Monday, November 1, 2010

My New Scooter

Just to share some news.  I'm now mobile!  Oui!

I've had my little Peugeot Ludix two full weeks now.  It's been a challenge to say the least.  Here's what I've gotten used to in this short period of time:
  • navigating the traffic of Paris, 
  • safely driving through some of it's crazy round-abouts (but I still don't feel ready for the Arch de Triomphe yet...),  
  • surviving some aggressive traffic (e.g., on strike day when Montparnasse was completely blocked off....let me tell you that the drivers were getting plenty irritated...honking all over the place, and whatnot...), 
  • surviving the gas strike (luckily, I didn't run out...but that feeling of uncertainty is not much fun...), 
  • driving on two wheels - hadn't done that in a very long time!
  • driving with a load after shopping, etc.
  • driving with a GPS
  • driving during rush hour, but I much prefer driving around on a quiet Sunday morning!
  • driving outside of Paris, even...
  • driving in the rain
  • getting my speedometer fixed (yes, this never happens, said the mechanic...except it did...)
  • having perpetual "bad hair";  oh well, something's gotta give!
I'm over the hump.  Have been to several customer events with it & food on hand!  I love the flexibility it brings me.

And I promised Eric to stay out of the blind spot of big trucks & buses....

So, now, my new motto is:  "Have scooter; will deliver!"


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Scoop on Scoop

Unfortunately, Scoop, "le café branché" is gone.  It closed its doors sometime recently, over the summer break apparently.   I only found out the other day, as I walked down rue Saint Honoré like I have a million times before, and was shocked to find it was simply not there anymore!     

I don't know the story behind why they closed - it had a good following.  Some even thought they had the best burger in Paris.  Others liked their bagels.  And of course, they were known for their ice cream.  Looking at their website gives a clue - it appears they're planning something new....I say, "Bon chance! And please stay close to the neighborhood!"

I feel a need to make a batch of bagels in remembrance of the old place...

Here's a picture of the new place.  It's called Oh mon Cake!! (Oh my Cake!!, as if that needs translating!).  I haven't felt compelled to try it.  Maybe because I've been too busy making my own sweets lately or maybe because I'm not that in to rice crispy treats and pound cakes.  (I'm sure that if I were to actually go in, I would discover much more.)  If anyone tries it, I hope to hear from you!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Encornets de pesto - Baby Squid with pesto

If you like Mediterranean food, including baby squid, you just might like this.  It's really delicious if you can find fresh ingredients, which is what I did here, thanks to a visit to Marché Raspail in the 6th district of Paris.  This becomes a great 1st course for summer - served at room temperature.

Ingredients for 4 servings
600g whole baby squid, cleaned up & cut into small rounds
1 lemon to garnish the plate

2 bunches of fresh basil
1 clove of garlic (2, if you love garlic)
80g (approximately) parmesan, high quality
80g (approximately), toasted pine nuts
splash of lemon
~100 ml of high quality olive oil
  • In your food processor, add garlic until pulverized.  Add basil & mix.  Add parmesan & pine nuts.  Add olive oil.  Season.  Add lemon juice.  Adjust seasoning & ingredients as necessary.
  • In a frying pan, heat a splash of olive oil.  Add the calamari rings, season & cook until tender (some water will be released).  Don't overcook or they become rubbery.  Remove from pan.
  • Coat the calamari with some pesto.  Stir.  Add more pesto as required & season to taste.
Be sure to serve with a fresh baguette & a nice Sancerre.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salicorne (Pousse-Pierre)

I've got salicorne on my mind.  We recently had dinner with friends from Colombia, who were passing through Paris - so I went to the market on Sunday morning to see what I could find for dinner that night.  At the fish shop sat a pile of fresh salicorne.  Cool!  I don't see that often, and so I eagerly asked the fish guy to give me a few handfuls.

So, what is salicorne exactly?  I tasted it for the first time in the marshlands of Brittany many years ago while visiting a fleur de sel "farm", just off the Atlantic coast.  It's a green plant, a sea vegetable, that grows wildly along the salt marshes.  We picked some that day & ate it on the spot, guided by an expert from the region.  It was salty, immensely crunchy & very moist!  An explosion of sea in your mouth, without it tasting too salty, oddly enough.  I immediately liked it. 

Salicorne goes by many names...I don't think I've seen anything called so many different things!  My favorite is sea asparagus because, well, they kind of look like mini asparagus (to me) & they  taste like the sea!  Other names include slender glasswort, sea beans, sea pickle, and samphire.  Isn't Google great...It also clarified for me that it originates off the coasts of Europe but can also be cultivated and found in other parts of the world, including the coasts of North America, South Africa and South Asia.  Many high end restaurants use it on their plates because it is surprisingly good & beautiful.

It can be eaten raw, pickled, and sautéed....

I served it raw on Sunday night as part of the entrée froid (cold 1st course):  Ceviche de bar, mariniére de coquillages aux aromates et salicorne (Sea bass ceviche, shellfish & aromatic vegetable salad with sea asparagus).

Here's how I prepared it:

I gave it a brief soak in fresh water and then painstakingly cut off the ends of each mini stalk, where it had browned ever so slightly & I didn't think that would look so appetizing on the plate (see middle photo above - cutting the ends off so meticulously is probably not necessary unless, of course, they've started to go's just my preference to eat them looking pristine, so that's why I did it that way...)  Then I tossed them with a vinaigrette, added some freshly ground pepper, and DID NOT salt them!  They're plenty salty as it is, which by the way, you might want to leave them to soak in water a bit more than I did to desalinate them more...  Anyway, next I simply added the seasoned salicorne to the plate, as a decorative garnish.  That's all.  Not everyone will like the texture or taste, but it's certainly a discovery & well worth trying.  It's at the tail end of the season, so if you come across it, don't be afraid to give it a try!

Hope you enjoy it!

ps.  It was great to see you again, Patricia & Philippe!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Arlette's Tabouli

I'm calling this Arlette's tabouli in honor of Arlette.  Arlette is the Lebanese mammy who has lived in Paris the past 20 years and who had been taking my Monday night cooking lessons at the Centre Vercingétorix all year long.  Classes are now over, following the schedule of the vacances scholaire (school vacation).

One of our last lessons was called simply Mezze.  I brought my three recipes that night:  tabouli, cucumber-yogurt-mint salad, and hummus.  The week before everyone had enthusiastically agreed to the idea of doing these Mediterranean inspired salads, or Mezze ( it is for eastern Mediterranean foods what Tapas is to the Spanish....small appetizer dishes that can be served with a drink as a starter to a meal, or with enough, they can become the meal itself).

I really needn't have brought recipes because shortly after we got started, it became apparent that Arlette was going to lead this class!  Not out of some arrogant desire to take control or show the others what she could, not at all.  That is the complete opposite of this woman, who is naturally quiet, patient, and respectful.  In fact, I was happy to see this more assertive Arlette who had seemed all year long willing to do the last tasks no one else volunteered for (peeling onions, cleaning lettuce, chopping garlic, etc).  Rather, her quiet leadership gradually and naturally happened - from someone who has made these dishes all her life, a million times or more, methodically and confidently, with no recipe at all in mind!

So, I share this Mezze in honor of Arlette.  It represents to me the thousands of other recipes that are borne out of tradition, passed down from generation to generation.  In actuality, my recipe & hers are not much different except Arlette doesn't boil the water to soften the bulghur.  (And now I don't either!)  I've included quantities from my own recipe as a basic guideline.  Use it & adjust to your own taste preferences.

Ingredients - 6 servings

200g bulgur, fine
water to cover the bulgur by 2-3 inches (5-8 cm)
250g tomatoes, diced
55g spring onion
75 - 100g lemon juice
75 - 100g olive oil
1/2 bouquet of fresh mint
1 - 1.5 bouquets of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
salt, pepper

  1. Rinse bulgur well with water.  Place in a large bowl & cover with tap water.  Let sit for about 20 - 30 minutes or until bulgur is softened.
  2. Peel, seed & dice the tomato (or simply dice without peeling & seeding, if you prefer).
  3. Finely chop the spring onion.
  4. Clean & dry the herbs & then finely chop.
  5. After bulgur is ready, drain any excess water.  Add the tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, olive oil mint, parsley, salt & pepper.  Mix together well.  Adjust seasoning as desired (add more lemon juice & olive oil if too dry;  make sure it's salted & peppered enough).
p.s. An authentic libanese tabouli does not have cucumber, chick peas or anything else added.  Feel free, if you like!  I don't mind.  But Arlette might!  ;)

 An idea of what else you can do with Tabouli:  
1st course:  Tian de tabouli, orange, guacamole & crab


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Forest of Green on the Champs-Elysées

Much has already been written about the 2-day transformation of the Champs-Elysées into a bio-diverse landscape of green vegetation, called Nature Capitale (May 23rd & 24th).  We had to go see it, along with over a million other people.  Yes, it was packed, even at 11am on a holiday Monday (Pentecote).  With so many people all converging at the same spot, we only lasted an hour there.  I'm still glad we went.  Here's what we saw, starting at the Arc de Triomphe end of the Champs-Elysées:

This is where we stopped our visit, about half way down to Place de la Concorde.  Along the way, we ran into entertaining street musicians, admired a concept car at the Renault store, did some pretty interesting people watching, got a kick out of seeing all the traffic lights without the traffic, and enjoyed being able to walk down the Champs Elysées amongst all the green, without a single honking horn!  


Friday, May 21, 2010

Paris Outdoor Markets - What's in Season - Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb!!  It's here!  Enjoy its bounty while you can.  

 A pile of rhubarb at the market - grown outside of Paris

 The variety of rhubarb grown here has a rich pink color and these particular ones are nice & thin.  I find them to be less tart here compared to the ones back home and so I can get by using less sugar when I cook them.  Here's a recipe for a rhubarbe compote that I like very much.  If you let it cook too long, the vibrant color dulls out & the texture is a bit "mushier", but no worries, it still tastes great!

Recipe:  Compote de rhubarbe (Rhubarb compote)
Makes a large quantity;  can be halved.

1.5 kilos rhubarb
zest of 1 orange
Juice of 2 oranges
50g sugar (or more depending on the tartness of the rhubarb)
2 vanilla beans
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1 kilo strawberries

  • Clean rhubarb under cold water.  Cut off ends.  Remove any fibers (if tough).  Cut into 1 inch slices (roughly).
  • Remove the zest of the orange (using a microplane works the fastest)
  • Juice the oranges into a small bowl.
  • Scrape seeds from vanilla beans or use extract;  add to orange juice.
  • Add sugar to bowl with orange juice & stir to mix. Add the rhubarb pieces & stir well.  Pour into baking pan & cover with foil.
  • Bake at 200C (400F) for 30 minutes (the juices will be released during this time); stir; remove foil & bake another 20 minutes or until fruit is soft & the juices have become reduced.  Let cool. 
  • While rhubarb is baking, clean the strawberries & remove hull.  Slice into med-thin slices (vertically).

    You can add the strawberries slices during the first 30 minutes to make a strawberry-rhubarb compote.  Or, you can simply add the raw strawberries to the cooled rhubarb compote.  Personally, I prefer adding strawberries without cooking them but only if the strawberries are nice & ripe & full of flavor.  It's not a true compote like this, but it sure tastes great with yogurt, over ice cream, with a crepe, with pancakes, over angelfood cake, in a "verrine"....I could go on & on...!  

    Store in fridge.  Should be eaten within a few days since the sugar content is so low - it doesn't hold as long as a confiture or a true compote.

    At Marché Raspail this morning...a beautiful moment


    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Basic Techniques: Roasting Red Peppers

     Roasting peppers - it's easy, fast and versatile.  

     How to easily Roast a pepper:
    1. Rinse outside with water & dry.  Leave whole.
    2. Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F).
    3. Place peppers in a pan; drizzle with olive oil & coat well.
    4. Bake in oven 15 minutes, then rotate the peppers.  Bake another 15-20 minutes or so, rotating at least another 1 or 2 times.  Maybe bake another 5-10 minutes, if needed.  They're done when the skin looks separated from the flesh (as in the pictures).  
    5. Remove from oven & let sit on counter until cooled.
    6. Remove skins with a knife, or your fingers.  Remove core & seeds. 
    7. Reserve in olive oil.  Store in fridge.  Keeps several days.
    Unpeeled on left;  peeled on right

    Other methods will tell you to roast at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time (say 200C/400F for 10 - 20 minutes), typically turning the outer skin black & charred.  This works, too, but my preference is to use a lower temp & to cook for a (slightly) longer time.  The texture stays more intact this way, and the color stays vibrant.  Higher temperatures can blacken the pepper itself, in addition to the skin. (There aren't too many occasions when I'm looking for a blackened pepper, but if I were, I'd do it this way.)

    They will also tell you to place the roasted peppers in a paper or plastic after removing from the oven & then to peel after they're cool enough to touch.  I don't use bags anymore.  I find it's simply not necessary & it only wastes a bag that ends up in the garbage.  Sitting on the counter is just fine (if they're roasted long enough in the oven).

    I've seen professional kitchens roast their peppers directly over the gas flame.  This definitely gets the skin charred which often requires a rinse after wards to get all the black bits off.  Of course, you can end up with a grilled & smokey taste this way.  I find that it's not that easy to do at home where my burners aren't strong enough to handle the job easily.  I end up babysitting them over a hot flame...and well, it's just easier to toss them in the oven & let them be!

    One observation:  I find that yellow peppers are harder to peel than red;  I tend to let the yellow peppers sit in the oven a bit longer than the red ones.

    What I like do with roasted peppers:
    1. Use in salads, sliced julienne (into strips).  
    2. Make a red pepper sauce, such as romesco or coulis.
    3. Add to pasta - delicious.
    4. Add to an appetizer platter (with baby artichokes, olives, olive-oil marinated feta cubes, etc), served with a baguette & flavored olive oil on the side.
    5. Make a red-yellow pepper soup.
    6. Put in a sandwich.
    7. Frankly, I use these anywhere that raw red peppers are called for.  (Some people can't digest raw peppers, so this makes it edible for them.)
     Salade Nicoise

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Gateau Tout Chocolat

    Do you mind if I simply share a picture? I made this cake for a private dinner on Monday night. It eventually had some birthday candles & a "Bonne Anniversaire" sign in the middle...

    This is one of my favorite cakes. Tout chocolat in french means "all chocolate" and what a perfect name for this gateau. It's a layered cake with sablé chocolat (chocolate shortbread), chocolate-almond cake/brownie and chocolate mousse. What I love about it, however, is that the sablé chocolat has fleur de sel (sea salt) in when you taste it, you experience a very subtle salty-sweet sensation!

    On Monday it was served with a creme anglaise sauce, but you could also serve it with a chocolate sauce or rasberry coulis, if you like. For those living or visiting Paris, please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to order this cake. It would be a pleasure for everyone (including for me to make)!


    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Lots to catch up on

    It's such an overused phrase...."time is passing so quickly"....and, of course, it's overused because it holds so much truth! I can't believe it's been a month already since my last post. When such gaps do occur, it's only for a good reason, however: it means I'm busy at work. I do hope you will stick with me during such slow periods on this blog.

    Let me try to catch up a bit with some highlights. And I promise to post a recipe soon.

    Rendez-vous Dimanche: I've been collaborating with the great Terrance Gelenter on this new event, a "stylish supper club" for up to 20 guests who will enjoy meeting the guest speaker of the night, Alan Riding. We're looking forward to kicking off this 1st event on Sunday April 18th. There's been lots of planning work involved to make sure we're ready & organized! If you hadn't guessed, I'll be preparing the menu...

    Cinnamon Swirl Roll Experiment -- Sadly a "Non": Remember back in February when I was so absolutely thrilled with the buttermilk dinner roll recipe (from Ruhlman's blog)? Well, I had the thought to tweak the recipe into a great cinnamon roll. I added more sugar to the dough itself & then loaded it with butter & cinnamon-sugar.....but alas, I was disappointed in the result. The texture was not nearly as light & fluffy as before. Was it just that batch I made? Or are there simply better recipes? Who knows?! If anyone else tries this, please let me what happens for you. ( I don't even think that a sugar glaze on top could have saved these...!)

    Rino Restaurant -- a definite "Oui": This new little "micro-bistro" just opened in 2010 by Giovanni Passerini, 2nd who worked under Petter Nilssen of La Gazetta. We went for lunch. The choices are very limited: a choice of 2 entrees, a choice of 2 main courses, and dessert. This might put a few people off, but for me, it's perfectly OK to put my trust in the chef. The food was delicious, inventive & very fresh. The cost for all three courses was 22 euros - quite a good value, in my book.

    Chocolate soufflee and soufflee soirees -- no more please!!: I think I would call March the month of soufflees for me. I made more souffles last month than I think I have in my entire life!! That's a lot of soufflees. Suddenly they were everywhere in my cooking classes -- with cheese, or with spinach, with Grand Marnier, with chocolate....etc, etc....we did them all - savory and sweet. As much as I love soufflees, even I have my limits!! Variety is the spice of life you know...

    Pappa al pomodoro -- can I have some more please!!: During a private wine-food pairing event for 14 people, I was asked to make something called pappa al pomodoro....It was an Italian wine tasting and the goal was to challenge the chianti tasting with lots of tomatoes, hence pappa al pomodoro (but don't ask me what the pappa meas...). This turned out to be a favorite of not only mine, but of those at the event....and then those at two different cooking lessons that I subsequently gave. It was unanimous -- this is hearty comfort food; the kind that sticks to your ribs & makes you feel all warm inside. And it's simple to prepare with only four ingredients: bread, tomatoes, olive oil & basil. A glass of red wine is required. I hope to post this recipe soon while there is still a chill in the air...

    Macaron madness!! If I wasn't making soufflees, I was making macarons. Strawberry & chocolate, pistachio, caramel au beurre sale, white chocolate with rasberry, double chocolate....for private lessons, for group lessons, or batches made for my own events.....I'm up to my eyeballs in macarons! I still find them to be finicky things -- especially when making them on humid days. I still love them. Macarons are the "new cupcake". There's been lots of interest by Americans. It will be interesting to see how this evolves back in the US.

    That's all for now!


    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Highlight of last weekend - Johnny Depp spotting!

    OK, I just have to write about this. No pictures again. This time intentionally. I had my camera on me. It was just a moment to have some discretion. I'd never make it in the paparazzi world...

    (The picture below is something I found on the internet. I just had to include it).

    It was late Saturday night, after a rather long day - first at the Europain exhibition at Parc d'Expositions and then to the Swan Bar...finally we ended up at a little Italian restaurant around 9pm for dinner. The long day was coming to an end - my friend and I were heading back to the RER stop at Port Royal. It was frigid cold. We were walking briskly. Then Ali says, "Is that Johnny Depp? I think that's Johnny Depp!!!" I look up immediately, into the restaurant, and say, "OMG, it's him. It's him!" I get a "Don't stare" from my friend. (Kind of hard not to, I tell you!). At that point, there was a full window lending a nice view of the actor.

    I won't say where we saw him out of respect for his privacy. Let me tell you why. He was with his partner, who I learned is Vanessa Paradis. And they were with their 2 kids. They were eating in the restaurant like a normal family & all. He was his typical cool self -- hat, glasses, somewhat scruffy-edgy looking. She was in some sort of off-the shoulder black sequin looking top/gown (couldn't get a good look). They were sitting around a square table, laughing & having a good time....that's all. There was another table nearby, a couple, who seemed to be minding their own business, engaged in their own conversation. The place was otherwise kind of quiet & normal looking. Except Johnny Depp was there!

    And there we were outside in the freezing windy night, staring through the trees into the restaurant....almost giddy with a star struck, "brush with fame" kind of excitement. Well, I was anyway. I wouldn't say we were jumping up & down with excitement, but we were pretty in to the moment!! It's Johnny Depp after all. We were there a little while, and then it started to feel like we were becoming stalkers or something. It was time to leave. First, we asked ourselves if we should go in & have a drink. Don't ask me why we decided against the idea. I suppose we didn't trust ourselves. If we got silly like that out on the sidewalk, imagine what might've happened if we were within a few tables of him! So we walked away, talking about how cool that moment just was...we talked about Johnny Depp all the way home. I just had to share this story! Have any of your own "brush with fame" stories? Would love to hear them!


    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Restaurant Chez Miocque in Deauville, France

    It would be remiss of me not to write about another highlight of last week's trip to Deauville which was dinner at Brasserie-Restaurant Chez Miocque. I can't pronounce the name very easily, but I can easily recommend going there. Without a doubt.

    Before I go any further, let me apologize upfront for not having a single picture to share. (Bad blogger!). I was totally engrossed in the evening itself, and the one and only picture I took turned out ridiculously blurry. I'll blame it on the after dinner Calvados! And on all the laughing going on that night!

    We went there for lunch last year and it was very good. Had to go back, but especially so when our friend Ulla relayed her story from the night before. She arrived one day earlier than we did, and befriended the owner Jacques that night. So when we arrived on Monday night around 9:30pm for dinner, Jacques greeted Ulla and therefore us, like family. Already acquainted with Ulla, Jacques turned his attention to Robbin & I & asked where we were from. To my response "Chicago", he said, "Very, very cold". I totally agreed, but had to add, "yes, but warm hearts!". He surprised me by giving me a high five! That made me laugh. Our night was off to a fun start!

    Let me try to describe this character Jacques. (He seems like a character to me. From a book or movie. A real interesting sort.) Yes, his name is tres, tres francais. His accent is adorable and he is fluent in english. Here's a man that enjoys life. Or so it seems to me. He smiles naturally & gracefully. I'm not sure his age, but it's bound to be in the retirement bracket. He's been in this business forever, and will forever be. The inside of the place is lined with photographs that date back decades. He's in every single one of them, accompanied by the rich & famous. I'll bet he's friends with each & every one of them, too. I can imagine how the place must be abuzz during the Deauville film festival. It's mostly such a crowd that fills the photos on the walls.

    The food there is classic french fare. It's the kind of thing I love, especially when somebody else prepares it well! I could not resist an escalope of veal in a mushroom cream sauce, along with the garlicky sautéed potatoes. The red wine we had was very good, even if I can't remember the name. We had eaten & drank well, but I was really dying to try the tarte tatin. I noticed the women next to us enjoying a piece with a scoop of ice cream, and I imagined that a brasserie-restaurant like Chez Miocque must have a great rendition. There are tarte tatins....and then there are tarte tatins. This fell into the latter category. The three of us shared a piece. We ordered cream with ours. Ulla jokingly suggested to the waiter that the three of us really liked cream & please bring a big bowl. I thought we might get whipped cream, but what arrived was a big bowl of creme fraiche epaisse! It's kind of like a sour cream. Robbin, Ulla & I dug our spoons into the cream even before the apple pie! OMG - we were in cream heaven. This is where the best cream is produced (in the world, if you ask me!). That apple tart had been nicely caramelized as it should be & the underneath pie crust had been light & fluffy & crispy, just like I like it. Our waiter came by to check on us, by now it was getting past 11pm. We raved about it & said we had to sample a 2nd piece. None of us were hungry really, but we did need another bite so that we could taste more of that cream! (Kidding, the apple pie tasted so good that we felt like we "needed" to share just one more piece.) Our waiter said to us in all seriousness, "In this region the way we do it, is we pour the cream on top & let it slide into all the nooks & crannies". (I'm paraphrasing here, but this was the jist of it). And that's exactly what we did. Instead of each of us putting a spoon of cream on our plates & tasting a little pie with a little cream, we slathered it on. Completely. And then dug in. Those guys sure know how to eat a tarte tatin!! It was mighty fine. I'm still thinking about it to this day...

    Our waiter couldn't believe we ate the entire "saucier" (gravy boat) full of cream. We then realized that they brought us an over sized bowl of cream, thinking we couldn't possibly eat it all. We sure showed them, didn't we, girls?! Oh la la....we really just couldn't help ourselves.

    If that wasn't enough, Jacques, with his entourage around him in the enclosed terrasse seating area, signaled something to the waiter. The waiter quickly arrived at our table with 3 generous snifters of Calvados. We raised our glasses to Jacques & gave an "air toast" to him in his direction, which he reciprocated in kind. We were silly with elation. Having eaten well, laughed a lot, and now feeling the affects of the Calvados starting to arrive, we finally had to call it a night. We were the last customers inside. Jacques & his clan were still out on the terrasse. We talked with them a bit more, and finally said good bye. That's when we realized it had started to rain. Again, Jacques gave a secret signal code to the server guy, and seconds later, he arrived with 3 generous & extremely sturdy umbrellas. We were touched by his thoughtfulness, and offered to come back the next day to return his umbrellas. He said, "No, they are for you to keep". That Jacques sure has a generous heart. And that's how come the food at his restaurant tastes so generous too, in my opinion. This is the kind of place that could become a habit. A Deauville ritual. Jacques, if you are reading this, merci mille fois! You're the best!


    Chez Miocque
    81, rue E. Colas
    14800 Deauville


    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Omnivore Food Festival 5 - OFF5 - Deauville 2010

    Bande annonce Omnivore Deauville 2010 from Dimitri MAJ on Vimeo.

    I just got back from the 5th annual Omnivore Food Festival held in Deauville, France. It was a packed program again this year - full of interesting and creative chefs de cuisine and several exhibitors, including cider/calvados producers from the Normandy region, french wineries & other food-related vendors. One thing that was very different this year, however, was the newly added program for pastry chefs that ran simultaneous to the program for the chefs de cuisine. This required another MC, Julie Andrieu who accompanied the extremely talented MC from prior years, Sebastian Demorand.

    I wake up this morning feeling tired from the past couple of days, filled with travel, good food, good company, and of course, the rich OFF program itself. I love this kind of tired - it puts me in a reflective mood. So, what am I thinking? Here's a brief synopsis:
    • I'm very glad I went to OFF5 and I continue to highly recommend it (but only if you have a good understanding of french). It provides a perspective of food trends and cooking approaches, old and new. Above all else, I still find it interesting to discover what inspires other chefs, to gain a small insight into their philosophies, and to see and hear them first hand. All of the chefs approach the stage differently, express themselves differently, and I see these differences reflected in their recipes & plates.

    • All in all, I saw more simplicity than avant-garde or molecular gastronomy this year, although there was a little of that. More present than that, it seems to me, was the human approach and making things "lisable" (easy to read), a theme that continued from last year's event. I didn't see any langoustines, lobsters, or truffles. There were lots of vegetables....and quite a few oysters. I'm not sure what the oysters may mean, but as for the rest, does this have anything to do with needing to comfort us during the past year of financial crisis? Well, who knows, but that thought floats around my mind a bit.

    • There was a nice mixture of "extoverts" and "introverts" up on stage. Spanish chef Quique Dacosta & French chef Paul Pairet (now in Shanghai) demonstrated the most flare... Gregory Marchand, Sylvain Sendra, David Kinch, and of course Alain Passard demonstrated a quieter approach that was equally intriguing. As I said, a nice mix.

    • Simple things, simply done well. For me, this sums up the the 2010 OFF event in terms of food trends.

    • What I was inspired by: Chef Gregory Marchand's egg yolk ravioli (I will try this), Chef Alain Passard's vegetables, MOF pastry chef of Maison Pic Philippe Ribollot, Chef David Kinch for his extremely intelligent & creative approach to cooking, Chef Alexandre Gaultier for his inventiveness & playfullness, Chef Regis Marcon for his optimism and generous heart. Well, there were lots of other inspirations...too many to relate in a short message here. Take a look at the pictures instead.
    Sebastian Demorand (MC extrodinaire) with Chef Gregory Marchand of Frenchie

    Roasted yellow beet with coriander grains - Gregory Marchand

    Café Confidences - Chef Régis Marcon

    Julie Andrieu with Chef Jean Sulpice

    Poached quail eggs, apple juice gelée, beets, asparagus - Jean Sulpice

    Chef Sylvain Sendra - Restaurant Itinéraires

    Pastry Chef Tal Hausen (former Ferrandi student)

    Chef Jean-Francois Rouquette - Restaurant Pur'

    Chef Arnaud Daguin's roasted vegetables

    Chef Alexandre Gauthier - Restaurant La Grenouillere

    Gauthier's dish called "The Old Stalk"! (Yes, the broccoli florets have all been removed). Love the inventiveness & playfulness. If only I could get away with putting that on my menu!

    Chef David Kinch - Restaurant Manresa (California)

    David Kinch's vegetable medley....not sure of the name of this dish

    Chef Alain Passard (middle) with his gardener (right)

    Passard's beet

    This was my third consecutive time going. Click here for my notes from last year if you would like to get a sense about how this conference is run & to see my favorites from last year. Can't wait for 2011!


    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Buttermilk Cluster Rolls - Ruhlman's Recipe

    The weather in Paris lately has been frigid & bizarre. Sunny one second, flurry storm the next, followed by hail, more sun, snow....all in the same get the idea. Sure feels like winter. Which is why I took so much comfort in making these buttermilk cluster rolls. The apartment smelled like a bread shop. A comforting scent wafted through the air and a warmth from the oven made it feel comfy. It's worth making these rolls just for that experience alone.

    Click here for the recipe: Recipe for Buttermilk cluster rolls from Ruhlman's blog. There are very clear instructions & references to other blogs for detailed information on making them.

    Here are my observations, conclusions, opinions:

    1) Very good recipe. It's the kind of bread roll that's best served with something having a sauce (as the french say) or with gravy (as we say) because it's made for mopping up the plate, no matter what language you speak.

    2) I proofed the dough in our oven at 35°C, the proofing setting. This worked well, especially since our apartment felt a bit on the cold side before I started all this bread making. After 1 hour it was at the double-in-size stage and normally I'd have proceeded with punching it down. However, this time, I followed the recipe & let it go 2 hours. Man did it puff up! Triple in size, I'd say. If I could hazard a guess, I'd say this had something to do with the texture being so nice. (Along with the revised recipe?)

    3) I topped them with my favorite "everything" combo: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion powder, garlic salt & thyme. Délicieux.

    4) Size of roll: too big for me. Mine were 100g each (3.5 ounces) before baking. I got a baker's dozen out of them. However, next time I'll try to make them 50g each. Seems plenty enough to me. Plus, it'd give me more of that topping-to-bread ratio which I think would be really nice.

    5) I used the revised recipe (709g flour & 510g buttermilk, but added back a bit more flour when it was too sticky). The texture was extremely light & fluffy. I loved the texture the best. Can you practically feel how light & fluffy these are??!!
    6) You gotta eat them straight out of the oven. I know, it goes without saying ( why did I just say that?!)

    7) There's no additional butter or olive oil in this bread. The only fat comes from the buttermilk (which counts for enough I suppose!). I tasted this difference. I must admit that I kind of missed that other kind of taste when it comes to bread...but that only happened when I ate them without anything else. When I had a sauce to mop it up with, I didn't miss it at all.

    8) Would I make these again? Yes. I absolutely loved the texture of this. (Isn't that obvious by now?) But, here's what I'm thinking: wouldn't it be great to use this recipe as the base for a cinnamon roll?? I'd get the additional flavor from butter that I'm looking for, and then the sugar-cinnamon filling would add more goodness....

    So, this is what I'm going to try next. Or sometime soon anyway. Will let you know how it turns out.


    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Truffle Tasting Results

    Valentine's day is quickly approaching. It's time to share the results of the truffle tasting we did last month so you have time to buy your sweetheart a little something! Recall the following photos. This time I'm disclosing who each chocolatier is. I'm also disclosing some key comments made about each. I guess by the time you get to the 5th one, you'll have a general idea of who the winner is.

    The final ranking is provided at the end, but if you want the real deal, as in a real in depth report, you'll find it in Discover Paris' newsletter (click there!). They share all sorts of discovered pleasures about this big village. I highly recommend it.

    So, without further adieu, here we go:

    Maker: La Maison du Chocolat
    Crunchy shell; ganache is a bit dry; exterior is dry ; taste is neutral; "good, but not exciting". (My own opinion of this truffle was very low. This surprised me greatly since I bought their truffles before & thought they were great. Granted, this was a few years ago. What happened?)

    Surprise, Guest entry: Made by Alison Johnson, pastry chef of Michelin star Restaurant Jean
    Very good! Lingers in the palette which I like. Taste: acidic start that evolves to a fruity/floral end. Firm, dense chocolate that is moist & smooth. "This is a mini dessert in my mouth; "I love this!".

    Maker: Jeff de Brugges.
    Strange shape. (No comment!)
    Hard exterior & inside is too light (like frosting). It's imbalanced & not like a truffle (too airy). "Decent for its complexity, but for as big as it is, it lacks character".

    Cross cut of the Jeff de Brugges truffle. The inside is really too much like frosting, even if it doesn't look so obvious from the photo. The outside is way to hard...This combo is no good!

    Maker: Jean Charles Rochoux
    Square & soft. Temperature is on the cool side. Exterior melts at your touch. Texture is extremely soft. It melts in your mouth immediately. Taste is nice, dark, rich. "The size is perfect for having after a meal, with an espresso....where you could just pop one in your mouth & enjoy it immensely without feeling like you're over-indulging". I like this shape - it's very modern! Surprisingly "untruffle-like in shape, but it's fun!"

    Maker: Wiess, distributed by Mococha on rue Mouffetard
    Shaped like gumdrops! Dense, dark interior. Light colored cocoa on the outside. Sweet chocolate taste at first, and then a cinnamon tone that lingers. Very good.

    Finally, here is how the chocolate stacks up (from most preferred to least preferred):

    1) Jean-Charles Rochoux (16, rue d'assas, 75006) - go there & you won't be disappointed. This is true artisan chocolate making. A real treat.

    2) Pastry Chef Alison Johnson (of Restaurant Jean, 8, rue Saint Lazarre, 75009) - a close 2nd by only a smidgen. Go to where she'll love all of her pastries, and if you're lucky, she might just have chocolates on the menu.

    3) Mococha/Weiss (89, rue Mouffetard, 75005) -- well worth the visit. A decent 3rd ranking. You shouldn't be disappointed with this chocolate shop.

    4) La Maison du Chocolat (various addresses) - a surprising disappointment. Avoid, I say.

    5) Jeff de Brugges (various addresses), who you might be surprised to know, is NOT from Brugges, but from France (with production in Belgium, or so I've been told). I didn't realize how industrialized this chocolate is because I had never tasted it before. Thought it had to be good....being from Brugges and all...(yep, I had been victim to its marketing.) Plus, the shops sure do look tempting... However, this was a big looser. Not even close to the rest. Better to not have any than to have this one. (Ouch. But, it's honestly how I feel about it. Sorry Jeff, if you even exist!)

    There are lots of other chocolate shops out there's plenty more for us to discover & to rank. Meanwhile, Happy Valentine's Day! And I'll leave you with this image of chocolaty treats, full of Valentine's sentiments.

    Hand made by Alison Johnson