, for amazing creativity try Pierre Hermé. Bobby Jay

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rue Aligre and Marché Beauvau

I have been meaning to get to the covered Marché Beauvau and rue Aligre open air market for some time, and finally made it this week.

They are in the 12th arrondissment, about a 10 minute walk past the Bastille. The covered market has a small number of what appear to be high-quality vendors, mostly charcutiers and butchers (I especially liked the lady selling, among other things, olive oil in bulk). The open air market consists of about 25 or 30 vendors, mostly selling vegetables and fruit. On the south side of the place Aligre, the market is a bustling non-food market.

Suckling pig at Marché Beauvau
Vegetable Dealer on rue Aligre
Olive oil in bulk at Marché Beauvau
Italian charcuterie at Marché Beauvau

The market street is open Tuesday and Saturday mornings. I went on a Tuesday, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This is a great time of year to enjoy the variety of French agriculture at its best: tomatoes, many varieties of squash, greens of all kinds, of course, but also grapes, plums, peaches, even berries, all coming from various parts of France.

Although the covered market is small, it is well-preserved and typical, not of what is but of what used to be. Altogether, a nice visit.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why Paris?

Reine-claude plums at marché avenue du Président Wilson
People often ask me why we have an apartment in Paris, is it the food (because now New York has such good food), and do I cook when I'm there.

The answers, not in the order of the questions: Paris is a beautiful city, with fabulous museums, shopping and everything else that a great city should have.  But for me, it largely is the food, but not only the restaurants. It's true that there is great food in New York, particularly Italian, new American and Asian ethnic of all kinds. But Paris is still the place for French food, and there are now so many good, reasonable bistros that one cannot get to all the worthy ones.

For me, as readers of this blog will know, it is not just the restaurants where one finds great food in Paris: I never tire of going to the open-air markets, where one finds the best of seasonal specialties from all regions of France, and the pâtisseries, fromageries, charcuteries, boucheries, poissoneries, etc., where one finds materials of amazing variety and quality.

The answer to the third question is that I do cook in Paris, but not often. Either it's for a group or lunch for myself and, if she's here, J. For example, I went to my favorite market, at Avenue du Président Wilson, yesterday, and apart from lunches yesterday and today (grazing on rôtisserie chicken and pork ribs, cheeses, fruits), and gorging on late season reine-claude green plums, I decided to dine on my purchases tonight, as follows:

  • Starter: scallop terrine with piquillo peppers and espelette pepper from a cooking class I took yesterday
  • Main: cèpe omelet, with fantastic organic eggs, shallots, garlic and thyme, accompanied by tiny potatoes (boiled then sautéed) from the Île de Ré.
  • Salad: spicy baby arugula with simple lemon olive oil dressing
  • Cheese: plate consisting of smoked Italian caccio cavallo (heresy!), aged Salers, perfect camembert and super-dry chèvre from a great English cheesemaker from (or near) la Perche, accompanied by award-winning baguette from Arnaud Delmontel
  • Dessert: terrine of bitter chocolate, with raspberries and shards of almond nougatine, also from yesterday's cooking class.

The foregoing goes a long way towards answering the first question, Why Paris? Mais c'est évident.

Bobby Jay

Paris - Dalloyau's Window

One of the first things I do when I get to Paris is to check out Dalloyau's window. It never disappoints, and today was no exception. Introducing the Cendrillon (Cinderella).

Bobby Jay

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bobby Jay's Gourmet Visits to Paris -- 2012 Edition

I have just completed the 2012 edition of my Gourmet Visits to Paris, a small idiosyncratic guide to food related things for those contemplating relatively short (three- to five-day) visits to Paris. My favorite restaurants, markets, food shops, kitchen stores, etc.

Just click on the cover picture below to get a pdf of the whole document. For optimal viewing, I advise shrinking it to 100% and setting the two-page display option.

I am working on changing this pdf so that it opens and looks like a book, so stay tuned.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yumm! Sauce and Bowls

Nearly a year ago, I did a post on nutritional yeast. I recently received a comment from an anonymous reader suggesting that I use it to make Yumm Sauce, an almond sauce invented by Café Yumm! in Eugene, Oregon.

Internet research led me to numerous copycat recipes for the sauce, which is available in its authentic form from Café Yumm! The recipe I used (set out in full below) produced an excellent sauce, intensely almond and lemon-flavored and resembling tahini, which is sesame seed-based.

What to do with the sauce? You could use it as a dip with pita chips or bread or make Yumm Bowls, a healthful, hearty dish that they make at Café. The Café's blog has a video demonstrating how a Yumm! Bowl is made: atop brown rice, add a ladleful (I used 3/8 cup) of Yumm! Sauce, then small quantities (I used 1/4 cup each) of black beans, chopped tomatoes, salsa, grated cheddar and sliced black olives, a couple of slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream; then garnish with cilantro (I sprinkled sesame seeds). Tasty, simple, vegan and gluten free.

Here is a picture of my version.


Yumm Sauce
  • 1/2 cup oil (preferably canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup soybeans (or use 1/2 cup silken tofu if needed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp curry powder (or use less and supplement with dried basil or similar herbs)
Blend nuts, beans and oil in food processor. Then blend in yeast and liquids one at a time. Puree until smooth.


Bobby Jay

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Crostini Revisited

In September 2010, I did a post on sun-dried tomato and olive crostini, an hors-d'oeuvre that I developed on the fly that has become a standard at our house. It is a simple mélange of the vegetables (finely diced), ricotta, Greek yogurt and good olive oil, spread on toast.

Recently, I discovered at Eataly a wonderful creamy ricotta from Salvatore in Brooklyn. It is so light that it is not necessary to add the yogurt and oil that I used in my previous recipe, just a thin coating of ricotta with the sun-dried tomato and olives on top, with a sprinkling of black pepper, a pinch of fleur de sel and a few drops of great olive oil. Here it is:

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Essence of Summer: Corn Soup and Tomato Salad

For me, summer means corn and tomatoes. The best dish I have ever invented is Bobby Jay's corn soup. When I was in Santa Fe this summer, I discovered powdered hot green pepper, a small quantity of which made the soup even better. If you don't have that, you can add a smidgeon of chipotles in adobo for a warm spicy kick. The recipe is set out below.

As for tomatoes, I use Jamie Oliver's simple recipe:  Cut a variety of heirloom tomatoes into slices, quarters or whatever shapes you like. Put in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. After 30 minutes, place in a bowl, add dry oregano, vinegar and oil to taste, and season with pepper. Add chunks of mozzarella (di bufalo if available) or feta and torn basil leaves and serve.

Bobby Jay's Corn Soup


• 5 ears of corn 
• 1 medium onion, diced 
• 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced (seeds and interior membranes removed 
• 1 Tbs butter 
• 3 C water 
• 2 Tbs chives, finely chopped 
• Best quality olive oil 
• Salt and pepper 
• (Optional) 1/4 tsp, or to taste, of powdered hot green peppers or puréed chipotles in adobo  


1. Put the most delicate ear aside. Take kernels off remaining 4 ears of corn. Cut the cobs into thirds. 

2. Sweat onion and jalapeño in butter with a little salt until soft. Add corn kernels and sauté another minute or so, just to warm through.

3. Add cobs and water. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-30 mins.

4. Remove cobs and puree the soup with a hand or standing blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. It may need salt to cut the natural corn sweetness. Stir in the powdered hot green pepper or chipotles in adobo.

5. Separately, bring a pot of water to a boil. Take off the heat, add the last cob of corn, cover and wait 7 minutes. Remove kernels.

6. Serve soup in individual bowls. Garnish with kernels from the last ear of corn, chives and a few drops of olive oil. Can be served cold or hot. If cold, chill and garnish just before serving.

Bobby Jay

Monday, August 13, 2012

Santa Fe - Pepper Guy at the Side of the Road

Hot peppers are among the highlights of New Mexican cooking, so when in Santa Fe, I buy them in various forms. Last year I found a guy selling his own peppers by the side of the road near Chimayo and bought some items. I wasn't sure I could find him again, but there he was, on Rte 76 West of Chimayo. This year I chatted with him at some length, and found out that he is Earl Sherwood. Earl is pretty excited about his peppers, and offered me tastes that enabled me to make intelligent choices.

Earl E. Sherwood and his peppers
Earl's extra hot crushed red peppers are, of course, hot, but they also have a sweet, paprika-like taste that really got my attention. Earl says to add them to slow cooked pork during the last hours of cooking, and that is what I plan to do.

I also bought some hot green pepper powder. Exciting on the tip of the finger - think about the essence of a poblano pepper, but hotter - but what to do with it? This will require some research into Mexican and Southwestern dishes; I'll let you know what I find out.

I bought some hot green chile peanut brittle bars, which Earl sells but does not make himself. Still awfully good: the salty peanut and spicy pepper tastes complement each other perfectly.

In order to save some buying (storage) capacity for the Santa Fe farmers market, I left it at that with Earl, but am already looking forward to seeing him again.

Bobby Jay

Santa Fe - Farmers Market

We spent a few days in Santa Fe the first week of August. In addition to viewing some magnificent scenery - Bandelier and Tent Rocks National Monuments, among other things - I enjoyed returning to the great farmers market at the depot. The produce is beautifully and appealingly presented by the proud farmers who grow it.

Santa Fe Farmers Market - El Bosquet Garlic Farm

My favorite stand is that of El Bosque Garlic Farm, where many varieties of onions, garlic and shallots are sold. Among these are long-life shallots, which are supposed to last for six months or so in a basket on the counter. Despite being skeptical of this claim, I bought some last year, and indeed they were still excellent at Christmas time. So this year I bought more and shared them with my friend Piglet.

Marinated Feta with Peppers, Roasted Garlic, etc.

I also bought some feta marinated in roasted garlic and oil. (To my surprise, I preferred this to the one marinated in peppers and oil.) A transformative addition to a simple green salad. When I finish the jar, I may try to make this myself to keep on hand.

Bobby Jay

Friday, July 27, 2012

Paris - Chocolate and Hazelnut Spreads

Jean-Charles Rochoux's Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Spreads
On my recent trip to Paris, I went to Jean-Charles Rochoux, at 16 rue d'Assas, to buy their hazelnut ("l'Enfance") and dark chocolate ("l'Age de Raison") pâtes à tartiner. I suppose the hazelnut's name reflects that this spread is like Nutella on culinary steroids, and I guess dark chocolate is considered a flavor for adults. No matter what, the chocolate is excellent and the hazelnut is far better than that!

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paris - On the Hunt for the Best Chocolate Macaron

The Figaro's culture and entertainment weekly, Figaroscope, periodically does contests seeking to find the best X in Paris, where X can be croissants, flan nature, lemon tarts, roast chicken, hamburgers . . . well, you get the picture.

Recently, they conducted a chocolate macaron contest, testing samples from all the great Paris pâtisseries, except Gérard Mulot and Arnaud Delmontel, which were closed on the day of the test. The winner was Jean-Paul Hévin, the famed (but not Joan's or my favorite) chocolatier.

I have in the past enjoyed testing Figaroscope's results against my own research. For example, see my post on flan. And what better thing to do than to sample chocolate macarons in Paris? So I tried as many as I could of the top 10 -- Aoki, (my beloved) Dalloyau, Ladurée, Gerard Mulot (not closed when I was there) and, of course, Hévin. I was unable to get to Pierre Hermé and Lenôtre had no chocolate macarons the day I visited.

The winner, and not by a small margin, was in fact Jean-Paul Hévin. The interplay between the very bitter but light chocolate ganache and the less bitter chocolate meringue was perfection itself. Possibly worth the plane fare to Paris.

Here are my three steps to Heaven/Hévin: 

While I was at it, I tried a few other flavors, and the coffee at Aoki earned an honorable mention even if their chocolate was not competitive. Likewise the pistachio at Dalloyau.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Paris -- Two More Good Bistros: Comme Chez Maman and Métropolitain

My friend Andy G and I recently went to Comme Chez Maman, in a fairly remote area of Paris' 17th arrondissement. This bistro -- a coup de coeur (heart throb) in the Pudlo guide -- is run by a chef who has worked for Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges (New York and Tokyo) but decided to create a simple bistro with, as the name implies, traditional French food. Andy G had calf's liver and I had roast chicken; both were just what they should be, as were the starters and desserts (an amazing gauffre (waffle) with chocolate sauce and an excellent millefeuille with red fruits). Comme Chez Maman 5, rue des Moines, 75017 Paris (Métro Brochant).

 Parmesan and onion tart at Métropolitain

Then last night I went with a friend to Métropolitain, a charming bistro in the 4th arrondissement, in the southern part of the Marais, not far from Île St-Louis. This place gets three red cocottes from Le Petit Lebey, the guide to Paris Bistros, and rapport qualité-prix de l'année (best value for money of the year) from the Pudlo guide. While I don't agree with the rapport qualité-prix award (prices are reasonable but not that low), we had a very enjoyable meal here, classic dishes elevated to something a little special, served with grace in a charming little place.  My companion was happy with her sweetbreads and I greatly enjoyed my parmesan and onion tart (see photo), duck two ways and banana dessert. Métropolitain, 8, rue de Jouy, 75004 Paris (Métro Saint-Paul).

Bobby Jay

Paris -- Flan Nature Update

In April, 2009, I did a post on flan nature, in which I described my own experience of the ones that Figaroscope found to be the best in Paris, as well as some others.  One that I liked then was from Julien at St-Philippe du Roule, which was not among Figaroscope's choices. Today I was at Julien to buy a baguette and noticed a dark, dark flan that was quite different from the one I had experienced in 2009. How could I resist?

Flan nature from Julien, St-Philippe du Roule

This one was excellent but still would not have won the contest because, despite the marvelous almost burnt crust, the texture was not as creamy as the winning flan.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paris - Gorgeous Chocolates

The French have a great expression for window shopping: faire du lèche-vitrine, literally to be a shop window licker. Here's a scene from a store window that invites that kind of conduct.

 Chocolates at Jadis et Gourmande

Jadis et Gourmande, 56, rue St-Placide, 75006 Paris (Métro St-Placide or Rennes) and elsewhere in Paris.

Bobby Jay

Disappointed by Famed Paris Bistro: L'Ami Jean

Émi obtained a hard-to-get reservation at L’Ami Jean, the hot Seventh Arrondissment bistro featuring Basque food, and we went last week. We had heard great things about this place from friends and from the press – praised by Mark Bittman in The New York Times, an article in Bon Appétit, etc. We had the 5-course menu, with some changes to take account of Émi’s dietary constraints, and were pretty disappointed. The food was good, but not better than that, apart from the huge vat of truly spectacular rice pudding served at the end. L’Ami Jean has the simplicity and warmth of a classic bistro, so our evening there was extremely enjoyable despite our mild disappointment with the food.

As a result of the publicity mentioned above, a majority of the clientele were Americans, and we found ourselves conversing in English with the two women on one side and the two men on the other. Nice, but you don’t come to Paris to meet Americans.

For a Basque bistro, I used to prefer Le Trouquet, in the Fifteenth, where the welcome and food were always extraordinary. Although I haven’t eaten there for a couple of years, during which there has been a change in management – the owner chef sold to his first assistant – it still gets good reviews. However, I will have to revisit the place to verify that they are merited. 

L’Ami Jean, 27 rue Malar, 75007 Paris (Métro Invalides or La Tour-Mauberg). Le Troquet, 21 rue François Bonvin, 75015 Paris (Métro Sèvres Lecourbe or Volontaires).

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good New French Bistro: L'Office

Last night I went to L’Office, a very good new bistro in the ninth arrondissement, near the Grands Boulevards. This is a very simple place – no tablecloths or place mats, and you keep your cutlery throughout – that serves unpretentious but very well made food in a pleasant atmosphere. It received three red cocottes from Le Petit Lebey, the guide to Parisian bistros, which signifies one of the best in Paris. It recently won the 2012 Prix Lillet-Lebey de la Nouveauté.

The 33-euro menu includes choices among three appetizers, mains and desserts. I started with a wonderfully crispy cube of pork belly over a bed of spinach with nearly invisible fragments of girolle mushrooms. I followed this with chicken – crisped, perfectly cooked supreme and thigh pieces over caponata (never my favorite) with sprigs of mâche and a moelleux of chocolate with stewed cherries. The food was excellent and portion sizes appropriately small. The dessert was the least successful offering, with the preparation adding little to the wonderful cherries that are among the glories of France in June.

The place was full of Americans but somehow managed to keep its Frenchness. I was told by the owner chef that he has had some good write-ups in the US, including one in Bon Appétit (which I missed) that is surely the main reason for the American crowd. Also, it is the type of place we would like to have in the US, but don't. In any event, by about 9:30, the crowd began to change and French became the prevailing language.

A charming meal in a charming place out of central [location] casting.

L’Office, 3 rue Richer, 75009 Paris (Métro Bonnes Nouvelles).

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Beaujolais d'Auteuil - Recommendation Withdrawn

One of our favorite Paris bistros, and one that has the special virtue of being open on Sunday nights, was Beaujolais d'Auteuil. Unfortunately, this bistro has recently undergone a change of management and the early reviews are negative. I'm not sure if or when I'll get back there, but in the meantime I can't recommend it.

Bobby Jay

Monday, June 11, 2012

The St-Germain Cocktail

A couple of years ago, I was watching The Next Iron Chef and one of the contestants (I think it was Geoffrey Zakarian, who won) cooked something with St-Germain, a French elderflower liqueur. It took me awhile to get around to trying it, but it is very nice, with a flowery and not-too-sweet taste. The St-Germain website has many cocktails, but "The St-Germain Cocktail," a mixture of the liqueur, Champagne and sparkling water, is a winner. Joan has been serving it at her gallery's pre-opening parties to great acclaim.

Here's an excerpt from the website:

The St-Germain Cocktail
Our signature drink

2 parts
     Brut Champagne or Dry Sparkling Wine
1½ parts
2 parts
     Club Soda

Method: Stir ingredients in a tall ice-filled Collins glass, mixing completely. Think of Paris circa 1947. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Variation: Think of Sartre circa 1947. Be the lemon twist.
Give it a try!

Bobby Jay