Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paris - New Store for Bakers

Wandering around near Les Halles, where I always go to see what's new at Dehillerin, MORA and Bovida, I happened upon this new place, Déco Relief, which specializes in equipment for decorating pastries, chocolate making, etc. I think they've been around for a long time but only recently opened a retail establishment. This is the ultimate source for silicone molds and other interesting necessities for serious pastry and cake makers.

Déco Relief, 6 rue Montmartre, 75001 Paris (Métro Les Halles or Étienne Marcel).

Bobby Jay

Paris - Fauchon is Not Dead Yet

When my wife and I lived in Paris in 1978-81, Fauchon was the ne plus ultra of gourmet stores. Great pastries, jams (my memories of their confiture de myrtilles are still vivid, and even Hediard's excellent version is not the same), prepared foods and exotic imports, like peanut butter and even (dieu forbid!) sweet corn for Americans. It is now a shadow of its former self, a world-wide brand with new owners. But, they still have some magnificent things, as demonstrated by a recent pass by their windows.

Bobby Jay

Friday, May 18, 2012

Paris - Another Excellent Bistro: Septime

I finally went to Septime, last night. This chic and well-publicized bistro is very difficult to get into, but my friend Émi scored a reservation by calling four or five weeks in advance. It is worth the wait.

A comparison with Chateaubriand, where I was lucky enough to dine last week, is inevitable. Both bistros have a 55-euro menu selected by the chef, with no substitutions permitted except in case of allergies and, at Septime, “strong dislikes” (you’re on your own for mere dislikes at Chateaubriand). The food at Chateaubriand is more elaborate and more edgy, but the food is excellent at Septime and its warm service and ambiance make the experience there every bit as enjoyable. Septime's tables and walls are of rough-hewn wood, and the energetic young servers and cooks are a pleasure to watch (I was lucky enough to be facing the open kitchen).

Here’s what we ate:

  • White asparagus with a paper think slice of white turnip and small but significant touches of trout eggs, elder flowers and honey, with amazingly flavorful walnut oil.
  • Warm poached eggs with pungently sweet caramelized spring onions and sprigs of raw wild asparagus.
  • Rouget (red mullet) with fennel, black risotto and thick bouillabaisse purée. Lamb cooked in several ways with red beets, red turnips, red radishes and red beet purée: a symphony in red.
  • Dessert consisting of elder flower ice cream and pink lady apple purée topped with loose crumble (sorry but the apple purée was just apple sauce).

In addition, we shared a cheese course: a perfect duo of artisan chèvre and Roquefort, accompanied by Septime’s excellent bread and what remained of our lovely little Saint Romain burgundy. Even with the cheese, we did not feel overly full, due to the lightness of the food and the appropriately small size of the dishes.

Septime is definitely a place to get to if you have a chance. Plan ahead - far ahead - and enjoy.

Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris (Métro Charonne).

Bobby Jay

Monday, May 14, 2012

Paris - Turkey "Melon"

I read in David Lebovitz’ fine blog, Living the Sweet Life in Paris, about a turkey "melon” that he bought from a butcher at the Anvers open air market, which is open on Friday afternoons, and decided I had to have one.

So I made my way to this small but rather nice market last Friday and bought one. It is a breast of turkey miraculously formed into a round (melon-shaped) ball, then covered with bacon with the aid of an intricate web of string and stuffed with grainy mustard. (As you can see from the pictures, they have lamb and chicken "melons" too.

Although the directions (on the butcher paper) suggest cooking this atop the stove, David did his in the oven, and I followed suit, even to the point of adding chopped shallots, quartered mushrooms and a splash of wine before roasting, covered.

A couple of hours later, voilà, a magnificent dish . . . 

. . . which, carved into wedges, looks like this (note the masses of string):

There is a lot of liquid left, which needs to be de-fatted and reduced but makes a luscious, mustardy sauce. Fun for me and for the friend I invited to share the experience. 

Bobby Jay

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paris - Spectacular Bistro: Chateaubriand

I am reluctant to write about le Chateaubriand, arguably the best -- and almost certainly the most exciting -- bistro in Paris, because it is so difficult to get into it. But if you are lucky enough to know someone who knows the rock star chef, Inaki Aizpitartes (as I am) or if you are willing to go to the late, non-reserved seating, which starts in principle at 9:30 (although you are not likely to be seated before 10), then by all means go. You will be rewarded with an extraordinary experience.

Physically, le Chateaubriand is a thoroughly unprepossessing old-style bistro, with tiny tables, neither tablecloths nor placemats, a banal couvert (you keep your implements for most of the meal), no flowers, etc. The food is the opposite: brilliantly creative, well-presented and perfectly executed.

Every day there is a 55-euro menu, which is created based on the market and the inspiration (mood?) of Chef Aizpitartes. Period. No choices, no substitutions (except in case of allergies). One member of our party said he didn’t like offal, a couple of morsels of which were included in the lamb mélange; too bad (he ate them without incident).

Mushroom with Squid Ink
Las night, the meal began with four substantial amuses-bouche, including amazing fried baby shrimps with tamarind powder and cumin, served with mysterious flower blossoms, a morsel of perfectly cooked duck breast in broth, and a gorgeous finely sliced mushroom served over squid ink (pictured above). There followed lightly cooked and unspeakably delicate bonito with red onions; rouget with white asparagus and elder flowers; and lamb many ways (filet, belly, sweetbread, kidney and more) with fennel. Then a choice of desserts – rice flavored ice cream with a prune and a (fried? roasted?) then bruléed egg yolk served on a pastry with ground camomile) -- or cheese. We all opted for the desserts in order to sample yet more of the chef’s genius. Not the best part of the meal, but high marks for creativity.

Lamb Many Ways and Egg Yolk with Camomile Dessert

Anyway, you get the picture. It's not for nothing that le Chateaubriand is rated 15th by The World's 50 Best Restaurants, second after l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon among French restaurants. Although the list is silly, the esteem in which this neo-bistro is held is not.

Le Chateaubriand, 129 avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris (Métro Goncourt).

Bobby Jay