Wednesday, April 04, 2007

sugary highs, creamy middles, & crunchy lows

Paris was so inspiring that I've returned completely overwhelmed and somewhat depressed. Perhaps it's better to not know what I'm missing. We ate high and we ate low. We ate good and we ate bad. I wish I could have eaten more, but there's only so much you can do when you are first experiencing a new city, particularly with a 3yr old in tow. Here's some of the things that went in my tummy during this trip:

- Restaurant d'Hélène was top notch: beautiful, inspired and delish. It didn't surpass the French Laundry, forever burned into my food brain, but it certainly reminded me why I love fine dining. Per usual, my favorite dish was the appetiser, a raw oyster in gelee with caviar and cream poured over the top (I took a pic of the menu to get accurate descriptions, but it didn't come out). Despite my general apathy for the "cart" strategy (of which this restaurant made extensive use), I loved the excellent cheese cart, which included a lush array of preserves to accompany the cheese (I chose cherry, fig and quince).

oyster "martini"

- Much farther down the price scale, but still excellent, was Au Trou Gascon, where contrary to form, I ordered well. The foie gras was perfect but my favorite was the cassoulet, which included melt-in-my-mouth pork belly. So yum.

the foie gras, of course

- Of course, we ate many, many crepes, a merciful option for anyone traveling with a 3yr old - quick, yummy & everywhere. However, we quickly learned not all crepes are equal - you must be sure that the crepes are made to order, not re-warmed (I was suprised how many places do this). We had our first crepes at the popular Creperie des Arts in the Latin Quarter - super yum. But another place recommend in a guide book which will soon be burned, served barely edible, rubbery, re-warmed nastiness. I immediately walked down the block to another place and downed a fresh nutella crepe to cleanse my palate. For me, nutella crepes in Paris are like gelato in Italy: I must have at least one every day.

what a big crepe you make

- We had a traditional lunch at old tyme bistro, Le Polidor, which was hearty and pleasant. I had a delectable braised leg of lamb, where the tasty meat was so tender it was falling off the bone. My husband had escargot as a starter, which were good while hot, but not as good as the Burgandy style according to an elderly patron sitting next to us. My fav part of this place was the bread cutter, a large blade set up like a paper cutter so the server inserted the bread and repeatedly pulled the blade down on the hinge to cut off bread slices.

escargot - yes, I ate one and it was good

- Chocolate & Zucchini wrote so highly of tartines that I trucked my exhausted family to the other side of town (with two Metro changes and a 15 minute walk) to try a tartine at Boulangerestaurant, recommended by C&Z. Unfortunately, they were not serving tartines (perhaps 2pm is too late for lunch?) and the sandwiches we ordered were somewhere between ordinary and not very good. The bread and pastries, however, were fantastic. On our last day in Paris, I stumbled on a promising looking tartine place that a few minutes after we were seated, developed a line outside assuring me that I made a good decision this time. These tartines were good and fun to watch being made by the workhorse behind the counter. This was another favorite food of our son, something to remember for next time.

my tartine with fromage blanc

- My favorite part of every day was breakfast. My husband would go out every morning to one of the many local bakeries and bring back a baguette, croissants, pain chocolat, etc. La Grande Epicerie was only two blocks away, supplying us with fancy jam and fresh butter. It was glorious. Croissants and baguettes really are different in France. I ate enough croissants to induce a heart attack, but I tried to counter by walking several miles a day.

breakfast of champions

Not every meal was great, but I ate well enough to make me start planning my next trip on my way home from this one. I can't wait!

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