Sunday, February 27, 2005

Some more kuidaore in Paris

Okay, so here's the report from day 2 in Paris.

This was a somewhat disappointing day, considering the success of the first day. But then again, it is very likely that the first day was just such an immense success due to my hunger-ometer being so intensely negative.

pastery1

Breakfast was a success, and we had miniature croissants and pain au chocolats, as well as this pastry that my roommate thought was so very familiar.

pastry2

He noticed that the texture was very similar to a Vietnamese pastry, and I have to agree - the innards were quite rice flour-y instead of wheat flour-y. It had a nice firmness on the outside with a sugary coating and a moist inside that did taste distinctly Asian compared to the other pastries. I should do some more research about this...

The funny thing about breakfast was that we had it on the Champs-Elysees, since it was the closest Money Exchange place (I spent all my money on the first day, eating more than I thought possible and needed to replenish my cash). We went to a bakery called Paul, which had that 'artisan'-feel going with classy looking this and that. Turns out Paul is as ubiquitous as Au Bon Pain. Later, we proceeded to find Paul on almost every corner where there was enough foot traffic to sustain an Au Bon Pain.

We blended sight-seeing with gastronomic pleasures this day, and I've gotta say - my 'spider-sense' for tasty restaurant was only 50% successful. We were at a distinct disadvantage this day, since it was a Sunday and so many businesses are closed on Sundays. We ended up wandering around in St. Germain-des-Pres looking for a creperie that was closed on Sundays. We ended up jumping into a bistrot, which served mediocre food, although they were recommended in one of the three guidebooks we had for Paris. When we asked them to recommend something, we ended up with a luke warm French Onion soup and two salads, both of which were nothing to write home about (or I should say nothing to blog about). So, disappointed, we left the joint and went to check out the St. Chapelle stained glass, which was beautiful.

chapel

After doing the obligatory sightseeing, I felt confident again to test my spider-senses and suggested to my already-stuffed roommate that we go and have some afternoon 'tea'. Of course I didn't have tea in mind - I had a second lunch in mind! We hopped into a fancy-ish restaurant on the other side of the Seine (Les Zimmer) and ordered a soup and couscous.

couscous

I HAD to try couscous while there, since my favorite manga right now (Taishi kakka no ryouri-nin - The Ambassador's Chef) tells me the French eat couscous like the Japanese eat curry rice. I eat couscous a lot at home myself, and I was really, really curious how the French eat couscous. My thoughts after having had it? It's not that different from mine. My first reaction was - hey, this stew tastes just like something I would make! Lots of ginger and vegetables with almost no grease - very easy to eat as a second lunch. The couscous was slightly different, because it smelled heavily of olive oil. I usually make my couscous in chicken or fish broth, seasoned with soy sauce, this was made with no salt and lots of olive oil. Interesting difference, but I kinda liked mine better...

menu

Dinner, dinner - this was an experience! We went to Closerie des Lilas, which is supposed to be where Hemingway "wrote a large chunk of The Sun Also Rises while standing at the bar" and where "Lenin and Trotsky debated politics over chess" according to my Frommer's guide. Well, the guidebook forgot to mention that in addition to these trivia, the place has serves up a mean plate of attitude! It's my policy to keep negative reviews anonymous, but since the reason why I wanted to go here is so intimately related to the trivia, I figure it's OK this time around to give my thoughts with the name. Jeez, would you expect a super high-end restaurant if the place is listed as a brasserie and it's somewhere guys played chess and wrote novels at the bar????? I thought I was going to a low-key place - and boy, was I wrong! This place was so pretentious, the menu for the ladies didn't have prices listed on them! The above photo shows the two menus we got - one for my roommate and one of me - one with the prices and one without. I thought it was kinda funny at the time, but I guess I should've known at that point that we were in for some 'tude! And, yikes, did we get some! They didn't like our casual look or our lack of French culinary knowledge - and made it clear! Never again, I swear. Never again to this place.

millieu

The saving grace was the dessert - one of the best mille-feuille I've ever had. And I've had a lot of them in Japan. I hope I spelled this right, since I got it from a Japanese website. The cream had a subtle sweetness and just enough richness to melt in my mouth and the flaky layers of crunch that gave it just the right texture to balance the smooth cream. Wonderful. I have to give it to the pastry chef - s/he saved the dinner!

And so the second night ended...

4 comments:

kitchenmage said...

the unknown breakfast pastry--could it be caneles? almost like a very-firm creme brulee in a carmelized crust...

if so, i just got the recipe from Paula Wolfert's new book and there's a thread on eGullet where folks are working through learning to make them...

cedichou said...

the "unknown pastry" is indeed a cannele (from "cannelures" which means ridge). And guess what: bay bread makes quite decent cannele. I saw them last Saturday at Rigolo, in Laurel village, and they have them all the time at the store on pine @ fillmore.

Thalie said...

Hello !
Well I just discovered your blog and arrived quite hazardously on the Paris pages ...lol ;)
I can see you already have some answers to your interrogations about the "strange textured pastry"..
Yes it is a "cannelé", specialty from Bordeaux, south west of France !
I must say, this is really not one of my favorite cake, really ...
Fortunately for me, we have so many other pastries, and so do the rest of the world, that I can't complain ;)
You may laugh but I love dango mochi ...
Yes Alice ! Don't wipe your eyes !
Especially filled with sweet azuki paste ;)
But I couldn't tell my favorite french pastry, there are too many of them...
Anyway, I have tasted recently an american recipe from Amanda Hesser (do you know her ?)
The chocolate dump-it cake and God it is amazing... even the chocolate-sour cream "glaçage" brings a subtile bitterness I didn't suspected ...
Lovely, very surprising !
We don't know how much american desserts can be tasty as well.
It is not only big fat cakes with to much cream, sugar etc... ;)
Ciao
A bientot peut-etre ;)
Thalie (France)

Thalie said...

Hey alice,
Just another thing about this "bad day"...
You don't seem to know that in "gourmet" restaurants, in france, the ladies menus never have the prices, usually, I guess there are some exceptions...
But, please, instead o judging, why don't you ask why ?...
Sure, this place you were in didn't seem that friendly, I admit...That's the same everywhere you know, if good people were in just one land, it would be knowned, didn't it ?
Anyway, this curiosity about ladies menus is because of "courtoisie" an politeness, c'est le protocole,do you get it ?
Before women got to work, the men did pay for everything for the women did not earn money, "logical"... But above all in the "good society", la bourgeoisie, it is rude to present the prices, the bills to women for they don't have to matter about money questions...
Remember I am talking of a code, an ethical ancient code, I guess the same do exist in USA for it is quite universal, it is "raffiné", gentlemen are supposed to treat women right ;)
Bye
Ciao ;)
P.S: hope I was clear enough and did not seem awkward, it is early, I am sleepy...