Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sour Cherries plus Ginger x 5

J and I both love sour cherries, which are having their short season in New York right now.

Last week I made a sour cherry clafoutis, violating protocol since the French generally use sweet cherries for this. Nevertheless, it was pretty wonderful, with that little bite that sour cherries provide.

And who doesn't like ginger? And why not pair it with sour cherries? Tonight I decided to max out on ginger with sour cherries and made a sundae consisting of (i) ginger ice cream, sour cherries cooked with (ii) ginger syrup and (iii) sliced fresh ginger, (iv) minced organic hot candied ginger, and (v) crushed ginger snaps. Ginger heaven!

Quantities are totally up to you. This would work with blueberries, peaches, roasted pineapples and many other fruits: let your imagination run wild.

Bobby Jay

Friday, July 26, 2013


After our wonderful stay in Provence, we went to stay with friends at their magnificent home in the heart of Périgord, a couple of kilometers from the spectacular Cingle de Trémolat (an oxbow).

Our friends' magnificent home in Périgord
Although the distance between St-Rémy de Provence and Périgord is not huge as the crow flies, it is very far as the car drives. Not being eager to spend a lot of time on charming winding roads, we opted for a simpler route, stopping first in Arles and then spending the night in Albi on route. Both are great places to go. Arles was having a black-and-white photography festival featuring works of sixty contemporary artists, including some of the best in the world. Albi has one of the best cathedrals in the world, an amazing Toulouse-Lautrec museum (he was from there) and a delightful and beautifully kept old city.

Arriving at our friends' home, it was into the pool to cool down, then drinks and dinner on their terrace. The next night we went to the justly renowned Vieux Logis, in Trémolat. This is a Relais and Château hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant (it has one star but based on our experience deserves two). We had the 5-course seasonal menu dégustation, a real buy at 80 euros (60 if you make the mistake of omitting the fish course), 100 (or 80) if you include a matching tasting of local Bergerac wines. Beautifully crafted and interesting food -- far from the heavy, foie-gras focused fare that is typically associated with this region -- as the following pictures attest.

Pigeon at Vieux Logis: roasted breast and confited leg
Périgord is a beautiful region with lots to do, chateaux, prehistoric caves, etc., although we just relaxed, having seen the sights on earlier trips. I highly recommend visiting the area and staying at the Vieux Logis.

Bobby Jay

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Perfect Day in Provence

Last week J and I traveled to Provence with friends of 35 years and then visited other good friends at their magnificent home in Périgord. Both are worth a post, to say the least.

My father used to describe someone in ecstasy as "happy as a pig in s__t." And then there's a nice book about two Americans who become chèvre makers in the area called A Pig in Provence. That was me: happy as a pig in Provence.

We started our perfect day with breakfast at our beautiful, tranquil hotel, Château les Alpilles, in St-Rémy de Provence.

Château les Alpilles in St-Rémy de Provence
Next, we finally took advantage of a long-standing invitation to visit our South African friend S at her beautiful home in Rustrel, near Apt in the Luberon. There we partook of a leisurely lunch that took full advantage of the seasonal bounty, prepared by S and some other lucky friends who were with us. After lunch, we went to nearby Céreste, where my friend Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, has opened a gourmet ice cream parlor (Scaramouche) with her husband. Elizabeth graciously spent a few minutes with us, plying us with delicious samples, even though her son was celebrating his fourth birthday. Among the intriguing flavors: "1001 Nuts," made with Moroccan spices (ras-al-hanout), Henri Bardouin Pastis Sorbet,  and Fresh Lemon Verbena Sorbet.

Scaramouche ice cream parlor in Céreste
We returned by way of Apt, where I had to stop to buy preserved apricots and clementines, a local specialty that has been made the same way for 800 years, from one of the places that has been doing it for at least decades.

Traditional confiseur in Apt
Finally, we went to the famed Oustau de Beaumanière, a spectacular hotel/restaurant in the even more spectacular Les Baux de Provence. While we felt that the food quality fell a little short of its two Michelin star rating, it was very very good, prepared with attention to detail and for the most part spectacularly beautiful. It just doesn't get better than sitting on the Oustau's beautiful terrace on a perfect summer night, with great friends, excellent food and fine, experienced service.

Oustau de Baumanière's baguette - Salvador Dalí's mustache?
Oustau de Baumanière's foie gras
Oustau de Baumanière's gorgeous rouget
Oustau de Baumanière's signature millefeuille
That's it: a perfect day in Provence.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paris - Agapé - Well-Deserved Michelin Star

We went with friends to Agapé and found it to be worthy of its Michelin star and plate from Pudlo. The food at this 17ème arrondissement establishment is sophisticated, the service is gracious and competent and the ambiance and couvert add support to the excellent overall experience.

The 90-euro menu was really splendid. It is a surprise, selected that day by the chef based on what's good at the market, but graciously eliminating any foods that you are allergic to or just don't like. We all found it to be a very well constructed meal, with appropriately sized portions and just the right trajectory. The amuse-bouche was a perfect velouté of vitelotte potatoes. Then followed another soup, asparagus this time; crispy sautéed eel with shredded cabbage, roasted turbot with a pea sauce; home-smoked veal loin from the renowned Desnoyers butcher over braised lettuce and risotto; a cheese plate featuring four-year-old comté - who knew comté could be so great? - and reblochon; and an elaborate mini chocolate tart. Everything was memorable (except, for me, the turbot, but I just don't like this fish). Even the bread was superb.

Agapé's vitelotte soup amuse-bouche
Agapé'a tubot with pea sauce
Agapé's smoked veal loin on braised lettuce over risotto
This is not a place to go every day. With wine, Agapé will set you back about 150 euros per person, but it is well worth the price for a special treat. Agapé, 51 rue Jouffroy-d'Abbans, Paris 17ème (Métro Wagram).

Bobby Jay

Monday, July 1, 2013

Paris - Gastro Bistro Le Cotte Roti

Frog's legs at Le Cotte Roti
The other night, J and I took a friend to Sardegna a Tavola, an excellent Sardinian restaurant in Paris' 12ème arrondissement. Or so we thought. When we arrived the table for three was sandwiched into a highly trafficked spot that guaranteed us an annoying experience. The lady taking care of us was rude about it, so we decided to leave, saying we'd just go to the excellent Le Cotte Roti next door. Before leaving, though, we decided to talk to the owner, who we know from past experience understands the hospitality business.

He said he was sorry but couldn't help us; instead, he talked to the people at Le Cotte Roti and secured us a table there (not so easy as it was full) and sent us each a glass of wine. So yes, we will return to Sardegna: a good save.

The "beauty part," as they say, was that our meal at Le Cotte Roti was superb. They have a wonderful 39-euro menu, with creative takes on the classics. I started with frogs' legs (a 5-euro supplement) -- perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. J started with a pea soup with creamy burrata, an interesting change from the classic cream or crème fraîche. Our friend's starter was home-made gravlax and (also homemade) Scandinavian pickles: she was happy.

Gravlax at Le Cotte Roti
Pea soup at Le Cotte Roti

I followed with the restaurant's signature dish, seven-hour lamb. Served with a densely earthy mushroom lasagna with many, many thin layers, this was the best version of this classic that I have ever had. Our guest agreed. J had an Iberico pork steak, which was excellent and lovely to look at. Desserts, which we shared, were very good, but not as memorable as the rest of the meal.

Le Cotte Roti 7-hour lamb with mushroom lasagna
Le Cotte Roti Iberico pork steak
Le Cotte Roti, 1 rue de Cotte, Paris 12ème (Métro Gare de Lyon or Ledru-Rollin).

Bobby Jay