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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Apricot/Rosemary Confiture - Summer on a Plate

I love apricots, and they start to arrive in New York now, although the wonderful local ones don't come until mid to late summer. I find the ones that we get from California to be either a bit mealy or lacking in taste, but recently felt compelled to buy a bunch to make a simple (10-minute) dessert: apricot confiture with rosemary. Here's how I make it:
Cook 6 cut up apricots, about ¼ cup sugar, 2 TBS almond syrup, 1 TBS Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur), 2 TBS water and 1-2 tsp finely chopped rosemary until fruit is tender. Refrigerate. Serve over Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream with chopped raw almonds.
What makes this so good is the interplay between the piney rosemary and the subtle flowery taste of the apricots.

Proportions are indicative only. You can vary the ingredients as you wish, and should use less sugar if your apricots are the sweet, late-summer ones.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More Great Peanut Butter Sandwiches

My earlier post on gourmet peanut butter sandwiches only scratched the surface.

PB and Smoked Meats

At the suggestion of a friend and reader, I have been experimenting with adding smoked meats to peanut butter sandwiches.  Thumbs up to peanut butter and crisped prosciutto (a minute or two in the microwave), peanut butter and bacon (even better with bananas) and peanut butter and sliced porchetta (like prosciutto, with a minute or two in the microwave). Still to try: pb and regular ham and pb with salami.

Peanut butter and porchetta from Salumeria Rossi
PB and Indian Snacks

Also, it occurred to me to create fantastic chunky peanut butter by combining it with Indian snacks, like Bombay mix (pictured), Navrattan or other mixes, which consist of various combinations of peanuts, noodles, lentils, chickpeas, etc. with differing spice mixtures.  This was an  inspired thought: the two complement each other perfectly from a taste perspective and the fresh crunch added by sprinkling the mix over the peanut butter is striking. The spicy mixes can be found where Indian ingredients are sold, for example at Kalustyans and Dual Specialty Store.

 My favorite peanut butter and Indian spice mix
PB and Seeds

Another group of additions that I inadvertently omitted from my earlier pb post is seeds. Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds add texture and complementary flavors, not to mention healthful anti-oxidants. Peanut butter on rye toast with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) is a perfect combination.

PB, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Sambal Oelek

I had the tail end of a jar oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes and a homemade bread lying around.  Toasted the bread, added peanut butter, some tomatoes and spicy, vinegary Sambal Oelek, and voilà!

Peanut butter, sun-dried tomatoes and Sambal Oelek

PB and Asian Ingredients

Knowing the affinity between peanut butter and garlic and salty things, I tried pb and kimchee.  Awful.

But other Asian ingredients will no doubt work; just think of satay. An avenue for further research.

I hope readers will share other ideas for this most versatile of ingredients.

Bobby Jay