Saturday, May 31, 2014

Paris - Brasserie Lazare

No, not pasta. Sauteed calamari at Brasserie Lazare
Eric Frechon, who among other things runs the spectacular three-Michelin star Restaurant Bristol, opened a classic brasserie in the Gare Saint-Lazare in 2013, which quickly became the Guide Pudlo's Brasserie de l'Année. J and I have tried to go several times, but unlike real station brasseries, this one is always booked. We finally went last night and it was a treat.

The food is almost aggressively classic. For example, Friday night's special is brandade de morue gratinée (cod and potato mash au gratin), popular throughout France (and Spain) but not something I like enough for a main course or that J likes at all. Other nightly specials are quenelles de brochet sauce nantua; saucisse de Toulouse, purée de pomme de terre; fricasée de volaille au vin jaune . . . well, you get the idea. Sounds old school, but I bet these warhorses, which are not easy to find, are very well prepared indeed.

I had an extraordinary plate of calamari, cut into noodles and sauteed with garlic, slices of a pepperoni-like sausage and Espelette pepper, followed by an excellent steak tartare (classic but with modifications, such as fairly large slices of parmesan scattered throughout). J had a good, but not memorable, salad of French green beans, artichoke hearts and hazelnuts with hazelnut vinaigrette, followed by a fine French adaptation of vitello tonnato (still, not as good as the sublime version at Saint Ambroeus in New York). We shared a boule of ice cream, salted caramel and two boules of sorbet, one bitter chocolate and the other "exotique," an extraordinary confection with a pineapple base, lots of ginger and a blend of other spices, including cardamom, one of my favorites.

Service is station-brasserie-like, i.e., fast by French standards. It is not easy to spend more than and hour and a half, and that's how they book, so this is not a place to linger over a long, leisurely dinner.

In sum, if you are nostalgic for the cuisine that got Julia cooking, or just want a good French meal, head for the Brasserie Lazare.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Happy Mother's Day from Paris

Today was Mother's Day in Paris, known as the Fête des Mères. While the holiday seems less important than the US version, it is, of course, an excuse to eat well. Here are some images of Lenôtre's windows this morning.

Bobby Jay

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring! Ramps and Asparagus

I went to our local farmers market (on Columbus Avenue behind the Museum of Natural History) on Sunday, and was greeted by lovely local spring produce, the first of the season.

Everyone has discovered ramps by now, but I was an early adopter and have been making ramp risotto for about five years. I use the white parts in lieu of onions or shallots and finish with the leaves. The slightly garlicky notes are subtle but unmistakable.

Ramps from the farmers market
Ramp risotto
I also got some gorgeous early asparagus, grown on Long Island according to the rubber band holding them together. A perfect appetizer before the ramp risotto, a vegetarian meal to feel good about. I have nothing against Peru, but am very happy to get asparagus grown 50, rather than 3000, miles away. Better for so many reasons! I trimmed and grilled the stalks, grilled for seven minutes on a hot grill pan, and served with a mustard and green peppercorn vinaigrette that I borrowed from Bobby Flay: very concentrated asparagus taste enlivened by the acidic dressing.

First local asparagus of the season
Ah, the delights of spring!

Bobby Jay